Google’s Larry Page realizes that social should be in the operating system

Alexia Tsotsis has a gift for attention-grabbing headlines, and today’s piece on Vic Gundoltra’s hasty departure from Google after leading the push on Google+ since 2011 is no exception. She titles it Google+ Is Walking Dead, which I think is not quite right, although the service is being scaled down dramatically, according to her and Matthew Panzarino’s sources:

According to two sources, Google has apparently been reshuffling the teams that used to form the core of Google+, a group numbering between 1,000 and 1,200 employees. We hear that there’s a new building on campus, so many of those people are getting moved physically, as well — not necessarily due to Gundotra’s departure.
As part of these staff changes, the Google Hangouts team will be moving to the Android team, and it’s likely that the photos team will follow, these people said. Basically, talent will be shifting away from the Google+ kingdom and towards Android as a platform, we’re hearing.
[…]
Taking Gundotra’s place inside Google will be David Besbris, though we hear that parts of Google+ are under “the person responsible for Chrome,” according to one source. It’s not clear if this is Sundar Pichai, Google’s head of Chrome and Android, or why this would happen. “It’s complicated,” our source said. Google PR denies this account.

Google always had a straddle going with Google+, and this is the point at which they are falling back to the best side of the bet. I wrote back in 2011, right after the launch in Life As A Mosaic, Not A Monolith: What Google+ Means:

My natural drift — and I think other people’s too, in time — will be away from massive all-in-one tools, and toward a mosaic of highly specialized apps. Behind this are a pair of twinned trends, major threads in the liquid media theme I have been developing over the past months.
The first is the transition toward connected apps, courtesy of the rise of genius mobile devices (genius = way beyond smart) […].
The flipside of the rise of apps is the fall of the browser. The browser is a kludge, a way to shoehorn the web onto PCs, made necessary because the operating systems around when the web was invented were inward focused: they were all about applications, files and folders on the hard drive. But we have gone far enough toward always-on that we will have dozens of web-aware and web-dependent apps on our genius devices, and only occasionally open the browser for old-time website browsing.
Apps are the tiles of the new mosaic, our composite life online.
And Google+ is a deft straddle, with one foot in the old world and the other in the new. Google+ is currently a browser based system, but it is relatively easy to imagine the core functionality implemented in a next generation Android, and all the tools — like Circles and Hangouts — accessed as complementary apps, along with dozens or hundreds of others built by Google or a growing ecology of developers.
Of course, Apple will respond in kind, and is perhaps a step or two ahead with its Twitter partnership, and its plan to integrate Twitter into iOS 5. So we can expect a similar flowering of iOS 5 apps that build on a core of social capabilities, and that will allow app developers to leverage profiles, following, streams, and other foundational social componentry at the OS level.
By lowering the core elements of sociality into the infrastructure, Google and Apple will be setting the stage for a new generation of app development, and therefore, user experience. Which will mean an acceleration of the transition for us, as users, from monolith to mosaic.
Google+ shows that Google is going to make that transition, and it will be Apple and Google that will be defining the next ten years of the social revolution, as a result.

I admit that I was optimistic about Apple’s ability to shift into the social web — but Steve Jobs illness and later death was a major distraction for the firm. And in 2011 I thought Google would have made the move that Page is apparently now getting around to, after kicking out Gundoltra — and presumably his protegé, Bradley Horowitz, soon — the faction that wanted the monolithic Google+ to ‘win’ the war against the monolithic Facebook.
But that is the last war, a war clearly lost. And Facebook has moved to the app era, with acquisitions like Instagram, Whatsapp, and Moves, and new in house projects like Paper. Page has decided to embed the social infrastructure of Google+ into the operating system — in Android and Chrome — where it always belonged. Then we can finally have the next social era, which we won’t call social anymore, because it will be ubiquitous. Just like we don’t generally think about the air we are moving around in, and the fish doesn’t see the water.
Microsoft fumbled its chance to acquire the teeny-weeny Facebook and build that into Windows. Apple missed its chance with Twitter — although perhaps that could still be turned around — despite giving Twitter a special status in iOS (see Twitter: The Social Kernel For iOS 5).
So Google has a chance with Google+, or better said, with Page’s decision to scrap the monolith and convert Google+ into componentry to support more apps like Hangouts. Maybe they’ll finally get around to creating a social calendar and social email, at long, long last.
 

