Your work life will be based on your personal life, if one of the biggest technology companies gets its way.
IBM this week announced product revamps at its Connect conference in Orlando, Florida, that unashamedly further borrow from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google and Dropbox.
The company hopes that the tools new, younger, digital-savvy employees like to use in their own time will increase their productivity at work. And picking off the best parts of familiar other products? That's just part of a "remix culture".
“It's safe to say we shape our tools for consumability, use, and adoption based on the expectations of what people have from their consumer life,” Alistair Rennie, IBM's general manager social business, told Fairfax Media's IT Pro.
"That has advantages ... Every employee comes in now and has a sense or a benchmark of what is possible in the enterprise because of their personal lives.”
The latest iterations of three IBM products - Connections, Notes, and Docs - feature not just a widely-used activity feed but “like” buttons, hashtags, video functions familiar to YouTube users, and easily-shared document collaboration tools.
Lawyers need not be alarmed. IBM is hoping to position the hybrid products as part of a “remix”. To explain it, the company had Hollywood actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, star of the film Looper, tell how his own hitRECord project works - users collaborate through social media to create films and music, building in what others have made before them.
Gordon-Levitt was intending to motivate the audience about cross-office collaboration but could have been referring to software evolution.
"Once you let go of notion that 'this is mine' and others build on top of what you did, you can work together a lot better," he told the audience.
“Many of the capabilities that are in Connections are leveraged by open-source technology,” said Mike Rhodin, senior vice president, software solutions.
Rennie said IBM had its eyes on digital natives entering the workforce and employers must work to attract that generation to their companies.
“Social is part of technology but it is also part of culture,” he said. “The easier the tools are, the more familiar they are, the faster the adoption and the faster you get moving. Clearly, the consumerisation of IT is a big thing. We see the consumer market as a benchmark.”
The insight isn't exclusive to Big Blue, of course. Many enterprise vendors have already incorporated consumer-friendly features into their products, from Salesforce.com to NetSuite, while Google simply tailored its consumer products to the enterprise through Google Apps for Business.
Analyst Richard Edwards of Ovum says workplace software must adapt to what employees use as consumers.
“Every enterprise employee is first and foremost a consumer,” he said. “The 'joy of use' factor just hasn't been there in enterprise software. In the consumer world, a successful product has to combine function and utility with joy of use.”
“[IBM's 'remix'] is not a bad thing,” Edwards added. “The boundaries are already blurred between work and your personal life. IBM seems to have caught on to appreciating what the consumer web has done for IT and is bringing that to the enterprise.”
The New York-based writer attended the event as a guest of the company.