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UBM Case Study shows cash benefits of social media

Great case study on UBM – United Business Media from Forrester on UBM’s use of Enterprise Social media / Social Business software: Case Study: United Business Media Taps Social Computing To Boost Collaboration And Savings

UBM use Jive SBS as their social media platform and after a couple of roadbumps demonstrated tangible hard cash benefits of social media and of employee satisfaction. In the latter the site has become the de facto place to find information:

Today the UBM community directory is the best and most up-to-date central source of information available to employees within the disparate operating companies and is widely used by the companies’ various HR teams
(See my previous blogs talking about the end of the trad intranet).
On the $65 billion question – this stuff is generating money in terms of increased innovation and driving down costs by pooling of buying resources:
Some of the more tangible measures have been hard savings where companies have
joined together to negotiate better terms from suppliers and a rough estimate that 7% to 10% of usage has driven new innovation in the business leading to top- or bottom-line growth.
Be good to get hard ROI figures on this but this study is significant. In sum, social software in the enterprise is transforming the intranet, the way people work and is generating money. We’re going to see a lot more of these types of studies. When it happens it will be what Moore has called the  ‘big whoosh’ – the sound when everyone scrambles to catch up.
Featured Articles Intranet

Taxonomies: part 2

Definitions & Musings

i) Taxonomy

From the Greek taxis and nomos to order and arrange under specific laws, taxonomy attempts to arrange an order of things under scientific rules. It is centralised and expert driven and attempts to ultimately define an Ontology, a categorical view of reality. It is also hierarchical and presents a structure of meaning that at first sight can easily be translated to an intranet architecture.

Take for example the classical taxonomy developed by Linnaeus who envisaged biological species as a hierarchical taxonomy with the broadest categorisation at the top, the domain, through to kingdoms, phyla, classes, ordersfamiliesgenera and species. This basic conceptual categorisation works well, it seems, when constructing an intranet page, where the broadest category is navigated down to the more specific entity as an elegant staircase of meaning. Thus we might start off with a global intranet which narrows down through geographical divisions through to more local levels. This is then mirrored into global departments and their more specific functionalities, and in same pattern, also to technologies or products sold, or to the sales and marketing divisions of the enterprise.

Anyone who has constructed such an edifice soon finds out that this neat and seemingly scientific structure does not adequately map the realities and complexities of even the most orthodox and hierarchical business organisations. In a more matrix corporation the problems are magnified exponentially.

Take for example an attempt to construct a taxonomy based on departments. We might construct the intranet in closely aligned fashion with the CEO at the helm and with sub-sites for all the various department in the business, HR, Finance, Legal, Sales, Marketing, Technologies etc. All is well and good until interplay and overlap present themselves, for example a geographical arrangement of employee laws re-aggregates the HR site content; Marketing’s need to market specific technologies within particular market sectors; or for Sales to distribute goods via specific distribution and reseller markets. At some point a conflict emerges with the system of classification, one that needs to be translated into a practical solution of an intranet architecture.

The solutions to this are as varied as there are intranets, central governance and codification of content, federalised intranet cohering or not to a central hub, complete laissez fair arrangements evolving over time and all in varying different evolving combinations. The technologies underpinning these structures further compounds the issues with a content management system (CMS) present or not and the CMS either enabling or inhibiting the successful taxonomical structure. The CMS might define the entire intranet or coexist with alternate file stores such as LiveLink/Open Text, SharePoint or NT Folders.

The net result can, unless very carefully managed, be chaotic and even if carefully managed, not produce the results desired by the users. And here we come to the nub of the problem; any formal structure of either meaning or intranet architecture is an attempt to construct a reality that changes over time. Furthermore, not only does it change, it is also interpreted by people in different ways that also change over time. The net result of that is the familiar cry that ‘search is broken’ and that the user cannot find anything – the intranet is out of date or broken.

note to self, I need to brush up once more, on Foucualt’s the ‘Order of Things‘ thank you ST.

