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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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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 061909

From the home office in Tehran…

#1: RT @Brioneja The Future of Energy: A Realist’s Roadmap to 2050. Which technology will finally free us from oil? http://bit.ly/FXg7A

#2: People’s interest in the real-time web is as much a social thing as it is a need to stay on top of events as they happen.

#3: In case you didn’t know…Atlassian’s new release of Confluence 3.0 includes status updates: http://bit.ly/yNZn4

#4: RT @rhappe the tight engagement you build with a small group will go viral… a big group with a lot of ‘extras’ won’t have the same

#5: RT @prwpmp Very insightful article in today’s WSJ about the power of daydreaming! http://bit.ly/2hJZMs {Daydreaming = AHA! moments}

#6: Which are most likely to survive in social media-driven news world? The mega global media (e.g. NYT), regional newspapers or local papers?

#7: New Spigit blog post: Kaiser Permanente Crosses the O-Gap in Innovation http://bit.ly/PNcom #innovation

#8: What is the magic number where the size of a group outstrips its ability to stay on top of everyone’s ideas? 25? 50? 100? #innovation

#9: Is there such a thing as the “avg distance” between a firm’s employees & its customers? SMBs’ avg distance < enterprises’ avg?

#10: ABC7 prediction market: Will the Dow Jones Industrial Average end 2009 below 2008’s year end close? http://bit.ly/1rjAt My vote = NO

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.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 032009

From the home office in Manhattan…

#1: The unintended meme….cisco fatty http://tinyurl.com/d5dzdc

#2: RT @jenn bah. “cisco fatty” is no “I KISS YOU”, Kids on the Interwebs will meme anything these days. When I was young, we used 2 meme uphill

#3: “Twitter Most Popular Among Working Adults” Nielsen February stats http://bit.ly/CQRty

#4: Reading about WordPress’s new microblogging offering ‘P2′ http://bit.ly/zPf9B Looks great, perfect for internal company tweeting

#5: Reading – SXSW – Jumping Sharks, Hunting Snarks, Punting Sparks and Something Stark by @freecloud http://bit.ly/Ocm

#6: Wondering which will be cheaper for wireless…3G iPhone tether or an EVDO card?

#7: Reading: Spigit Launches New Version Of Idea Generation Innovation Software on @techcrunch http://bit.ly/1aoLVS

#8: The Schwab commercials with the people who have been turned into animation are oddly compelling. You just stare at these real-life cartoons.

#9: Grey’s Anatomy, finder of cool music at a level comparable to Apple commercials.

#10: I didn’t know there was certification for such a thing: The Life Coach Institute http://bit.ly/uhNzH

Microblogging Will Marginalize Corporate Email

In case you missed it last week, Google CEO Eric Schmidt had this to say about the microblogging service Twitter:

Speaking as a computer scientist, I view all of these as sort of poor man’s email systems. In other words, they have aspects of an email system, but they don’t have a full offering. To me, the question about companies like Twitter is: Do they fundamentally evolve as sort of a note phenomenon, or do they fundamentally evolve to have storage, revocation, identity, and all the other aspects that traditional email systems have? Or do email systems themselves broaden what they do to take on some of that characteristic?

At first blush, this seemed like an example of Google not ‘getting it’ when it comes to Twitter (see the comments to the linked blog post above). But I think he’s actually on to something. It is a new way of posting notes about what you’re doing, but it also has a lot of communications usage via @replies and direct messages (DMs).

Reflecting both on Schmidt’s statement, and my own use of Yammer at my company, I’m seeing that microblogging is slowly replacing a lot of my email activity.

As more companies take up microblogging with services like Yammer, Socialcast, Present.ly and SocialText Signals, employee communications amongst employees will both increase and divert away from email. Something like this:

microblogging-marginalizes-email

Socialcast’s Tim Young said this about email:

Email is dead. If your company is relying on email for communication and collaboration, your company is walking dead in this new economy.

Being the CEO of Socialcast, that’s not a surprising statement. But I think he’s more right than wrong.

