Tacit Interactions and Enterprise Applications


Many have been talking about a recent issue of the McKinsey Quarterly that speaks of what they call “Tacit Interactions”. When people consider Enterprise 2.0 / Web 2.0 / Office 2.0 tools such as blogs and wikis, they need to consider these tools in the context of these tacit interactions. Tacit being ad hoc or on the fly and this represents 40% of a typical business day time according to McKinsey. Dion Hinchcliffe and Tony DiRomualdo do a good job explaining this in more detail as does the blog Enterprise Web 2.0. These are not the routine transactional activities but rather the interactions are complex and ambiguous, requiring high levels of judgment and problem-solving. People involved in tacit interactions must often draw on deep experience and combine with available data, and the output of integrated data.

Over the years companies have boosted their productivity by improving the efficiency of transformational activities but have to some extent maxed out the economical IT efficiencies of these activities. In other words, throwing more hardware and software isn’t necessarily going to bring about the same efficiency gains that we’ve seen before.

To realize greater ROI from new applications, the focus of Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0 presents has been about putting more power in the users hands to make these other non-transactional activates better, faster, and easier. Easier said then done when one realizes this involves deriving value from unstructured and possibly dispersed data.

Tacit interactions require a whole different organizational style and structure than transactional interactions. While one can improve transformational interactions through process design, and improve transactional interactions by providing scripts and structures, tacit interactions require loose boundaries, flat hierarchy, individual empowerment to innovate, and an emphasis on learning over time.

It is no surprise then that the tools such a person uses has to be as adaptable as the individual capable of handling the characteristics above. Tools that empower end users and finally help them help themselves with what information they want, when, and how they want it.

This has been the bottle-neck as I see it with software to date. Attempts have been made with business intelligence tools and portal but now with fine-grained services being exposed in greater numbers and client-side technologies that can consume these on the scene now, it seems we may be closer to empowering end users and finally helping them help themselves with what information they want, when and how they want it.


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