Do we lack the tools to steer ESN adoption?

It’s been a long time since I last used Facebook. I’d like to say it’s totally out of a philosophical belief that we aren’t meant to be the product – don’t get me wrong, it’s partly because of that-, but it’s got more to do with my dwindling motivation. I like to assess my use of any app through the Return On my Time Investment. And because of its recent (or not so recent) algorithmic updates, my FB newsfeed has lost its edge when compared to my Twitter timeline.

But this is just FB. Leaving it might disconnect you from the latest updates in your friends’ social lives, but it won’t hinder you professionally (unless you’re a web marketer or a Facebook employee that is). But what is of an Enterprise Social Network (ESN)?

Many vendors boast about the gain in productivity and the rise of innovation following the implementation of ESNs. Yet, what business value can you extract from a deserted social network? It is no surprise that adoption is the main issue with many ESN implementations. But how do you get people who are already swamped with work-related tasks to fully engage within a social network? And once there, how do you retain them on the network?

This is a heavy loaded question with no easy answer. A first step would require understanding the motivation behind our staying or leaving (aka churning) an online social network. A rather comprehensive presentation of the question has been issued by Karnstedt et al. in their paper “Churn in Social Networks”:

A key observation of user behaviour in online networks is that users, with the exception of spammers, make contributions to online discourse without expecting any immediate return [39,11]. In sociological discourse, this type of activity is described in terms of the ‘gift economy’ [58]. In contrast to the commodity or service economy, which is driven by the exchange of good/services for money, economic exchange in the gift economy is defined in terms of an im- plicit social contract. In a gift transaction, there is an unstated expectation that the benefits of a gift will be reciprocated by the recipient at some reasonable time in the future. A more risky transaction involves ‘generalised exchange’, whereby the giver’s generosity is reciprocated, not by the recipient, but by someone else in the group. In social networks, this exchange mechanism applies to those contributors who give of their time and expertise but do not appear to receive immediate benefits. However, there is a risk that the group will not assume responsibility for the debt and the contributor will never be reimbursed in kind. In the worst case, if all members of the group never contribute (free-load), no one benefits and the exchange system breaks down.

This gets more delicate when applied within an enterprise because, well the stakes are higher for obvious reasons, and because what’s going on offline (office politics and such) is bound to affect the dynamics within the social network. Fingers are often pointed towards Enterprise culture and justifiably so. Culture does eat technology for breakfast!

Some argue that internal community management could help ESNs thrive, but it can only do as much. Data-driven approaches that proclaim the capacity of steering the community through web-based analytics are abundant. They could help understand the dynamics of the network, if only they focused equally on the relational aspects of the social network as they do on the content and activities occurring within the network.

Maybe the difficulties of adoption are only made more poignant because of the lack of pertinent methodologies to support the endeavor. What if we could visualize the network in real-time (through Social Network Analysis)? Augment it with activity-based indicators (number of posts of a user, numbers of views of a profile etc.)? What if we could even envision the future state of the network based on the patterns in its historical data and thus predict the likeliest users to churn (As is the case for online games platforms or telecom companies)?

Maybe that will steer the adoption efforts in a more accurate manner and maybe it won’t. I’m nothing saying it’s not a complex question, but wouldn’t hurt to dwell on it, would it?

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A touch of the not invented here syndrome?

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Eugene Eric Kim did a great job mapping the different relationships among collaboration-related skills.  

 

What I discovered very early on was that there was an awful lot of great knowledge about how to collaborate effectively. The problem was that this knowledge was largely locked in silos. Ironically, the people who best understood collaboration were not collaborating with each other.

 

I was disappointed, but not surprised, that “collaboration” as a skill was mostly lumped with technology skills. Folks in the Enterprise 2.0 space, for example, have almost no overlap with organizational development professionals. It’s a troubling trend. Although people are fond of saying, “It’s not about technology, it’s about people,” there’s not much practice validating that mantra.

 

On the flip side, it’s disappointing that organizational development professionals have stayed removed from some of the amazing trends in the technology sector.

Social Business / Enterprise 2.0 are all about tearing down knowledge silos. Ironically, practitioners of these fields seem to be stuck in their own bubble. The future  lies in effectively spanning the white spaces.

