Author Archives: slgavin

Social Web Technology Trainer

In 2009 I developed a training package called the ‘Smart Web Workshop’.  Attendees of this training are mostly small to medium sized local businesses.  The Smart Web Workshop helps businesses get to grips with social media, web marketing and some advanced information management.

Local Government Innovation Consulting

In 2009 I was contracted by Kent County Council to develop the Pic and Mix web service and deliver training to local businesses.   About Pic and Mix:

  • To make publicly available information – things like crime statistics, employment information, business information – more accessible.
  • We also wanted to provide tools that would enable people to ‘pic and mix’ data to create customised information.
  • And last but not least, we wanted to provide a platform where people could share this information and discuss ways in which it could be used.

Oracle on Enterprise 2.0

In the middle of what has been a mucho busy few weeks, Oracle release a whitepaper titled ‘Enterprise 2.0, Driving Creativity, Productivity and Collaboration‘.  It’s a solid piece of  research with stats and quotes to make any E2.0 evangelist smile.  In fact after being interviewed for the research I get 5 or 6 quotes in the paper which is very nice.

The paper is floated under the view that current “Workplace Technology is Hindering Business Productivity and Collaboration” which after spending some time recently back in big Pharma and seeing how SharePoint is being abused I tend to agree.
Some key points from the research are:
  • The average worker spends over an hour (61.55 minutes) a week locating documents or files either from e-mail, personal folders or in the company / shared file servers
  • People waste 74 minutes a week copying, pasting and re-entering the same information into different documents
  • 80% of workers use their e-mail to store information and files
  • 96% are open to the introduction of new technologies to help make their working practices more efficient
  • In the past, 44% found insufficient training was a barrier to adopting these new technologies, while one third (35%) did not find them simple or intuitive to use
  • 40% of social network users say they are easier to use than workplace software

Download the pdf here.

Vendor Presentations at Conferences – Do’s and Don’ts

Crossing over from being inside a large company like Pfizer, to being an independent consultant to finally working with Knowledge Plaza and Applied Trends, I’ve often struggled with being seen as a ‘vendor’.

The word vendor often has negative connotations especially when you’re exhibiting at conferences and trade shows.  The default people expect is lengthy and bullshitty sales talk, removed from the realities of what people actually want and smooth talking guys just pushing a square peg into a round hole.

As an example a few weeks ago I attended Knowledge and Content UK (KCUK) with Gregory Culpin and manned the Knowledge Plaza stand.  We were one of only 4 or 5 ‘vendors’ in attendance who’s sponsorship money helped to make the event a reality.  Things started off well, and as usual we stood out with our slightly different stand, stance and general approach.  We were there not just to promote the product, but to network, meet people share our experiences (good and bad) as practitioners and to have a good time.  To be honest, sales talk comes a definite second to conversations and sharing.  If only the other vendors were the same.

We were due to present a case study and general informational presentation on Social Software and Information Professionals in the afternoon.  However by the time we got to our designated slot the audience had already endured at least two terrible sales pitches by the other vendors.  In fact they were so bad and so blatant that people were seriously avoiding all the vendors.  Wild product claims, a lack of useful information and general ignorance of the subject matter pretty much alienated the audience.

Luckily we did manage to pull in half of a large room for our talk and we started as we would normally start by introducing ourselves, covering our personal professional backgrounds in relation to the conference and reassuring the audience this was NOT a sales pitch.  Over the next hour we shared our views, experiences and relevant product information with the audience.  We initiated dialogue, invited challenges and generally had a good time!  The aim was to educate, share and of course raise product awareness but not at the expense of the former.  The reaction?  Excellent, we immediately had people come up and congratulate us on a ‘superb’ presentation which stood out from the crowd and the other vendors.

