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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 032610

From the home office in CTU, where I’m taking control of ’24’, not going to let it be canceled

#1: RT @scobleizer http://bestc.am/T90 This is Paul Pluschkell CEO of @spigit which is cool ideation software used by tons of companies. Now onto @pipioinc

#2: Wow – my moment in @dahowlett‘s spotlight: Enterprise 2.0: let’s be careful out there http://bit.ly/bQR3vj Great stuff, needs several reads

#3: Enterprise 2.0 and our tendency to think and talk in terms of efficiency http://bit.ly/cDe3mO by @oscarberg #e20

#4: Discussion is a good thing! RT @rawn Had to write disagreeing response to spigit post “Maslow’s Hierarchy of E2.0 ROI” http://bit.ly/9ltJo6

#5: Avoiding Innovation Chaos inside Companies (via Spigit blog) http://bit.ly/anh1cY #innovation #e20

#6: RT @govfresh Manor in WSJ: ‘A Hotbed of Tech Innovation: the Government of Manor, Texas’ http://bit.ly/aUyxbF #gov20

#7: Is Crowdsourcing Disruptive? http://bit.ly/aYybmt by @stephenshapiro > Cost per design vs cost of acquisition #innovation

#8: Can truly great design be done the open source way? http://bit.ly/bcZszD by @cdgrams > a bazaar or a cathedral? #design

#9: Actual newspaper headline: “Republicans turned off by the size of Obama’s package.” http://bit.ly/crhh2O #hcr?

#10: RT @skydiver “One of the things I love about Twitter is that you can totally make up quotations.” – Abraham Lincoln

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Why Ideas Are Core to Enterprise 2.0

Brian Solis spoke recently on what the future of social networks will be. Ideas, it turns out. As I wrote on another blog post:

Solis, leading thinker in the integration of social media and PR, recently spoke on an intriguing concept: ideas connect us more than relationships. The premise of his argument is that ideas are what elicit passion in people. They animate us, and if we find someone with a similar interest in a given idea, we connect.

Then there was this observation by Intel’s Enterprise 2.0 lead Laurie Buczek on the only quantifiable value they found in their Enterprise 2.0 efforts:

Where we did quickly find quantifiable business value during an ideation proof of concept.  Ideas that are discovered and turned into action have produced dollarized return of business value.

Both Brian and Laurie are pointing to the unique nature of ideas. Brian talks of ideas as connectors. Laurie talks of ideas being “discovered”. If Enterprise 2.0 rests on delivering value through collaborative, emergent and social means, ideas are the top basis for leveraging these qualities.

Of course, from a pragmatic, what-do-businesses-care-about perspective, innovation is a top priority.

The top-down, Board-level importance of innovation is not a surprise. As I’ve seen repeatedly with our enterprise innovation work at Spigit, ideas are an excellent bottom-up basis for Enterprise 2.0.

Ideas Are Me

Credit: -: pranav :-

Perhaps the most important aspect of social is the ability to express what you’re thinking. Ideas fit this dynamic quite well. Ideas are…

Expressions of my creativity, ingenuity and problem-solving

Inside companies, we see things that we know can be improved. We see opportunities that need to be explored. We know a good answer for a particular challenge put forth by managers.

Every time you have an idea, a bit of you bonds to it. Your way of thinking, your understanding of context, the experiences you’ve had, the expertise you bring to bear, the work aspirations you have.

Ideas can be small, giving you satisfaction in fixing something obvious to you. They can be big, offering the possibility of work that elicits your passions.

This is powerful stuff. It is a unique intersection of something that helps the company with something that personally satisfies you.

Ideas Are the Basis for Finding Like-Minded Colleagues

When I post an idea, I create the basis for finding others. That because when I post an idea, I’m making…

Credit: cauchisavona

A call for your interest

Think about that. The act of publishing an idea is a broadcast across the organization. It’s a tentative query to see who else feels the same way. Or if not the same way, who has an interest that overlaps mine.

