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When Should Management Push Enterprise 2.0 Adoption?

After the Boston edition of the Enterprise 2.0 Conference, IBM’s Rawn Shah wrote a great follow-up post outlining ten observations from the event. A couple points that I found myself agreeing with wholeheartedly were:

Adoption is about transforming human behaviors at work – More folks are starting to recognize that it is not trivial to bring communities and other social environments to life.

‘Let’s get beyond “adoption”’ – This was another sentiment I heard several times, but I attribute it to short-attention span. The general statement was ‘adoption’ was last-year’s thing, and we needed a new ‘thing’.

The underlying philosophy of his post contrasts with that of Paula Thornton, who finds talk of driving adoption to be antithetical to the true nature of Enterprise 2.0. As she described in a post from several months ago:

If you have to “drive adoption” you’ve failed at 2.0 design and implementation. The fundamentals of 2.0 are based on design that is organic — meets the individual where they are and adapts based on feedback — it emerges. The ‘adoption’ comes from rigorous ‘adaptation’ — it continuously morphs based on involvement from the ‘masses’. If done right, you can’t keep them away…because you’ve brought the scratch for their itch.

While I empathize with her design-driven perspective, I personally find there to be more to people’s adoption patterns. Sometimes the superior design does not win. Existing network effects may prove a high barrier to adoption of something new. Embedded history makes the current approach valuable. And other reasons intrude.

In considering adoption, we have the push strategy (by management), and the pull strategy (viral, organically spreads). Both are viable approaches. The key factor is to determine when each needs to be employed.

A Decision Framework for Pushing Enterprise 2.0 Adoption

The graphic below outlines a basis for determining when Enterprise 2.0 adoption must be pushed, and when to let adoption be pulled:

The two key factors in the framework are user-centric and organization-centric.

The X-axis highlights a key reality. If a current approach/technology is working well enough for users, there is an inertia to making a switch of any kind. This principle is nicely captured in the “9x problem”, an explanation by Harvard professor John Gourville that was highlighted by Andrew McAfee. The 9x problem is this:

Users will overvalue existing products/solutions by 3 times, and undervalue the benefits of a new products/solutions by 3 times.

We’re for the most part risk-averse (e.g. technology adoption lifecycle is back-end loaded), and giving up existing ways presents a level of uncertainty. It’s the devil we know versus the devil we don’t. We place a value on the certainty of current methods, even if flawed.

The other part of the 9x equation is that users will place an uncertainty discount against new products/solutions enumerated benefits. Yes, it’s true. We don’t always buy everything we’re told.

The Y-axis speaks to the value of E2.0 to organizations. Certainly there will be use cases that can drive high value for the organization. And just as certainly, there will be those use cases that contribute little to organizational value.

Let’s run through the different approaches mapped on the graph, clockwise from top right.

Requires a Top-Down Push

Situation:

  • Existing ways are ‘good enough’ for employees
  • Executives see great potential for value from adoption

What might this be? Imagine management has seen too many examples of people missing key information and connecting the dots well with others are working on. An enlightened C-level type knows there is an opportunity to pick it up a level.

So some sort of social software – e.g. wiki, collaboration groups, etc. – is selected to make this a reality. But guess what? People keep emailing to one another and saving docs to the LAN.

Why? Because those are the tools they know, there is no learning curve and everyone operates on a shared set of processes and assumptions. Things work “as is”.

This is where management needs to wield its power, and come up with ways to influence employees to alter their entrenched behaviors that work “good enough”.

Mix a Push-Pull Strategy

Situation:

  • Existing ways are actually not “good enough”
  • There is high value in large-scale adoption

This is the home run of initiatives. Solves a “what’s in it for me” need of individuals, while also presenting a great chance to advance the value of the organization.

An innovation platform is a good example here. A place for individuals to express those ideas that fire them up or just plain solve annoyances. Which get lost in the email inbox.

But the opportunity for new ideas that deliver to the bottom line gets management’s attention.

Pull works here, as word spreads about the initiative. But management has an interest in making sure everyone is aware of the initiative, as soon as possible. Push tactics are good supplements.

Let It Grow Organically

Situation:

  • Existing ways are actually not “good enough”
  • There is low value in large-scale adoption

This is a tough one. Clearly the “Enterprise 2.0 way” can solve a problem for employees, but its adoption cannot be seen to lead to high impact on company value. An example here? Hmm…tough one. Enterprise bookmarking might be one area. Solves the, “how do I find things?” conundrum, for me personally and for others. But hard to see just how it will increase firm value. At least on a standalone basis.

