Tag Archives: Forrester

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.

Forrester: Strategic Management and Globalization 2.0

20The last post on Spinning Mule 2.0 was originally posted last week but I thought it a bit OTT so saved the HTML and deleted it. I’ve now done a repost and made a note to trust my judgement a bit more in future. The reason for that is the arrival of a nice little number from Forrester called: “Innovating Strategic Management Paradigms And Models To Thrive Amid Global Change.”

The report bandies about some dandy terms such as ‘Globalization 2.0? ‘Invisible IT’ and ‘Technology Populism’. By these they refer to the truly global market and the increasing impact, influence and importance of the BRIC economies; the evolution of IT into a ubiquitous business technology; and the fact that rather than the military it’s now the Facebook generation, i.e ordinary tech-savvy punters who are driving change.

To survive in this new world, Forrester recommend something that caught my eye – they recommend that corporations adopt what I’ve always thought as the prime mantra of internal comms, namely align whatever and all you do to the business strategy.

Strategic management paradigms are the über-approaches that: combine several discrete activities under one umbrella; have a direct and complex impact on a company’s strategy setting; and require comprehensive implementation efforts. Examples of strategic management paradigms include the core competency concept or the management by objectives (MBO) approach, which emanated from the academic world.

To back this up and to validate it for good or ill they say a measurement system is needed, such as SWOT, Balanced Scorecard and Six Sigma. What follows however takes an increasingly 2.0 twist – old business paradigms need to take the tectonic social media shift.

dotThe focus then should be on a customer-centricity. These they argue becomes part of a Business Transformation model. This transformation is one not only about organizing and behaving to meet customer needs, it’s also about adopting social media technology and practices to foster innovation and to adapt in agile fashion to meet new and evolving customer needs and desires.

credit-crunchWill this happen? Forrester note the huge challenges present. I think this is the rub. Also there’s not a lot of choice. Global market, increased competition, global skills market, next gen 2.0 employees expect at least the very basics of what they use at home and at leisure. This opens up the market – opportunities as much as threat. The game is being completely re-written. We’re in a Crisis phase at present, but as the Chinese note, this is both Danger and Opportunity

While traditional IT service providers can rejoice in the fact that their contributions will gain in importance, they can’t become complacent, as the new game represents an opportunity for entrants that excel in both strategy and technology. As a result, Forrester foresees active consolidation in the consulting and IT industries over the next five years.

Forrester: UK TV & UK Supermarket sites

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

Beans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy viewing, happy shopping…

Forrester: Instant Messaging and Virtual Worlds

A recent report from Forrester on Virtual Worlds asks  “Will Unified Communications Make Virtual Worlds Relevant To Business?” and provides a hedged answer of ‘Yes, But It Won’t Be Overnight‘. The backdrop to the report is a joint venture between IBM and Forterra Systems called Babel Bridge. Babel Bridge joins IBM’s unified communications in the form of their instant messager SameTime with Forterra’s 3D immersive world, OLIVE. Here’s how Forterra describe it:

The integrated solution from IBM and Forterra takes group collaboration productivity to a new level, incorporating not only voice, video, and media, but it adds the important element of a sense of presence and digital identity. (source)

Forrester examine this new solution by comparing it to the current status of 3D worlds and point to 3 key headaches for wider adoption:

  • There are few use cases that appeal to business.
  • The experience lacks key elements to make it immersive.
  • The technology is new and prone to failure.

They then argue that only with a ‘collision’ between the Virtual World and Unified Communications will these be overcome. 3DUC will offer:

  • A collaboration hub for the enterprise.
  • An environment for spontaneous collaboration.
  • A stable platform that conforms to IT department guidelines.
  • A “personal touch” to meetings between disparate groups.

For Forterra this delivers the holy grail of internal comms:

This integration builds stronger relationships, creates more engaging, memorable experiences, and enables faster problem solving and decision making, all while eliminating the need to travel.

Wow! But on whether it will do this though,  I’m not convinced. My reasons are this, why do it in 3D? I can see a fun element of the virtual world and creating a 3D workspace, but what is really gained here, what are the real and demonstrable business benefits beyond the novelty factor of pushing an avatar round a 3D world? The only area I’ve seen it work in well is virtual worlds surrounding conference and exhibitions where it achieves for the short while the event runs quite a satisfying level of customer engagement.

In a past life I watched a lot of European Union money ploughed into virtual world working environments (I even recall 3D tractor factories in the late 1990’s), but I could never see the point. It always struck me, and this was my actual experience too, that is was much harder work to traverse an avatar across a virtual than to click for a file or folder in good old 2D. And more to the point, all of Forrester’s points above can be achieved in ‘flat’ worlds such as Cisco WebEx Connect or Microsoft’s SharePoint. If one is having to do this everyday, then quick and easy, point and click, will always beat the extra work of moving an avatar about.

No doubt the technology will move forward, but while Forrester are excited by the possibility of full UC integration with 3D, they do urge caution and point out it’s not quite there yet. A key factor appears to be ‘immersion’, which makes me further wonder what full immersion might be like. Images of Total Recall come to mind and the P K Dick short story the film was taken from, We Can Remember it for you Wholesale. If it gets that immersive then one might ask, how will we know if we’re in the environment or not?

Forrester on 2.0 Uptake: why the vendors might be worried

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

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

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

Significant success: social networks and wikis

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

Minimal success: microblogs, podcasts, social bookmarks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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