Category Archives: Analysts

Burton report on Enterprise Social Networks

Mike Gotta has produced a very useful Field Research Study for Burton: Social Networking Within the Enterprise (free registration required).  There’s a good exec overview at CIO.com: Report: Enterprises Struggle to Adopt Social Networking Internally. Note however, CIO’s somewhat negative angle there, a closer read shows that there are a number of key hurdles to overcome:

Culture

Winning over old ways of doing things is key – ‘we communicate top down’ is an issue to be turned into an opportunity. Cultural dynamics are central. Conservative practices will win through, unless countered with a winning and workable option. In this HR is pivotal- you need to have HR on side. For IT, the argument is  different – Gotta argues that IT need to see that the needs of the business are what counts, not their systems. As one respondent put it:

“[IT] people are  not thinking about what’s best for the company, but rather what’s best for SharePoint. Ops is a consideration, but at the end of the day, it’s the business that counts.”

Therefore IT need to be won over if effective ESN is to see the light of day.

Business Case and ROI

What was really interesting was the business case and ROI for Enterprise Social Networks. The data shows a lack of clarity on either in the respondent’s minds. What this highlights is the need for the technologies to solve specific solutions rather than being a nice to do exercise. After all, no other project would be rolled out without such. However, and here’s the rub – as Gotta reminds us, there’s no set and agreed way of measuring ROI in this area. These are the dichotomies that make funding more and more difficult to ‘attain (and sustain)’:

•  ROI is the wrong focus vs. ROI is still appropriate.

•  Current approaches for analyzing web systems are sufficient vs. no best practices on what to measure in social  environments.

•  Current  web  usage  analysis  tools  are  “good  enough”  vs.  social  network  analysis  tools  are  needed  (but  not mature).

People in Userland

Early adopters are essential.  Make it easy to use. Pitfalls to avoid are actually trying to mimic Facebook inside the firewall – this confuses people. Instead build communities, bring people together as Profiles, based on their need to collaborate and share expertise.

Plan

Plan + Legals & Governance – do it upfront, or pay later. We know this – why do people forget it?!

Platforms

One thing the Burton Report shows very clearly is that platforms are coming to the fore. Lotus Connections, Microsoft’s SharePoint and Jive Clearspace at the fore.

Conclusion

I think CIO’s conclusion is too negative. We are still at the watershed however and which way the current flows is still undecided.  From what I’m seeing in the UK, there’s a great deal of interest in the Enterprise Social Network, but equally the confusion and suspicion Burton has identified also prevail. There’s also an ascendancy of SharePoint here. Almost whenever social media comes up in any of the major career sites, it’s SharePoint MOSS that’s cited as the platform being used. This may have interesting consequences for the UK. Take for example Thomas Vander Wal’s SharePoint 2007: Gateway Drug to Enterprise Social Tools:

SharePoint has value, but it is not a viable platform to be considered for when thinking of enterprise 2.0. SharePoint only is viable as a cog of a much larger implementation with higher costs.

If this becomes the de facto E 2.o platform in the UK, will the ‘larger implementation’ ever really succeed?

Footnote

This list of benefits is one I personally am going to learn off by heart!

•  We need to connect people globally.

•  We need to address generational shifts.

•  We need to break down barriers.

•  We need to “know what we know.”

•  We need to collaborate better.

•  We need to innovate from the bottom up.

•  We need to learn differently.

Nielsen's internet footprint – a toe in the water at work?

The latest report from Nielsen, Social Networking’s New Global Footprint showing the growing normalisation of social media in internet use is of interest for several reasons. Most notable the age demographics refutes the fallacy that this is a novelty for young male users. The broad median of users extends from 38-49 across both sexes and shows a significant number of users in the 50-64 range, with the majority there being female.

Mobile time

Secondly, the report shows an increase in mobile use, particularly in Japan, where devices such as the iPhone are seen as a bit primitive, especially when compared to the functionality of the average Japanese fliptop phone. Finally, Nielsen note the increasing amount of time spent on these networks, this is increasingly not a flitter visit by users.

Implications for Internal Communications

So, what are we to make of this for the workplace? The most important aspect is the demographics. Most 2.0 literate internal communications professionals today, will have had experiences where 2.0 was dismissed as “not something our middle-aged managers will ever bother with”. One more case of refuting this. And whereas previous observers have remarked on the need to provide the same sort of tools and collaborative experience for Gen Y entering the workplace, the same could be applied to Boomers already there. If we can edit a website in seconds at home, why does it take a week or 2 at work?

