I must be getting old…

Over Christmas my 4 (and 3/4) year old niece started playing with my parents’ ten year old sound system (it’s not as bad as the picture… ;-) ). “I want it to play Moves Like Jagger”, she declared, and started pushing buttons, assuming that all the songs she would want to hear were stored on the machine.

She hit the CD eject button – “Why does it have a DVD player?”

She then hit the tape eject button – “What is that?!?”

Unfortunately my parents don’t have Moves Like Jagger, so she went back to unwrapping presents…

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UK Connections User Group Keynote – what should I say?

I was honoured to be asked to present at the first UK Connections User Group. I know first hand that there is a fantastic and passionate community around IBM Connections and am very happy to be supporting this event. I would encourage any Connections customers, or people thinking about Connections to attend. The Salvation Army have been generous enough to allow us to use their fantastic location in central London, and many thanks to Stuart McIntyre, Sharon Bellamy and Simon Vaughan who have been the driving force behind putting this together.

However, what would a Connections user group want from a keynote? I’d like to do something different from a usual social software presentation. You already see the value of social tools, you know the product, so what would you like me to cover in my 45 minutes?

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5 Myths of Social Software – Myth #5 Timewasting

It’s curious that I come across concerns about adoption and timewasting in equal measure. People seem equally worried that people won’t use social tools at all, or, they will use them too much. What if people spend all their time on social tools and not working?

One of the questions I ask people who say they don’t want or need a social collaboration system is to ask how their anti-social collaboration tools are working out for them. This idea that using social tools is ‘special’ or some kind of ‘treat’ misses the point. I don’t stop work, be social for a while, then come back and work again, more engaged since I had some fun during my break with social tools. I do my work using social tools. If my access to Connections at work is disrupted for whatever reason I cannot do my job. I live and work in Connections to get things done. I organise visits from our senior executives. I work on closing plans for our large deals with our sales reps. I collaborate on proposals. I find people who can help me with a problem (I’m lazy and selfish, any time I can get someone else to help me I go for it). I steal good slides from my colleagues’ presentations.

Rather than seeing social as somehow separate, we need to embed social working into our existing processes. What does it mean for HR’s talent identification processes? Or customer services? How can social tools help us speed up the innovation process? Can it transform that process by taking creative ideas from all employees, or even customers? Organisations like Threadless have completely reengineered their product development process, outsourcing the creative element to their customers. As my old Dachis Colleague Lars said the other day

“Show me a process and I’ll show you the social business ROI”

As well as using Connections as a destination point to work, we also push Connections functionality into our email clients, our intranet, and other applications. Many people end up using Connections at IBM without realising they are doing so – especially as Connections drives more and more of our intranet search results.

Seeing the use of social tools as timewasting only happens when they are not targeted at business problems. Remember, it’s Get Social, Do Business

Flickr Credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/dpstyles/3091707912/

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5 Myths of Social Software – Myth #4 Adoption

This myth I have the most fun with. People spend a lot of time worrying that people won’t use a social platform. A lot of the worry comes down to whether or not they will want to spend time sharing their knowledge and expertise in order to help other people. People are busy enough and don’t have time for yet another IT system. Some think of well intentioned but ultimately dangerous ways to encourage or promote sharing, setting targets of a number of blog posts or status updates per week – or putting levels of contribution into performance assessments.

This doesn’t work and is almost immediately gamed. I hope that statute of limitations has passed but when I was previously employed at IBM in 2001 we had targets (with a bonus payment) of posting 5 items to a teamroom in a quarter that got rated 7/10 or above by two colleagues. I got together with two other colleagues and funnily enough the three of us always made this target.

Rather than try to encourage people to share for the greater good we should instead accept that people are, in fact, lazy and selfish. If we expect people to use a social system we should only expect them to do so if there is a direct benefit to them. For example, I use social bookmarking within Connections so that I can find sites that are important to me, quickly. The fact it also helps other individuals is a happy accident to me. I use wikis when I am asked to coordinate complex customer responses between groups of 10-15 people because it eliminates a huge amount of work in terms of synthesising “reply-all” email chains, which I usually only have time to do out of office hours.

So I use social tools because I am lazy and selfish and don’t like working weekends.

I post questions using my status update because it draws the people most likely to help in, rather than requiring me to think about who the best person is to ask a question. It also happens to put the question into the public domain, so that a ‘knowledge accident’ might happen and it could help someone else next week, next month or next year, but that isn’t why I do it.

My motivation to use social tools comes from my own individual productivity. It just so happens that the software then shares any benefits with my social network and beyond. Many people within IBM share because they don’t want their time wasted by people coming up to them and asking for “that really useful document”. There is an individual within IBM who posted the video to “The Man Who Should Have Used Connections“. This has been downloaded over 16,000 times. That’s 16,000 times he hasn’t been asked to send it to someone.

Finally, “Adoption” is the one thing you shouldn’t worry about. How are you going to measure? Number of comments? Number of blog posts? What about the time someone accidentally finds a subject matter expert on your system and then communicates via the phone or face to face in the future? That would register as one hit in your server log but could have significant business outcomes. Instead, we should help people realise that using social software benefits them, saves them time, and measure business outcomes instead. How long does it take us now to bring a new product to market or respond to a sales enquiry? How effective were we at answering customer queries before and after we implemented social tools? This should be the true measure of success, rather than adoption targets.

