Tag Archives: culture

Communicating the benefits of social media to management

One of the reasons take up of social media within organisations is slower than people anticipated, often comes down to justification to management. On one hand you’d think that the relative low cost and overhead of social media deployments would mean take up would be high. On the other hand you are faced with the fears, confusion and status quo highlighted all too often. So what about that pitch to management?

There are a few things to avoid when making your pitch:

1. Don’t claim the tools will look after themselves and not require additional resource.

Let’s face it, both the culture and audience inside an organisation are very different to that on the internet. On the web, tools ‘seem’ to take off by themselves and attract a massive following. That’s because the potential user base is millions and you only need a small percentage to use your service for it to be seen as a success. Also, you can’t imagine any successful movement to take off without someone behind it, quietly (or not) pushing, facilitating and marketing. The same is true in an organisation, you need at least one or two (absolute minimum) passionate people to encourage use and show the way for how social media can be used. Take the wiki gardener role. It’s almost a must have now to identify a resource dedicated (full or part time) to gardening and evangelising the corporate wiki.

2. Don’t focus on looking for systems to retire in place of social media tools.

Most of the tools we discuss and see implemented inside organisations are adopted differently and fill different needs. These tools often provide linkages between other systems and resources or enhance the use of other tools. Not very often (at the moment) do you see swathes of systems being retired due to social media tools. Remember, this is new, so chances are by adopting Enterprise 2.0 you will be doing new things, having new conversations, finding new markets rather than replacing existing systems.

Here are some things you can do to communicate the benefits of Enterprise 2.0:

1. Identify existing processes and story board the impact of social media

It’s easier to relate benefits of new tools within your organisation against existing processes or practices. Take a wiki for example. It’s easy to identify a ton of processes and tasks that can switch to a wiki. Go and find examples like this in your organisation. Or find teams willing to experiment and pilot new ways of working. Then, present this to management.

2. Do quote success stories and industry examples

They are out there if you look. Books like ‘Here Comes Everybody’, ‘Wikinomics’ and ‘The Long Tail’ have some good sound bites. So do the vendors. Vendors are getting really good at capturing and communicating case studies of how their tools are being used and impacting organisations. Use these stories to highlight what’s happening in your industry, and how new tools are already being used by competitors or otherwise.

3. Communicate differently

Try to be different. Much of what we talk about is a change in culture, design and behaviour. Your communication to management should reflect this. Try not to do the boring old PowerPoint and standard pitch. See if you can usher in some of this new culture with your pitch. Obviously if there are standard processes to follow, then do so, but try not to be constrained. Show them you are thinking differently and ready to adapt to emerging trends.

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Ubuntu Brainstorm – A business use of Web 2.0

Ubuntu, the user friendly Linux distribution, launched Ubuntu Brainstorm this week. Inspired by IdeaStorm from Dell, the Ubuntu community can now suggest ideas and vote online. Its goal is to have a better idea of what Ubuntu users would like to see in upcoming Ubuntu releases.

As a user you can add your ideas or vote for your preferred ones, add comments and see their implementation status. The best and most popular ideas quickly rise to the top and can be creamed off for inclusion in future releases.

Why is this such a big deal? Well technically it’s not, but this really shows how the use of web 2.0 technology and culture can change traditional processes. Any organisation could adopt the same approach for requirements gathering, general ideas, news items, voting on company issues etc. Just imagine how different it would be to gather project requirements in this fashion. You can still hold the workshops and user summits but you would enter every requirement online and leave the community to vote on the functionality important to them. Going forward this becomes a place for feature requests, ideas on new uses for the system, voting on new processes etc.

Designing a system like this doesn’t have to take months and be a bespoke development either. There are ways to leverage existing functionality in some blogs and wikis as well as SharePoint to achieve a rough and ready version.

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A Virtual World Meeting

Yesterday I took part in a meeting with approx 100 people from a multinational company. It was a regular meeting with regular outcomes but there was a twist. The meeting was held in a business equivalent of Second Life. 100 people from around the world immersed themselves in a virtual environment for 3 hours to chat, see presentations, hear from the ‘boss’ and to see how this technology could be leveraged to run large meetings/workshops.

