Enterprise 2.0 – A new Age of Aquarius?

It’s two weeks after the event, but here are my slides and notes from my presentation at Edge of the Web. Apologies for the delay.

To those for whom some of this looks familiar, it shares an amount of common content with my recent paper at the BTELL EA conference. The audiences were very different, so the common content wasn’t an issue. I actually think this version is a little clearer and more succinct (for a very loose definition of succinct).

The world of business is experiencing a groundswell of near tectonic change. Products must be better and more competitively priced, faster to market and available to a wider customer base than ever before. All of this in a world that haas seen a shift in financial markets away from the boom of the early 21st Century to a position far more like that of business nearly a generation ago – a world of uncertainty and potentially dire economic times.

Today, economic Darwinism is becoming a reality. Only the strong, the adaptable and the quick will survive. That survival will depend on your business and its relationships with employees, stakeholders, clients and customers being strong, human, open and real.

Customers, stakeholders, consumers, clients and particularly our employees expect, quite rightly, to have a hand in the way your organisation operates. We need to be aware of that, and of the growing power of each of those groups as consumer activism and personal branding become significant considerations in our interactions with them.

The consumer base is no longer passive. They’ve read The Cluetrain Manifesto and expect to have a conversation with you. Your push messages no longer hold sway in their minds. You do not control the message or the medium. The life and reputation of your business if very much in your customers hands. And they want a voice.

Quite rightly, they expect your products to be the embodiment of Seth Godin’s Purple Cow.

Your up and coming managers and your smartest employees have voraciously consumed the words of Fish!, of Wikinomics, of Made to Stick and of The Starfish and the Spider. They expect their workplaces to be engaging, innovative, open to input and new ideas and to give them appropriate autonomy to get the job done in a way that suits them. Which isn’t necessarily 40 hours a week in a cube farm.

The need for revolutionary innovation and collaboration throughout our organisations and effective management of knowledge workers is a driving force for change. As is the need to attract, engage in meaningful work and retain over time a skilled (and skilled in the right things) workforce.

Taylor’s 19th Century model, designed for Industrial Revolution factories – where the employee is a simple and uninformed cog in the machine – is dead. Efficiency is not gained through presence at a desk. Indeed, efficiency is hardly the right focus. Rather, effectiveness ought to be your goal.

Is your business designed for effectiveness? Are your people able to work whhen and how suits them, keeping them engaged in exciting, meaningful work and connected and collaborating with like minds right to the edges of your business?

We are at a tipping point. One where we have just two choices; business as usual and the accompanying inevitable crash, or a reboot.

That reboot will change our businesses dramatically.

That change will bring about organisations where empowerment, sharing, open communication and a preparedness to fail openly, fast, cheaply and often are the core for a model of success. These businesses will be a more human place that envisages workplaces, both formal and informal, as exciting, collaborative, engaging places to be. Old world businesses, where walls, gates, silos and unnecessary control are already dead. They just don’t realise it yet.

But what will bring about this change? What’s doing it already?

What we’re talking about is a set of cultural, organisational, leadership and technological changes that are usually termed Enterprise 2.0. Comfortable, or at the very least more capable of managing technological change, rather than understanding and empowering people, many businesses are coming at this problem from the technology angle. It’s the wrong place to start.

Enterprise 2.0, or enterprise social computing, is more about enabling your business to be swift and adaptable, to have open, empowering communication and collaboration and to be innovative in dealing with product and service offerings. These are very human problems. The most successful businesses were already doing this stuff. It’s only now the technology has caught up to the need that we’re seeing the ability for business to change in a revolutionary way.

We keep hearing that these practices and tools are social in nature. About a more human-centric way of doing things. About a return to the village and networks where wisdom, expertise and knowledge count for more than some box on the org chart.

There’s a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt about what Enterprise 2.0 actually means. So let’s clarify some of that meaning.

First, adoption of Enterprise 2.0 culture, processes and tools in your organisation is no panacea for the problems you may be facing. And it won’t bring about an epiphany in your business tomorrow. This path is fraught with risk. There is a potentially huge amount of organisational change to be led and managed.

That change will inevitably touch almost every part of your business – HR, Marketing, Sales, Comms, Finance, Production, IT and the C-suites on the top floor. You need a thorough strategy and implementation plan in place. Adopting Enterprise 2.0 approaches in your organisation is something that affects management and people strategy, technology strategy and almost everything else you do.

That said, while you should be careful in your Enterprise 2.0 adventure, it’s no cause for panic. The sky is very definitely not falling. This will not bring about unfettered leaks of corporate data through the firewall, nor will it mean people sit around all day wasting time grooming their Facebook profiles.

Those not ready for this change – the micromanagers, those for whom heads-down-backside-up work is the only way, the fat cats and tenured managers comfortable in their corner offices – they  will have you believe that it’s the end of civilisation itself. Dogs and cats living together in harmony stuff.

Hardly.

Yes, adopting Enterprise 2.0 tools and techniques will bring about some major changes – culturally, organisationally and technically. But well thought out strategy and equally careful implementation will make it entirely doable.

We’ve all heard of Web 2.0. Some of us even think we know how to define it.

Let’s look at what is considered one one of the most definitive explanations of Web 2.0 – the one laid out by publisher and analyst Tim O’Reilly way back in October 2005 in his article What Is Web 2.0?

Tim’s first assertion is that for Web 2.0 applications, the Web is the platform. What this means is that we’re no longer in client-server land.

But it’s more powerful that that. By using the Web as the deployment platform, as the carrier for the signals the applications generate, you can, as Tim O’Reilly says, “Leverage customer-self service and algorithmic data management to reach out to the entire web, to the edges and not just the center, to the long tail and not just the head.”

This is an incredibly big assertion, and it carries an equally big, and perhaps more powerful effect. By using the Web as delivery platform – whether the World Wide Web, or just the internal web provided by your corporate network, you expose opportunities and information to a far richer ecosystem; one where users are self-organising and self empowering, one where your ideas, and the ideas of others, and the knowledge you collectively generate are available to the very edges of the network.

Indeed this approach is something we’re seeing more and more.