Hackpad, where have you been hiding?

Despite the frequent mention of Dropbox — and its acquisition spree — on these pages, somehow I completely missed the announcement last week that Dropbox acquired Hackpad, a co-editor tool something like Quip (see Quip 1.5 adds new features, but not the ones I want), Draft (see Draft is a small and simple co-editor), or Editorially (that recently shut down, see Editorially is the co-editing solution of my dreams).
Unlike some of the other Dropbox acquisitions, like Loom, Hackpad is not being shut down. This is not a pure acqui-hire, so I logged in. Turns out I have tried using the tool a few years ago, but I don’t remember doing so. Now I wish I had keep the company in my sights, because it offers a broad and clever set of co-editing capabilities, and integrated into a very well-designed and sophisticated approach to sharing.
from How to use Hackpad:

A Pad is an editable content page.
A Collection is a label you can use with your team to stay organized. Click the name of any collection to see a full list of that Collection’s Pads.
A Workspace is a place where you and your teammates can share knowledge and collaborate.
  • Each Workspace has it’s own Collections and Pads. Easily create a new Workspace by clicking “+ new workspace” at the the bottom of the workspace navigator pane.
  • You can easily identify what Workspace you’re in by glancing at the URL of your page – i.e team.hackpad.com is the Team Workspace.
 A Workspace Member has access to all Pads in a workspace set to “all workspace users”. You can add a Member to a workspace by asking an Admin to use the “Manage this Workspace” link found on your homepage.
A Pad Guest is invited from the right side of any Pad. If this person has not been invited to join a Private site as a Member, they will have access only to this single Pad. If they have been invited to a Public Site, they will have read and write access to all of a Workspace’s Pads, just like any member of the public.

I’ve started to dig into Hackpad, and there are capabilities something like wikis — any text in a pad can be selected and used as the title of another pad, and the original text then serves as a link to the child pad. This can also be accomplished by typing an ampersand and then some text, as shown here:
hackpad.com_mlZvEsJykI5_0nH0NGPrz51_p.76052_1386290371029_@_childpadfromparentpad_4The text in the pads can be styled in many obvious ways, including means to add tasks, comments, lists, indented text, tables, embedded files, and images, and all the while Hackpad is tracking changes so that earlier versions can be pulled up. Lines that are bolded serve as headings, and are displayed in the right hand margin as navigation to various locations in the document. Here’s a hackpad:
Screenshot 2014-04-20 15.27.06
 
The talk balloon accompanies comments added to the text (using the comment icon in the tool bar or starting a line with ‘//’ makes a comment).
When shared documents are edited, you get an email showing the changes:
Screenshot 2014-04-20 13.43.48
Making a Switch
Hackpad is extremely rich, and it will take me some time experimenting with it to test all of its numerous features. More importantly, I have grown weary of the limitations of Workflowy, a personal information management tool I’ve been using for some time, especially with regard to text styling (see Small pieces, even more loosely joined).
Workflowy is an extensible outline, where sections can be shared with others. However, the sharing is based on a branch in the outline and all subordinate information, and not just a single line, which becomes impractical for many of the information I’d like to share.
I am going undertake a recasting of the research information I have been accumulating in Workflowy into a publicly shared Hackpad workspace (read only!), open to anyone who is interested. Also, in parallel, I am going to investigate how Hackpad might fit into the work of my Gigaom structured research activities, such as interviews, report drafts, and the like. So, this may serve as a the first of a series of posts investigating Hackpad’s applicability to various use cases, like sharing a research repository, drafting reports, and keeping track of notes from meetings and calls.
 

