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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 021210

From the home office in Vancouver, where I’m preparing to compete in the snow blogging competition…

#1: Twitter’s location information would come in handy during the Olympics. Choose to follow tweets of only those in your time zone.

#2: Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley (@dens) describes the future of participating in location-based social applications http://post.ly/Mft6

#3: Fascinating study of Twitter spammers, and how they compare to legitimate users http://bit.ly/bFkd6l > Hard to tell difference

#4: The Importance of Managing Your Online Reputation http://bit.ly/a7i5mx by @VenessaMiemis > Strong, comprehensive post

#5: Goal Setting Stimulates Employee Innovation (via Spigit blog) http://bit.ly/cuKC9u #innovation #e20

#6: RT @mvandall MIT-Sloan 4 keys to driving innovation: Measurement, experimentation, sharing & replication. http://bit.ly/cH9khC. Spigit got it right!

#7: In light of Toyota’s quality issues, do you think they abandoned the “million employee ideas” somewhere along the line? http://bit.ly/a3iX9K

#8: RT @SmartStorming You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club. Jack London #innovation #creativity

#9: Nice word: “heterarchy” a formal structure, represented by a diagram of connected nodes, without any single permanent uppermost node

#10: Chocolate chili recipe http://bit.ly/aXn4kd > Hearty chili with an exotic quality. @cflanagan @justinmwhitaker @cubba #superbowl

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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 012910

From the home office at the annual retreat of Republican members of the House of Representatives in Baltimore, where I’m taking questions on my blog care plan…

#1: RT @cbneese My coworker: “Hey everyone I got the iPad, only I got the smaller, more portable version, with internet, a camera, and a phone.”

#2: RT @dhinchcliffe The PC officially died today: http://bit.ly/aATwBS Nick Carr probably does the best sum-up of the week.

#3: RT@ jbrewer RT @fchimero: Headline: “Tech nerds everywhere pissed Apple made a product for someone other than them.”

#4: Cisco’s I-Prize – the Next Wave of Open Innovation (via Spigit blog) http://bit.ly/bKq9vI #innovation #openinnovation

#5: RT @IdeaSandbox Don’t Demolish Your Own Innovation http://bit.ly/9hTRiw

#6: Nice post on HuffPo by @craignewmark about City of Manor’s citizen innovation site http://bit.ly/c4JOYQ (using Spigit) #gov20 #innovation

#7: Sketch, sketch, sketch http://bit.ly/djKsgE by @jbrewer “The end goal of the drawing process is what you learn while sketching” #innovation

#8: “I hate cynicism – it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere.” Conan O’Brien http://bit.ly/66vppK > amen

#9: Nice response to the Westboro Baptist Church protest http://bit.ly/dteuTf > @meganphelps you did have donuts there, didn’t you?

#10: Stars Wars “6-pack” arrived today in the mail. Prequel Trilogy & the Original Trilogy. Got to get my 5 y.o. son up to speed. #lifelessons

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.

[tweetmeme source=”bhc3″]

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.

[tweetmeme source=”bhc3″]

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 010810

From the home office in Sacramento, where Governor Schwarzenegger laid out an initial budget that will take 11 months to resolve and pass…go ahead and get your California jokes ready now…

#1: If this topic interests you – Designing for Innovation through Competitive Collaboration – I ask for your #e2conf vote http://bit.ly/8xuQuC

#2: The Wisdom of Crowds Like Me http://bit.ly/4WM1Bi #crowdsourcing

#3: How Do Product Managers Reject Bad Ideas? http://bit.ly/7j6Ax0 by @chriscummings01 #innovation

#4: Jessica Hagy: The Visual Grammar of Ideas :: Articles :: The 99 Percent #innovation http://post.ly/HcJL

#5: Should you be thinking about Enterprise 2.0 in 2010? http://cli.gs/th9me by @dahowlett > A rare, rare bit of optimism there #e20

#6: MITRE’s intranet, including its Spigit deployment, is named to Jakob Nielsen’s Top 10 Intranets for 2010: http://bit.ly/5jrgJY #e20

#7: RT @dhinchcliffe The K-factor Lesson: How Social Ecosystems Grow (Or Not) http://bit.ly/8aEQEQ

#8: RT @paujoral Great quote by @wimrampen: “the name of the (social networking) game is how to participate in knowledge flows”

#9: Just had to use the “Let Me Google That for You” site for a colleague: http://lmgtfy.com/

#10: This is both funny and so true: Effect of Bay Area earthquakes on Twitter traffic http://twitpic.com/x3c10 (h/t @louisgray)

Enterprise 2.0 Conference Gets All Social in Its Call for Papers

E2.0 Conference logo PNGThe Enterprise 2.0 Conference has opened its Call for Papers for the Boston 2010 show. And boy, it’s changing things up. In a good way.

The Conference is using Spigit to manage the collection and selection of proposals for sessions at the Boston event. What this does is make the whole process more transparent, shareable and collaborative. More on that in a minute. First…

Anyone remember what it was like to go through the session proposal process?

