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Would You Manage CRM with a Wiki?

Or human resources with a blog? How about project management with forums?

Funny questions to ask, no doubt. Of course it’s not possible to effectively address many of the critical business functions using basic Enterprise 2.0 tools. Yet when it comes to social software, it often seems that the only game in town is to be a provider of such tools. For instance, Gartner’s Social Software Magic Quadrant requires that vendors have wikis, blogs and forums to be considered (side note – for the record, Spigit has all three social software tools and more).

I am fully on board that there are great opportunities for new types of communication, collaboration and information discovery in these tools. For instance, see my post, Microblogging Will Marginalize Corporate Email.

But there’s an enormous opportunity for applying the ethos and value of  ‘social’, ‘transparency’ and ‘collaboration’ to a wider range of business processes. Key here is not to force specific processes into a general purpose tool, but to bring social software ethos to longstanding enterprise activities.

Hmm…sounds Dachis Group-like (“social business design”), eh?

Activity-Specific Social Applications

In the recent Gartner Social Software Hype Cycle, analyst Anthony Bradley introduced a new category, Activity-Specific Social Applications:

“As social software implementations mature, application patterns are evolving, and the software industry is responding with activity-centric social application offerings rather than with generic social software capability suites. Delivering a targeted social solution with a general purpose social tool (such as wikis and blogs) can involve significant development, configuration, and templating effort.”

Bradley has identified the next opportunity in enterprise social social software. Integrating the valuable characteristics of social software into the in-the-flow activities that make up our days. As a percentage of employees’ time, activity-specific social applications will be quite large.

Back in March 2009, Sameer Patel wrote, don’t confuse Enterprise 2.0 with social computing concepts. He was making this exact point, and included this illustrative diagram:

Credit: Sameer Patel, Span Strategies

Credit: Sameer Patel, Span Strategies

His point is that the left side are tools, whereas the right side are results-based activities. Key here is to create applications aligned with the processes for those activities. That means going deeper than a general purpose tool.

Successful Applications Will Be Designed for Results

So back to the original question. Would you manage CRM with a wiki? Could you? Perhaps there’s a geek hack to do this, but for mainstream business, the answer is ‘no’. Customer relationship management includes:

  • Case management
  • Customer revenue analytics
  • Sales pipeline
  • Individual prospect opportunity workflow
  • And lots of other stuff

It would be really hard to use generic off-the-shelf social software to deliver the above functionality. Yet, going back in time, here’s what was prescribed for CRM success in April 2002:

People [who fail] don’t integrate CRM into the other parts of their business or implement CRM as a stand-alone and don’t have it communicate with core systems. A bigger and more frequent stumbling block is forgetting to address the people issues around a CRM implementation. In almost all of the cases we described earlier, CRM is a behavior modification tool.

There is a need for the “hard” functions that CRM can provide, like case management, campaigns and analytics. But that’s not enough (e.g. see social CRM), and enabling the customer-centric firm seems to require a good bit of what makes Enterprise 2.0 tick: cross-organizational perspectives, contributions from different departments, a more collaborative orientation to an end-goal. Integrate CRM into “other parts of their business”.

Wikis, by themselves, don’t provide the necessary CRM functions that are table stakes to be useful for companies. But CRM platforms could benefit from integrating more social software tools and conventions.

And that’s the case for a lot of the current processes that define companies today. They aren’t going to be addressed by off-the-shelf generic social software tools. But they benefit by incorporation of social software tools.

“Activity-specific social applications”. A few examples:

Dachis Group talks about social business design as “the intentional creation of dynamic and socially calibrated systems, process, and culture.” Indeed, there’s a huge opportunity to apply social software to the multitude of applications and processes that make up organizations, beyond the insertion of standalone generic tools.

Watch this space.

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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 073109

From the home office in Honolulu, Hawaii…

#1: Gartner Social Software Hype Cycle is out. See where 45 technologies are in the cycle (via Spigit blog) http://bit.ly/19Uw6k #e20

#2: Does Silicon Valley noise detract from long-term value creation? http://bit.ly/188Trx by @andrew_chen #innovation

#3: CNET: A Google Wave reality check http://bit.ly/34fv21 I, for one, love seeing the painful process of development, even at Google.

#4: I think we need a recount: EvanCarmichael.com ranks the Top 50 Geek Entrepreneur blogs http://bit.ly/YT1nn I come in #7 behind @louisgray

#5: The Atlantic: The Truth About IQ http://bit.ly/1l0qfR “Being branded with a low IQ at a young age, in other words, is like being born poor”

#6: The science of hunches? http://bit.ly/CDTJi by @berkun Like his take about the importance of emotions in the decision process

#7: Creating psychological distance f/ a problem is key to increasing your creativity. Make it abstract http://bit.ly/f7XUy #innovation

#8: BofA to Shut 600 Branches Due to Surge in Online & Mobile Banking http://bit.ly/14S4mg I never go in branches. Purely web + ATM.