The shift I describe applies regardless of the microblogging application used. Since I’m actually familiar with Yammer as a user, I’ll talk about its features in the context of this shift.

Yammer Follows the Innovator’s Dilemma Path

A useful context for thinking about Yammer versus corporate email is Clayton Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma. Generally, the premise is that incumbent companies need to grow and increase the functionality of their products. This increases the products’ complexity and cost, but also increases margins. But as the incumbents are doing this, it opens an opportunity at the lower end of functionality for new companies to come in and attack the incumbents’ base. From Wikipedia, here’s a graphic that demonstrates the concept:

innovators-dilemma-disruption-graph

A useful way to think about the Innovator’s Dilemma in the enterprise software space comes from this blog post, Enterprise Software Innovator’s Dilemma. Existing vendors expand the functionality of their products, heavily relying on the requests of large customers. Over time, this has the effect of creating a robust, highly functional and more expensive offering. This trend is what opens the door for new vendors to come in.

Let’s consider Yammer in this context. Simple microblogging runs along the “low quality use” in some ways. At least in terms of the feature set. But it certainly takes “use case share” away from email.

If all you could do was make public notes, that’s the end of the story. Microblogging does not replace email. But these guys are advancing their product, and are rising up the performance axis.

Here is what Yammer now offers:

  • Behind the firewall installation
  • Public notes
  • @replies
  • DMs
  • Groups
  • Private groups
  • File attachments
  • Favorites (a form of bookmarking)
  • Tagging
  • Conversation threading
  • Unlimited character length (i.e. not limited to 140 characters)
  • Search

Look at that list. When you think about your own internal email usage, what ‘s missing? Folders or the Gmail equivalent of tags seem to be something for the down the road. I’m not an IT manager, so I’m sure there are some heavy duty infrastructure aspects of Microsoft Exchange/Outlook and Lotus Notes that are not there. Thus, Yammer still has the insurgent, disruptor profile relative to corporate email.

But don’t underestimate that. There’s what IT knows is needed behind the scenes. and then there’s what the users actually do when given the different applications.

Expanding Communications, Marginalizing Email

Microblogging’s premise is that public proclamations of what you’re doing and information that you find are a new activity for people, and they have value. Information is shared much more easily and in-the-flow of what we’re all doing anyway. In an office setting, I continue to find the way Dave Winer describes it quite useful: narrating your work.

This use case is what promises to dramatically increase communications among employees. As we’re seeing with Twitter’s explosive growth, it takes time for people to grok why they should microblog. But once they “get it”, it takes off.

So services like Yammer have your attention as you post updates and read what others post. In reaction to what someone posts, you hit the Reply button. You’re having a conversation that others can see, and join in if they want. You decide to have separate conversation with someone in this context. Do you open up your email? Or just click “Private Message” to someone? I’m willing to bet you’ll do the latter.

Which starts the marginalization of corporate email. Why? Because a lot of what’s going to generate interactions is occurring right on that microblogging app you’re looking at. It’s the most natural thing to act in-the-flow and use that application in lieu of email. Well-designed microblogging applications are also quite seductive in terms of ease-of-use.

As I’ve written before, email’s role changes in this scenario. The logical end use cases are:

  • Notifications
  • External communications

This isn’t something that’s imminent. Email is quite entrenched in daily workflow, older generations aren’t likely to stop using it and internal microblogging is still nascent.

But no one said the Innovator’s Dilemma plays out over the course of a couple years. It will take time. But watch the trends.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

How Much Scale Is Needed in Enterprise 2.0 Employee Adoption?

A couple recent items caught my eye with regard to the issue of employee adoption of social software.

In Reversing the Enterprise 2.0 Pricing Model, Julien le Nestour argues that pricing per user for social software should increase as more employees use it, because the network effects of higher participation make the software more valuable. It’s a great theoretical piece, tying pricing to value received. But in the harsh budgeting realities of the enterprise and in the comparison against other software pricing models, it’s not likely we’ll see anything like this.

