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Three Signs They’re Going to Send You Twitter Spam

Twitter SPAMThe other day, I saw a Twitter follow notification in my email inbox. Looking at the basic information twitter provides – number of followers, tweets and people followed – my intuition started to kick in. Then, looking at this user’s account, I had a hunch.

He was going to auto-DM me.

Sure enough, several hours later this auto-DM hit my email:

Thanks for the follow. I look forward to your updates. Hope you find something fun or interesting.

I figured I’d record here the three traits that tipped me off to the impending Twitter spam.

1. Following/followed by several thousand

This is something you often see. They’re sporting several thousand followers, and they’re often following the same number back. This high number is your first clue (yeah, I’m guilty here). If they’re somewhat new, they’re following several thousand, while only a fraction are following back.

2. Bio has one of the 7 deadly terms

Marketer. Coach. Speaker. Expert. Affiliate marketing. Social media. Multilevel marketing.

See one of these terms in the bio, and the probability of an auto-DM spam just increased 500%. Something about these folks. They got a Twitter lesson along the way that says you need to “engage” your audience on social media. You know, with a personal auto-DM.

3. They followed you, out-of-the-blue

This is the last trait. Somehow, you hit their radar. Not sure how. Maybe it was word you used in a tweet. An @reply exchange with someone they’re following. A search on your bio.

This is the final, most important trait. They have several thousand followers. Their bio has one of the deadly words. And then they find you out of the blue.

You see these three traits, and the probability is high that you’ll be getting that auto-DM in your email a few hours later. Of course, if they do, you can get back at them. Hit ‘em with the “return-DM“.

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Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies 2009: What’s Peaking, What’s Troughing?

Gartner maintains something called hype cycles for various technologies. What’s a hype cycle? The hype cycle provides a cross-industry perspective on the technologies and trends IT managers should consider in developing emerging-technology portfolios.

UPDATE: Link to Gartner’s 2010 Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle

Here are the five stages of the hype cycle:

1. Technology Trigger
The first phase of a Hype Cycle is the “technology trigger” or breakthrough, product launch or other event that generates significant press and interest. A “technology trigger” is breakthrough, public demonstration, product launch or other event generates significant press and industry interest.

2. Peak of Inflated Expectations
In the next phase, a frenzy of publicity typically generates over-enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations. There may be some successful applications of a technology, but there are typically more failures.

3. Trough of Disillusionment
Technologies enter the “trough of disillusionment” because they fail to meet expectations and quickly become unfashionable. Consequently, the press usually abandons the topic and the technology.

4. Slope of Enlightenment
Although the press may have stopped covering the technology, some businesses continue through the “slope of enlightenment” and experiment to understand the benefits and practical application of the technology.

5. Plateau of Productivity
A technology reaches the “plateau of productivity” as the benefits of it become widely demonstrated and accepted. The technology becomes increasingly stable and evolves in second and third generations.

On July 21, Gartner released its omnibus Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2009. This report covers a wide range of industries, from flat panel displays to home health providers to cloud computing.

Honestly, it’s fascinating to see how Gartner positions the various industries along the cycle. Here is 2009′s hype cycle for emerging technologies:

Gartner Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle 2009

Boy, that’s a full hype cycle isn’t it? The report itself is chock full of analysis and forecasts for the various technologies. Here are a few notes of mine from reading it.

Social Software Suites: It’s clear that the market is moving toward more applications bundled into Enterprise 2.0 offerings. As Nikos Drakos and Anthony Bradley write, “we expect that successful products will continue to assimilate new functionality.” The report notes that Social Software Suites have tipped past the peak of inflated expectations.

One observation made by Drakos and Bradley resonates with me:

In the longer term, many companies will have social software technology supplied by their strategic workplace vendor, perhaps augmented with additional third-party products. Accordingly, industry is starting to move from general-purpose suites to more targeted products, concentrating on “horizontal” social business challenges, such as idea engines, prediction markets and answer marketplaces.

Putting Enterprise 2.0 to work on specific problems was something I wrote about as well recently in Enterprise 2.0: Culture Is as Culture Does. If you’re not addressing specific problems as a social software vendor, you’re basically angling to replace the company intranet or portal.

Finally, note that standalone wikis and corporate blogging are in the Slope of Enlightenment. Those apps are also part of social software suites.

You can see the Gartner Social Software Hype Cycle 2009 graph on the Spigit blog.

Idea Management: Idea management is further along the curve, knocking on the door of the Slope of enlightenment. What’s interesting to me is how much the idea management space is really overlapping the social software space. Indeed, read the quote above. According to my interpretation, this means that social software is moving more toward tackling horizontal challenges, “such as idea engines.”

