All posts by russell

Dunbar’s Number and the Social Business

Dunbar’s Number
Most people working with social technologies will be familiar with Dunbar’s Number: the number of people we can comfortably maintain stable social relationships with. Apparently it varies from 100 to 230, with 150 being the norm. This we each typically connect up with and socialise with on average 150 people. This applies both to our friends in the ‘real’ as in the virtual – our own core social network will adhere to Dunbar’s principle.

Evolutionary Anthropology and our neocortex
Dunbar reckons that the reason for this is all to be found in our neocortex, so at heart it is an evolutionary anthropology argument and implies that we are working around biological limits. Whether this is the case or not is moot and indeed questions have been raised as to whether technology in the form of social networks can increase the number, so that American politicians for example, might have 300 friends.

Does E 2.0 = multiple 150s?
Rather than toy with this concept, I’d like instead to turn it on its head and ask this – how does Dunbar’s number relate to the efficiency gained to using social business software in an enterprise? Or put another way, what’s the biting point for e-mail – how big can a company get before the inefficiencies of using e-mail get so much, that using social software is a no-brainer? Or another, can we have multiple 150s around social projects when using Enterprise 2.0 collaborative technology?

E-mail overload, Jive and SharePoint
The backdrop to this are some recent conversations, a couple were with people senior in large organisations, who were overwhelmed with e-mail. What I’ve been wondering is this – is e-mail overload the inability to surpass the 150 limit? In other words, we can only process the interactions of 150 friends but e-mail can dump those of several 1,000s into our inbox every week. How do we manage this when the organisation is 100,000 + people? Social of course, but are we then, and I’m thinking of a recent Jive Software project I worked on, creating lots of manageable Groups and Spaces where information gets packaged up into bite sized 230 max pieces? On a note here, one of Jive’s big strengths is the ability to split of content and create discussion threads or to port over discussions, blogs and documents into a new Jive Group or Space. Jive manages this with aplomb, not something I can say for SharePoint 2010, but that can itself package up information if used correctly.

Why do I need a social intranet?
A second related conversation was with one of my own ‘150 people’ at the local wine bar. My friend works for an international company with global clients, who themselves will have a multi-national presence. One of these clients presented a business issue and my friend was able to e-mail his internal network and get an answer within a very short time. Thus the question put to me was “Tell me what one of your social intranet things can do that I can’t already do with e-mail?”

What’s the e-mail limit?
The examples I gave were the ability to manage that information and the like, the fact that the answer could be shared and socialised much more easily. I gave quite a few others but didn’t really convince my pal. The conversation did make me wonder this though: is there a business size at which you can get away with e-mail? The business in this discussion was around 1,000 employees. My gut feel is this: the e-mail traffic of 1,000 people communicating falls into a Dunbar’s Number sized package. That is 1,000 people’s e-mails in a group such as a business on average create an information pool equivalent to on average 150 people.

Benefits of of social business software
Now I wonder, at what point, on average does employee size it surpass this? My guess is 1,500 people – if you have 1,500 people using e-mail as their primary communication tool then you’re at the limit of what that technology can do without it having a negative impact. 1,500 people sending e-mail overloads the 150 social limit – you need a better way of managing that information, the business needs the benefits of social business software.

 

Geoffrey Moore on Systems of Engagement

Hard-hitting analysis and recommendations from Geoffrey Moore on the transformations taking place in IT and the move toward systems of engagement. I remember seeing a video he did for Cisco a while back where he described the whoosh sound heard in the early days of the internet when the mass of business people realised how important the technology was and how the internet was not about to disappear, but was actually vital for their business. He then described the send whoosh when the same realisation happens with all things 2.0 and social. I think we’re at the start of that whoosh here in the UK. A nation of laggards maybe…

Systems of Engagement and The Future of Enterprise IT: A Sea Change in Enterprise IT AIIM (PDF)

Employee Engagement & the Passionate Worker

A Tweet by John Hagel caught my eye last week:

 

John was referring to one of the findings of The Shift Index, as published by John and his team at Deloitte. What caught my eye in contrasting passion to that of engagement, is that engagement is such a buzzword and is often heralded as the key endeavour in so many different contemporary realms. For example, in both the consumer and business to business marketplace, customer engagement increasingly the aspiration of much social relationship management and the topic of many a social media marketing book and website.

