Archive for Enterprise 2.0

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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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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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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