Atlassian, maker of the Confluence wiki and developers tools, recently passed the cumulative revenue mark of $100 million. In the post announcing this milestone, Atlassian blogger notes that the company has no sales force. People just download the app. I know some of the Atlassian guys, and this kind of viral, bottom-up adoption is core to their philosophy. They don’t sell to upper management, adoption occurs at the departmental level. That being said, I am aware from my work at Connectbeam of some large-scale rollouts of the Confluence wiki by Fortune 500 companies.

What connects these two items? The first post describes the nature of Enterprise 2.0 apps and how their value increases as more employees use them. The second post points to the value that departments have received from Atlassian’s Confluence wiki, even without broad adoption. In other words, network effects are not a critical aspect of the Confluence value proposition.

From these posts, other readings and direct customer experience, the following occurred to me:

You don’t need a high level of adoption to get value from some Enterprise 2.0 apps. Others require broad participation.

In some ways, that may seem obvious. Yet I don’t tend to hear this distinction being made. Usually, all social software is lumped together under ‘Enterprise 2.0′ and there is a collective view that wide-scale adoption by employees is a necessity. It’s actually more nuanced than that.

Varying Adoption Levels Required

The graphic below depicts the relative levels of participation required for different apps to “deliver value”:

enterprise-20-employee-adoption-to-derive-value

Here’s a quick summary of the graph:

  • Employee participation is defined as contributions and engagement (views, edits, comments, etc.)
  • Moving from left to right, the percentage of employees involved gets higher

This graph has a couple of implications for Enterprise 2.0 vendors. Before that, here’s an explanation for why I put the different applications where I did.

Consider the Purposes of the E2.0 Applications

Before discussing these applications, I want to note this. All social software applications get better with higher adoption. There is no disputing that. The distinction I want to make is that some apps require increased participation before they deliver value.

Blogs: The nature of a blog is a single person’s thoughts, observations and ideas. Inside companies, these applications can be tools for the ongoing recording of things that fall outside the deadlines and process-oriented activities that make up the day. Making them public is a great way to share these contributions with other employees and establish your record of what’s happening. If only a few key people blogged inside a company, there will be value in that.

Wikis: Wikis actually have two purposes: (1) knowledge repositories, and (2) projects and collaboration. It’s that second purpose that makes wikis particularly valuable even with small participation. I’ll use Confluence as an example. We use it as our low home for putting up documents accessible to anyone else, and for free-form contributions on all manner of things. It is very much a utilitarian use case for us. If we weren’t using Confluence for this purpose, we’d share documents via email. In larger organizations, Confluence may replace usage of SharePoint or the company portal.

Using wikis as knowledge repositories, such as [Company Name]-ipedia type of implementations, requires a larger percentage involvement. Sparsely populated company versions of Wikipedia are of little use. As are wikis that are not updated regularly with new information. I’d put wikis-as-knowledge-repositories up there around prediction markets in terms of required participation.

Forums: The old man of Enterprise 2.0…forums. These are the place where topics can be posted, and a scrum of conversation occurs. To really get value out of these, it helps to have larger participation. Blogs are solo voices with interesting content. Wikis can have a very specific collaboration purpose among a few employees. Conversations around a topic require a wider variety of voices. Otherwise they fail to give people a sense of what others are thinking. Nothing sadder than forum post with no comments.

Social bookmarking: Bookmarking sites you find useful has value by itself. So in that sense, “social” bookmarking can work for very few employees. But it’s not really “social”, it’s simply a replacement for your browser bookmarks. You get value by finding those gems your colleagues deem interesting. The odds that any single bookmark will be useful to you are small, so you need a healthy amount of bookmarks to increase the chances of finding links that will help you. And to get a healthy amount of bookmarks, you need broader participation.

Microblogging: In some ways, microblogging could be compared to forums. Both are public places to serve up topics. But they’re fundamentally different. And that’s why broader participation is more important here. Forums have a distinct purpose – the discussion of a particular topic. You need participation by those who know something around the topic.  Microblogging is a more free-form, personal activity. You don’t need a distinct purpose to post something. You post all the things that occur to you during the day. Some of which will have value, although it can be hard to predict for whom. It also helps to know that people are seeing these posts, because there is a conversational aspect to microblogging. The free-form, who-knows-what-might-be-interesting, conversational aspect of microblogging require larger participation than forums do.