This is unique to ideas. Ideas are potential. They are a change from the status quo. There are others who share at least some aspect of your idea. In large, distributed organizations, where are these people?!!

My idea is my call to form my own virtual team, to see who can help me accomplish something of value to me and the organization. I contrast this with other types of activities one might do under the Enterprise 2.0 umbrella: status updates, project tasks, writing a common  document, adding content to knowledge wiki. Those aren’t calls to form virtual teams.

Ideas have a unique quality in team and community forming, consistent with the emergent nature of Enterprise 2.0.

Ideas Are Social Objects

A key consideration of any framework for interaction is, “what are we going to talk about?” Within the enterprise

Credit: Akshay

environment, an idea is…

A social object for our interaction

The concept of social objects is powerful. It illuminates the core basis for why two or more people interact. They share an interest in some thing. We are complex beings, with multiple different interests. We won’t ever match up  with someone else exactly in terms of what animates. But social objects allow a sort of miniature Venn Diagram of our common interests to flourish.

Hugh MacLeod pragmatically notes, “The Social Object, in a nutshell, is the reason two people are talking to each other, as opposed to talking to somebody else.”

Leading designer Joshua Porter, also known as Bokardo. In his post, Finding Innovation in Design, he describes the AOF method of social experience design:

  • A = activity you want to support
  • O = social objects that define the activity
  • F = features are actions people take upon social objects

You build social-oriented sites around a core set of objects and activities which attract people.

Ideas, because they represent something new, something that can affect your daily work, are terrific social objects. An idea is a proposal, and a natural basis for interacting. Contrast this with posting a document, or a page of knowledge, or a status update. Those are lower wattage, more ephemeral social objects.

Ideas Become Projects

Ideas get attention. They propose to change things, and they will need work. An idea is…

The basis of a future project for us

Credit: The National Guard

What makes ideas so powerful is they are changes to the status quo. This means:

  • They’re going to affect people’s daily work
  • They require some work to make happen

This imbue ideas with a certain vitality. It gives them a power not seen with with other types of social computing activities, save projects themselves.

Another important aspect is that ideas will elicit passion in certain users, those we talked about earlier. If there is a chance to become part of a project team working on the idea, that is exciting. Consider times in your life you got to be part of a team, working on something that excited you.

Ideas have these qualities: possibilities, change to work routines, chance to be part of an exciting initiative. Projects have a certain aspirational quality for us employees, and ideas tap this aspect well.

There are many types of content and activities – social objects – that are part of a social computing initiative. I’d argue ideas, for a host of reasons, should be considered top amongst those social objects.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 120409

From the home office in the middle of the road by my smashed up SUV with a nine-iron imprint on my face…

#1: RT @parkerlsmith Foursquare: Democratizing the Loyalty Program http://post.ly/Dpfx > SMBs can use @fourquare as a loyalty program

#2: FT.com – We’re all selling now: the evolution of online reputations http://ow.ly/Izba #socialmedia #e20 #reputation

#3: What can email interfaces learn from Twitter clients (e.g. Tweetdeck) to manage the overload? http://post.ly/Dlww

#4: Collaboration Is Hot: Why Now? > Forrester survey shows idea mgt tools are a top 2 #e20 priority http://post.ly/DuBB

#5: IT@Intel Blog: All I Want For Christmas is my #E20 > ideation was the one measurable ROI #innovation http://post.ly/E8Nt

#6: Fox: Cisco has a product ideas wiki for employees. Dedicated VC funding for ideas. Similar to what AT&T is doing w/ Spigit. #ois09

#7: Lasher: Innovation lever = do small thing w/ big result. Avoid going right for big bang. Otherwise corp antibodies kill you #ois09

#8: McKinney: 60% of ideas generated internally. Via HP Garage. Use employee crowdsourcing to filter and refine these. #ois09

#9: RT @AndreaMeyer: HP Labs saved $2 bln $ from its supply chain through internal innovations #ois09

#10: Just started a posterous account: http://bhc3.posterous.com/ Collect stuff I find along the way. FriendFeed meets Evernote meets blogging.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 041709

From the home office at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco…

#1: Our long national nightmare is over… @aplusk is the first to hit 1 million Twitter followers http://bit.ly/qMUDN

#2: Watching Larry King show about Twitter. Sean Puffy Combs stresses that if you want followers, you have to have something to say.

