Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cisco Sees the Future

The following is from the summary of an interview with Cisco CEO John Chambers in Harvard Business Press:

Early on, Chambers learned to sense market transitions by listening closely to customers, connecting individual dots of behavior into patterns that indicated future trends. Later, he realized he needed to turn Cisco's management processes upside down to benefit from that foresight. In this interview, Chambers describes how he was able to surrender his role as a command-and-control CEO and institute a collaborative decision-making model that allows the company to respond speedily to emerging transitions. Managers throughout Cisco now form cross-functional teams, working together to identify and exploit new opportunities quickly. The model allows Cisco to simultaneously implement 22 major sales initiatives as effectively as most companies do one or two.

I came across the interview with Chambers via an item by Hutch Carpenteri n the RSS feed from The Connectbeam Social Computing Blog (although I cannot find the post on the blog). Carpenter quotes Chambers about how Cisco stays on top of changing market trends:
"I believe that only those companies that build collaboration into their DNA by tapping into the collective expertise of all employees - instead of just a few select leaders at the top - will succeed, as more and more market transitions occur at once."
The you have it; the business case for Enterprise 2.0. Organizations should explore opportunities to improve collaboration in order to capitalize on the collective expertise of their employees. The principles and technologies behind social software present the most promising opportunities we can see right now.

I would not be surprised if Chambers have the following quotes on the wall in his office or written in a note in his wallet:

"The only irreplaceable capital an organization possesses is the knowledge and ability of its people. The productivity of that capital depends on how effectively people share their competence with those who can use it."
- Andrew Carnegie

"If HP knew what HP knows, we would be three times as profitable."
- Lew Platt, former CEO of HP

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Social media advertising will increase on behalf of advertising in old media

I believe that old media will suffer hard from the recession that now follows the financial crisis. Companies will go for the cheaper and more effective ways to advertise their products and services that are available online. Offline is simply to expensive. It is the same reasoning that will make CIO:s embrace SaaS, open source and cloud computing at a far greater scale than today.

As a consequence, companies will also look more seriously into how they can use social media - which can be very cheap and effective. It is essentially about letting the consumers do the job for them and it can be extremely effective as we as consumers speak and engage directly with other consumers.

Simply put, the recession will force companies to use their money more wisely. A lot of business people have previously been sceptical towards the web because they have not understood that it can help them to earn money and save money at the same time. Now they will be forced to see and take advantage of the opportunities that the web presents to them.

Friday, October 24, 2008

This week in links - week 43, 2008

"Poll: Enterprise Jury Still Out on Web 2.0" by Mary Jander at Internet Evolution:

Enterprise managers are divided in their thinking about Web 2.0 applications as business tools. But in a recent poll on this site, a sizeable portion of respondents -- nearly 38 percent -- indicated the concept has lots to offer. About 28 percent think it's too soon to tell.

The ground is likely to be tilled most rapidly in sales and marketing, where social networking offers results that are more obvious than elsewhere. After all, if you can harvest X number of prospects or buyers from an online forum, that's easier to quantify than the amount of productivity gleaned from a financial services wiki, a blogosphere from HR, or a social network for multiple
departments.

Further, it's a mistake to think of Web 2.0 ever taking over most successful business applications. We're more apt to see a gradual adoption of Web 2.0 fundamentals creep into business apps than subsume them anytime soon.

"SaaS Revenue Growing, Market Set To Double By 2012" by Antone Gonsalves at Intelligent Enterprise:

Initial concerns over security, response time, and service availability have diminished for many organizations as SaaS business and computing models have matured and adoption has become pervasive," Sharon Mertz, research director at Gartner, said in a statement.

