2.0 | Lessons Learnt

The recent proliferation of the term ‘2.0’ across almost every domain leaves me with a few questions as my research approaches completion. What is the big deal with ‘2.0’? Why has it suddenly become so important to re-invent so many processes that have been around for ages? Have we gone too far with extending this trend?

Following this, I want to see just how far the term has changed the way we look at traditional processes. As it turns out Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, Health 2.0, Government 2.0, Marketing 2.0, Bank 2.0, Classroom 2.0, Travel 2.0, Identity 2.0, Library 2.0, and Human 2.0 are just some of the trends in this ubiquitous paradigm-shift that has seen us question some of the most fundamental assumptions that have persisted for as long as we have experienced these domains. If you’re wondering what the big deal is, let me try to put this into context.

This decade has witnessed a phenomenal adoption of Agile Software Development processes; certainly Scrum, XP and even basic iterative practices have been around for longer, but the fact remains that this decade has certainly witnessed a tremendous adoption of Agile SD. What makes this relevant to the ‘2.0 movement’ is the basic fact that they have both required significant changes in the way we evaluate processes, with a much higher comfort level towards change. This is perhaps why so many 2.0 initiatives are best run iteratively, in small incremental steps which are more comfortable with an experiment-first-evaluate-later model.

However, it is easy to get carried away with the apparent ease of deploying open source web 2.0 platforms to fit perceived business objectives. In a lot of cases, 2.0 initiatives appear to present the classic situation of a ‘solution looking for a problem’. Research shows that the best approach to experimenting with 2.0 initiatives is to focus on the correct sequence of priorities.

1.       Start at the people. Whether it’s your employees or your customers, they are at the core of your business. Every quantifiable benefit of a 2.0 initiative can be traced back to the actual people it affects.

2.       Then look at the information. Once you figure out the ‘who’, then focus on the ‘what’. What information/data/knowledge is best suited for collaborative consumption?

3.       Finally, work with the technologies. Now you’re ready to get into the whole debate of open-source vs. premium platforms and how you are going to inject these platforms into your existing Enterprise Architecture.

I’d like to propose what I feel is the best approach to experimentation with 2.0 initiatives. From a famous talk by Sir Ken Robinson, ‘School Kill Creativity’:

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original.”


..Robinson, K. 2006. Do Schools Kill Creativity? Retrieved September 29, 2010 from http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

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Social Networks in the Enterprise

While the popularity of social networks is undeniable, this particular breed of Web 2.0 platforms seems to be facing the most criticism with regards to its application, relevance and value in organizations today. In any case, also undeniable is the fact that organisations are increasingly adopting social networks for the internal and external networking of employees and customers. Research-in-Motion Co-CEO Jim Balsallie commented at the 2009 GSMA Mobile World Congress, as reported by Dan Farber of ZDNET:

“Once social networking becomes a B2B phenomenon–not unlike IM and texting–I believe every single social-networking user will want a data plan.”

As this is one of three posts on the main E2.0 tools used within the Enterprise – Blogs, Wikis and Social Networks, I would like to borrow from Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at the Center for Digital Business, a fellow at the Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society and one of the most influential Enterprise 2.0 Gurus:

“We need to keep in mind that most E2.0 tools are new, and that their acceptance depends on shifts in perspective on the part of business leaders and decision makers, shifts for which the word ‘seismic’ might not be an overstatement. Enterprise 2.0 tools have no inherent respect for organizational boundaries, hierarchies, or job titles. They facilitate self-organization and emergent rather than imposed structure. They require line managers, compliance officers, and other stewards to trust that users will not deliberately or inadvertently use them inappropriately. They require these stewards to become comfortable with collaboration environments that “practice the philosophy of making it easy to correct mistakes, rather than making it difficult to make them” as Jimmy Wales has said. They require, in short, the re-examination and often the reversal of many longstanding assumptions and practices. It is not in the least disrespectful or contemptuous of today’s managers to say that it will take them some time to get used to this.”