However the engagement John was referring to here was not that of engaging in the social marketplace, but that of employee engagement and the need for what he defines as a new level of engagement, that of passion and thus, the passionate worker.

“Worker Passion, different from employee satisfaction, denotes an intrinsic drive to do more and excel at every aspect of one’s profession.”

The Flow Index

The passionate worker is a nuanced entity in the Index and stands also as a metric for monitoring aspects of long-standing and systemic change taking place in the US economy. Alongside social media use, the passionate worker stands as a metric for what the Index calls a ‘Flow Amplifier‘. This amplifier forms part of what the Index dubs a Flow Index, which is a broad measure of the changes brought about by a shift from Knowledge Stocks to Knowledge Flows. The other two drivers, Virtual Flows and Physical Flows define movements in connectivity and virtualisation, and the movement of capital and people.

Only 18% have passion

But measuring passion is more than just a metric, it also ups the ante in terms of the whole issue of employee engagement and opens up questions on just how engaged workers really are. Thus, while most American employees are, to use one measure of engagement, satisfied with their current company, only 18% are passionately engaged with their current employment:

“The bottom line is that nearly 80 percent of workers lack passion regarding their jobs.”

This is important for the Index, as only the passionate worker is fully engaged with their job – the satisfied worker may like and contribute to their work, but this is ultimately not enough.

Cognitive Dissonance

There is a problem here however as the Index argues that companies find it increasing difficult to keep hold of the very people vital to their long-term success. A cognitive dissonance is created between what they desire and what they experience and the passionate worker can leave to pursue other often more individualistic endeavours such as forming their own smaller company, contracting and consulting.

This, the Shift Index argues, is a big loss and of paramount importance: the stakes are not just about engagement and employee satisfaction, passionate workers the Index argues are of vital importance for the long-term well being of the American economy.

The Performance Paradox

To understand this role of the passionate worker, we need to look at the the macro-economic backdrop. The picture painted by the Index is counter-intuitive to much mainstream thinking. Most people would argue that the increases in productivity brought about the arrival of a knowledge based economy have been translated into an increase in value generated. However, in what Index dubs the ‘Performance Paradox‘ companies find it difficult to hold on to this created value, even when they’re more productive.

“…productivity is not translating into profit for companies. The old assumption that improvements in productivity lead to higher returns turns out to be flawed.”

And this it turns out, hold so even in those sectors with the biggest use of new technology:  the Technology sector itself, plus Media, Telecommunications, and Automotive.

A picture of decline

The Index depicts this in graphic fashion in terms of the Return on Assets and on the Return on Invested Capital over the last 4 decades:

Return on Assets

 

The real importance of the Passionate Worker

It’s against this picture of decline that the role of the passionate worker becomes so important:

“In a world driven by the twin forces of technology infrastructure and public policy shifts, the primary source of value creation for companies is moving from accumulating and exploiting “stocks” to participating in “flows” of knowledge. This activity takes place primarily through talented workers, who monetize the intangible assets that now account for the lion’s share of profits at big companies in the developed world. Since passionate workers have a greater propensity to participate in knowledge flows, it makes sense for companies to find ways to increase the amount of passion workers find in and bring to their jobs.”

The passionate worker can help achieve this turnaround this via two propensities: they have questioning and connecting dispositions. The questioning disposition means that the passionate worker sees challenges as opportunities for new ways to do things; while they will connect up with relevant others to achieve these gains. The important thing to stress here is that in an economy defined by Knowledge Flows that it’s via these traits that the passionately engaged worker brings value, new value.

“Passionate workers drive sustained extreme performance improvement. Without passionate workers, at all levels of the organization, companies will find it increasingly difficult to turn around the continued deterioration in financial performance which has thus far been a key marker of the Big Shift.”