#9: Ever wonder why we swing our arms when we walk? Research finds it’s more efficient than keeping our arms still http://bit.ly/O0Pwj

#10: Our friends’ 3 y.o. son cut the ribbon on remodeled SF playground today. He has spinal muscular atrophy, & can now play http://bit.ly/Z3DZR

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.

Get a $5 Enterprise Wiki and Help Some Kids: Atlassian’s Stimulus Plan

atlassian-logo

Last week, we saw a fun race to a million followers on Twitter, where the real winners were people around the world suffering from Malaria. Business combined with charity.

This week, Atlassian is running its own special event: the Atlassian Stimulus Package. Here are the details:

  • $5 annual license for Confluence wiki
  • $5 annual license for JIRA issue tracker
  • Available to teams of up to five people
  • First year comes with support and maintenance included
  • Proceeds go to Room to Read, which builds much-needed schools and libraries in developing countries
  • Pricing is available for five days from April 20 – 24, 2009

Not too shabby, particularly when you consider that both Confluence and JIRA start at $1,200 each. And considering where Gartner positioned Atlassian in its Social Software Magic Quadrant

gartner-social-software-mq-2008

…it’s not a bad way to get your feet wet in the social software world. And help some children in need as well.

Enterprise 2.0 and the Trough of Disillusionment

There is currently a business and marketing fashion wave for collaboration as the miracle cure for all that ails business which isn’t helpful in differentiating good from bad ideas.

Oliver Marks, ZDNet, When Internal Collaboration Is Bad for Your Company…

It feels like I’m seeing more posts describing the challenges that Enterprise 2.0 faces. I’m not alone, Dion Hinchcliffe noted a similar trend yesterday as well on ZDNet. Of course, these concerns have always been there, as they are for any technology innovations (just look Twitter coverage in 2007). But I’ve been impressed with the frequency of critiques recently.

All of which is right on schedule.

Are you familiar with something called the “hype cycle”? It’s a fascinating framework used by the analyst firm Gartner. It describes five phases that technologies go through on their to becoming mainstream and beneficial to companies:

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.

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. The final height of the plateau varies according to whether the technology is broadly applicable or benefits only a niche market.

The hype cycle is a useful framework, providing a reasonable explanation of the business phases of technology. Let’s look at how Gartner specifically characterized Enterprise 2.0 in its recent hype cycle report.

Enterprise 2.0: Staring into the Abyss

In August 2008, Gartner released Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2008. The report analyzed the different stages of 27 different emerging technologies. Included in the report were technologies related to Enterprise 2.0:

gartner-2008-hype-cycle

See Social Computing Platforms in the chart above, of which Gartner notes the following: “Following the phenomenal success of consumer-oriented social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook, companies are examining the role that these sites, or their enterprise-grade equivalents, will play in future collaboration environments.”

Future collaboration environments. What did Oliver Marks say? That Enterprise 2.0 has experienced a “fashion wave for collaboration as the miracle cure for all that ails business”.

So in his statement, Marks both describes unrealistic expectations of Enterprise 2.0, and his view that the hype about its potential needs to be taken down several notches. Last August, Gartner had put social computing platforms right at the cusp of falling into the Trough of Disillusionment. Eight months later, we’re seeing the first signs that Enterprise 2.0 may be falling into that trough.

To which I say…good. Let’s get on with it.

Collaboration is a Means, Not an End

One thing I find odd is that collaboration is touted as a benefit of social software. Collaboration is an activity. There is no ROI in collaboration itself. What enhanced collaboration produces is the benefit.

And that’s where it’s been tough in the enterprise 2.0 world. A lot of vendors offer tools with wide open use cases. They can be used for any purpose inside an organization, with an eye toward better collaboration. It makes sense, and yet it is challenging  to identify specific ROI-grounded use cases.

Here’s what I mean. Say you offer an application that let’s people easily share what they’re working on. They can send public messages to one another. They have spaces where you can upload, share and work together on docs. Free form spaces where employees share their thoughts. RSS feeds of activities.

Now I’m a believer in these tools, and I personally benefit from their utility every single day. But the challenge is specify what those tools will deliver to organizations’ bottom lines. Is it…

  • An increase in paying customers?
  • A reduction in customer churn?
  • The ability to stop paying for another more costly application?
  • Increased average unit sales for new products?
  • Hiring of new employees who have higher average ratings and lower rates of quitting?
  • A reduction in supply chain costs?

