Category Archives: Featured Articles

Scaling the Enterprise Social Network Pyramid

Over at Bertrand Dupperin’s Notepad blog there’s a great article on Enterprise Social Networks, Social networks are the quintessence of enterprise web 2.0. Bertrand looks at how the active users has to manage and interpret the information flows amd how social media tools join up as a final layer, a ‘protean set of tools’:

Social network for enterprises is not a Facebook-like that connect people. It’s a tool that gather in a one and only place all the logics of web 2.0 (blogs,wikis,bookmarking,tagging etc…) and take benefit of this information to re-create all the facets of the link between information and people as explained above.

Reading this got me rootling through old archives looking for a model I made some time back where I try and articulate this in terms of how messages are managed:

pyramid

What I’m trying to get across here is the notion of effective leadership and direction from on high, coupled with an interaction and feedback from a socially networked and actively participating workforce. The more strategic the message, the more structure and governance, the more participatory, the more democratic, organic and ad hoc. I’ve also overlaid this with technologies / applications. Thus the more traditional messaging is structured by the orthodoxy of a managed intranet and scheduled messaging via e-mail or planned TV shows. The more socially generated messaging is powered by social tools such as blogs, Twitter apps and such. There’s also the idea of segmentation and pushed /targeting vs, personalisation and pull. Not sure if the whole sits together – it’s perhaps too much of a changing target to do that, but it’s a model that helps me understand and to play with the potentials and possibilities of enterprise social networks.

Critical Media – freewill and the web

One element of social media that intrigues me is the apparent lack of engagement between Theory minded people and industrial (for want of a better word) social media. I suspect, in fact I strongly suspect that I’m missing a lot of what’s going on here, but when I search on say Baudrillard and Web 2.0 I don’t get the level of response I’d expect. OK, there’s a level of engagement here, but there’s not the richness I’d expect. Maybe it’s a case of those looking at social media through critical theory eyes not knowing how to optimise their pages for Google and the like.

Jamboree of Contemporary Thought

looking for power

A lack of SEO savvy is not something one would expect to see amongst the evidently technical able of the world of blogs and Twitter and so I believe that any absence of using continental philosophers to understand social media and web 2.0 is literally that, an absence. My interest in all this is academic, literally. I took the Critical Theory MA at Nottingham University in the early 1990s, a course which took in Structuralist and Post-Structuralist, Marxist, Feminist, Lacanian, Deconstructionist and classical Critical theorists in a roller-coaster jamboree of contemporary thought.

Postmodern economies

When I moved to tech and the multinational environment it was familiar. Writers such as Jameson, Lash and Urry had described what the latter called “The End of Organized Capital” and it was great to be in this white hot heat of a genuine technological revolution. Mid recession there may be a case for wondering if our postmodern, post-industrial society is a post mortem for a wealth creating, growth based economy but I’ll leave that for another post.

Discovery vs Creation

So back to Theory and what sparked off this post. Over at CenterNetworks, Adrian Chan has written a piece called “A Short Post on Discovery vs. Creation, Relating to Social Media“. This is a remarkable little essay and one that has gotten me thinking a great deal about the relationship between Theory and social media.

Foucault and the Subject

What Adrian posits is the relationship between Michel Foucault’s concept of self(s) and the way we find and act in social media. By self, we’re talking about the ‘Subject’ i.e. that philosophic bête noire of the self and the birth of individual identity. Adrian sees Foucault as having the Self as either revealed, as in religious revelation, or as created as act of will:

the Self that is discovered and known through some kind of religious quest and search. And the Self that is created, invented, through free will, action, choice (and so on). 

If I recall rightly, I’m not so sure Foucault has a sense of self-created in this way. I think he would say that it’s constructed, made from discourse and is highly transient. In a sense, Foucault is trying to unstructure identity from the Structuralist ideas of his peers – we’re part of a changing matrix of discourses, not an order of structures. 

Tagging things and connections

But says Adrian, it’s in terms of such structures that we see social media, or it sees us. It’s like that because the way many approach the web is one based on the notion of a structure of sameness and relationship. This is the model of the dating site and of tagging – this attribute is shared, this connection is made, the structure of things defines our relationship. But as Adrian points out, such a model is profoundly anti-human:

But in each case, we have only a system of things and attributes.