Let’s look briefly at the web-based ecosystem for acidlabs

I use applications on the Web every day for a multitude of things – my email is hosted on Google Apps, as is my calendar. I host photos with Flickr. I manage my travel with TripAdvisor, TripIt and Dopplr all working together harmoniously. I do project management with BaseCamp. I’m permanently connected to my accounts – and my accountant through Saasu and track my time use with 88 Miles. I keep all my conference presentations at Slideshare. I host videos of my conference talks on my own YouTube channel. I keep up with events on Upcoming and Facebook. I don’t bother keeping a CV or Rolodex anymore – LinkedIn, Soocial and HighRise do a much better job of both those tasks than I ever did. And to keep in touch with my network – professional and personal – I use Facebook, Twitter Friendfeed and Brightkite.

Few of these tools even existed five years ago. And none of them in their present form.

What’s more, most of them are free or cheap. Looking at these tools, I spend a total of less than $1200 a year on all of them.

The second of Tim O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 factors is the notion of the harnessing of collective intelligence. Indeed, it’s a core premise of Web 2.0 applications that there is an exponential increase in the value of both the network of contributor-users and the information in the network as new information and users are added.

As O’Reilly puts it, “Network effects from user contributions are the key to market dominance in the Web 2.0 era.”

The third of O’Reilly’s factors is data as the DNA of the application. Without good data, no application, Web 2.0 or otherwise, is of much value. Garbage in definitely equals garbage out. But quality data in is a very different beast indeed when leveraged well by the network of users.

Flexibility of data, too, is a core aspect of this competency. Data needs to be freed for consumption via APIs so that it can be mashed up and repurposed by other applications and the multitude of end users. As O’Reilly says, “Database management is a core competency of Web 2.0 companies… [but often] allow users to take control of how data is displayed on their computer.”

Monolithic projects with two-year lifecycles are dead. The groundswell emerges, matures and evolves so quickly that an agile (not necessarily in the development methodology sense) and innovative approach to understanding the marketplace and the needs of business is a prerequisite to building and developing applications in a 2.0 world.

Applications need to be launched with core functionality quickly and evolved and matured just as quickly. All the time taking into consideration the needs of the user base as a key factor.

Failure to consider users and their explicit needs is guarantee of failure and is a frequently identified key factor in those IT projects that in Australia and around the world, fail as much as 70 per cent of the time. How many bad implementations of grand scale enterprise applications have you seen? I’ve seen plenty.

My friend and Bostonian, Michael Krigsman of Asuret runs a well-read blog at tech web site ZDNet dedicated to exposure and analysis of such failures.

To quote O’Reilly once more, “Operations must become a core competency… Users must be treated as co-developers.”

O’Reilly touches again on the models for Web 2.0 success, big-bang projects are once again having the death knell sounded upon them. He says, “Support lightweight programming models that allow for loosely coupled systems… Think syndication, not coordination… Design for “hackability” and remixability.”

Business practices, release cycles, programming approaches, platform choices all must undergo significant change in order to achieve success. An approach that abandons slow, management-heavy practices needs to be substituted with more lightweight approaches that allow for flexibility, frequent change and release, breadth and depth of stakeholder input and light-touch management where development and business teams are allowed to get on with the job.

The notion of a single choice of platform, or even a single browser for web application delivery was always a bad idea. Today, it’s suicide.

In Africa and Asia, and increasingly in the West, mobile devices are the go-to platform for consumption of applications. Failing to account for multi-platform, multi-device, multi-browser delivery of your application is at best, unwise, at worst, a guarantee of failure.

It’s not unreasonable to assume that your application could be consumed by an iPhone user, or on a Blackberry, an Eee PC, a TiVo, a PlayStation 3, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, or even machine-to-machine using RSS or some other form of syndication.

Equally, those same platforms could be providing data back to your applications. Are you ready for that? You should be.

Another quote, then, from Tim O’Reilly, “What applications become possible when our phones and our cars are not consuming data but reporting it? Real time traffic monitoring, flash mobs, and citizen journalism are only a few of the early warning signs of the capabilities of the new platform.”

Tim O’Reilly’s final factor for Web 2.0 applications is one of aesthetics and good user experience. I can’t think of the number of times I’ve been forced to use an awful interface or workflow because the user experience and actual user needs weren’t a core consideration of the development process.

No wonder your projects fail when they are deployed and nobody uses them because they are, frankly, unusable. Did you actually ask the users what they wanted or needed? Did you actually articulate their problems and solve them in the application? Or did you bypass that because “the users will do what they’re told” or you ran out of time to hire a decent information architect and usability expert.

Sorry, but the days of passive users that will accept the crap shovelled at them in the name of enterprise applications is over. The sooner that’s realised in many organisations, the better.

Tim’s last quote on the matter; “Companies that succeed will create applications that learn from their users, using an architecture of participation to build a commanding advantage not just in the software interface, but in the richness of the shared data.”
What all of these applications do is focus on people over process. They bring people together in a community. They empower them to communicate and collaborate in new and engaging ways.

There are a multitude of measurable benefits to working this way – a higher inclination to innovation, higher engagement and motivation of the people involved, increased ability to capture data and apply meaning to it as knowledge, greater discoverability of expertise and information. There are already several case studies showing these benefits and others.

Alongside the increased human way of working, O’Reilly talks a great deal about network effects. So what’s he on about?

A network effect describes the increase in value in a system the more users join in on it. As every new user joins, there’s an exponential increase in the value of the network for both the new user and the existing user base.

There are good mathematical and observational models to prove this. Perhaps the most important is David P Reed’s 2001 observation in Harvard Business Review on the increase in utility, particularly in social networks, when the number of two, three and larger groups are extrapolated out of a larger network.

“The value of a group-forming network increases exponentially… its implications are profound.”
David P Reed

Reed argues convincingly that eventually the network effect of potential group membership can dominate the overall economics of the system, regardless of the smallness of the network. This has big implications for the implementation of social technologies in business where knowledge networks are core to successful operation.

Web 2.0 is not Enterprise 2.0, but they are siblings. It’s a little like one being artistic, creative and a bit of a hippie, and the other being meticulous, orderly and kind of nerdy (but in a good way).

Arguably, the first mention of Enterprise 2.0 as a coherent set of tools and technologies was by Harvard Business School’s, Professor Andrew McAfee in the Spring 2006 issue of the MIT Sloan Management Review; one of the world’s leading management best practice publications.