Bookmarked! – January

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Photo courtesy of this lyre lark

Strong processes, weak culture 

  • Processes present a limitation in that they encourage what Jim Collins (in Built to Last), or Harvard Business Review’s Leading by Leveraging Culture , call a weak culture. The assumption is that teams are not aligned enough with business strategy, so it is necessary to put prescriptive processes in place to ensure for teams alignment. 
  • Operational units, i.e the team that will be using these processes on a daily basis eventually are hardly ever consulted. This way, the processes acquire a Top-Downcharacteristic and the organisation enter into what Thierry de Baillon calls the Taylorist Knowledge : everything is in place to feed the weak culture.
  • strong culture organisation does not need that much strong processes.
  • The processes are then bottom-up, operational units validate processes that have proven successful
  • From my experience in managing IT projects, I notice that the more prescriptive a method is and the more it embodies a self-powered weak culture.
  • The less prescriptive the method is the more it encourages initiative, successful participation and a strong culture.
  • My 2 cents is that the 21st century organisation needs more a strong culture than it needs strong processes.

 

How IBM’s Sam Palmisano Redefined the Global Corporation 

  • The real story behind IBM’s success is the course Palmisano set for 21st century global enterprises. 
  • Recognizing that the company’s command-and-control culture wouldn’t work in the 21st century, he defined leadership as leading by values and created a unique collaborative organizational structure.
  • This meant abandoning IBM’s existing organization, in which product silos and geographic entities operated independently and frequently were more competitive than collaborative. Palmisano reorganized IBM into a “globally integrated enterprise” focused on worldwide collaboration. He cajoled, pushed, and pulled the company into a client-centric, agile structure able to customize delivery of IBM’s software assets, hardware assets, and intellectual property.
  • His ingenious first step toward creating a collaborative culture was a massive, global collaboration. In 2003 he launched an online, interactive “values jam” involving all employees for 72 hours to determine what IBM’s values should be. The three principles that emerged from that event guided decision-making throughout the organization, giving IBM’s huge, globally dispersed workforce the discipline necessary to execute the company’s new strategy.

 

The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption 

  • Clay Johnson’s The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption — an intelligent manifesto for optimizing the 11 hours we spend consuming information on any given day in a way that serves our intellectual, creative, and psychological well-being.
  • Johnson draws a parallel between the industrialization of food, which at once allowed for ever-greater efficiency and reined in an obesity epidemic, and the industrialization of information, arguing that blaming the abundance of information itself is as absurd as blaming the abundance of food for obesity. Instead, he proposes a solution that lies in engineering a healthy relationship with information by adopting smarter habits and becoming as selective about the information we consume as we are about the food we eat.
  • Johnson argues that instead of the lens of productivity and efficiency, which have become a false holy grail for our inbox-zero-obsessed culture, we should consider this through the lens with which we assess what we consume biologically: health. Because the problem is now larger than a mere matter of getting things done.
  • Like any good diet, the information diet works best if you think about it not as denying yourself information, but as consuming more of the right stuff and developing healthy habits

 

Do Great Things 

  • Whether you’re a programming prodigy or the office manager holding it all together, technology empowers small groups of passionate people with an astonishing degree of leverage to make the world a better place. Yet I fear that our industry is squandering its opportunity and its talent. In companies large and small, great minds are devoting their lives to endeavors that, even if wildly successful, fail to do great things.
  • When did beating the competition or protecting your existing business become more important than serving users?
  • An abundance of angel capital and increasing fetishization of entrepreneurship has led more people to start companies for the sake of starting a company.
  • The result is a massive talent dilution
  • It’s good that starting a business is easier than ever, but the pendulum has swung too far from Silicon Valley’s hey-day when a handful of great companies were able to gather a critical mass of great people to do great things.
  • No one knows whether you and your teammates will realize your audacious visions, but in order to do great things, we must attempt great things.

 

This Is Generation Flux: Meet The Pioneers Of The New (And Chaotic) Frontier Of Business 

  • And here’s the conundrum: When businesspeople search for the right forecast–the road map and model that will define the next era–no credible long-term picture emerges. There is one certainty, however. The next decade or two will be defined more by fluidity than by any new, settled paradigm; if there is a pattern to all this, it is that there is no pattern. The most valuable insight is that we are, in a critical sense, in a time of chaos.
  • Some people will thrive. They are the members of Generation Flux…What defines GenFlux is a mind-set that embraces instability, that tolerates–and even enjoys–recalibrating careers, business models, and assumptions
  • “In an increasingly turbulent and interconnected world, ambiguity is rising to unprecedented levels. That’s something our current systems can’t handle.”
  • You do not have to be a jack-of-all-trades to flourish in the age of flux, but you do need to be open-minded.
  • If ambiguity is high and adaptability is required, then you simply can’t afford to be sentimental about the past. Future-focus is a signature trait of Generation Flux. It is also an imperative for businesses: Trying to replicate what worked yesterday only leaves you vulnerable.
  • Our institutions are out of date; the long career is dead; any quest for solid rules is pointless, since we will be constantly rethinking them; you can’t rely on an established business model or a corporate ladder to point your way; silos between industries are breaking down; anything settled is vulnerable

