Beta-think: Live work’s Marc Benioff says the future of computing will be like Twitter – that is, live, not batched. “Any concept of batch or delay in development or execution, I think, will not be tolerated by customers anymore,” Benioff said at Structure 09 according to the Digitalbeat report.

But this urgency isn’t just about speed. It’s about organizing work around process over product: beta-think. “Even in development, customers are demanding now that they want to be able to build in that sandbox and deploy immediately, instantly, no delay,” Benioff said. Take that principle past software to other industries – news and advertising, to name two – and to work itself as beta becomes a principle of workflow and management. And that shift will bring a cultural clash to countless workplaces just as we’ve seen in the newsroom.

Many companies haven’t realized this is where things are headed, he said. Benioff recounted attending meetings with chief information officers who all refused to believe that Twitter represents anything significant; they don’t have accounts themselves because “it’s not their generation.” Benioff’s response? He types the name of their company into Twitter search and shows that they’re missing out on a huge part of the conversation. (Benioff isn’t an impartial observer here, since Salesforce’s Service Cloud product is all about connecting companies to their customers on services like Twitter.)

“I think corporations have to step it up in terms of integrating with these real-time systems,” he said.

That’s the same lesson that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has learned recently as Twitter is used to organize anti-government protesters, Benioff added: “He’s probably on Twitter right now.”

  • SmithWill

    Real-time appears to be desperate. God, everything can’t be happening in real-time except when our pockets are being picked by an increasingly pesky Federal Government.

    Twitter is a messy mechanism for multilevel marketing. Take traditional media outlets and smash them into millions of pieces. Yeah, you TOO can become a micro-media outlet with your own following. Cynicism aside, this story reeks of instant gratification. Not surprising in our hedonistic, it’s-all-about-me business culture.

  • The problem is that “process work” only works for some kinds of software, not physical products, and not mission-critical products. Do you want your Mac to be a work in progress, so that when it goes wrong and loses all your files Apple just says “well, it’s in beta. Sorry.”? Do you want Boeing to ship planes which are “works in progress” (OK, well arguably they have with some of them!)?

    What’s more, I think Benioff will change his mind the first time he tells his engineers to ship a version of Salesforce which isn’t ready rather than “delay” it – because at that point, his customers will express their preference rather vocally.

    • Andy Freeman

      > Do you want your Mac to be a work in progress

      It doesn’t matter what I want, my Mac is a work in progress, just like Dick Cheney’s pacemaker. Why do you think that they keep releasing updates?

      Yes, Boeing ships updates too. (One of the more obvious is the upturned winglets that have been retrofitted.)

      > The problem is that “process work” only works for some kinds of software, not physical products, and not mission-critical products.

      You don’t understand what “process” means.

      There is no “last word”. There’s only “what you’ve got now” and “what’s out there”. If “now” good enough compared to what’s out there and the need, you ship, knowing full well that something better is likely to be available in the future.

      And, yes, that’s true of “mission critical”. The only thing that “mission critical” changes is the definition of “good enough to ship”.

      Yes, this involves judgement. Managing the risk/reward requires domain knowledge. You’d think that journalists would have it wrt journalism. (They don’t have a prayer of having it in other areas.)

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  • Jimmy

    Call me old fashioned (and I’m not even that old) but when will the actual work get done? I have a Twitter account and quite frankly between 8-9 hours of work and family I just don’t have time to let everyone what I’m doing or thinking all the time. Moreover, why do we need to know? Quite frankly, if I was a manger of a major company I would not be happy with employees spending large amounts of time on the Internet. Sure, Twitter can be useful but it can also become addictive and wasteful. I also think you overestimate just how much customers want to know. Frankly, I don’t give a damn about how the product got there. I just want the end result. If there’s a problem at that point and I can use something like Twitter to complain about it, wonderful.

  • Garbage in, garbage out. If you’re spending all day twittering inane details, you’re wasting everyone’s time. If you’re a business and recognize a touch point in your following, you will be catching on when you wind a bunch of people up about it on the social networks and Web 2.0 services.

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