Cliq Means Business
by Tony Kontzer
Last week, I happened to find myself on assignment for the Syfy (formerly SciFi) Channel technology blog DVICE, covering the launch of Motorola's great hope at rediscovering relevance: the Cliq, a phone that runs Google's Android mobile operating system and brings all of a user's messages and social networking posts to the home screen in a living, breathing symphony (cacophony?) of hyper-communication.
Motorola wants the Cliq to stand out, so it built a companion piece of software called Motoblur that enables this aggregation of communications. The home screen consists of application gadgets that display social network posts, enable wholesale status changes across social networks, and provide a list of all emails, text messages and social networking posts directed at the user. From my seat at the press event, it looked like an impressive device that pushes the limits of what cell phones can do and no doubt will thrill the growing legions of social networking freaks.
Of course, none of this means a lick to the average IT department -- or does it?
Most IT leaders today would say they have a long list of priorities that trump things like optimizing mobile access to social networking tools, and they'd be justified in saying so. But the Cliq sends a pretty powerful message about the growing role social networking is playing in our lives. It's not just something we do in the evening after we've done the dishes and put the kids to bed. It increasingly follows us everywhere we go, and is fast becoming the de facto method of communication.
My message to IT folks: No matter how many challenges you face, don't let your guard down on this social networking thing. It's poised to become a huge business tool. For a working model, look no further than Ning, the service that lets you build a customized, invitation-only social network, and has become a favorite tool for groups of former employees, such as those of the now-defunct Lehman Bros., who want to stay connected.
These networks are one step removed from being an active employee resource. Imagine a near future when Ning, Facebook or Twitter offer up tools that would allow companies to quickly apply IT policies and controls to a private social networking site. You'd have a valuable, informal IT resource that would require no hardware, very little staff time, and almost no user training. Ning took a quiet step toward that thinking recently when it rolled out some 90 applications that offer seemingly compelling business functionality, such as e-commerce or collaboration. (Companies that are willing to invest in social networking can be early adopters of something like this--although it appears to lack a mobile element.)
So while Motorola's Cliq looks at first blush like a device geared toward sophisticated high school and college-aged customers, look again: It could quite possibly be the first step of a significant evolution in mobile business communications. As such, IT can't afford to take the same approach it did when instant messaging first reared its head inside the enterprise. It can't look upon social networking as nothing more than a distraction and security risk, and try to stifle its use. Conversely, the more proactive and visionary stance a company's IT leadership takes on social networking today, the more effective a business tool it's destined to become.