Seeds of Change – North African Women Entrepreneurs

The following is cross posted from Intel’s Corporate Social Responsibility blog.

The Arab Spring has set into motion an awakening….an opportunity that hasn’t been seen historically by women in North Africa and the Middle East. Women feel more empowered than ever to change their circumstances, change their status and change their communities. I personally witnessed the “stirrings” during a recent opportunity in Morocco to represent Intel as a Corporate Ambassador and speak to a conference of numerous business women about leveraging social media to grow their businesses.

Intel is actively involved in programs to empower girls and women. For over 40 years, Intel has been creating technologies that advance the way people live, work and learn. Intel believes that to foster innovation and drive economic growth, everyone, especially girls and women, need to be enabled with education, employment and entrepreneurial skills. It is evidence based that improving women’s economic status produces positive outcomes for society. Unfortunately, technology has been underused in unlocking women’s economic opportunities. My recent trip to Morocco was a chance to shrink that digital divide.

Morocco is an interesting blend of old and new. On the Atlantic Ocean, a brand new modern mall (The Moroccan Mall) recently opened with Jennifer Lopez headlining, while a short distance away shop keepers are selling clothing and produce at the local Souk. Over half of the population of 30 million people (the size of California or Canada), are Internet users, with women rising to 33.5% of all users. However, there are existing barriers with 61.7% women being illiterate and 15% of the population living below the poverty line. In recent years significant measures have been taken to improve the status of women in Morocco. Efforts to reduce gender inequality within the legal system and laws to improve a women’s personal status have provided new equality opportunities. In 1995 revisions to Morocco’s commercial code provided women with the right to start a business and enter into a contract of employment without a husband’s authorization. On top of the commercial code, recent legislation now allows for women to have control over their property and money, plus eliminated a wife’s obligation to obey her husband. Despite the legislation, women owned business represent only 0.8% of the total female workforce.

 The seeds of change that the Arab Spring planted have ignited a renewed sense of “cautious” empowerment amongst women. They witnessed the power of the internet and social media in driving change within the region – which continues. They are now turning to those same powerful technologies to grow their businesses. Vital Voices, a non-governmental organization (NGO) working on women’s issues in the region, runs a Corporate Ambassador program that provides the unique opportunity to bring expertise from businesswomen in the US and Europe to the businesswomen in North Africa and the Middle East. I had the pleasure of speaking as Intel’s Corporate Ambassador at the International Conference “Business Women & Social Media” and train women at a hands-on workshop. I shared Intel’s social media journey and offered tangible advice on how to leverage social communities like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogs for their business.

I must make an important note based upon the misperception that the women’s businesses are along the genre of hand-made crafts – quite the contrary. The businesses included a bottled water company, a coffee shop, an advertising agency, and a coffee pod distributor. We even had a young woman entrepreneur, Karima El Aji, speak about her start-up Internet business – Cadolik. Most of the businesses have had success within Morocco and they now want to leverage social media to utilize e-commerce and expand their reach to an international audience. I realized that Morocco is at the beginning stages of not only social media, but the internet too, meaning that they have the challenge and benefit of starting a total digital experience all at once. It is an opportunity for them to create a truly integrated experience along with a strong device agnostic approach (mobile is BIG in the region). Unlike the U.S., much of the online presence will be promotional & informational vs. transactional. They need to devise plans to drive online traffic to brick & mortar locations – a vastly different model from what we have here in the U.S.

After 3 days, the women walked away excited to put their new knowledge to work and hungry to learn more. I realized there is a huge opportunity to help women in this region leverage online technologies effectively. While the opportunity is significant, I was reminded by the women that challenges still remain. Morocco is not a democracy, so freedom of speech is limited; social media dangles some potentially dangerous territory in front of them. In addition, women are concerned that more extreme Islamic rule across the region will increase its influence in Morocco and force women’s rights to regress. Time will tell. But the seeds of changes have been planted. My hope is that these seeds can be sown by the continued efforts of companies like Intel, NGOs such as Vital Voices, and initiatives of the U.S. State department. Thanks to social media, I plan to remain in contact with my new Morocco businesswomen colleagues and help them along the journey.

