Who is correct?

Image by : Eric Ziegler
I recently read two very interesting blog posts.  They are interesting because they were both posted on the same day, and from what I can tell, they both were posted within hours of each other.  The are interesting because they take the opposite side to the debate.    And no, I am not talking about the U.S. Presidential race.   So what am I talking about?

Jacob Morgan and Steve Dale both had posts about collaboration on October 25th.  Jacob's post, Can You Create a Collaborative Organization Without Technology?, discusses the topic of how collaboration would not be possible without technology.  Steve's post, Social Collaboration: it’s the people not the technology, stupid! discusses the topic of how collaboration is about the people and not the tool.

Jacob states, "Is it possible to change behaviors or to build a collaborative organization without technology?  Think about that for a moment before you answer."  Steve states, "But regardless of what labels we give to the technology, the one constant feature is the people, i.e. the staff, the workers, the users."   At first glance, especially when looking at the titles and reading those quotes, you would think that if Jacob and Steve ended up in a back alley, a fight would break out.  Both appear to be on the opposite side of the debate.  So if they are on the opposite sides of the debate, which side is correct?

At this point of the blog, I want to make it clear that I believe both are correct. In addition, if you were to ask either of them, I think they would agree with each other, at least to some extent.  Why do I say that?  If technology was not available, collaboration would be possible, but the amount of collaboration would be less.  Technology enables collaboration.  But, technology does not make people collaborate.  As Steve says, build it and they will come mentality will fail.   I AGREE!   But, as Jacob states,  it is very important to enable the behavior or cultural change needed for employees to collaborate better in an enterprise.  Especially within larger organizations.

So what do you think?  Which is comes first, the culture change or the technology?  The good ole, chicken and egg question.

IT is not about the tools

Life Jacket Zone
Image by: Eric Ziegler
I love Enterprise 2.0 (E2.0).  I love the thought of helping people share their knowledge and collaborating better than they have in the past.

Just over two weeks ago, I presented at KM World (with one of my colleagues from work).  As I started out my presentation, I said, "I feel like I am in the minority.  There are just not many IT people at this conference.". I saw many heads nodding in agreement.  After seeing this, I went on to say, "I believe you will find our presentation refreshing and the message you will hear is not the typical IT message."  I believe that we did meet that statement, based on the great questions we received and the great conversations we had after the presentation.

Which gets me to the point of this blog post.  During the presentation, I offered that my company used a specific tool.  Even though I did offer it during the presentation, during the question and answer period, someone still asked which tool we used.  I regret my answer in both situations.  The reason I even offered which tool we use is because in every presentation leading up to ours, I heard people ask again and again, "what tool do you use for Knowledge Management or Collaboration?"

So what was wrong with me stating which tool we use?   Two reasons.  1) our presentation was not about the tools, it was about how we have nurtured collaboration and sharing, and 2) because I didn't give a caveat to my statement.  I should have added onto the end of my statement, "While the tool we use is XYZ, the tools is irrelevant.  The most important thing is what we are trying to accomplish. The goal is for people to share and collaborate."  

So I just want to reiterate what I was trying to get across at the beginning of the presentation.  IT people can think about the people, the culture, and the process.  IT people don't have to just focus on the tools.

Beyond Gaming the Badging System

Image by: Rocket Ship 

When I think of badging and achievements in social media apps, I view them as a way to get people to stay engaged.  Getting someone engaged has many benefits for those apps that are out in the internet, but in almost all cases the badging is there to help drive revenue.   I view badging in a similar manner.  Badging is a way to keep employees engaged in a platform or system that has been implemented.   But the bottom line is not to drive direct revenue out of the employee but rather to keep employees engaged to drive some sort of business value.

Recently I had debate about how badging in the enterprise can work in the most effective manner.  The discussion centered around two types of badges.  For this post, I am going to refer to each type of badge as 1) direct badge and 2) indirect badge.  In direct badging, the badge is awarded based on a direct action taken by the person. For example,  a teacher gives a student extra credit for doing extra work or completing an assignment early.   In indirect badging the person is rewarded with a badge based on the action of a second person. For example, a teacher provides extra credit to a student because he received "kudos" from others in the school on the work she did, or how she acted in a specfic situation.

The debate centered around which was more important.  As I reflect back on the conversation, I realize now that both are very powerful for two very different reasons.  Direct badging provides that direct reward for an action - aka. immediate satisfaction.  This is a great way of getting people to stay engaged on your platform.  It keeps people coming back for the next badge and trying to get to the next level.  But when direct badging is not done well, the badges can be easily gamed.  Having a badge "gamed" is not good.  How many times have you been part of a project where metrics are gathered.  As part of the project, the team starts gathering metrics and set some goals based on these metrics.  After a while you find that the goal is being gamed and someone is cheating to make sure they always win.  

For example, suppose that there is a system at work that has a wide range of workflows/tasks that need to be completed each day. Some of the tasks available every day are easy and others are rather hard to complete. Now suppose that you set a goal that indicated that you would be "successful" if you completed 20 tasks.  As it doesn't matter which task you do first, what do you think would happen? If you wanted to game the system, you would come into work early and try to meet the success criteria by doing the 20 easiest tasks.  How is this type of activity helping the company or the individual?  And if there are people gaming the system, are they creating any quality content or providing value at all?

