Category Archives: Communications

Google Calendar as an Internal Comms Scheduling Tool

A post on Tech Republic caught me eye this morning: New features in Google Apps are designed for collaborative teams. Like many people I’ve been using Google + and started to look at some business opportunities for one of my clients. This post made me think of more mainstream options, especially in relation to internal comms.

The scenario is this, in a complex matrix environment that defines most multinational corporate environments there tends to be a lot of noise as various teams and departments compete to get their audience’s attention. This can also feature the ‘red bus syndrome’ whereby nothing happens for ages and then all of a sudden everyone is sending messages at once. The solution to all this is of course planning and governance. This is not always easy in the matrix multinational, for unless you have a central team defining who says what to whom and when, and with what channel, you are going to get noise, randomness and repetition, not to mention anger and frustration. And even if you have near totalitarian control from the centre, you’re still going to need to plan and cohere a lot of different messages.

One way of managing all of this is via Synopsis Communication Planning and Coordination Tools. Bill Quirke of Synopsis demoed this a while back and I thought it an excellent way of planning and scheduling internal comms campaigns. The tool uses the metaphor of flight plans to schedule the messaging campaigns providing a means to avoid all the chaos and noise. Reading the Tech Republic piece, I realised you could make a rough and ready but pretty workable internal comms scheduling tool using Google Calendar, and here’s how.

Tech Republic explains that:

Teams don’t only rely on email for communication, but also on calendars to schedule meetings and events. Google Calendar allows user to overlay coworkers’ calendars on top of their own to find shared open appointment slots.

They provide a screenshot as so:

To use this as a comms scheduling tool, what you need to do is swap people for audiences and channels. This would be easy to do, all you’d need do is simply to create Google Calendar accounts for all these types of entities. What you’d need to do then would be to have a simple light weight governance that said anyone creating a new campaign, would need to create a Google account for that Campaign and to use the calendar to match that up against the target audience, the channel used and other campaigns. The governance might state that there should be no overlap, or that only an agreed number could feature in a given time/target.

It might take some time to bed such a scheduler in but it could be a quick cheap and easy way of scheduling the comms campaigns and managing the noise. unlike say using Outlook calendaring, it would be easy to set up and delete accounts as needed. In addition, going to Month View could provide a graphic overview of planned campaigns – ideal for a screen shot to post out to other stakeholders. A final gain is that the tool could do some of the tricky work in finding the best time to launch a comms campaign, i.e., that perfect moment when no one else is launching theirs. Google Calendar has “The Smart Reschedulerwhich is designed to sift through diaries to find the empty slot and could be used to do exactly the same for a comms campaign.

I’m going to return to Google shortly and look at Google+ . I think Google are already offering a disruptive technologies as this little instance shows. They’re providing quick and easy ways of doing things that are free at the point of entry. Joining these up with Google + changes the game. Their quiet beauty is that they’re all social from the start…

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.

 

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.

 

 

Will social media kill off the Pulse Survey?

Every year companies run out their Pulse Survey, but is time running out for the Pulse Survey. Could the same sentiment software used for social media analysis mean the death of the Pulse Survey?

Of late I’ve been looking at some sentiment software and how it might be used inside a corporation to gauge employee mood. The idea is that the same techniques used to monitor sentiment across the ‘blogosphere’ and ‘Twitterverse’  could also be used for an internal enterprise social network.

My current thinking on this is that it’s a bit of the proverbial sledgehammer. It would be far more easy to simply monitor it manually, or if needed to set up special focus groups, perhaps as Private or Secret Groups (to use Jive’s nomenclature) and ask people what they think. It might potentially be of use when a network gets to say a 100,000 people, which is the potential of the current project I’m working on, but not particularly cost effective for smaller numbers.

But then. This sort of data is priceless. Companies need to know how engaged or disgruntled their employees are. The traditional way of finding this out it the Pulse Survey. Most of us have experienced these: HR lugs these out on an annual basis and the maligned manager tries to work out who dunnit. They provide an invaluable snapshot of where a company’s most human of resources actually are at.

So could social media (social business) replace the Pulse Survey and become in effect a rolling pulse survey, an actual beat, much more of a pulse than the traditional one? My thinking on this is not. I think the Pulse Survey provides an important benchmark, some empirical figures and at least in theory, a wide spread of employees.

The ongoing social pulse type of survey would we know be particular in its audience and glean information from only those actively participating in the networks. This we know from the Forrester ladder or Altimeter’s reworking of this (well they did make the 1st ladder but obviously don’t own either the rungs or the struts, just those bits in between them), that only a minority of a network’s members actually tap on the keys and write. The rest just ‘point and click’ as a friend of mine dubs anyone who uses a GUI.

