Monday, June 28, 2010

It's not about Facebook, stupid!

Every time I read about or hear someone use the expression "Facebook for the enterprise" when trying to explain how social software and social networking in particular can be used within an enterprise context, I scream inside my head; "Damn you, you're pouring gasoline on a fire! It's partly your fault I often have to spend 20 valuable minutes explaining that Enterprise 2.0 is NOT about bringing Facebook to the enterprise when I meet with potential new customers to talk about Enterprise 2.0."

If there is one analogy you should avoid when trying to explain the potential uses of social software for enterprises, it is the Facebook analogy. In my experience, there is no better way to scare an executive or social media skeptic than to use the words "Facebook" and "enterprise" in the same sentence.

Why? Well, because most people who hear the word "Facebook" do not see beyond Facebook (which is not that strange if you think about it). What most of them see is likely a web site where they can connect with friends, tell them what they're up to, and share photos, links and video clips with each other. Some - still a minority I hope - see it as a place where they play Farmville. Social media sceptics (a.k.a. non-Facebook users) see it as a site where people seem to spend a lot of time doing private stuff at work. The typical executive or manager sees it as a productivity drainer.

What is true or not does not matter. What matters is people's perceptions of Facebook.

The point here is that most users don't think about what's under the hood of Facebook and how that technology can be used for other purposes in other contexts, such as for professional networking or knowledge sharing within an enterprise context. It's just too abstract. That's why the "Facebook for the enterprise" expression does more damage than good to Enterprise 2.0.

So stop using the Facebook analogy right away! If you feel a desperate need to make an analogy between an external social networking site and enterprise social networking, then show good judgement by choosing LinkedIn instead of Facebook. In contrast to Facebook, LinkedIn is at least something most people associate with professional use.

(The great folks at NewsGator have used this expression before but now seems to have dropped it. I hope no-one takes this personal, as I'm only playing with words in order to make what I think is an important point.)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

There's no shortcut to the future workplace

On several occasions, on this blog and elsewhere, I've discussed why and how culture matters for Enterprise 2.0 to happen. In my most recent posts, I've specifically discussed how certain values and cultural characteristics are pre-requisites for Enterprise 2.0 to happen:


My main point is that there is no chicken or the egg situation: Sure, a culture change can be supported and accelerated by technology, but there must always be a spark somewhere - a culture or subculture (a social group that shares certain values and behaviors) - that initiates this change.

If you, like me, are interested in what makes collaboration tick and what it might take besides technologies to make Enterprise 2.0 happen, there are a few readings you should look into.

First, there's a fascinating read by Rob Paterson about the new virtual workplace at IBM. To illustrate the culture shift that is taking place at IBM, he describes how my friend Luis Suarez can control his own time and work space. Location just doesn’t matter as Luis can work from anywhere at any time -be it at an airport, at an office, or at his home in small village on the Canary Islands. This is achieved by making sure he and his fellow 200 000 coworkers at IBM can be connected to each other and any colleague at anytime from anywhere. But technology is just an enabler of the new virtual work place. The key to make the new work place happen is, as Rob puts it, to “stop measuring presence – i.e. punching the clock as at a factory – and to start measuring results and outcomes”. Such a shift requires a real change in corporate values and behaviors.

Another great read is “Enterprise 2.0 initiatives and corporate culture awareness” by Gil Yehuda in which he shares some really good examples and counter examples of supportive cultures to help him make his point:
I say, the path to Enterprise 2.0 is paved on a supportive culture. If you don’t have a supportive culture, it’s nearly impossible to find real success with any social tools (beyond small scale deployments — which may be very successful for your team, but not at the enterprise level).
If you roll it out, don’t expect “they will come”. It’s not that simple. You have to tune into the underlying culture to see if it can support Enterprise 2.0. I believe some companies have a culture unwelcoming to Enterprise 2.0 — at least now. I also believe that in time this will change as a new generation of leadership emerges in the post-recession economy.
A different but very related perspective on how culture matters is provided by Tony H in his post "Your Culture is Your Brand" which explains how companies, like it or not, are becoming more and more transparent and that their brands are shaped by the sum of all interactions customers have with anyone at the company.
The fundamental problem is that you can’t possibly anticipate every possible touchpoint that could influence the perception of your company’s brand.
At Zappos.com, we decided a long time ago that we didn’t want our brand to be just about shoes, or clothing, or even online retailing. We decided that we wanted to build our brand to be about the very best customer service and the very best customer experience. We believe that customer service shouldn’t be just a department, it should be the entire company.
So what’s a company to do if you can’t just buy your way into building the brand you want? What’s the best way to build a brand for the long term?
In a word: culture.