Speaking from my own Spigit experience, this quote rings true:

Industries that emphasize new product development were early adopters of idea management tools. In 2009, service industries and government are increasingly adopting innovation and idea management practices.

Microblogging: With Twitter’s rapid ascension in the public consciousness, it’s no surprise that the Enterprise 2.0 vendors are rapidly adding microblogging to their suites. Analyst Jeffrey Mann predicts that “by 2011, enterprise microblogging will be a standard feature in 80% of the social software platforms on the market.”

I like Mann’s advice to corporate clients reading this report:

Adopt social media sooner rather than later, because the greatest risk lies in failure to engage and being left mute in a debate in which your voice must be heard.

Cloud Computing: Cloud computing is at the top of the Peak of Inflated Expectations. It’s hot. I’ve seen bloggers debate what constitutes “cloud computing”. This definition by David Mitchell Smith seems as good as any:

Gartner defines “cloud computing” as a style of computing where scalable and elastic IT-enabled capabilities are delivered as a service to external customers using Internet technologies.

Smith notes that cloud computing is actually quite varied, and “that one dot on a Hype Cycle cannot adequately represent all that is cloud computing.” The report does say that cloud computing will be transformational. Yup.

E-Book Readers: So, have ya heard of e-book readers? When they debuted, I personally didn’t think much of them. I mean, what’s wrong with books? Turns out, there’s a great market for them. I still haven’t bought one, but that doesn’t mean much.

And this report is illustrative of the unexpected success of e-book readers. Here’s what the Gartner analysts said for the appearance of e-book readers at the top of the Peak of Inflated Expectations:

This positioning has been reassessed from the prior year’s Hype Cycle. E-book readers saw serious hype in the early days. These largely failed to capture the attention of the consumer and fell into the trough never to emerge.

Those are a few notes from the report. It’s 55 pages, and there are technology-specific versions of them as well. Gartner always has an interesting take.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 072409

From the home office in Sacramento, CA…

#1: AMZN CTO: RT @werner Was asked for definition of real-time web: to go f/ innovator to homophobic censor or book-burning nazi in 60 seconds.

#2: Reading: A First Look at SharePoint 2010 http://bit.ly/15y1tT Includes a great visual mapping of SharePoint 2007 to 2010

#3: Innovating innovation: An Interview with Scott Anthony of Innosight http://bit.ly/5pXbb Disruptive #innovation needs senior mgt support

#4: RT @VMaryAbraham Host a Failure Party http://tinyurl.com/oh99zc #innovation #KM Celebrate the journey, not just the destination

#5: Gary Hamel to keynote Spigit’s Customer Summit Aug 13-14, 2009 http://bit.ly/4wRljR #innovation

#6: The Potato as Disruptive Innovation http://bit.ly/4gqzQa “the potato explains 22% of the observed post-1700 increase in population growth”

#7: I generally avoid following the celebrities. But I’m so impressed with @KevinSpacey that I had to follow. His films and acting rock.

#8: RT @mattcutts A Google easter egg for people who know what recursion is: http://bit.ly/URa8U :)

#9: Rick Astley is playing on the radio here. We’re all being rick rolled.

#10: Working with my son on his Snap Circuits Jr electronics kit http://bit.ly/bRsJQ He wants to build his own nightlight.

Build it and they will come: Innovation Management FriendFeed Room

friendfeed-logoOn this blog, I’ve talked previously about the value of using FriendFeed for tracking topics from around the web (here, here, here). For instance, the Enterprise 2.0 Group, with 508 members, is a great place to track the latest in enterprise social software.

When I joined Spigit, I wanted to get up-to-speed fast on the topics and people driving the energy in innovation management. So I set up another FriendFeed Group, called Innovation Management. This one I set up as a “private, invite only”. I just wanted a nice place where I could learn and keep up with happenings in the field. I was tracking tweets with the hash tag #innovation, the words “innovation management” and Delicious bookmarks tagged with innovation. I also have the tweets of as number of people in the field captured in the Group as well. My own little private news service.

But a funny thing happened. People found my “private” Group. I had 17 different people requesting to join the Group. How’d they find it? I don’t know. FriendFeed Group search says “Find public groups“. It wasn’t public.

Regardless, there were 17 people who requested to join my little Group of 1. What to do?

I opened it up. What the hell, why not? So if you’re interested in tracking what’s happening in the world of innovation management, go ahead and click the link below:

Innovation Management FriendFeed Group

40 people are members already. See you there.

Corporate Innovation Is Both Emergent and Managed

Photo credit: SweetGirl©

Photo credit: SweetGirl©

Item #1, The Crowd Is Wise (When It’s Focused), New York Times:

Successful projects are typically hybrids of ideas flowing from a decentralized crowd and a hierarchy winnowing and making decisions.

