Apr 4, 2012

Not Surprising

Consumers really do care about their privacy, according to a Consumer Reports survey:

According to a Consumer Reports press release, the national survey found that 71% of respondents said they were very concerned about companies selling or sharing their information about them without their permission. Another 65% of smartphone owners don't like that apps can access their contacts, photos, locations and other data without permission from them.

Who knew? ;-)

Apr 3, 2012

Social in Business: The Technology of Being Social

In this installment of the social in Business we address the Technology of Social in business.

Rather than rattling off the current social tools market with my color commentary, I felt this topic is a good opportunity to talk about the “technology” of Social Technology. My main point is that there are many tools that fall into the social technology market category. The social capabilities that each tool supports are key to knowing which tools to deploy in the business. You've by now likely heard me preach about the perils of installing technology for technology’s sake (cue soapbox).  If you’ve been following this series by now hopefully you have caught on that social in business is not a " build it an they will come" scenario; that it takes time, forethought and concentrated effort to make social solutions a success in the business environment

It makes sense then to take a closer look, in technological terms, what social tools are really doing for users and the business. Deep down, at it’s core, social technology is about communications. How people connect and communicate using electronic devices and networks. The extremely short history of electronic communications goes like this (we’ll start around 1970):

·      First came e-mail, which has dominated electronic communications since the early 1970’s and still (according to a recent Ipsos/Reuters poll) supports more than 85% of communications worldwide. E-mail continues to make our working lives better and miserable all that the same time.
·      As productivity tools and networks improved, collaborative tools (e.g., Lotus Notes) emerged for doing interactive processes with groups of people.
·      Then, as networks expanded (corporate and Internet) and devices got "smarter" (e.g., mobile phones and laptops) we looked to better forms for real-time communication (e.g., chatting and conferencing) and collaboration. This movement helped to bring down organizational and operational barriers of time, device, and location.
·      As the Internet grew and improved security emerged, the consumerization of electronic communications exploded. The opportunity to re-design the interfaces for electronic communications allowed us to add on more nuanced personalization and interaction with our information and colleagues.

Social tools are essentially then next evolution of communications with a personalized perspective. I like to think of social as a re-skinning of our communications, giving users a more “ego-centric” view of all the events (e.g., messages, data, information) going on around us as they wish to see and interact with it.

Socially enabled interfaces come new technologies such as profiles, presence, streams/feeds, and “likes”. In essence, the purpose of social technology is to act as an aggregator and filter of communications. Whether it’s one to one conversations or broadcasting, text or audio, feeds or streams, social technology is there to help users to communicate in a wide range of modalities.

So what does that mean for social in business? It means that choosing social tools depends heavily on the way the business communicates and how that communication supports the business’ needs. Savvy companies take time to understand their environment and business needs, to identify specific use cases and purposes for the social tools and then assemble the tools accordingly. In other words, knowing the value of communications tools on the business and which ones are most appropriate for the firm is paramount to a successful social tools strategy.

The social business tools market is growing rapidly and, typical of new markets, the market is dynamic and volatile. It’s a complex equation to decide which tools to deploy. The gnarly set of options today include:

·      Cloud or in-house
·      Hosted (dedicated or shared)
·      Consumer (e.g., Facebook or Google+)
·      Traditional productivity vendors e.g., IBM (Notes+Samtime+Connections) or Microsoft (soupped-up SharePoint)
·      Cloud-based business solutions e.g., Yammer or Salesforce.com with add-ons
·      Social business solutions such as Jive or SocialText on/off premises

Buying or building depends on existing tools (read licenses), the firm’s IT environment, the goals for social, risk and business tolerance. These choices can't be made in a vacuum. Sound social tool decisions can only be made by understanding how social technology is supporting the business: electronic communication with a personal touch.

Social in Business Series

Part 1 - What we are talking about
Part 2 - Build it and they will come (?)
Part 3 - What are we doing here anyway?
Part 4 - Rubber Meet Road

Mar 16, 2012

Social in Business: Rubber meet Road

In this next installment of Social in Business we focus on Strategy.

Hopefully the thesis of this post shouldn’t knock your socks off; in a nutshell, businesses need a social software strategy in order for the social in business to be successful at the firm.
Want to reach the holy grail of an e-mail free working environment? In reality what you’ll likely find, especially if you do the strategy legwork, is that the goal is not getting rid of e-mail. Rather, the goal is to improve e-mail usage so that it is not a drag on productivity. And yes, social tools can help with that. That goal, however, will never be achieved unless the firm puts in place a strategy with plans and guidelines for effectively mitigating e-mail stresses through social tools.

By strategy I mean a well-considered plan for selecting, deploying, managing, and educating users on the technology that will support social working activities. Social software options (e.g., vendors, tools, cloud, on-premise) options can become overwhelming very quickly. A good strategy considers the different options, how the business works, and then gauges success through identifiable metrics and milestones. It also means doing a fair amount of homework on the technology state, corporate governance, internal communications, cost factors, and operational requirements for deploying different options. Assessing this information and building a strategy that addresses these factors of the business not only aids in making decisions but also helps to identify viable solutions and (hopefully) documents the rationale for those decisions.