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The Big Failure of Enterprise 2.0 Social Business

This isn’t a “shock & awe” title to merely draw you in.  This also isn’t a blanket claim from an “expert” who has never been in the trenches that “social business is dead”.   Enterprise 2.0 (aka social business) is not dead. Significant progress continues to be made.  More and more enterprises have social business strategies and efforts for both marketing & internal collaboration. However, enterprises with several years of Enterprise 2.0 efforts under their belt have failed to reach the tipping point and cross into mainstream adoption of social collaboration . Coincidentally, Dion Hinchcliffe recently noted in The Path to Co-Creating a Social Business, the existence of the fissure with older collaborative channels on one side and the option to voluntarily engage socially on the other.   I believe this is a sign post that we must pay attention to and make adjustments or social business could fall deeply into the rabbit hole where knowledge management (KM) efforts of past, already reside.   

A little over a year ago I left my role managing the internal social collaboration efforts for a large global enterprise.  After two and a half years of efforts to evolve how a corporation gets work done, connects employees and communicates, I needed a serious break.  I felt we had reached the maximum adoption we could achieve under the circumstances we were working within.  So I returned back to my roots in social media marketing.  I left the Enterprise 2.0 program not because I lost passion for social collaboration, but because I realized that the effort had plateaued.  The initiative has achieved quite a bit, but my vision & strategy still hasn’t been fully reached. We didn’t cross the chasm – even after almost three years post deployment. Social collaboration is still voluntary and optional.  Based upon discussions around conference “water coolers”, I have discovered that our situation isn’t unique.   I have been doing a lot of reflection to nail down the underlying reason our efforts (collective across the industry) aren’t creating an evolution-yet.  So, here is my stake in the ground on what is the big failure of Enterprise 2.0 social business:

The big failure of social business is a lack of integration of social tools into the collaborative workflow.  

This is not a newly identified problem.  Those of us working on social collaboration efforts for a while recognized that integration is imperative from the beginning.  At the beginning, I clearly outlined integration as one of three foundational pillars for our strategy.  Unfortunately, various forces created challenges in this space. Social collaboration applications have been immature in this area for years (even after fierce calls for faster integration- i.e. CMS). Enterprises faced fork lift integration efforts to knit applications together.  Fork lift efforts get the budget axe when push comes to shove.  We managed to do the normal IT deployment model – the very model I fiercely advocated for us not to do.  We deployed just another tool amongst a minefield of other collaborative tools – without integration.   To make it even harder, we underinvested in transition change management.

Are you surprised that I didn’t say lack of overt executive support & leadership for culture change (ala John Chambers mantra at Cisco)?  Believe me, tops down support & culture change are two of the largest hurdles social business must conquer for long-term success.  IBM, who has been on the bleeding edge for ten years is (finally) recently starting to cross the chasm.   As evidenced by the IBM journey, I believe it will be rare that culture change will be one of the first things accomplished or changed in a short period of time.  Culture will change as a result of the pervasive use of social tools.  Lack of cultural change is not social business’s biggest failure.  The biggest failure is the lack of workflow integration to drive culture change.

