the doctor Shall Also Remain Spaceless

While browsing the Supply Chain Management Review site recently, I stumbled upon the article What Supply Management Can Learn From MySpace, and I was scared. Although not as bad as Facebook, I still think of it as a time-sucking black hole filled with meaningless banter between teens, twenty-somethings, and the unemployed – with poorly designed pages that would burn a good designer’s eyes right out of their sockets to boot! (I did investigate it back when it was new – I signed up, looked around, quickly came to the conclusion that it was too much effort for too little return, and abandoned it.) The only thing it’s useful for, from a business perspective, is to discover new artists – which is only good for those looking for bands to book or labels looking for bands to sign. Not really supply management.

I read the article anyway, just to be sure they weren’t advocating its use and that my view of the SCMR as one of the better publications wasn’t misplaced, and it had a few good points. It noted that to succeed in this quickly changing tech-savvy world, companies must think, even “work”, differently. Which is true, but this doesn’t mean embracing every fad that comes along – it means finding new technologies and processes that actually improve productivity. The goal of business is to be productive and make money, not socialize with friends. (This may be the goal of most big business executives, but it’s not the goal of business. )

It also pointed out that communication, globalization, and on-demand collaboration is a good thing. I agree, but remembering that communication implies (a two-way) information exchange, I don’t often see much of that on MySpace. It’s not as global as you might think. And it doesn’t really enable collaboration the way that new sourcing and supply chain offerings from the leading on-demand vendors (like ArenaIasta, Salesforce, etc.) do.

The article also pointed out a few technological trends that are important:

  • broader-based adoption of PLM technologies
  • emergence of CAD and PDM lite technologies
  • standardization of collaboration features
  • unilateral migration to service-oriented architectures

I agree that these are important, but I would question whether they are business equivalents of MySpace, for these achieve effective goals in the business world due to their differentiation from MySpace, not their similarities.

In short, while I will admit that the notion of examining new developments in social technologies as a means of drawing inspiration has merit, the notion of trying to create innovative business applications by creating something that is equivalent to a social networking sites does not. First of all, there’s no guarantee that it will bring any business value in terms of productivity or cost savings. Secondly, there’s no guarantee that it’s not a fad, and that people will want to use it by the time you have a business equivalent. Thirdly, you’re blurring the world between business and pleasure, which is a slippery slope to be sliding on.

So while I agree you should always be on the lookout for new and better technologies, I’d be cautious about jumping on the bandwagon of the next social network fad that comes along. Chances are that, in the long run, it will be nothing more than a drain on your time and resources. There’s a reason that a large number of organizations in the public and private sector have blocked access to sites like MySpace and Facebook. If I were you, I’d take the clue.