Andrew, who I had the pleasure of meeting in June this year, is a world-recognised expert on management best practice and the enterprise use of social technologies to boost innovation, implement leadership best practice and build new-world collaborative businesses.

Since the Sloan article, Andrew has continued to set the standard for analysis and thought leadership in enterprise social tool analysis.

So, what is Enterprise 2.0? What are the tools, processes, cultural factors and practices that make up this potentially revolutionary change for business in the 21st Century? How are the tools used? Where? By whom?

And what results might we see?

Put simply, Enterprise 2.0 implementations use the tools of Web 2.0 in a business-appropriate context Wikis, blogs, social networks, and other Web 2.0 applications are used inside the wall, amongst employees, to enable low-barrier collaboration across the enterprise.

A number of research projects, including most recently the McKinsey Global Survey, Building the Web 2.0 Enterprise, published in July 2008, have found an increasing use of both tools and the type of tools, the willingness to adopt across all parts of business, the range of activities being undertaken using the tools and the range of beneficial effects on business, management and leadership practices the tools are facilitating.

Enterprise 2.0, like its sibling Web 2.0, brings a more human focus to collaboration and knowledge management. The open, barrier-reducing leadership practices required for success are also strongly centered on people rather than traditional command-and-control management.

The McKinsey Global Survey also identifies a number of business and cultural changes of benefit that Enterprise 2.0 programs can bring including customer and supplier communications, recruitment, engagement and retention strategy and practice, the introduction of new roles focussed on supporting, enabling and evangelising programs and flattening of organisational hierarchies to the end of improving intra-organisational communications and collaboration.

Visibility to activity across business – effectively, removal of siloed activity – is a key factor in Enterprise 2.0 implementations. Resulting in increased discoverability of both expertise and information, visible, in-context activity streams for individuals and projects have a measurable effect on improving corporate and individual communications, increasing employee engagement and breaking down departmental walls.

With all of this activity going on, realising real benefits takes only a short time.

Several research projects as well as real-world successes have found Enterprise 2.0 projects can boost an organisation’s ability to collect and retain information. And, in particular, to contextualise that information into knowledge and to facilitate the gathering of knowledge that had previously remained tacit, stuck in people’s heads until just the right questions were asked.

Training is a virtual non-issue. Most people can become comfortably adept at using these tools with less than a hour of training. There’s actually an ongoing case study in Canada with 5th Graders. They are taught to use a wiki, as a tool for a group project involving writing, video, audio and other multimedia in less than 30 minutes of training. Are you and your staff smarter than a 5th Grader?

The human-centric approach to using Enterprise 2.0 tools allows patterns of work and processes to be emergent, introducing efficiencies that aren’t otherwise realised in a workplace where “the way we do things” is predefined and laid down.

One of the greatest impediments to productivity, innovation and program success in organisations of all types is lack of visibility to activity by the entire business. Whether it’s the result of a deliberate culture of secrecy and siloing to protect some theoretical patch, or simply a lack of communication through inaction or undeveloped skills and activity makes no difference.

The implementation of Enterprise 2.0 programs, adopting both the cultural and technical components, brings forth an opportunity to radically rethink notions of openness and visibility for work. The accompanying spread to the edges effect of openness also gives activity the opportunity to receive input from otherwise uninvolved parts of the organisation.

With open exposure of activity in programs and projects, the likelihood of duplicated effort – a huge source of wasted dollars in many businesses – is reduced. In fact, projects approaching similar problems are given the opportunity to collaborate and join far more easily.

With all of this exposure, input, innovation and reduction of waste, the opportunity to see real ROI on Enterprise 2.0 projects can be realised. It’s not immediate, but it is measurable over useful timelines.

Also, this pattern of working and the tools allow people to be more productive generally, as they work in a more natural style and, when done right, are able to be more engaged in their work. There is a significant and growing pool of research and case study evidence pointing to productivity gains through well-implemented Enterprise 2.0 programs.

Andrew McAfee’s original article came up with the mnemonic SLATES. Let’s take a quick look at each of the components.

Here’s a quick quote from Andrew’s article. Just something to chew on.

“These [tools] are part of a platform that’s readable by anyone in the company, and they’re persistent. They make an episode of knowledge work widely and permanently visible.”
Andrew McAfee

The first core component of Enterprise 2.0 is Search. Enterprise search is a frequent bugbear in many organisations. No doubt many of you will have heard cries of, “I can’t find anything on the intranet.” Good Enterprise 2.0 tools facilitate discoverability of information.

Linking – we all know the hyperlink is the heart of the World Wide Web. The same goes for your internal tools. Everything should link together so that related projects, tools, topics, people, business units or whatever are discoverable in the context of everyday activity.

Authorship -identifying the source of a piece of information or knowledge is key. How else do you know who and where to turn to when you need the next piece of the puzzle? No more anonymous white papers. Authorship also grants ownership for the creation of material to individuals, providing self-actualising factors that aid in their establishing themselves as organisation resources on their subject matter.

Tags – many of us have probably seen tools like del.icio.us, Ma.gnolia and StumbleUpon in the outside world. They allow end users to apply their own meaning to information, over and above the more considered corporate taxonomies we work with.Tagging has been found, in at least one study, to offer in excess of 70 per cent greater discoverability for information. Imagine people in your organisation finding things easily because they were tagged with words and phrases meaningful to them and the other people they work with.

Extensions – we’re talking here about the ability of smart systems and smart users to surface up the long tail of content through features such as reputation systems and “other material like this” or “people like you” algorithms.
Extension of the threads out to other sources increases the likelihood of discoverability of your information.

Signals – we’re all overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content available to us, and sifting through it can be a task so onerous as to discourage action.

Enterprise 2.0 implementations adopt inbound signaling as a way of alerting users to new and changed material that has been identified explicitly as f relevance to them. Use of email is the most basic form, but is inefficient and far less powerful than technologies like RSS.

We can see by combining the forces of Enterprise 2.0, we can build an ecosystem where users are connected to information and each other, can find it easily and are made aware of change.

Successful programs implementing Enterprise 2.0 tools can give us a radically shifted workplace where we get better, richer outcomes. But what outcomes?