So as a summary here are my personal do’s and don’ts for vendor presentations at conferences:

Don’t;

  • invent new terms around your product i.e Knowledge Management 3.0 – it’s not credible
  • just talk to the audience and not converse – people get bored
  • only talk about your product  – people are there to learn stuff so offer some insights into the industry at least
  • be arrogant – bold arrogant claims are often sneered at whether they are true or not, so if you do make them, back them up with customer references or comments

Do;

  • teach people stuff – as stated above, people are there to learn
  • discuss your wins and failures – transparency is great to get the audience on side
  • engage and encourage feedback and discussions
  • be flexible with the approach and style – be prepared to adapt
  • be seen as individuals and experts in a field – not just sales people from XYZ corp

For our next trade show and conference appearances we’re trying to find a way to present our stand and ourselves as individuals as well as product representatives.  We want to engage, educate, discuss and have fun, not just push a message!  Maybe we’ll do something like the Geek Squad and present our personalities alongside the product merchandise….I’ll let you know how it goes!

Anyway, here’s our presentation from KCUK.

A Very Different Kind of Sales Presentation – Sales Presentation 2.0?

I hate the fact I just wrote Sales Presentation 2.0, but hey, it got your attention.

Below I’m sharing a presentation format I’ve been using with Knowledge Plaza. It’s based on my original Meet Charlie and Daniel Siddle’s Meet Charlotte follow up.

This version is based on an imaginary Pharmaceutical company.

I’ve adopted this presentation style when visiting a client’s site after discussing their aims, ecosystem and aspirations.  Each slide-deck is customized to include their own tools, terminology and vision.

The feedback has been amazing.  Apparently most vendors go in with narcoleptic slide-ware without considering how their solution plays with a broader strategy.  I’m not blowing my own trumpet, merely highlighting a successful presentation style and somewhat naive but well received approach.

If you use these slides please credit me/Sid, unlike a few large consultancies I could mention who embedded my slides into their own narco-deck without a mention :-0

Enterprise 2.0 Conference – Pre Conference Thoughts

The Enterprise 2.0 Conference is just round the corner and I think this year is going to be very interesting from a number of perspectives.  In particular I’m very keen on seeing how the downturn is affecting;

* the number or E2.0 projects underway
* the way people are looking at ROI in light of the financial pressures
* how vendors are positioning themselves against very tight corporate budgets

The number of companies currently running collaboration and KM2.0 initiatives is definitely down on last year, there’s no question of that.  However on the flip side people’s radars are more finely tuned for identifying potential projects when budget restrictions are finally lifted.  So it will be interesting to see where the most interest is shown and who’s case studies inspire the most discussion.

The one thing I’ve heard about past Enterprise 2.0 conferences is there has been too much hype about the ‘potential’ of social software and not enough about the real business benefits.  I don’t think that will be the case this year.  Companies don’t have the time or patience for hype, so expect to hear frank discussions on the real power of Enterprise 2.0.

I’ll be sure to attend Lee Bryant’s  session “Transition Strategies for e20 Adoption”. It’s great to have a UK ambassador like Headshift at an such a high profile conference.

The other topic I will be closely watching is how Sharepoint is discussed.  Will it get the bashing it has at previous conferences? Or will there be a widespread but reluctant acceptance of it’s enterprise 2.0 abilities?

If you are attending from the UK give me a shout, it would be good to meet up.

Note: picture courtesy of ITSinsider

Lee Bryant on Enterprise RSS and Independent Consultants with Short Attention Spans

Lee Bryant, of Headshift fame, just put out a post lambasting the trend of independent consultants announcing certain technologies are dead just because they happen to have found something shinier.

One of the most annoying habits of self-appointed technology gurus, sheikhs, czars or experts is that they take their own behaviour as the basis for extrapolation to predict how the rest of the world will/could/should use tools. A side effect of this is an inability to empathise or understand the needs and culture of non-geek workers in non-technology companies. What they do as individual consultants sitting in their pyjamas in a home-office, eating Granola and ego-surfing is regarded as a template for people trying to get things done inside a corporation or a government department.

