OK, just a couple of weeks ago, the technology blogging world went atwitter with disbelief that Cisco had made yet another acquisition in the social-networking world. First Cisco acquired Five Apart. Then it took Tribe. The big news today is that Cisco has nabbed Webex,and paid a whopping $3.2 billion to close the deal. If anyone wondered if Cisco was merely dabbling in Enterprise 2.0 and collaboration, they stopped doubting the company today. This is the real deal. Cisco means business.
(Many will argue that Webex is old school, but as a part of Cisco’s Unified Communications strategy, it may become a lot more.)
And Cisco not alone. A pattern is emerging: old world IT companies are funding expeditions into the new world. Not too long ago, Intel announced SuiteTwo, an "Enterprise 2.0 in a box" offering that stitches together a number of social-media platforms and tools (full disclosure: hubbub represents Socialtext, one of the companies in the SuiteTwo suite). And recently, IBM announced Lotus Connections, which the company claims is "the industry's first platform for business-grade social computing." The clue to this pattern comes from the IBM press release: the phrase "business grade." The "big iron" companies are entering the 2.0 marketplace by promising to bridge two worlds: the business people who want 2.0 to happen with the more conservative folks who worry about things like security, integration and regulatory compliance.
It was bound to happen. The business case for social media has already been made, but large, unwieldy businesses do not know how to respond. They do not know how to respond for a variety of reasons. But perhaps the biggest reason is that social media has not been entirely socialized in the enterprise. Companies like Cisco, Intel, and IBM have lots of experience speaking to the many constituencies that make up the contemporary enterprise.
I expect the big-iron companies to make a difference. But to succeed, they will have to become adept at socializing themselves into the world of social media. Just as media companies and businesses have struggled to build credibility in the world of blogging, the incumbent IT companies may struggle for credibility in the new IT world order. Already they are (struggling). But that doesn't mean they won't succeed.
the press release