Given the rapid increase in the popularity of social networks, Deloitte has the following to say about the trend in 2009:

“While questions grow about consumer social networks’ varying ability to monetize their hundreds of millions of users, enterprises are looking at how they can harness the hierarchy-flattening, information-sharing, teambuilding power of social networks.”

Here is a brilliant example from CIO.com, on how a world leader in innovation – 3M, uses social networks to better develop product ideas.

During the GFC, 3M wanted its employees to focus on the future of its’ product innovations process and not on the economic slowdown. As a result, 3M’s Corporate Knowledge Management group partnered with its Corporate Strategy and Corporate IT groups to create an enterprise social network open to all 75,000 global employees, of which 1,239 people in 42 countries participated to generate 736 ideas grouped into 26 market clusters. This process directly resulted in the identification of 9 future markets enabled only by the increased employee engagement over 8 short weeks!

Another good case of Enterprise Social Networks, reported by Dan Berthiaume from CTOEdge in the article ‘Salesforce.com Embraces Social Networks for the Enterprise’ highlights some of the key features of the platform and the benefits of using Salesforce Chatter, internally. According to Berthiaume:

“Salesforce.com is positioning itself to play a key role in adapting the refined interactive capabilities of online social networks to business enterprise communications.”

Certainly, it is hard to predict how social networks will evolve in tandem with the Enterprise, however it is clear that they are probably the best method in employee engagement, and with their tendency to go viral – are also the most low-cost method of collaboration in the Enterprise.

References

Berthiaume, D. 2009. Salesforce.com Embraces Social Networks for the Enterprise. Retrieved September 19, 2010 from http://www.ctoedge.com/content/salesforcecom-embraces-social-networks-enterprise

Deloitte. 2009. Social networks in the enterprise: Facebook for the Fortune 500. Retrieved September 19, 2010 from http://www.deloitte.co.uk/TMTPredictions/technology/Social-networks-in-the-enterprise.cfm

Farber, D. 2008. 2009: The year of enterprise social networks. Retrieved September 19, 2010 from http://www.zdnet.com/blog/btl/2009-the-year-of-enterprise-social-networks/7997

McAfee, A. 2007. Enterprise 2.0 May be Fine for the Business, But What About the IT Department? Retrieved September 19, 2010 from http://andrewmcafee.org/2007/11/enterprise_20_may_be_fine_for_the_business_but_what_about_the_it_department/

Swanborg, R. 2010. Social Networks in the Enterprise: 3M’s Innovation Process. Retrieved September 19, 2010 from http://www.cio.com/article/592271/Social_Networks_in_the_Enterprise_3M_x2019_s_Innovation_Process

Wikis in the Enterprise

The internet is abuzz with discussions and posts about the great effectiveness of wikis. Where, social networks and blogs might unearth concerns of information security, wikis provide a powerful way to collectively create, edit, showcase, collaborate and build on the tacit knowledge of the Enterprise. For the uninitiated, wikis are defined by Cunningham in a post by Nathan Matias as the simplest online database that could possibly work”; his article elaborates on some of the salient features of wikis and the reasons for their popularity. Perhaps the most popular example of a Wiki, is Wikipedia, itself. From Wikipedia Since its creation in 2001, Wikipedia has grown rapidly into one of the largest reference websites, attracting nearly 78 million visitors monthly as of January 2010. There are more than 91,000 active contributors working on more than 16,000,000 articles in more than 270 languages.” Therefore, it is not difficult to imagine the possibilities for wiki adoption within the enterprise, if they are successfully implemented.

Though a majority of wiki solutions are basically open source, there are 4 main enterprise wiki solution providers that provide support through the implementation lifecycle with ongoing maintenance support, as reviewed in an article by Ron AndersonAtlassian Software Systems, CustomerVision, JotSpot and Socialtext. Below are the results from his research at the Real-World Labs®, at Syracuse University:

Now, I’ve used Confluence (version, unknown), an Atlassian Software Systems product; it is the enterprise wiki deployment of choice at Sabre Holdings Inc., where I worked until 2008. As a Subject Matter Expert – I have authored several product feature documents and have – therefore – been responsible for maintaining the wiki ensuring that product documentation stays up-to-date. The Sabre-Confluence deployment was a strictly internal wiki, and while the document distribution went through several quality iterations before sharing with customers, the interface was not exactly the most intuitive around, which certainly affected productivity. I have – on more than one occasion – lost current versions of documents that I had been working on for days; support for multiple file types (past the usual .doc, .pdf, .jpg, .png, .gif and a few others) was lacking. Beyond these basic issues, the wiki was still the primary source of information for business analysts, SME’s, and project teams and I can safely say that – at the time – product teams were better informed, transparent and more productive through the use of the Confluence wiki.