Juxtaposition: Dachis Group is acquired by Sprinklr, PostShift opens for business

I am launching a new form of blog post here: a juxtaposition, where I take two things that have happened at the same time, and I draw some analogy, metaphor, or correlation from that occurrence.
I read that Dachis Group, the once-upon-a-time social business strategy consultancy that morphed a bit at a time into a social media analytics tool company, was acquired by Sprinklr, a social media consulting and technology firm. It seemed like they couldn’t get traction when the large consulting firms and technology companies were rolling out their own social business strategy capabilities
Jeff Dachis, the co-founder and CEO of Dachis Group responded to an email, saying ‘After a short period of operational transition, I will have a permanent advisory board role with the title of Chief Evangelist’, which sounds like he is leaving to start something new. All of the other folks that I know and respect who were involved in the company in the early days have left, with the exception of Peter Kim and Dion Hinchcliffe. I have emails in to them. But others — Dave Gray, Jevon MacDonald, and Kate Niederhoffer — left years ago, and Lee Bryant and the former Headshift crew that become Dachis Europe left not too long ago, too.
In an eerily well-timed announcement, Lee Bryant posted today that his new business, PostShift, is officially open for business. I wrote about Postshift in July, when he left Dachis and first announced the firm (see Lee Bryant leaves Dachis Group, announces something new).
Lee and company are leapfrogging all the issues of the social business controversy, and attacking today’s real problem:

Our mission: To build 21st Century businesses.
We believe that organisations cannot fully benefit from social technology without also addressing questions of structure, culture and practice in a serious way. We will be working with established firms, to look beyond social technology adoption towards new ways of working and more agile management structures; and with investors and startups, to help them scale without losing what made them special in the first place.

New ways of work, and more agile management styles: sounds like a leanership orientation, to me.
So, the one side of the juxtaposition is the acquisition of Dachis and the end of the era of social business that Dachis personified, and the decline of the principles that motivated its creation in the first place. As I have said, ‘Social Business’ isn’t dead, but it isn’t enough, either. The emotive force of the term has declined as it’s been bandied around by vendors and gurus, touting a hundred different takes on social and without any real crystallization.
On the other side is one of the wisest and deep thinking crews of people, Lee Bryant and the Postshifters, who have reoriented to today’s business challenge: how to look beyond work tech — now largely social in a fundamental way, along with other characteristics —  and to tackle reworking work in a way that will match the new postnormal, 21st century world. A world vastly different than the mid zeroes when social business started to seem promising, and one where everything must be reevaluated.
We’re talking about making the shift, here at GigaOM Research. So don’t be surprised if you land here one day soon to see that my posts and reports are published under The Future Of Work, instead of Social.
[Update – 3:42pm 20 Feb 2014: Susan Scrupski of Change Agents Worldwide mentioned on Twitter that her time at Dachis wasn’t mentioned. An oversight in a way, although I didn’t know Susan when Dachis was founded. She folded her 2.0 Adoption Council into Dachis a few years ago, and left the company just over a year ago. She’s founded CAWW and brought aboard a great constellation of very knowledgeable folks. I plan to interview her to learn more about the network and her goals for it.]

When is that digital transformation finally going to happen?

8441851357_a6bc8fd1a5_b

source Flickr via Eksley


In a post last week, I stated what I consider to be one of the undeniable facts about business today, that high performance now is based on modern work technologies:

Stowe Boyd, Startups know what giants don’t: work tech is core to high performance, now
Work in the highest performing companies, and by the highest performers in other companies, increasingly has web- and mobile-centric work tech at its core. High performance today is predicated on working socially in fluid, nimble, and self-organized networks, and these are sparked and sustained by social tools that allow high degrees of cooperation between highly autonomous individuals connected through software-enabled work graphs.
This stands in distinction to the immediate past, and the techniques used in less productive companies or less productive individuals in high performing companies. These individuals and organizations think of work tech as an adjunct to work, a nice-to-have but ultimately non-essential apparatus than only — at the best — speeds up other approaches to communication, coordination, and cooperation. They operate as if email and phones are really all that’s needed, and the rest is — at best — frosting on the cake.

