The Lightbulb and Social Business

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Can you spot the difference between the two photos?

There are probably quite a few you can identify, but the thing I want to highlight is the use of electric light in the second, modern factory example.

Its interesting to reflect on this and the perceived hype around social business and how different experiences point to the need for practical and pragmatic use cases. The main argument is that we need to integrate social tools into existing workflow.

Back in the early phase of the industrial revolution, factories were messy, dark places because the physical work environment was built around the constraints of their belt and pulley driven mechanised systems. There was no prior model of employment to set expectations on the impact on the workers themselves either!

So, my question:

Was it the lightbulb that revolutionised the industrial workplace or electricity?

My observations:

  • At the moment I get the impression we are focused on the lightbulb. The social media activitists are crying, “Install lightbulbs!” Its no surprise we will expect confused reactions and failure.
  • If that’s the case then you need to be pragmatic. However, don’t ignore the lesson that the electric lightbulb had a broader impact than just lighting the shopfloor – can you leverage that instead?
  • Finally, retro fitting electricity had less of an impact (and take up) than on the businesses that converted entirely to electricity – but this didn’t happen all at once across industry, because it wasn’t economic.

BTW This isn’t the first time I’ve blogged about this historical comparison, but for a quick overview of the broader impact of the electric light see this micro-site from the Smithsonian.

Image Credits: Colt’s armory complex – East armory workers CC-BY-NC-SA and Seagate Wuxi China Factory Tour CC-BY.

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Forrester Wave for Enterprise Social Platforms – my advice, check the scope

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Make of it what you will… Forrester themselves provide this intro:

we found that IBM, Jive, NewsGator, and Telligent led the pack due to breadth and depth of functionality and long-range strategy. Microsoft has added substantial social functionality to its SharePoint platform. Atlassian launched forward, broadening its core wiki offering, while Socialtext executed on its pioneering vision around capabilities like microblogging. Giants Cisco and OpenText are looking to get in on the action by extending their enterprise footprints.

Analyst firms still look like they are trying to get their heads around the social business technology stack and IMHO there are significant omissions and contradictions. For Forrester, my impression is that “Enterprise Social Platforms” serve internal, employee communities – I’m sure this reflects nomenclature of enterprise IT. However, if an organisation is evaluating social business software they should be clear that they’ve understood their own scope, and not those of the analysts or vendors.

CMSWire in their coverage note that Forrester recognise there are other supporting tools, although I’m unclear why Cisco Quad makes the cut (and quite right) but other products from the enterprise microblogging and activity stream space, like Chatter, Socialcast, tibbr and Yammer, don’t get a look in.

Also, listing both Microsoft Sharepoint and Newsgator is confusing. Firstly, why not include other broad portal platform solution or WCMS? Secondly, if Sharepoint is such a strong performer, then why is Newsgator included? Many (actually, probably all) of the other vendors included also integrate with Sharepoint. The vendor landscape and experience in the field strongly points to the need to augment Sharepoint to make it an effective social business tool (see Headshift | Dachis Group’s view on this).

This doesn’t mean that Forrester haven’t done a good of evaluating each individual product (I haven’t seen the detailed report, but Forrester is full of smart people), but based on the list of vendors I’m just cautious about their particular perspective in this case.

BTW If you are interested in the drivers for workforce collaboration software and ROI, you might enjoy this post on Designing Social Workplaces.

UPDATE: The Brainyard provides further commentary on Forrester’s report.

The risk of not adopting social business software

Ever since security giant RSA was hacked last March, anti-virus researchers have been trying to get a copy of the malware used for the attack to study its method of infection. But RSA wasn’t cooperating, nor were the third-party forensic experts the company hired to investigate the breach.

This week Finnish security company F-Secure discovered that the file had been under their noses all along. Someone — the company assumes it was an employee of RSA or its parent firm, EMC — had uploaded the malware to an online virus scanning site back on March 19, a little over two weeks after RSA is believed to have been breached on March 3. The online scanner, VirusTotal, shares malware samples it receives with security vendors and malware researchers.

RSA had already revealed that it had been breached after attackers sent two different targeted phishing e-mails to four workers at its parent company EMC. The e-mails contained a malicious attachment that was identified in the subject line as “2011 Recruitment plan.xls.”

Despite all the sophisticated management information systems that have been deployed in organisations, tools like email and spreadsheets remain the lowest common denominator work tools for knowledge workers, particularly between organisations. Together, I look at these tools as the original social software and the hackers knew that the odds of getting a hit were in their favour because humans are fallible.

I have no idea how much the RSA SecurID hack has cost government and industry, but I imagine it was significant. But imagine if next generation social collaboration tools were the norm, with social objects shared through humanised systems – could this hack have been avoided? Would those users have paused to consider who was sending them information, before they opened the file?

I mean, we don’t even have a ROI figure for email and spreadsheets – they are clearly risky technologies that should be banned until we know for certain

Does getting loud with social media work?

the challenge for advertisers and marketers is to stand out above the general internet noise and create what the industry calls a value proposition for their brands. In this, Facebook has emerged as a crucial platform for social interaction with 750 million users worldwide, as has Twitter with 250 million. But simply having a Twitter “hashtag”, which more easily identifies subjects being discussed, or “liking” something on Facebook are no longer enough.