Another Enterprise Wiki platform of repute of the BizWiki solution by CustomerVision, as reported in an article by Michael Hickins. Perhaps one of the most useful features of this product is that “It also allows users to get authoritative information using an ‘Ask the Expert’ function.” Steven Ollenburg, president and CEO of MWABank, a regional bank based in Illinois, as quoted in the article, explains that “Financial services entities need quick, clear and concise responsiveness to electronic customer inquiries; these cannot take days to be responded to, nor can they build up into a project.” Ollenburg also mentioned that “MWABank has generated “extremely noticeable” cost savings from the use of BizWiki”.

Jotspot, which was acquired by Google in late 2006, reappeared on the market as the better known Google Sites service, part of Google Apps, after a long integration effort to align the service with Google’s Enterprise architecture.

An interesting use of the service by a law firm was recently reported by Anchoris; Anthony, the firm’s IT manger is quoted as saying “We wanted to create extranets for our clients instead to help us collaborate more easily and efficiently with them.” Through a highly effective deployment of the Google Sites solution and its use as a wiki, the firm has witnessed a significant change to their business processes.

“The feedback we have had is that the extranet is very easy to learn and use and that it is a real time saver.”

“The security provided by Google Sites means we can easily yet securely share podcasts relating specifically to a client’s business, as well as create and share podcasts of some of our generic training.”

The case study for this google sites deployment is available here.

There are several driving factors for the increase in wiki adoption within the Enterprise; the most notable of these is knowledge management. If you are looking at wiki adoption in your organisation, here are some great tips for wiki adoption by Sherif Mansour:

  1. Pick a good Wiki
  2. Let your Wiki ‘virally’ grow
  3. Find and empower ‘Wiki Champions’ in each team
  4. Start off as open as possible, worry about guidelines later
  5. Refer people to the Wiki where you can
  6. Bottom up, not top down
  7. Training should not be more than one hour demo

References

Anchoris. 2010. Law firm delivers better service to clients using Google Sites. Retrieved September 13, 2010 from http://www.ancoris.com/company/case-studies/case-studies-cloud-web-email/law-firm-google-sites.html

Anderson, R. 2006. Review: Wikis In The Enterprise. Retrieved September 13, 2010 from http://www.networkcomputing.com/unified-communications-voip/review-wikis-in-the-enterprise.php

Hickins, M. 2006. Social Networking Comes to the Enterprise. Retrieved September 13, 2010 from http://www.internetnews.com/ec-news/article.php/3601356/Social-Networking-Comes-to-the-Enterprise.htm

Mansour, S. 2008. Seven wiki adoption techniques for the enterprise. Retrieved September 13, 2010 from http://blog.sherifmansour.com/?p=200

Matias, N. 2003. What is a Wiki? Retrieved September 13, 2010 from http://articles.sitepoint.com/article/what-is-a-wiki

Wikipedia. 2010. Wikipedia:About. Retrieved September 13, 2010 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:About

Blogging in the Enterprise

Blogging. It is here to stay, so if you’re not on board yet, here is something to really push up on your priorities list. A study by Guidewire Group, shows some amazing statistics of the penetration of blogging within the enterprise.

“The vast majority of companies (89%) are either blogging now or planning to blog soon.”

“Blogging has penetrated virtually every industry.”

“55% of corporations have adopted blogs for both internal (91.4%) and external (96.6%) communications, and are finding significant benefit to both forms.”

“No respondent reported launching a blog initiative that was found to be unsuccessful.”