Once inside the environment there was 15 mins of familiarisation by the waters edge before heading off to the main conference centre. The main presentations were shown in a large room with a podium in the middle. The presenter would walk over and control his PowerPoint presentation from there. Yes, PowerPoint in a virtual world….it doesn’t seem right for some reason. There were multiple screens where you could view the presentation, and if you stood on a blue circle you would see the presentation in full screen. As the presenters went through their slides they were talking over the teleconference (just like you would with WebEx etc). Attendees could ask questions via the chat panel at the bottom, whisper to each other or just sit back and watch/listen.

Overall I was impressed. Although it looked like a old video game, just seeing the other attendees move around and talk to each other made it feel like you were really there, all in one room. I even had someone whom I’ve never met, but worked with for a long time, rush over and wave at me before saying “it’s good to finally meet you!”

Elsewhere in the environment you could wander into break out rooms and watch videos that had been uploaded in advance.

Here are my conclusions from the virtual world meeting:

• people still rush over to the boss after a presentation to get his ear (seriously, it must be human nature)
• people feel more confident to speak up
• fooling around does happen but not like I thought and it was over with quickly
• someone needs to facilitate, it’s like any other meeting
• technical barriers were not really a problem (users on a whole got to grips with it very quickly)
• the likes of WebEx do the whole presentation thing a lot better
• the likes of WebEx lack the ability (at the moment) to make you feel like you are really with the other attendees
• drop the corny avatars (knights, princesses, cow boys etc) please – you just don’t need them in a business setting
• you do actually feel like you are in a real meeting with real people – something you don’t quite get in a telecon/videocon
• I can see companies really going for this kind of technology but not just yet

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Two Types of Corporate User

 A user profiling piece of work got me thinking…..

There seem to be two types of person within a corporation:

  • Type 1.0: Safe, slightly bureaucratic, long serving, process driven, organized, like granting/denying access to stuff, like tools to support their work, like document management systems, go on system/process training courses, know and quote many a TLA (three letter acronym)
  • Type 2.0: Innovative, scrappy, shorter serving, don’t like access controls, don’t like document management systems, have a tendency to ‘wing it’, like tools that get out of the way quickly, avoid system/process training courses if at all possible, like meeting people, don’t like to use TLA’s

I fit the type 2 model (for better or worse), and prefer best in class web2.0/social software tools.  Most of the type 1’s I know prefer SharePoint and stuff that integrates with SharePoint.

What type are you and which tools do you prefer?  Will the type 2’s learn to love SharePoint as it evolves?

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Not excited yet?

Over on the FASTForward blog there is a post from Bill Ives where he asks “is IT looking over it’s shoulder at web2.0?”. The question is in regards to whether IT are really embracing web2.0 or becoming a victim of this looser and ultimately cheaper operating model. There is one quote from this article stating “We’ve cut IT staff by 20%, and we’re providing a whole lot more in terms of IT services.?

When I first started evangelizing web2.0 /enterprise2.0 I was really eager to have the IT crowd as an audience, as I thought they’d be the first to get excited about this stuff. How wrong I was. Out of all the people I speak to and work with, it’s the IT folk who are the least excited about web2.0 use within a company setting. Even in my own IT department at the time there was only a handful of us who saw the potential in this new breed of tools. However, over time we did find some very supportive IT sponsors and supporters, and it was essential we did as working on web2.0 outside of an IT setting is very tough. Maybe the reason is that this ‘stuff’ doesn’t look like a classic solution to a classic problem. In many cases there is not much to build (if you exclude SOA etc), few need to be involved and classic system lifecycle development does not always apply.