Conclusion

I’ve only touched the surface of the Shift Index and focused on those aspects that interested me the most. It’s rich and complex with a lot of detail and well worth reading in full. A couple of closing remarks. Firstly the Index is about America, as a European I would have liked the scope to be increased – does what holds for America hold for Europe for example?

Perhaps more importantly, I would have liked to have seen a more global comparison of profitability. The real and massive shift we seeing is that of productive power and wealth and ultimately most likely political power from West to East, the symptoms of which we see played out in the form of recession. Do we therefore see the same declining rates in China as seen in the US? I think probably not. And as for the UK…well at least there’s still a substantial industrial economic base elsewhere, here, all we seem to be left with are those knowledge flows…Is this enough?

Finally, the declining rates did remind me of a tendency discovered by an obscure old German philosopher once dubbed ‘The Declining Rate of Profit‘. Is there a difference?

Social Business Roadmaps & Guides

 

A couple of interesting implementation guides on deploying Social Business technology / Enterprise 2.0 have come out recently. The first is from AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management), who are often big advocates for using Microsoft’s SharePoint platform as the social platform. The second is from IBM (please see below)

AAIM take an 8 step approach:

Emergence

Strategy

Development

Monitoring

Particpation

Engagament

Governance

Optimization

AIIM

 

IBM take a similar approach using what they describe as an ‘Agenda’ framework:

 

IBM AGENDA framework for the Social Business

I particularly like the way IBM see the importance of embedding the social technologies into business process while keeping it relatively simple: the core concepts are networking, transparency and agility. They the say combine to create:

An effective social business embodies a culture characterized by sharing, transparency, innovation, and improved decision making. Such a culture enables deeper relationships with customers and business partners. This culture encourages people to document and share their knowledge and ideas with others, so that everyone can recognize, refine, and improve those ideas and content.

The key question for me here is this – how useful are these in practice, can they be used as literal guides or as handy sign-posts? My take is more the latter, but I do think that these are very useful starters.

The guides are free and can be downloaded here:

Social Business Roadmap

Using IBM Social Business to Take Your Business Relationships to the Next Level: A Game Changer for Small, Medium, and Large Business

 

Making Connections: the Social Object

Originally posted on The Dachis Group Collaboratory. Reposted here just so I have my own record.

There seems to be almost a collective deja vu among some of the social business commentators of late, with lots of talk about a sense of having been here before, for some more than once. For example, Andrew Gilroy, Oracle’s EMEA Enterprise 2.0 spokesperson, even though attending our forward-looking Social Business Summit in London, still found himself wondering if we’d all been here before: Is Social Media Groundhog day 2.0?

So what is creating this uncanny sense of a recurrent History, if not actually repeating itself, at least having a particular resonance today? Let’s start with IBM’s Collaboration evangelist Luis Suarez, who posted a blog called KM, Enterprise 2.0 and Social Business: One and The Same. What Luis contends is that when we look at the issues facing firstly Enterprise 2.0 and now more latterly with Social Business, we’ve been here before with Knowledge Management. But not only that, Luis sees a clear legacy between them all:

“In fact, if folks have stated how Enterprise 2.0 is the father of Social Business I would venture to say that KM is the father and grandfather of E2.0 and Social Business, respectively.”

What Luis hopes is that those of us working with enterprise 2.0 tools and social business transformation will learn from the experiences of knowledge management, but he also notes a point of at least potential tension between the two disciplines. Putting Luis’ argument simply, knowledge management wants to manage knowledge, social business wants to socialise it. One looks at structure and order and managing the ‘unstructured chaos’ of social data; the other side says ‘you cannot and should not ever try this!’

How do we reconcile the two, which is the right course to take?

Now Luis is very canny. He says that both are right. How can this be?

The answer to this I think can be found in one of the Social Business Summit speakers, namely Salesforce’s Chief Scientist JP Rangaswami’s and the writings in his blog ‘Confused of Calcutta‘, especially those around the ‘social object’.