The mismatch between this appreciation of the central role of digital technologies in the realization of today’s corporate imperatives is the key reason for the growing rift in the corporation between IT management and the CEO. As Laura Stuart relates in her fourth quarter Buyer’s Lens analysis and outlook, companies are striving to move ahead with new technologies — like the transition to cloud-based work technologies — and are held back by poor IT management:

  • For many companies, technology and technology management are the constraining factors in their corporations’ response to change and growth. As a result, other departments from marketing, HR, and finance to lines of business are getting more directly involved in technology acquisition and management, forming what has become known as shadow IT organizations. This dynamic itself is further advancing the move to the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) delivery that makes such direct involvement feasible.
  • Organizations need more CEO, board-level, and line-of-business engagement to grasp technology-driven market change and set resultant corporate and technology strategies. A proliferation of titles and new formal roles are effectively creating a shadow CIO function to guide technology strategy at the same time that CIOs need to effectively become shadow chairmen, providing direction on technology’s impact on board-level issues.
  • Standards are still forming around integrated online and in-store marketing and services. With technology driving everything from high-visibility credit card and other customer privacy breaches to the constraint on an organization’s ability to respond to market changes, issues of both technology opportunity and risk must percolate to the board level. The inadequacy of formal board structures to address technology risk reflects how few organizations have come to terms with the new environment.

As Laura and other GigaOM analysts have pointed out, these issues — added to the fundamental disconnect that I mentioned at the outset, that high performance requires the adoption of advanced work tech — set the stage for what is likely to be a dizzying rethinking of IT management in 2014.
And the most obvious response is a refactoring of the role of IT in the business by rebooting the idea of the CIO. In the early 1900s, when electricity was a brand new technology, companies had VPs of Electricity. Just so, when computers and networks became available, companies went outside and hired a geek with an appropriate degree and a pocket protector, and made him (or her) CIO. Those days are past. We no longer see any VP of Electricity, and in a world where ‘computication’ is the bloodstream and nervous system of the business the premise of an IT department makes no sense. It’s like having a department of human language, or rational thought. These can’t be sequestered to a group a wizards in the basement, and neither can IT.
So, we are seeing the continued rise of the Chief Digital Officer (CDO), as I wrote about last year (see Leading digital (and social) change in the business). The stark truth is that CIOs have the wrong mindset to transform businesses to meet the challenges of today’s world, and it may be a mistake to imagine that they should. But is is clear that making the transition to a new way of operations is critical.
As I said in Overview of my Social Now talk: The Future Of Work In A Social World,

The arrival of social tools is one part of a larger, swirling mess of large-scale change smashing into our lives like a tornado, and tearing the roof off the world of business. The elements of that mess all influence each other — tech factors like digital, mobile, and the cloud, societal shifts like urbanization, new media, and the always-on lifestyle, and correspondingly massive stressors like climate change, globalism, the shifting social contract, and the boom/bust cycle of the world economy — these seem to be the new normal in the 21st century. The new normal is that there is no normal anymore. Welcome to the Postnormal.

And we need a CDO-style figure in most businesses — if not the CEO — to make that transition to a postnormal footing, where work technology is at the core of what everyone does, not an afterthought or add-on. The inability of traditional IT to deliver on the promise of today’s technology is the universal business facepalm of our day.

The soaring growth of messaging apps is likely to be a tsunami in work tech

I saw a chart today that confirmed what I have been seeing across the board in the increasingly mobile workforce dependent on companion devices:

Screenshot 2014-01-14 10.18.10A 200% increase in the use of messaging and social apps, and a 150% increase in the use of utilities and productivity tools from 2012 to 2013. These are the leaders in companion use.

What does this mean for work tech? It’s obvious : those vendors of work technology products that can become a key part of this adoption, the surge of time spent on handhelds — and soon wearables — will come to dominate the next era of ‘computications’. And just as surely, those that remain wedded to the old PC-and-a-browser form factor of work tech will fade into the background.

 

Google’s broken social strategy with Google+ and Gmail

Only a week ago I wrote about Eric Schmidt’s confession about the biggest mistake he made at Google:

Eric Schmidt says his worst mistake was ‘missing social’:

Eric Schmidt’s 2014 Predictions via Bloomberg

The biggest mistake that I made was not anticipating the rise of the social networking phenomenon. Not a mistake we’re going to make again. I guess in our defense we were busy working on many other things, but we should have been in that area and I take responsibility for that.