The systems, the tools, push new material to users. The need to go looking is reduced.

Just as easily, users are empowered to pull data to themselves through RSS or other notification systems.

Flow, in the psychological sense is potentially increased, as employees suffer fewer distractions and interruptions, leading to higher productivity and higher engagement.

How do we make it happen?

Let’s look very briefly at some of the key findings from the McKinsey Global Survey mentioned earlier.

The Survey found that businesses that focussed tool choices around real, well-described user needs rather than reliance on a vendor or perceived need that didn’t address real user requirements had measurably greater success with their Enterprise 2.0 programs.

To quote the survey, these organisations realised “increased productivity and enablement of tacit interactions on a previously unknown scale.”

That’s compelling stuff.

The same analysis identified that businesses seeing success were also enagaging customers and suppliers in their product development. This led to better-realised products and offerings. They drew feedback from outside the organisation that the business was paying attention to customer and supplier needs, driving return business and new business by referral as well as a number of other benefits around cost-savings and client and supplier interactions.

The best knowledge or innovative ideas about something may not always reside in the product team, or marketing, or R&D. Successful Enterprise 2.0 implementations, again according to the McKinsey Global Survey, tapped into a rich ecosystem of ideas and input, both within the wall and from customers.

The final key finding to look at is a transformational change the businesses seeing success in their Enterprise 2.0 programs are realising.

These companies are not only rapidly adopting additional Enterprise 2.0 technologies over and above their original efforts, but they are using them to aid in organisational and management change – flattening structures, opening lines of communication and breaking down barriers.

None of these ideas is new. As mentioned earlier, we’re simply now at a point where the tools have finally caught up to the theory, the practices, the culture.

How many of us have read, or know of The Cluetrain Manifesto? Next year, Cluetrain will be 10 years old.

That’s right. 10 years ago we were all made aware of how changing our businesses to operate this way would bring more customers who were more satisfied with what we are doing, would attract more of the right staff who would be more motivated and engaged in their work and would transform management and leadership practice.

So what’s our problem? Why aren’t we all doing this? Why are so many of our businesses still 9-5 (or later) sausage factories where we work head-down backside-up in a state of blissful, decontextualised ignorance?

Why is it that century-old practices devised to operate factories rather than innovative, knowledge-centric businesses still predominate?

Your business and every other business you work with, have a stake in, or are a customer of, actually needs to operate focussed on people and the conversations they have.

As leaders in your organisations, it’s up to you to provide the right tools at the right time in the right context to make the jobs of the people you work with easier and more productive. You may need to change the culture, or the  management approach, or work practices and almost certainly the tools you use and how you use them.

Now, finally, we’re in a position to talk about technology and tools. Let’s take a brief look at the core pieces of the Enterprise 2.0 toolkit.

Wikis are often seen as the big bang product. A place where everyone in the organisation can get involved as much or as little as they see fit.

There are several case studies in Australia and overseas where successful wiki implementations have replaced an otherwise unused and unusable corporate intranet and, in a very exciting new case, the Australian Navy have just implemented a brand new public website using MediaWiki; the same free, Open Source, extensible platform that runs Wikipedia.

Not just the fevered rantings of millions of self-reflective, self-indulgent emo kids, blogs are a great way to actually communicate the progress and activity of your project or business unit out to your colleagues, or implement a useful customer relations channel.

The open data APIs offered by many Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 tools make mashups a reality. Far more than the dashboards of the 90s, mashups can offer real-time two-way looks into business activity, system status and corporate and market trends.

We all live in communities and engage in them. Yet we come into work and hide away in our 10m2 or less of floor space and never communicate with the rich community of thinkers and doers we work with. Enterprise 2.0 tools offering community aspects can help build the collegiate, village feel we crave for – whether it’s the lunchtime soccer club or the CEO’s Feedback Forum.

We all have favorites in our browsers, but they’re locked away and unusable by our colleagues. Bookmarking tools inside the wall – a corporate del.icio.us or ma.gnolia – can expose a vast world of information to ourselves and our colleagues as each of us discovers new and valuable knowledge we want to share.

Not quite the same as communities, but sharing aspects of them, social networks inside the wall, and across them out to our customers and suppliers, can facilitate the discovery of talent and expertise, sources of information and connections we can exploit to do our jobs better.

Let’s look at some of what are often considered “soft” benefits that can be realised by successful implementations of Enterprise 2.0 tools and practices.

Enterprise 2.0 culture and tools are equally accepting of variant work styles. The busy, 8-hours-a-day worker who likes to be head-down backside-up is just as easily accommodated as the bursty, creative worker who spends time in conversations, or collaborating on many projects.

That doesn’t set aside the potential cultural clash between these worker types, that’s altogether another issue. But it is one that is addressed by the overall cultural changes that come along with successful Enterprise 2.0 implementations.

Back in April 2007, my friend and colleague Anne Zelenka published something of a manifesto regarding the busy/burst dichotomy, falling strongly on the side of burst.  Same place as I am.

“The burst economy, enabled by the Web, works on innovation, flat knowledge networks, and discontinuous productivity.”
Anne Zelenka, Web Worker Daily

Recent research published shows a strong tendency, greater than 90 per cent in fact, for new hires under 40 years of age (and frankly, that’s most of your new hires) to pick roles where they are facilitated in engaging in open, collaborative work environments.

Given the choice of two otherwise equal roles, these people will choose the role where the corporate culture and the tools available make it easy for them to engage in the conversation, collaboration and community they want in their work.

Given employee turnover and attraction of new hires is an extremely expensive business – on average at least $10000 on the first year’s other costs – aren’t you better off making sure you have the right tools and culture in place to keep your people motivated and doing a great job?

“Employee recruitment and retention could become one motivator and one very significant ROI.”
Bill Ives, FASTForward

There’s a lot of talk going on about the schism between various worker generations – the near-to-retirement Baby Boomers, the Gen Xers like me, and the brash young Gen Ys who want to rise rapidly up the corporate ladder without paying their dues.

And yes, these generalisations apply across large sample populations. But solid research out of the HR industry suggests very strongly that this divide is false. People are far more influenced by life events and personal preferences in the way they work, in the roles they seek and in the attitudes they bring than by any arbitrary generation they are supposed to belong to.

