BOSTON -- Enterprise 2.0 -- As we talk about a shift to social software and collaboration tools in the enterprise, one huge issue that still perplexes executives and IT managers is how to maintain control over everything. During a keynote at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston, JP Rangaswami, chief scientist at BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), shared some words of wisdom: Let go of control.
"The enterprise has to learn to design for loss of control," he said. "The age of the locked-down desktop is finally coming to an end."
As an example of how we've overcome this in the past, Rangaswami pointed to the history of telcos: As a child, he said, his family was able to rent a black telephone. Over time, they could rent one in a different color, or buy a phone. And, eventually, telcos lost control of the device. The same is happening in the enterprise.
Going forward, as a result, the enterprise has to be able to deliver services without knowing what the end point looks like, said Rangaswami. "That process is developing, but it's accentuated by new generation... For the first time in my life I'm seeing enterprises commit to saying, 'You can bring your own desktop into work.'"
The Enterprise 2.0 conference is in its sixth year, and the same questions about control are as relevant as ever. But letting go of the devices is the easy part, says Rangaswami. The harder point to convey is that enterprises can no longer control their data either.
"Take a phenomenon like WikiLeaks... If you take something that is abundant and try to artificially make it scarce, you end up with an equal and opposite force of making the abundant thing abundant again," he said. "Whether you look at port restrictions on the PC, or [digital rights management] on CDs, the act of trying to create control on something that's trying to be abundant is responded to by a far superior force by someone who wants to release that abundant thing."
In addition to letting go of devices and data, there are a couple of other changes enterprises have to prepare for -- and new ways of thinking they must adopt -- as they delve into the 2.0 arena, says Rangaswami. Similar to the consumer space where people worry that the Internet is "dumbing us down," enterprises have to understand that we may be seeing a shift from the individual to the collective as social tools are adopted.
"As we implement systems to serve enterprises in the future we're going to have to understand this final loss of control, which is that expertise shifts from that of the individual to that of the collective. Sharing becomes the norm," he said.
Embracing loss of control may be easier said than done since this is a key concern for the enterprise. But, according to Rangaswami, it's the key to success in the future.
"Whoever succeeds is going to try to figure out how well we did in designing for loss of control... in recognizing we have to be agnostic about the device at the edge, and recognizing that, for the most part, information you have will leak."
Of course, there is still one way to control your company's data, said Rangaswami: "If anyone asks me how to make sure information isn't replicated, my advice would be don't put it on a computer and connect it."
— Nicole Ferraro, Site Editor, Internet Evolution