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How to survive the coming shift to social business and systems of engagement


keithmacbeath.jpgBy Keith Macbeath, Senior Principal Consultant, HP Software Professional Services


As a consultant, a big part of my job is meeting with customers and hearing about their IT concerns. A little while ago, I had a fascinating discussion with an HP customer about social business that illustrates how IT is radically changing. Simply put, this customer is concerned about making sure their organization is adapting to systems of engagement.


I’ve written before about the seismic shifts that are shaking up IT. Following on that, I’ve been thinking a lot about what IT guru Geoffrey Moore calls systems of engagement. Twenty years ago, Moore wrote a book called Crossing the Chasm, and it’s a must-read for anyone in IT management. He’s lately come out with a report, “Systems of Engagement and the Future of Enterprise IT: A Sea Change in Enterprise IT,” that was the subject of some very thought-provoking discussion with our customer.


From systems of record to systems of engagement

Moore’s thesis is that with the explosion of the Internet, we are moving from what he calls systems of record to systems of engagement. What does this mean?


Systems of record are all the number-crunching, data-managing tools, systems and repositories on which today’s IT is based. But as life has moved onto the Internet, suddenly there’s a virtual world that people are living in and interacting in and socializing in. These are systems of engagement.


How organizations interact with systems of engagement

The challenge for businesses now is to take part in systems of engagement in a way that adds value and forges new connections with their customers.


To give you an example, one of the customers I work with is a bank. They are using systems of engagement like Facebook as a new way of detecting fraud. Say that you are a customer of this bank and that you post on Facebook that you’re on vacation in Bali. The bank is one of your Facebook friends so it knows you’re in Bali. But the bank can also see that there’s been access to your account from an IP address in Europe. The bank is matching information from a system of record to a system of engagement and seeing that there’s a mismatch. That raises a fraud flag.


Rethinking your enterprise architecture

In the case of our banking customer, their goals led them to create an entirely new enterprise architecture, one that would allow them to find the business value in systems of engagement. Their new architecture has three layers:

  1. The back end: These are the bank’s systems of record, which run the bank accounts and so forth.
  2. The front end: This is an environment that allows the bank to serve in any context. So it serves onto mobile, onto Facebook, onto their website, into the branch system and so on.
  3. The middle level: This is an entirely new layer that manages the intersection of systems of engagement and systems of record. It manages the experience, regardless of device or platform. And it manages the Big Data extraction in real time of facts from these of systems of engagement to feed marketing and fraud detection programs.


Two challenges

Wherever your organization is in grappling with social business and systems of engagement, I think there are two critical points to think about as you move forward:


  • How to match facts from systems of engagement to systems of record. What are you going to use this for? I already talked about fraud detection. Another example is sentiment analysis: How do people feel about my business based on all these postings out there? For instance, say you’re a hotel chain. There are entrepreneurial start-ups out there that search posts for negative comments about your business, which they’ll then send to you in real time so you can do something about it. Sentiment analysis is especially powerful if you can tie it back to an individual and then take action.


  • How to sift through unstructured data. The challenge of systems of engagement is the huge amount of information they generate. And it’s all unstructured. So you need different analytical processes, new tools (because this isn’t your typical BI) and a new architecture. You don’t want to move data from the Internet to an internal environment to run analysis on it. Instead, you want to run the analytics local to the data as much as possible. This forces a very different mindset on IT which traditionally has been all about big firewalls.


The whole world is moving to systems of engagement. Organizations need to start grappling with this now, or they risk getting left behind.


You can learn more about analytical tools to sift through big data in this white paper about Vertica: The Impact of Social Graphing Analysis on the Bottom Line.


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