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.

Posted in Enterprise 2.0 | 2 Comments

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.

Posted in Enterprise 2.0 | 1 Comment

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…”

Posted in Enterprise 2.0 | 11 Comments

My day without email

IBM – like most organisations, has an email quota. When we go over it, you can still receive email, but you can’t send anything until you get your mail box back under your quota limit. Or in my case ask my manager to raise my quota. That’s fine, but it takes 24 hours. So I had 24 hours without email.

And I didn’t blink.

Our email system is fully integrated with instant messaging, so when I received an email most often the person who sent it was still on line, so my first reaction was to simply right click and responded through our chat system:

If people weren’t online, I called them.

If I needed to send a file, I uploaded it to our social platform (IBM Connections) and Connections sent the email notification on my behalf.

If I needed to ask a question, I posted it on their board (they got a email notification from Connections). In fact, this ended up being far more effective than email. As the questions were public, some other people jumped in and added to the answer.

I am no Luis Suarez, but this was an eye-opener. When I first met Luis I wondered whether he was customer facing, and if so how he communicated with customers. There was one message I needed to get to a customer about his meeting with Sandy Carter we had set up. So I sent him a text. I follow many customers on Twitter, so I sent them a direct message. I never even clicked on “New Message” out of habit and remembered I couldn’t send email.

Now my email is back – but it’s going to be the last collaboration tool I reach for, rather than the first.

Posted in Enterprise 2.0 | 6 Comments

Social collaboration vs face to face time

There is an episode in The West Wing where wheelchair-bound President Bartlett bemoans the fact he can’t be physically present for crucial negotiations. “Decisions are made in the room!” he cries.

I was reminded of this on Friday – and how important this is in the workplace, and what this means for social software where almost by default we are not physically present alongside those with whom we interact.

So – Friday was my last day before a weeks holiday, and I was due to attend IBM ‘induction’ training in Hursley (near Winchester). I didn’t want to go. I’d worked pretty much non-stop over Christmas and up to New Year’s Eve – then unexpectedly had to go over to Sweden on Sunday 2nd January for a client meeting when I’d hoped to take advantage of the New Year’s holiday to step back a bit and plan for the following year. So I figured I might skip the induction (I’ve worked at IBM before, actually run several IBM induction course myself, and have been working here for over 3 months, so wasn’t convinced I’d need it), work from home to tie up loose ends, do some of the planning I’d hoped to do over the New Year break and make sure everything was covered over my holiday, rather than get up at 6am to head to Winchester.

But I went. Hursley has a lot of good memories for me from when I worked at IBM during my gap year, and I didn’t want to be the complete arse who thinks they’re too good for training courses (no sarcastic comments please 😉 ).

Then the following happened:

* I had lunch with another IBMer who is really keen on social software and works with our beta customers. She clearly had a passion for social business and wanted to hear about how real customers were using Connections as she mainly only dealt with the technical aspects of our beta programmes. It’s always good to meet people with a similar passion and also to get a contact in our beta team.

* I had coffee with my first boss at IBM (when I was 17) – it was fantastic to see an old friend and mentor.

* On the way back from the training course room to reception someone held the door open for me. They have just joined IBM and work in our tele-sales function. I was able to have a brief corridor conversation about identifying opportunities for social software and pass on my contact details if he ever needed help talking with or qualifying a call at the early stages. This could be a great way for me to start to work more closely with our tele operation and get them confident on Connections given they cover our entire portfolio.

* I then shared a taxi with someone who happened to be in reception to Winchester station. He was an IBM Global Business Services Partner who on hearing my role was keen to know how his team could use Connections better internally within IBM to collaborate. Of course, once he starts to use it every day he will be more likely and able to talk to his clients about social business opportunities

* Walking back through King’s Cross station, I ran into a friend from University who I have not seen in over 10 years. We swapped contact details.

Whilst I appreciate the flexibility I have to work from home when I want or need to, and would struggle to work in a culture where I was expected to be in the office at all times, this really got me thinking about the number of coincidences I miss out on every time I am not in the room. Further, does this highlight a problem with social software, whereby employees are seduced into thinking they are building online relationships, whereas in fact they are missing out on valuable face to face time and serendipity moments that occur around the watercooler?

I don’t think so. I have always maintained that social networking enhances and supports existing ‘real’ relationships rather than replacing them. I don’t think I’m friends with anyone on Facebook I met online – it is a way of staying in touch with people with whom I had an existing friendship. I may follow people on Twitter who I find interesting who I haven’t met, but I only really engage with people I know in the real world.

It’s the same in the workplace. I am going to spend a lot of time in January traveling to the countries I have responsibility for, and meeting the teams there face to face. But I can’t be in the room all the time in Sweden, UK, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland…. I need social tools to create the online equivalent of what I experienced on Friday – randomly seeing that someone is going to see a customer that I’ve been meaning to talk to, or catching a competitive presentation coming out of some work in the US which is highly relevant to a situation I happen to find myself in in Finland. Social tools facilitate the online equivalent of shared taxi rides and corridor conversations that I enjoyed in Hursley, and, because it’s online, they happen far more frequently, and are not restricted by geography or time (I can see something interesting posted six hours or even days or weeks after it has happened, I don’t need to be around at the precise moment as I do in the real world). But they have to supplement those face to face encounters – and you should never willingly accept not being in the room if you possibly can be. You need both to be effective in the modern workplace

Speaking of which, I will be at Lotusphere in Orlando during the first week of February, and social business has prime position on this year’s agenda. Drop me a line if you want to catch up (face to face) there!

Posted in Enterprise 2.0 | 1 Comment

Poor communication from DimDim

So my views on DimDim are not about the deal itself, but how it was communicated to clients. I received this email:

Dear Customer:

Dimdim has been acquired by salesforce.com. Your free Dimdim account will remain active until March 15, 2011. After that date, you will no longer be able to access your free Dimdim account.

Please see the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for additional information.

We appreciate your understanding, and we thank you!

Basically it says “We’ve been bought (and made a lot of money) – you’re screwed”.

I’m not saying that this is their intention, but the way it is phrased leaves a lot to be desired. Cold, impersonal and without any explanation of future direction or strategy.

It’s not good for the SaaS industry – how can you trust your vendor won’t just switch off once they’ve made a quick buck?

Posted in Enterprise 2.0 | 2 Comments

Happy New Year

So my first quarter in my new role was a lot of fun. So much so that I didn’t really blog or talk about it at all! Hopefully I will have the chance to talk more in 2011 – right now I’m off on holiday for a week…

Posted in Enterprise 2.0 | Leave a comment