Driving the growth in SaaS deployments is businesses' desire to reduce their IT capital expenditure budget and to rapidly implement software that supports a specific business need, Gartner said. In addition, the increased availability of broadband has given organizations the bandwidth to support SaaS.
"Web 2.0ver?" by Dave Kellogg, CEO of Mark Logic Corporation (via Daniel Tunkelang):

To me, web 2.0 was, is, and will remain, an important collection of concepts that will endure:

  • A read/write web, where we can participate, update, annotate, comment, link, tag, etc
  • A social web, where there is awareness of relationships that can be leveraged appropriatel
  • User-generated content, which is here to stay and, in fact, always has been (think: radio call-in shows, Kids Say the Darndest Things, or America's funniest
    Home Videos)
  • The use of the web for communication and entertainment. People are natural communicators. We will always adapt our tools to that fundamental need.
  • A personalized web, that understands what we like and how we like to get it
"Revealing the long tail in office conversations" a research paper by Michael J. Brzozowski and Sarita Yardi at the HP Social Computing Lab (download position paper here):

Blogs, wikis, and forums can break down geographic distances, workgroup boundaries, and organizational hierarchy in an organization. While these tools significantly lower the barriers to producing content, employees may perceive there to be little incentive to invest their own time in providing this content for public consumption. We found that increasing visibility often motivated employees to participate and contribute content. Employees were motivated by the opportunity for attention, and the ways in which social media tools enabled or hindered this opportunity influenced the way it was used.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Comparing micro-blogging to SMS

Is it easier to understand and discuss the possible uses and benefits of micro-blogging if we compare it with SMS? In a sense micro-blogging is like broadcasting your SMS messages, allowing anyone to tap into your flow of information. Anyone can also aggregare messages from many users on a given topic. What do you think of comparing micro-blogging to SMS?

The ability of employees to communicate efficiently is a key asset for any organization

From “Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations” by Clay Shirky:


“All businesses are media businesses, because whatever else they do, all businesses rely on the managing of information for two audiences - employees and the world.”

On the Internet, anyone can become a publisher today. The means of producing and distributing information and experiences have been democratized (available for free or at no cost and easy to use) and virtually anyone can reach an audience of millions. Even though very few do, the possibility still exists.

It obviously takes either killer content or being a master at communicating to reach a very large audience, and usually it takes both. You also need to master how to market yourself and your content and to understand how to use the power of networks in doing so. To find evidence of this, you only need to observe and listen to those bloggers who make it to the upper few percent in the long tail and manage to stay there to. The key skill they all possess is the ability to communicate efficiently, to efficiently convey a message to an intended audience.

The democratization of media will have huge implications for businesses and how they are managed and operated. Today, anyone can write something about your organization and reach your customers, partners and employees. It also means that any member of an organization might be required to represent it and thus need to possess good communication skills. If we look internally, all members of your organization need to be able to communicate as freely with each other as they can on the Internet - which includes being able to communicate freely with people outside of your organization.

If we take this reasoning to the extreme, then the ability of an organization to communicate successfully internally as well as externally can simply be seen as the sum of the ability of all its members to communicate, plus a culture and infrastructure that empower and leverage.

A cynical conclusion that one can make is that people who possess great talent but lack the communication skills will have a hard time to exploit this talent without help from others. They will have to team up others who are greatly skilled in communication, but they must anyway work hard to develop their own communication skills since one person’s talent has rather limited value if it cannot be “cross-fertilized” with the talent of other persons.

The main point here is that most organizations need to make a considerable change in mindset if they are to succeed in a world where all businesses need to master communication almost to the same degreeas media businesses. Most organizations still see information captured in documents and databases as their key assets. Now, they need to see the members to have the ability to make use of those assets and communicate efficiently as their key assets, but also the cultural values and the infrastructure that supports them. Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO of Facebook, has nicely expressed this shift of mindset that is needed:


“The other guys think the purpose of communication is to get information. We think the purpose of information is to foster communication.”

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The IT department vs the rest of the business

I have argued before that there are no IT projects, only business projects involving more or less IT. Every IT initiative should be owned and driven by the business. My previous post on this subject generated some comments, one of them asking "Why do you assume that IT is not part of the business?". I had to clarify that the point I was trying to make was actually the opposite, that IT is a part of the business but that labeling initiatives owned by IT differently, as "IT projects", makes it appear as if it is not a part of the business:

"Labeling a project as an IT project or HR project will only create silo thinking and suboptimization. Instead, we should talk about business projects, regardless who is the sponsor, what unit the sponsor belongs to or who are involved in the project team."

I recently talked to a representative from “the business side” of an organization where they follow the device above; that all initiatives are business initiatives and that all initiatives have to have an owner on “the business side” to happen.