Blue collar workforce

The enhancement of mobile use is also of note. As these things get better, even outside Japan then so their use will increase.This will have a knock-on effect for the the workplace. Put a WiFi device in a wireless work environment and even those not usually connected to a PC can be part of an electronic communication and collaborative environment.

Moore’s Mighty Woosh

Of course this does all presume a connected, e-savvy workforce. My point about WiFi ushers in the possibility of blue collars being connected with cheap(er) devices. Indeed I use my iPod Touch as a poor man’s smartphone and it works well as I move from wireless zone to zone. Why not then the same at the workplace? Even if the full impact of the tectonic shift – Moore’s great ‘Woosh’ isn’t there yet in the workplace, it sure is everywhere else, well everywhere that has the internet.

Not on the phone

On this we ought to be mindful of the fact that most people globally are not online. What we’re talking about here is for those countries and workforces that are already industrialised. Chomsky used to like to remind us that not only have the majority of people alive today never been online, most of them have never made a phone call. I wonder if this has changed much and if so by how much in the last decade?

McKinsey's Six of the Best for Web 2.0 Work

mckinseyStraight in after Deloitte, McKinsey enter the fray with a piece ‘Six ways to make Web 2.0 work‘ that I can only describe as ‘awesome’. And I use that word advisedly and often chuckle when my North American pals use it for what we’d describe in London as ‘jolly good’. So why awesome?

Awesome
It’s awesome because it’s so right on the mark and provides practical real politik advice. This is not a ‘how-to’ guide as much as what’s needed to get things working and working well. To see what I mean, just look at the list:

6 of the Best
1. The transformation to a bottom-up culture needs help from the top.
2. The best uses come from users—but they require help to scale.
3. What’s in the workflow is what gets used.
4. Appeal to the participants’ egos and needs—not just their wallets.
5. The right solution comes from the right participants.
6. Balance the top-down and self-management of risk.

No winning formula
This advice is centred on what works – getting it right is not formulaic, it’s about making sure people are happy in their risk, are getting credit and reward even in terms or their egos and that it’s about making sure 2.0 is right in the heart of the relevant workflows.

Controlled Disruption
And I particularly liked their concept of ‘controlled disruption’. Yes total laissez faire can lead to troubles, but there needs to be risk to make success:

Acceptance of Web 2.0 technologies in business is growing. Encouraging participation calls for new approaches that break with the methods used to deploy IT in the past. Company leaders first need to survey their current practices. Once they feel comfortable with some level of controlled disruption, they can begin testing the new participatory tools.

Consultant for hire
If you’re reading this and want to know how to make these technologies a success in the business, please fell free to get in touch – I’m looking for work in this area and can help you make it a success.

Harnessing 'Enterprise Social Networking'

Facebook for the Fortune 500

Following on from my post on what we should call social media inside the firewall “What should we call ‘Intranet Social Media’?” My peers (and Twitter pals) from various enterprises in Europe and the Americas have suggested the following: Collaborative Media, Business Networking Media, IntraSocial Media, Collaboration 2.0 and Social Computing. Now Deloitte have waded in with an article dubbing it ‘Enterprise Social Networking‘ (ESN), or more catchily ‘Facebook for the Fortune 500’.

dancefloor-gagliasReady steady….go?

2009 Deloitte predict, may well be a breakaway year for ESN but they hedge their bets with the proviso of if… This ‘if’ haunts the analysis of both Gartner and Forrester too and now with Deloitte joining the throe, they too proclaim a simultaneous red/green scenario:

the exact extent of adoption may still be unclear. Some commentators claim enterprises are generally not yet deploying social networks; various Fortune500 CEOs believe the opposite.

Primed and ready

What’s going to determine this is when (not if) a big breakthrough is made by one competitor that outstrips their rivals that is a clear demonstration of the productive power of ESN. To gain a clear footing in this market, Deloitte urge that early readiness for a primed market:

Telecommunications operators and IT solutions providers need to invest in ESN so they have the expertise and credibility to deploy these solutions if or when they become more broadly adopted, and start becoming a more significant source of revenues.