Enterprise 2.0 reads – April 2011

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It’s been a busy busy month! But it’s also been a delight to finally see the Social Media Club Casablanca Chapter become a reality. And I’m sure it’s just the start of a long and enriching adventure.  On the local scene, Earth Hour Morocco, Café 2.0, Startup weekend Casablanca and Ignite Ingénieur were the highlights of this April. Another highlight was waking up to find many website down because of Amazon’s cloud crash! A real life example of how failure of Hubs in power-law networks can turn disastrous in no time. But I’m sure I’ll need another post if I kept listing every remarkable event, there are just so many! So, with no further ado, I here present, the most interesting reads I crossed this last month.  

By the way, Jim Worth does a great job curating his monthly tweets even though they fairly need any curation if you ask me. You can catch them here to find out more interesting reads of April.

IBM Says Merge your Email into the Activity Stream By Barb Mosher

Some say email is over and done. Others say it’s the platform of the future. IBM says put email into context — into the activity stream.

[Activity stream is] a real-time feed of various events that happen in the workplace. That could be changes to documents, status messages from users and so on. It’s one of the most talked about features of social software today.

IBM says we need to move the content out of our inbox and into the activity stream too. Not everything, because that would be a nightmare and a waste of time. But only those emails that are relevant to the work we are doing, things that are actionable by us.

 

The future is podular by Dave Gray


If you want an adaptive company, you will need to unleash the creative forces in your organization, so people have the freedom to deliver value to customers and respond to their needs more dynamically. One way to do this is by enabling small, autonomous units that can act and react quickly and easily, without fear of disrupting other business activities – pods.

 A chain, as the saying goes, is only as strong as its weakest link. Break one link and the whole chain fails. A podular system is like a net… If one strand breaks, the system can still carry the load…

 For a podular system to work, cultural and technical standards are imperative… This kind of system needs a strong platform that clearly articulates those standards and provides a mechanism for evolving them when necessary… What’s most important about platform decisions is that they focus on the connections between pods rather than within pods

 Pods don’t answer every business problem. Like any other strategic decision, the choice to go podular involves inherent risks and tradeoffs… The benefit, though, is that you unleash people to bring more of their intelligence, passion, creative energy and expertise to their work.

 

Enterprise 2.0: Why All Business Software Must Go Social by Eric Savitz

 

it is increasingly evident that the prevailing wisdom on the subject has changed; having an enterprise social network is no longer a fascination of early adopters. It is now an essential component of the enterprise.

 Enter Enterprise 2.0, a new management paradigm based on enterprise social networking. It is the platform of engagement for all constituents across and beyond the enterprise, empowering them to be more engaged by staying connected with the people and activities around them…. any successful adoption requires a cultural, behavioral and habitual transformation for the entire organization.

 Like any change, this is a classic chicken-and-egg problem: you need enough stuff in it for enough people to get it; you need enough people who have already got it to generate enough stuff. That’s the bad news.

 

Companies aren’t communities By Michael Idinopulos

 

Companies aren’t communities. They aren’t forums. Companies are companies.

 Companies, by very definition, have reporting structures, established workflows, shared systems and processes, defined roles and responsibilities, and closely managed performance. Those are assets we don’t have in communities and forums

 Companies achieve adoption and business value when they place social software in the flow of work. The tools achieve real benefit when people do … their actual “day” jobs in social software.

 Social software fails when it tries to turn businesses into communities. It succeeds when it turns businesses into better businesses.

 

The cultural imperative for a social business by Maria Ogneva

How does one become social internally? Just launch an internal social network like Yammer of course, and wait for magic to happen? Not so fast! … Culture is the hardest element of success, because it’s 1) hard to define, 2) takes a long time to change, and 3) there are serious disincentives to changing it…The better you can anticipate resistance and channel it into positive energy, the higher the chances of success.