Here’s my prediction, but it might not be for 2014. At some point, someone inside of Google will think about tapping into the hundreds of millions of users of Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs, and they will come up with something incrementally social for that mix. And it won’t be Wave, Orkut, or Google+, which are all dogs.

So that mistake that Schmidt was talking about? It’s not in the past: they are still making it, over and over again, every day.

But, instead of heading in that direction, building up some new approach to sociality that works inside the world of Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs, Google has decided to double down on Google+, and to continue the sort of mistake they made when they required Google+ identities to comment on YouTube as an ‘improvement’ of the service.

Today’s Humpty Dumpty is a new integration between Google+ and Gmail that will allow people who do not know your email address to send an email through your Google+ handle. While this will be an opt-out setting it is a major potential headache. And while it presents what may be considered a positive feature to the Google+ sender of emails it is a spammish nightmare for the Gmail recipient.

John Gruber sums up his shock:

This has to be a mistake. Surely Google will change this from opt-out to opt-in.

But I don’t think it is a mistake, even if they claim it was, tomorrow or later on. This is another premeditated effort to force Google+ down our throats.

I am starting to think it may be time to get off of Google’s stack — Gmail, Calendar, etc. — and move somewhere else.

Jelly, cooperative work, and adaptive strategies

Biz Stone, formerly of Twitter and co-founder/CEO of Jelly, and his friend and co-founder/CTO Ben Finkel have finally revealed the application they’ve been working on since last fall. An iOS (at present) app called Jelly that I would characterize as a crowdsourced, cooperative search engine.

Introducing Jelly

Humanity is connected like never before. In fact, recent white papers have concluded that the proverbial “six degrees of separation” is now down to four because of social networking and mobile phones. It’s not hard to imagine that the true promise of a connected society is people helping each other.

As Biz Stone says in the video introducing the app,

“If you have a question, there is someone out there that knows the answer.”

While that may not be true in all cases, it is true in a large majority of them.

Here’s Biz circling a photo of an art piece in the Presidio, and asking what it is.

Screenshot 2014-01-07 15.01.14

Here’s the response from a friend of a friend in his social scene, telling him the name of the piece and the artist’s name.

Screenshot 2014-01-07 15.01.31

This is a great example of the loosely connected nature of cooperative work, which will be increasingly important in the world, and soon will become the dominant modality of work, as well.

As Seth Godin recently wrote there are three ways to deal with the future: accurately guessing what will happen (good luck in this economy), resilience (applying adaptive strategies to what emerges), and denial (such as believing tomorrow will be just like yesterday). Godin points out that resilience is best when you don’t know:

Resilience is the best strategy for those realistic enough to admit that they can’t predict the future with more accuracy than others. Resilience isn’t a bet on one outcome, instead, it’s an investment across a range of possible outcomes, a way to ensure that regardless of what actually occurs (within the range), you’ll do fine.

Although he doesn’t generalize this as adaptive strategies, and he only talks about running many experiments. I think cooperation is another such strategy.


The canard — ‘the right information to the right person at the right time’ — is the endlessly repeated mantra of old timey collaboration vendors. Those interested in the new way of work simply aren’t interested in that sort of hypothetical efficiency: instead, they are looking for effective adaptations to the dilemma of not knowing what the best path or the right person is.

The now traditional collaborative approach in business is based on non-adaptive premises, that the challenges this year will a lot like last year’s. So people are assigned roles, and an organization is structured to manage the inputs and outputs of fairly well-defined business workflows based on fairly concrete assumptions about customer expectations, and how to measure progress. This takes time to define, design, and to hire to. If something comes along to shake up those premises, the system must be reset, which takes time and leads to possibly finding different people, and rethinking the flow of work. The resilience of collaborative work is low, because it is outside of the work, an afterthought: it is not built-in.