Human relationships aren’t build on similarity or identity of attributes. They’re a result of interaction, of understanding, of the things we do that move us and by which we move one another.

Agency and dialogues

To counter this, Adrian puts forward a model of ‘agency’. We as concious humans act, interact, create stories and converse. We create the dialogue, it does not create us. Or at least in Theory. What I think this leads us to is a chance at change. To act on and to change structures and dialogues of the web, rather than us being defined by them. Or as Adrian defines in superlative form:

Social media may be a means of production. But we are still the production of means.

Footnote
This whole question of the Subject and its apparent death, is one that excites a lot of contemporary thought. For many this death is pretty pessimistic stuff. If we’re entrapped in a web of meanings, where can human agency and action be? For an answer, James Heartfield‘s book “Postmodernism and the ‘Death of the Subject’” is a pretty good counter and a tasty excerpt can be found here. Wikipedia on the Subject

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.

12 tips for a successful internal comms video channel

trivet-oskayIn a previous role I was lucky enough to manage an Internal Comms video channel aimed at our field sales force. The channel’s aim was to deliver short video messages that were business-aligned, relevant, timely and targeted. Topics covered in these videocasts included sales updates, product launches, new marketing initiatives and company meetings.

I’d like to share our best practice findings with you. These are all based on practical first-hand experience and I believe, are relevant for any IC video channel, either as push, pull, streamed, video podcast or download. If you have any other tips or correction/qualifiers here, please let me know – I’ve jotted these down as pointers and I’m more than sure that there’s a lot I’ve missed out here! Enjoy…

12 Tips for Internal Comms Video

  1. Before you do anything, decide on the aims and objectives. Ask how the video channel will support your overall comms strategy and as a result the overall business strategy.
  2. Back up the aims and objectives with strong and agreed governance. Get senior buy-in to support it and make sure your stakeholders agree with it. Publish the governance.
    This will ensure the channel maintains focus and does not get used for off-piste aims such as self-promotional egocasts, superficial ends or irrelevant content.
    And remember – the more successful, the more you will need that governance!
  3. Content is king. An informative, entertaining and interesting video from someone with a web cam, will always beat boring studio-quality crap sub-optimum content. Even though content matters most, that’s still no excuse for not doing your best. Produce to the highest quality you can, with the time and money available. Always avoid basic Nobo mistakes such as presenters in patterned shirts and ties, clutter in the background, noisy interference or filming in front of a window.
  4. Don’t use video for the sake of it. Always ask ‘why use video?‘ and whether your aim will be be met with other formats. This can save time, money and ensure that the video channel maintains quality plus it keeps to the stated aims.
  5. Make all content relevant. No one will click on a video and watch it unless there’s something important in it that they will gain from. It doesn’t matter how well it’s filmed, scripted or delivered, if it hasn’t got relevant content it won’t get watched. Always put your audience needs first.
  6. The close cousin of relevancy is the target audience. When you tell people the video is available, use targeted messaging or pull technology such as RSS. Don’t spam. Even if you think the content is great and relevant to everyone they might not agree. The more that you spam them, the more likely they are to avoid your video in future. I’ll say it again, always put your audience needs first.
  7. It may be fahionable to be late but your audience wants punctuality. Decide on the frequency and make sure content is up to date. Don’t send out too many videos – your audience are at work and haven’t got the time. Decide on a max frequency for sending videos out and stick to it. If you must have lots of videos, consider storing them in a YouTube type site and send out a regular compendium update.
    Don’t be late – if it’s time-sensitive info and going to take 3 weeks to make and send the video out, the chances are that it’s going to be out of date by the time your audience see it. Bearing in mind that you might just might miss a deadline, avoid the presenter mentioning dates whenever you can and never ever have them saying ‘next Tuesday’. The chances are it will be watched by X% on the Wednesday after.
  8. Make it short. All the evidence says that online attention span is short, especially for video.If people get bored they will switch off. We found that 3 minutes was best with 4 minutes the max for sales-update video messages. If you’ve a longer event say a video of a company meeting, break it up into bite-sized chunks.
    nb This does not apply to training videos for Systems Engineers who will happily watch one of their colleagues talking about something technical for an hour or more.
  9. Script it/structure it. Even if the video is informal and very short, have a script if at all possible. A speaker may be very good delivering live ad hoc talks, but that isn’t necessarily going to work on an online video. Also, some presenters are more interested in themselves than either the content or their audience. Scripts will keep both the presenter and your video relevant and focused on your stated aims and objectives.
  10. Make it easy – make it linky. If you’ve done a good job and sent a timely, interesting and relevant message to your audience, they will want more. They will either want to learn more, or to do something with the info you’ve given them. Add tangible pointers to next steps – links to sites, documents and to you. Always provide easy feedback links!
  11. Measure it. See how many people watched the video. Ask people what they thought of the channel overall and for each video message. Ask them via feedback rating stars, online polls or simply by asking them. Look at what works and what doesn’t. Look at what your audience decides to watch rather than what you send them.
    Compare all data with the overall aims. Don’t do this once, but look at what’s been achieved on a regular basis.
  12. Use your data and audience feedback to experiment and improve the channel. Keep it fresh and don’t rest on your laurels. Try new approaches and ways of delivering it. But whatever you do, always make sure the camera is on and is recording. Believe me, I’ve seen it happen and senior vice presidents do not think it’s funny!