There are certain common elements of organizations that do well with these types of initiatives. Charlene Li sums it up best: “be open, be transparent, be authentic”

There are some serious barriers to this type of culture, some of which are:

  • Command and control mindset: This is starting to change drastically, as teams are now acting as fluid organisms vs. machines.
  • Functional silos: cross-functional collaboration is absolutely key to exchanging ideas, doing a better job, making better decisions and avoiding work duplication.
  • Rigid hierarchies: democratization of information is definitely putting the emphasis back on leadership style, and not access to information, as a competitive advantage.
  • Wrong things are measured: we need to make sure we are also incentivizing behaviors that will help us succeed in the long-term, and measuring their effect.

 

Lamia Ben.

Enterprise 2.0 reads – January 2011

Here are some snippets from article I found mostly interesting last month. I hope you’ll enjoy them just as much as I did. Have a blessed February!

Every Worker Is a Knowledge Worker By Evan Rosen

If you’re not soliciting input from the employees who haul boxes, assemble products, and drive delivery trucks, you’re missing out on profitable ideas.

The terms “knowledge worker” and “manual worker” are no longer mutually exclusive.

In command-and-control companies, value creation suffers because management makes decisions in a vacuum without broad input.

In a collaborative organization, on the other hand, all workers’ knowledge counts, regardless of their roles… And most important, information flows in multiple directions rather than cascading from senior leadership down through multiple levels of management to front-line people.

Any employee might have information and input that can help the organization develop better products and services, manage real business performance, bridge strategy and execution, make better and faster decisions, and increase profit.

The facets of collaboration – Enter the matrix! By Paul Culmsee 

 Out of all of the material that I researched, I found that these four dimensions or facets of collaboration (task, trait, transactional, social) helped me explain most collaborative scenarios.


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Task Based Collaboration (Outcome driven): members do not necessarily have shared interests beyond the outcome being delivered.

Trait Based Collaboration (Interest Driven): trait based groups tend to come together to share their learning and experiences. It is the shared interest that drives the members’ attention and participation.

Transactional Based Collaboration (Process Driven): the people in the process can often be “swapped out” with other people, because transactional process is designed to be well defined, optimised and easy to follow consistently.

 Social Based Collaboration (Insight Driven): This is usually characterised by more ad-hoc sharing of perspectives and information. It is realisation or insight through pattern sensing via group interaction, rather than structured business rules.


TIBCO Launches tibbr and Demonstrates the Difference Between Social Business and Enterprise 2.0 By Larry Hawes

Social Business is about people first. Enterprise 2.0 is primarily about technology that enables business processes (or, more accurately, barely repeatable processes and process exceptions) via human interaction. Both are valid and valuable approaches to structuring and running an organization, but it is critical to know which one your company values most. Does it want to be a social business that emphasizes and connects people, or an entity that uses Web 2.0 technologies to achieve business goals when rigid, transactional systems can’t help? Answer that question first, then choose your technology solution.

“Madness of Crowds” or “Wisdom of Groups”? By Leslie Brokaw 

Researchers concluded that “group intelligence” correlates less with the intelligence of the individuals and more with the social sensitivity of group members, an equality in how conversation is handled, and even the proportion of females in the group.

“[Senior author of the study] Malone and colleagues could not find an example in which people had asked the relatively simple question of whether groups had intelligence, the same way individual people do.”

Why has that question not been asked before? Why is it difficult to think of a group as having a measurable intelligence? “There’s been a tendency to focus on the negative, the mob psychology, the idea that people can bring out the worst in each other,” Robert Goldstone, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University, told the Globe. “There’s just as much evidence that people can bring out the best in each other.”

Social Learning, Collaboration, and Team Identity By Larry R. Irons

Organizational analysts refer to the challenge of establishing team identity as a boundary definition problem for teams, when members are spread across large distances whether geographic or cultural in nature.

Social software tools in the Enterprise, such as awareness/sharing tools (Yammer, Chatter, etc.), or collaboration tools (Wikis, blogs, discussion forums, etc.) assumed that increased information sharing would decrease such boundary definition problems among distributed teams… Mortensen thinks it is unclear that reducing boundary disagreement on distributed teams results in positive performance… Lack of an agreement on who is a member of a distributed team does not present a problem that needs solving in order to manage performance. The awareness that differences exist about who is on distributed teams, and recommendations on how to manage those differences, point to the focus needed on collaboration from management.

Collaboration isn’t just about people sharing information to achieve common goals. Collaboration is about people working with other people to achieve common goals and create value. Even though goal-orientation is a big part of collaborating, collaboration requires more to achieve goals effectively. It requires shared experience.

 

Lamia Ben.