Networked Business Defined

In my recently published research agenda, one of the topics that I included was networked business. I gave a brief definition of the term in that post, but realized that it would be useful to go a bit deeper. My goal is to make sure that Gigaom Research clients and followers would have a solid, base understanding of the term whenever I use it in the future.
What is ‘networked business’? Much academic work has been done to define this term in the last two decades. However, rather than forge a consensus definition from multiple opinions, I decided to build my own in 2012, based on the dictionary definition of each component of the term.
However, I quickly found that there is not a single definition for each word. Every dictionary that I referenced offered a slightly different, nuanced version of what the words ‘network’ and ‘business’ mean. In the end, I decided to work with definitions from Snappy Words, a free online visual dictionary. Snappy Words consistently offers thoughtful, refreshing definitions that go beyond the ordinary ones proposed in more traditional dictionaries. Here are the Snappy Words definitions I chose to start from:
network (n.) – an interconnected system of things or people
business (n.) – a commercial or industrial enterprise and the people who constitute it
The Snappy Words meaning of ‘business’ cited above is a good example of how their definitions are different. Most traditional dictionaries do not reference ‘people’ in their definitions of ‘business’. The central point of the Social Business movement was (and is) that people matter quite a lot in business. As is often the case, Snappy Words has done the best job of incorporating recent thought into their definitions.
Back to the task of creating a definition for ‘networked business’ from those for ‘network’ and ‘business’. Combining the two definitions was not as straight-forward as you might think. The complicating factor is which part of speech should emphasized, the adverb (‘networked’) or the object (‘business’). If the object is highlighted, the resulting definition of ‘networked business’ best applies to a single organization. If the adverb (or state) is deemed most important, then the definition most accurately describes an ecosystem
So we really need two definitions for ‘networked business’. Here are the ones that I have proposed:
networked business (n.) –  a company whose value-producing assets are connected to each other and with those of other organizations
networked business (a.) –  a state in which an interconnected system of organizations and their value-producing assets are working toward one or more common objectives
The first definition is about an individual business and the connected state it is in, internally and externally. A networked business views its organizational units as both independent silos and connected network nodes. It treats its people like individuals and co-dependent employees. The networked business sees itself as a separate entity, as well as a partner with other organizations.
The second definition speaks to the larger concept of networked business. It describes the collaborative ecosystem in which individual networked businesses work together to create and capture value. It is a philosophical objective and, if successfully achieved, an operational reality of how business is done in the early 21st century.
These definitions have held up well in the three years since they were written and first published. That said, any definition should be subject to change, as the thing that it is attempting to define morphs over time.
What do you think about these two definitions of ‘networked business’? What do you specifically like or dislike? Are there things that would you add? Please leave comments and suggestions below. Thanks!

Research Agenda of Larry Hawes, Lead Analyst

Greetings! As my colleague Stowe Boyd announced yesterday, I am part of a fabulous group of smart, well-respected people that have joined the rebooted Gigaom Research as analysts. I was affiliated with the original version of Gigaom Research as an Analyst, and am very pleased to be taking the more involved role of Lead Analyst in the firm’s new incarnation, as detailed in Stowe’s post.
For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve spent the last 16 years working as a management and technology consultant, enterprise software industry analyst, writer, speaker and educator. My work during that time has been focused on the nexus of communication, collaboration, content management and process/activity management within and between organizations ─ what I currently call ‘networked business’.
I intend to continue that broad line of inquiry as a Lead Analyst at Gigaom Research. The opportunity to work across technologies and management concepts ─ and the ability to simultaneously address and interrelate both ─ is precisely what makes working with Gigaom Research so attractive to me. The firm is fairly unique in that aspect, in comparison to traditional analyst organizations that pigeonhole employees into discrete technology or business strategy buckets. I hope that our customers will recognize that and benefit from the holistic viewpoint that our analysts provide.
With the above in mind, I present my research agenda for the coming months (and, probably, years). I’m starting at the highest conceptual level and working toward more specific elements in this list.

Evolution of Work

Some analysts at Gigaom Research are calling this ‘work futures’. I like that term, but prefer the ‘evolution of work’, as that allows me to bring the past and, most importantly, the current state of work into the discussion. There is much to be learned from history and we need to address what is happening now, not just what may be coming down the road. Anyway, this research stream encompasses much of what I and Gigaom Research are focused on in our examination of how emerging technologies may change how we define, plan and do business.

Networked Business

This is a topic on which I’ve been writing and speaking since 2012. I’ve defined ‘networked business’ as a state in which an interconnected system of organizations and their value-producing assets are working toward one or more common objectives. Networked business is inherently driven by connection, communication and collaboration, hence my interest in the topic.
While the concept of networked business is not new, it has been gaining currency in the past few years as a different way of looking at how we structure organizations and conduct their activities. As I noted in the first paragraph of this post, there are many technologies and business philosophies and practices that support networked business, and I will do my best to include as many as possible in my research and discussions.

Networks of Everything

This research stream combines two memes that are currently emerging and garnering attention: the Internet of Things and the rise of robots and other intelligent technologies in the workplace. In my vision, networks of everything are where humans, bots, virtual assistants, sensors and other ‘things’ connect, communicate and collaborate to get work done. The Internet, Web, cellular and other types of networks may be used in isolation or, more likely, in combination to create networks of everything.
I’ve had a book chapter published on this topic earlier this year, and I’m looking forward to thinking and writing more about it in the near future.


