It's the first week of the new financial year at Microsoft, typically the time when we all get our new objectives, people move jobs and when the music stops, we try to remap the landscape. Every coffee shop on campus is jammed with people chatting and every calendar filled with clandestine "catch up 1:1" meetings.
A few years ago everyone at Microsoft went through the Gallup personal profiling tool strengthsfinder. IMHO it's much better than old school methodologies like Myers Briggs or Belbin because it really focuses on what you are good, ordering 34 "strengths". The top 3 probably describe your normal behaviour most of the time and the top 10 are a stunningly accurate description. (my top 5 by the way were: ideation, futuristic, strategic, command, action oriented). Funnily enough nearly everyone at Microsoft has a strength called "relater" in their top 10 (it's my no. 7). Culturally this means we like working with friends and indicates that our social networks are our main tool for getting things done. The annual borg-reorg throws all those relationships up in the air, hence all those latte overdoses as everyone seeks to re-establish their networks.
The old dump and index approach to search is being replaced by a much more relational style of knowledge connectivity. For example, in response to the comment about what it takes to build online bots like the Encarta instant answers I thought it might be fun to get in touch with the guys that wrote it and ask them.
Encarta is not an IW product, I have no idea who writes it or where it sits in the company. So I turn to our intranet, msw.
Type in "encarta instant answers" I then search using the people tab. This uses the SharePoint Server 2007 search capability of looking for the experts most likely for this search term. So the top hit is the lead program manager, with his picture and presence globe. I see he's online so I start an IM with him. "Hello" I say. There is a pause while I guess he thinks, who's that? right clicks on my name and finds out who I am, maybe even checking mysite. Looking at his mysite, it tells me that the first manager we share in the hierarchy is Bill Gates - so we're really from opposite ends of the company. He then says "Hi Darren - how can I help?". I explain what I'm after and he puts me in touch with the guy that wrote the bot (another name further down my search results).
So within 5 minutes I'm in touch with the developer.
What is interesting here is that I have not searched for a website or a document.
I'm looking for a guru and then I want to talk.
Business is about people, it's about relationships. Studies of gen-X and millenials (people who entered the workforce after the year 2000) show that social networking in business is set to increase.
Technology should be there to support the way we work not the other way round. This is why the Office System is built for the people ready business and why investing in it helps to prepare you for the way the world will work, not how it used to work.