ESN Consultancy

Whatever we call it, if anyone is reading this and thinks progressing collaboration, communication and social media inside the firewall is a good idea, but are not quite sure how to do it, then please feel free to get in touch. After deploying these technologies for almost a decade for one of the big 5 IT companies, I’m now starting to actively look for enterprise social networking consultancy work.

Gartner: the CIO and Web 2.0

The beleaguered CIO is being proffered heavy weight advice by the analysts at Gartner. First they weighed in with a Gartner Presents CIO Resolutions for 2009 and now Gartner’s top pundit Mark McDonald has offered his advice to the CIO in an interview with the Wisconsin Technology Network saying that “CIOs may have only four months to show results”:

Now is the time for CIOs to pick one thing that they have to get done fast and get done well and put all of their resources against it.

What’s interesting is where he sees that worth being demonstrated. Budgets in IT he notes will be flat. Large scale type projects therefore, while they can generate revenue or create savings, are currently too costly a risk for the cash-strapped IT dept:

Investments in BI and CRM and ERP were viewed as investments, and fairly significant capital expenditures.

And what this means is that they won’t happen in the foreseeable and certainly not in the next couple of quarters. Asked what will be “left out in the cold” McDonald’s reply was:

Basically, anything new,- but Web 2.0 tools are not among them.

What we are seeing therefore McDonald argues is Web 2.0 achieving mainstream adoption despite the downturn. This will be both as an external marketing tool and as an internal collaboration tool. Neither he says should be put on the back-burner. Notably, it’s the internal collaborational aspect that is now generating the most heat:

Every company, regardless of who they are, is probably going to be looking at using Web 2.0 to improve internal collaboration, but I think there is a significant difference between companies that are effective and have a history of being effective, which is achieving their goals.

This I think is the rub of the interview – social media as collaboration technology is going to take off, not least because it’s relatively cheap to introduce and can quickly achieve demonstrable results. The key aspect I believe though, is whether the company can capitalise on the potential gains here in Europe. McDonald is focusing on the USA and it will be telling to see how the potential adoption takes place in the UK and in Europe. Now, McDonald says is the chance to sieze the opportunity in the USA, let’s hope our European CIOs achieve this too.

Other postings
The interview has had keen reactions most notably Fast Forward Gartner: Web 2.0 Tools Exempt from Economic Cutbacks and at The Content Economy Cutting costs by improving internal collaboration

Gartner: From the tie to 2.0, CIOs & 2009

Sailing against the cold winds of doom, a refreshingly upbeat set of recommendations from Gartner for the embattled CIO. The synopsis is straightforward – the current crisis presents opportunities to be seized:

In time of a recession, organisations have more time for introspection that identifies what the deep needs are and also creates demand on what IT can do. It brings the opportunity for businesses to exploit the technology they currently have to create something new. John Mahoney Gartner.

To achieve this Gartner recommends 10 resolutions for the CIO. What the CIO needs to do is walk the walk, talk the talk re new technologies and social media, using it to connect with the talent base old and new.

Social Media can create new communities of knowledge among past and current employees plus there will be bargains to be had in 2009 as the crunch continues:

This will create something of a buyers market for some high-calibre IT talent in 2009. However, company recruitment lockdowns will stop CIOs taking advantage if they don’t take specific actions. Mark Raskino, Gartner.

The lead is by example, from the tie to 2.0. The CIO needs to be seen using the bright new promise of 2.0, making YouTube the default search engine for the day, being seen to use social media. What’s more, the need to start taking the cloud more seriously than previously – take somecalculated risks and to learn from the experience.

Are we going to see this happen? The emphasis here has to be on the seeing aspect. If any CIO takes Gartner up they’re going to be visible. And that visibility might be more transparent than say the comfort of a company blog nestled in the safety of the firewall. Will we therefore see CIOs on Twitter actively engaging with the everyday bustle of conversation? Are there examples now we can examine and even gently prod converse with on public social media platforms? Such data would be interesting and might provide a useful barometer on just how socially active and prepared for the opportunities, the 2.0 savvy CIO is in 2009.

Forrester: UK TV & UK Supermarket sites

Analyst group Forrester are half-way through their analysis of key UK consumer websites covering 4 sectors, Wireless Providers (Vodafone, BT & O2); Newspapers (The Guardian, Times and Telegraph); Supermarkets (Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco) and finally TV Broadcasters (BBC, Channel 4 and ITV).