Simply put, the social object refers to the all the social implications embodied in objects, that if actually not introducing, the internet has certainly accelerated. Whilst the social object is a very nuanced object, there’s one important core element that’s relevant for this discussion:

“An object becomes social only when it is shared; it is the sharing that makes the object social, not the object per se.” Thinking more about social objects in the enterprise

Why is this important? The reason is this -as we all know in the traditional 1.0 enterprise the vast amount of objects are not shared much at all, they are stored, sorted away in filestores, e-mail folders, even in filing cabinets. That they are not social at all for most their existence means that they are essentially lifeless, moribund documents gathering one form of dust or another.

In contrast to this, we have all the information that is generated by us as people. These are our conversations, both face to face and via all the communication channels at our disposal: “post, telegraph, telephone, email, IM, SMS, twitter, video calling…” These two systems JP describes as the System of Record and the System of Engagement.

Systems of Record: those tools, repositories, and systems upon which organizations have built their business processes for the last several decades.

Systems of Engagement: These tools overlay and complement organizations deep investments in systems of record by providing Web-based access, usability across a variety of hardware and software platforms, and cross-organizational collaboration. (see here for more on this).

The task ahead of us is how to connect these ‘tectonic’ systems up in meaningful and productive ways.

This is something of interest to Sameer Patel, who has been talking of the importance of the systems of record and Enterprise Content Management for some time. He is of course also acutely aware of the importance of social tools. In his latest post he talks of ways that these two systems can be practically connected up with a ‘social connector’: Jive , Alfresco and SolutionSet turn Content into a Social Object

In his post Sameer looks at Alfresco doing the ‘heavy lifting’ of content management and Jive providing the social functionality. Connecting these two spheres creates the social object, or perhaps rather releases it from the system of record into that of interaction and of people.

As Sameer points out there are many different ways to do this, Jive can be connected to SharePoint 2010, realising the social potential of all those documents in the Microsoft SharePoint repositories. The same process can be done with Oracle and with IBM Connections.

However, as we all know, and Sameer underlines too, the ‘devil is in the detail’ of connecting these two systems.  JP  also stresses some of the potential risks around security and data privacy: often materials in systems of record are locked away because they are private and confidential and thus we need to manage “the export of private objects from the systems of record into the public space of the systems of engagement.”

Managing this risk and managing the end-to-end process of creating not only social objects but in creating the social business is what Headshift and the wider Dachis Group are all about. We are in the business of helping others create social businesses.

Doing so means working with technology and getting that technology to ‘talk’ with other technology and with people. It’s about creating social objects to power the social business. If you would like to know more about how we can release all of that locked up content in your ‘systems of record’ – be they e-mail silos, SharePoint 2003, or even the filing cabinet, please get in touch.

Enterprise Architects & Internal Communications

‘How do you measure success – what does it look like to you?’ is one of those questions that can elicit a wide range of answers, but what I’ve found is that whatever the answer is it points to a fundamental philosophy of what matters most. It was with this in mind that I asked a couple of Enterprise Architects this very question. One was from really big Pharma, the other a global bank and their answers were remarkably similar. Success they said, was when things don’t go wrong – so long as the business has forgotten that we’re here, then we’re doing OK.

The opportunity to ask these question was provided at Forrester’s Enterprise Architecture Forum 2011 which I had the pleasure of attending along with my Headshift colleague, Imran Aziz. In some sense the answers were a common thread – what matters most to the Enterprise Architect is of course stability, keeping the engines running and with zero downtime. Innovation, agility and all things social business where therefore secondary to this prime aim. But this in turn means that the Enterprise Architects had a continual juggling act to contend with, for no technology stays still, change is always present and the Business will always require new tools and deployments if the company is to stay competitive.

Part of the purpose of Forrester’s event was to look at how the Enterprise Architect might successfully keep the architecture plane flying safely and continually while all the time re-engineering it in full flight. What I found personally interesting was that Forrester recommended what I understand as a  social or pace layering approach, that is a stable slow changing and secure Transaction Layer supporting the more nimble, innovative and agile Interaction Layer.  One way of explaining this that I particularly liked came from Michel Dufresne of Medco, who likened the model to the iPhone. In this analogy the phone itself is the transaction layer – it is solid and slowly changing, whereas the multitude of applications available via iTunes is the interaction layer. For more information on this model and the opportunities it presents for the business, see Social layering can help bring IT and the business together.