Prediction markets: Prediction markets thrive on having a variety of ideas, events and initiatives. They also require the different perspectives of employees, leveraging different perspectives, knowledge and experiences. This is true wisdom of crowds work. Limited participation limits the value of prediction markets. These benefit from broad employee involvement.

Social networks: I put these at the top of the chart in terms of employee involvement. Perhaps one of the best use cases for social networks is finding colleagues with the knowledge or interest in projects you’re working on. This requires large-scale participation. If a social network only is used at the departmental level, it doesn’t provide value. In terms of expertise location, you’re probably already aware of what others in your deparmtent know. It’s breaking out of that traditional sphere of contacts where social networks shine. I know I’ve heard many instances of large corporations suffering from “reinventing the wheel” syndrome because employees lack visibility about what others know. Broad participation addresses this issue.

Implications

Three implications of this view about required involvement come to mind.

Greater required participation correlates to greater impact on a company’s value: Generally, you could change the metric in the chart above from percentage of employee involvement to impact on company value. The increased participation means the associated application will also have a larger effect on the company’s strategies and operations. It’s not an tight correlation, but a general trendline. Exceptions will abound.

Top-down vs. bottom-up: General observation is that broader participation requires a greater amount of senior management support. That’s the way things work inside companies. Employees will listen when the executives of the company push something. For applications that need lower participation, the name of the game is to provide a compelling application with a low entry cost. Departmental budgets and the green-light from employees at lower levels of the organization are all that are needed.

Time for application to gain traction: With applications that require low levels of participation, there is plenty of time for the application to grow virally. It serves its purpose for a select few, and over time others will see the value and elect to participate. These apps can be resident inside companies for long periods of time. Those that require higher participation to see value will need to show results sooner. They are on senior management’s radar, generally cost more and have a greater number of employees who will be watching to see the results.

So it matters what type of application we’re talking about when it comes to Enterprise 2.0. It matters for companies and vendors. It impacts the skills required for everyone’s success.

A nice post that complements this one is Adina Levin’s Scale effects in enterprise social software.

*****

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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 022709

From the home office in Denver, Colorado…

#1: Please, I don’t want your automated DMs after I follow you. This practice needs to stop. I never click your links, it’s just spam.

#2: To all you social media whales doing the mass unfollow routine, I say: “Go ahead, make my day.” Got my unfollow trigger finger ready.

#3: Reading @loic post about the realities of following thousands http://bit.ly/CR6A9 Future = Dunbar’s Number + @replies + keyword tracking?

#4: Yammer rolls out new features: lifestreaming a la FriendFeed, and DM like Twitter. VentureBeat: http://bit.ly/qamnq

#5: “Discovering problems actually requires as much creativity as discovering solutions” The Myths of Innovation, Scott Berkun

#6: Innovation myth inside companies: “if the idea were any good, the people at the top would have thought of it already.” http://bit.ly/CfPgl

#7: FriendFeed guys have created the FriendFeed Therapy Room, featuring Eliza http://bit.ly/LseaI See if you can get past her therapist tenacity

#8: Do you suppose accident rates are down in California now that we’ve banned cell phones in the car? Do you feel safer?

#9: My favorite Jelly Belly beans: 1. coffee 2. watermelon. My 4.y.o. son Harrison: smelly skunk (betcha didn’t know about that one). You?

#10: Driving down 101, behind this car. Smelled an odd sweet odor that I recognized. Pass the car minutes later, sure enough dude had a fat one.

One Thing Social Software Needs: The Guaranteed Delivery Button

At the start of January, Jennfier Leggio and I launched the 2009 Email Brevity Challenge. The goal is to reduce the length of emails, with an eye toward migrating a lot of what’s in them elsewhere.