Unfortunately, the IT department has interpreted it as if there always need to be an owner outside of the IT department (on "the business side"). Consequently, if no-one at other business units such as R&D or HR take ownership of, say, upgrading the IT infrastructure, then nothing will happen. The IT Department is just passively hosting, maintaining and supporting it. They are reactive to business needs instead of being proactive and take no initiatives on their own. Consequently, they won’t upgrade, extend or scale the infrastructure unless someone in the other parts of the business takes ownership.

Why does this situation occur? Well, I believe that the IT department for some reason doesn’t think of themselves as a part of the business. They think of themselves as a totally separate entity, the same kind of thinking that might lead them to believe that their core business is IT even though the core business of the organization which they are part is not even close to IT. The core business of the IT Department is of course to provide IT capabilities that support the core business of the entire organization.

The reasoning that there are no IT initiatives, only business initiatives, is intended to illustrate a mindset where every part of the business see itself as a part of the business and where every initiative should bring some value to the business. The IT department is obviously a part of the business. If they start owning business initiatives, this might become clearer.

Friday, October 17, 2008

This week in links - week 42, 2008

"Gartner Identifies Four Disruptions That Will Transform the Software Industry", Gartner:

Technology changes that have been centered on SOA migration have now been augmented to include business process management, device portability and mashup-capable content. By 2010, Web mashups will be the dominant model for the creation of composite enterprise applications.

“Most current software is focused on general enterprise needs rather than user-specific needs,” Ms. Genovese said. “The opportunity for business and IT leaders is to understand how the individualization of work will affect businesses, critical processes, innovation and interenterprise collaboration. End-user preferences will decide as much as half of all software, hardware and service acquisitions made by IT.”

Market excitement over Web platforms, SaaS and other IT utility services will only intensify, and this will increase business buyers’ appetites for these new options and services,”

"Cisco and WebEx Combine Strengths to Launch New Enterprise 2.0 Collaboration Platform"by Bill Ives:

Cisco has launched a new collaboration platform with its acquisition of WebEx: Cisco WebEx Connect, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform that integrates, presence, instant messaging, web meetings and team spaces with traditional and web 2.0 business applications. I recently spoke with David Knight, the Product Manager for this new collaboration effort. He said Cisco WebEx Connect is designed to combine the flexibility and reach of Web 2.0 with the security and management of enterprise networking. This new cloud-based platform will be the foundation of Cisco’s collaboration strategy and will be the first solution Cisco has launched since announcing its collaboration strategic direction.

"Social Networking Belongs in Business" by Dean Thrasher:

It’s odd that it’s taken so long for social software to make inroads in the business world. Social networking has a natural home in the enterprise because the relationships there have a purpose.

I think it’s inside the firewall that the social networks really come into their own. Rands explains the importance of the corporate social network by contrasting the official organization chart with the culture chart. The boxes and arrows on the org chart barely scratch the surface of what’s going on within most companies. Knowing who’s connected with whom, what they do and how they do it… now that’s valuable insight.

"SharePoint: It’s Not a Gap, It’s Room for An Ecosystem"by Craig Roth:

There’s an old coding joke: when presented with a bug in your program you try to pretend it is intentional by saying “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!” I’m reminded of that when told about the rich ecosystem Microsoft has nurtured around SharePoint 2007.

If you’re in charge of an enterprise-wide SharePoint plan or a specific SharePoint site, you don’t care if a gap in SharePoint is intentional or not. The task for you is to quickly assess what users will need from SharePoint and to set expectations up front that SharePoint out of the box may not get them there. Determining what combination of built-in SharePoint capabilities, partner products, community-provided bits, and custom in-house coding will be required to deliver the expectations of the users will help paint a realistic picture of the time and resources needed.

Well, there's some food for thought. Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sometimes we need to be reminded about common sense

Is social software (Enterprise 2.0) something for your organization to consider?

You know the answer to that question if you understand how important efficient communication is for any kind of collaboration between people, whether the context is a couple or a family, a business or non-profit organization, or a nation.

When something does not work in a relationship, then what would the therapist say? Probably something like:

"Work on your relationship. Start with communication. Talk freely and listen excellently."

The same advice can be given to any business or organization that needs to improve its performance. It is common sense, but sometimes you need a therapist to remind you about it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Is this the dawn of social networks?