I’m glad someone is putting these sort of views out there.  I’ve been struggling with the ‘scene’ for some time now in that every other person you meet nowadays is an independent consultant on something or another, often without a grounding in big company politics or IT that brings balance to their views.  I recently met a CIO of a very large company that told me that he’s sick and tired of ‘fresh’ independent gurus telling him that he needs tools like Twitter to run his business and that things like RSS are ‘dead’.

Lee also very eloquently and insightfully highlights the current state of enterprise RSS adoption, noting that it’s still motoring up the adoption curve and we’re a long way off seeing it’s wide spread ROI being realized across the corporate world.

I am convinced that enterprise RSS is only just beginning it adoption curve, and it has tremendous value to offer both individuals and groups. Solving the information needs of an individual is pretty easy. Finding better ways to co-ordinate the activities of thousands of people is a lot more difficult, and flocking from new tool to new tool every six months is not an option. Weaning people off the Outlook or Blackberry inbox for actionable information and intelligence is widely recognised as an important need, but it will take time. RSS and similar syndication approaches will be a key part of that solution.

I encourage you to read Lee’s full post.

Off to Boston for the Enterprise 2.0 Conference

It’s been a long time coming but I’m finally attending the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston, 22-25 June.  For a few years now I’ve *almost* got there, once to speak and twice to attend, however things didn’t work out.  This year I’ll be there as an attendee with Antoine from the Knowledge Plaza team.  It will be good to catch up with the E2.0 crowd, many of whom I have been speaking to for years but not had a chance to meet.

I’m particularly looking forward to seeing R. Todd Stephens take to the stage and hear about his work at AT&T.  It’s billed to be a great event and well worth the trip from the UK.

If you are going to be in town on these dates please do let me know and say hi!

Info:

ScotWeb2 – June 19th Edinburgh – 2009

I’m pleased to say that I’ll be attending ScotWeb2 on the 19th June in Edinburgh.  I’ve heard good things about it and am looking forward to catching up with Alex Stobart and his associates.  If you’re going, say hi!

We are very pleased to be able to bring you the second ScotWeb2 event on June 19th 2009 once again taking place in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Have you heard of twitter, Facebook and You Tube and want to know more ? This event will appeal to the following

  • ICT people ; teachers ; life-long learners ; communications ; marketing ; PR
  • ICT Developers. programmers ; social media ; digital enablers
  • Campaigners from NGO and third sector
  • Public, private and third sector employees
  • Business and social enterprises
  • Academics ; students ; FE and HE
  • Health ; Police ; Fire services

This follows on from the success of our first ScotWeb2 event last October

The event showcases enterprising, innovative and entrepreneurial behaviours in the web 2 world