Item #2, Innovation Management an Oxymoron, Paul Golding:

When I get requests for “sync up” and “co-ordination” and ” alignment” and all those other management “control” phrases, I know that the plot has wandered far from where it needs to be, far away from innovation as a force of creation, dragging it back towards the stronger force, tendency and habit of “management.” BIG MISTAKE.

In recent post here, What Is Innovation Management?, I wrote about common perceptions about the term “innovation management”. The second quote above is yet another example of that. Paul Golding expresses his suspicion for what is meant by innovation management. As he uses the term, I get it. It sounds like ham-handed management failing to understand ideas with intrinsic value, that go against the grain of what its parochial interests are. Taking honest, organic enthusiasm and killing it.

But that’s not the case. Having been at Spigit, I’ve seen these corporate folks firsthand. They’re much more dynamic and enlightened than that.

The first quote above, from a New York Times piece by Steve Lohr, represents the types of implementations I’m seeing. Companies want the ideas from their employees. They’re looking for the incremental ideas, and the ones that will disrupt an industry (theirs or a new one). But of course they apply their judgment as to which ideas ultimately get taken up.

In the NYT article, Linux is provided as an example. Around the world, developers submit their ideas for the next release of the operating system. It’s a great example of harnessing the enthusiasm of innovators. But guess what? Final cuts about what actually makes it into the release are based on what Linus Torvalds and a few others decide. Yup, top-down management of innovation. Why? Torvalds is the steward of Linux.

It’s no different inside companies. Managers are the stewards of their businesses. Executives are stewards of the enterprise. What is changing is the general awareness inside companies that innovation does need to be managed better than it historically has been. Innovation management isn’t a clumsy effort at turf protection. From that earlier blog post What Is Innovation Management?, this is what is emerging today:

  1. Innovation benefits from a range of perspectives
  2. Four of the most damaging words an employee can say: “Aww, forget about it”
  3. Create a culture of constant choices
  4. Looking at innovation as a discipline
  5. Focus employees’ innovation priorities
  6. Recognizing innovation as a funnel with valuable leaks
  7. Establishing a common platform for innovation is a revolutionary step forward
  8. Innovation must be more than purely emergent, disorganized and viral

Much of innovation management is the recognition that internal processes and companies’ execution focus has limited the pace of innovation. Companies are undertaking serious efforts to improve their employee-driven innovation.

Finally, I like this observation from the New York Times article from the University of California – Berkeley’s Henry Chesbrough:

To succeed, Mr. Chesbrough said, a company must have a culture open to outside ideas and a system for vetting and acting on them.

The first part of the sentence is in line with Paul Golding’s post about ideas emerging from throughout an organization, and building employee enthusiasm for innovation. The second part of the sentence – vetting and acting on them – is the stuff of modern innovation management.

The two parts of innovation really can work together.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 071709

From the home office in the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C.

#1: Reading: Your Idea Sucks, Now Go Do It Anyway http://bit.ly/10Dwi0 Most important thing is to get started, not be right #innovation

#2: Love this quote: “Disruptive innovation has been held up as the Olympics of innovation sport.” http://bit.ly/15ypw6

#3: Google and Apple “are accidental competitors. They just don’t seem to know it yet.” http://bit.ly/4xjXCJ

#4: Reading: Adoption stories http://bit.ly/6hNJr by @panklam on The AppGap #e20 #e2adoption

#5: Social Computing Journal picks up my post – Enterprise 2.0: Culture Is as Culture Does http://bit.ly/eTA43 #e20

#6: P&G’s @JoeSchueller has a nice comment on Google Wave’s potential in the enterprise on Socialtext’s blog: http://bit.ly/xRkGj

#7: I like @fredwilson‘s take on customers. Active transactors vs. active users. http://bit.ly/WrHQ2

#8: RT @markivey Why BusinessWeek Matters (from a former BW writer) http://bit.ly/fe9GC Really GREAT post, why we *need* our news institutions

#9: An entrepreneur who has built companies in both Silicon Valley and NYC describes the issues w/NYC for startups: http://bit.ly/G2Hss

#10: I ♥ wikis

Google and Microsoft now driving SaaS’s disruptive innovation

Google Chrome OS and Microsoft Office 2010As incumbent companies go through their own versions of Clayton Christensen’s disruptive innovation, I imagine early observations about the changes-to-come are similar to these seen last week with Google’s Chrome OS announcement

Item #1:

But while I’m sure Chrome OS will pick up some fans, I have a hard time seeing this as the way of the future for computing.

Nick Mediati, PC World, Is Chrome OS The Future Of Computing? I Hope Not.