That was in 2005; the blogosphere has certainly gone viral since. In this context, organizations would certainly benefit greatly from the facilitation of blogging and even micro-blogging within the enterprise. One of the main reasons for the high adoption of blogs is the fact that they can effectively facilitate knowledge management across departments, teams and business units.

Let’s look more closely at some examples.

Susan Hanley discusses a study by Ehrlich and Shami, who analysed ‘Microblogging Inside and Outside the Workplace’. The study –summarized by Hanley – clearly shows that encouraged by IBM, employees utilize internal and external microblogging tools productively and ethically. From the study:

“There was no ambiguity about posting confidential information.”

“..there is a greater sense of community amongst internal microbloggers.”

“..the value of reading Twitter was to get access to good information sooner than through other sources.”

“..participants were very conscious of the value of posting information for enhancing their own reputation, as a form of impression management”

“..people commented on the sense of connectedness that came with participation in microblogging.”

This clearly helps to highlight some of the misconceptions about confidentiality as one of the key issues in Enterprise Microblogging. Not only do blogs and microblogs work, they help unlock tacit knowledge in the workforce, reduce time spent in looking for information through increased knowledge management, generate proactive community participation leading to a greater sense of employee engagement, all-the-while keeping the interactions professional and therefore, productive.

(For more information about the specific benefits for IBM in promoting web 2.0 tools, read my blogpost – ‘Enterprise 2.0 | Benefits & Risks’.)

Another really good example of Blogging in the Enterprise is Oracle’s Blog. A very well organized community platform, I’ve found it serves two main purposes.

1.       It serves as a central knowledge hub for all things Oracle containing posts about all their projects, products, insights under the single roof of the blogging platform.

2.       I’m sure the folks at Oracle already know this, but it is also a brilliant showcase for customers, industry experts and even job seekers! The tag cloud on the right, takes you directly into highly specific blogs about SOA, Fusion Middleware, php, Exadata, Siebel CRM, Solaris, etc.

Communities that develop through the collaboration facilitated by the Oracle Blog are closer, more productive and almost always in the best interests of the Enterprise.

Another study by the Department of Computer Science at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology found while studying tweeting patterns that “it’s a surprisingly interconnected network and an effective way to filter quality information”, as reported by MIT’s Technology Review. An analysis of information distribution mechanisms across twitter helps explain ‘Why Twitter Is the Future of News’.

Journalism – probably the oldest and most experienced Enterprise around – is fast becoming dependent on information shared on twitter as a primary source of news stories. Surely 140 characters cannot be considered authoritative or descriptive, but the success behind twitter is that the short messages force customers to focus on brevity, keeping content highly concise & specific and keep us connected to cloud, according to Rohit Bhargava.

There are many lessons to be learnt on the road to effective collaboration in the Enterprise; however blogs and microblogs are a surprisingly effective paradigm that helps organizations succeed at employee engagement.

I welcome the opportunity to discuss this further, so if I’ve piqued your interest please take a moment to comment..

References

Bhargava, R. 2010. 7 Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Twitter’s Success. What did YOU learn? Retrieved September 03, 2010 from http://blog.mrtweet.com/7-lessons-entrepreneurs-can-learn-from-twitters-success
Ehrlich, K. and N. Shami. 2010. Microblogging Inside and Outside the Workplace. Retrieved September 03, 2010 from http://www.cs.cornell.edu/~sadats/icwsm2010.pdf

GuidewireGroup. 2005. Blogging in the Enterprise. Retrieved September 03, 2010 from http://www.blogonevent.com/archives/Guidewire%20Survey%20Executive%20Summary%20-%20Blogging%20in%20the%20Enterprise%20-%20Oct%202005.pdf

Hanley, S. 2010. What’s happening? “Micro-blogging” inside the Enterprise. Retrieved September 03, 2010 from http://www.networkworld.com/community/node/59324

MIT Technology Review. 2010. Why Twitter Is the Future of News. Retrieved September 03, 2010 from http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/mimssbits/25128/

Image link: http://www.innovationcreators.com/Structured%20Blogging%20within%20the%20Enterprise-thumb.png