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.

How to make a bean online!

Cat Poo Coffee

kopi-luwakAs promised on Twitter, this blog entry is all about coffee beans and how one business is making money online selling them. Two days ago I started to Google for some coffee beans as I was getting low and quite fancied trying some ‘cat poo’ coffee, Kopi Luwak. A few Googles soon put me off that idea as it was around £50 for a small 50g bag. However, I did still need coffee so started to look at some sites.

Not all like the High Road coffee shops

The searches revealed a mirror of the high street coffee shops – lots of them and a high degree of uniformity in the coffees they provided and the design of the sites. One site stood out though and that was HasBean. What I liked about it was the range of coffees and most particularly the fact that someone who obviously knows a lot about coffee was writing the copy for the site. Here’s an example:

In the cup, I got fruit salad sweets on the front end (for those who don’t know these are very sweet fruit chews), and a lovely acidity to match that is not over powering but completely in balance with the whole cup. This is what this coffee does best, it is balanced in the cup. This  develops into a winey, complex, rich flavour, followed by a sweet sweet aftertaste that just carries on and on and on.

And not only do we get splendid reviews, we also get a history of the plantation, a map of its location showing where the beans grow and pictures of the growers. El Salvador La Ilusion Cup of Excellence No.1.

Mr HasBean on Twitter

Back at Twitter I commented on Has Bean, remarking that their site stood out over the rest of the paid search companies. Noticing new followers I checked to see who they were and saw a certain @hasbean was in the list. Saying hello I asked Mr HasBean which bean he recommended and was informed that Cacheoria Canario is amazing coffee and not only that, there’s a video on it! http://www.inmymug.com/?p=91

Perfect brew

dsc00277
My Purchase from HasBean

This I thought is impressive and promptly placed an order. HasBean has got all the ingredients for success:

  • Well designed, informative and easy to purchase e-commerce site
  • A blog connected to the site
  • Video blog on the beans
  • A Twitter profile offering personal advice on beans and coffee makers
  • An absolute passion for coffee 

A history of the bean

This is not the story of using the web to get rich quickly. The history of the company is heart-warming and hilarious with great tales of coffee roaster fires in the garage and cups of coffee for the local cops. What’s more, the more I look at the site the more I find and now I’ve enrolled on an online course on coffee in the form of e-mail tutorials.

Maxing the video

The site, service and the owner Steve Leighton are an object lesson on getting it right. The only thing I’d advise would be to make more of the video. Years of sending sales videos inside the enterprise taught me that short is best and these would be my tips for maximising the video element:

  • Keep the video to 5 mins max
  • Edit in any plantation or map pictures to break it up
  • Create a YouTube channel and post them there too (like Hot for Words!)
  • Embed the video in the main HasBean site and have links from the individual bean’s section

True Enthusiasts

Before anyone asks, I’m just a happy punter who likes his coffee. I’ve gotten to like it even more because of the web and true enthusiasts. like Steve. On that note, here’s one of my favourites which taught me a lot about getting the best from my La Pavoni:

 

 

Phew, this is thirsty work, anyone for a cuppa?

