The SharePoint Question: 2.0 be or not 2.0 be?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Announcing SharePoint 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Social Business paradox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social Business Scorecard Presentation

A development of my ideas in presentation format. This was a really useful exercise and it has helped me draw out some of the ideas and to identify areas to work on and  make more robust. The project is one I’d like to make concrete, working with a team to solidify the ideas and to ground them in standard business practice. Areas that need developing are legion but there needs to be more work on the external / marketing aspects to draw the elements together.

CiscoCast: Executive Messaging in Cisco EMEA

How Content Networking Delivers Executive Messaging in Europe – CiscoCast. Just some links to PDFs of content for future reference. CiscoCast was a project I worked on for a number of years and used BackWeb and then latterly Skinkers technology to push targeted rich media video messages to users’ desktops across EMEA. It was a very powerful tool for delivering video messages from Cisco executives to the Cisco EMEA employee base.

Cisco_IT_Case_Study_ACNS_EMEA_print Presentation (0.7MB PDF)

Cisco_IT_Case_Study_ACNS_EMEA_Summary Summary (0.2MB PDF)

Cisco_IT_Case_Study_ACNS_EMEA Case Study (0.4MB PDF)

Increasing WordPress xml size

Just a quick post on how to increase the size of the WordPress xml file used in a restore. This is done via Tools > Import and the maximum xml size for a WordPress xml restore is around 2MB. So how to increase the maximum WordPress xml file size?

It’s quite easy but took a few goes to get it right – so here’s a cheat sheet to make it easier fo you.

1) Create a text file with your favourite simple text editor – Notepad ++ for the PC and TextWrangler for the Mac are my free favourites. Save it as php.ini

2) Add the following text:

upload_max_filesize = 20M
post_max_size = 10M

3) The 10M refers to to the maximum size you can post – make it bigger if you need to.

3) FTP the php.ini file to the root of your WordPress installation (so it sits alongside wp-config.php).

4) That’s it – the php.ini should have changed the upload WordPress XML size and it should now be increased to 10MB.

5) Here’s the SSH instructions for the php.ini

6) Import WordPress XML file as per normal

Hope it helped!

Social Business Predictions for 2011

As it’s that time of year again, I thought it as well to make some Social Business predictions for 2011. What I’m really looking at though are not Social Business predictions as such, but more tech trends and paths rolling forward. But here goes in any event.

1) Mobile devices will increasingly play a part in how the social business operates, particularly at two of its keenest nodal points, corporate and internal comms and secondly, the .com and the intranet. Key drivers are both from the business and consumer worlds – iPhones, the Blackberry and Adriod smartphones; tablets whether Cisco Cius, Blackberry Playbook and an other, a Black Swan of a mobile device that no one has thought of yet but which will be blindingly obvious when it appears. Taken together these will stimulate and drive demand for more social business operations. The reason why being that these tools open up new ways to collaborate and communicate that can only be answered and delivered by more socially organised businesses. They also offer ways to drive productivity and to make life a little more fun.

2) The twin consumer and business drives will reap a perfect storm when it comes to creating a more holistic approach to the  social business. By this I mean the trend to ensure what used to be called ‘joined up thinking’ between here the collaboration, communication and marketing operations of the business. Companies that operate different and non-connected, even competing Social Media / Enterprise 2.0 programmes will notice the disconnect and lack of harmony between them.
There will be an increasing realisation that these activities need to be synchronised. This will create a new concept of the Brand that gets Marketing, IT and HR working together.  (OK that’s a bit far-fetched). I can still see a tech-savvy enabling comms/collaboration team approach emerging and a recognition that a chaotic approach is not going to work for much longer – all the more so for companies that have a fragmented collaboration / intranet base.

3) The traditional concept of the firewall and the intranet/extranet will come under more and more strain as the tendencies outlined above play out. The intranet will become not something that you go to, but that can come to you. Infosec and Digital Security will need to rise to that challenge – they will need to support these events and make them secure.

4) Traditional and more established CMS vendors will bolt on social tools to their offerings. IT will like this, the purchaser  will think it makes sense, the users will think it’s pants however. Never forget the users: bolt-ons rarely convince. How this will develop and pan out will be interesting – will there be competitive disadvantage or will the need get delivered by other mean….such as number 5 on my list?

5) Social Intranet Widgets will start to become interesting. We can see how these might work with Jive Apps Market. Using Open Social these should be able to integrate with other like-wise compatible devices. There’s also possibilities opening up with browser add-ons. I like the look of the Chrome add-on Layers. This aggregates social channels such as Twitter and Facebook into the one browser experience. I can see this working in the enterprise to draw a myriad types of content together.
Now these widget thangs could be independent of a specific social business platform – Jive, SharePoint 2010, Lotus Connections or whatever. The social business might be able to create a social potpourri  of widgets, a sort of drag and drop social intranet.

6) Social Business ROI will come of age. We’ve seen plenty of data coming through from IDC, Accenture, UBM, McKinsey, SocialCast and more. This is something that I’ve been increasingly drawn to over the last two years I’ve been writing this blog and it’s something I plan to focus on more in the new year.

Good luck in 2011 – fare well and prosper.

Accenture show the ROI of Social Business

A very detailed case study from Accenture has caught my eye – it goes into great depth about their enterprise 2.0 project and shows in detail the ROI of social business potential. I won’t go into detail here about it – you can read a great overview at Gautam Ghosh’s blog post “ROI of Enterprise 2.0” and at Accenture “Collaboration 2.0 – A Game-Changing ‘Social Strategy’ That Radically Evolved Our Employee-Client Ecosystem

Hard Data Cost Savings
What struck me was this – they have hard data on reaping cost savings – 20 million minutes of company-standard monthly VoIP audio/video usage; 5,000 annual video conferencing meetings, extensive use of TelePresence. This very much reminded me of a project I formed at Cisco just after the dot.com crash where we used Video and web conferencing to save hard cash savings but found it difficult to quantify in a way that could convince the naysayer. Nice to see the technology coming through nearly ten few years after with big numbers.

Employee Satisfaction Up
Next gain Accenture report is employee satisfaction up – Enterprise 2.0 and Internal Communications are the best bed fellows and here’s the facts. Some nice quotes here too:

“I found the expert in 15 minutes versus two days.”

“Microblogging helps me connect to the experts. It doesn’t limit me … …. Everybody’s opinion counts.”

Customer Satisfaction Up
Finally Accenture talks about keeping their clients happy – what better aim can there be for a project?

Enhanced ability to staff global teams with the right skills at the right time during critical junctures in client projects.

Just Touching the Social Business Surface
These are great gains and the project sounds like a really enjoyable one to work on. I still think that it just touches the surface when it comes to both mapping out and achieving the potential of Enterprise 2.0 in creating the real ROI of social business. For an idea of what this might look like, please check out my work on the Social Business Scorecard. Accenture have mapped against basically 3 key areas, what might it look like if a company started that holistic mapping across the enterprise?

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.

Adventures in media