The capability that a successful Enterprise 2.0 implementation brings to an organisation to engage employees across generational lines and to get them working together is a strong motivator for success.

Let’s take a very quick look at two Enterprise 2.0 success stories.

The CIA. Of all places. Don’t tell me doing this stuff in your organisation is too risky if this organisation can do it.

In June this year I had the privilege of meeting two of the CIA’s leading players in their Enterprise 2.0 efforts, Don Burke and Sean Dennehy at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston, Massachusetts.

Since 2005, the CIA have implemented a suite of tools as well as a number of core cultural changes in order to bring about a new best-of-breed practices. They’re collaborating at several levels of classified material with 15 other agencies in what is referred to as the “Intelligence Community”. That suite of tools includes:

  • Intellipedia for aggregation
  • Intelink blogs for communication
  • Tag|Connect (similar to the Internet’s del.icio.us) for organization
  • Inteldocs (a document management system for file sharing community-wide)
  • Gallery (similar to the Internet’s flickr)
  • iVideo (similar to YouTube)
  • Intelink Instant Messaging (IIM)
  • Really Simple Syndication (RSS)

Janssen-Cilag are an Australian pharmaceutical company that undertakes significant research programs and product development. With around 350 employees, like many organisations, they had an underused, often out of date intranet until mid-2006 when they replaced it all with a wiki. The wiki was implemented after a careful examination of and research into actual user needs and was switched live during a demo in a large staff meeting. Gutsy.

Nathan Wallace, one of the driving forces for JCintra, estimates that a large percentage – in excess of 70 percent – of staff now actively contribute to or update content on the wiki. Nathan puts the following four points forth as a manifesto for successful implementation:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  2. Ease of use over comprehensive training.
  3. Flexible tools over completeness.
  4. Responding to needs over creating demand.

Janssen-Cilag are now taking further steps in their Enterprise 2.0 efforts, introducing blogging to any staff member who want to do so and Jitter, an internal equivalent to Twitter.

We’ve seen fairly comprehensively the benefits that a well-considered, people- and problem-centric approach to Enterprise 2.0 programs can offer.

As more and more businesses undergo the shift to operating this way, your business risks being left behind, flailing, as it fails to adapt to the changed way of doing business in the 21st Century.

James Governor from RedMonk threw this one at us back in April 2007.  He’s right.

“Networked, social-based opportunities are so explosive today that when we pursue them we’re flung forward at pace.”
James Governor, RedMonk

Your organisations stand upon ground that offers you an opportunity to take leaps forward in innovation, collaboration and productivity that they’ve never been offered before.

Imagine your organisation if this was the way things were done.

Why are we even arguing about this?

Presented to the AGM of the Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship and for the product launch of IntranetManager.NET.

It was just lucky that two groups asked me to present on essentially the same content on consecutive days.

Just 10 or so years ago, we were arguing whether email was necessary for our staff to do their work.

Not long before that we were arguing over the value of giving them phones on their desks. And Heaven forbid we give them long distance access!

At the same time, I doubt any of us even considered the corporate web site as a critical business asset.

15 years ago, the public Internet and the web were in their infancy, and we weren’t certain at all what we should be doing with them.

So why now, are we arguing about the value of social media for our businesses? There’s a wealth of good research on the returns for business on factors such as customer service, product development, innovation, findability of information and brand reputation.

For no good reason many businesses seem highly reluctant to allow staff to participate in social media activity – either internally or in public. I doubt there’s anyone in the room today that gives a second thought to the importance of the corporate web site, staff email and personal phones for all staff.

Why is this?

Today, we live in a world where almost everything about your business is public information. Not only that, the world is now hyperconnected in a way that makes discoverability and conversation about you a trivial exercise.

A few seconds of effort at Google and I can discover who your management team are. Shortly after that, a slightly more diverse search on Google, Plaxo, LinkedIn, Facebook and perhaps MySpace will give me a pretty intimate window into the business.

It’s quite possible that I’ll have a window into personal lives of many of your employees and probably your management team and board of directors. I’ll know where they’ve worked and when. What people thought of them. I might even know what they wore to the last New Years’ Eve fancy dress party and whether I think they have a sense of humor.

With not much more additional effort, I’ll know what your customers think of your products and of your business. What’s good, and what’s bad. And why.

I’ll be able to consume a vast range of opinions – a conversation – around your offerings.

Are you participating in that conversation? If you’re not, there’s nothing you can do about it. It will go on regardless.

In the end, you have two choices, and I’m not being extreme here – join the conversation and thrive, or die.

And to join the conversation you need to cede some control. Not all of it. Just some.

It’s actually highly likely that your staff are already taking part in this conversation on your behalf. Wouldn’t it be better if they had your backing?

The emergence in the past five years of blogs and wikis, of social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and of empowering publishing platforms such as Twitter, YouTube and similar tools have fundamentally changed the way you and your business need to interact with your customer base.

They have also shifted the power base – away from the PR flacks, the marketers and the heritage media into the hands of the people formerly known as the audience. Today, the audience is no more. They are your collaborators and your users. Whether you like it or not.

The Obama campaign used these tools – the tools of social media – to groundbreaking and groundswelling effect. Have no doubt that a significant and measurable part of the success of the Obama campaign was due to the grassroots empowerment of the volunteer community through the use of social media. Let’s look at some of the numbers:

Platform Obama McCain Difference
Facebook 2379102 supporters 620359 supporters 380%
MySpace 833161 friends 217811 friends 380%
YouTube 1792 videos since Nov 2006
114599 subscribers
Channel views 18413110
329 videos since Feb 2007
28419 subscribers
Channel views 2032993
403% more subscribers
905% more viewers
Twitter 112474 followers 4603 followers 2400%
Branded social network mybarackobama.com
Numbers not available but estimated in millions
McCain Space
Numbers not available

The use of social media for both Presidential candidates was significant, yet the Obama campaign, appealing directly to a part of the constituency that voted strongly for it, leveraged social media as an incredibly powerful medium to reach out, appeal to voters and garner both contribution and volunteer support.

And now that he has been elected, President-Elect Obama isn’t dropping the ball on social media. He has already released the first of what is to be weekly updates via YouTube.