This all said though, an annual survey is as it says on the box a one-off per year event. The data needs analysing and of course it’s HR who make and answer the questions. It is by its nature both limited in scope both as temporal and in data. The work-based social network is ongoing, the beat is that of the employees. They determine both the questions and the answers. And thus, so much more richer in information and of sentiment is the organisation that uses and encourages a global social network. And short of spying (shades of the Deutsche Bahn ‘spying’ scandal), what better way is there of seeing what people think than a healthy and honest social network?

In fact I’d go further and argue that a corporation without one, HR and others, doesn’t really know what all its people thinks. Well ok, once a year do they if they run the Pulse Survey – but what far better way is there for senior management to know what people feel than an active and healthy social business network?

Updated from September.

3 questions about social media at work

A recent discussion and I was asked 3 questions on social media at work (enterprise social software).

  1. Is social media a communications tool?
  2. Are Communication and Collaboration the same thing?
  3. Does social media benefit from a network effect?

I think that these questions identify where one stands on the topic – pro or against using social media inside the firewall. Had some great feedback from the Adoption 2.0 Council on SocialCast.

Now interested in hearing your views!

n.b. And all the questions relate to social media as a work-based tool – (i.e., Enterprise 2.0 or social software – my work) and in relation to internal comms – (also my work); NOT social media marketing, or whether one should use Facebook at work and all those types of issues.

Is social software heresy for internal communicators?

There’s been a great discussion recently amongst The 2.0 Adoption Council crew on what we’re trying to achieve and the role of traditional corporate and internal comms. What more than a few members have experienced in one form or another is resistance from their Comms colleagues. This has got me thinking as to what the core reasons might be and how a reconciliation of interests might be possible.

My own background is in part Comms based  & so I can empathise with where the Comms teams are coming from. With this in mind it might be helpful to step back and look at where the Comms guys are coming from (and particularly internal comms, my own area). And where better than to turn to than Melcrum. I had a mail today promoting their Melcrum Black Belt Course which asked:

  1. When planning your communication activities, which is more true?
    A: I focus on delivering outputs.
    B: I focus on achieving outcomes.
  2. Was the completion of your last communication project:
    A: An end in itself?
    B: A means to an end?
  3. When you gauge the success of a communication initiative, do you measure:
    A: Levels of awareness and satisfaction with the channels used?
    B: Attitudes, behaviours and whether business objectives were achieved?

In many of these instances I would answer both A & B, and I would also say we need to look at more than this, but let’s not jump ahead. If we look at the questions we can see that there is a tangible and controlled exercise taking place here: clearly defined aims, objectives, possible outcomes and measurable media and objectives are all part of The Plan. The Comms person is trying to achieve something and it’s specific and of course it’s timely measurable and all those SMART things.

There’s a message to be communicated, one I’d argue that should be tied into the strategic objectives of the business, and one that needs to be measured. Then along comes Jonny 2.0 come-lately and upsets that whole apple cart. Or at least that’s how it seems to the Comms person. The Comms person often thinks in terms of Signal Noise Ratio metaphors, their message is the Signal and anything in its way is Noise. Thus adding uncontrolled conversation, feedback and the whole social shabang is to add uncertainty, unpredictability and chaos. Absolute Heresy! Or at least this is how it can seem to the Comms person.

For the 2.0 Evangelist, the Comms person becomes seen as a roadblock, they just don’t get it and they block the roll out of social software in the business. An impasse develops, people can fall out, even change jobs…(& the most traditionally ‘connected’ usually win in such instances, at least in the short term).

There is a way forward here though. I think it entails each party looking at where the other is coming from. From an E 2.0 perspective I think we need to recognise that the Comms person has a job to do, a highly legitimate one and that in no small way their job is to produce a managed and measured message. They need to achieve both the Outputs and Outcomes and to be shown to do so. So from a 2.0 perspective we need to play by their rules.

But, for this to work the Comms person needs to also recognise where the 2.0 person is coming from. That dialogue and conversation are not a threat, but are aspects of the message that can help achieve the aims and objectives and often in more productive or unthought of ways. This is where Melcum’s Black Belts can become true masters of the art, by both managing the message and facilitating the conversation. As E 2.0 practitioners and evangelists, our job is to help achieve this.