Beans

So far we have the TV report and the Retailers report (both by Craig Menzies et al) in in detail. The results do not make a pretty read for either, with both sets falling way behind the website comparisons from service providers and newspapers.

To undertake the survey, Forrester asked a representative sample (the size seemed very small but maybe I missed something), to go forth and surf for some specific information/aims. For the TV sites it was info, video and programmes on global warming and for the supermarkets they had to buy 6 bottles of decent plonk, some soft drinks and try to get delivery before Saturday morning with change from £80.

These are hardly onerous tasks to do and I know which household I’d prefer to get a dinner invite from. The supermarkets are filled to the gunnels with cheap (and decent quality) wine, so much so that both publicans and doctors see that as a problem. Meanwhile, the broadcasters, especially the BBC, are not exactly short of Green content. So what went wrong?

For the supermarkets, Forrester’s description should be familiar to anyone who has tried to order their grocery online – navigation was confusing, the web designers over-egged some parts while leaving some links obscure. Thus, Sainsbury’s had seeming clicky-bits that weren’t clickable and vice versa and interactive elements that ‘behaved inconsistently’. Ho hum, we’ve all see them. Tesco had a flaw I’ve seen online and off – navigation is a nightmare and it was only too hard to find some items. But at least offline I’ve never had the contents of my trolley disappear and I don’t need to register to enter the store. For Asda the issue was ‘presentation and trust’ – text was unclear, as was whether one had added an item to the cart…a basic I would have thought.

The TV sites fared similarly. The BBC sent users off on an “IKEA shopping trip” forcing their visitors on certain routes, often toward their iPlayer. For C4 and ITV, the designers had been let out unsupervised for too long and so interaction was over-complicated and once again there were issues with the clicky-bits and vice versa.

The findings were not all of on the blink sites and long virtual queues however. On the TV sites the BBC search worked well with good contextual help, C4 had great content clearly categorised and ITV provided excellent feedback on areas such as load times. Similar findings were seen at the shop sites with Sainsbury’s search working well, Tesco actually delivered (literally one hopes) and Asda provided clear direction to users.

The experience here still leaves unasked the big question as to whether these major players actually test their sites with real people and look at their aims and objectives. Forrester are clear here and urge that the site owners really test the usability, present the business case for doing this and look at the real online experience.

For all of them, Forrester argue it come down to Experience-Based Differentiation (EBD). Here’s what they say this means for the online experience:

1) Obsess about customer needs, not product features; 2) reinforce brands with every interaction, not just communications; and 3) treat customer experience as a competence, not a function.

Happy viewing, happy shopping…

Forrester on 2.0 Uptake: why the vendors might be worried

Over in the FASTForward blog Bill Ives posted a neat and useful review of Forrester’s recent report on 2.0 uptake: Forrester TechRadar For Vendor Strategists: Enterprise Web 2.0 – How Product Strategists Should Approach A Maturing Web 2.0 Market, Q4 2008 by by G. Oliver Young et al. The report is aimed, as it says on the box, at vendor strategists and I thought it made interesting reading in light of the current economic climate.

My first thoughts on reading it, were if we’re stuck in the development of 2.0, but the more I think about this, the more I think the opposite. One of the key questions I keep seeing asked is if the Crunch will hinder or help the uptake of 2.0. Bill rightly distinguishes between Enterprise and Web 2.0 – but here for reasons of laziness conciseness I’ll mostly use them interchangeably. However, I am only talking about 2.0 use in the Enterprise and not so much in the domestic or play environment, even if that inevitable leaks into any work space. So back to the question, is 2.0 being Crunched?

If we look at the report it tells us that they looked at 11 2.0 technologies and found the following (I’ll paste from Bill here):

Significant success: social networks and wikis

Moderate success: blogs, forums, mashups, prediction markets, RSS, widgets

Minimal success: microblogs, podcasts, social bookmarks

Now what’s interesting here is that they’re looking at each technology one by one. Bill would move a couple of categories and I think we could all tweak it here or there. The real issue he says, is this:

“… my major concern is looking at these tools in isolation.”

Bill is absolutely right here and I think this highlights the Achilles’s Heel of the report and why some of the vendor strategists should listen to the alarm bells.