And now, we have the Greens, Malcolm Turnbull himself, and just last week, the Prime Minister’s office using these tools to conduct an ongoing conversation with their constituency. Canvassing opinion. Discovering previously unknown issues. Connecting and having a meaningful, rich and human conversation.

In Australia though, we’re lagging behind the rest of the world in business adoption of these tools. And even further behind in government use of them.

In the UK for example, Downing Street uses social media tools to allow the PM’s office to speak directly to the constituency. And public sector workers, at an individual level, are expected to engage on subject matter within their are of expertise.

The same approach is being used by a number of successful businesses.

In Australia, Telstra has taken significant steps in the right direction this year after paying attention to the connected, social media using community. Formerly very old-school push-message focused, Telstra has fundamentally changed. Their customer service channel via social media such as Twitter and their Now We Are Talking blogs is arguably a more responsive, easier, more direct and most notably, more human way to get problems fixed than the robot call center that must be navigated in order to talk to someone on the phone.

Beyond our shores, brands such as SAP, IBM, Dell (Dell Community, Twitter), Comcast (video interview, Twitter) and the worlds largest online shoe retailer, Zappos (blogs, Twitter), rely on the reputation and innovation channels they have established via social media channels to get things done quickly, canvas opinion on product development, learn about issues and solve problems easily and in a way that builds reputation rather than customer dissatisfaction.

It’s critical that you empower your staff to be communicators and evangelists for your business. Understand and expect them to take part online in conversations about you and let them do so as a part of their jobs. Right now, stop passing everything through Legal and the Marketing Department and allow the conversation to be real, responsive and human. Your customers and staff will respect you for it.

Don’t worry about making mistakes. Mistakes are human. In today’s social media empowered world, mistakes are expected. So make them fast, cheap and early, and then be real about admitting them and fixing them.

All of this applies equally to efforts inside the wall as it does to external communication. The use of social media tools within your walls provides your business with a wealth of opportunities you simply did not have access to five years ago.

A recent study by McKinsey found that deploying the tools of social media within businesses can be used successfully to address issues such as attraction, engagment and retention, locating expertise, building teams, enhancing flow, understanding workload, flattening communication and organisation structures, transforming leadership and management practice and increasing ability to innovate and change according to market demands.

Significant numbers of businesses are transforming their ability to communicate across the organisation, marshal staff, drive innovation and discover previously unknown expertise within their organisation by using social media tools within their walls.

In Australia, companies such as Janssen-Cilag, Cochlear and Westpac have made significant investment in social media tools to empower their staff to be more efficient and productive.

In today’s financial climate, where customer spending is trending sharply down and the need to be increasingly innovative and competitive is rising, can your business afford not to look closely at these tools? To identify issues that might be solved by them and build and implement a strategy that introduces these tools to make your job easier to do?

A word of warning.

These tools can’t be a bolt-on and nor can they be implemented without some strong strategic analysis.

You need to consider them as an integral part of your strategic plan and of the working life of you and your staff. You must evolve from bureaucracy to infocracy. This move is fundamental to building the conversation, collaboration and community your business needs to ensure ongoing success in the 21st Century. Social tools are not going away and your competitors are adopting them now.

Imagine your business if this was the way you worked.

Enterprise 2.0 – Enabling change or part of the problem?

This is my slide deck and script for the The 6th Annual Enterprise Architecture Conference in Sydney on 3 September 2008.

We all know the world of business is experiencing massive change. The nature of how we do business itself is undergoing a groundswell that redefines work for the early part of the 21st Century.

We can no longer push messages to a passive consumer base, or an equally passive workforce. Customers, stakeholders, consumers, clients and particularly our employees expect, quite rightly, to have a hand in the way your organisation operates. We need to be aware of that, and of the growing power of each of those groups as consumer activism and personal branding become significant considerations in our interactions with them.

The need for collaboration throughout our organisations and effective management of knowledge workers is a driving force for change and innovation. As is the need to attract, engage in meaningful work and retain over time a skilled (and skilled in the right things) workforce.

Continuing to operate by Taylor’s outmoded rules – where the employee is a simple and uninformed cog in the machine – is setting ourselves up for failure and a spectacular and messy crash as we rush headlong into what looks like the light but is actually the onrushing train of progress.

We are at a tipping point. One where we have just two choices; business as usual and the accompanying inevitable crash, or a reboot.

That reboot will change our businesses dramatically.

That change will bring about organisations where empowerment, sharing and open communication are watchwords for this new world. Where walls, gates, silos and unnecessary control are collapsed in favor of a more human place that envisages our businesses as exciting, collaborative, engaging places to be.

Continue reading “Enterprise 2.0 – Enabling change or part of the problem?”

All you do is talk talk

Last weekend, I attended my first ever BarCampBarCamp Sydney v3. Wow, what an experience!

Two days packed with constant conversation with smart folks on all sorts of subjects. I certainly came away with my brain full and my Twitter Following list expanded (more than a few have followed me, too). On top of all that, I got to meet a bunch of new people and put faces and voices to people I’ve been conversing with online for some time. All in all a very rich and rewarding experience.

My session, entitled All you do is talk talk (80s music fans will get the reference) was a new talk about building shared language and understanding in order to successfully evangelize social tools in your organisation. It’s targeted at people in organisations that don’t already use these tools, but the concepts could easily be adopted for any program of change.

Given BarCamp presentations are short – just 20 minutes including questions – it’s not deep and comprehensive. Rather, just a taste of the subject matter.

I also re-presented I am Knowledge Worker 2.0, the talk I gave in San Francisco at Office 2.0 last September.

Both talks were very well received by the audience, so I’m glad I put the effort in to go to Sydney and attend.

Love in an elevator – UX as business strategy

This weekend I’m in Sydney attending and speaking at Oz-IA 2007. Today was all signal and no noise! Every speaker had great subject matter. Naturally, not every talk totally rocked my world, but it was all good stuff. My favorite of the day was SlideShare‘s Rashmi Sinha speaking about their non-approach to UX in launching and during the first year of SlideShare’s existence.

My session went well, with some great feedback. I also managed to make a bunch of new “friends” who were keen to see my iPhone ;).

My speaking notes are below.

