Homogeneous Environments

Dear IT Vendor,

Don’t show me presentations that are just about your eco system of tools and how well interconnected they are and how all are problems are solved with your complete set of tools or systems.

You need to understand that nobody has an IT environment that is 100% your systems. You might want us to have only your ‘stuff’ but it isn’t going to happen. And I’m not going to write a check for you today to replace all my other systems with just your systems. You don’t know all my constraints and prior decisions and poured concrete so don’t show me a magic fairy tale.

Instead, you’ve got to talk to me about interoperability. You must talk to me about how I can connect your messaging tool with the one I already have in place. Further, you’ve got to show me examples of where this is working. And you’ve got to convince me that this is what you want to support. You’ve got to talk about openness, open standards, APIs, etc. And don’t try to steer me in a direction that is going to lock me in. I’ve got enough of those lock-ins and I’ve grown tired of them so I’m on to you.

If your story is only about you, then I’m going to tune out.

Thank you,

Mark

[wrote this post long ago and it never got published for some reason…]

Clay Shirky at Gartner Symposium

This past week I heard Clay Shirky speak at one the keynotes at the Gartner Symposium. Here are some of the thoughts that he shared:

  1. Business is changing due to social media. Social media is about everything, not just business.
  2. People and machines and companies are intertwined and the lines are blurring. He told funny stories of individuals being upset with a bank’s new policy and fees and starting a grassroots campaign on Facebook critical of the policy and the bank then reverting the policy back.  Unhappy customers in the past could complain but now they can coordinate their campaigns and complaints.
  3. This is both a threat and an opportunity!
  4. Business needs to understand that in the past communications were between individuals and the company. Now it is between all parties simultaneously. The network and connection possibilities are huge.
  5. Access to information has changed in regards to amount, availability, speed and cost.
  6. Amateur public speech is now real and powerful.
  7. Individuals can network and form groups locally or around the world.

The impact on IT is huge and IT needs to recognize that social networks and media are being dragged and carried into the workplace.  IT needs to figure this out proactively, as many firms are doing. He told the story of the DARPA challenge to find 10 red balloons deployed around the country and how people at MIT solved the problem by attacking it with brillant social network thinking.

The idea of cognitive surplus being harnessed to solve problems was terrific. He told funny stories about blog policies at companies the amount of time spent on wikipedia vs tv and a funny story about a reusable camera sold by a drug store. Good stuff.

He closed by saying the companies can likely find out more about the drinking habits of their employees than their work habits.

Lots to consider. I’ve not read his book yet, but will soon.

ROI of Social Media in the Enterprise

Interesting and brief post on the ROI of Enterprise Social Media in Fast Company.   I think these are generally true, but I still think they are hard to measure and then to establish that improvements are caused by social media use in the workplace.   I am a big fan of these tools and ideas, but establishing direct links on cause is difficult.

By the way, there is a great post defining Enterprise 2.0 which I found via twitter (can’t remember where) that I just wanted to pass along.  I’m going to pass this post along to colleagues here at work.   It does a good job at talking about some of the new tools and why they are different.   I especially like the closing comment about the tools meaning nothing unless collaborators embrace them.

I’ll be at Dreamforce for a couple of days next week.   Look me up if you are there.

Enterprise 2.0 Recent Thoughts

Resistance to Enterprise 2.0 and Results of Better Interactions Between employees and teams.

Found two good posts on Enterprise 2.0 ideas that I wanted to share.   The first is a rather hysterical presentation about security risks with a new medium which Saqib highlighted to me.   I’ll not say more and you need to take a look at it yourself.

Unfortunately there is always resistance to change and concern about what is happening and what might happen, in the worst case. It is interesting how people will tell you the negatives or the 1-2 things they worry about but they likely won’t tell you the positives and the 1-2-75 good things that might happen.

Also, there is a really great post by Jamie Pappas about social interactions in the workplace and results from some serious studies on the matter.    Her post is Understanding Human Organizational & Social Behavior in an Unusual Way– A Chat with Ben Waber of the MIT Media Lab. I found this post via Twitter post by Susan Scrupski who writes a lot of great material on Enterprise 2.0 ideas too.   Both are recommended.