So back to the matter at hand. Can embracing web2.0 really reduce costs and increase revenue? Well think about these examples:

  • You are a big company with a dedicated communications team who write and publish material to the intranet. What would happen if you reduced their publishing time and effort by providing a simple blog? And what if everyone in the company had a way to blog to a central news site? Even the ability to DIGG content they thought was valuable? What about the editing process of internal communications. How about you let the author have control of the message and engage on conversations, rather than pass it through several review cycles before publishing to a static page without the ability for the readers to comment?
  • In this big company you also have a team dedicated to rolling out training and help files to end users via a ‘training portal’. Content is authored, published to the training portal and reviewed at regular intervals by interviewing project teams and gathering user feedback. The material is then revised and re-published. How about placing all this in a wiki, and letting users add to and amend based on their own experiences with the system/process being used. Living and evolving training material in the wiki alongside all other system/process related information, and editable by anyone.

I’m not saying the (two random) examples above will necessarily save money/cut staff, but they would shake things up a bit and turn current models on their head. If nothing else it would cause current roles to be re-purposed and revised to facilitate and nurture this new user contributed model.

BTW, I originally missed the post from Bill, as I’m behind on my RSS feeds due to workload and a whole bunch of other stuff that’s been keeping me away from my laptop. However, as a testament to the power of web2.0 behind the firewall, I picked up a link to the post from the front page of the social bookmarking tool we implemented only a couple of months ago. Thanks for the link Bruce 😉

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Digg your questions to management

I saw this on Euan Semple’s blog.  It’s a system where you submit questions via video to the video sharing site of your choice, give it a certain tag and it then appears on another site where users can vote your question up or down.  The top ten get answered by presidential candidates.

So imagine a similar system in a large company where you submit your questions for the CEO/management.  People vote, and once a month the management answer the top 5-10 questions.  Something makes me think it would be a hit with the workforce but not so much with the management.

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The wiki and bookmarks win

Yesterday we had space in a poster session at <insert large company name>, so took the opportunity to display some posters on blogging, RSS, social bookmarking and wikis.  The idea of a poster session like this is to stand next to your posters and engage people in conversation when they stop to look at what you are displaying.  This took place at lunch time in the main canteen, so there were hundreds of people around.

When I arrived I had a quick look round at the other posters and they were all of a pretty standard format, with a mix of molecular diagrams, data slices, screen shots of scientific applications etc, and all very well produced with a ton of information on each. 

Compare that to what we had.  Very minimalist, large, slick posters with images of the corporate wiki front page, one with a massive RSS logo, another with a big image of Charlotte next to a tag cloud and another of the front page of the beta social bookmarking application.  We also had two large plasma screens cycling slide shows of the web 2.0 powered super hero himself (Charlie) and his most recent acquaintance Charlotte.  Oh, and a bunch of laptops with one hooked up to yet another large plasma ready to demo the tools.

We stood out.  Maybe we stood out too much as the rest of the poster stands seemed much busier to start with but trade soon started piling in. 

So began the conversations and engagements which went something like this:

Wiki –

Hi, so this poster is about the corporate wiki.  Have you seen <insert company name>pedia before?  No, well ok, have you seen Wikipedia?  Yes, good, well this is the same thing, same software, same goal and same ethos.  We want this to be the default entry point to find out anything about anything at the company.  Do you want to see it in action?  Good, step this way and we’ll get you started by creating a profile page.

Social Bookmarking –

Hi, so this poster is about the beta corporate bookmarking service. Have you seen tags.<insert company name>.com before? No, well ok, have you seen Del.icio.us?  No, er, Ok.  Well, let me guess, you find a site you like and your bookmark it in your Internet Explorer favorites, right?  Yes, good.  So you have a long list of bookmarks that only you can see and use when you are at your computer, right?  Yes, OK, well I’ve got something you might really like, come with me and I will show you how you can store all of your bookmarks online, give them descriptions, tag them, share them and discover new and interesting bookmarks and people based upon your interests.

And so it continued.  The interesting thing was the people at the session were your classic target customers.  This was all so new to them and most reacted in a very positive way.  Here are some of the comments:

Social Bookmarking –

Wow, this is really useful.  Everyone should be using this, why isn’t it advertised to the whole company?  You should send out an email to everyone.  I’m definitely going to use this.