Best to let these initiatives grow of their own accord. Let their value emerge, often with stories.

Don’t Waste Your Time

Situation:

  • Existing ways are ‘good enough’ for employees
  • There is low value in large-scale adoption

Suffice to say, this one should be killed before it ever starts.

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Why SMBs Need Social Software – Dunbar’s Number Limits Metcalfe’s Law

A general observation of collaborative work is this:

The larger and more diverse are your personal network of contacts,
the higher the quality of your ideas and project work.

In the enterprise market, the opportunity being seized by companies is to better connect employees. The sheer size of these firms makes it obvious that they are not optimizing collaborative activities. Social software plays an important role in helping that. SunGard’s CEO has a great take on this issue in the New York Times.

But what about small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs)? Do they have issues with maintaining connections? We’ll tackle that issue in a second. First, however…

WE by Spigit: Innovation Management for SMBs

Spigit is introducing its SaaS application for SMBs, called WE. WE leverages the enterprise functionality of enterprise Spigit, but streamlines the features to account for a self-service process and cost in tune with an SMB’s budget. The critical things firms need for innovation are there: easy idea entry, community feedback, workflow stages, analytics, individual reputation scores, multiple ways to filter for ideas, social profiles, connections, activity streams, etc.

It also reflects a slick new user interface, with multiple themes to choose from.

You can see more about WE innovation management for SMBs on the Spigit website. And read eWeek’s coverage of the release here.

The Challenge of Growth: Traditional Collaboration Modes Don’t Scale

When a small company starts out, it’s rather easy to stay on top of what colleagues are doing. There just aren’t too many of them. You easily banter, bounce ideas off one another and contribute your part to projects.

It’s natural human interactions.

The problem is that small businesses continue to rely exclusively on the tried-and-true methods of collaborative work as they grow. Keep on with the emails, the desk meetings, the lunches. Sure, it’s fun to keep with those who sit essentially in your visual perimeter. But it means you’re missing out on a lot of valuable ideas and insight from colleagues.

The graphic below shows the challenge of scale in collaborative work:

The easy interactions of old are now replaced by the departmental exchanges, and the daily work inherent in those micro environments.The small firm mentality that employees enjoyed with fewer employees is no longer applicable as the company expands.

Yet as research has shown, employees who are able to break out of departmental silos and leverage a diversity of connections perform better in terms of innovation.

So how does this fit SMBs?

Metcalfe’s Law Hits Dunbar’s Number

Metcalfe’s Law. Initially addressing fax machines, it speaks to the value of networks. Specifically:

The value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of connected participants.

For those who study the value of information networks, this law makes sense. You increase your number of information sources. And all things being equal, the person with greater information has a decided advantage in term of:

  • Awareness of key issues
  • Long tail knowledge of different issues
  • Access to information that will solidify an idea
  • Identification of colleagues who can help advance an idea or a project
  • Different points of view and information that make up for the knowledge limitations we all have

Every new connection inside a company increases these information advantages, for all members of the network. The problem occurs when employees are only using traditional methods for making and accessing these connections: email, desk conversations, departmental meetings.

They run into Dunbar’s Number. I use Dunbar’s Number here as a heuristic, describing the mental limit we each have to stay in top of what others are working on. With traditional means of engaging in collaborative work, the Metcalfe’s Law advantages of information diversity are limited by our Dunbar’s Number ability to keep up with the new connections.

This graph describes the issue, and SMBs’ opportunity:

Up to a certain point, employees can stay on top of what their colleagues are working on, and interact relatively easily. Is this up to 150 employees? Maybe. As Danah Boyd noted about Dunbar’s Number:

He found that the MAXIMUM number of people that a person could keep up with socially at any given time, gossip maintenance, was 150. This doesn’t mean that people don’t have 150 people in their social network, but that they only keep tabs on 150 people max at any given point.

150 is a maximum number. Meaning for many of us it’s less. And I’d argue, in a work context, where we’re busy delivering on the daily tasks that define our jobs, it’s an even lower theoretical maximum.

Which means at some point, small businesses begin to lose out on those information advantages when they rely only on traditional collaborative work modes. In the graph above, that’s the part of the graph where Dunbar’s Number crosses over Metcalfe’s Law.

Call it the Metcalfe’s Law Opportunity Gap.

At that point, companies need to look at systems that allow employees to share and filter information, and to interact with others outside their daily sphere of contacts. To access non-redundant information and points of view.