The picture became blatantly clear looking from the outside in.   First, there is evidence that IT resources are shifting to other technology priorities. A Gartner CIO survey in 2010  had Web 2.0 ranked as the third highest priority for CIO’s.  In 2011, it fell to the bottom – number 10.  Second, except for email, employees aren’t using most internal collaboration tool robustly.  I did my own internal research to verify adoption. This trend was established before social tools.   I have witnessed teams that cannot even spell video conferencing, who use team meeting & collaboration sites only as document warehouses and engage in collaboration via email ping pong.    Third, for teams that “get” social media and are heavily engaged, much of their workflow is within external social tools – Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or multiple tools so they can extend collaboration outside the firewall.  They robustly engage with each other where critical mass of collaboration & their network resides- i.e. private Google+ circles or Facebook groups.  They have only occasional collaboration leveraging internal tools.  When asked why they don’t use the internal platform, one responder stated,“Bottom line, we’ve had a social community internally (for a while) and it doesn’t feel natural.”  Translation: It isn’t in their workflow. I personally have struggled with pervasive use of Google+ even thought I really like the product.  Why?  It is outside of how I get my work done ; my peeps aren’t 100% present and it isn’t integrated into social aggregation tools, such as Tweetdeck.  The foundation for which enterprises are building their social collaborative house is cracked.  If you add more layers, the fissures widen. If you don’t provide the “easy button” with integrated tools that are “just there” in your workflow, adoption will not cross the chasm.  Culture will not change.  Enterprise 2.0 social business becomes the bad sequel to Knowledge Management.

So how do we swing the pendulum?  I am not advocating that companies abandon their internal social platforms and move to an external service.  I fully recognize all the information security, privacy, regulatory challenges with that model.  Also, social collaboration tools are finally starting to round the corner with email & content management integration. I also don’t believe that the only answer is“integrating” into underutilized & complicated legacy collaborative tools.  We must get back to the basics.  The effort to robustly use social tools needs to be a natural act.  We also need to focus on items that are within our control and can be done now. Following are my getting back to basics recommendations:

  • Face reality that email is not going away.  It has 100% utilization for employee collaboration & communication.   It becomes an epicenter for collaboration. The ability to post social content, receive notifications, receive activity digests must tie into email and SMS.  If your activity stream could fit into an Outlook window – even better.
  • Recognize that collaboration doesn’t just happen inside your company’s walls.  Collaboration crosses many boundaries from time, distance and corporate firewalls.  Employees are using multiple tools and multiple networks both outside & inside.  Adding one more tool to the mix doesn’t make life easier. Consider deploying a content/collaboration aggregator to simplify employee’s ability to manage various content flows & networks both inside & outside the firewall (Example: Xobni Enterprise)
  • Collaboration is now form factor agnostic: No longer is one device utilized.  Content & collaboration needs to flow across whatever mobile, tablet, desktop, laptop- eventually smart TV device – that an employee utilizes.
  • Ubiquitous collaboration needs equal opportunity.  For example, If employees can get email, internet access, Facebook, Twitter on their mobile devices but only access social collaboration on their laptop- then those most available will be the top collaborative tools.  Your internal social platform needs equal access, otherwise it will continue to be Cinderella locked in the attic during the royal ball.
  • Your intranet should be one in the same with your social platform.  If an official portal is the place to get news, updates & find information – your social platform must seamlessly be an integral part of that experience.  Don’t ship off your employees to a separate site to socially engage & collaborate. The intranet should become the personalized collaborative workspace for employees “one stop shopping.”
  • Rid yourself of multiple employee profiles.  One employee = one integrated profile.  Do you enjoy managing different profiles across various consumerized tools today?  Heck No!  That is why the ability to log in with your social ID is widely used on consumer sites.  Your internal social profile should be your one corporate profile with the ability for others inside the company to see who you are, what you do and easily discover knowledge you hold along with people you are connected with across the company (and even outside, if appropriate).  The social employee profile is critical to enable the Enterprise 2.0 Bullseye that Andrew McAfee began advocating for in 2007.

Technology has matured dramatically over the last five years.  Enterprises are getting into the game. My back to basic recommendations don’t take super human development cycles or an extended period of time to deploy.  Focus on what you can control.  Focus on creating a natural collaborative experience.  Focus on providing an easy & intuitive user experience.  Focus on dissolving collaborative islands- don’t create more with social tools. These steps can keep you from falling down the rabbit hole and staying steady on the road to realizing robust social enterprise success while you continue to tackle other longer-term challenges.   I believe if we focus more robustly on the basics, we can push this baby over the chasm.