Wiki –

It’s my last day on Friday and I wish I had known about this before, it would have really benefited me on so many levels.

A system like this could transform the way we collect information. It’s a real change to what we do now.

There were a few surprises for me in seeing what the customers took to and what they struggled to get to grips with.  I thought RSS would be the real show stealer, but the response was warm at best.  They liked the concept but I think the combination of needing a reader AND a feed put a barrier in the way.  Also, explaining that not all sites supported RSS seemed to confuse some people.  So there is work to do in packaging a core RSS reader into every desktop build and advertising RSS feeds and RSS as a concept more widely.  The people who saw RSS in action really got it, but as a concept alone I think it was hard to sell.

By far the best received concepts were that of the wiki and the bookmarking, they were really really popular.  I put this down to the fact it’s one tool, one concept and it’s there and ready for people to use.  Nothing to install, nothing to piece together, just visit the site, sign in and go.  Also they offer immediate and obvious payback.

My highlight was the the guy who brought his laptop down so he could import his 100+ bookmarks from IE into tags.<insert company name>.com, literally seconds after he signed himself up for an account.

Credit has to go to Sid who pulled together most of the posters and organized the space, all outside of his official role.  I just swooped in at the last minute and enjoyed engaging, educating and selling.

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Oh to be a small to medium sized business….

I keep telling people that it will be the small to medium sized businesses who will lead the way in enterprise 2.0 adoption and innovation. Today I heard from a number of people, in a number of large companies, about how internal turf wars, agendas or the overall technology strategy is preventing some truly great tools from being deployed.

It’s inevitable really. Big IT departments have been so focused on cost reduction, standardization, a one size fits all approach and a need to show value for money, that the desire/ability to innovate and be flexible has simply been lost (or forgotten).

So my message is to all the innovative SMB’s out there. You can use your size, desire to grow and nimbleness to quickly and efficiently explore what a web 2.0 world can offer you – before your larger competitors do! Of course there will be exceptions, and I personally know of some very large companies deploying enterprise 2.0 tools, but I think the exciting place to be right now is in the SMB market.

Ed: I’m not IT dept bashing, I’ve worked in one and still do to some extent. I’m highlighting the experiences of those around me.

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Why Our Recently Announced Strategy is Misguided

Here’s a good (albeit long) post from Andrew McAfee – the guy who allegedly coined the term Enterprise 2.0.  I say allegedly as I recently met someone, who knows someone, who lays his own claim to inventing the term.  Anyway, McAfee talks about a trip one of the world’s largest technology companies (IBM/Microsoft/SAP??) where he had the opportunity to learn about their blogsphere. 

He says:

On the page that listed the most recent blog posts I saw a title something like “Why Our Recently Announced Strategy is Misguided” I was a little surprised by this, and asked the team if this level of feistiness was rare, and if the people who wrote such posts found themselves in hot water. They assured me that the answer to both questions was no.

This is a key point for me.  I don’t think many large companies are at a point where a post like “Why Our Recently Announced Strategy is Misguided” would be embraced.  In fact I think it would make people feel a little uncomfortable, as it’s not the norm to go around saying exactly what’s on your mind (is it?).  I’m not saying this is a bad thing, rather that many companies have a way to go with the culture and expectations of what a thriving blogsphere brings to the table.  Some companies I know are at the point where such posts would be embraced, whereas others are trying to find their feet with how to cope with this sort of feedback.  The point is, feedback is good.  It’s just the getting used to hearing and responding to it publicly.

McAfee went on to say:

It struck me that I was looking at an excellent tool for gathering informed feedback on topics of interest. And there seemed to be a lot of cross-talk among blogs; employees were leaving comments for each other, posting in response to previous posts, etc. I try not to be a wide-eyed techno optimist, or to say “everything’s different now!” each time I see a new technology, but I do think this internal blogosphere was something new under the sun. I don’t see how a company, especially a large and geographically dispersed one, could hold an ongoing, public, open-to-all conversation about important topics without E2.0 tools.