In times of uncertainty and economic instability, building and nurturing our relationships to other people will become more important than ever. This has to do with the simple fact that loyalty between employers and employees get weaker in harsh economic times. This loyalty exists only as long as you contribute to the bottom-line results. As a response to this, we must turn to the real loyalties which can be found in family, friends and former colleagues. People who we trust and who trust us back. We will also turn our focus from consumption of meaningless goods to nurturing our relationships with other people.

As for social networking and sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, I expect them to become even more important in times like these. People will use them less for leisure and more as tools for finding jobs. Organizations will also rely more on their employees’ personal networks to make business as it gets harder and harder to sell big shiny offers. Instead they need to sell on relationships and trust. In times of uncertainty, most people rather buy from someone they know in person and trust.

From what Tom Davenport wrote yesterday in the post “Is Web 2.0 Living on Thin Air?” it seems as Tom does not understand social media – or even worse, people. Maybe the post just expresses his longings back to a time where he felt more at home (the industrial era):
“Have you ever sat at Starbucks with your Mac laptop open, sipping your mochaccino or your chai latte, and looked around at the others just like you? Did you wonder whether our economy had grown a little overly precious? How can we really be producing value if we're all sitting around blogging and Facebook-friending each other”

“Instead of finding more ways for us to all yap at each other, in this more sober economy we may want to emphasize other priorities. What new products and services will make for better, healthier lives and relationships? How can companies improve their performance? How can teenagers improve their math and science skills, instead of their texting skills?”
What if Facebook actually is enriching people’s life and helps them to build and nurture strong and healthy relationships with other people? What if these services are more worth to people that buying a new flat-screen TV or car?

In addition, is texting not great skill to develop? I personally believe that social and communication skills are more important than math and science skills today. The global networked world relies on its inhabitants to be able to communicate efficiently. Employees that keep what they know to themselves are of little use to an organization. Simply put - in this world it doesn’t matter if you are a math genius if you have insufficient social or communication skills.

Finally, organizations that want to become more efficient and innovative should probably focus a lot more on making communication and sharing of information and knowledge work a smoothly as possible. Because when they fail, it is always due to bad communication is one way or another (does the lack of communication, transparency and openness from the banks which have caused the current financial crisis ring any bells?).

Monday, October 13, 2008

An extensive list of Social Media marketing examples

I came across a list with examples of companies and how they use social media marketing via David Gurteens blog Gurteen Knowledge-Log. Peter Kim has compiled the list and here is one of the entries on the list just to give you a taste of it:


The list started out with 131 brands and a month later it, with contributions from 81 community members, it had grown with over 100 new brands to a total of 234 brands.

Maybe it is time to launch a wiki or add it to Wikipedia that allows collaborative editing of the list?

By the way, Peter Kim defines social media marketing as follows:

"Interaction between a company and individual via [digital] delivery channels, intended to share commercial content that will lead to a sale and/or be passed along to others."

A nice and clear definition. I think it is time to update the definition at Wikipedia.

The word cloud below that Peter has created from the list at wordle.net gives an indication of the most popular ways to do social media marketing. Interesting to see that "Microblogging" and "Twitter" seem to be as popular as "video" and "YouTube"

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Is the business case for E2.0 enough?

"Is it enough? Is this any different (or any more successful) than the business cases we’ve been making for intranets?"  
I’ll start with answering the first question, if the business case is enough. Well, obviously it is not be enough for any purpose or audience. But hopefully it says enough for the purpose of getting someone in management interested in listening to what kind of value that E2.0 can bring to their business. For someone in management who is not really aware of the potentials of E2.0 but rather sees it as a hyped buzzword, then two minutes is just about what you can get of their attention to make the case. They certainly won't read a book or even an article that expands on the business case. 
 
Regarding the second question I would say that it is more or less the same business case as has been made for intranets. What is different is that it will be more successful. 

Traditional intranets have certainly helped to improve (primarily one-way) communication and access to (a rather limited set of centrally selected) information assets. But we all know that there is a lot of room for improvement and that we need both new solutions and new ways to improve real-time communication, content-centric collaboration and many-to-many conversations. Intranets are not very successful in any of these areas. An intranet site or portal is primarily a communication tool for the organization, not for the coworkers. It is only natural to look around for new solutions to (almost) the communication and collaboration problems that enterprises face (Enterprise 2.0).