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Social Media Changes Digital Marketing

Starting in the fall of 2010, I have been asked to speak at several events & academia about the future of the web.  It centered on the strategy work I was doing to define the next user experience & on-domain social media strategy for   I put the stake in the ground that social media is a key driving force for changing the corporate digital experience.  In fact, I made the case that the train has already left the station. 

I marvel at leaders who believe that because they personally don’t engage in pervasive social media & online use, then their customers won’t either.  This is not about you, it’s about effectively reaching your customers. I tell people if you want to see the future, watch the trends.  Peter Drucker stated, “Identify the future that has already happened.”  Here are some facts on what trends have occurred and are occurring:

  • 50% of the human race is under the age of 30. 
  • Kids are leading the world’s transition to a digital existence, largely in part because they were born with a mouse or touchscreen in the palm of their hands
  • China as 21.4% of the world’s internet users, even though only 31%, compared with 77% U.S. citizens are online.
  • Japan has more percentage of population online than U.S. and likely to be the first that makes Twitter mainstream
  • One out of every fourteen people in the world has a Facebook account (500 million users, 95 countries).  Facebook surpassed Google & Yahoo as the top spot for time spent & number of visits.
  • Ad dollars are shifting to where consumers are at.  In 2006, $2.53B was spent and by 2011 spending grew to $4.26B.
  • Nielsen 2010 Global Trust study determined that customers trust each other over 3x more than brands.
  • Time spent on social networks and blogs is growing at over 3x the rate of overall Internet growth
  • Social capital will supplant brand equity as the measure of brand success.  With only 19% of the adult North American population inactive on the web, we are quickly reaching a point where marketing can no longer compete with social media voices.

So what does all this mean to the online marketer?

Integrated Engagement: We have shifted from a unidirectional conversation; to a bi-directional conversation. Subsequently we must shift to an integrated engagement.  If the trend is accurate, your current & future audience is rapidly moving online & more pervasively interacting with social media. So ask yourself why would you maintain a corporate website that was absent of the very experience your customers want?  I am not talking about starting up a CEO blog (that is a WHOLE other blog post).  I am talking about making all your digital content, content that can be engaged with and most importantly shared.   Don’t ship your customers off to a social media island for this “engaged” experience.  The key is to integrate engagement as the new norm.  

Content is King: If the new corporate website is engaging and has shareable content; then what is the next order of business?  Your content has to be good.  Good content doesn’t look or feel like a glossy, agency written piece of collateral.  Content is real-time with a constantly changing flow of pictures, videos and new snippets. Good content comes from a personal voice and is written well enough that evokes a visceral response of “that is funny OR informative OR makes me want to take action or…best yet- WOW!”  What do you do if you feel one of those emotions?  Share it.  Content success is no longer how many views a whitepaper got, but how well it was amplified leveraging the network effect.  Focus on developing a content strategy that FIRST creates good content THEN leverages various distribution channels- social media as one.  I recently had a chance to talk in depth with Margie Traylor, CEO of Sitewire. They are the first agency I have encountered that “got” this concept.  They created a service offering around content strategy & published their mantra “Content Strategy uncovers what a brand needs to say, how it needs to say it and where/when it is best said.” Bingo. It is about ubiquitous content that can span numerous channels, devices and is shareable.

Site architecture reflects your customers:  Social sites have put the power into the hands of users.  Their expectations of a digital experience have now turned towards corporate sites.  If your site forces users to navigate the complex org structure of your company in order to find relevant info, they will abandon the site and likely not return.  Go crazy and put a big huge search box on your homepage (Google has changed how people find information).  Put yourself into your customers’ shoes; hire UXI experts & ethnographers to understand your customers’ use of the web and re-architect your site.  The answer could even mean that your off domain becomes THE domain.  Volkswagen replaced their corporate site URL from ads and directed customers to their Facebook site.