I particularly liked the presentations from Gene Leganza, who saw ‘data as the new oil’ and learned a lot from Jeff Scott and Clay Richardson on Strategy and Business Process. One aspect of the event that pleasantly surprised me, was just how prevalent social business was on the Enterprise Architecture horizon. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised, given it’s ubiquity in all other aspects of the business, but social, along with mobile were the top agenda items for the Enterprise Architect. Indeed, what was pointed out was that architecture was one of those parts of the business that has a view right across the business. It has to, as the architecture supports all the business transactions and interactions. It is core to the business strategy.

This got me thinking. There’s room here I think for an alliance in the business and one I’ve not seen as yet. That alliance is between the Enterprise Architects and Internal Communications. The architecture enables the strategy from a core foundation IT perspective. The communications infrastructure articulates and communicates that strategy. They’re both sides of the same coin. These teams would do well to talk and plan things together more often. There’s productive synergies in place there, especially when the internal comms guys are leveraging Enterprise 2.0 tools to articulate and bring to life their message. To use social media for internal communications needs an effective and efficient enterprise architecture. And if the rest of the business only thinks about the architecture when things go wrong, there’s a communications opportunity there to be had here.

Creating these sorts of conversations is not easy – if it were they would be happening already. The architecture guys need to understand the communications people and their drivers. In turn, the communications teams need to understand the technology and process that form the Enterprise Architecture. And if Enterprise 2.0 tools are in the loop, as they should be, both need to understand the transformative possibilities of social business for both communications and architecture.

 

 

Making Social Business a Success

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to see a sneak peek of Jive 5 at a private view in London. Now whilst I’m not in a any position to reveal any details (that would spoil the surprise and impact of Jive’s forthcoming launch of the new release), I can say this however – what I saw I liked. And whilst I expect that the new features will grab the headlines when it’s unveiled, what struck me was the consolidation of one aspect Jive have already publicised pretty widely, namely the role of Jive Apps in the future of the platform.

Quite why I like Jive Apps is something I’ve blogged about lately (On Pace and Panarchy). In a nutshell, I like the approach in that it offers the potential of solving the paradox of how we square the business need for stability with the competitive need to be agile. In this model, we have a core transactional layer characterised by slow moving but stable business proceses and a faster changing more agile interaction layer. This model can be applied to an architecture or a platform, the latter we have the core Jive software release and then the ability to provide a customised layer of either bought in pre made or bespoke applications.

Jive already supports a range of these Apps, from Box allowing easy and secure file sharing; through to quick translations via Lingotek and Tungle.me for meeting planning and organisation. Using the OpenSocial standards, there is also nothing to stop companies developing their own bespoke Apps to meet specific needs. What’s more, this does not mean a complete free for all of rogue applications. Precisely which applications are available for users, is centrally controlled via the Jive admin console, allowing for far better management than the anarchy vs. IP blocking approach.

But before anyone gets excited by all these new toys, it’s worth taking both a deep breath and a step back. All the technology in the world will not solve a business problem and this goes for all the social platforms, Jive, SharePoint, Connections as well as their add on Apps. Problems are solved (and perhaps created) by people. The purpose of all these tools is to get people working in new and better ways. But before we look at how we might achieve this, let’s spend a moment looking at what we mean by ‘better’ and how the numbers support this.

Two recent research publications are of note here when looking at the benefits of social business software. The first is from Jive themselves who asked their customers what they thought Jive software brought them. The results pointed to core benefits in employee satisfaction (30% increase), customer retention (31% increase) as well as the bottom line (26% increase in web site sales). Jive software customer survey reveals state of market The 2nd was from McKinsey The rise of the networked enterprise: Web 2.0 finds its payday The McKinsey work differs in only one way to the Jive report – its numbers are stronger, pointing to even higher benefits, with an elite group of early adopters doing even better.