“We are starting to move away from the mad arms race of [increasing] fans on Facebook,”

Timely article from the Guardian. There is a school of thought around social media marketing that basically calls for business and organisations to get online and then follow a strategy of what I call, “getting loud with social media”. Success will follow if you can overcome your fears of the medium – you just need to be on it for this to happen.

Today I’ve been browsing around looking at some major Australian brands and organisations that have an active presence on Facebook. Its pretty a disappointing picture to be honest.

For one well known consumer brand, a recent Facebook post attracted well over a hundred “Likes” and about 50 comments. Sounds like a great reaction? When you look at the actual comments, the largest categories were complaints (6%) and wants (14%). The brand itself was absent in the conversation, but at least some of their fans (3.4%) did at least bother to reply to questions and comments from other people. As a potential customer looking in, there is no evidence that the brand actually cares or is listening to feedback – a missed opportunity.

Another well known and family-friendly brand has a wall full of spam posts and in appropriate comments (e.g. mentioning alcohol) in breach of their own community rules, mixed in with genuine fans/customers. However, there is evidence at least of that brand engaging with people on customer service issues. That good work in customer service and the promotions on their page is being undone by poor community management and moderation.

In another example, a major industry association has attracted about 130 “likes” in about 6 months for their page. Sure, its not harming them but its not adding much value in its current form either.

Personally, in Australia at least, I see smaller consumer-orientated companies doing a much better job of engaging but with a smaller audience. Like Frisk Espresso, who I discovered in Perth recently. They only have about 1,500 fans but the engagement is better at that scale. Its important to recognise that their fan base is probably built on an excellent customer experience in the real world and through promotion at their shop front (that’s how I found them). Rather than faking it and expecting noise on social media to make their online engagement successful, they are working social media more smartly than many large (and well resourced) brands. And I’ll be back at Frisk when I’m next in Perth.

However, I’m prepared to be corrected. Have you got an Australian example where getting loud with social media (i.e. getting lots of followers or likes) has worked? Or maybe you’ve got a horror story of where this strategy has crashed and burned?

Getting people to use your Sharepoint intranet: First, get rid of the users?

For a successful SharePoint implementation, you can’t forget the most important ingredient — getting the platform used.

If you are reading this article, it is likely because you’ve heard whining in your office or you’re tired of repeating the same message over and over to improve user adoption of your SharePoint implementation.

You may be a frustrated project manager or business champion who spent countless hours on budgeting, planning, governance, information architecture, training and timelines, only to find that the last task in your SharePoint project plan that has no due date is USER ADOPTION. And to your horror, no one is taking your words seriously and people don’t care. The bottom line is this: for you to get people to take advantage of your hard work, you have to add one more task assigned to yourself — don’t give up.

Unfortunately if thinking about “user adoption” is the last step, then you’ve already failed. Written by a software vendor, this article – underpinned by an assumption that the software is perfect – advises people to Break Down the Resistance, Stop the Whining and then Babysit, aka Enforce change. This approach is more than overtly paternalistic and I’m surprised they don’t just recommend getting rid of the users who are blemishing the hard work of the technocrats. Part of me wonders if this attitude is just symptomatic of the Microsoft SharePoint ecosystem being geared towards software development and implementation, rather than a well rounded mix of people, process, technology and content (like we do at Headshift | Dachis Group). What do you think?

John Hagel and the macro vs micro view of ROI for enterprise social software

There are lots of examples, especially at the team level, where you have people taking the initiative and bringing in software, especially for low cost or free, and they are getting value out of it. But because they are not documenting the value in any systematic way, or spreading the word about it, these tend to remain relatively fragmented, isolated instances.

Interesting, but valid point from John Hagel at Deloitte. We sometimes talk about “Return on Collaboration”, but for workforce collaboration we probably need to be thinking about this in terms of the return for the individual, the group (team, department, division, business unit, etc) and ultimately the whole organisation. The question is then, for a particular tool is everyone getting their fair share of the return?

What Google+ could learn from About.Me et al

Basically, about.me enables you to create a centralized personal profile page that links to your content around the web. Sound like a Google+ profile page? It’s different for quite a few reasons, but mostly so due to the “splash page” look of the site (where I usually choose to show a large picture of what I look like).

In addition to the slick front end content management tools, about.me also provides analytics so you can see who viewed your profile, where they came from, and where they’ve gone afterwards (your facebook, linkedin, flickr, twitter, blog etc). The only thing that’s missing right now is domain mapping, so I can use my domain name.

They also have a partnership with moo.com (the business card and sticker folks) that let’s you get free business cards that feature a QR code that will link to your about.me profile.

Highly recommended.

I’m a fan of about.me and also flavors.me too. Google isn’t know for the visual aspects of its user experience and I really think they could learn something from the visual design and ease of use of these profile sites.