Aim for a seamless social experience: Blend social bridging to allow users to log-in with their social profile, socially refer and enable content to live across boundaries.  Integrate social content as authoritative content and evolve search results to dynamically present all relevant content (social & on & off domain). Innovate the digital experience to become device agnostic (mobile, TV, desktop etc.) and harness the powerful customer data in your CRM.  Lastly, remember to share.  Your ultimate goal is to engage customers in the viral loop of social sharing, social referrals and advocacy.

If after reading this you still aren’t compelled to move the needle.  Let me offer you this.  I think social media has failed to make visible the more quantifiable & tangible results that executives need to justify budgets & investments.  That doesn’t mean positive results weren’t happening, we just haven’t had the means to effectively measure. Some of that rests on the immaturity of the technologies and some of it on the backs of marketers who didn’t tie business objectives directly to their digital experience.  With social, digital media and technologies maturing, you now will have the ability to more clearly see tangible results & success.  You can evolve measurement to more meaningful results:

  • From to quantity of site traffic to quality of site traffic
  • From time spent on site to interactions on/from site
  • From viewing content to sharing content (the wow factor)
  • From amount of content produced to action taken due to quality content
  • From number of unique & repeat visits to engagement depth

If you view the world from the perspective of Augie Ray at Forrester, then you will be asking “what social media will do for you”, instead of “what will social media do to you?” The changes brought about from social media will suddenly seem like a natural evolution to get closer to your customers.  At the end of the day, isn’t that what marketing is all about?

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The Enterprise 2.0 Candy Store

After spending Herculean efforts to get executives at your company to “get” social computing, you finally receive the green light to rock and roll.  You think you have reached the promised land.  But a new challenge, one that can derail your efforts, is looming on the horizon:  The executive who is a kid in the Enterprise 2.0 candy store.

What is the kid in the candy store syndrome?  It is an executive who went from curmudgeon to sipping the KoolAid…but now wants to drink every flavor of KoolAid.  One of the key symptoms is daily email messages asking if you have “looked at X vendor or vendor Y”. You suddenly go from executing & deploying selected vendor(s) products to chasing shiny objects.  Vendors that were originally evaluated and didn’t make the short list, are using foilware “flare” to lure the novice executive into their grasps.  Enterprise vendors that once laughed off 2.0, suddenly have an “integrated” offering.  Your problem is potentially massive because everyone and their brother is entering into this space.  In 2010, it will be hard to find a HR, Sales, Enterprise, Supply Chain supplier that isn’t 2.0 “ized”.  Executives who are salivating in the Enterprise 2.0 candy store will send your strategy, execution & your team into a tailspin.  How can you avoid and manage the sugar high?  Here are tactics that I use to manage the challenge:

  • Solid business & technical requirements is your deflector shield:  If you have well documented requirements and use those to evaluate all vendors’ solutions, then you have a data driven process.  Data is the best weapon to fight off emotional knee jerk reactions.
  • Set-up a dedicated play area:  We are still in the infancy stage of 2.0. You aren’t going to find one vendor who can deliver everything you need nor have one solution you can deploy and leave alone for 3 years. If you wait for the perfect solution, you will be waiting for a while. Pick vendors that satisfy the core solutions you need to deploy today.  At the same time, set-up a sandbox that allows your team & bleeding edge adopters to try out new “candy”, test usage models and watch list potential future capabilities.
  • Leverage analyst reviews:  Industry analysts get a bird’s eye view of all the vendors in the space.  They are on the vendor “briefing” circuit and get advance insight into company product direction.  Top analysts will also publish reviews & ratings of the vendors.  One report could potentially save you from meeting with a multitude of vendors and arms you with credible data to discuss with your candy store executive.
  • Usage model proof-of-concepts: Some of the best feedback comes directly from the end users themselves.  Once you have a short list of vendor products (recommend 3 max), throw them into a 2-3 week bakeoff.  Key users and business stakeholders are invited in to test their usage models, their requirements and usability of the menu of solutions.  If users have given a product a thumbs down, they will not use it if you decide to deploy it.
  • Develop vendor scorecards & executive business reviews: Performance of your current vendor is critical to ensure you are delivering business value to your company.  Using scorecards that rate the vendor on delivering to your expectations, not only helps you do robust vendor management, but it allows you to have indicators.  If you have a scorecard that shows everything is in the green, then it is hard to make an argument to change vendors just for the sake of trying new “flavors”.  In addition, pulling in your executive into quarterly or bi-annual executive level reviews, can provide assurance  that your vendor selection is still the sound choice.
  • Show the cost of change: Stabilization is essential towards achieving critical adoption of your Enterprise 2.0 platform.  Any changes in your standard solution, especially to the user interface (UI), should be minor.  It is challenging enough to encourage employees to incorporate 2.0 technologies into their flow of work, let alone force them to constantly re-learn technologies because the vendor changed.  Changing the user interface will hamper full adoption, which hampers your ability to extract full business value.  In addition, there is a resource cost for data migration from one platform to another.  A value tenet of social computing should be to reduce time and reduce costs – not add to them. Financial impact speaks volumes.

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Sabbatical Girl Gets Schooled

I am at the end of the 1st month my 8 week  sabbatical.  I had lots of big plans to invest in thinking, pondering and writing about practicing Enterprise 2.0.  Good intentions, but that is all they have been.  I have writer’s block.  Errr…edit.  I have social computing block.  My brain is revolting from thinking about it.  It is even to the point that I have to shield my eyes from Twitter – most of the folks I follow are in the biz too.  What has happened to me?

I realized that I am stick-a-fork-in-me-done.  Burnt.  Fried.  Just before I left for sabbatical, my boss looked at the lengthy list of items my sabbatical coverage was assuming responsibility for.  She gasped and stated, “You are going to kill yourself trying to bring social computing to (this company).”  Well unfortunately it isn’t an open and closed case.  Being a practitioner of enterprise 2.0 means that my wardrobe now includes fashionista flak jackets. My “hit the bottom” ah-ha moment ultimately arrived when I recently sat down and drew a map of who and what gets a piece of me.  My pie had work taking up 50% of the pie. I think a bit of denial comes out in this one- reality is probably 60%.

How I am divided up today

How I am divided up today

My husband is shouting from the roof top to everyone he encounters that he is” not exaggerating….my wife works at least 60 hours a week.”  But that isn’t the whole story.  I am a mother of a 2-1/2 year old and 4 year old trying to find balance in raising small children, being a good wife, giving back to the community, staying connected with friends at the same time having a fulfilling career.  Oh, and  I am fighting a daily “change agent” battle at work, putting dinner on the table, paying bills and keeping the house clean too.    Notice I didn’t even include in the list – “me”.  Time for a manicure?  Hahahahaha – you should be a comedian.  So is this “woe me” so unique to me?  No.  And this is the problem.  I am not alone in the quest for work & life balance as a working mom.   My role model mother lived the same craziness, I just didn’t realize how crazy until now.  Yes- I have become my mother!

Balance.  Let me burst the bubble right now.  There isn’t balance.  Don’t even think you can get it.  It doesn’t exist.  What there is though, is a life that is lived with purpose and priorities placed front and center.  My anthesis of what I am actually doing. So I am changing my focus during sabbatical.  I am not going to write about practicing 2.0.  For at least another month I will be writing about what I am learning on sabbatical.  Once I get back to work, I will re-enter the world of social computing and you will hear about my experiences.  But I am going to mix in my progress towards sanity and living my priorities.  Hopefully I will be able to become a practitioner of both enterprise 2.0 and healthy working mom habits. Let the journey begin.

