Lightweight technologies, e-sourcing and VRM

One of the blogs I read most religiously is Confused of Calcutta (*). For the past aeon or so, JP’s being going on about the uses of Facebook and Twitter in the enterprise. Today’s post brings together a whole bunch of strands that show vividly how small pieces of technology, that on their own are not that intersting, combine to make a whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts. He uses examples from the consumer side of things, but we all know how consumerisation is the future of business technology.

But I digress. To come back to JP’d post. Read it, the storyline is great. I’ll try not to rip off the whole thing, because you have to follow the story to get the point. But here are some extracts:

Something should be scraping what I am doing, capturing it in a way I can choose to share with others. Choose, we must remember that word. And what else? Oh yes, wouldn’t it be nice if I could enrich the information I was sending? Provide more information about the artist or group, maybe YouTube video links, maybe Wikipedia links, maybe Flickr links, maybe even the homepage of the band or group. How about a link to the song itself, so that someone else can sample it, try it out, decide for themselves if they like it? Maybe even a way to search for more information, and the tools to buy the CD or DVD in physical or digital format?


It’s worth bearing a few things in mind. First there was the web. Then there was SMS. Without SMS there is no Twitter. Without the web there is no Twitter. Now we’ve had tinyurl for a long time, but it starts coming into its own when we start using something like Twitter. As a result of all this, someone else could build something like FoxyTunes (which looks like Netvibes meeting, and then building TwittyTunes to connect up with the Twitter world. And then suddenly everything else waltzes in to enrich what we can see and do, ranging from text to audio to video, from search and syndication and conversation to fulfilment.


What strikes me is the power manifest here, the power of connecting simple things like SMS and tinyurl and Twitter. Small pieces loosely joined, as David Weinberger said.

There are important applications here in the e-sourcing space. Funnily enough, JP ends the post with some questions about VRM (short questions, long answers). Now, I think he’s talking about VRM from the perspective of how, say, one individual an manage his relationship with the arline he buys tickets from and another person can manage her relationship with the garage she bought her car from. But I’ll address it from the point of view of sourcing in the enterprise space. Here’s a start: The important innovations of tomorrow won’t come from inside Ariba or even Emptoris or Zycus. The innovations will come from small pieces that didn’t even come with a business plan attached, until people (yes, people, in the plural) figured out how you could plug them all together, and then all of a sudden it all seemed so obvious.

Ridiculous? I don’t think so. What about’s recent exhortations to use YouTube more? There’s something emergent here.

(*) – I’ve been a big fan of JP Rangaswami since I first heard his story about how you decomission a mainframe. To paraphrase: If you need to decommission a mainframe and you ask people in the organisation whether they still need it or not they will tell you that, yes, they do sometimes need it. They will tell you that, yes, they do refer to the 50 page printout that lands in their department once a week. So you can’t decommission it. So what you do, is you just turn the damn thing off. And then 6 weeks later tell people that you’ve decomissioned it.


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