How do we build applications that can support business in a heavily networked environment? While the idea of assembling multiple technology components into a composite application are not new (object-oriented programing and Service Oriented Architecture have been with us for decades), the idea continues to gain acceptance and become more granular in practice.
I intend to chronicle this movement toward microservices and discuss how the atomization of component technology is likely to play out next. As always, my focus will be on collaboration, content management and business process management.

Adaptive Case Management and Digital Experience Management

These two specific, complementary technologies have also been gathering more attention and support over the last two years and are just beginning to hit their stride now. I see the combination of these technologies as an ideal enabler of networked business and early exemplars of component architecture at the application level, not the microservice one (yet).
I’ve written about ACM more, but am eager to expand on the early ideas I’ve had about it working together with DEM to support networked business.

Work Chat

Simply put, I would be remiss to not investigate and write about the role of real-time messaging technology in business. I’ve already called work chat a fad that will go away in time, but it needs to be addressed in depth for Gigaom Research customers, because there are valid use cases and it will enjoy limited success. I will look at the viability of work chat as an extensible computing platform, not just as a stand-alone technology. Fitting with my interest in microservices, I will also consider the role that work chat can play as a service embedded in other applications.
Phew! I’m tired just thinking about this, much less actually executing against it. It’s a full plate, a loaded platter really. The scariest thing is that this list is likely incomplete and that there are other things that I will want to investigate and discuss. However, I think it represents my research and publishing interests pretty  well.
My question is, how does this align with your interests? Are there topics or technologies that you would like to see me include in this framework? If so, please let me know in a comment below. Like all research agendas, mine is subject to change over time, so your input is welcomed and valued.

iGroups: Apple’s Welcome to the Social

An interesting patent of Apple’s (s aapl) relating to a social networking app surfaced recently. Dubbed iGroups, the app aims to solve the pitfalls of traditional social networks, like Facebook, that require users be a member before being able to participate. Instead, iGroups creates a virtual social network based on proximity.

To set the scene, imagine a casual weekend enjoying drinks at a bar. Your device would be able to detect others nearby and allow for easy communication by the tools already built into your device: SMS, email or by phone. If you’re a Mac user, you could loosely term this as Bonjour for your iPhone.

A Network Of Proximity

The idea of a network based on proximity is intriguing considering the technology built into mobile devices that can help facilitate this. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, for instance, both allow for discovering new devices that are within range. But the problem arises when a user leaves. If they are out of range, they are excluded from the network.

iGroups attempts to solve this issue when it first detects other users. At this point, the devices exchange a token (or handshake, if you will). These tokens are tagged. If there happens to be a trusted source at this venue, for example, like a wireless access point or perhaps a website setup for this purpose, devices can exchange tokens with it. Before this gets too technical, let’s agree to call the trusted source “Wilma.” Read More about iGroups: Apple’s Welcome to the Social

Zynga Wants Apple to Build Facebook Connect Into iPhone


The Palm (s palm) Pre is here, and while it hasn’t exactly felled the Goliath of Apple’s (s aapl) iPhone, it does have some features that are making iPhone users jealous. One is greater built-in social networking connectivity, including Facebook integration. The implementation of Facebook in Palm’s WebOS basically allows your Pre phone to store Facebook friend info in your address book, and then message those people directly from the phone.

Zynga wants Apple to make a similar move towards greater Facebook connectivity with the iPhone, but the game company has different motives, and very different integration goals as a result. Specifically, Zuora is looking for Apple to implement a platform-wide solution for a feature that it currently builds into each of its individual apps: Facebook Connect access. Read More about Zynga Wants Apple to Build Facebook Connect Into iPhone

App Review: Leaf Trombone: World Stage — Like American Idol But With Leaves

title=Leaf Trombone

Learn to play the leaf trombone, perform your repertoire before a global audience, and prepare to be judged.

Since the App Store’s launch last year, Smule has been steadily building an impressive portfolio of sound-based social apps for the iPhone. With Dr. Ge Wang — an assistant professor in Music and Acoustics — at the helm, among a smattering of clever and fun sonic toys, their biggest hit to date has been the multi-award winning Ocarina.
Smule’s latest app, Leaf Trombone: World Stage, is a social musical instrument designed specifically for the iPhone. Players can download new songs and perform before a judging panel of other leaf trombonists. Read More about App Review: Leaf Trombone: World Stage — Like American Idol But With Leaves

Gist: Where Your Inbox Meets the Web

No one questions just how important the process of gathering business intelligence is. Knowing about the folks you are working with, or selling to, is always a key component to good relationship building.  Those who do it well can have a considerable competitive advantage.
With the proliferation of distribution channels and the sheer abundance of information available though, this process is getting more difficult.  We’ve discussed some helpful tools in the past and there are companies that will charge you a small fortune for their research, but a recent launch by Seattle based Gist aims to make compiling and reviewing relevant information about your contacts  a whole lot easier.
Read More about Gist: Where Your Inbox Meets the Web