#3: My co-worker just noted that @oprah ‘s first tweet was all CAPS. No need to shout!

#4: One thought about the celebrity attention Twitter is now getting. Watch for increased spammers creating accounts to @reply us to death.

#5: Reading: Purpose-Driven Social Media is Key to Elusive ROI http://bit.ly/18voKY by @MiaD

#6: New Spigit blog post: Corporate Innovation Is Not a Popularity Contest http://bit.ly/27omc7

#7: http://twitpic.com/3c9y9 – Noting this for posterity…my blog hit top 10K in Technorati. Even got a little badge.

#8: My son Harrison turns 5 tomorrow. I’m making a card for him with PowerPoint, iPhone pix, Google images and my HP color printer.

#9: The marshmallow Easter peeps…I find myself not sure I’m really loving them as I eat one, but then I strangely crave another right after.

#10: When you hear Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'”, do you think of The Sopranos, or the Facebook crew’s video in Cyprus?

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.

How I Address the Question of Enterprise 2.0 ROI

Photo credit: cambodia4kidsorg

Photo credit: cambodia4kidsorg

Establishing a solid ROI for enterprise social software is an ongoing discussion for the sector. It is generally a requirement for most technology decisions made by companies. At a high level, there are two sides to this argument:

  1. Measuring Enterprise 2.0 ROI is like trying to measure the ROI of email, it can’t be done
  2. Inability to measure ROI is a cop-out or evidence of the lack of value for social software

Martin Koser has a really thoughtful piece along these lines.  It is something that I’ve met head-on in my work at Connectbeam. We have several large, blue chip enterprises with whom we’re engaging. And the need for some sort of ROI justification is a recurring request.

I want to share how I’m approaching this request. Before that, I want to describe my experience in providing ROI for enterprise software, of the non-social kind. It’s useful as a point of comparison.

The ROI of Re-engineering the Credit Approval Process

I worked for a company named eFinance from 2000  – 2005. eFinance provided a hosted application that let enterprises run automatic credit evaluations on their commercial customers. This is an activity in most large corporations badly in need of improvement. I had the privilege of designing the scorecards for Hertz Equipment Rental Corp., using basic statistical analysis of actual customer payments and defaults.

For purposes of understanding what’s important in the world of back-office credit, here’s all you need to know:

  • Businesses have credit records with D&B and Experian, which enterprises access for credit applicants
  • New credit applications are manually reviewed by a remote credit office
  • Initial credit decisions = Approved, Further Review, Declined
  • Further Reviews can be either Approved or Declined

Turns out, there are some inefficiencies in the process. Inefficiencies which enterprise credit software can solve. The table below shows them.

efinance-improvements-to-credit-process

For the “R” part of ROI, the benefits are clear. The data costs were reduced with our credit system. Easy to apply the cost differential against the number of credit reports to arrive at a dollar savings. The credit reviews were another easy area for which to calculate the benefits. Each Further Review takes an average amount of time, which for a given volume means you needed N people. Reduce the percentage of Further Reviews, and fewer people are needed for a given volume of credit applications. Meaning headcount reductions.

The third benefit was faster response time to contractors seeking to rent equipment. While they didn’t have stats for lost business due to delays in responding to customers, feedback from the field was that this was an issue.Indeed, this third benefit was considered the most valuable.

From the eFinance work with Hertz, what characteristics are of relevance in considering Enterprise 2.0 ROI?

  • Ability to measure ROI was directly related to the ability to measure the underlying activity
  • The tangible dollar savings justified the project costs, while the intangible benefit of customer response time was the most exciting
  • The software was applied to a very specific activity

With that in mind, let’s turn to the question of ROI for social software.