Previous Post: Taxonomies and Folksonomies in the Intranet 1

Next Post:  Taxonomies and Folksonomies in the Intranet 3

Featured Articles Intranet

Taxonomies and Folksonomies in the Intranet: part 1

A series of posts…


Celestial Empire of benevolent Knowledge
The ubiquitous nature of the taxonomies that define our world is such that is often only when we stop back and either begin the process of naming, categorising; or to consider who it works and comes into being that the issues it presents become clear. Who is to name what and under what authority, how is that thing to then relate to the names and categorisations of other things, how are we to share this knowledge are just some of the questions that beset us.

When contrasting the work of the taxonomist with the produce of the folksonomist it is perhaps too easy to forget that each works towards an approximation and that alternate modes of categorisation and naming might be possible and equally valid. Not that this must lead us to seemingly absurd taxonomies such as that provided by the novelist Jorge Luis Borges who presents us with

“a certain Chinese encyclopaedia entitled ‘Celestial Empire of benevolent Knowledge’: In its remote pages it is written that the animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies.”[i]

As intranet managers, or knowledge management practitioners, we have a job to do; we need to provide a structure of information that our users can both navigate through and find what they need within. If either is difficult, time-consuming or even unpleasant we will soon find out about it via either the metrics we use to evaluate our intranets of from simple user feedback.

And in this we have a choice, between the formal information architecture of the expert, the Taxonomy and that of the collective amateurs, the users of the system, the Folksonomy. The question and one I hope to answer here is can we have a hybrid structure between the two, is it possible to square the circle of the expert and the user? In doing so I shall look at how the social web (social media / web 2.0) informs this discussion and how the folksonomy generated by social bookmarks and tagging can help search and support the more formal structures of an intranet taxonomy.

Next Post: Taxonomies and Folksonomies in the Intranet 2

[i] “The Analytical Language Of John Wilkins” By Jorge Luis Borges

Translated from the Spanish ‘El idioma analítico de John Wilkins’ by Lilia Graciela Vázquez; edited by Jan Frederik Solem with assistance from Bjørn Are Davidsen and Rolf Andersen. A translation by Ruth L. C. Simms can be found in Jorge Luis Borges, ‘Other inquisitions 1937-1952’ (University of Texas Press, 1993)

Featured Articles Film Intranet

Steampunk Intranet of Brazil

Over lunch I started to mull over movie depictions of the intranet. I like the idea of film as a sort collective unconsciousness.  There’s quite a few films where some sort of computer network and database is central to the narrative, but I can only think of one where an intranet is central to the narrative and that film is Terry Gilliam’s 1985 masterpiece Brazil.

Here we are presented with a wonderfully retro steampunk intranet where the central contrivance of the film – mistaking Buttle for Tuttle is caused by a misprint of the machine. Data is transferred as paper in pipes, all connecting together to create a 1940s retro sci fi dystopia. It’s a wonderful vision of where we might be without personal computers, the electronic network and SharePoint.

The downfall of the film’s hero Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) is also due to the intranet, or rather to his blatant sabotaging of the system by forcing two intranet data tubes together. It’s not quite the employee feedback system most would recommend…

After a bit of Googling I’ve managed to find the very scene where this happens. Don’t try this at work kids with your intranet….;-)

nb. I wonder what the earliest film intranet is.  The best I can think of is Fritz Lang’s 1927 Metropolis where the ruling eleite only learn of the troubles at the mill and the workers’ revolt through an internal data ticker. Anyone think of an earlier one or better examples of the  intranet on film? Or other Steampunk Intranets?

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Architecture of the Intranet, deconstructed

I’m trying to think of a contemporary building or architecture that defines what I’m trying to conceptualise about the new intranet will be transmogrified in the next few years. I guess I’m looking for a metaphor in the same way Fredric Jameson took the Bonaventure Hotel to characterise postmodernism as a cultural logic

“they [these postmodern buildings]  no longer attempt, as did the masterworks and monuments of high modernism, to insert a different, a distinct, an elevated, a new Utopian language into the tawdry and commercial sign system of the surrounding city, but rather they seek to speak that very language, using its lexicon and syntax as that has been emblematically “learned from Las Vegas.”

“There are three entrances to the Bonaventure, one from Figueroa and the other two by way of elevated gardens on the other side of the hotel, which is built into the remaining slope of the former Bunker Hill. None of these is anything like the old hotel marquee, or the monumental porte cochere with which the sumptuous buildings of yesteryear were wont to stage your passage from city street to the interior. The entryways of the Bonaventure are, as it were, lateral and rather backdoor affairs: the gardens in the back admit you to the sixth floor of the towers, and even there you must walk down one flight to find the elevator by which you gain access to the lobby.”