Item #2:

It’s certainly interesting and ambitious to state that the entire application platform will consist of web apps. If anyone was going to build such an OS, it’d be Google. Much of the initial commentary regarding Chrome OS has been wholly positive, but one common note of skepticism has been with regard to the “web apps are the only apps” aspect, with the frequent point of comparison being to the 1.0 release of the iPhone OS.

John Gruber, Daring Fireball, Putting What Little We Actually Know About Chrome OS Into Context

Item #3:

Netbooks may be important, but they remain a tiny part of the world’s PC sales. Google’s bet is predicated on strong demand for weak computers.

Google is counting on users of small computers not being tied to specific applications and being willing to accept low cost and, perhaps, ease of use over a more familiar and more powerful environment.

Nick Coursey, PC World, Five Reasons Google Chrome OS Will Fail

The quotes above reflect a rationale perspective on the fate of netbooks and an-all SaaS computing experience. After all, no one does that today. Most people haven’t even looked at the web-only alternatives out there. Microsoft Office is a client app. Adobe is a client app. File directories are client apps for files on your hard drive.

Why does anyone need a web-app only experience? Well, note Microsoft’s announcement of its web-based Office 2010. Something is afoot. Both Google and Microsoft are pushing forward significant initiatives that will increase the percentage of computing done via SaaS. What does Clayton Christensen’s theory say about this?

Disruptive Innovation

A disruptive innovation is one that upends the existing structure of an industry, often sending incumbents into niche positions, and niche players into incumbent positions. Three qualities define it:

  • New technologies start out less functional than existing technology
  • New technologies find their niche markets
  • At the outset, it’s really hard to believe the new technology will ever displace the incumbents

Pretty much sums up the idea of all web-based computing.

Check out the chart below, which diagrams sustaining and innovation over time and performance:

Disruptive Innovation Graph

Probably the single most important thing to note about this graph is that the incumbent companies (blue line)  continually add features to their products. This effort expands their addressable markets, as more and more niche segments are covered. It’s a rationale, smart way to grow.

But at some point, the incumbents’ innovations overshoot what mainstream users need. As Christensen notes, performance exceeds what customers can utilize. This is what happens as companies expand into niche markets.

Which brings us to the PCs of today. They are marvels, providing a slick experience for users and able to accommodate a host of new applications. But if I were a betting man, I’d say the most common activities people do with their computers are:

  • Surf the web, engage in social media
  • Email
  • Write documents
  • Build spreadsheets
  • Create presentations
  • Consume and work with media (video, music, graphics)
  • Use web-based business apps

Among those activities, what’s the magic of client-based computing? The media-related activities perhaps require the horsepower of a client app. But even those are getting better with web apps.

Web-based apps fulfill the first bullet of early disruptive innovation above – they’re not as full-featured.

Second bullet is the initial niche that wants to use the less powerful alternative to incumbents. For web-based computing, I can see two markets:

  1. Small businesses – lower cost, less hassle than installed apps
  2. Students – more comfortable with third parties holding data, low cost, activities are mostly writing and web access

Those are the initial toeholds into the operating system market. Getting significant share in a couple segments is critical to getting the attention of application developers.

The Web Apps Are Coming Along

Let’s start with the apps most commonly used in work contexts: documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Zoho has been at it for a while now, and provides a very functional set of apps. Google Docs continue to evolve toward better functionality. And of course Microsoft has joined the SaaS movement. The TechCrunch article about Microsoft Office 2010 notes:

Most certainly a direct challenge to Google Apps, Microsoft is rolling out lightweight, FREE, Web browser versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote. All based in the cloud, the web-based versions of these products have less features than their desktop cousins but still let users that users basic tools to edit and change documents.

Already inside the enterprise, wikis are quite functional. As alternatives to writing up documents and emailing them around, they are quite powerful. Atlassian Confluence, Socialtext, JSPwiki and others are highly functional. They offer a formatting experience similar to the most commonly used functions of document applications.

And for graphics, a new company Aviary got a great review in NetworkWorld:

It’s true that there are a number of graphics editors online, but most fail to come anywhere close to the functionality of Adobe’s iconic software. Until now.

The ecosystem to provide online apps with functionality comparable to client apps is growing.

My Personal Evolution to SaaS

I’m a former banker, then I did product management at eFinance and Pay By Touch. In those jobs, I never bothered with hosted apps. I certainly never thought about wikis. I did my writing in Microsoft Word. At Pay By Touch, I was introduced to the Confluence wiki. I used it because engineering wanted me to, but only as a centralized document repository. I’d rather have emailed the documents around.

It was at Connectbeam that I started to really *get* wikis. The ease of writing on them. The value of a common place to find and share documents. I found the core rich text editing functions of a wiki to be quite sufficient for what I need.

Now you can’t get me off the wiki.