It’s more important than ever to identify subject matter experts in your company

Over the past few months I’ve been speaking with and meeting more companies than ever before in my life.  I’ve been submerged in conversations around business change and the economic challenges facing businesses today.  From knowledge retention to knowledge management, information discovery to information publishing, the range of emerging (and not so) technology needs have been highlighted by the challenges faced in today’s economic climate.
However there’s one reoccurring theme I keep coming across and that’s subject matter expert (SME) identification.
Organizations now more than ever before need a way to identify the people they have based upon the knowledge they retain.  Of course, this requirement has always been there but now there’s more to gain by being able to find experts on a given subject/topic area.  Knowledge networks exist inside all companies, either explicit or implied but more often that not these networks are not accurately documented or identifiable based upon the loose nature of knowledge.  For example, when I worked in Pharma I was an IT project manager in the clinical space, yet I also had Enterprise 2.0 related passion and knowledge.  The only way for me to identify myself as a potential SME in this field was by contacting people, blogging about it, creating wiki pages etc and branding myself into them.  Otherwise when senior management were on the lookout for someone to manage an E2.0 project, the work would have naturally gone to someone in the content management team, regardless of their experience/interest in collaborative web technologies.
So in today’s environment there are more reasons than ever to have the ability to find internal (and external) SMEs.  Here are a few examples:
  • find people to work on new markets/products
  • identify gaps in knowledge which should be core to your company
  • identify what impact losing an employee in a given area would have – are there others with similar knowledge?
  • find all people who have interacted with a certain product/project
  • for regulated industries – identify everyone who’s worked on a certain drug/product
But how should SMEs be identified?
In my mind it should be a mix of self declaration, identification by others and by the real life information someone interacts with.  As an example you might have Jason who identifies himself as and expert in ‘Karate’, others tag him with ‘Martial Arts’, yet he consistently works with information/content related to ‘Japanese Fighting Systems’.  Jason should therefore be identified, by a greater or lessor extent, as an SME in all three fields.  In other words you are not relying on just job titles and self declaration to find people.
What happens when you find an SME?
In the past it would have been fair to assume that if you used a tool to find an SME in your organization you would at most have access to their contact details.  However new social tools will allow you to do more than just find an SME and see their phone number.
I’ll pick on Knowledge Plaza (naturally) to demonstrate how SMEs are found and used in such a social tool:
  • SMEs are identified with every search result in the system (full text, tag browsing or combination of both)
  • Users can see the profile of an SME
  • Users can see the recent activities on an SME in addition to their user defined network
  • Users are able to interact with an SME, including adding them to their network
  • The SME can be used as a filter
The most useful feature for me is the ability to use an SME in the system as a filter.  Once you’ve found your SME(s) you should be able to use them as a means of finding information.  i.e. if I find Jason in the system I would want to search through his eyes based upon the content he’s interacted with and the network he maintains.  This means I’m using the SME, using his or her knowledge and accessing their intellectual capital directly in the system.  I can then get a feel for Jason, his content, his interests and most importantly his real life interactions with information and people.
For knowledge retention this feature is so important.  In the example above I didn’t say if Jason still works at the company or if he left 5 years ago.  It shouldn’t matter!  Even if he did leave, he still has a link to information, people, the company and his work still has value.
The ability to find and use a SMEs knowledge after they’ve left the company is coming up as a concern time and time again with the companies I have been speaking to.  A new breed of systems such as Knowledge Plaza have some of the answers here and it’s now possible to do what some of the knowledge management systems of old promised but didn’t deliver.
Companies should be able to quickly find people inside their organization based on their content as well as their interests.  Once found they should be able to do more than just  see their contact details!

Launching Microplaza – Digg over Twitter?

Over the past 2 months I’ve been working with the Knowledge Plaza team to launch a new Twitter service.

This week we launched the beta of MicroPlaza.  The service looks at Twitter and extracts all the shared URLs and presents them as thumbnails with associated tweets.  It does this for your personal timeline as well as the public timelime and will allow you to sort items by popularity or date.  You can read a more concise overview of what we’ve built on SitePoint or ReadWriteWeb.

The idea first came about just before Christmas 08 when a few of the guys realised that Twitter was becoming a kind of discovery engine for finding websites, photos or other web based resources.  We wanted a way to extract these is a visually pleasing way based on your network or the network of a chosen user.  Hence MicroPlaza was built.

I’ve been using the full service for a few weeks now and something interesting is happening.  I find myself heading for MicroPlaza in place of Digg for my dose of news/discovery.  I’m not saying MicroPlaza is going to relace Digg or become as popular (we can hope), but finding new stuff from the people you follow is definately addictive!

Soon I’ll post about the some of the challenges and insights from developing the app.

For now here are some invites!

Knowledge Plaza on ZDNet

Oliver Marks provides a good overview of Knowledge Plaza on ZDNet.

From the post:

Knowledge Plaza is a relatively new offering in the enterprise collaboration space and offers a very sophisticated set of tools aimed primarily at knowledge workers, and whose development has been influenced by a very large international consulting company.  This product is essentially a seriously powerful and secure hub around which you can aggregate both internally created and stored content, as well as material from the entire internet, which can  be tagged and contextually stored…. More here