Jelly is a counter example. Each user is tied to their own connections, their own set of friends. Requests propagate from friend to friend, from set to set, without the initial requester — or anyone else — trying to analyzing what is the best way to rout the question to the right person. The canard — ‘the right information to the right person at the right time’ — is the endlessly repeated mantra of old timey collaboration vendors. Those interested in the new way of work simply aren’t interested in that sort of hypothetical efficiency: instead, they are looking for effective adaptations to the dilemma of not knowing what the best path or the right person is.

Even in this simple example, Biz has reached beyond his personal set of connections out into the larger social scene: the friend of a friend, someone he possibly does not know. And that person is willing to cooperate and provide his knowledge or insight to help Biz with his question. To generalize, this doesn’t have to be just about Jelly and asking questions with images. It could be about installing a blog template in Tumblr, or how to use GitHub for a particular issue, or who is a good contact at Jive to talk about StreamOnce.

This is a key pattern in the future of cooperation at work and the new way of work.

The freethinking aspect of this is to realize that in times of uncertainty and ambiguity spending time building organizational structures that act as lines people must stay within is very occasionally a lucky bet, and generally a costly mess. The alternative is application of distributed cognition, and harnessing the resilience latent in loosely connected networks of cooperators.

So, while Jelly may not be targeted at business, I wouldn’t be surprised to see two or three products launched in the near future, positioned as ‘Jelly for business’. And it will be a killer niche, too.

 

Gitter is a GitHub-based chat tool for developers

I pinged Mike Barlett of Gitter, a GitHub-based chat tool, now in limited beta, and we chatted about the tool which is geared to use by developers. Gitter is a shining example of deep and narrow social tools that serve a specific sort of constituency very, very well. In more than a few ways it reminds me of Slack, which I wrote up last year (see It’s getting even more real time: Slack and Skwiggle).

As I recently wrote, we will see a steady departure from horizontal, shallow social layers grafted on top of enterprise applications: the social collaboration architecture. This migration is happening because that architecture is not based on the shape of our work, but instead, 20th century structures of control:

Stowe Boyd, Beneath the chatter about the Future Of Work lies a discontinuity

By the ‘shape of the work’ I mean two things: 1/ it doesn’t reflect the work activities or products, necessarily. Consider a piece of software under development in GitHub, or a magazine issue being developed in Adobe Creative Cloud: the environment for work is built-to-hand: it fits the form of the work being done. And 2/, it doesn’t necessarily reflect the way that each individual spins a working set of cooperators to get their own work done, and how these sets combine to form scenes, in which large numbers of overlapping sets are connected, socially, toward emergent ends.

We will see more cooperative work, supported by loosely connected, small and simple apps, a break with the model of enterprise software vendors. Not because people want apps that remind them of Snapchat or Foursquare, but because people are doing work at local social scale, not across an enterprise, in general.

So Gitter perfectly matches this observation, since it immediately inherits the shape of the social groups operating around GitHub instances. It simply relies on the social identity within GitHub, and them creates IRC-like chat rooms for public and private repositories. And its UX is organized specifically around sharing things that developers care about, like sharing and commenting on code and GitHub’s notion of issues.

In this screenshot you can see the issue number #32 is mentioned, and mousing over pops the description into context. (Click on image to enlarge.)

gitter

And here, below, you can see code pasted into context, with the formatting and styling retained.

gitter2

I only had a short demo, but there are a long set of integrations — like that with Trello, the task management solution — and other features. Here’s a list from the website:

Know who’s seen any message. Edit messages after you’ve sent them. Webhook integrations with Jenkins, Trello and more. Automatically embeds content like YouTube, pictures of cats and other stuff. Did we mention our smart [email protected] Batched notifications. Won’t annoy you by making your phone beep on every message. Awesome emotigifs. Infinite chat history stored in the cloud. Searchable too, naturally. Oh, and a unified activity feed. Phew, that’s a lot.

I found it interesting that Bartlett started the parent company Trou.pe with the goal of building a more general tool — the sort used to communicate and work socially across the spectrum — like a Yammer, IBM Connections, or the like. Then, for the needs of the developers building it they did a loose integration with GitHub, but then realized that they would be creating more value for a narrower community  by deeply integrating with GitHub. And Gitter was born in one two week experiment. The response has been very supportive, Barlett says, and they signed up over 30,000 after announcing the beta.