It is important to understand that previous solutions to the problem of communication and collaboration - such as intranets - have not really addressed the social dimension of communication and collaboration. They have neglected how important it is to motivate people, to encourage and reward them for contributing, and to help establish the trust an informality that is needed for people to communicate and collaborate with each other. Traditional intranets have not really been very successful in motivating people to communicate with each other. They have not trusted coworkers enough to let anyone get access to information and contribute with their own, or to have free-form conversations about just about anything. Intranets are still perceived as tools designed, controlled and used by the management to provide them with information that has been approved by the management. If intranets would have been designed for people, as places where coworkers are free to communicate and share information with each other, then the whole Enterprise 2.0 thing would not be such a big deal.  

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Internet of Services and Enterprise 2.0

In a comment to my post "The business case for Enterprise 2.0", Daniel Tunkelang pointed me to the (free) online book from SAP's International Research Forum. I have browsed through the book and it seems to provide a pretty good introduction to concepts such as Enterprise 2.0. I'd like to share parts of the introduction and some of the visualizations used in the book. The following is from the introduction:

The unifying idea which permeated each discussion was the concept of the Internet of Services. The Internet of Services is the larger concept of a web-based service economy that ties together many trends discussed in this book, such as the service grid, software as services, social networking, and so on. In contrast to the first incarnation of the web, Web 1.0 if you will, which was primarily a collection of pages, the Internet of Services has emerged as a rich collection of content, functionality, and methods of interaction. Instant messaging, texting, viralvideo, teleconferencing, voice over IP, social networking, blogs, wikis, and virtual worlds all bring people together in ways never before possible.

The digital means of production have been truly democratized, not only because it is easy to create all of these forms of content, but also because the moving parts, the services, are now available as toolkits. Consumers have arrived en masse to enjoy the Internet ofServices, and the positive experience they get from many offerings is putting pressure on business technology to follow suit. Indeed, it is possible to see the phenomenon of software as a service as the applicationof consumer-friendly techniques applied to enterprise software.

I think this section of the introduction can serve as a two-minute background to my two-minute business case for Enterprise 2.0. I also found some nice visualizations that can be good to have hidden up my sleeve if there is a need to expand on the business case, the first one illustrating the concept of "the Internet of Services" and the progression of topics at the 2007 International Research Forum:



Below are the eight core patterns of Web 2.0, as identified by John Musser in "Web 2.0: Principles and Best Practices", an O’Reilly Radar Report:



The cycle below illustrates "the functions of Enterprise 2.0 and how they work together to create value."



Finally, here is an illustration of event driven blogging:

This week in links - week 41, 2008

John Tropea asks "How do wikis and blogs fit together?" and illustrates this with a typical flow at a solution centre:

One way is to think of the stock and flow model, wikis have perpetually re-edited pages, whereas blogs have a stream of date-based entries just like newspaper articles...//..Wikipages can be seen as more definitive, whereas blog posts are about currency, opinion, etc

(I think) a blog should not be a solution centre, whereas a wiki is ideal...//...I guess a Tips and Tricks blog is OK, but “solution” is a more definitive word, so a wiki is more suitable...//...A blog is simply a timestamped communication, similar to a newspaper.

A typical workflow

  1. A support worker is dealing with an error
  2. They check the solution wiki if there is a solution for this error
  3. If not, they search their community support forums or post a forum topic
  4. If they find a solution, they create a wikipage, then link to it on the wiki homepage
  5. If they feel this solution is a crucial find and needs to be shared, they can then create a blog entry
    A. This blog entry notifies people and points them to the wikipage
    B. This blog entry includes informal, experiential and contextual information that is not included in the wikipage solution. The wikipage solution is more focused and to the point, whereas the blog entry may explain the workings out, and what took place.
  6. If you like you can go back to the wikipage solution and put a link to the blog entry that expands more on the solution. If someone has feedback or a question after reading the blog entry they can leave a comment.

In the past you have to be in the same room when someone discovers a solution, otherwise you may not know. The benefit of being in the same room is that you were there and experienced the build up to the solution, you know all the details, and you could discuss it as well...//...The idea of wikis and blogs it to mimic what happens in real life, but extend it to a global village.

