Tag Archives: stories

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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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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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.

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.

There will be no innovation or collaboration

I was at a small conference/workshop recently called ‘Social Software in the Enterprise’. We were there to discuss how social software is changing the way businesses operate and innovate from within. Or at least I was……

There was the usual mix of management and technical types, all getting to grips with wikis, blogs, tagging, mash-ups etc, and how these things can change company culture and ultimately their bottom line.

Towards the end of day the guy I was next to started to ask who was already using this ‘stuff’ and how they see it fitting in with their current business.

The first response was from a guy opposite who quite bluntly said he was there to find out about this ‘stuff’ so they can prevent anyone using/doing it. He then went on to say he worked for a company who does not encourage open collaboration and innovation and they didn’t want their staff ‘getting creative’ or wasting time. The bottom line was they didn’t trust their staff and felt that all innovation etc should come from management or above.

Mr ‘there will be no innovation on my shift’ didn’t reveal who he worked for, but I wish I knew who it was so I could cross them off any potential future employer list!

Seriously though, there are people and companies out there who see Web/Enterprise 2.0 as a massive waste of time, or something to be feared. Old fashioned managers and CEO’s might see only the bad potential of their staff collaborating and getting creative. It’s an alien concept to me as I have seen first hand how some of the simplest and lightweight software ever installed behind the firewall (MediaWiki) has transformed the way not only I but hundreds of people work. The problem is no-one has been able to effectively communicate the power of Enterprise 2.0 to these people. They’ve probably just read a few tabloid articles on how a rouge blogger published some company secrets, or how a secretary spent 37 hours a week on MySpace……

Yes there are some things to exercise caution over, but on the whole it’s a no brainier for most companies. In fact I’m pretty sure even the guy in question will start to see Enterprise 2.0 within his company over the next few years, he might just not recognize it. It will either creep in by some resourceful users, or someone like Microsoft will sell it to them under a different name.

Enterprise 2.0 BBC Style

I first saw this sometime last year when it created quite a buzz during an Enterprise 2.0 week we were running.

It’s a 25 minute informal interview with Nigel Paine, head of BBC Learning and Development. Nigel provides a fascinating and down to earth insight into how Enterprise 2.0 culture and tools have revolutionized knowledge sharing at the BBC.

The videocast is here, but be warned it only seems to play in Internet Explorer.

The BBC really are the poster child of Enterprise 2.0 adoption and experimentation.

Amazing response to ‘Meet Charlie’

I just want to say a big thanks to everyone who has been in touch regarding the ‘Meet Charlie – What is Enterprise2.0?’ presentation. Within a week of producing the slide deck and uploading it to SlideShare.net I’ve had almost 1500 views and a whole bunch of emails from folk around the world.

So from producing a visually attractive and content rich set of slides, uploading them to a web2.0 service and sending the link out to a few people I have been:

  • contacted by CEO’s and IT managers to say they loved the slides, and now really get Enterprise 2.0.
  • contacted by numerous people from many countries just to say hi or to ask if they can use the slides
  • asked to give the presentation again at the company I work for
  • linked to by a number of blogs and sites

So this really demonstrates the power of web2.0, the opportunities it can present and the contacts it can create. What it also does is provide a glimpse into the potential of Enterprise2.0. So imagine your company has an equivalent of SlideShare installed within the firewall where everyone shares their slide decks within the organisation. If you were to post an equivalent of the ‘Meet Charlie’ presentation, and it were to be as popular, were to be linked to from employee and director blogs, were to be discussed at meetings, were to be sent round via email/messenger…..you’d be creating some pretty serious contacts and opportunities! Not to mention raising your profile, getting your message heard, presenting you ideas or passion to the whole company…………..This is what really excites me about Enterprise2.0…it’s fairly untapped, yet to be adopted by the masses, but bubbling with opportunity for better communication, collaboration and innovation!

I’d like to give a quick mention for Cheree Moore of Ethos 3 Communications and Presentation Revolution for providing the visual inspiration for a Meet _____ presentation.