This is a problem well-known to large organizations. It also applies to SMBs as well. It’s why they need social software at a certain point in their growth trajectory.

This is an important issue for innovation. So many of these employees will have front line customer and supplier experience, and ideas for the business. But visibility on these ideas will get harder and harder as the firm grows.

If this area interests you, check out WE by Spigit. Social software for SMBs.

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.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 090409

From the home office in Los Angeles Station fire…

#1: CNN: Hired! I got my job through Twitter http://bit.ly/1L7lT8

#2: Reading: New Approaches for Analyzing Influence on Twitter http://bit.ly/lz6VP Deep, detailed analysis. Focuses on 12 big hitters.

#3: What an interesting concept. Check the social web to see who scores high on key terms. http://test.jobshouts.com/ (via @gyehuda)

#4: Collaboration King picks the top 3-5 vendors in 11 different categories of collaboration software http://bit.ly/j22WW #e20

#5: Enterprise 2.0: If you (just) build it, they won’t come http://bit.ly/XumO9 “Focus on the low-hanging fruit of human behavior”

#6: Delicious blog: Two PhDs are working on a reputation system for Delicious to make finding good content easier http://bit.ly/4sbGyI

#7: Innovation = problem to be solved + ideas/knowledge of others + presence of mind

#8: Jeffrey Phillips of OVO: External Innovation Communities (via Spigit blog): http://bit.ly/13MJC9 #innovation #spigit09

#9: Do Users Want Innovation? http://bit.ly/Zk5Mp by @jkuramot Truly breakthrough? Not initially – only early adopters. #innovation

#10: RT @innovate Cash for Clunkers – 10 out of Top 10 clunkers turned in were American, but only 2 of Top 10 purchases were. #cars #usa #green

Could FriendFeed have crossed the chasm?

FriendFeed folds it up

FriendFeed folds it up

FriendFeed is now part of Facebook. For many of us FriendFeed users, this was quite a shock. We didn’t know exactly what FriendFeed’s future was, or how it was going to make money. But Twitter has set the current mental model of not worrying about such things. And in some ways, Amazon.com did the same in the 1990s with its grow-don’t-make-money strategy. In both cases, the companies persevered and are now enjoying mainstream success.

Rather than follow this model, FriendFeed sold itself to Facebook. Perhaps this is a case where the founders saw something we didn’t. After all, for every Twitter and Amazon, there are thousands of startups that don’t make it.

But given the heavy attention and usage of FriendFeed by the technology Early Adopter crowd, it’s worth examining this:

Could FriendFeed have crossed the chasm?

I’m referring, of course, to Geoffrey Moore’s classic and still-relevant book where he examines the challenges of moving from the Early Adopters to the Early Majority segments in the technology adoption cycle:

Crossing the Chasm

The biggest issue is that what appeals to Early Adopters doesn’t work for the Early Majority. If you’ve tracked public reaction to FriendFeed, doesn’t that sound familiar?

In Moore’s book, he counsels that companies need to establish a toehold in the Early Majority segment by focusing on a vertical niche. Let’s use that approach in examining FriendFeed’s options.

FriendFeed’s Early Majority Options

In the table below, I’ve come up with six possible use cases that might have been bases for breaking into the Early Majority. Each use case has a potential Early Majority niche noted. And each use case has one or more existing competitors listed:

FriendFeed Early Majority Options

Let’s analyze things by use case…

Company public groups: In this use case, companies set up shop on FriendFeed, with their own groups filled with content. PepsiCo set up one, called Pepsi Cooler. The idea is a stream of content produced by a team from Pepsi. If you look at the stream, it’s primarily tweets.

If FriendFeed had decided to pursue this option, it needed to create points of permanence on the page. Having just a stream of content makes it hard to establish objects that focus on your brand and let’s you run events. Creating an experience like this was something that would have given FriendFeed groups more value.

Alternatives? Companies run their websites, upgraded with social media streams of content. And Facebook has really pushed this with its pages effort. Facebook’s 200+ million members gives it a big leg up here.

This would have been a tough one to break into the Early Majority, as Facebook really owns this niche. The easy ability to stream content would have been FriendFeed’s advantage.

Collaboration spaces: Let employees work together on projects in their own private groups. Content can be streamed in certainly, but more important, people can post things directly into a collaboration space. Teams can comment on posted items to advance projects. Documents can be included in posts, letting the same version be accessed by everyone. Direct messages can be sent to one another.