When I was noodling on a business idea 18 months ago, I wrote everything up on Google Docs. It was an easy way to share the documents while updating them as often as I needed to.

More recently, the client applications TweetDeck and Seesmic have been getting a lot of attention. I’ve resisted them, because I just can’t see downloading and running these apps. They take their toll on your PC, as Louis Gray wrote:

For those Web-addicted souls who spend a good deal of their day buried in Twitter, seeing their friends updates and exchanging conversations, most software options have required the installation of Adobe AIR software, which to date has whirred your CPU to life, turning on laptop fans, and chewing through memory. The work to throttle down load on RAM and CPU is a constant battle, which both Loic’s team and Iain Dodsworth of TweetDeck have been working on since their products debuted.

In contrast, logging into the new Web version of Seesmic doesn’t feel like you’ve sacrificed your computer power to get your Twitter fix, and you don’t give up features either.

In short, whenever I can make a move to web-based apps, I’m doing it. I’ve come a long way from my Bank of America days.

Google Chrome OS and Microsoft Office 2010 – Forever Changing the Game

Certainly the idea of PCs as basic on-ramps for doing work via the web has been around for a long time. In 1996, Larry Ellison believed that network computers would outsell conventional PCs by 2000. Well, we see how that turned out.

In 2009, things have changed remarkably. First, usage of SaaS for applications has grown significantly, although it’s still small as a percentage overall. Second, people’s comfort with web-based computing has grown tremendously. Most enterprise software is now delivered as a web application. Salesforce has been a tremendous trailblazer here. And Facebook is fostering a greater comfort with sensitive data held by a third party.

Finally, Google is a titan. Oracle was (and still is), but in 1996 it was the database company. No one knew what to make of its network computers. Google is an entirely different animal. It has established credibility with its Google Apps. And presumably, any web app will work well on the Google Chrome OS. Including Microsoft’s new cloud Office offering.

This doesn’t stop Microsoft from coming out with its own web-based OS. Expect that if the Chrome OS seriously threatens. A lower cost OS for low-cost PCs to use low-cost web apps.

Microsoft’s announcement is huge because the Office suite is a brand used and trusted by millions of people. With their marketing heft, this is a significant boost in the credibility of SaaS computing. Microsoft also is a student of history, and clearly doesn’t want to risk the marginalization seen in Clayton Christensen’s studies of disruptive innovation.

The past two weeks have seen two significant milestones on the SaaS front.

This brings me to my final point. Market transitions don’t happen that quickly. The Google and Microsoft offerings won’t be ready for a while. And existing hardware, software and habits are going to change overnight. We will still have client-based applications for quite a while.

But let’s see how the small business and student markets take to these efforts.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 071009

From the no-hitter home office at AT&T Park in San Francisco…

#1: If you tweet about a baseball no-hitter in progress, is that risking a jinx?

#2: It’s from 2008, but still a great read: Shirky’s Law and why (most) social software fails http://bit.ly/HslAq by @michael_nielsen

#3: Email: The First –and Largest– Social Network http://bit.ly/4dmIiw by @jowyang Hmmm….where does postal mail rank then?

#4: Reading: 15 ways to spark a fight in the E2.0 community http://bit.ly/QvOj9 by @gyehuda #7 is my favorite.

#5: Anyone remember Larry Ellison’s dream of the Net Computer back in 1996? http://bit.ly/hirKr Fast forward to 2009′s Google Chrome OS

#6: @SameerPatel @defrag Oh yes, happy to provide the State of California with Spigit. Better filtering, to avoid this: http://bit.ly/2WyL2t

#7: “What are the five things you value most in life?” asks @fhinnovation http://bit.ly/xkc4L Me? Kids, wife, health, living in U.S., job

#8: My wife and I are now sharing our Google Calendars. Only way to stay on top of the kids’ schedules now that they’re both starting school.

#9: Are you following @badbanana ? Practically every tweet of his is a treasure of humor. Found out about him a few months ago thru @chrisbrogan

#1o: My 5 y.o. son yesterday: “Daddy, would you still love me if my name was different?” Me: “Depends on the name.”

Enterprise 2.0: Culture Is as Culture Does

We get frustrated when we hear “motherhood and apple-pie” lessons about E2.0. I would have screamed had I heard one more speaker or seen one more tweet telling me “it’s not about the tools, you know. It’s about culture.” Yes, we heard. We agree. But we are past this. Let’s now talk about the nature of effective culture change. Let’s get some Org-behaviorists in the community to help us. Not the ones who just tell us “it’s about culture” – the geeky ones with real data, real insight, and specific advice we can take to understand what culture change really means.

