About 3 weeks ago Dion Hinchcliffe wrote a great piece on the Dachis Group blog that summed up the architectural layers of a successful social business. He nailed it on just about every front and instead of summarizing the work here, I’ll focus on what I think was missing: the role of computer learning and prediction from the systems of record to external engagement.
If you’ve been reading headlines – from the Times to New Years reflections across the blogosphere – there’s a lot of chatter about the value and challenges of ‘the new era of collaboration.’ If you haven’t seen any of this buzz, here’s the bottom line: spend more time working more by yourself, but share more online. Plug those headphones in and you might just be the next great innovator (anyone sensing a reality TV show on innovation in the making?).
This will make sense for people who consider themselves solitary geniuses and will seem anathema to folks who work productively in teams, prefer happy hour and cocktails to uncorking a bottle of red in a cozy couch. But is this new maxim true, a preference, or neither? Not surprisingly the research is mixed.
If you probably thought I was going to say no then I’m hoping you’ll be pleasantly surprised about why I think the answer is “yes.” I love free stuff, and while I understand that sometimes paying for more gets you important features I’ve seen a lot of failure in the enterprise software department to warrant rolling out the big bucks.
For example, I get why people don’t fawn over Google Apps – it doesn’t do everything well, and there are only a handful of decent Excel replacements (and Google Spreadsheets isn’t one of them). But the potential to cover your email/calendar/collaboration/content management/chat all in one relatively powerful place makes for one serious argument why at least non-profits (who can get it for free) should seriously consider it.
So why pay for Yammer when you get almost all the good stuff for free?
When I began Collaboration for Good I was deeply focused on learning more about the tools and techniques for knowledge management in a web 2.0 world. Without any formal training in either space, I constructed my own education out of a series of online classes, literature, blogs, conferences, and research.
Over the last few months, as I’ve done even more hands on work with developing my org’s CRM, I’ve constructed a much deeper understanding of how data and knowledge must flow and yield insights within an organization before it can be put to use outside of it. It’s changed my thinking on what it means (and takes) to be a connected, data-driven organization.
Some argue it’s useful to separate discussions about the tools and strategies that help folks collaborate/share knowledge (commonly sub-categorized as Enterprise 2.0) from those that focus on big data analytics and CRM (more often what gets the billing as “Social Business”. See also The link between Enterprise 2.0 and social business). However, it’s even better to bring them together in a singular vision – what happens when analytics can be applied across knowledge and customer/client data, when you merge internal and external sentiment analysis, and when your HR, CRM, and KM systems all share the same data and can point you toward deeper insights for continuous improvement.
And whether you call it a Social CRM, a Social Intranet, or something else entirely, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is your ability to act on it - and that’s what I call Social Business Intelligence.
(image credit: Dion Hinchcliffe)
I’ve been fortunate to have worked for the past two years at an organization that not only is dedicated to data-driven decision making, but has over the course of its history gotten better as it got bigger. That’s pretty rare. I’ve come to realize that while we’re still learning what it means to be a “big organization”, we’ve gotten this far because of our commitment to ongoing improvement and reflecting on our growth with data. Fortunately, we’re now in an era (both at an organizational level, but also as a business community) where we can do even more with data and tools to help capture what is and isn’t working well.
And that’s what we’re all here to talk about.
Why this all matters, and should matter to you
Four global trends are making the evolution of the social business inevitable. The question is whether you’ll be riding the wave or trying to catch up. In no particular order:
- Cloud computing has changed how organizations use technology.
- What: Some have called cloud computing as big a shift in technology as the internet itself. That’s slightly off kilter if you ask me, but at the same time dismissing it as just ‘an improvement’ also completely misses the boat. Cloud computing doesn’t just move applications and data off-premise, it changes the way people and teams can access data and technology, and for the first time, it’s becoming quite self-service. Furthermore, the shift toward the cloud has also changed expectations around openness. Ironically, while the web is closing in (to a degree), the “open” movement is still very much in swing for major companies that are up in the cloud. While it was possible to build ‘integrations‘ between your legacy hardware, it was a whole lot harder than it is now. It also means a big shift for IT teams, but I’ve discussed that in-depth elsewhere.
