03/14/2012

Social in Business: Rubber meet Road

Tags: strategy social business social software social in business

In this next installment of Social in Business we focus on Strategy.

Hopefully the thesis of this post shouldn’t knock your socks off; in a nutshell, businesses need a social software strategy in order for the social in business to be successful at the firm.

Want to reach the holy grail of an e-mail free working environment? In reality what you’ll likely find, especially if you do the strategy legwork, is that the goal is not getting rid of e-mail. Rather, the goal is to improve e-mail usage so that it is not a drag on productivity. And yes, social tools can help with that. That goal, however, will never be achieved unless the firm puts in place a strategy with plans and guidelines for effectively mitigating e-mail stresses through social tools.

By strategy I mean a well-considered plan for selecting, deploying, managing, and educating users on the technology that will support social working activities. Social software options (e.g., vendors, tools, cloud, on-premise) options can become overwhelming very quickly. A good strategy considers the different options, how the business works, and then gauges success through identifiable metrics and milestones. It also means doing a fair amount of homework on the technology state, corporate governance, internal communications, cost factors, and operational requirements for deploying different options. Assessing this information and building a strategy that addresses these factors of the business not only aids in making decisions but also helps to identify viable solutions and (hopefully) documents the rationale for those decisions.

Why is this necessary? Because, like anything else in business, times and technology change. If the firm knows why it chose something in the first place, and documented what was successful and what failed, it will be a lot easier to modify and keep up with new trends as they come along. For example, knowing why the firm chose an on-premise solution over cloud-based solution is valuable information, especially if the reasons, cost, and rationale for that choice are documented and the plan is clearly defined on paper. It becomes much easier to recalibrate choices or make changes should a compelling reason for one choice become obsolete. Going back to the example, subsequent network upgrades might cloud-based solutions easier to support and more cost effective, hence the firm can quickly revisit the old rationale and decide if it applies any longer.

Strategies also help to communicate to the business and executives the nature of social software and that it takes time for success. Documenting the plan for development, deployment, and success metrics for social in business helps non-technical colleagues understand the cultural and working shifts that come with social software. It becomes much easier for the business to support new technology efforts if they know what to expect and when.

We all know that a good strategy and plan makes life easier with fewer gotchas when it comes to deployment. It can be hard to reign in enthusiasm for something new that will solve the “big” issues, but it’s worth the effort to take the time for strategy. No matter what the strategy is, the firm is better off with one. Even if the strategy is to let things grow organically and ad hoc, at least the consideration of the risks have been addressed, communicated and documented. What’s not to like about that?

Our Social in Business Series


Part 1 - What we are talking about
Part 2 - Build it and they will come (?)
Part 3 - What are we doing here anyway?

About Karen Hobert

karen_hobert.png

Karen is an IT industry research analyst focused on communication, collaboration, content management and social software technologies. She offers over 23 years of hands-on and market expertise to enterprises planning, designing, and deploying shared information systems. You can see more of her thoughts at Karen Hobert's Connecting Dots blog.

03/07/2012

Social in Business: What are we doing here anyway?

Tags: social business social software enterprise

This is the third post in the Top Dog/Elguji Social in Business blog series. The first post was entitled "Social in Business: What we are talking about" and the second was entitled "Social in Business: Build it and they will come (?)".

Today we focus on Objectives.

So if you’ve followed my blog (or other similar minded bloggers) you’ve likely come across one of my occasional rants about the pitfalls of buying technology for technology’s sake. This is sort of one of those posts in this installment of “Social in Business”, Objective.

It’s hard to pick a technology, even an everything-including-the-kitchen-sink type of technology as social software, if you don’t know what you need it for. Actually one of the drawbacks of technologies that offer many options, such as social software, is that it is the potential answer to many issues. Vendor’s sales and marketing like the Swiss Army Knife utility of social software because they can answer “yes” to many customer needs but it makes things that much harder to for the customer to figure out if it really needs the product or not. More specifically, with so many options it can be very hard to identify which parts of the product offer the most value to customer’s business.

Who knew the toothpick on the Swiss Army knife would end up being so handy? Taking the Swiss Army knife analogy a bit further, today there are many versions of the renowned knife on the market that customer’s really need to know what they want to carry around in their pockets and what is likely to be most useful; corkscrew or none? For me a corkscrew-less version would be virtually useless. And what about the semi-retired boy scout who might benefit more with a Leatherman. It’s all a matter of knowing which features will serve the greatest purpose for the unique needs of the customer. Regardless of which model the customer chooses, they will likely use some tools in the kit more than others depending on their needs.

The same applies when choosing social software for enterprises. Much depends on the firm’s needs and how it operates. In other words, if a firm has a strong hierarchy with lots of structure and formalized ways of completing work its social software needs are likely to be different from a de-centralized, cross-organizational firm that functions in more organic ways. Both are viable organizations but they have very different objectives and expectations for the social software technologies that they employ.

Before picking a specific social software technology, and more specifically a vendor, enterprises should look at the objectives for the technology. If it turns out that there are many objectives, pick the objectives that will provide the most value to the firm. Make these the leading objectives for the technology to solve and focus on how to achieve them. Some may be solved without any technology or simply by improving on existing technologies. But the key idea is that the firm must know what it needs to work on before picking a tool or technology.