Flickr credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/calliope/69902372

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5 Myths of Social Software – Myth #3 Crowds

As well as trying to find a Facebook for the enterprise and worrying about generational divides, another myth that seems far too common is that you need lots of people for social tools to be a success. This often comes from the misplaced view that corporate social tools have to be like Facebook, and Facebook only works given the billions of people who use it.

We have to remember that social tools in the enterprise are all about addressing existing business problems that can be addressed by social techniques. Going back to Chris Rasmussen’s diagram (I know, I do this a lot, but this is the diagram after every presentation or meeting people want to take back to their boss to help them “get it”) we show massive improvements in a process involving just four people.

I first started using these tools when I worked at Trovus, a startup at the time, and there were just three of us. Using Quickr to share documents delivered a significant improvement in productivity. By the way, the adoption (even among three people who talked to customers every day about social software) only really got going once we integrated Quickr into Outlook, prompting us to share files rather than send them whenever we tried to email an attachment to each other.

Placing social tools in the context of their existing workflows (like email) and targeting identified business problems (even if they initially involve small groups) is far more successful than trying to get large numbers of young people using Facebook-like tools for the sake of it.

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5 Myths of Social Software – Myth #2 Generation Y

Previously I looked at the myth that enterprise social software is like Facebook. Another myth that keeps coming up in customer discussions is that organisations need to adopt social tools because young people coming into the organisation will refuse to work with anything else. The additional point made, is that older workers will struggle to change.

Now, whilst young people might be more naturally inclined to gravitate toward something marketed as “corporate Facebook” and older workers might be turned off by such an idea, there is no reason why a well thought through roll out of social tools will struggle with getting people over 30 to adopt them. Take the success of Blackberrys amongst senior (and older) executives. This has changed how people work (for better or worse is a separate discussion) and “adoption” amongst older workers has not been a problem. I know of senior doctors in the NHS using Google calendar to schedule rotas for their departments because the official systems are so bad. iPad adoption within organisations is being driven by executives, not the new graduates or IT geeks.

These people naturally gravitate towards systems that make their lives easier, and if we can demonstrate that social tools do the same then adoption across generational boundaries won’t be a problem. People won’t adopt or want to use social software because it’s cute – and older workers may well be turned off if it is rolled out and communicated as “social tools – like Facebook”. They will use it across all age ranges if it saves them time and makes them more effective. We need to show how it helps them to do business – fast.

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5 Myths of Social Software – Myth #1 Facebook

In recent months I’ve been travelling a lot for IBM’s Get Social Do Business roadshows across UK, Ireland, Germany and Switzerland. One of the common themes has been the myths around social software – a view that it is just for fun rather than a significant competitive differentiator for organisations that want to succeed in the 21st century. So, here are some of the myths we’ve been addressing (and yes, if you dig back far enough I’m sure you can find me guilty of perpetuating these myths myself…)

Myth #1 – It’s all about Facebook

Facebook is the social software poster child. Almost every conversation about social software has to mention Facebook at some point. The phenomenal success of Facebook in the consumer world, so the argument goes, means you just have to have a “Facebook for the enterprise”. No one is quite sure just how much money Facebook makes, but it’s so obviously “a good thing” that clearly large organisations are going to need “one of those”.

I can understand why people choose to package the idea of enterprise social software this way. It’s neat. Everyone has heard of Facebook, but Facebook is used for organising parties or sharing photos, or checking up on what your ex-partner is doing (I hear that’s what some people use it for…). Enterprise social software is for business.

What we can do is take lessons from how Facebook works. It would seem crazy to share a photo with our friends by digging out their email addresses, sending the photo out, getting comments back by email and sifting through them and sending out the best ones as opposed to posting it online where people could review and comment in one place. Yet that is exactly how we work. The diagram below originally from Chris Rasmussen shows how complicated sending documents around for review can be, and how simple the process looks like when using social tools.

We can take this principle and apply it to document reviews, organising meetings and projects or sharing files, but this doesn’t mean we’re creating a Facebook for businesses. We’re helping project teams work twice as productively, or helping R&D get innovative products to market 30% faster.

In addition, when we do this in social way we can pick up a huge amount of data about how people are working. We can see how many times a file has been downloaded (and who downloaded it), whether it has been recommended, comments people have made (and who made them). Using the Files service in IBM Connections, we have downloaded over 5.6 petabytes of files. That’s a lot of data that hasn’t been through our email system. Some files have been immensely popular – “The Man Who Should Have Used Connections” has been downloaded over 16,000 times. You can make an ROI case out of quite boring information such as storage and data saved going through email before trying to quantify “employee engagement” (that’s another myth…).

So – don’t expect to get buy in from executives for social tools by proposing a Facebook for the enterprise. Instead, show them Chris’s diagram and talk about a process that is being run as per the left hand side and say “wouldn’t it me more effective, if we worked like this instead…”

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