Well, January is over. Time to see how I did:

email-stats-jan-09

As you can see, I’ve got some work to do. First, my average email weighs in at 164 characters. 164 characters…hmm, doesn’t sound so bad but it’s pretty far beyond 140 characters.

Even worse, 41% of my emails are beyond the bar set for the email brevity challenge. One positive? Check out that median length – my heart is in the right place in terms of brevity.

But I can do better.

Looking at my emails, I see an obvious candidate for cutback. Seven of those 140+  character emails are essentially links with commentary of snippets.

Say what? You work for a social bookmarking company man! And you’re emailing links?!!

Well, yes. But I also bookmark them. Let me explain. I bookmark plenty of links for my own purposes. And true to social bookmarking’s purpose, other people can find them as well, which is better for discussions around the information.

Some of these bookmarks are more than useful information I want for recall later or for others to find in their research. Some are relevant to things that we’re working on right now. They provide context to product, development and marketing efforts.

Those bookmarks need to have higher visibility than typical links do.  And a problem with only bookmarking a link is that many people won’t see it who should.

That’s what email provides: guaranteed delivery. Everyone is using the app, and everyone checks their email. So I know the link + commentary will be seen. What social software needs is an equivalent mechanism.

Social Software Options for Guaranteed Delivery

In fact, many apps do have such guaranteed delivery mechanisms. For instance, you can think of the @reply on Twitter as a form of that. Although even then, it requires someone checking that tab. So TweetReplies will actually email you when someone uses your @name in a tweet.

As I wrote before, email’s evolving role in social media will be more notification, less personal communication. Email is still a centralized place for all manner of notifications and it has that lovely guaranteed delivery aspect.

So what are alternatives for emails inside companies?

Inside my company, I actually have three alternatives to emailing the links with lots of commentary”

Connectbeam: As I mentioned, a simple bookmark has no guarantee of visibility. But the app does include email (and RSS) notifications of new content. You can subscribe to emails of individuals’ and Groups’ activity in real-time, or get a daily digest of those options plus keyword-based notifications. So what I can do is set up a Group, call it “Email Worthy”. I then have all my colleagues subscribe to real-time notifications of activity in that Group. Voila! I add a note to my bookmark, save it to the Group and I know everyone will get it.

Confluence: Another option is to create a wiki page for these entries. I can put longer form commentary in the pages, include a link and tag them. Since Connectbeam automatically sucks Confluence wiki pages into its database, these individual wiki pages would be as good as a bookmark. I could then email a link to the wiki page (using a bit.ly URL), going Twitter style with a brief intro.

Yammer: Yammer now has Groups. Which is something people have been wanting with Twitter. You can publish a message in Yammer (a “yamm”?) to just a particular Group. Yammer has nicely added an email notification feature for Groups. So similar to what I described above for Connectbeam, we can create a Group on Yammer called “Email Worthy”. Everyone can join the Group and elect to recieve email notifications when new yamms come through.  I can post the link + commentary, and be assured of guaranteed delivery.

One problem with using Yammer this way is that information put there is separate from the wiki entries and bookmarks we have. So people would have to check two places for information. As I wrote over on the Connectbeam blog, that creates a de facto silo.

It’s February, A New Month

I’m going to experiment a bit with this. Of course, I need to get my colleagues to subscribe to email notifications for Connectbeam. But I’ll just tell them, “do that or I’ll email ya!” And I’ll try the Confluence wiki approach as well.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

*****

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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 012309

From the home office in Phoenix, AZ…

#1: @amcafee My fave #inaug09 moment: the way Obama handled the muffed oath admin. On-the-spot composure, ability to handle pressure. #andyasks

#2: IBM’s term for layoffs is “resource action”. That’s a new one.

#3: Example of Yammer benefit. I just yammed about wanting to see a feature algorithm, not sure who wrote it. Engineer replied to me w/ answer.