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It’s Not About the ROI

It is the million dollar question for social media and social computing efforts. “What is the ROI (Return of Investment) for social media?”  I just got asked this for the gazillionth time last week.  According to Wikipedia, ROI is the “ratio of money gained or lost on an investment relative to the amount of money invested.”  On the flip side, business value is defined as an “informal term that includes all forms of value…expands concept of value beyond economic value to include other forms of value such as employee value, customer value, supplier value…many forms of value are not directly measured in monetary value.”  What I and  the rest of my peers in the industry have discovered is the actual monetary investment necessary to deploy 2.0 technologies is very trivial.  So why do some many executives ask for up front ROI?  Why not ask what is the business value? What is the value being created? Caution: Business value isn’t ROI in sheep’s clothing but is intrinsically implied by exec’s questioning.   To add to the “why” questions….”why is it that nobody asking for the ROI of current collaborative and/or 1.0 technologies such as your external website or email or instant message….better yet – the phone sitting on your desk?  Why does social media get held to a different standard?

In a recent Information Week Global CIO Virtual Event, one executive stated that the cost of providing social computing is so “trivial” that it is not difficult to say the ROI of infrastructure is guaranteed.  I agree with that.  If we really want to dwell on ROI, then the discussion could be very quick.  You literally would only need to “return” very little back to the company.  Depending on if you use Open Source or commercial grade technologies, your investment could be as low as picking up a case of “two buck Chuck”.   Let’s run a scenario for a mid-size company (50,000 employees).

  • $500,000 invested for four to five technologies (heavier emphasis on commercial grade software)
  • Industry average employee burden rate is $100,000
  • Then, break even ROI is the efficiency or savings of 5 people or less than half of one percent of your workforce power

In most companies that I have worked for over my career, senior executives typically don’t bat an eye at this degree of expenditure.  Heck, for some corporations, the $500k is what they spent just for the first day of their annual sales conference.

Toby Redshaw, Global CIO, Aviva, made a recent statement during the Information Week Global CIO Summit,  that IT gets “trapped by accountants”.  He advocates to look at the bigger picture, even go beyond productivity measurements.  Toby states that investing in and utilizing 2.0 technologies isn’t about productivity. It is about solving business challenges such as staying ahead of the competition, accelerating speed of decisions & quality of decisions. Social technologies have the capacity to stop un-innovation.

So if the financial investment and monetary return is trivial, than what is really going on? My theory is that it is not about the ROI.  Decision makers use ROI as a blocker.  Your executive is exhibiting several anti-patterns. Fear. Control. Intangible Means Unmeasurable.  Jen Okimoto from IBM did a great job of laying out the classic anti-patterns for web 2.0 during the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston (see Jen’s: Anti-Patterns slide deck).

Knowing that you are dealing with classic anti-patterns, what can you do? 

  • Focus on the business value, but be cautious to clearly lay out that business value is not always, nor likely to be  monetized in the near future.
  • Do benchmarking of your peers and the industry.  If few industry peers have mastered the ROI, then likely you won’t either. This can “normalize” your efforts.
  • Become close partners with your controller or finance person. Jointly work on a proposed business value model.  Let your credible finance person deliver the message that monetized ROI for social media is currently elusive.
  • Identify potential business challenges and focus for the emerging technologies.  Partner with line of business stakeholders to align early use cases to test and prove out the delivery of desired value/results.
  • Work with your security and HR teams to do a risk assessment. The assessment will  identify the associated risks for deployed solutions AND also the risk of inaction. Knowing the risks in advance allow for informed vs. fear based  business decisions to be made. 
  • Reverse mentoring for executives who fear and want to control social media.  The next generation work force can help shed light on the use and value of the tools.  Executives will better understand that it isn’t a matter of “if” but “when” your workforce will evolve the way they work. They may have an “a-ha” moment that the change has already occurred at the grassroot level.
  • Get external 3rd party validation.  Yes, I know you are THE expert.  But sometimes a resident expert is viewed as a biased evangelist.  Get your CxO on the horn with a peer over at another company deploying & reaping value from 2.0; call in your favorite analyst to talk about emerging technologies and why to embrace vs. fear them; leverage the number of super duper consultants out there.  My experience is that light bulbs go off when someone else repeats exactly what you have been saying for the past 6 months.
  • Lastly, have patience.  In order to survive this journey you must be in it for the long haul.  Make sure you are surrounded by peeps that can be your emotional support team. You will ask yourself numerous times “WHY am I bothering?”  Getting a regular pow-wow with people just like you at other companies. It  helps keep you refreshed, renewed and potentially find new avenues to achieve success.  You are a change agent.  A pioneer.  It will be challenging.  In the long run- you will succeed!