I can’t be sure that Gitter is the one-Github-chat-tool-to-rule-them-all (yes, I saw the Hobbit the other day), but I am pretty confident that this sort of solution — those that are shaped by the work and not the outmoded structures of organizational control — will grow in use. And over the next year or so, the major enterprise software players will do more than pay attention: they will reformulate their product strategies around small-and-simple tools that are loosely connected, but which support deep and narrow work.

CIOs think social tools are the most overhyped technology today

Another proof that CIOs are out of touch with today’s business imperatives comes from Sierra Ventures CIO Network. At a recent CIO Summit, the venture firm polled the roughly 40 attendees as to what were the most overhyped and underhyped technologies:

Arik Hesseldahl, CIOs Brand Enterprise Social Tools as Most Overhyped Technology of the Year

The answers were pretty clear and, at least in the overhyped category, close to unanimous.

The most overhyped, in their view, were social tools aimed at the enterprise. This would include products like Jive, Microsoft’s Yammer, Salesforce.com’s Chatter, Moxie, VMWare’s Socialcast and a host of others.

Their reasoning, as Al Campa, a partner at Sierra Ventures put it, was equally simple: “They don’t feel there’s any evidence for a return on investment or ROI,” he said. “It just didn’t move the needle for them when compared to other technologies they looked at.”

It’s a kind of predictable answer where CIOs are concerned, but not chief marketing officers, or CMOs, said Tim Guleri, a managing partner at Sierra Ventures. “CIOs are all about controlling spending and driving down their costs and finding money to fund innovation elsewhere,” he said. “That’s different than CMOs, who are trying to drive branding and reach. They feel differently about the social tools” and are therefore more willing to experiment with their growing tech budgets.

There’s two ways to parse this:

  1. CIOs just don’t get the fact that the business is moving away from communication structures that follow the form factor of industrial age businesses. The 40 CIOs in this group are likely to have come from larger companies, where IT groups are slower to change. Note that CIOs have come under the gun recently for being out of touch with the real needs of the business. In IT leaders are out of sync with the enterprise’s new priorities I looked at research that aligns with the Sierra Ventures’ results: IT leaders dropped collaboration tools from 4th place in 2012 to 12th place in 2013. But they also only thought that business agility deserved to be in 6th place while the CEOs thought it was 2nd. They just aren’t getting it. There’s other research about that (see Why CIOs will screw things up in 2014).
  2. It may be that the current crop of ‘collaboration’ tools haven’t yet made a deep impact on the way business is getting done. As I wrote yesterday in Beneath the chatter about the Future Of Work lies a discontinuity,

    We will see more cooperative work, supported by loosely connected, small and simple apps, a break with the model of enterprise software vendors. Not because people want apps that remind them of Snapchat or Foursquare, but because people are doing work at local social scale, not across an enterprise, in general.

    This is the largest discontinuity. Instead of conceptualizing the company as broken into managed units, with managers leading each unit and subordinates doing their piecework, we need to conceive of the company as a world — an ecology — built-up from each individual connecting to other individuals. And stringing these together into an interconnected whole involves associations like sets, and discernible elements like scenes, but increasingly, nothing like brigades and squads.

    And broadly-conceived one-size-fits-all ‘collaborative’ software solutions will increasingly be viewed as something like the obligation to wear a company uniform to work rather than something to unleash creativity, cooperation, and innovation.

The companies asking CIOs to deploy social tools and the CIOs themselves can’t expect dramatic increases in whatever key metrics the company uses to measure progress — innovation, agility, performance, or customer satisfaction — by simply deploying tools that reinforce old ways of doing things in organizations doing things the old way, except with social tools as a sidebar.

So the CIOs at the Sierra Summit where right and wrong: they aren’t getting a payback on social tools, but that’s because the company has to use social tools as the core infrastructure of a new ways of work, not as an add-on to 20th century operations. But then, the change to a new form factor of work is a larger challenge that CIOs can take on.