It’s these sorts of ideas that are leading me to think of a new way of defining this holistic and social approach to communications and dialogue. Maybe we’re all becoming Social Business Communicators or IC 2.0 people. Or maybe I’m just a heretic!

Refs
The 2.0 Adoption Council

Melcrum Black Belt Course

Towards deconstructing the Signal / Noise Theory

Cisco Cius – tablets for the Enterprise

Interesting product release from my old chums at Cisco, the Cius (‘See-us’, oh really yes…) a tablet for the Enterprise. Looking at the promo video, Cisco are selling this with clout – Cisco can deliver and all that jazz. based on Android it’s heavily video orientated. It also works on wifi & 3G / 4G. Oh & multitasking too…

What it does is combine iPad type display with full industrial collaboration. What I mean by this is video conferencing via  TelePresence on HD.

OK then this raises one big question. Bandwidth. What sort of wifi is needed in the office, what will your carrier bill be at the end of the month if you use the Cisco Cius outside an enterprise contract? Note that even the iPhone 4 doesn’t really do video conferencing out the box on your data network unless you cook up a deal with your carrier – it’s only wifi so far.

Internal Communications
Possibilities are a collaboration and comms tool are endless though. Should be fun to use too. Seamless funky video conferencing across the enterprise & mobile to boot. Internal Communicators will have kittens when they realise what it really opens up 😉 I for one am looking forward to battle testing this in a full blown internal comms environment.

Intranet
Still convinced that your traditional monolith of an intranet is future-proofed and worth all that investment? Think again, mobile collaboration apps like this (and more to come) will radically change the way online corporate information is presented, consumed and shared. What this means is a radical rethink of what an intranet is and does.

Links

Cisco gets Funky

Cius…Is believing

Cisco Video

Cisco Finds its Tablet

Are Cisco putting Search into the Network?

Can someone cleverer than me answer this? – looks to me like my old buddies at Cisco are starting to put Search into the Network….If so Google will be chuffed…

Cisco: Leveraging Networks To Seed Search & Graphs?

Will Cisco gear become search engine toll collectors?

Patent (pdf)

Search network

What this looks like to me is Cisco taking search right into the network itself – it’s not a question of adding toll gates as network world suppose but adding search elements into the very fabric of the network.

the scope of the present invention includes both combinations and sub-combinations of the various features described hereinabove, as well as variations and modifications thereof which would occur to persons skilled in the art upon reading the foregoing description and which are not disclosed in the prior art.
Network World

Indeed!

Funky video collaboration II

My post on LibreStream as a funky collaboration tool attracted some interest, not least from Kerry Thacher their CEO… At first I was concerned he’d taken umbrage at my suggestion that my old employers Cisco might take a keen interest in his technology but this fear was very much ungrounded.

To recap and expand, what I had in mind was taking LibreStream’s highly industrial collaboration cameras, making them small funky and consumer and connecting them up via wifi as a fun consumer to consumer app. Now of course these could also function as rather ubiquitous internal communications tools too, maybe more on that later.

rubberphonepalWhat inspired the thought and the Cisco connections was Tandberg and Flip acquisitions, add to that LibreStream and you have something qualitatively more – realtime mobile video collaboration, in ya pocket. Stuff that inspired me ona  design side were robust consumer products encased in rubber, stuff like the Nokia 5140, which a friend, The Chiswick Gardener liked to throw over his shoulder to show how robust it was. Take also the Tivoli PAL, fine audioware encased in said too….

So that’s the box, what gets fun is when video gets connected via handhelds using wifi, plus white-boarding. Click shoot share. In live video.

But what happens if you take these new handheld wifi video collaboration phones and take it a step further. How about telepresence too? Sound a bit mad? Well there’s always LifeSize Passport:

sparkle-passportLifeSize Passport is the first truly portable telepresence-quality system; Passport is so small, it fits in the palm of your hand….you get true HD video quality – 720p30 – for natural, realistic interactions at only 1Mbps over any internet connection. And LifeSize Passport is the first HD video communication system that works with Skype™, making connecting with colleagues and customers easier than ever.

This would give the ability to project the image outside of the tiny phone – think maybe the hologram scenes in Superman or Star Wars. Almost there…

But what you need next I don’t know if it can be done. For it to really gel, there needs to be some sort of socialising the camera. There needs to be a way of the sender being filmed. So what if these things piggy-backed off of each other so I film someone near as they in tern film me via some sort of reciprocal sharing?

Now we’re talking truly next gen phones…

Update – we’re probably also talking about Foucault’s description of the Panoptican gone mad….