Gil Yehuda, Post #e2conf thoughts – installment 1

If only I had a nickel for every time an Enterprise 2.0 stakeholder used the word “culture”. The industry uses the word “culture” constantly in terms of describing when an organization is ready to implement social software. It has become something of a shibboleth, as Gil wryly notes above.

At a high level, it is indeed about culture. As in, if management has an attitude of “when I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you”, they’re culturally not ready for social software. But the vast majority of companies are beyond that attitude, with nearly all embracing the concept of employees as their most important asset.

So in that context, what exactly does “culture” mean? There are degrees of readiness, to be sure. Do employees horde information to maintain a career advantage? Is the workplace style competitive, not collaborative?

The question of what exactly is meant by “Culture” got me to thinking about my own experiences thus far in the Enterprise 2.0 field. I’m by no means an organizational behaviorist, and I somewhat question what they can really overcome in terms of entrenched company cultures.

I put together the graphic below as a framework for thinking about things like culture and adoption. It’s a process flow for pilot deployments of social software, based on some of my experiences. There are actually several different points included in it.

E20 pilot deployment flow

I’ll start with this observation: unlike societies, culture inside companies can be changed in a relatively quick way. Senior executive mandates, the need for a paycheck and the fact that employees’ work, where they put their personal skills on the line, is rated, provide powerful levers to alter practices in the workplace.

I won’t say that it’s right to consistently rely on these measures. But I don’t think relying exclusively on emergent, viral adoption is right either. Employees’ activities can be re-directed for the right reasons.

The use case

In the process flow, notice the opening decision: “Defined use case?” Answering this question is a vital part of determining the impact of culture on the uptake of Enterprise 2.0. If the software has a place in helping specific tactical tasks, the cultural issue is less of a hurdle.

Take wikis for example. If a wiki has to compete against a portal, SharePoint, a shared drive, and/or email, and no one has defined a use case, it will likely fail. For a pilot deployment, a use case might be a specific project involving multiple people that will be executed exclusively through the wiki. It gets people using the wiki, and they know why. Then they can start to understand the benefits.

The goal is for a use case that’s “real”, not some made-up activity for the sake of testing the software.

Company cultures are going to be more open to social software when there are defined use cases. Of course, that’s not always the case. I’ve had experience with experimental deployments. They are harder, and are much more likely to run into “cultural issues”.

Who inside the companies cares about this deployment?

The answer to this question varies by the use case scenario. Where there is a well-defined use case, someone inside the company has signed off on using the software. Generally a manager at a more senior level. This means the deployment gets attention, and benefits from a greater range of resources. Its visibility is higher. The boss is tracking this.

In the experimental deployment, it takes a cadre of evangelists to push things forward. These are the early adopters, who see the opportunities of the social software. They are enthusiastic, and are the ambassadors for the pilot inside the company. What they lack in management attention they make up for in words and actions.

How does word spread?

When a deployment has senior management attention, the internal communications infrastructure becomes available. This is incredibly valuable. Announcements come through via email, and on the intranet. Posters go up, videos get made. Managers hold meetings. Contests are set up. It’s a thing of beauty when the organizational infrastructure roars to life.

In the experimental deployments, without specific in-the-flow use cases, awareness is a bit tougher to come by. Often, there is a pilot group of employees that are designated to participate. The project lead and her fellow evangelists hold meetings, and send around their own emails announcing it. They may leverage tricks from the consumer web, such as exclusive invitations to drive up demand for participation. There is precedent for viral adoption strategies to work. Here’s a case noted by Rachel Happe:

I heard two interesting use cases – one was that a company I spoke with introduced Yammer under the radar and had seen significant adoption (thousands of people)

Is culture a barrier?

So word is spreading, employees are trying out the new software. Are they sticking with it? Are they using it to help them with their jobs?

If they are, move on the evaluation tasks.

But culture as an impediment is too high level a reason. I wonder how much of “culture” is really a case of people continuing to use the same software and processes they always have. Why would they change? I like the way Microsoft’s John Westworth put it in a LinkedIn discussion:

I have to ask where the motivation is. People use things like Facebook because there’s an intrinsic motivation to do so. People go to work because there’s an extrinsic motivation. Altruism doesn’t pay the mortgage.

John puts his finger on it. Employees need a compelling reason to switch from their current habits.

Tactics for overcoming culture

When culture is proving to be an impediment, there are various tactics one can use to try to overcome it. The tactics vary for experimental deployments versus those with defined use cases. Their effectiveness is also quite different.

If the deployment has a defined use case and senior management sponsorship, the tactics available are quite wide and diverse. I’ve included a few of them in the process flow:

Remove alternatives: This is a heavy-handed, quite effective way to approach the culture issue. Banish the old applications and processes that employees have been using. Force them to work with the social software. Sameer Patel wrote about just such a case. A chip company forced its workers to use the company wiki by setting a policy of deleting all emails after 45 days. Want to keep that information? Put it on the wiki.