Slide 1 – Today I’m actually not going to talk to you about IA or UX as such. I’m going to talk to you about frustration, about people, about business, about communities. I’m going to talk about how you can talk to the businesses you work with about UX, especially when they apparently don’t “get” what you’re on about when you speak with them about your work.

Slide 2 – So, why “Love in an Elevator”? Well, I’m not talking about these guys, who certainly do deliver a user experience, but not the sort we’re talking about today. What I AM talking about is your elevator pitch for the strategy you’re bringing to your client or organisation from a UX point of view.

Slide 3 – So, who am I?
A little about me.
I’ve worked in the web industry for around 12 years.
I’ve done web apps development, business analysis, project management and even network security in the past.
These days I run acidlabs. It’s an independent consultancy that works with people and organisations on building collaborative communities around information and knowledge sharing, web strategy and social computing evangelism – particularly in a business context. And, relevant to today, I also does user experience and information architecture work.

Slide 4 – Now, before we get into this, a word of warning.

Slide 5 – I’ve got, what, 45 minutes to talk to you today? And there needs to be gossip time at the end. So by NO MEANS is my intention today to give you any ACTUAL ANSWERS as to what your UX strategic approach should be.

Slide 6 – That said, what I DO WANT TO DO is get you thinking. How many of you here are responsible for communicating UX strategy to clients – whether those clients are the organisation that employs you, or you’re contracting or consulting? I know there are a few of you here – Shane, Matthew, Andrew, Stephen, Donna. Me, when anyone will listen.
How many of you are NOT doing that work? Why not? Do you not care enough about what you do? “It’s not my job” is NOT AN EXCUSE OR A REASON for this.
I actually think it’s CRITICAL that no matter where you sit in the UX process or pecking order, you should be taking a BIGGER PICTURE look at your work and asking yourself what it’s really about. I don’t think you can really do the best job possible unless this is your mindset.

Slide 7 – So, what prompted me to pick this subject to speak on? Well, I was in a meeting not all that long ago – we were talking with a PM, a couple of platform techs, some BAs and I heard this…

Slide 8 – Take that in for a moment…

Slide 9 – Language warning here, but “What the fuck?”

Slide 10 – Now, here’s the thing. This isn’t a lightweight project. It’s a major effort that actually has a very significant budget and potentially affects the lives (in REAL, life and death terms) of people. Yet, the non-UX people on this project have no idea what we do nor how it fits into the work that they do.

Slide 11 – So, NO, UX is ABSOLUTELY NOT “here with UAT”. But that issue, or similar issues that I’ll discuss shortly, is something that in very many places forces UX into a place where it’s just unable to deliver real value.

Slide 12 – Of course, there is an alternative. UX can be done well, and it can be done strategically.

Slide 13 – In my ideal world, and I don’t think I’m talking pie in the sky, UX touches business (in a good way) across the board. It comes on to the project RIGHT AT THE START rather than once a bunch of decisions – platform, structure, business goals, user goals and the like – have been made.
So, show of hands, Who ALWAYS gets to work on projects where this is the case? Sometimes? Rarely?
Who WANTS to be able to work on projects like this? If you do, I suggest it’s a part of your job to drive this message. To get in your client’s and colleague’s ears. And to send a CLEAR MESSAGE about the stratgic value of UX.

Slide 14 – I’d hazard a guess that everyone in this room has seen this. Anyone NOT seen this? On the assumption you’ve all seen it, I won’t explain it.

Slide 15 – However, even if you intimately understand Jesse’s Elements, even if you are incredibly good at what you do, once you step out into the business for whom you are doing UX work, UNDERSTANDING is a major hurdle. Business likes to see itself as pragmatic, logical, sensible and driven by delivery timelines.
On the other hand, UX people are…

Slide 16 – We’re creative types. We don’t DO waterfall. We go round and round and like producing iterative outputs based on lots of talking to people and watching people.
Some businesses struggle with this as an approach – they want your “report” now. Today. They don’t like the fact that you might spend weeks on a large project just interacting with people and not producing a tangible, paper output.

Slide 17 – Us designer, people-centric, arty types (not that I claim to be a designer) don’t necessarily fit the corporate mould. T-shirts from Threadless and Thinkgeek, as awesome as they are don’t always suit the corporate image.
It’s sad but true, but failing to fit in to corporate life is not helpful in your mission to evangelise UX to everyone from the CEO down. You might just need to compromise and make some concessions to the company image. It’s an indication of emotional intelligence that you can “play the game” well enough to get your message across in spite of what you are really like.

Slide 18 – My background is as a web apps developer – Mr Coder Guy. I was the standards Nazi. The guy who forced the developers to use source code management and build tools. The guy with the eternally clenched sphincter. Naturally, I went mad. But people like that are very useful to the corporate world.
I was paid the most awesome compliment earlier this year by Susan Scrupski from the Office 2.0 Conference. She referred to me as a “right-brained, ultra-creative”. I think I’ve finally made the transition to where I want to be. But creativity, innovation, maverick thinking don’t always get a guernsey in corporate life.

Slide 19 – So, as UX people we face something of a challenge to get our message across from a perception standpoint. Unless we can play the corporate game, we have a barrier to getting the proverbial “seat at the table”.

Slide 20 – In my experience, understanding of UX amongst our peers can be an issue. Here are a few things I have heard this year.

Slide 21 – Riiiiiiight…
My friend Matthew Hodgson has written a couple (1, 2, 3) of excellent blog posts this year about the difference between IA and BA. Here’s here this weekend and speaking tomorrow. Have a chat to him or read his blog if you want some deep insight.

Slide 22 – Heard this before? This is a particular issue with some organisations I’m aware of. The way UX work is done, rather than being strategic, is report focussed and the entire UX team end up being thought of as an impediment to release rather than a facilitator of great experience.
My opinion is that this occurs when UX happens in the wrong place, or in isolated places during product development rather than being a thing that takes place THROUGHOUT product development.

Slide 23 – Here’s another thing that happens when UX work isn’t allowed to be holistic and involved across the entire lifecycle of the project.

Slide 24 – So, now that I’ve been bitching about everything that’s wrong with how we might be approaching UX, or how our clients and employers might be doing the same thing, let’s talk a little about strategy.