I won’t repeat the points in Jamie’s post, but one item about the value of face-to-face interactions in the workplace was clearly demonstrated to me years ago when I worked in Asia.   I found that when team members who were trying to work together with the Pacific ocean between them would suddenly make huge progress and things would go smoother when the managed to get together for a few days.   This ‘learning’ is probably a good case for Telepresence.

Search

search in the enterprise

Enterprises are collecting lots of data.   Data is coming from customer interactions, supplier interactions and internal processes and testing.   Data and perhaps information is being stored in systems like ERP, CRM, Data Warehouses, etc.    Additional sources of information include the new sources like wikis and other social media environments.  That data and information is being further stored in presentation files, spreadsheets, and documents.

This information can be a headache for IT organizations and the Enterprise as it becomes hard to find the information that is needed for a decision.  Today, information can be stored in IT systems in well-ordered structures like data warehouses or an ERP system.   Or it might be stored in very unstructured forms like wikis, file sharing systems or even individual PCs.  Furthermore some of the information, your own information, might be locked up in systems that don’t lend themselves to search by 3rd party tools.   The challenge is to find what you are looking for out of the all the information that is ‘visible’ to you.  IT shops have to provide effective search capabilities to the company and the knowledge workers in the company.   That search capability must be able to look into ALL the domains where knowledge is being stored.   This is not a simple problem to solve.

There is a new book called Search Patterns by Morville and Callender which provides an excellent overview of the terms, ideas, challenges and solutions to the Search problem.  I recommend the book.

I’ve gone through some very interesting learning in this area this past six months.  At one point, we realized that the crawler for our own internal search capability hadn’t been running for a while.  Furthermore, it wasn’t crawling through several domains that are becoming increasingly important to us.   In the last few months, we’ve taken steps to both make the crawl process more robust and to expand the domains that are search-able.  We are also heading in the direction of making Search a more prominent part of the service we provide.

Enterprise 2.0 ideas have at their foundation the need to search through unstructured data to find the key nugget or information or person to help move things forward.  Search is critical and can’t be an afterthought.

Collaboration Learnings: I Can Still Learn Things!

Learnings about using collaborative tools in the Enterprise

In a prior post on Enterprise 2.0 I mentioned in passing that I believe one has to go on the journey themselves to learn what this means and how it changes things.   You’ve really got to see it in action and experience it for yourself and you’ve got to see teams starting to behave differently.   I should point out that I’ve been doing an internal blog for over 1.5 years and we are heavily using a wiki infrastructure.  A few things I’ve learned or changed my thinking about in the past year:

  1. The idea of co-editing and teams working on things together in parallel is a great idea, but it takes time to get there.   We are not used to co-editing and we’ve been conditioned for years to do our thing and then email it to others for comments.  The idea of putting your content somewhere that others can edit along with you requires a real shift in thinking.   I recently did an important presentation and I posted the draft on-line and then edited the document over several days and invited others to contribute and see it evolve.   Very different.
  2. You need to encourage people to engage and contribute.   People are sometimes hesitant to contribute to or comment on or edit content created by others.   I’ve had people send me emails telling me something to correct instead of just being bold and correcting it themselves.     It is really hard for people at lower levels in an organization to comment on content added by higher levels.    This is even more so when different cultures are involved.   There will always be the bold few who will comment on anything, but you want to engage with those farther away from your strong ties.   You want to establish a culture that is inviting to contributions and dialog.  This takes a bit of time.
  3. I’ve found myself doing more content creation in these tools (wiki) than in presentation tools.   I used to consider myself (still do) a Zen Master at a certain presentation tool set.    I’ve always been proud of the quality and content of the key presentations I made to various groups.   Sometime this year, my thinking shifted away from creating pretty slides and shifted more into the ideas and content.   I’m now focusing more on the content than the presentation which is probably a great change.
  4. One thing about doing content creation on a collaborative tool is that you can share the link to the content and let people check in at different times to see the latest version.   I don’t have the problem of mailing a deck of slides that are out of date two days later when I need to send a new deck.
  5. Related to (3) I’ve also greatly reduced the demands I make on others for presentations.  I want my own people to spend less time doing presentations and spend more time on content.   I need to reduce whatever overhead I’m placing on my own team to make presentations for me.   I’ve had many presentations this year that were just out of wiki pages or on-line analytics where teams and individuals were using the tools of every day to communicate with me.   Less overhead.    I just don’t need that beautiful deck of slides like I used to demand.
  6. It is really possible to get input from a much wider group of people on your ideas if your content is available to a larger group.   In the past, one would typically share with one’s staff or some relatively small group of close in people (strong ties).   This past year, I’ve put drafts of my top level goals out for any employee to read and comment on and I’ve received input about those goals from more sources than otherwise possible.   Contributions from people who might not have otherwise had a chance were able to help me make my goals better than before.   There are multiple cases where this has happened for me using these tools and ideas.
  7. I’ve come to believe that transparency is more and more important inside an Enterprise.    We need more people engaged and helping to solve the problem of the day and I believe that employees want to know what the leadership is thinking about and seeing.   In the case of IT I’ve come to believe that with a few exceptions, it is better to make most of our learnings, FAQs, documentation, plans, etc. visible to all inside the company.   The side benefit of being transparent is that nobody can complain that they don’t know what IT is doing!
  8. After a visit with Cisco and hearing of their enthusiasm with video, I decided to do a few video posts to the blog.   I was shocked by the strong and positive response these posts received.   From around the world, inside and outside my own organization, I received positive comments.   People were very pleased to get a 3-5 minute video from me.   I have more to explore on this front.
  9. I’ve come to realize how important search is to find content.  I was late on understanding this one.   More on this another time.
  10. Finally, I realized that it is hard for people who aren’t in the middle of this to understand that some of these things really are game changers for an organization.  It doesn’t really look different from a distance.   There is more to say about this which I might put in another post.   I think the Enterprise 2.0 book is helpful in this regard.  I’m going to write about ROI on this later too.

I’m certainly interested in others learnings and ideas.  I need all the good ideas I can find.  Comments are welcome.

Enterprise 2.0

Enterprise 2.0 by Andrew McAfee

I mentioned in a prior post that you need to read Andrew McAfee’s upcoming book called Enterprise 2.0.   I hadn’t read it yet, but was looking forward to reading it based on his blog and other references to the ideas and work.   Well, I bought a copy and finished it this past week.   I enjoyed it and I’ve already recommended it to quite a few people.   Here are some thoughts about it.

  1. The case studies in chapter 2 have elements of haunting familiarity that likely have parts that apply to many different companies.  While I can’t extrapolate to every Enterprise, I certainly believe that everyone is trying to do more with less and trying to leverage their physical and people assets more and more every day.
  2. Chapter 4 is outstanding as it drives to the key reasons why the tools in the web 2.0 might just make a difference.   To get better leverage, to move faster, to solve problems quicker, to get more minds working on the ‘opportunity of the day’ we need to connect with more problem solvers.  We need more minds working on the ‘opportunity.’  We need to convert people who are farther away from us into people who are helping us solve problems.  There is some good research that helps underpin why these tools make a difference.
  3. Chapter 5 talks about why these tools are different.  I liked the headings in the chapter so much that I used them to make a point in a meeting where I was involved.  These tools are ‘uniquely valuable’ which is the title of the chapter.   I won’t repeat the points here but this is the best chapter in the book.
  4. There is plenty of good material throughout the book and I wrote all through my copy (usually I read on Kindle but I anticipated that I’d write a lot on this so I went for the real book this time).    The final thoughts of the book are around new ways of thinking and IT investments and goals.   Good material to share with your leadership team and your CFO.

I really recommend this book and these ideas.   It should be emphasized that these tools alone don’t make the difference.  It takes new ways of thinking about working together and while this book and others can speed you along that path, I’m convinced that you’ve got to walk the journey yourself together with your colleagues.   We are using wikis and I’ve been blogging inside the company for over 1.5 years and I can look back and see how my thinking has evolved over that time and how I’ve seen problems differently the further down the path I’ve gone.    Perhaps I’ll write about that another time.

Get the book.