Storytelling: Senior executives outline their vision for what the workplace of tomorrow will be. They talk of efficiencies, growth, and new opportunities for career paths. In a recent Wharton knowledge article, BP’s Fiona MacLeod said:

“Develop your killer slide to make your business case whenever you give a presentation. It’s not only why you’re changing, but what it’s going to look like when you’re done. People need to have a sense of what the future looks like, so be very clear on that.”

Incentives: Drive usage of the social software by directing employee motivations with recognition and rewards. Maintain a leaderboard of top contributors. Celebrate breakthroughs that were expected to occur via the social software. Braden Kelley’s review of The Carrot Principle includes explains the value of incentives in effecting change. Or companies could take it even further, following Andrew McAfee’s suggestion that social software participation be baked into performance reviews.

Executive reminders: Timely, forceful reminders from managers are also effective. They are the mechanisms by which culture does indeed change. If employee usage is not at the desired level, executives make sure it’s known what is expected. Anyone who has worked in large companies knows about these missives. Sometimes you’ve got to crack some skulls.

For the experimental deployments, employee inertia is harder to overcome. The internal levers to drive changes in behavior are not available. I’ve been in this situation with a previous job. Here are some tactics for overcoming culture in experimental deployments:

Model behavior: Project leaders and evangelists model the behavior they want to see. Need to send information to others? Write it in the wiki, and email the wiki page link. People want to reach you via IM? Turn your IM off and communicate via Yammer. In some ways, this is the bottom-up version of “Remove alternatives” described above. But it’s a persuasion approach, because that’s all that’s available.

New use cases: The experimental deployments don’t start with a crisp, in-the-flow “real” business case. That doesn’t mean there aren’t use cases. It just may take some hustle to figure out some, and they are likely tangential to the needs of employees. For one experimental deployment at a previous company, I came up with 10 separate ways to use the platform. At the launch of the deployment, a software vendor and the internal advocates will come up with these use cases. Reminding people of these and creating new ones are tactics for overcoming culture.

Senior sponsor: After the launch, the pilot team attracts the interest of a senior manager. Someone who did not push actively for adoption initially. This person sees something “there”, and decides to promote it. This does not open up the panoply of all organizational levers. But it does provide a boost in awareness and increase motivations for adoption.

Get the results

After the employees have (or have not) used the social software, it’s time to look at the results. Again, there is a fork in the road for this activity.

The great thing about a defined use case is that you have a framework for evaluating the results. There was a specific job the software was hired to do. How’d it perform? Even better, the defined use case likely replaced some other process and (maybe) applications. So there will be results from the regular process against which to benchmark the deployment.

For the experimental deployments, collecting the wins is how results are measured. These are the stories of how the software helped someone. The information someone found that helped get a task completed. The turnaround time that was much faster than expected. The connections made with someone previously unknown in the organization. These anecdotes are the building blocks of an ROI.

What do employees think?

If the results are positive – either compared against the use case or via anecdotes – then getting employee perceptions of the software is next. If the results are negative, this is a step that’s relay not needed.

Employees are asked their opinions of:

  • The user experience
  • What they liked about the software
  • The software’s general usefulness
  • Their interest in using the software in the future
  • The vendor
  • What could be improved?

This feedback is valuable from a cultural perspective. What’s the main opinion of employees?

From all of this, the decision about whether to go with the software is made.

Culture is self-selecting

At a high level, culture is a self-selecting determinant of whether a company even pilots social software. If a company has a heavy command-and-control, execution-oriented culture, they aren’t trialing social software. In that sense, it is all about culture.

But if a company feels it’s ready to give social software a try, the culture-as-impediment argument loses steam. More likely, failure is a case of no defined use cases for the software. Stop laying the blame on culture.

Or as Yoda said in Star Wars: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

Tactics for overcoming culture

When culture is proving to be an impediment, there are various tactics one can use to try to overcome it. The tactics vary for experimental deployments versus those with defined use cases. Their effectiveness is also quite different.

If the deployment has a defined use case and senior management sponsorship, the tactics available are quite wide and diverse. I’ve included a few of them in the process flow:

Remove alternatives: This is a heavy-handed, quite effective way to approach the culture issue. Banish the old applications and processes that employees have been using. Force them to work with the social software. Sameer Patel wrote about just such a case. A chip company forced its workers to use the company wiki by setting a policy of deleting all emails after 45 days. Want to keep that information? Put it on the wiki.