The ROI of Enterprise 2.0

The challenge with social software is that it addresses unpredictable, unmeasurable activities. And Enterprise 2.0 addresses a range of activities, not just a single process inside companies.

The graphic below is part of my ROI presentation for Connectbeam:

bases-of-roi-connectbeam

My X axis measures the predictability of the benefit. “Predictability” in this instance referring to the ability to know ahead of time how the benefits will manifest themselves. Reflect on this measure for the eFinance work for Hertz. Predictability was high for:

  • Usage of cheaper D&B data reports with less data
  • Reduction in FTE hours for processing Further Review applications

My Y axis measures the amount of value for the different benefits. “Value” defined in terms of revenue impact and dollar savings. In the eFinance example, the benefit of faster response time to customers, while not readily calculable based on existing data, was perceived to be a strong value proposition.

For Connectbeam, I put the benefits into three buckets:

  1. Time savings (see this IBM article for how much)
  2. Increased connections between need & knowledge (see this Connectbeam blog post for an example)
  3. Stronger more diverse employee social graphs (see my earlier post for an empirical study of this)

I plotted them as having increasing value, but decreasing predictability. I won’t go into detail on how I describe these buckets, but the links above touch on it.

Essentially, the time savings are real, but are the lowest return to the enterprise. I look at those as the easiest to predict, with defined dollar benefits. In the ROI presentation, I can show how these alone offer payback on Connectbeam.

It’s the higher-value benefits where the ROI story is harder to present. After considering my previous success in identifying and articulating an ROI story for non-social enterprise software,

The ability to have predictable ROI for software is directly correlated to the predictability of the underlying activity that uses the software

Think about that. With the credit software, there was a standard process with known unit volumes. Each step in the process could be measured in time. Frederick Winslow Taylor would have loved it for its predictability, standardization and amenity to quantification.

What underlying activities does social software address?

  • Collaboration
  • Better decisions through improved access to relevant knowledge and content
  • Tapping the little bits of knowledge employees have en masse to provide better direction
  • More agile enterprise through improved connections and ambient awareness

All of those activities include elements of being unplanned, ad hoc, and creative. In short, they’re unpredictable and unmeasurable. The benefits also apply across a wide range of activities within the organization. Maybe Finance as a better handle on a new accounting issue that’s cropping up. Sales is up-to-speed on a customer’s hot buttons faster. R&D connects with the right field person to talk through a new innovation.

Like the feeling that faster response time to customers will result in higher sales and more satisfied customers in the eFinance example, the activities and problems addressed by Enterprise 2.0 are known to anyone inside a company. But no existing measures for the problems associated to these activities exist. Nor is there a good way to systematically measure their improvement.

That’s why anecdotes from the front line are so important. They show that improvements are happening with social software, even though you couldn’t pinpoint where at the start of the project.

Dennis Howlett is one my personal favorites out there in the world of enterprise software. He has an accounting background, so he’s pretty hard on soft, fuzzy feelings about the value of Enterprise 2.0. I did find it interesting  that this was his perspective on where ROI comes from:

In my argument, breakthrough ROI comes from seeing these technology through the lens of collaboration, which in turn implies process and context. I am mindful that huge amounts of value continue to be locked up in supply chains. AMR quoted a number of $3 trillion in 2005. Has that materially changed? Simply being able to communicate across supply chains in a meaningful manner could do wonders to lubricate those rusty wheels.

Note what he’s saying there:

  • Apply social software to a specific area (supply chain management)
  • Lack of communication among various parties is causing enterprises to tie up too much cost, capital in the supply chain
  • Even here, the benefit is one step removed from a hard, tangible ROI. Improved communication begets the benfit, although how it does so is on the intangible side of things.

To wrap it up, my approach is to push forward with the ways in which Enterprise 2.0 delivers ROI. We cannot escape this duty in the industry. But I also am working to set expectations for how predictable this ROI will be going in to a project. After all…

Software ROI is only as predictable as the activity for which it is used

*****

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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?

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