#4: One thing about Enterprise 2.0 ROI: the highest return has the least predictability

#5: My first blog post that’s ever gotten any traction on Digg, “Angels and Demons of Our Social Media Souls” http://bit.ly/T3sd

#6: Brothers & Sisters TV show quote: “I didn’t know what Twitter was” (OK, don’t hate because that show is on TV here right now)

#7: If you’re looking for free, high quality icons for that presentation, check out iconspedia: http://bit.ly/QxirL

#8: Hard to tell when a fax goes through successfully here. Our fax machine is very secretive about its activity reports.

#9: Played a round of War with my 4 y.o. using home-made cards. True to statistical probabilities, we went 2-2-1 in our five games.

#10: Wonder what George Bush is doing tonight?

Before There Was Twitter, There Was Dave Winer’s Instant Outliner

David Sifry

Photo credit: David Sifry

Twitter is the glamor girl these days. The latest triumph is the early picture of the U.S. Airways plane that belly flopped into the Hudson River. But before there was Twitter, there was Dave Winer’s Instant Outliner.

Never heard of it? Maybe you have, but I hadn’t. But it’s fascinating and eerily prescient of the rise of Twitter and Enterprise 2.0 today.

Dave can explain it better and more fully, but here’s what I have been reading about it.

Started in March 2002, here’s how Dave described Instant Outliner:

When you subscribe to someone’s outline, expect to see time-based notes on what they’re doing right now. I like to start each session with a top-level headline, and put a time-stamp in the headline (Control-4 on Windows, Cmd-4 on Macintosh). Then from that point, I narrate what I’m doing. When I start a new session, I start a new top-level timestamped headline. Sometimes I carry forward notes from previous sessions.

We can and probably will implement fancier notification routines, we’re ready to do it, but first we want to bootstrap with this brain-dead simple technology. It’s designed so that other outlining software can easily fit into the network of Instant Outliners.

See how Dave described it? “Notes on what they’re doing right now”. What is Twitter’s tagline? “What are you doing?” And notice Dave’s emphasis on designing Instant Outliner so that other software can work with it easily. I read this, and I think of Twitter’s API.

Here’s an April 2002 perspective on Instant Outliner by Jon Udell:

It’s been clear to me for a long while that the only thing that might displace email would be some kind of persistent IM. That’s exactly what instant outlining is. If it catches on, and it’s buzz-worthy enough to do that, we’ll have a framework within which to innovate in ways that email never allowed.

Instant Outliner (IO) as a form of instant IM. Something discussed here before in the context of Yammer. Here’s an early screenshot of IO, showing the organization by person and timestamps:

instant-outliner-buddy-list-messages

I like that the tweet…er…IO note here is the kind of thing you’ll see on Twitter these days. The IO message obviously doesn’t need to abide by the 140 character limit.

Here’s how Dave described use cases for IO:

We start with the Instant Messaging model, which many people understand. You get a structured surface to write on. You get to choose how you want to do it. I think that narrating your work is the way to go. But also answering questions or asking them of people you subscribe to is good too.

What I love about his use cases is how closely they align to Twitter use cases. This was microblogging, before microblogging was cool.

The Concepts We Associate with Twitter and Social Software Were All There

Check out how Jon Udell describes IO way back in 2002:

These are people who maintain outlines, in the form of Outline Processor Markup Language, to which I am subscribing. Some of them also subscribe to my outline, but not necessarily all of them, and this is one of the really interesting twists on email. Communication in this environment is by invitation only, and two-way communication requires mutual invitation. Sayonara to spam. If someone annoys you, just drop his or her feed.

You choose to whom you subscribe, and you only see updates for those to whom you subscribe. I especially like that Jon talked about unsubscribing from people whose feeds annoy you.

Retaining the IO notes and making them searchable as knowledge was another area Dave recognized:

The key is to find ways to flow the stuff entered there into a knowledge base. I have quite a few ideas about that.

Dave Luebbert, a former Microsoft programmer and collaborator with Dave, noted the enterprise social software possibilities of IO:

For leaders of large groups, Instant outlining has the very cool feature that you can allow folks to subscribe to you so that they can see what you are thinking about. The leader does not necessarily subscribe to everyone who subscribes to him because that would overwhelm his thinking process. But those who get to subscribe to one of his Instant Outlines get quite an informational advantage and can work better on their own goals because they have that.

