Why is social computing more cost effective?

In part of this interview with Stowe Boyd, Headshift’s Lee Bryant talks about the impact of the current global financial crisis on IT spending. He comments on the paradox that organisations are still sinking large amounts of money into old-style communication and knowledge management tools that don’t really work, yet will question spending much smaller amounts on a social computing-based approach that really can have an immediate impact.

But why exactly is a social computing-based approach more cost effective than a traditional software system? In my own experience there are two main reasons why:

  • Low barriers to entry – this isn’t just about direct cost, but also the way that social computing platforms are engineered to be easily installed, grown over time and extended through open programming methods.
  • Business-centred technology – social computing tools are designed to respond to emergent needs and this eliminates many of the risks (and inherent costs) found in systems developed using a waterfall method, where typically by the time business requirements are defined and implemented those needs have changed.

A pilot is still a good approach to take, but the start up cost of a traditional software solution can still be a barrier to entry and typically such a pilot is limited for that reason and can only reflect the needs of the pilot group.

But even if you’re still stuck with installing cumbersome legacy or transactional-focused information systems, another interesting approach is to actually use social software to help enhance the return on investment on that core system. Its relatively simple and cost effective to build a social overlay that can add tremendous value.

Some good examples of this can be found in the legal industry (for a starting point, see our Legal and Professional Services case studies), where social computing overlays can support collaboration and knowledge sharing on top of existing highly structured matter-centric document management and practice management systems.

Of course, while we’ve been discussing the benefits of a social computing solution approach, we haven’t even scratched the surface of the ultimate business and organisational benefits these social tools can bring. But more on that another day.

In the meantime, contact us at Headshift or give me a call on +61 414 233711 if you would like to discuss how we can get a solution deployed more quickly or add value to your existing information systems.