  • We’d submit our proposals into the SurveyMonkey tool. We then didn’t see them for a while.
  • Couldn’t get community feedback to improve your proposal prior to the start of the voting.
  • Once the voting began, there were 16 pages of proposed sessions. And each page had like 20 proposals on it. You couldn’t page ahead, so taking the survey was an onerous process.
  • If you have an interest in a specific category, it was impossible to drill down to just those proposed sessions in that category.
  • You couldn’t share specific proposals with others (“um…page forward to page 13…yeah, middle of the page…you see it?”).
  • You had to be ready to decide on every one of the proposals during your one login session, otherwise forget it.

My guess is that most people taking the survey read less than 25% of them. Just too painful.

The Enterprise 2.0 Call for Papers was clearly in need of some…Enterprise 2.0.

Now This Is How We Do It

Much is different in the Boston 2010 Call for Papers process. It’s a much more Enterprise experience for participants. In fact, let’s examine the new process under the FLATNESSES framework, introduced by Dion Hinchcliffe.

FLATNESSES

Freeform: Each proposed session is entered into an initially blank description field. It’s up to each person what to write. Links and formatting are available. Now there is some structure, as the Enterprise 2.0 Conference has some information it needs for every submission.

Links: Each proposal has its own link, making it shareable on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites. Individuals will also have their own social profile, with a unique URL. Links can also be embedded inside each session proposal.

Authorship: All contributions – proposals, comments – on the Call for Papers are linked to the person who made them. This makes it easy to find people with relevant interests.

Tagging: Each submitted proposal can be tagged for extra context. These tags then become part of a tag cloud, and are individually searchable.

Network-oriented: In his blog post, Dion describes this element as “fully Web-oriented, addressable, and reusable”. That describes the proposals for Boston 2010 versus what they were in SurveyMonkey. RSS feeds allow users to follow the action off the site as well.

Extensions: “Extend knowledge by mining patterns and user activity.” The Spigit platform tracks myriad interactions among participants and content. These interactions are part of the wisdom of the crowd used in advancing proposals through the selection stages. The system will also let you know if a proposal potentially matches one you’ve entered.

Search: All proposals and users are searchable. In fact, there are numerous ways to search for proposals: keywords, tags, category, selection process stage, submitter, modification date and others.

Social: Every contribution is associated to a user, a great start for social transparency. Participants have their own profiles on the platform, making it easy for others to understand their background. Commenting is threaded, allowing different conversations to occur. Individuals can connect with one another on the platform, and see an activity stream for all their connections. Individuals can email one another through the platform (while not revealing the source email addresses).

Emergence: The entire philosophy of the platform is emergence. First, session proposals are posted from around the world, subject only to individuals’ initiative. The community then provides feedback, both extrinsic and intrinsic. The crowd rates the proposals (starting January 2010), which is lets the top proposals emerge for selection to the Boston 2010 Conference.

Signals: Following content and users is an important feature for the new Call for Papers process. RSS feeds can track categories, discussion forums and individual proposal changes. The activities of your social network of tracked, making it easy to jump in. Email notifications are also used to track these areas, in case that’s you preferred signal tool.

I’m looking to forward to seeing how the Enterprise 2.0 community leverages the FLATNESSES goodness in the new Call for Papers process. And you can read more about the different Enterprise 2.0 features of the site here.

So get hopping. Enter a proposal or take a look at what others have already submitted.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 103009

From the home office, waiting for the Great Pumpkin in the pumpkin patch…

#1: NIH grants $12mm to create a national, Facebook-like social network for scientists http://ow.ly/xtAD Goal? Find collaborators

#2: RT @jowyang Ritz Carlton’s mktg chief says hotel mgt at each property spends 1 hour reviewing online convos each am –even tweets #forbescmo

#3: The Time I was Written Up for Blogging http://ow.ly/x3ph by @tacanderson Lesson on employees and social media

#4: Skating to where the puck will be – Apple & advertising http://ow.ly/xnXJ Apple has offered to rebuild a Chicago mass transit stop?

#5: Very cool: Los Angeles adopts Google e-mail system for 30,000 city employees http://ow.ly/x3hP Cloud makes inroads #saas

#6: 84% of firms say #innovation is important to firm success. 51% of firms do not have anyone who is steering the innovation ship. #iai09inno

#7: 10 examples of minimum viable products http://ow.ly/xbi1 Cool list of minimalist approaches to engage customers & build product

#8: Stuck trying to write that next blog post? 100 Ways to Find Ideas for Your Blog Posts http://ow.ly/wA1T from the LifeSnips blog

#9: Geek alert! RT @PaulSloane: @DougCornelius RT Awesome T-Shirts for twins: http://bit.ly/14LYeI

#10: OK, figure this one out. @gaberivera created a tweet that links to itself. See for yourself: http://bit.ly/2IIkJG

Bonus just for this week…

#11: Small change to my Twitter bio…I’m now VP of Product at Spigit. Carry on…

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.