I could go on, but you see the point. What pain point inside companies does an enterprise app, social or otherwise, address? An answer of “any pain point” is unfortunately too broad, and makes it tough for executives to visualize exactly how the software helps. As Dion Hinchcliffe writes in Determining the ROI of Enterprise 2.0:

However, a key aspect of the ROI issue is that the strategic capabilities represented by Enterprise 2.0 are primarily emergent in nature, instead of carefully aimed at and unleashed at specific problems.

This isn’t to say that companies aren’t buying social software. Apparently, roughly a third of companies have some form of Enterprise 2.0 tools. But the actual usage and impact doesn’t match that adoption statistic.

So what happens to an industry when it enters the Trough of Disillusionment?

Less Attention, Fewer Competitors, Focused Solutions

Keep in mind what the overall Hype Cycle measures – level of attention on an industry. It doesn’t say the fundamental value of the technology changed.

It’s more like a hangover after the inflated expectations.

But of course, the hangover and reduced attention does have some effects. More skeptical articles appear. VCs rationalize the field. Enterprises no longer feel rushed to adopt the technology.

Sounds pretty rough, eh?

So what comes out of the Trough is a gritty determination to see it through. Companies persist in developing their products and marketing to customers. Indeed, a focus on what works becomes more important than ever.

For the Enterprise 2.0 industry, the Trough means this: focus on solving specific problems with social software. If you can talk pain points of enterprises, you will win. They’re not talking about failures to collaborate enough. Here are some examples of what I mean.

My own company Spigit is seeing some strong enterprise sales. Strongest I’ve seen in my 14 months of being the sector. I attribute much of that success to its singular focus on using social software to better collect, assess and select employees’ ideas. Product functionality goes toward helping companies build their innovation pipeline.

Helpstream is another Enterprise 2.0 company with a specific focus. It combines a well-covered field – customer service – with a unique integration of customer communities. Helpstream isn’t about better search, or replacing companies’ intranets. The company’s philosophy is nicely summed up in a blog post:

You have to deliver specific product functionality to specific business functions in order to extract all the value from Social Media in business. Most Social Software for Business makes claims of value for specific business functions, but nowhere can you find actual software modules targeted at those functions.

Even Jive Software, which recently released its wide-ranging Social Business Software 3.0, has started talking about specific solutions: Employee Engagement, Marketing & Sales, Innovation, Customer Support.

Fewer, leaner companies with products targeting specific problems. That’s what the Trough looks like.

Remember, Enlightenment Is Around the Corner

Photo credit: Jake Keup

Photo credit: Jake Keup

Keep in mind that the Hype Cycle is just that…a cycle. The rush of jubilation followed by the disappointment that a technology cannot, in fact, change all that needs improvement. But that doesn’t mean the technology doesn’t have value. It just means the hard work of addressing more specific tangible problems becomes the focus.

What gives me comfort is that the Hype Cycle provides a fairly well-known model for how technology ultimately becomes core to the way businesses do work. So let the analysis show that Enterprise 2.0 cannot, in fact, solve every problem that companies have.

That’s just a sign that things are progressing nicely.

My Ten Favorite Tweets: Week Ending 040309

From the home office in Detroit, Michigan…

#1: Tim O’Reilly talks about how every appliance has a unique electrical signature. Useful for ID/control. #w2e

#2: Nice shout-out from @jowyang on my move to Spigit http://bit.ly/1aqFO

#3: Writing my own bio for a press release for Spigit. I agree with @tacanderson http://bit.ly/FO7M I find it painful to do these.

#4: Perhaps a note of caution in any Twitter acquisition talks…YouTube may lose $470m this year. http://bit.ly/OxZrx

#5: Gartner predicts that by 2011, enterprise microblogging will be standard in 80% of social software platforms http://bit.ly/4CFdRm

#6: RT @SameerPatel Add Your Twitter Blog to Technorati Directory http://bit.ly/1aEguw by via@labnol

#7: SocialText raises $4.5 mm, lays off six: http://bit.ly/Y3icM In line with the times. Nice fund raise.

#8: Great to meet @thomashawk last night at FriendFeed meet-up. Nice collection of pics of people that were there: http://bit.ly/r1pD

#9: Just finished touring the #w2e floor w/ @mediaphyter Great to meet in person!

#10: Using the word “users” in write-up. Alternative is “employees, customer, partners”, which is wordy. Or “people”, which describes 6 billion.

Think Companies Can Do More with Ideas? Me Too – I’m Joining Spigit

spigitlogo

I start a new job today, and I’m quite excited about it. I’ve joined Spigit as  the Director of Marketing and Online Communications.