In June of 2008, I wrote Using FriendFeed Rooms for Work: What’s Needed? In it, I argued that FriendFeed could be used for getting work done in teams. I saw some things I’d want there: better “stickiness” for current projects and documents. Can’t have everything fly by in a stream. Also, accept RSS feeds of document changes from Google Docs, Zoho and other cloud office productivity apps. Chris Brogan saw the potential too in a post from August 2008,  How to Use Friendfeed as a Collaborative Business Tool.

Collaborative business apps are an area of overall growth, but one that is filled with competition. Atlassian  has been delivering this for a while with its Confluence wiki, and Basecamp is a favorite small business collaboration tool. More recent entrants like SocialCast have added activity streams as part of their core functionality.

FriendFeed could have been a strong player here, but it needed a lot of focused feature development.

Social web monitoring: This is my use case. FriendFeed has a marvelous way of handling RSS feeds into separate groups, and managing people and groups into separate lists. I found these to be quite helpful for staying on top conversations and content that is getting attention. I actively monitor three groups formed specifically to be my “news tickers” on the social web. I don’t use them as communities for conversations, but as information management tools.

The real-time feature is great for this purpose. As soon as something is made available via RSS, or in Twitter’s case it’s posted, you’d see it show up in your groups. I find this to be highly valuable for jumping into conversations on Twitter, and to understand what’s buzzing now.

FriendFeed doesn’t have the powerful analytics and structure of the new premium Social CRM apps. I’d argue that for SMBs, that’s not needed. What’s needed is an ability to stay on top of topics and conversations relevant to your industry. ReadWriteWeb’s Marshall Kirkpatrick was seeing the same thing in How FriendFeed Could Become the Ultimate Social Media Tracking Service.

To my mind, this is the use case that was most promising relative to unmet need and dearth of competition. And FriendFeed had great technological advantages here in terms of its SUP work and real-time updating. Feels like an opportunity missed.

Real-time conversations: When FriendFeed made the switch to real-time updating by default, one thing users gained was the ability to see new comments on threads without constantly refreshing the page. Thaty meant you could engage others easily on the page as people posted back-and-forth.

For live events, this is pretty fun. It’s great to share a common moment this way. Be it sports, political events or technology conferences. And that’s what makes me think the real-time conversation platform would be great for online media sites. Imagine CNN.com outfitted with real-time conversations by FriendFeed. News events are constantly, and always will be, unfolding. Giving site visitors a way to converse quickly with one another would be great. Admittedly, this real-time conversation flow is something that is already present for webcasts.

The limitation for the value of real-time conversations is (i) the existence of alternatives; (ii) limited utility for most people. Twitter isn’t real-time, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s a good-enough conversation platform with a large subscriber base. Forums will do the threading work for multiple participants. And the people that got the most use out of real-time were social media A-Listers who get a lot of comments on their threads. Most people don’t get that level of interaction. So the value of real-time conversations was lost on them.

Following friends’ activities: This was the original purpose of FriendFeed: “FriendFeed is a service that makes it easy to share with friends online. It offers a fun and interactive way to discover and discuss information among friends.” Makes sense…”friend”…”feed”.

The challenge is that it is quite RSS dependent on friends’ streams. Which means people need to have content available via RSS. That’s still a slowly growing dynamic. The other issue is similar to that described above for company public groups and collaboration spaces: lack of ability to create more permanent objects on your profile. If Friends don’t RSS, they need a good way to manage content they directly post.

This really is Facebook’s game. Once they added the ability to follow RSS feeds of friends, much of the rationale for FriendFeed was lost, at least in terms of following friends. There’s still a great use case in following people that may not qualify for the traditional definition of “friends”. But you can stay on top of the likes of Craig Newmark, Robert Scoble, and others.

Personal information management: If you participate in several different social sites, you can create a diverse amount of content: tweets, Flickr photos, blog posts, YouTube videos, SlideShare presentations, etc. As you create it, you want to be able to reference it. The most obvious way to do that is to go to each site individually and search for some part of your content.

FriendFeed is marvelous for managing all the different content in one place. This is something I talked about recently in Three Reasons You Need to Be on FriendFeed *Now*. One place for all your content, with amazing search capabilities. Much better than what Twitter offers. With FriendFeed, you can actually access old tweets via search.

This use case is great, but it’s ability to penetrate the Early Majority is questionable, at least for now. It takes people who have these diverse social sites where they’re posting content. As we know from the 1-9-90 rule of participation, the number of people actively posting new content is still relatively low. But as social sites proliferate, I believe you’ll see increased numbers of people posting original content. 1-9-90 may apply to any one site, but viewed from a portfolio perspective, the ratio will be higher for the general population.