Spot on, could not agree more!

There’s a load more to the post including wikis, prediction markets and crowd sourcing decisions.  Here it is:

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Taking ad-hoc connections for granted on the Internet

I’m off to Valencia soon where part of my trip will involve meeting up with friends and attending the annual tomato festival.

In build up to the trip I searched Flickr for both Valencia and the tomato festival and found a whole bunch of photo sets from people who have been there on holiday, stag parties, for work etc etc.  One set stood out as it looked like the people in the pictures were having a great time.  So I sent the owner of the set an email via the site asking for any recommendations on where to go and where to avoid based on my itinerary.  Within an hour I had the most comprehensive response containing recommendations and tips on what to do and places to visit.  Fantastic!  And I’m sure I could repeat the experience by doing something similar on Facebook or a number of other user generated content sites.

I take these sort of interactions for granted on the Internet, using the power of social platforms and the willingness of people to connect.  However could you do the same within a large company?  Say you are off to a conference in a few weeks and want to see if anyone else from your company is going, or you want to ask advice from people who may have attended a similar conference in the past.  How would you do it?  I imagine in most large companies you would struggle to connect with those people, and this is where you can start to identify the business case for social software behind the firewall.

I’ve already created a conference reports site on an open source platform for a large company.  From start to finish it took 2 days, and now anyone attending a conference or similar event can register on the site and blog about their experiences.  Anyone within the company can benefit from that person attending the  conference, and if they choose to connect with them.  However this is just the tip of the iceberg and was a quick win.  What I want to do is re-create the Flickr/Valencia experience and to be able to connect with anyone in a company based upon a shared interest/topic.  Enterprise 2.0 holds the key to this experience, but time will tell how easily the potential is realized.

Let us kick-start your own DIGWWW

So I’m in San Francisco from the 4th to the 7th September, speaking at the Office 2.0 Conference. The subject of the talk will be around the DIGWWW, a grass roots group who has brought social software into a global health care company.

I’ve been thinking what would be better than to go into a company in SF (small or large) for a few hours and kick start their very own DIGWWW group. It would work best for a company who currently does not have too much in the way or web 2.0 or is struggling with their current processes and systems. So any business is in scope, as almost any business can benefit from exploiting trends from the WWW.

There are many unique qualities to the DIGWWW, and we’ll set you off down the path just as we started. It will be a fun, energetic and perhaps culture changing.

So if you are part of or know of a company who would like to benefit from our experience, either email me or leave a comment!

Breathing new life into projects with Enterprise 2.0 culture and tools

Something that’s become key to how I approach projects now is community involvement. Successful web 2.0 sites on the Internet have been doing this for years and owe a lot of their success to embracing the end users throughout the development cycle, launch and feedback sequence. Traditionally myself and others who have led or are involved in leading IT projects have engaged a captive (identified by role rather than desire) audience at just the mandatory stages throughout the project. Just over a year and a half ago I started to use a project blog and project wiki pages, the difference was amazing. It turned a rather dull project with LOTS of PM only tasks to a more evenly distributed, fun project with real community involvement.

Any project I’m involved in outside of a large company now automatically gets the BaseCamp and Wiki treatment. However, now I’m actually looking forward to my next ‘corporate’ project to give it the full enterprise 2.0 treatment.

I guess what I’m saying is that having new tools to use can inspire you to look at your old work in a different way, and in turn breathe new life into something which had become same old same old…..

Nice looking, lightweight applications

Lately I’ve been discussing the visual elements of web 2.0 and how they map to my expectations for enterprise 2.0 applications.

Personally I’m more inclined to use a tool which is visually appealing/inspiring. Look around at the top web 2.0 sites, they are all pleasing to the eye. Whether they go full out for maximum design, or keep things simple, all the sites/services I use look neat. Is that a shallow requirement for personal adoption?