The Tao of 2.0 – The Way of the Web

lao-tzu

Go forth and prosper

If one wants to roll out even the most modest of web 2.0 internal comms initiative in the enterprise it can be very daunting. For every good idea there seems to be dozen doubters, for every champion a league of naysayers. In such circumstances it’s too easy to give up and stick to the traditional old ways – no one will be upset that way and you can always slowly advance your career in the tried and the trusted.

In our hearts many of us know this is a loss- a loss of opportunity and of a panorama of never to be seen horizons.

As with all potential great journeys, discovery and advance are only made by venturing from the straight and 1.0. How to move forward then when any approach seems beset by paths of treacle?

Nothing is softer than water

What I’d like to suggest is that the Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu might have some interesting advice for us here, so I’ve compiled some of his inspirational quotes to guide us here. With this in mind, I’d like to look at how Lao Tzu can help us with deploying internal communications 2.0. Let’s start by considering of his observations about the unstoppable nature of water:

Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.

simplicity, patience, compassion

Social Media is like water. It’s not hard, it’s not machines, yet no matter what we do, or others do to stop it happening, it will find a way into the enterprise. No firewall is hot enough to evaporate it, no working practice to severe enough to prevent it. Remember all of this as the tide is on your side.

I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.

Begin the journey

Keep your first 2.0 projects simple and above all have patience. Chances are it won’t happen immediately and don’t get fed up with people not accepting or using the tools. 2.0 like anything else will be used by people because it benefits them. If it goes wrong don’t blame them, look with compassion at why an application wasn’t used.

A tree that can fill the span of a man’s arms grows from a downy tip; A terrace nine stories high rises from hodfuls of earth; A journey of a thousand miles starts from beneath one’s feet.

Lead from behind

Start off modest – maybe some blogging software installed or a forum. While there’s a lot to be said for a joined up approach, far better to gain experience now, rather than waiting months for a large-scale complex solution. So start now, make those first baby steps.

To lead people walk behind them.

What is good

Look at what your audience do now, what benefits them, where they go to find information. Think how you can help them. Learn from what you audience wants and where they go. Lead and be lead at the same time.

Truthful words are not beautiful; beautiful words are not truthful. Good words are not persuasive; persuasive words are not good.

Tell no fibs

Be honest with your audience, don’t try and blind them with science or gobbledygook, no matter how well intentioned. Keep it simple and honest – they will see through duplicity eventually. So no BS, ever!

Without stirring abroad, One can know the whole world…

Where are you going?

Allow your audience to create their world by pulling in the information they want. Make sure that they can easily find and access the information they need. Use RSS webfeeds so they can get the information without having to surf the entire intranet. Make sure search in the enterprise is tip-top and can find social media info. (But also check it’s not swamping all other search…)

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.

The reality check

Set objectives and have measurable aims. Review these regularly – look at your metrics and milestones. Be flexible and don’t be afraid of changing direction!

Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.

How to make crooks

Accept and expect the unexpected and learn from where 2.0 takes us and evolves. Don’t try and force an outcome, even if your audience will let you, it won’t work. If media gets used in ways that you didn’t expect then learn from that rather than trying to stop it.

The more laws that are written, the more criminals are produced.

Of that which we cannot speak

Don’t over govern or over legislate web 2.0 in the enterprise. There will always be those who distrust your audience and fear what might get said in a blog or discussion. Trust them, we can all make career limiting moves by sending out an e-mail, social media is no different. So by all means create guidelines and best practice but try and avoid a big list of Don’ts.

He who knows, does not speak. He who speaks, does not know.

Fishing on the net

Social media can often draw out the shy and bashful who have a lot to say and lots to share. Conversely, it can highlight the real value (or not) of the louder contributors too – empty vessels make the most noise etc. Make sure that you media allows the shy to be heard – you may find that they have the most value to add. Any lecturer will tell you this – the best essays can come in from the quietest student.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Wicked leaders

An old favourite but still true. Provide training and help – many will learn the technology rapidly – that’s what 2.0 is all about, but make it as easy as you can and provide support, aids and training materials. Think of ways that your audience can teach others to fish – forums for newbies supported by the early adopters.

The wicked leader is he who the people despise. The good leader is he who the people revere. The great leader is he who the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.’

Our job as 2.0 internal comms leaders is all about enabling our audience. Enabling them to find the information they want at the right time and place (or that information finding them), it’s about conversation, collaboration and sharing. And above all 2.0 is all about the ‘we’us doing it for ourselves….