Peer-to-peer (P2P) technologies and business models are changing they way people find, purchase and sell consumer goods and services. Gone are the days when P2P was more or less synonymous with file sharing. Now you can share your car, raise loan funds, trade clothes and movies, and offer up just about anything you can think of for sale, rent or trade directly to interested individuals. But the P2P model could also reshape how business operates, not just how we buy.
Distributed teams are prime test candidates for P2P enterprise initiatives, because using a P2P model for workflow control and task assignment stands the best chance of succeeding among employees who already enjoy a high degree of autonomy. P2P workflow could eliminate middle management control mechanisms that do little beyond assigning tasks, and instead leave priority management and task claiming to team members themselves is a great way to get things done more efficiently and effectively. It could be achieved by coming up with a proprietary internal tool that allows management to post “job” advertisements, each defining a specific task, or breaking down a larger project into component parks. Team members could then assess, evaluate and take on tasks according to their strengths. Peers could recommend jobs for one another, also, which should help make sure that all assignments are covered. Once someone takes a job, they could also opt to sub-contract or connect with other peers if they find the task isn’t quite what they expected, or if they think someone else in the pool has better insight.
P2P could significantly alter the enterprise in other ways, too. Small, nimble companies can use P2P to cut employee travel expenses, for example. Businesses could set up programs by which they share or pay each other for things like the use of office space, the use of company cars and even the use of accommodations for traveling employees. Payment could be non-monetary compensation: information sharing, trading of services, or repayment in kind, for example.
Many of the services that offer P2P models for services like car sharing and equipment rental that are currently consumer-focused can also be leveraged by forward-thinking companies to outfit employees, especially those with large remote workforces where inflexible, centralized models don’t make sense. Use of these services may be spearheaded from the ground up, like the bring-your-own-device and bring-your-own-app movements have been, but I also think smart enterprises will embrace and encourage P2P solutions where they make sense, because when it comes to managing remote resources, trusting them to arrive at smarter solutions with less guidance is the way to go.