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Think Differently. Work Differently.

Welcome to Beyond the Cube!  This blog is the point-of-view from a practitioner of social computing within an enterprise. Whether you are a big, mid-size, small or non-profit organization, driving new & disruptive social technologies into the workplace is not for the faint of heart.  The technology is 25% of your challenge. Thus, I thought it would be fitting to write my first post  about the personal value and corporate value associated with social technologies – the opportunity to work differently.  At the heart of becoming a social enterprise is a new path to think differently, connect instantaneously, discover serendipitously, innovate radically and work differently.  What other tools or method inside an enterprise allows me to remain always connected with my “customer” base?  Disseminate information quickly and easily?  Provide transparency to decisions and actions?  Have unknown knowledge holders reach out to me?

From my perspective.  Nothing comes close to the social technologies. None.  Nada.

I have blogged in other venues about a solid role model, Luis Suarez.   Luis recently posted an update about his personal & his company’s (IBM’s) five year journey with social computing- the Business Value of Social Software.  It is a MUST READ. Some of the real nuggets from the post include the shift that Luis and his organization made from deriving power from hoarding information to deriving power from sharing information. What did he became?  In Luis’s words, “visible; easy to reach and connect with; always willing to help and share my knowledge with those who needed it (And with those who may need it at a later time, too!) in an open and public way; willing to share my expertise, experience and know-how across the board with those who I know, and those who I may not know yet; willing to feed those resources with knowledge and expertise that otherwise would have remained in my own head, or my computer, for that matter, and therefore with very little access for others to enjoy.”  Can we honestly say there isn’t value in that?

Within the company that I work for, teams & individuals have already finding  immediate value with the new social platform we launched in March.  One corporate marketing team “tripped” upon another group’s conversation about a great research resource.  Unbeknown to them, an internal group provides a centralized repository of excellent market intelligence.   They were immediately connected and found useful research & data. The marketing team was able to leverage some of the charts & graphs for a presentation that same week.  For me personally, I have found a lot of value in a transparent method to provide updates, disseminate information & gather feedback directly from stakeholders across the company.  A recent example was with a delay of the launch of a new capability in our suite of social tools.  Was it easy to fall on my sword publicly – no.  But my customers (employees) got one place to go for immediate information, updates, ask questions and provide feedback.  I got major kudos for the transparent updates.  I just proved to myself all over again how valuable this medium is.


Now back to Luis.  So what is his summation of the business value?  According to Luis, “embracing a new model of collaborating and sharing my knowledge (Much more open, transparent and public than ever before, ever since I decided to live “A World Without Email“) with other fellow knowledge workers has allowed me to prove the point that you can work wherever you want, whenever you need, and with whoever you would want to reach across, depending always on the context, by making extensive use of social software and forgetting about measuring people just by their sheer presence versus their overall performance and results obtained. That is what social software has done not only for me, but also for the company I work for…”

Welcome to living and breathing social computing.  It truly takes thinking differently in order to work differently.   I look forward to sharing my perspective and learnings along the journey towards transparency, sharing, discussing, exchanging ideas…..transformation to a knowledge & learning based organization.  It is all about becoming a true social enterprise that harnesses knowledge & people power to stay ahead of the competition.

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