If you’re organized around email, usually the only folks who get to listen are the folks who are direct reports. And those guys are always too busy to pass much info down.

The leaders also get to monitor activity in any of the subdomains of the company. They would subscribe to outlines in different groups of the company at their pleasure, but since they are not intimately familiar with those groups business they would not want immediate notification of changes made to those person’s outlines. They can see all the way down to the bottom of the company if they wish to. That’s been a near impossibility up to now with the communication tools that have been available.

And John Robb adds this thought about Instant Outliner that presages the rise of Enterprise 2.0:

I think this is a major new product that could sell in the hundreds of thousands of seats. It connects IM, weblog publishing (a weblog is essentially a published outline), RSS (if RSS items are brought into the outline), and outlining in a new way that radically improves team productivity. I bet I could do the same thing for this product that I did to business weblogs — turn it from a geeks only product and into mainstream productivity tool used by major corporations.

Based on search results for instant outliner, it appears the technology was most active between 2002 and 2005. I’m not sure the status of the project currently, although Dave Winer does subscribe to an entity called Instant Outliner on FriendFeed.

I’ve known Dave as the father of RSS. Now I know the range of his thinking included early models of microblogging and social software. Which tells me I ought be paying attention to what he’s thinking these days.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

The Top 10 Enterprise 2.0 Stories of 2008

The enterprise 2.0 space saw good action this year. I’ve had a chance to see it up close, starting the year with BEA Systems (now Oracle) and closing out the year with Connectbeam. I think it’s fair to say that in 2007, social software was still something of a missionary sale. In 2008, company inquiries increased a lot. The burden still falls on the vendors to articulate business benefits, adoption strategies and use cases. But enterprise customers are now partners in this work.

So let’s get to it. Here are my top ten stories for the year:

1. Activity Streams

Facebook really got this going with its newsfeed, and FriendFeed took it to an art form with its lifestreaming service. In 2008, many vendors added activity streams to their applications: Connectbeam, BEA Systems, Atlassian, SocialText, Jive Software and others.  Activity streams are great for improving awareness of colleagues’ activities, and adding a new searchable object: actions.

2. Forrester’s $4.6 Billion Forecast

Forrester Research made a splash with its forecast that Enterprise 2.0 will be a $4.6 billion market by 2013. The ReadWriteWeb story about it has been bookmarked to Del.icio.us 386 times and counting. Forrester’s projections provided a solid analytical framework for the different tools, used internally and externally. According to the analysis, social networking will be the most popular tool for companies. Whether you buy the forecast or not, they remain the best-known, most visible numbers to date.

3. Oracle Beehive

Larry Ellison is fond of essentially dismissing SaaS. He does not have Oracle invest much in the trend. But Oracle did seem to embrace Enterprise 2.0 in a big way this year with Beehive, which is an “integrated set of collaboration services.”  The New York Times quotes Oracle EVP  Chuck Rozwat: “It is a product we built from scratch over the last three years.” Now since Oracle is a huge enterprise software company, there’s plenty of skepticism about the capabilities and innovation of Beehive. But there’s no denying that Oracle has the ear of the enterprise, and picks up a lot of market intelligence through its customer base. While Beehive itself may or may not succeed, the idea that Oracle came out with Beehive was a big story.

4. AIIM/McKinsey Surveys

Research and consulting firms AIIM and McKinsey each came out with surveys of corporate interest in enterprise 2.0. The AIIM survey looked at levels of awareness and interest among different Enterprise 2.0 technologies. AIIM also took a fairly expansive view of social software. The top 3 “Enterprise 2.0″ technologies in terms of corporate awareness? Email, instant messaging, search. That’s actually a funny list, yet there are lessons there for vendors and consultants in the social software industry. If those are entrenched, can you play nicely with them? One other quote I like from the report:

This study of 441 end users found that a majority of organizations recognize Enterprise 2.0 as critical to the success of their business goals and objectives, but that most do not have a clear understanding of what Enterprise 2.0 is.