Now it’s possible you might be saying…”Spigit? Never heard of them.” Well, let me help you there.

Spigit provides idea management software for the enterprise in three modules:

Anyone is free to add any idea that occurs to them, and others can view, rate, and suggest changes to an idea. Ideas are categorized. The platform includes blogs and discussion forums to refine and clarify ideas.

The Spigit platform incorporates game theory into the process of identifying promising ideas and individuals who are good at seeing them. People can “invest” in ideas they believe in. If the company picks up the idea, everyone who invested in the idea earns incentive rewards.

As one finds with enterprise requirements, it includes role-based stages through which an idea must be approved. This process of graduation allows the top ideas by category to emerge.

A recent write-up on TechCrunchIT noted that  Spigit has lined up a number of significant customers, including IBM, Sun Microsystems, Intel, WebEx, Walmart, Sam’s Club, and Southwest Airlines.

Market’s View

Gartner: This past December, Gartner’s Anthony Bradley wrote up his thoughts about Spigit. He noted five key points:

  1. Spigit is a great example of the evolution of the social software market from best of breed tools to social software suites to technologies addressing horizontal business needs (idea management and prediction markets in Spigit’s case).
  2. Spigit exemplifies the need for some technology structure to enable community emergence. Spigit is rich with functionality (e.g. structure)  specifically targeted at mining the community for innovative ideas and then empowering that community to advance those ideas.
  3. It is clear when examining Spigit that significant effort has gone into designing an experience tailored to idea management. It is quite detailed in the intricacies of facilitating an idea marketplace. This is not something the usual enterprise could or would want to build into a general purpose suite.
  4. Spigit heavily employs gaming theory to make the experience fun. I see more and more gaming theory applied to enterprise 2.0 implementations to enhance community participation. All enterprises implementing E2.0 should strive to make a participants experience as fun as possible.
  5. A focus on analytics is also a critical capability. Growing, nurturing, and guiding the productivity of a community is no trivial exercise and it is important to have the tools to know how the community is functioning and where it needs help.

BearingPoint: Nate Nash of consulting firm BearingPoint has written about Spigit. Nash noted that his “consulting tires have really been rotated by one of the sponsors, Spigit.” Here’s the one-sentence version of his view of Spigit

Simply put, Spigit allows you to tune the impending barrage of systematized social interactions toward the vetting and implementation of innovative ideas.

TechWeb: On its Internet Evolution site, TechWeb recently wrote a great article Can Enterprise Social Networking Pay Off? The post included this customer’s quote about Spigit:

Another [Spigit] event for store managers focused on cutting costs and improving customer service. One idea from that event will save the company $8 million. “IT and senior VPs ask how we measure ROI for Spigit,” the director says. With numbers like that, the answer is easy.

A Few Personal Thoughts

Everyone has ideas. Everyone. The hardest part for employees is finding an engaged venue to air those ideas, get feedback and see them catch on if they have merit. Think about your own work. How easy is it to float ideas and get discussions going on them? Providing a defined location where ideas are expected to be added, found and advanced strikes me as a great use of social software. Spigit starts with a clearly defined use case and value proposition.

Another thing I like about Spigit is that anyone can participate in this social software initiative. My previous work at BEA Systems and Connectbeam focused on the knowledge worker, which is a consistent theme in the industry. Note how Dion Hinchcliffe describes Enterprise 2.0 in a recent article:

The Enterprise 2.0 story is primarily aimed at knowledge workers engaged in complex, collaborative projects which have had few effective software tools until recently, in other words strategic business activities.

But with idea management, anybody can have flashes of insight or creative solutions to everyday problems. The R&D group. Field consultants. The facilities manager. An hourly employee working the floor.

I really like that the addressable market for Spigit includes not just knowledge workers, but employees from throughout the company.

I’m also finding that Spigit is relatively unknown in the Enterprise 2.0 world at large. Indeed, Spigit doesn’t really go up against IBM, Microsoft SharePoint, Jive Software, SocialText and other more well-known collaboration vendors. Instead, you’ll find it mentioned alongside Salesforce Ideas, Imaginatik and Brightidea. This informs some of my work ahead.

Commute

If you’re not familiar with the Bay Area, Pleasanton is a bit of a haul from my home in San Francisco. Here’s a map that shows the commute:

bart-map

The nice thing is that  I’ll be able to take BART to work. And I will use that hour-long commute to get things done. Now if only BART would hurry up with installing wifi throughout the system. In the meantime, I’ll look at an EVDO card or the iPhone 3G tether.

Feel free to reach out to me if you’re interested in hearing more about Spigit.

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