Identifying the leading objectives for social software in the enterprise and how to meet them cannot be done in an IT vacuum and must include input from the business and operational sides of the firm. This will ensure greater success and adoption when the business is part of creating the solution. It is vital for enterprises to understand the working culture, needs, and goals for the social technologies they want to deploy prior to choosing which one to buy. Otherwise they might just end up with a giant, expensive brick in their pockets.

About Karen Hobert

karen_hobert.png

Karen is an IT industry research analyst focused on communication, collaboration, content management and social software technologies. She offers over 23 years of hands-on and market expertise to enterprises planning, designing, and deploying shared information systems. You can see more of her thoughts at Karen Hobert's Connecting Dots blog.

02/28/2012

Social in Business: Build it and they will come (?)

Tags: social business people social software

This is the second post in the Top Dog/Elguji Social in Business blog series. The first post was entitled "Social in Business: What we are talking about". Today we focus on people.

Social - tending or form cooperative and interdependent relationships with others.1

By its very nature, the term social implies people. I particularly like this definition of “social” since it is open-ended enough to us to consider “others” as either people or information. After all, in the world of “social software” what we're really discussing here are technologies that foster relationships between people and other people, people and information, and information with other information. Bottom line is that social in business aims to tap into people and the human factors of how work gets accomplished. This is tricky stuff. There are so many subjective factors that a one-size-fits-all approach to social software in the enterprise is virtually impossible. What we can do is look at best practices and figure out if they support the specific business or process we seek to improve and then apply what makes best sense to succeed.

As noted in our first post, enterprises are moving beyond the "it's just a fad" opinion of social software to cautious optimism and beginning to formulate just what social software would look like at their firm and how it can improve business. The fact that social software in each business can mean different things is probably a blessing and a curse. On the one hand it's great to have many options but on the other hand it means more complexity in figuring out which options to implement first or which things will support the firms needs the best.

Understanding which options to pick means having a good idea on how people at the firm work and what tools will help them do their jobs most effectively. Today that's a moving target. With mobile, consumer tools (e.g., Facebook, Google Plus), globalization, telecommuting, and the changing workforces, not only are the lines blurred between work and personal business but also navigating the matrix of different working styles is becoming more difficult to quantify and address. For example, the fact that I’m siting in a café in downtown LA right now while writing this does not mean I am any more or less effective than if I were sitting at a desk in an office building. In other words firms need to address all of these “human” factors to keep up and make a productive working environment.

Since people are vital to social in business we are seeing HR, Operations, and departments other than IT initiating social in business. This makes a lot of sense, considering that we are talking about working with and impacting the culture of the organization and how it works. It also makes sense that parts of the organization dedicated to its culture and operations are very interested in what happens with social technology. IT has the power to make the enterprise more effective but IT has never been accused of being a social mover or shaker. Rightfully so, IT really should not be in the business of changing corporate working culture; it should be in the business of making sure that people work effectively and securely through the proper use and implementation of tools. IT’s role is to help the human factors side of the business succeed at social in business. This can only be accomplished through planning, implementing, and cooperating with the people parts of the business.

Social software in business isn’t just a matter of “build it and they will come.” Rather, social in business requires first, an understanding of how people work together with others (people and information) to conduct business. Only then can IT implement and create an ecosystem that will support the social business needs most effectively.

1. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/social

About Karen Hobert

karen_hobert.png

Karen is an IT industry research analyst focused on communication, collaboration, content management and social software technologies. She offers over 23 years of hands-on and market expertise to enterprises planning, designing, and deploying shared information systems. You can see more of her thoughts at Karen Hobert's Connecting Dots blog.

01/10/2011

A sneak peak at IdeaJam V1.9 - Idea and Innovation Management Software

Tags: ideajam news innovation lotus connections ibm social software social business
IdeaJam idea and innovation management software

We thought we would give you a sneak peak at some of the great new features coming in version 1.9 of our IdeaJam idea management and innovation software.
  • An IdeaJam can be switched into "read/view only mode" so that the audience can view ideas, votes and comments but are unable to create new content.
  • An IdeaJam can be set to automatically switch into "read/view mode" on a specified date.
  • When viewing an idea a new chart is available on an idea which shows recent activity against the idea including votes, comments and more.
  • A new role which prohibits participants from creating ideas while allowing the to vote and comment.
  • A new role which prohibits participants from creating comments.
  • A new sidebar widget which displays the list of IdeaSpaces (categories).
  • Participant reputation scores and badges.
  • A new "Moderator" role which allows moderation of all idea spaces without giving them "full admin" rights.
  • Tooltips for voting labels.
  • Month names are now displayed in the local language when viewing ideas and comments.
  • Support for multiple configurable static content pages has been added.
  • Individual charts on the Statistics page can be enabled or disabled.
  • ...and more
Want to learn more about IdeaJam? Start here >

08/16/2010

Case Study: The Austin Independent School District

Tags: ideajam school kids innovation social software
Back in May several hundred students from the Austin Independent School District participated in a district sponsored IdeaJam to share their ideas and thoughts in several key areas. The jam was held over a 72 hour period and included contributions from not only the students but the District Superintendent, Principals and other school Administrators.

Read the Austin Independent School District IdeaJam Case Study (PDF) >