To succeed in an Enterprise environment 2.0 needs to be part of what Forrester dub the “2.0 ecosystem”. It’s no good simply adding a blog and a wiki to an existing corporate environment and expecting it to work. This is like trying to create another type of ecosystem and believing it will work, simply by introducing 2 new applications/organisms into it and expecting them not only to flourish, but to sustain and potentially transform the system too. (At the risk of ending up in Pseuds Corner I reckon that the metaphor of ecosystem in any Enterprise or non biological space is always a poor one and one ripe for Deconstruction.)

OK then, so unlike Web 2.0 tools, Enterprise 2.0 applications work best as an aggregation, as a social network of communication tools within the Enterprise being used by a base of employees, rather than as a set of standalone tools that may or may not be used. This can be best summed up by looking at what happens when say a Wiki is introduced and most people look at it as either so cool, or a complete waste of space, and both primarily for the same reason – it sits as an oddity within the flat plane of a developed 1.0 terrain. Make it seamless so that it doesn’t look like a Wiki but presents an environment that provides a range of wiki-type functions such as easy self-editing, blogs, self posting of desktop filmed video and all backed up by RSS then we’re looking at what becomes ubiquitous rather than an aberration. The transformational and productivity enhancing aspect of this can be seen if we look at say 2 departments, one using this sort of environment and one not and where one can post content immediately and one has to use slow and expensive channels to post content. One has definite and visible productivity advantages and the other only too real costs and delays.

The question for me here, is how do we achieve this and transform working patterns, how does the dragging Achilles Heel sprint into 2.0 business acceleration and transformation? For the record, I think that not only can this can be done, but that we’re seeing this being done in some organisations. The potential productivity gains here are enormous. And the rub is the word potential – currently no one can point to an existing transformation and provide the hard data. What public data we have is often piecemeal, anecdotal and fragmentary. Until this situation changes, rolling out 2.0 in an Enterprise will be incredibly difficult. Sure there will be plenty of instances of companies rolling out this or that 2.0 application, but with few exceptions most business leaders and their operational and technology teams will be very reluctant to take the risks involved. We’re not quite at the stage where one can say: “No one has ever lost their job by buying 2.0.”

So let’s recap, I’ve said that the vendors might be worried and that cracking the 2.0 nut is not going to be done with a ‘tap here’ and a ‘tap there’ from a selection of standalone hammers. For a long while the outlook was a lot rosier than at present and plenty of studies recommended (and could point to case studies of)  the bit by bit approach to rollouts of 2.0. In the current economic climate this is not going to work – it’s either a luxury or both the risks and the costs are too high, thus – ‘IT won’t support it and the Business won’t pay for it…’

But, and it’s a big but, if we look at the bigger picture and more longer-term view, then these arguments start go increasingly out of focus.  And this is where Forrester to my mind misses the point too. Forrester states that:

None of the technologies we examined are likely to be replaced in a wholesale manner in the next five to 10 years.

The productivity gains offered by 2.0 are such that they’ll all be replaced in the next 5 years. This sounds like a contradiction and it probably is- for sure the tools such as blogs for e.g, will still exist and many instances of current usages will remain, but we won’t see these technologies as isolated instances. Polishing my crystal ball and looking through a scanner darkly, I think we’ll see at first more and more instance of the Pownces of this world being eaten up by their larger competitors. This will leave a clearer battleground with fewer competing vendors. It’s then I think, that we’re going to see the real fun begin as the competition shifts from the technologies and the vendors; to the networks, the wares and the platforms. This is going to completely transform the game (and the vendors), mashing up the mashups and reallocating collaboration into areas we can only begin to imagine. The big frenemies who currently own the networks the softwares and the socialities; will have to simultaneously deal not only with competition and collaboration (as some do now), but that the fact to have survived in this brave new world will have meant inventing completely new social technologies that will further transform the way these businesses do business. It’s these ‘known unknowns‘ that intrigue me, all we can say with any certainty is that they’ll transform 2.0 in unforeseen ways, much like SMS did. The difference here will be scale, development and innovation- it’s 2.0 Jim, but not as we know it…

So, if I was a vendor what would I do? I’d hope to survive, hope to get through (or be bought-up at a retirement buyout) and I’d continue to innovate. More than anything I’d ‘widgetise’ as much as I could and make sure that what I supply could be both moved, slotted into and transformed by the next waves of change. One thing for sure… is it’s going to be different.

n.b This Blog expresses entirely my own personal opinions and has no affiliation with any other bodies or organisations that I am a member of.