Am I missing something?

Those are the use cases that come to my mind. What do you think? Did I miss some important ones? And how about the assessments I made for each of the use cases? On target?

My own thought is that FriendFeed had a great opportunity for social web monitoring. It’s an area of growing interest, and FriendFeed had the technology and raw feeds to be a big player there. More and more, the mainstream is interested in the workings of and information available on social media.

Let’s see if Facebook sees a similar opportunity.

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.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 071009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 041009

From the home office off the coast of Somalia…

#1: “Never call yourself an expert. Let others think and talk about you as an expert.” http://bit.ly/1yBftl by @centernetworks

#2: RT @dhinchcliffe: Top Five Innovation Killers http://bit.ly/2abnVG Also, #6 – Inability to tap into existing innovation sources

#3: A very interesting read, a useful perspective: Social Architecture http://bit.ly/qynjR #e2.0

#4: @kentnewsome Vista ribbons are almost like re-arranging the keyboard away from qwerty.

#5: Fallout from Twimailer failing to support its emails…I stopped getting both follow and DM notifications. Recommend quitting Twimailer now!

#6: My colleague confirms the social media “dead zone”. He said server traffic at Friendster used to plummet between 12 – 6 pm PT.

#7: Finding myself starting to use Google Tasks more. Biggest hurdle is making it part of my daily routine. It’s happening though.

#8: Marketers’ use of social media, in preferred order: Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook http://bit.ly/sH3P

#9: You know those 404 pages that display when a web page isn’t found? They should all be this good: http://bit.ly/2iytO2 (via @mattcutts)

#10: Want more followers? I imagine there are tweets guaranteed to get new followers. Try: “I need some help with social media.”

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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Your Brainstorming Sessions Suck? Four Drivers of Success and Where the Web Helps

Freshview

photo credit: Freshview

ReadWriteWeb’s Bernard Lunn penned a piece recently, How Can Web Tech Help Enterprises with Innovation Management? The post argues that Innovation 3.0 will include a large dollop of external idea generation via social media. And companies are hungry for it:

There is no more important an issue on the agenda of top management than driving innovation.

Bernard’s point about the hunger for innovation is right. It’s always been an imperative, but the ease with which companies can come from anywhere to disrupt markets has raised the importance of new ideas.

While his post focuses on externally sourced ideas, I’d like to talk about what’s happening inside organizations. Specifically, I’m talking brainstorming. Those “have-the-potential-to-be-fun” meetings with your colleagues to work on the next generation of your companies products and services. But they’re not always fun are they?

Turns out there are some new services that can improve the way companies’ employees generate top-notch ideas. Before hitting those, there’s an intriguing study by some INSEAD and University of Pennsylvania researchers that sheds light on where brainstorming can be improved.

The Four Drivers of the Best Ideas

In Idea Generation and the Quality of the Best Idea, the academics examine the different processes that  lead to the best ideas (not just good ones) being generated and selected in brainstorming.

Their hypotheses are interesting. Here are the four drivers for getting the best ideas from brainstorming:

  1. The sheer volume of ideas generated
  2. Average quality of all ideas generated by brainstorming
  3. The amount of variance in the quality of generated ideas
  4. Ability to evaluate what the best ideas are

These are covered below, including which styles of brainstorming are better. Before that though, here’s a little more on how these academics arrived at their conclusions.

First, they studied existing literature. A must for any researcher. They then created their own field study, using Wharton students in brainstorming experiments. Now whether that fairly models company brainstorming…let’s see what they found, eh?

Two styles of brainstorming were analyzed:

two-methods-for-brainstorming

Hybrid: Individuals went through their own personal brainstorming exercise, then met as a team and generating more ideas.

Team: All idea generated occurred in a group setting.

Turns out, it makes a difference which brainstorming style is used. This is discussed below.

Volume of Ideas Generated

This one ranks up there with motherhood and apple pie. The more ideas you generate, the higher probability you have of generating outstanding ideas.

On this metric, the Hybrid approach is much more productive. When individuals sit down and come up with ideas by themselves, they produce more ideas than what a group typically generates. The primary difference in quantity of ideas generated is termed “production blocking”. Production blocking is the inability to generate ideas when others in the team are speaking.

Important to note here is that there is a time restriction in this metric. As in, “# ideas per hour” type of a metric. The more time given to a brainstorming session, the less difference there is in quantity of ideas generated between the two brainstorming styles.