- So what: It’s easier to get started (more options out of the box), it’s easier to piece together a solution from multiple providers but still manage your data, you can test lots of things before committing (yay subscriptions), and you can scale relatively easily. As a side benefit, cloud-based systems are often (though definitely not always) more user-friendly which is a boon for adoption.
- Analytics is reaching every part of the organization, changing how decisions are made and how people work.
- What: Google calls its HR department “Peoplelytics” or People Operations; maybe that’s a bit of a stretch for where the industry as a whole is, but more and more we’re seeing evidence of analytics and business intelligence moving away from just sales/fundraising and marketing into the rest of the organization. This isn’t really new, but the newness comes from the tools and systems that are able to make more meaning of the data across silos in new ways. Imagine for a moment that you’re working on a document you want to send a potential funder about this great new program your org launched 3 months ago. You have some ideas, and as you’re outlining your doc management program robot pops up: did you know there’s someone online right now chatting about this very topic? there’s also a wiki dedicated to this on another community, there were 3 other teams that wrote up similar docs and here’s the one that got the best feedback, internally and externally. Remember that annoying Office paper clip? This will be an entirely different type of AI. Think Siri, but someone who can actually help you with your work.
- So what: Business Intelligence (BI) isn’t a nice to have. You need to prioritize managing your data because it will (if it isn’t already) become the most important asset you have. It will determine how well you can improve your own work, and communicate that to others. It will help everyone in your org work better and smarter and more connected. It’s really only a matter of short time before that story above becomes old news. As the conversations pick up, make sure you have someone who’s looking out for the user needs (not just the tech and business needs) otherwise you’ll be sure to spend a lot of money on a lot of nothing.
- Subscriptions are changing the enterprise economy.
- What: It doesn’t sound like such a big deal until you look at the fine print behind a subscription based platform like SalesForce. There’s a fine balance between “you get what you pay for” and knowing what to pay for. In the end, it’s about your organizational priorities. Sure, the SalesForce license comes with 10 free users (for non profits), but that’s the tip of the iceberg when you start to look at additional fees for extra data/storage, queries, customizations, support and more. Those “add-ons” can easily cost you 2x the base price. Maybe time to invest in SalesForce stock? They’re certainly not the only ones – we’re seeing a battle between subscription and server based models, and there is real analysis needed. It comes down to really understanding your business needs and matching them against the different pricing models you can tap into.
- So what: In the end many cloud providers are significantly less expensive than their legacy peers. Some dramatically so, especially for non profits. Google Apps – the full version including mail etc. – is basically free for non profits. But there’s a growing trend (and we really shouldn’t be surprised) of subscription companies offering more for a lot more. They got you hooked with their simplicity, elegance, and power, but to really get the most out of the system you have to be willing to pay a pretty penny. And sadly, non profits still talk about administrative costs as though they are less important than program ones.
- Social media delivers a new way to communicate and listen in and outside of the organization.
- What: I’d be silly to leave out the influence of social media from this conversation. It’s been written about pretty extensively, but a few things pop out here. One: wikis, blogs, and activity feeds aren’t just cute things in a collaboration suite. They’re basically now considered non-negotiables, and there’s a good reason why: they help with spreading and sharing knowledge, and when paired with strong analytical engines, you can help connect people with answers to their questions extremely efficiently. Two: we live in a time where there is unprecedented chatter about brands, products, and service. And what researchers have learned is that in the aggregate, that noise can be really accurate. So while it’s still helpful to have a Zagat, many more people are likely to turn to Yelp and other peer-reviewed sites. There was a fascinating demonstration of this about 2011 movies and we’ll see how well it pairs with the Oscars (do people really watch to see who wins?).