I keep on coming back to the Lloyds building as an ‘inside-out’ building (or is that outside in?) in reference to Paul Miller talking about the inside out intranet, but the Lloyds building is too structured and hidden/enclosed. I also like the Museum of Fruit in Yamanashi west Tokyo for its literal transparency, but once again it is too defined in terms of space.

Perhaps I should think in reverse and look for the new formations of the intranet being found in new architectures?

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Social intranet widgets

The future of the intranet is something I’ve mused on in the past in terms of a intranet specific browser and also about the way that I think intranets and the .com of an enterprise are going to get all mashed up by this social stuff. This post muses on what the intranet might offer in terms of a central controlling point and a radical DIY at the edges. This is an almost Lukacsian concept of control and dissent that I’ve seen in some  corporations – where maximum control at the centre, maximum dissent at the periphery can actually (at times) lead to a happy synergy.

The leitmotif of my thoughts is more mundane. Someone mentioned (who?) on Twitter that WordPress’ plugins are its Apple iTunes. I like this idea alot and it was all the more reinforced when I tracked back a ref today from Dion Hinchcliffe “Tracking the “DIY phenomenon Part 1: Widgets, badges, and gadgets“. If you think of it, both the iPhone (or I use, the iPod) and WordPress’ legion of widgets allow an almost limitless ability to customise based on a central defining core – the phone itself or WP application.

My thoughts developed on this to think of what it might be like if this model was moved to the intranet. We see shades of this in WordPress Multi User (WPMU), especially when combined with BuddyPress (a w.i.p or Elgg (completed  Drupal (West London Web hasn’t built a social network in that yet!). But I think the most developed vision of this is seen in Jive SBS, a platform I’ve been doing some very developed work on in a global intranet social network pilot rollout that already spans over 50 countries and many thousands of users.

What the Jive model could offer more traditional intranet applications is the way that it offers 2 layers of modularity, at the Group/Space/Community level and at the individual level. It’s that individual level that potentially the most fertile possibilities lie. A structured and centrally administered regime could coexist with a high level of local customisation.

And this is what the localisation looks like in our Jive SBS – this could be a model for the intranet:

Each of the prefigured Jive widgets shown here could be replaced by some configured for a specific intranet widgets type use. And of course, the structure could be pre-loaded with widgets that are either fully or partly locked to ensure that the most important elements are in place . I wish to return to this in more depth and to cohere some of the ideas together once we’ve upgraded to Jive SBS 4.0. An area that interests me here is how the middle layer of customisable configuration seen in Jive (see for example Gia Lyons’ Jive SBS Structure Best Practices, Part 3) and how the future intranet might support organic and structured spaces and reblends of taxonomy / folksonomy

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Gartner Magic Quadrant; a dark horse closing up the outside fence…

Gartner Magic Quadrant: Social Software

Just been reading the Gartner Magic Quadrant: Social Software. Jive  come out as the clear leaders, closely followed by IBM and Microsoft (the latter featuring better on ability to execute). Other notables – Drupal, Telligent, SocialText and blueKiwi jostle with Google for the Visionary space. Gartner wonder if Google’s move into the enterprise is opportunistic. I think it’s strategic. Open Text and Atlassian feature as Challengers.

I think the horse racing up the outside fence as they close into the paddock will be Thought Farmer. Their biggest weakness is the fact they don’t have any big customers, a fact that their alliance with the Dachis group is bound to change! I enjoyed their latest blog too The Problem of the Intranet – so much so I actually read it on my iPod Touch! Touche to the Canadians!

n.b…Hmm, I wonder where WordPress will feature in future Magic Quadrants?