Average Quality of Ideas

This one is little less intuitive. The Hybrid process generates ideas of higher average quality than does the team process. I can’t say what I expected, but hearing this was a bit surprising.

Seemingly, the ability of the group to refine an idea generated during brainstorming would ultimately raise the overall quality. But it seems that individuals have pretty good internal regulators. I’d guess we actively suppress the worst of the ideas, or those that we’re not so sure about.

Thus we raise the overall quality. But in doing so, do individuals snuff out potentially high value ideas?

Variance in the Quality of Ideas

This is the one that will probably surprise you. To get the highest ranked, the best ideas, you want a higher variance in the quality of ideas generated. That means more really crappy ideas, along with some truly inspired ideas. In terms of a statistical distribution, think of it as more ideas extending to the extreme left and right tails of a population quality.

Turns out, Team has the edge here over the Hybrid approach. As the study authors say, “we believe there is more potential for both breakdown and collaborative success in teams then in individual idea generation.”

What an interesting statement! On the downside, the variance comes from poor group dynamics inside that brainstorming conference room. Have you ever been in that situation? I have. A bunch of elephants coming together into a room, with existing political connections, and the result is a really bad session with few ideas of middlin’ quality. Because of these qualities, some idea gains currency among the group, and discussing that idea becomes the theme of the meeting.

And it feels like you just wasted an hour or two. Frustrating.

But Team brainstorming also has its high points. When the team comes together without agenda, and brings a serendipitous variety of viewpoints. People feed off one another, and imperfections in one idea are overcome with different thinking from someone else’s idea. These brainstorming sessions are gold, and incredibly valuable when they happen.

One thing to take away from this. When considering brainstorming in your workplace, have an honest assessment about your company’s culture. Can people really come in and have an idea jam? Or will things inevitably get mired in the same old agendas and relationships to reduce brainstorming effectiveness?

Evaluation of Ideas

This is the final step, and it’s where a lot of brainstorming sessions fall short. How good is the team in evaluating the quality of the ideas generated? According to the research of the academics, the Team approach is less effective in evaluating idea quality than the Hybrid approach.

To ascertain the “true” quality of ideas in the Wharton student experiments, the researchers had an independent panel of people rate the ideas that came out of the brainstorming sessions. They then compared these independent ratings to the self-evaluated ratings of the different teams.

This quote from the paper actually made me laugh a little:

We find that the ranks obtained in the Team process have no correlation with the panel ratings whereas for the Hybrid process they exhibit a significant positive correlation.

No correlation for how the Team approach evaluated the ideas. My fellow workers of the world, does that ring a little true to you? The researchers ascribe this finding as supporting “the theory that in a team, ownership of ideas, social pressures, team dynamics and interaction of different personalities limit objectivity and the ability to discern quality.”

In the Hybrid process, there were actually two idea rating events: individuals rated their own self-generated ideas, and the team evaluated its ideas. The researchers found that the individuals rating their own ideas was the primary reason for the correlation of self-evaluated ratings’ high correlation with the panel ratings.

Turns out we’re pretty good at discerning idea quality when we’re free from the group setting. Even for our own ideas.

Implication for Using the Web to Improve Innovation

The academics findings lead them to this conclusion:

These results suggest that it would be best to employ team processes in the idea generation stage and then use an independent individual evaluation process.

I’m going to disagree somewhat with the first part of that statement. I’d say a mix of individual and team processes is best. Inside an organization, there will be plenty of times where you as an individual will have an idea. Some of those individually-generated ideas will be top-notch. And there will be times where a Team approach will be employeec. See what ideas come from those sessions. As I said before, just be mindful of your existing company culture in term of the quality of ideas that come from these sessions.

The second part of the reseachers’ conclusion is where Enterprise 2.0 comes in. Once ideas are generated – whether individually or in a Team process – they need to go through an evaluation process. Google employs a form of this with its internal prediction markets.

There are a couple companies out there who are working in part of the Enterprise 2.0 space:

Spigit: Spigit provides InnovationSpigit, which has a prediction market orientation to evaluating ideas.

BrightIdea: Brightidea provides Pipeline, which has a project management orientation to idea management.

There may other companies out there as well. The point is to recognize that we employees are imperfect.  Increasing the visibility and accessibility of ideas and independent evaluations is a great way to bring structure and a diversity of opinions to bear on ideas. Remember, companies are hungry for innovation.

*****

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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.

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