- So what: While social media is fast growing as a channel for marketing delivery, its value as a channel for listening is perhaps more important. I’m not necessarily talking about ‘real time’ listening, which I’m still weary of. Listening takes the form of a) better understanding how your brand is perceived, b) who is influencing that perception, c) where your brand strengths and weaknesses are, and d) what drives activity in different sectors. This growing source of data from a plethora of platforms (there’s a hot new one every week) isn’t just good for connecting with millenials. Being active in the conversation and being an active listener can reap real rewards when you pair your insights with your own strategic plan.
So, where to begin
Know thyself. I suppose that’s a bit of a cop-out, but it’s also the truth. Most likely you’ve read this far because you’re interested in social media, enterprise 2.0, CRM design, digital marketing, intranet design, or homemade italian gnocchi. Perhaps you’re on a team that deals with ‘infrastructure’, internal communications, or knowledge management. All good. While it helps to be the boss, you’d have to be the big shot to start moving your org in the right direction.
You do, however, have to know what your options, assets, and priorities are. Hence – know thyself. Fortunately, it’s easier than you think. But to help you digest it (OK, to encourage you to come back), I’ve put a teaser below but stay tuned for the real deal in an upcoming white paper that you’ll be able to download (seems like the thing to do these days).
- Step 1 – what do you want to accomplish? and why?
- Step 2 – what assets do you already have to get the job done?
- Step 3 – what are the must haves and nice to haves?
- Step 4 – what are the costs of starting (and the opportunity costs of not starting)?
- Step 5 – who do you need to get onboard (“align”) and who are your allies?
- Step 6 – what are you waiting for?
Are you dealing with developing or developed collaboration challenges? Are you finding a way to build in single-sign on or first going to wikipedia to find out what’s all the buzz about “cloud computing”?
It’s simple actually: wherever you’re at, you need to address both the easy and complex tasks. Your teams won’t differentiate between the two, and a priority is a priority, regardless of the challenge it presents in solving for it.
What’s inside a social business?
A social business is a networked business on both the inside and outside. Effective strategies for engaging customers also apply to the workforce. Said another way, being “social” on the inside will help companies/organization be better on the outside.
What does this look like in practice?
When you have an in-house solution, like Lotus or Sharepoint, it doesn’t just stop working. You will spend millions of dollars on upgrades, licenses, and support, but to be fair, it won’t just stop working.
Even before your cloud-based tools stop working, though, they might stop meeting your needs without app purchases that balloon way above your initial budget. This, simply, is the unintended consequence of the world of apps in the cloud. And when you hit the wall, you start doing some serious soul searching. Thinking back to the more than 20,000 people “attending” CloudForce NYC yesterday (in person or online), this is more relevant than ever.
About five years ago there was this thing called Google Page Creator. It was a ridiculously rudimentary form of Google Sites (which itself is pretty basic). The catch, though, was that because Google Apps was one of the first web-based collaboration tools, Pages was a big deal – it let you create and store content in a way that basically no other service offered, and it was free. Combined, it meant a lot of people with small budgets started creating and sharing content. The public school in the south Bronx that I was working at in 2005 decided it would be a great idea to start sharing our assessments and lesson plans on Pages. You know it was easy to use if more folks knew how to access Pages than they did their DOE email.
A social business is about linking people and prioritizing people first. This month Google introduced Google+ to enterprise users. The challenge of course, is how to convert organizations that, in the absence of a social option, have likely turned to other alternatives. Think 37 Signals, Moxie, SocialText, Jive, and the list goes on. If there’s one reason not to use Google Apps – it’s the lack of a ‘people’ strategy. And that’s a big lack.
You can’t search across Google Apps
Unless you have a very expensive Google Search Appliance, you can’t really search across your email, docs, and sites. There’s something Google developed in labs so that folks can do this from google mail, but this should be a feature available across the Google Apps toolkit – maybe even from the little black bar.
Ditto with apps from the marketplace. You can’t search across third party apps like Insightly, Box.net, or others that you’ve added on. That’s a shame.