McKinsey’s survey of enterprises looked at the interest in various tools as well. It also asked respondents what the leading barriers were for success of social software initiatives. Top three were: (1) Lack of understanding for their financial return; (2) Company culture; (3) Insufficient incentives to adopt or experiment with the tools.

5. Facebook Co-Founder Leaves to Start an Enterprise 2.0 Company

Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and colleague Justin Rosenstein announced they were leaving the hot consumer social network to start a new company. The new company will “build an extensible enterprise productivity suite,” with the goal of “making companies themselves run better.” Why would these young guys, sitting on top of the leader in consumer social networking, choose to exit? As I wrote at the time:

The Enterprise 2.0 market is still quite nascent and fragmented. Combine that industry profile with projected spending in the category, and suddenly you understand why these guys are striking out on their own.

Assuming they’ll be able to tap the mother ship for help, I think this was a fairly important story this year.

6. Microblogging Enters the Enterprise

Joining wikis, blogs, social bookmarking and other incumbent tools this year was microblogging . Given the way Twitter is used by Enterprise 2.0 aficionados, and is enjoying skyrocketing popularity, it’s no surprise we started seeing microblogging emerge for internal use. At the mostly consumer-focused TechCrunch50, enterprise microblogging start-up Yammer won the top prize. Other start-ups in the category include SocialCast and Present.ly. SocialText added microblogging with its release of Signals.

7. Gartner Narrows its Criteria for Social Software

Gartner came out with its Social Software Magic Quadrant in October. As SageCircle notes:

Gartner’s Magic Quadrant is probably the iconic piece of analyst research. With its visibility and status, it also has enormous influence on vendor sales opportunities, especially when it comes time for IT buyers to draw up the all-important vendor short lists.

So it was with great interest when I read that Gartner had narrowed the criteria for whom it puts in the Magic Quadrant:

Added blogs and wikis to the functionality requirements

The effect of that is to establish those two tools as the de facto standard for enterprise social software inside the enterprise. To the extent corporate buyers are listening to Gartner for signals about the market, this will make it a bit more challenging for start-ups with interesting offerings that address other parts of the social software market. Yammer, for instance, won’t make it into their Magic Quadrant.

8. Enterprise RSS Fails to Take Off

RSS is one of those technologies that you know has huge value, and yet continues to struggle for awareness and adoption. Google tracks the leading “what is” searches. The fifth most popular on its list? “What is RSS?” Take that as both good and bad. Good that people want to know, bad that awareness continues to be a struggle.

Forrester analyst Oliver Young has a sharp write-up that shows enterprise RSS did not expand inside companies as many had thought it would this year. As he notes:

Of the three enterprise RSS vendors selling into this space at the start of 2008: KnowNow went out of business completely; NewsGator shifted focus and now leads with its Social Sites for SharePoint offering, while its Enterprise Server catches much less attention; and Attensa has been very quiet this year.

RSS is a great way to distribute content inside companies, but its ongoing limited adoption was a big non-story for the year.

9. IBM and Intel Issue Employee Social Media Guidelines

IBM and Intel each established guidelines for their employees who participate in social media. As I wrote, this essentially was a deputization of employees as brand managers out on the web. These market leaders were essentially saying, “have at it out there on blogs, social networks, Twitter, etc. But make sure you know the company’s expectations.” These guidelines represent a milestone in large enterprises’ comfort with social media. I expect we’ll see more of this in 2009.

10. The Recession

This affects all industries, globally, of course. And Enterprise 2.0 is no exception. Jive Software made news with its layoffs, but the effect was industry-wide. And of course, corporate buyers aren’t immune either.

Those are my ten. Did I miss a big story for 2008? Add your thoughts in the comments.

If you’re interested in tracking what happens in 2009, I encourage you to join the Enterprise 2.0 Room on FriendFeed. It is a centralized location for tweets and Del.icio.us bookmarks that specifically relate to Enterprise 2.0.

*****

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