"Micro-blogging in the enterprise: an idea whose time has come?" by Ross Dawson:

So why should companies want to Twitter?

The reality is that I think that not many will, for a little while yet. Companies need to be very comfortable with experimentation, and to the development of diffuse communication patterns. If they are comfortable with this, then Twitter can be used in all sorts of ways: to ask quick questions on information people need, updates about what’s happening in the company, chit-chat, social events, human connection.

One of the problems that companies have had is that often this kind of communication happens on email, which clogs people's inboxes, are often not relevant, and are seen as annoyances.

However it is difficult to get engagement in forums and discussion boards – people have to make the effort to go there and look to see what is happening.

So something like Twitter combines elements of the best of both worlds. It’s like email in that it’s broadcast, though you choose who you receive messages from, and you don’t need to read everything. You presume that messages are non-essential, so you get to them as you can, and it’s non-intrusive.

"Groups and Networks" by Michael Idinopulos:

Stowe Boyd recently posted the following statement:

"I disagree with the notion that Enterprise 2.0 is about groups not the individual. On the contrary: Web 2.0 is based on the person and personal relationships in networks, not group membership."

It came in response to a post of mine about Enterprise 2.0 adoption where I wrote that:

"Enterprise 2.0 posits the group as the primary unit of activity; email posits the individual."

When Boyd says that Enterprise 2.0 is about personal relationships in networks and not group membership, I think he's saying that the point of Enterprise 2.0 is not to enable existing organizational groups, but to empower and mobilize social networks for getting work done in new ways.

Who's right? I think we both are.

Boyd makes a really important point about social networks. Web 2.0 is waking us all up to how powerful it is when social networks are made transparent. From a professional standpoint, a worker's long-term career development, sense of belonging, job satisfaction, mentoring and guidance, etc., are often driven more by social networks than by formal groups. That trend will accelerate as social networking takes off in earnest within enterprises.

But it's important to recognize that the fundamental unit of collaboration is the group. Departments, divisions, business units, teams, committees, etc., are the wheels on which almost all companies run. That's not an Enterprise 1.0 or an Enterprise 2.0 thing; it's a reflection of the fact that collaboration around tasks of any size requires continuity and accountability.

This isn't an either/or thing, however. The sweet spot for Enterprise 2.0 lies at the intersection of group collaboration and social networking.

"Costly & Inefficient Procedure that Wikis can Improve" by Stewart Mader:

The complex trade of documents over email, especially among members of a team, is one of the most time-consuming, confusing, and error-prone processes in organizations today. Everybody has been part of this at some point, and the more people involved, the more chaotic it gets.

In a guest post last week (Wikis at Work - Defining Requirements in a New Way), Jason Rothbart of GroupSwim discussed how a wiki can streamline this process by cutting down on the volume of email, changing from documents to pages that “pull” people’s attention in to one shared location instead of “pushing” out duplicate copies of a document to each person. This means that people automatically see and edit the most recent version of a page, and as soon as one person saves their revisions, the next person immediately has access to that version to edit. Once revisions are complete, it’s easy to export content out of the wiki and into a traditional format (Word, PDF, etc.) as needed.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A note about my two-minute business case for Enterprise 2.0

My previous post "The business case for Enterprise 2.0" was by no means intended to be a complete business case for Enterprise 2.0, but rather a two-minute business case for Enterprise 2.0. Something that can be presented on a single slide in a presentation or that can be brought into in any kind of conversation where someone wants to know why they should care about Enterprise 2.0.

By the way, the business case was only half of the post. The other part of it was more of a recipe for success. I am quite convinced that the four ingredients that I listed in the post are essential for any organization that wants to become better at communicating and collaborating.

I would be glad to see someone else taking on the task to refine the two-minute business case, maybe adding or changing something that will make it even clearer and more powerful.