The current set of enterprise applications I use mostly depress me. They might do great things, but I hate the interface. I know I’m not alone in this view, but I also know lots of people who would disagree with me. For example the other day someone asked why on earth anyone would want to customize how their internal blog looked. Well, maybe they want to feel inspired, assert their individuality, be different or maybe they just like pretty colors….? I don’t know, but some people prefer to use stuff that looks cool. Whereas some people will live with a boring interface in favor of masses of functionality.

This got me thinking, would a simple interface overhaul be enough to satisfy me when using current enterprise applications? Nope, because the navigation also depresses me in it’s complexity due to there being too many functions available. So what to do? It feels like what I really want is neat looking tools, with limited but appropriate and powerful functionality. Just like BaseCamp. In fact Simon suggested we ask the BaseCamp crew to look at a classic enterprise application for them to give their recommendations on what they would do if tasked with making it ‘2.0’.

So is this what we will start seeing? Or are we already seeing it? Enterprise grade applications that play nicely with others, offer great but limited functionality and are intuitive to the point of fool proof.

So where does that leave the functionality left out or stripped away from the original enterprise version? Maybe there was never the need for it in the first place, or maybe it just gets rolled into another best in class application….certainly something to think about.

Get Fuzzy

Whilst this is not specifically enterprise 2.0 related, I think the slideshow below describres some of the cultural aspects required for an organisation to embrace flexible web 2.0 platforms. So I have now heard the phrases ‘get scrappy’ and ‘get fuzzy’ in relation to shifting organisational culture. Are there any more? Good work David Armano.

Enterprise 2.0 Case Study…

…well sort of. This is the presentation I’ve pulled together to highlight the work of an unofficial group who explore and push web2.0/enterprise2.0 technology and culture at a global blue chip company. We started the group in July 2006 and have enjoyed a great deal of success (and enjoyment) in the year that followed. I’ve removed any references which identify the company, so sorry if some bits seem vague.


Enterprise 2.0 Week

I’m just finishing off a presentation about the past 12 months of work by a special interest group whom discuss the WWW. The unofficial group was formed at a large multinational, with the purpose of discussing web technology and culture with a slant on how it may apply to the company. This was on top of our day jobs.

A few months in we realized there was a term for this, Enterprise 2.0. We had already identified a few social software implementations within the company, albeit a little rouge and unofficial, and were evangelizing their use and impact. A few of us decided there was enough interest in web2.0/enterprise2.0 at the grass roots level to hold an event on the subject.

We pulled together an agenda which covered a week’s worth of unconference style events (mostly at lunch times), and even found a sponsor to pay for a couple of speakers. We podcast every meeting, keynote and presentation and made them available on an instance of Drupal, where we also convinced some thought leaders to blog for the week. We soon had a global audience and were in danger of creating a demand for ‘enterprise 2.0’ which at the time could not be met (at least not officially).

It’s a great story and as I pull together the presentation I’m starting to realize what an impact a small, unofficial interest group is having within such a large company.

Open Access by Default

Freedom of information is a hot topic right now in my immediate circle. As enterprise 2.0 is slowly creeps into an organization it can highlight various cultural barriers to full adoption. The first introduction of emergent social software can be the spark that lights the fuse, forcing you to address how and why data is stored and access granted.

Take the example of Sharepoint. I know a number of companies and departments who are deploying the latest and greatest version of Sharepoint under the banner of ‘better collaboration’ and even ‘enterprise 2.0’. I have mixed feelings about Sharepoint but I will save that for another day. The problem is the access control features, or even defaults. From the instances I have seen, the access control has defaulted to ‘selected audience only’. So as your browse an intranet of Sharepoint sites can be confronted with access denied messages 8times out of 10. This may just be the case while the techies get to grips with default access permissions etc, but I fear it’s more of a cultural issue, where people slip into a silo mentality.

My personal view (and that of others I know if they wish to stop by and comment) is that by default we should do away with manually selecting who has access to your intranet content, and instead have open access as default. Otherwise, as the barrier to publishing content all but disappears, you will have users posting valuable information to just a fraction of the audience to whom it may benefit, or publishing duplicate material all over the intranet.