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In Part Two of APMdigest's exclusive interview, BMC's Chris Dancy talks about social media, Social IT, data overload, and the outlook for IT in the next couple years.
APM: Do you see social media for IT – Social IT – becoming important?
CD: I think it is a red herring. For years I have sat in conferences, and people say IT needs to learn to communicate. There are even companies creating social IT products. I don't think you can slap social media onto IT and expect it to work.
Salesforce's Chatter is an amazing tool. We use it at BMC, but a lot of people don't know how to use it, or don't know why they would use it. And it goes to a much larger issue, as a population of people who are white-collar knowledge workers, we are paid to analyze, gather and share information. We haven't done much outside of an inbox or Microsoft Office since either one was invented. You really have to go back and find out what went wrong on some day in 1992 to figure out why we are so unprepared to handle 2013. I disagree with the folks clamoring that social media would fix all this.
The first webinar I ever did for HDI in 2008 was on how to use social systems to enhance IT support. At one point I thought we should just replace IT support with these systems. But it became obvious to me that was not possible because the way most people use social media is an extension of a dopamine, so they can post stuff to get reactions to it, so they can feel better about themselves. And ultimately that is a really bad way to get a message across.
Messaging is more about caring about the message. And you need to care about the people you're messaging to. So social IT, and social media for that matter, is absolutely horrific. When you become friends with someone on Facebook you actually become a more self-centered person because you show the highlight reels of your life. It is very incestuous. Everyone is liking everyone's stuff so they don't fall out of favor with people.
I don't think most people are sensitive to how they share. The biggest names in social media are profound and prolific. They have set a precedent on how they share and what they share because they are juggernauts. That is unattainable for most people. So most people end up looking like digital troglodytes. They are just re-sharing anything the machine tells them to share and devaluing their currency.
I like the idea as an employee I can sit in a meeting and give someone feedback so every day that person can see how they did that day. There are some positive uses for social IT. Unfortunately, I don't think they are panning out because there is too much money in buying my attention because of what I choose to profess that I publicly like.
APM: So do you feel social IT is not going to catch on? Or it is simply not going to help IT departments in the way people hope?
CD: It is going to catch on. But people don't use it correctly. So I don't think social IT will help IT departments. I don't think you can install Chatter in an IT department and fix the culture.
Ultimately for social to be successful in the enterprise, it is going to have to take a deep look at two fields. One is the quantified self movement. The other is mindfulness, which is actually being with people when you're with them. Paying attention.
APM: With all the information coming at people, whether it's at a job or as a consumer, through Twitter, Facebook, and all these data sources we have to check – do you think at some point we will overload on technologies we have to interact with? How can people even handle more interaction beyond what we already have?
CD: I meet a lot of people who are overloaded now. With social media, we went through this period where we would connect with anyone. We said: I can connect to you and that's a good thing. But that has led to a sense of overload. Unfortunately once you connect to someone, you create this relationship that is not mutually beneficial and oftentimes is mutually destructive.
Are we going to implode on this connectedness? Yes, there will obviously be a retreat because I don't think humans are capable, just from an evolutionary standpoint, to have this much access to information without some short-circuit in the system. I think that short-circuit will be very short-lived, however. It will just be this blip of a catastrophe.
I read an article the other day that people are starting to take Facebook vacations. I love the concept because it makes sense to me.
But systems of connection are not going to reduce in number. It is not going to stop. Your question is very profound, but I think ultimately it will sort itself out.
APM: What about IT departments, not only in terms of social media, but being bombarded by all the information from all the different systems. Do you think at some point there is going to be too much information coming at IT, if we have not reached that point already?
CD: That is Big Data. You've got to get back to what is driving it. Unlike our stomach, our mind does not know when it is full. So we as IT departments will continue to consume and consume and consume. We can hardly get our dinosaur arm and twinkie to our digital mind. And at that point you just have to deal with it.
Extinction is the rule not the exception, so you have to move with the data. To me personally that means becoming the data. I never feel overwhelmed because I am in it. I will not allow it to overwhelm me because I am data. I spent a lot of time making sure that everything I do is quantified in a very low friction way. And that information allows me perspective.
To your point about the IT department being overwhelmed, what some of the social services have done to help you gain value is send reminders. They send reminders like: a year ago you were doing this. And that perspective of the service is a nice juxtaposition and reset for an overloaded mind. As the data comes in larger and larger waves, we will find ways to use the technology that is overwhelming us to reset us. When I get an email from any of these services, I love them. It augments me in a way that makes me not overwhelmed, and appreciative of my relationship to the systems.
APM: Do you have any predictions on IT for 2013?
CD: I think this is the year we stabilize. We make a commitment to technology at a professional level and personal level. To me 2013 is really about the stabilization of our relationship to technology.
I think 2014 is really the year where a lot of the things we talked about that are forward facing, in terms of application experience management for example, companies that are working on those ideas will really start to bring them into the market.
But we need to stabilize first. We had a lot of economic conditions globally, and enterprises were scared, people were scared, I was scared. Business has a really tough year this year. We are recovering from a lot. We still have to face the global financial situation.
As a complex, media and technology and humanity, we need to get our ducks in a row right now. We need to pay attention. Things are not going to be perfect over the next six months for a lot of people. People were upset about numbers from a lot of different tech companies. There was not one tech company that I didn't hear someone comment on: oh gosh look at that number, Doom, Gloom. At some point we have to focus on getting through. Tech as a whole is a tenuous place right now. We brought it on ourselves because, again we are building starships with wooden rulers – not equipping employees with the skills.
I am watching technology workers come to have a relationship with technology and the data in that technology that actually makes sense, so they understand and they will start to use the tools in ways that actually bring great value to their lives. But right now we are still cursed with the fact that we are never taught anything beyond certain certifications, certain skill sets, and certain white-collar principles, which all really should have left the enterprise around 2004. But now we are 10 years into that skill set recession and I think that is still going to bite us.
But it is my belief that come July or August we will see major shifts in IT product lines across every single area of our lives, whether they be consumer technology or enterprise technology. We will see major shifts in advancement in that time frame. In June 2014, the interview we are having now will look like I literally stepped out of some future portal, and you will say “You said that” and I will say “Yes, I know.”
ABOUT Chris Dancy
Chris Dancy is Director, Office of the CTO at BMC Software. He has been working in IT support for 20 years with experiences ranging from help desk level 1, service desk manager, ITSM process consultant, software product manager, executive corporate marketing, and entrepreneur. Most people know Chris as @servicesphere on twitter and as the host of the US edition of ITSM weekly, the podcast, syndicated to 30,000 listeners monthly. His name and avatar are synonymous with social media for IT, edutainment and his futuristic visions for IT.