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Intranet Bounce Rate

Of late I’ve been spending some time looking at the Intranet Bounce Rate on an enterprise social media project I’m working on for a large multinational. And by Bounce Rate, (rather than Intranet Bounce Rate), I’ll take the definition found on Wikipedia today:

It essentially represents the percentage of initial visitors to a site who “bounce” away to a different site, rather than continue on to other pages within the same site.
The formula used to calculate bounce rate is: Bounce Rate = Total Number of Visits Viewing One Page ÷ Total Number of Visits

The metrics produced by Google Analytics look quite good to me, at least bythe usual  industry standards:

Bounce Rate

As the Wikipedia article cites, this is very good indeed: analytics specialist Avinash Kaushik has stated:
“It is really hard to get a bounce rate under 20%, anything over 35% is cause for concern, 50% (above) is worrying.”

But is this good for an intranet bounce rate, or enterprise social network site? A high bounce rate on a large corporate intranet might mean that users are happiest when they bounce away quickly as they’ve found what they want. Here high Bounce Rate = Good? On an enterprise social network site, well what does intranet bounce rate really mean?

Both Bing and Google offer nothing on this that I could see. Indeed when I search for ‘Intranet Bounce Rate’ on Google, it kindly asks – ‘Did you mean Internet? ‘!!

p.s. One interesting point – Saturdays generate the high spikes.  Why?

p.p.s. Some excellent resources from my old colleague at Derby Uni, Dr Dave Chaffey to mull on. Bounce rates in Web design articles

Enterprise 2.0 Featured Articles Intranet

Social Intranets, the Intranets’ Social future

Two interesting mirror discussions on the future of the intranet from the IBF’s Intranet Life blog and over at LinkedIn in the Melcrum group section. Both about the future of the intranet. Melcrum as whether social media will kill the intranet. The IBF about will the Intranet destroy the .com.

All in all I think both sets of discussions point out how much the .com, the intranet and social media, will all be impacted by changes in their own technology and usage and by wider market/political changes.
On the latter, one of the areas I’ve started to ponder about is this – if new more socially enabled intranets or ‘Social Intranet’ allow collaboration across enterprises they will in also allow them between enterprise opening up the way for cross-company collaborations of an unplanned form. As most businesses have a very definite set of their own boundaries, this might either transform (positive) or undermine (negative) this sense of uniformity.
Whither the intranet in this world if collaboration is taking place between 2 separate intranets, connected by social, media? Could this create a tension on the nature of the enterprise itself, a new social mode of production?

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Islands of Enterprise Social Media

Last night I dreamed I went to Megacorp again, and as dreams are, this one combined such experiences with work I’ve been doing of late on open source wares and of being in a J G Ballard novel (my nearish neighbour sadly having passing away last week).

The dream was of a company as so. Imagine if you will a global panoply of very well-known brands of FMCG, forming a multi-billion dollar business with healthy profits; a sophisticated distribution network to consumers and wholesalers and other purveyors of the products; multiple business units producing their own independent goods and branding and the whole matrix working together to bring joy to households across the globe; but ultimately disunited by an intranet that beggars belief.

Some more details are as follows. The employees (and especially the Exec Admins of the more senior peeps) spend an inordinate amount of time ringing ‘offworld’ to get basic connectivity back, IT having out-sourced this aspect some years back. The employees do however have Smartphones, either Blackberries or such and these they like. Some use of social media by marketing but little or none inside the firewall.

How on earth might one introduce such an entity to the benefits of enterprise social media?

My thoughts are on something ad hoc. Pulling up the intranet and starting again, whilst a nice thing to do would be out of scope, remit and even possibility.

So an ad hoc enterprise social network (ESN) of nodal social media would have to be the only route. Dropping boxes into the network, no matter how robust or sophisticated wouldn’t work as the network would let them down. They would have to connect into an ESN  in the cloud of disaggregated social functionalities. Tagging and such meta data would pull them together.

Which software might do it? A series of Nings, but how to connect? Has to be mobile friendly, very mobile friendly. One of the social vendors doing a SAAS maybe, but would that apply a false unity on their flattened and distributed matrices? Perhaps nodes of open source social media would be fun. One here one there. Islands of socially mediated brands connecting via their own media.

Time to sketch how this might all fit together…any suggestions / ideas /inputs most welcome!

[n.b. I awoke early after 2 days of feeling very unwell and more sleep than is healthy, to the welcome of a bright London morning and drinking freshly ground Blue Mountain coffee as supplied by the most excellent Has Bean coffee co. – brilliant start to the day! Promo over – just a happy punter btw]