This all looks well and good. There’s new technologies available, with data on its efficacy to support the desire that they can help people work better and successful case studies to aspire to. So surely, all that’s needed then is to roll out the software and productivity, employee satisfaction and sales will rocket? Oh if it were so easy. Like many fine things in life, it takes a lot of effort, ingenuity, patience and process to get it right.

The SharePoint Question: 2.0 be or not 2.0 be?

It’s some nine months now since Microsoft released their latest iteration of SharePoint, SP2010. This was done with no small degree of fanfare:

Web 2.0 applications are all the rage now. Different apps delivering different capabilities aim to tackle blogging, wikis, discussion boards, document management, and more all try to deliver great “best of breed” experiences. Trying to implement a hodge podge of applications in a piecemeal fashion presents a number of challenges to any Enterprise implementation.
Announcing SharePoint 2010

It was against this backdrop that good deal of traffic was generated in response to a couple of blogs from SharePoint expert Michael Sampson about the ratio of costs to customise Microsoft SharePoint compared to the license cost. The ratio turns out to be up to 9:1 – for every $1 spent on licenses, $9 get spent on customisation: The Cost of SharePoint = License Fee x9 (It’s a Microsoft Figure).

This as the title reveals, comes from Microsoft themselves, namely Microsoft Director Arpan Shah who presents the figure as part of a long overview of SharePoint’s capabilities: Building Solutions on SharePoint.

This figure attracted a lot of interest both in Twitter retweets and also in more private 2.0 conversations on SocialCast, the premise being in both that it’s rather high.

This response was perhaps not surprising given what Microsoft promised for SP2010, namely:

Today’s corporate IT operations groups know that the real cost of any software is not in the up front purchase but in the subsequent maintenance and integration of those applications. SharePoint 2010 squarely meets the needs of today’s Enterprise.

Out of the box SharePoint 2010 delivers a seamless integrated offering that addresses corporate needs around collaboration, search, BI, content management, social computing, and more.

Announcing SharePoint 2010

This is a compelling argument and in many corporations, it’s a winning one. It’s one also frequently bolstered by a premise that SharePoint is free. From one perspective it is – SharePoint is usually bundled with other enterprise Microsoft as part of a wider enterprise deal and so from an IT perspective it’s as good as free (i.e., it’s already paid for, so it won’t add any more to their budget).

It’s perhaps not surprising then that when someone within a corporation that already uses SharePoint; reads, sees, or experiences, the benefits of social business software and wants to deploy the same in their company that the SharePoint Question kicks in.

This questions often gets played out like this. Someone, often from IT rightly points out that  the company already has SharePoint, that it’s paid for and “does all the social media 2.0 stuff you’re talking about – blogs, wikis, rss, discussions and the like.”

At this point the business owner of the Enterprise 2.0 project needs to make a decision. They can either:

1) Agree and use SharePoint out of the box with no customisation

2) Agree, but ask that it be customised to meet the specific needs of their organisation

3) Agree but insist that it’s used in conjunction with other tools -adding a ‘social layer’ for example using Newsgator, Yammer or Jive.

4) Disagree and go down what Microsoft call the ‘best of breed’ route – namely use IBM Connections, Jive or Telligent etc.

5) Disagree and build their own from scratch or using Open Source solutions such as Drupal.

If IT are positioning SharePoint as the one-stop-shop for social then option 1 comes compelling and any other route might appear extravagant. The interesting thing is this however, in my experience at least, in the longer run companies rarely end up using SharePoint out of the box. At some point they almost always take one of the other options.

I think this in part where the 9:1 figure comes from – many people running 2.0 projects learn learn that SharePoint is an extremely powerful enterprise tool when it comes to managing documents. But when it comes to people collaborating as teams and communities in the ways that the ‘best of breed’ do in almost seamless fashion, SharePoint struggles in out of the box form. When this is realised, many companies decide to customise SharePoint, many try adding a social layer on top to get the best from it and some decide to adopt a completely different course by using another platform.

