Recent advances in software design, often referred to with such labels as Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0 and Social Media provide a great opportunity to look at old problems and consider if they could be solved better with a new approach.  We are already seeing this with social media applications where collaboration (i.e. email based on 40 year designs) is being reinvented with new integrated platforms for email, blog, wiki, IM, micro-blogging.  Now we should ask what opportunities exist to solve other “old” problems with new 2.0ish solutions.

What are we learning about software?

If you asked folks what “social media” or “2.0” means – you likely get some varied answers.  There is already much written on the definitions of Social Media and W20/E20.  Instead of focusing on specific features or platforms, my intent is to focus on how this revolution is changing how folks approach using software to solve problems.

Some important attributes I see include:

  • Simple.  The features for the products tend to be simpler, how they are used is simpler.
  • Easy to use.  Users of software now expect it to be easy to use and not get in their way.  This is related to “simple” but not identical.
  • Anywhere/Anytime.  Users can access from anywhere anytime, especially mobile devices.
  • Collaboration.   Where possible allow for open collaboration amongst involved parties.
  • Transparency.  Folks are becoming far more transparent – just look at tools like Facebook.  This breaks down barriers and provides opportunities for software to be more efficient.
  • Cloud.  Whether the “cloud” is internet or intranet, users are becoming more comfortable with cloud based computing and seeking the benefits of this application delivery model.
  • Mashup & Integration.  Information and access to services to operate on this information is key.  Users are expecting more to be able to connect with providers of both to help better solve their problems.

There are many concepts/features emerging from this 2.0 revolution and include Wikis, Blogs, Micro-Blogging, Profiles, Mobile Apps, Portals, etc.  And we should expect more new ideas to continue being introduced which users will want to leverage.

Can we do better with social media influences?

So the big question – can we solve old problems in new & better ways providing improved efficiency, user adoption, transparency and availability?  I think so!  But this cannot be achieved by simply taking an “old” app and gluing on a couple of 2.0 features – the app needs to be re-conceived from the ground up.   A simple example relates to hybrid cars – you do not simply take the engine from a hybrid and drop into a traditional gas powered car.   Instead it gets redesigned from the ground up taking into account weight, strength, aerodynamics, etc.

How about some examples?

Ultimately I believe this revolution could provide opportunities across most software.   For example:

  • Documentation.  Imagine the possibilities if documentation were prepared, reviewed, managed in a wiki like form!  Available on-line, anywhere allowing for distributed contribution and collaboration.  For example a writer who is participating in translation could be working in near real-time on latest docs from remote locations.
  • Expense Management.  Consider if your expense management tool were simple to use, seamlessly integrated with your mobile device, collaborative to allow for efficient review!  This might decrease the time spent entering, allow one to get reimbursed more quickly, and better allow the business to manage/monitor expenses.

These are just two simple examples.  Can you see how this could dramatically change how a lot of old problems have been solved?