Slide 25 – A core part of your strategy needs to be getting the message to business in a way they understand. Drop the buzzwords. Drop the UX “science”. Talk in words that business knows. Short. Few syllables. Orange crayon on butcher’s paper.
No. Kidding.

Slide 26 – Like a number of people I know, I UNDERSTAND what I do, but I often struggle to communicate it to others. Especially if they are non-technical or buried in the minutiae of their business or know they need UX work done, but don’t understand why.
Oh, and Andrew, would you like to explain why there are photos of you on iStockphoto?

Slide 27 – So, I’ve had a number of conversations like this. Although I am getting better at it.

Slide 28 – Bit of a motherhood statement, this. And if you were watching, you’ll remember that I showed this slide earlier. But I believe it’s true. That said, it’s hard work. You’ll earn your dollars in doing it.

Slide 29 – Let’s look at user strategy first. We’re talking about the community of all users that will ever use the product you’re working on.

Slide 30 – What are those users expecting to get from this product? Where’s the value? What’s in it for them?

Slide 31 – Is your product or your message credible? Are you talking to your user community in a way that appeals to them. Or, have they shut down. Here’s where the concepts around community marketing, user involvement, bottom-up management and social design come into play.
You can make or break your product based on how you communicate your message and involve the community of possible end users.
There’s a lot of conversation going on these days in the web world, for example, around involving your community as a method for getting buy-in. It’s equally applicable in UX work.

Slide 32 – Here’s what happens when your message is NOT credible.

Slide 33 – Are you considering user needs? Really?

Slide 34 – Is the IA of your product actually based on those user needs?

Slide 35 – Or is the tail wagging the dog? How many bad web sites have you seen that are structured around an internal organisation structure than means NOTHING to end users?

Slide 36 – Have you adequately researched actual user needs and drawn SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Tangible – conclusions from them in setting your UX goals.

Slide 37 – On to business strategy. What does the business want and need from this product?

Slide 38 – So, you’re making something. Does the business know what it is supposed to do?

Slide 39 – And why.

Slide 40 – What problem space is this product actually being built to fill?

Slide 41 – Have all these needs been considered in defining product features?

Slide 42 – Here’s an example of brand. Anyone NOT know it? Anyone think these guys aren’t factoring their business goals (world dominance no doubt) into their branding work?

(BTW, here’s another awesome branding example).

Slide 43 – Design strategy. These guys too, are masters at their game. They consistently successfully mesh business drivers with their design strategy. Is there any doubt when you’re using their products that they’re from Apple?
Even with this product, you’re obviously using something made by Apple. And let me assure you as a satisfied owner that it’s far and away the best phone I’ve ever owned.
In the last week, I’ve handed it to my 9½ year old daughter and my 61 year old Mum. They BOTH had the entire interface figured out inside 10 minutes. That’s good design. That’s Apple.

Slide 44 – So what happens if you DON’T get your strategy right? Or your organisation or client doesn’t let it be right?

Slide 45 – Business needs to be pragmatic. That’s completely fair. If you don’t have strategic value in the universe of the business you work for, you could be out the door. Or like this guy, the window.

Slide 46 – UX costs money. If you haven’t convinced the people with their hands on the buckets of money that you have value, you risk extinction.

Slide 47 – I’m sure you’ve heard something like this before. If you can get your UX work involved early in the product development cycle, you have the opportunity to make a real difference in how easily and cheaply problems get solved. You get to earn brownie points that have an actual, measurable dollar value.

Slide 48 – On the subject of measurement, there are a bunch of activities you can do to measure UX value. Steve Baty this morning gave us a bunch of ideas – like Shane, I’d POTENTIALLY leave a site in the first seconds too. Probably if I fell asleep in my chair or had a stroke.

Slide 49 – Get involved early on and UX can be a powerful and helpful agent for change. You get the opportunity to make a real difference.

Slide 50 – What this all ends up being about is relationships. Between people. If you talk the right way to the right people at the right time, you set yourself up to be a VERY successful agent for change and an important advocate for users.

Slide 51 – So, as I said earlier, to have UX taken seriously your job is actually SIGNIFICANTLY about relationship and expectation management. It’s not enough just to be a designer, or an IA, or a coder. You need those core skills, but almost more importantly, you need the ability to deal with people.

Slide 52 – Community is critical. Be involved in your communities. Peers in your building, in your town, overseas. Get involved in your professional community and work community so that you’re not just the guy or girl in the corner who thumps out wireframes or does testing.

Slide 53 – What goes around comes around. If you deal with the people you interface with in a way that gets them to pay attention to you, your ability to have an affect on driving strategic adoption of UX can be much greater.

Slide 54 – I know this is how I want to work. How about you?

Slide 55 – You can reuse my work as long as you follow the license rules.
The slides will be available on SlideShare at the URL shown.

Slide 56 – Since people usually ask, here are the sources for my pictures.

Slide 57 – Oh, and this is me.
I’m happy to take questions. I’m happy to be called out. I’m happy to talk in the break. And if you want to invite me to your organisation to talk about this stuff, I’m more than happy to do that too.

I Am Knowledge Worker 2.0

My brain is very full ¾ of the way through Office 2.0. There are some amazing things being discussed here, and I think there’s enough of a business presence (rather than vendors and those who live in the Web 2.0 echo chamber) for some changes to take place. There are also some astounding new products on show – almost too many to take in in any sensible way.

I’ve just given my presentation – I am Knowledge Worker 2.0 – Hear me roar which went really well. I got some great feedback from the audience and lots of great questions. The video is already available at the conference site (choose the On Demand Video tab and select Knowledge Worker 2.0 and then look at some of the others, or go to the direct link).

The presentation discusses the work style, motivation and some of the issues around the modern knowledge worker and how they can be managed in your organisation.

Power to the people

Here’s the deck I presented at the IIM National Conference yesterday. It’s a look at the shift in the nature of KM, knowledge work and knowledge workers and what their organisations can do to make their own and their employees’ lives easier.

The presentation went over really well. It’s always good when passionate but friendly discussion takes place after you give a presentation. It’s even better when you have audience members approach you and let you know that they were delighted to see a more visual, story-focussed presentation.

The presentation was videoed and recorded, so some time soon, I’ll have access to audio. In the meantime, if you’d like my speaking notes, I’m more than happy to give them to you if you leave a comment asking for them.