The business case for Enterprise 2.0

"The only irreplaceable capital an organization possesses is the knowledge and ability of its people. The productivity of that capital depends on how effectively people share their competence with those who can use it." (Andrew Carnegie)

There is a lot to gain if we communicate and collaborate more efficiently with each other with digital means:

  • Travel (and environmental) costs will decrease as a lot of face-to-face meetings can be replaced with virtual meetings
  • Efficiency and productivity will increase as we get faster access to the information we need to carry out our tasks (since information will be easier to discover, access, find and share).
  • We will avoid costly misunderstandings that cause redundant work, rework, bad decisions or delays (since we have the means to communicate more frequently and efficiently with each other)

To make all this possible, an organization needs to do the following:

  • Foster a collaborative culture where communication and collaboration is encouraged
  • Educate coworkers and encourage them to reflect how they communicate and collaborate with each other so that they choose the most appropriate method and tool available
  • Provide accessible, easy-to-use, flexible and social tools for communicating and collaborating.
  • Have a proactive rather than passive attitude towards new opportunities, always assessing value before risk

Friday, October 3, 2008

This week in links - week 40, 2008

"Gartner Dispels Common Myths, Misconceptions and Paranoias about Information Security" from Gartner.com:

“Increasing business demand for flexible security services, coupled with an already limited security budget, means that organizations can only afford to focus their resources on real issues,” said Eric Ouellet, research vice president at Gartner. “This means the security department must become adept at identifying the real threats to ensure that security becomes an enabler for business innovation, rather than an inhibitor.”

According to Gartner, security must be viewed as the ‘environmental or hazmat suit’ for the business. Security should be seen as a tool that can be used to accept risks so that the business can take advantage of market opportunities it was never able to before.

"Why the big fuss over microblogs?" by Gil Yehuda, The Forrester Blog For Information & Knowledge Management Professionals:

...why the appeal? Why the fuss? I believe two factors are at play:

  • Mobility makes us omnipresent, but short on time. Microblogging appeals to those who use mobile devices. It provides a channel that honors our thumbs and encourages us to say just a few words. And we can connect to the intranet from anywhere. For some, this is true power.

  • The list of people I “follow” may be interesting to you. Although Web 2.0 tools present information, their use becomes increasingly more interesting when we look at the network of people who generate and care about the information. In the case of the microblog: my “follow –list” may be more interesting to you than my micro-posts.

As enterprises become more mobile, when we break out of the cube farms and conduct our primary work from our mobile devices, then we’ll see more miniaturization of communications. I expect enterprise microblogging to serve as a place where mobile workers check in. Maybe a few conversations take off, but then employees will revert to email the moment the conversation becomes something not sharable with everyone. And we’ll need some good filtering tools to help us organize and manage microblog streams.

The more interesting behavior emerges when network-graphing tools surf through the people whom you follow and identify the influential people they follow. This is where human context makes information more valuable.

"Building a Better (and Useful) Corporate Intranet Starts With a Wiki" By C.G. Lynch, CIO:

A marketing firm used a wiki to build a new corporate intranet full of user generated content, making it more helpful than a run-of-the-mill phonebook directory. The reason for their success? They picked a wiki with a simple interface that keeps barriers to entry for users as low as possible.

"We're adding not only products, but we were growing in people and the knowledge they bring," says Schultz, the company's VP of technology. "We needed a way to put all this knowledge in one location...//...We needed something that was not only for the employees, but by the employees."

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Digital communication tools and management control

One of the key findings from the briefing paper "The digital company 2013 - Freedom to collaborate" in my previous post was this one:
"Digital tools will give employees greater control over the information they can access, which means less control for managers."

There is however another side of the social software coin; now informal networks become explicit, otherwise invisible relations become visible, and information which was previously exchanged verbally in closed meeting rooms or via phone is now exchanged as text and other media with digital communication tools. So the transparency increased with digital communication tools, it does not decrease.

Management might not be able to - and should not - control the flow of information between coworkers as they have traditionally done, or at least tried to do. On the other hand, they will get much greater possibilities to tap into the information flows and monitor the information that is flowing. With most information flowing over e-mail, this is virtually impossible. But with syndication technologies such as RSS and mashup technology they will be able to create management dashboards and become aware of what is happening.

