IT is Evil

During the past E2.0 conference (San Francisco), I heard many statements to the effect that "IT is evil". As I sat with my colleagues, my bosses boss included, we had many good laughs about this comment. You see, I am an IT person. And you would think that I would think that IT is not evil. But you know what, IT can and is often evil. I am not sure evil is the right term though. I favor the term, ignorant more than Evil. And to be honest, I know my bosses boss would agree with this statement. But you should also know that all of the IT people that I know try their hardest to deliver their products. But often they fall short or do it too slowly. They often build things that are complicated and don't make sense to the end user. But why is this? And what can be done to help fix the problem?

For me (and this is all my opinion, just another IT person), when I see projects implemented, I see IT not listening to the people that provide the "directions". They believe they know better. They talk "over" and "above" others. They often miss the simple points and try to understand the harder points with little success. But before I go to far and say it is all IT's fault, I have to come to my fellow IT folk's defense, and say that it is not all their fault. The road is a 2 way road, and while their are issues that come from IT, their are issues from the other side. The other side, believes they know better, they don't listen to critism and suggestions. they often miss the simple points from IT and don't understand the harder points.

So is the problem really that IT is evil or ignorant? No but It is (note the lack of the captial T). I wish it were as simple as saying IT is evil, but it is not. It is evil and ignorant. And It represents the people in the room that need to work together to make it happen. The problem is the level and degree of listening to each other and the amount of communications that are clear. The thought of collaborating with others can cause some people to run from the room. My suggestion, lock the door, because collaboration is exactly what the doctor is ordering in this case. And this type of collaboration is not a technology collaboration. this is a thought and mind collaboration. Get together and talk through ideas, brainstorm and listen to each other. Make sure you have been clear in your message and ensure you are listening and hearing to what is around you. As I say to my development team, stick your head up out of your cube and look around. See what is happening, listen to what is around you and try to understand it. And the biggest suggestion I have is, be patient.

Viral Adoption

“Statistics show that 97 percent of new blogs are abandoned after the first entry."

Viral Adoption Over the past year, I assumed a new position as the Enterprise 2.0 technology program manager at my company. Initially my team was made up of 2 people and has steadily grown to a team of 13 developers and technology engineers. In addition, while my team has been growing, I have been working with several other IT groups and business users to help advocate the use of the Enterprise 2.0 agenda. The model I have taken my Enterprise 2.0 agenda is a distributed model, allowing my central team to advocate, market and advertise the abilities and the use of Enterprise 2.0 capabilities while letting each individual group to do their own advertising, marketing and advocating. We like to call this federal and state advertising.

Since October of last year, I have had the pleasure to work with one team at the state level that has put my federal level advertising to shame. Of course they have had the pleasure of being able to focus their advertising on a smaller group of employees and they have been able to advertise on only one specific technology, but it still makes me envy their ability to be innovative in their advertising. As I have worked with them over the past couple of months, I have not just envied their advertising abilities, but in as many situations as possible I have learned from them and reused their tactics for my own purposes. Needless to say, this other team has been been extremely successful with their advertising and has garnered them great adoption from their targeted audience.

This team's target audience for their collaboration sites was a set of sites for the IT division (over 3500 people).  This team decided that their first step would be to to roll out a subset of their final vision, communities of practice.  Their hope with rolling the communities of practice out to the IT Subdivision was to break down some of the silos that occur between the IT Subdivisions.  Their goal was to get the various development teams collaborating on how to improve the IT Process for building applications.  As proof of their ability to obtain adoption, they have stats that show the growth of their communities of practice from 13 communities to a total of 139 in a 6 month period of time.  On the home page they have 1800 unique visitors each month and they had found that the IT wide wiki has grown in just 6 months to over 3500 pages.

What methods did they use to garner so much adoption in a short period of time?  They used several methods including chalk writing in front of buildings to advertise the release of their new site. They also did the traditional advertising such as using our corporate intranet to advertise their sites. Beyond these in your face advertising, they also enlisted a group of people to help with viral adoption.   They identified ambassadors and advocates.   The ambassadors and advocates are not management, but instead are the employees at the ground level.  The ambassadors and advocates are people that believe in the communities and talk up their individual community and promote the ideals of the communities.  These people are people that are so excited that they push their peers to use the sites.  Often these groups will peter out after the initial push, but they have been able to get the ambassadors and advocates to not let up.

One method has been to identify a group of admins and created a community just for them. The admins meet weekly and while the owners of the IT site, the admins have taken over the weekly meeting and have started teaching each other how to improve their own sites. While they went after the grass roots groups, they also did a push at the management level.  They presented over and over to many management groups, keeping the awareness of the communities.

The risk is that as time goes on that people will lose their excitement for the new communities - so what are they doing to keep the pressure up, to ensure that the communities are active and healthy?  Check back for my next post to read about what they are doing.