Storytelling: Senior executives outline their vision for what the workplace of tomorrow will be. They talk of efficiencies, growth, and new opportunities for career paths. In a recent Harvard Business Publishing blog, […]

Incentives: Drive usage of the social software by directing employee motivations with recognition and rewards. Maintain a leaderboard of top contributors. Celebrate breakthroughs that were expected to occur via the social software. Braden Kelly talked with […]. Or companies could take it even further, following Andrew McAfee’s suggestion that social software participation be baked into performance reviews.

Executive reminders: Timely, forceful reminders from managers are also effective. They are the mechanisms by which culture does indeed change. If employee usage is not at the desired level, executives make sure it’s known what is expected. Anyone who has worked in large companies knows about these missives. Sometimes you’ve got to crack some skulls.

For the experimental deployments, employee inertia is harder to overcome. The internal levers to drive changes in behavior are not available. I’ve been in this situation with a previous job. Here are some tactics for overcoming culture in experimental deployments:

Model behavior: Project leaders and evangelists model the behavior they want to see. Need to send information to others? Write it in the wiki, and email the wiki page link. People want to reach you via IM? Turn your IM off and communicate via Yammer. In some ways, this is the bottom-up version of “Remove alternatives” described above. But it’s a persuasion approach, because that’s all that’s available.

New use cases: The experimental deployments don’t start with a crisp, in-the-flow “real” business case. That doesn’t mean there aren’t use cases. It just may take some hustle to figure out some, and they are likely tangential to the needs of employees. For one experimental deployment at a previous company, I came up with 10 separate ways to use the platform. At the launch of the deployment, a software vendor and the internal advocates will come up with these use cases. Reminding people of these and creating new ones are tactics for overcoming culture.

Senior sponsor: After the launch, the pilot team attracts the interest of a senior manager. Someone who did not push actively for adoption initially. This person sees something “there”, and decides to promote it. This does not open up the panoply of all organizational levers. But it does provide a boost in awareness and increase motivations for adoption.

Get the results

After the employees have (or have not) used the social software, it’s time to look at the results. Again, there is a fork in the road for this activity.

The great thing about a defined use case is that you have a framework for evaluating the results. There was a specific job the software was hired to do. How’d it perform? Even better, the defined use case likely replaced some other process and (maybe) applications. So there will be results from the regular process against which to benchmark the deployment.

For the experimental deployments, collecting the wins is how results are measured. These are the stories of how the software helped someone. The information someone found that helped get a task completed. The turnaround time that was much faster than expected. The connections made with someone previously unknown in the organization. These anecdotes are the building blocks of an ROI.

What do employees think?

If the results are positive – either compared against the use case or via anecdotes – then getting employee perceptions of the software is next. If the results are negative, this is a step that’s relay not needed.

Employees are asked their opinions of:

· The user experience

· What they liked about the software

· The software’s general usefulness

· Their interest in using the software in the future

· The vendor

· What could be improved?

This feedback is valuable from a cultural perspective. What’s the main opinion of employees?

From all of this, the decision about whether to go with the software is made.

Culture is self-selecting

At a high level, culture is a self-selecting determinant of whether a company even pilots social software. If a company has a heavy command-and-control, execution-oriented culture, they aren’t trialing social software. In that sense, it is all about culture.

But if a company feels it’s ready to give social software a try, the culture-as-impediment argument loses steam. More likely, failure is a case of no defined use cases for the software. Stop laying the blame on culture.

Or as Yoda said in Star Wars: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 070309

From the home office in Wasilla, Alaska…

#1: This tweet about some guy that didn’t get picked for some winery’s social media job is getting a lot of Digg interest: http://bit.ly/1vhvWM

#2: “#1 factor preventing full adoption of social media is the lack of executive trust in employees” http://bit.ly/2FbMQY by @CarolineDangson

#3: New Spigit blog post: Is Enterprise 2.0 Just for Knowledge Workers? http://bit.ly/3pwQVF #e20

#4: Reading: Are You Encouraging Innovation? http://bit.ly/Hh5U5 by EMC’s @LenDevanna #innovation

#5: “Generating great ideas to the wrong challenge is worse than mediocre ideas for the right challenge”. Arthur VanGundy #innovation

#6: Understand the job your product was hired to do, says Clay Christensen. Good example by OfficeMax: http://bit.ly/ff4c6 #innovation

#7: Nice post about harnessing community brainpower to solve problems, and Spigit http://bit.ly/12etu5 by Sun Micro’s @drapeau

#8: Bing is starting to serve up the latest tweets for people when you search their name + “twitter”. Nicely done. http://bit.ly/Qmym3

#9: RT @gialyons Famous speeches delivered via Twitter: http://bit.ly/10rY2c

#10: Funny discussion by @peterkim and @markstevens20 about the need to give your kids unique names in a social media world http://bit.ly/Ua3Lz

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