Putting the platform together is however, the easy part. No matter which platform is used and how much it is customised or tweaked, getting people collaborating together in new ways is the difficult part. This means getting non technology issues right: creating the right strategy for adoption, putting in place the right set of tactics to achieve it and creating the sort of corporate culture where collaboration can thrive. It is this where the rewards are. It is also the area where the ratio of gain can potentially far outstrip ratios of cost and license.

On Michael Sampson, we’re meeting up for lunch on Monday and my weekend read is his “User Adoption Strategies: Shifting Second Wave People to New Collaboration Technology (2010)” I’ll be asking him if we can really do this successfully with SharePoint out the box!

The Social Business paradox

“How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress.”
Niels Bohr

Thus spake the Danish Nobel prize winning physicist Niels Bohr. I was reminded of this quote on reading Alex Williams’ post on ReadWriteWeb The Paradox for Jive Software . The paradox he sees here is this, Jive he believes are a solutions orientated company and “Solutions oriented companies build custom configurations.”

As evidence, Williams cites Tim Bertrand over at the Drupal builders Acquia. Jive, Bertrand reckons, are playing a time-old game of building highly customised solutions, that not only cost the client a lot of money themselves, but also cost even more every time a new release is made: “Proprietary Social Business Software and Its Dirty Little Secrets” .

I don’t buy this argument as it goes completely against my own experience with Jive. They have a well developed Professional Services wing, but they’re not exactly keen on producing customisations. For sure, Jive will make customisations if requested but as they publicly stated at a Jive customer event in London last year, they do not see this as their core business. Their business they said was selling software, not to produce bespoke solutions. As this market is worth a potential $100BN a year, there might well be some mileage in this approach.

No even if a quarter of this size, this market is still pretty huge and the question remains on how customers’ needs are going to be met – is it best met with Open Source solutions such as Drupal (or my own personal favourite for small business solutions, WordPress); ‘best of breed’ vendors such as Jive; or the architecture behemoths such as IBM’s Connections or Microsoft Sharepoint?

The answer of course is ‘it depends’ and each of these solutions can and do meet customer needs to great effect. How they do this points to a bigger paradox than the one facing Jive and one that impacts all players. This paradox is this: how do you achieve standardisation and security and still provide agility and customisation?

The answer to this paradox is quite possibly revealed when we look at the pace or Social Layering model of an IT architecture. See Lee Bryant’s Social layering can help bring IT and the business together and my On Pace and Panarchy. To reiterate, this model posits a slower changing and tightly controlled IT foundational architecture – the ‘transaction layer’ and a more quickly changing and less regulated social or ‘interaction layer’.

Such a model points to the way that standardisation and customisation can coexist as happy bedfellows. The foundational transaction layer provides the economy of scale and security needed for the core business operations. The interaction layer supports the winning edge of people driven innovation and collaboration needed for the modern social business.

What strikes me is that this model is one that we can actually see mirrored in some of the vendors mentioned above. SharePoint for example provides the potentially corporation wide architecture, but can happily coexist with a social layer provided by Yammer, Newsgator and the like. Perhaps at the other end of the scale we see this at a micro level with WordPress and its legion of plugins. The most interesting model is seen with Jive however.

Jive sits in the middle – there’s a core product that does the job pretty well indeed, at least according to Gartner and Forrester. It also can connect up to SharePoint and socialise a Microsoft architecture. The really interesting aspect of Jive is coming out in the imminent release of Jive 5.

What Jive 5 promises, is a core product, a standardisation, with the ability to create customisation via bespoke applications, named not surprisingly Jive Apps. Using OpenSocial these adhere to global standards and great flexibility. They can be built in-house, bought from vendors selling them as commercial apps or built by specialist agencies as part of a social business design. I like this approach as it combines stability with agility – it solves at least potentially, the paradox of how to customise without getting locked into the endless ‘vicious’ loop Bertrand speaks about.

Next blog will feature another physicist, Einstein, when I’ll look at how to make things simpler…;-)