The social business network – right here, right now in Australia

Look past the funky names of today’s social networking tools, however, and chances are there will be enough nifty features to justify the investment. For social business is becoming serious business: A way for organisations to collaborate, build brands, manage reputations, influence thinking, service customers and sell products.

Good to see some sensible coverage of the social business software space popping up in Australia that also includes local case studies. This article talks about well known local companies like Aristocrat, Australia Post, Commonwealth Bank, The Good Guys, National Australia Bank, Optus, Suncorp, Telstra, and Vodafone as all making use of social business software tools like Socialtext, tibbr and Yammer.

BTW I have just one correction for the article, NSW DET are now using Socialtext (they call it ‘Maang‘).

KPMG Australia’s tibbr pilot

Dennis Howlett interviews Chris Robinson, CIO of KPMG Asia Pacific, about their tibbr pilot:

I wanted to know why KPMG would invest in what many people see as technology toys. In the above video, Chris talks about the many needs KPMG has identified as it adjusts to the 21st century.

Among other things, he says that the payback in terms of improved talent retention and the ability to actively connect KPMG alumni back to the mothership provides more than enough ROI to justify the spend. And that’s just the start. In their case, KPMG is using its rollout as a pilot that demonstrates value to the larger global practice. Oh yes, and for the naysayers out there – it is being used as a secure communication connection between KPMG and its clients.

Listening to the interview, you will hear that tools like email and Sharepoint are also still part of the user’s information landscape at KPMG, but they are also mixed with other tools like SAP. tibbr’s role in many respects isn’t to supersede those tools but compliment them.

Designing Social Workplaces isn’t Hard, but it is Complex

At last week’s E2.0 conference in Boston, I was surprised and pleased by the way my “in-the-flow” phrase has gained common currency.

I was also surprised, but less pleased, by some of the “best practices” I heard flying around. Whether in keynotes, sessions, or just hallway conversations, I heard a lot of claims of dubious merit, claims like:

  • Start with a small pilot and let it grow virally
  • Invest heavily in community management, because a community is only as successful as its managers
  • Workers won’t use social software without personal incentives
  • Workers who don’t belong to the Facebook Generation don’t “get” social software.
  • Social software adoption requires a culture of collaboration
  • You shouldn’t launch collaborative tools without a collaboration strategy

There’s a common theme behind all this advice: You should be scared of launching enterprise social software, because achieving adoption is really hard, really time-consuming, and really expensive.

Sorry friends, but I’m calling Bullshit.

I had to read Michael Idinopulos’ post a couple of times to make sure I understood it.

Basically – in a round about way – he is describing two things:

  • The complex nature of organisations. 
  • That social business tools work, because they help people get work done ‘in-the-flow’.

I agree entirely – and this makes the AHA case study a great example.

But lets address this issue of organisational complexity.

Sometimes a simple intervention – like introducing a new technology – can make an immediate impact. But we don’t actually know why, although we can observe the benefits when it works. Do the same again in a different situation and you take a gamble on the outcome. For systems of engagement, this is the problem of copying macro level case studies when change actually happens at the micro level of individual groups and individuals. Sometimes it only takes an influential blocker, a critical system that doesn’t integrate well, a policy that can’t be side stepped or a group that has already picked their own solution – suddenly the dynamic changes.

I use those words deliberately, because the character of some organisations is to be conservative, others are prepared to to be more reckless. Smart organisations take a design-led middle ground. They don’t follow knee jerk reactions to new technology, but they don’t fall for shallow thinking either.

To help make that point, here are some different case studies (I’m focusing on enterprise microblogging, as there is a level of commonality between them – but this also follows on from some earlier posts):

Each of these examples had a different journey (Micro), but each had a positive story to tell (Macro).

Incidentally, the CIO behind the case study that Idinopulos described has written a detailed post describing the “15 Key Steps for Successful Implementation“. This isn’t simple, but the steps make it less complex; and its all about finding that fit so that users can get into the flow easily.

What Enterprise Social Business Software Should We Use?‬‏

Following on from my post about Deloitte’s contradictory experiences of using both Yammer and Microsoft Sharepoint, it begs the question – what enterprise social business software should you be using?

In the video above, CIO’s from two companies, Equinix and Flextronic, talk about this issue. The approach taken by Flextronic – who employ 200,000 employees in 30 countries – is a combination of open infrastructure and experimentation, using small pilots. This exact approach won’t work for everyone, but if we boil this down to a core idea that everyone can apply, then I would recommend a design thinking led approach:

In this interview, Jive’s CEO Tony Zingale provides some good inputs into this design process:

  • The consumer Web 2.0 is driving demand, but don’t wait or expect Facebook (and others like them) to build a solution suitable for the enterprise.
  • The cloud vs self-hosted question is important to some companies (although I would add, not all).
  • Its not worthwhile trying to build it yourself – but make sure what you buy is built from the ground up, to be a social system.

So what do built from the ground up social business tools look like? Here is a good overview from tibbr:

As the tibbr video shows, social business tools can integrate with existing enterprise information systems (systems of record). In your organisation, this might include existing information management platforms like Sharepoint:

We also need to support other simple ‘social’ business activities needed by users, for example calendars and scheduling etc:

Also, pick tools that allow us to ‘nudge‘ users, rather than forcing change:

Consider all these points and you should find that users love the tools you provide them…

BTW If you are interested in some theory behind these examples, see my presentation, Architected for Collaboration, and my post on Designing Social Workplaces.

‪tibbr 3.0 Launch‬‏

I’ve spent a lot of time recently with the TIBCO team in Australia and like Dennis Howlett, I think tibbr has a lot to offer. Its really easy to get excited about tools from companies with a strong Web 2.0 heritage, but on the other hand tibbr shows that enterprise capabilities are also valuable as our approach and understanding of social business matures – its not about socialising, but about putting people back into the equation. tibbr shows the potential for combining systems of engagement with systems of record. I know my matrix here, resonated well with the tibbr team when I explained it. BTW If you don’t have time to watch the 30+ minute launch video, see the list of new features in the latest iteration of tibbr here.