Why is this necessary? Because, like anything else in business, times and technology change. If the firm knows why it chose something in the first place, and documented what was successful and what failed, it will be a lot easier to modify and keep up with new trends as they come along. For example, knowing why the firm chose an on-premise solution over cloud-based solution is valuable information, especially if the reasons, cost, and rationale for that choice are documented and the plan is clearly defined on paper. It becomes much easier to recalibrate choices or make changes should a compelling reason for one choice become obsolete. Going back to the example, subsequent network upgrades might cloud-based solutions easier to support and more cost effective, hence the firm can quickly revisit the old rationale and decide if it applies any longer.

Strategies also help to communicate to the business and executives the nature of social software and that it takes time for success. Documenting the plan for development, deployment, and success metrics for social in business helps non-technical colleagues understand the cultural and working shifts that come with social software. It becomes much easier for the business to support new technology efforts if they know what to expect and when.

We all know that a good strategy and plan makes life easier with fewer gotchas when it comes to deployment. It can be hard to reign in enthusiasm for something new that will solve the “big” issues, but it’s worth the effort to take the time for strategy. No matter what the strategy is, the firm is better off with one. Even if the strategy is to let things grow organically and ad hoc, at least the consideration of the risks have been addressed, communicated and documented. What’s not to like about that?

Social in Business Series

Part 1 - What we are talking about
Part 2 - Build it and they will come (?)
Part 3 - What are we doing here anyway?

Mar 8, 2012

Enterprise Social Networking is More Than Facebook Behind a Firewall

More input from Brian Solis at Altimeter Group on the "you" in social in business:
Everything you see in social networks is unique to you because you are at the center of the entire experience. This is why I lovingly refer to social media as the Egosystem. By design, everything revolves around you. Your friends, co-workers, the businesses and organizations you support, are linked to by you. You have become the ringmaster of your personal connectivity and in many ways, serve as the IT department not only for yourself, but also the people who rely upon you to ease their way into the egosystem. You know better than anyone what it takes to engage you and also inspire you to take action.
The article highlights some current enterprise social media trends and some good action items for success.

Social in Business: What are we doing here anyway?

This is the third post in the Top Dog/Elguji Social in Business blog series. The first post was entitled "Social in Business: What we are talking about" and the second was entitled "Social in Business: Build it and they will come (?)".

Today we focus on Objectives.

So if you’ve followed my blog (or other similar minded bloggers) you’ve likely come across one of my occasional rants about the pitfalls of buying technology for technology’s sake. This is sort of one of those posts in this installment of “Social in Business”, Objective.

It’s hard to pick a technology, even an everything-including-the-kitchen-sink type of technology as social software, if you don’t know what you need it for. Actually one of the drawbacks of technologies that offer many options, such as social software, is that it is the potential answer to many issues. Vendor’s sales and marketing like the Swiss Army Knife utility of social software because they can answer “yes” to many customer needs but it makes things that much harder to for the customer to figure out if it really needs the product or not. More specifically, with so many options it can be very hard to identify which parts of the product offer the most value to customer’s business.
Who knew the toothpick on the Swiss Army knife would end up being so handy? Taking the Swiss Army knife analogy a bit further, today there are many versions of the renowned knife on the market that customer’s really need to know what they want to carry around in their pockets and what is likely to be most useful; corkscrew or none? For me a corkscrew-less version would be virtually useless. And what about the semi-retired boy scout who might benefit more with a Leatherman. It’s all a matter of knowing which features will serve the greatest purpose for the unique needs of the customer. Regardless of which model the customer chooses, they will likely use some tools in the kit more than others depending on their needs.

The same applies when choosing social software for enterprises. Much depends on the firm’s needs and how it operates. In other words, if a firm has a strong hierarchy with lots of structure and formalized ways of completing work its social software needs are likely to be different from a de-centralized, cross-organizational firm that functions in more organic ways. Both are viable organizations but they have very different objectives and expectations for the social software technologies that they employ.

Before picking a specific social software technology, and more specifically a vendor, enterprises should look at the objectives for the technology. If it turns out that there are many objectives, pick the objectives that will provide the most value to the firm. Make these the leading objectives for the technology to solve and focus on how to achieve them. Some may be solved without any technology or simply by improving on existing technologies. But the key idea is that the firm must know what it needs to work on before picking a tool or technology.
Identifying the leading objectives for social software in the enterprise and how to meet them cannot be done in an IT vacuum and must include input from the business and operational sides of the firm. This will ensure greater success and adoption when the business is part of creating the solution. It is vital for enterprises to understand the working culture, needs, and goals for the social technologies they want to deploy prior to choosing which one to buy. Otherwise they might just end up with a giant, expensive brick in their pockets.