By the way, it is a typical expression of human behaviour that the writers of the paper end the "Technologies to collaborate" chapter with a long section about how to manage the risks of the new technologies, as if they ignore that the same kinds of risks already exist today. How does a manager control that every coworker today is actually working and not doing something else? How does a manager control that a coworker does not send sensitive information via e-mail or drops his memory stick filled with sensitive information at.
"By removing traditional barriers to communication, whether horizontal or vertical, companies open themselves up to obvious problems from the widespread use of social networks in the enterprise. In particular, widely used tools such as Facebook and Bebo can soak up hours of employee time, and there is a risk that employees can carelessly disseminate company-confidential information on them. Customer- facing blogs and wikis present a similar risk that users will post confidential information or break libel or other laws."

If some people are spending a lot of time on Facebook it is not likely resolved by blocking access to Facebook. It is probably a symptom of a more worrying problem such as unmotivated coworkers. Without Facebook, they will probably be pretending to work with something or hide out in a meeting room all day long.

The digital company 2013 - key points

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has released two briefing papers from a research programme which goals is...
"...to determine how technology will impact businesses five years from now. The analysis is based on a survey of more than 600 senior executives from around the globe, as well as in-depth interviews with business leaders and independent technology experts."
Here are some of the key points from the paper "The digital company 2013: Freedom to collaborate" which has been sponsored by AT&T, Nokia, PricewaterhouseCoopers, SAP and Concep, Return Path, WebEx:
  • The “millennials” will expect to use technology at work as freely as they do in their personal lives. They will also be ready to collaborate.
  • Senior management will have a clearer understanding of IT capabilities than is the case today.
  • Social networks will be a fixture in the 2013 workplace, despite executives’ ambivalence on their role.
  • The use of collaborative technologies will help cut through geographical and organisational barriers, and will give wings to virtual team-working.
  • Digital tools will give employees greater control over the information they can access, which means less control for managers.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Information is power and communication is about distributing it

Information is power as it can generate new knowledge, knowledge that can be used to decide whether or not to take action and what action to take, how and when. Communication is about distributing that power to others, about transferring knowledge from one person to another so that more people can make the informed decisions and take appropriate actions.

Web 2.0 and social media has to do with the removal of communication barriers, democratization of communication means, access to more powerful communication tools and the unlocking of information so that it can be freely shared. This is what is happening on the web and it is changing society, organizations and life as we know it. We do not know exactly how it will change, but we know that changes are happening. These are typical characteristics of a revolution (or crisis).

How should an organization approach this revolution? I believe that one answer is to be active instead of passive, to embrace change instead of being hurt by it later, to analyze the changes mentioned above in order to see how the organization can take advantage of these before any competitors do so.

The fact that anyone can communicate and collaborate with anyone at almost no cost will inevitably have implications for traditional organizations. This is simply because traditional hierarchic organizations have been designed based on the fact that the cost of organizing people and getting them to communicate and collaborate with each other is high. Now that has changed, or even collapsed (according to Clay Shirky). Their design makes them slow-moving, reluctant to change, prone for sub-optimization, closed and undemocratic. The paradox is that competition and higher expectations from customers are forcing organizations to become more agile, receptive to change, agile, optimized, open and democratic.



To stay competitive I believe that organizations must let more information free internally but also externally, open up more and less formal interfaces to the outside world, encourage networking inside and across organizational and geographic borders, and provide every coworker with state of art communication and collaboration tools. What is even more important is to actively promote an informal consensus-driven culture that encourages experimentation and rewards sharing and mentoring, and to move away from the traditional command-and-control culture where mistakes are punished and hoarding of information is rewarded.

Sign of the times

With the word "Economy" as part of the title of our blog, it is not all that surprising that some people find this blog while they look for information about the current financial crisis and how it might impact the economy and themselves. The last weeks the most commonly used search keywords are:

"what's the worst that could happen with the economy" and "how does the economy crash effect people as individuals¨ (in slightly different variations) .

The search statistics also show that a lot can be done to improve relevancy in search. I don't believe we have ever written about what's the worst that could happen to the economy or how it effects people as individuals. When writing this I am also aware that more people will find this blog when searching for an answer to these questions since I have written the questions in this post. So I feel obliged to provide an answer:

The worst that could happen with economy is that people will loose their homes and their money at the bank and that they stop consuming things, which in turn might lead to that they loose their jobs if they hadn't done that already before they lost their homes. The overall economy will shrink and there will be less tax money to use for education, healthcare, infrastructure investments and military expenses.