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It is always interesting to watch the election process and wonder what management style each candidate will bring into the office. Everyone assumed Bill Clinton would be a policy wonk and George W. Bush would bring a business school approach to the office. Mayor Bloomberg surprised everyone, except perhaps those who know him best, when he created a "bullpen" for an office.
Since our presumptive presidential nominees have more legislative than executive experience, making such projections on their management styles may be a bit more difficult. Watching the campaigns unfold, however, leads to one pretty clear conclusion: The use of the internet and web 2.0 technologies has changed forever the campaign landscape and inevitably those changes will make their way into the next administration.
Who would have imagined four years ago that CNN/YouTube presidential primary debates would be part of the mainstream campaign? Who would have thought that a leading contender for the nomination would announce her candidacy sitting in her living room via streaming video instead of a picturesque location surrounded by supporters and fanfare? Who would have guessed that FaceBook would include over a million people as part of candidate groups?
Clearly Sen. Barack Obama, more so than any other candidate, has mastered the use of the internet. He has raised more money on the internet and has a much larger Facebook following than John McCain. But I think it inevitable that regardless of who wins this campaign, public administration will be very different in the next four years. Both campaigns have young, creative staffers who understand that social networking is an integral part of our lifestyle today and that leading a government organization without using these tools essentially disenfranchises a larger and larger segment of the citizenry.
Many government officials already recognize the value of social networking. Our inside-the-beltway IT trade press have actively covered the leading agencies and officials using blogs and other web 2.0 tools. Virginia Governor Tim Kaine (D) just announced his own YouTube station, and the Fairfax County Commissioners recently required that one pathway for this year's budget comments has to be through the use of social networking sites.
But what we have seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg.
Just as we could not imagine four years ago a CNN/YouTube debate, most of us cannot begin to imagine the ways government will interact with citizens in the next decade. Without a doubt, agencies need to begin thinking about the power of enterprise social networking - that is, how to harness the power of tools popularly used today on an individual basis for the benefit of the enterprise.
Many of today's IT professionals were around when individuals with BlackBerries begin infiltrating their organizations. Tech staffs were typically not prepared for the influx of these devices. Likewise, many IT professionals witnessed the early use of instant messaging and were not prepared to support its use at the enterprise level.
These and other waves of technology adoption should have taught us some lessons.
The next wave of government executives to move into the White House, and governors' and mayors' residences will bring with them new waves of technology to manage their organizations and interact with citizens. Today's IT professionals would serve these new executives well by being prepared to embrace and support these technologies.