So what happens if you do not provide a reward based on the persons direct action but rather reward the person based on the value that they provide?   Wouldn't that be much better for the company and help stretch that person into doing a better job.  This is where indirect badging can provide additional value over the direct badging solution seen very often in systems.  Indirect bading provides people a badge because someone found value in what they had to say.

For example, Jill writes 15 blog posts. We give her a badge for writing the blog. But do we know that the blog posts provided any value?  What happens if Jill is not really providing any value, but  rather just blogging a couple of haikus or other non-business value added blog posts. How does badging provide any business value?   It doesn't. but if we were to provide a badge to Jill when 20 people visited her blog post or 5 people liked her blog post, or 10 people commented on her blog posts, I hypothesis that by giving Jill a badge when people believe that the content is worthy of reading, liking, or commenting that you drive a different type of engagement.  Jill will be much more interested in writing blog posts that provide value to others in the company.  

While this reward based on an indirect action is better, it still is not perfect.  Jill might have friends and ask them to visit her blog posts, like her blog posts, and comment on her blog posts.  That is always possible. But if you have a blog post that gets 1000 unique user views, I would venture to guess that Jill was providing value and not gaming the system.  In addition, you could combine several indirect metrics for a new badge.  For example, 15 unique views, 5 likes, and 2 comments gets you the Value Added Level 1 badge.

Badging is not as simple as capturing the metric directly, but rather should be done with thought and analyzed to think how someone might decide to game the system.  Combining both direct badging and indirect badging will help drive engagement beyond just engagement created by direct badging.  

Have you seen badging done poorly?  What have you learned from the bad badging and how have you changed things to make it better?

Riding the Wave

Catching the wave
Image by: Eric Ziegler

Since a recent vacation to Virginia Beach, I have come to realize the similarities between the fun I had with my family and the approach I take in my current job.  While at the beach, I am not someone that just sits on the beach and soaks up the rays, but rather I go down to the water and hang in the water for hours on end, playing with the kids, body surfing and riding my body board. Over the years, as the kids have gotten older, they have shown more and more interest in riding the waves, just as dad does.  This year was a banner year (and I expect them to continue to enjoy riding the waves). The were more interested in riding the waves and trying to figure out which wave was best to ride.  

I encourage them a great deal - helping them in different ways so that they can really enjoy riding the waves rather than just getting frustrated. With my kids, I took the opportunity to teach them the tricks of the trade on how to catch a wave, teaching them how to body surf and body board.  I taught them how to pick the best wave to ride, which included teaching them how to tell if a wave approaching was good or not and then teaching them how to determine where the wave is going to break. 

As with anyone learning for the first time, they were not successful the first time (or the second or the third ...).  Every day as we played in the water, they were learning and getting better and better at figuring out how to "ride the wave".  And when they couldn't get it after several tries on their own, instead of having them get frustrated, I helped out by giving them a helpful push to get up to speed, or a loud shout "NOW!"

My job implementing Enterprise 2.0 (E2.0) solutions and enterprise collaboration parallels my interactions with my kids.  What I find is that employees don't know how to "read the waves".   They are often interested in collaborating and using the E2.0 tools, but they don't know how, when, or which wave to jump on.   Not all E2.0 tools are meant for all business areas, just as every wave is not meant to be ridden.  That is why having someone consulting with different business areas are so important.  The businesses need to know how to start and when to start.  They need to have someone be patient with them, repeating what they are taught and providing that helpful push in the correct direction. Some businesses might be able to figure it out on their own, but the initial interactions is key. Teaching early and often will ensure they are successful.

It is important to remember that everyone is on a different learning curve.   For example, my son, the youngest, is able to understand what I say about the wave, and knows when to start swimming or paddling to catch the wave, but he is not strong enough, and requires that helping hand "push" to actually catch the wave.  Some businesses need that extra hand push to get started.   They require someone to say, "now" and then the extra push to make it real. But as they grow and learn and get stronger, they will be able to do it on their own.   And that is what my team is there for.  To provide them a helping hand, lending our expertise in helping to navigate which wave to ride.

Circles, lists and searches - Methods for using Google+ and Twitter

Image: Eric Ziegler

As a change of pace away from search engine optimization (I still have several posts on SEO), I thought I would jump into how I use Google+ and how it relates to how I use Twitter (yes I use Twitter and yes I do find that I gravitate to the better conversations in Google+ more than I use Twitter).  

I use both Google+ and Twitter in a very similar way.  For each tool, I follow many different people, and in fact I follow more people of Google+ then I have ever followed on Twitter.  But when you start to follow too many people on either tool, your main stream becomes a water fall, a fast moving stream or even a river.   There is no way you can keep up with the stream and digest it all.  To be honest, it makes my head spin sometimes.  So instead, I create circles / lists that I use to follow the main people that I am interested in following.   This is where I get great information from people I know and trust are going to provide great information.   Some circles/lists are based on topics, such as E2.0/Socbiz.  Other are just groups of witty people that have great things to say.  But the key is, both Twitter and Google+ provide the same type of mechanism to help you monitor the stream while maintaining you sanity.  

The other mechanisms I use on both tools is the search capabilities.  While the basic concepts on how I use search are slightly different, the end result is very similar and equally useful.   For Twitter I follow tags that are of interest to me - again E2.0/socbiz are my main tags.  for Google+, I use a boolean search string for topics of interest (e.g   e20 OR socbiz OR "enterprise 2.0" OR "social business" OR "E2.0").   I save both lists (in Google, your saved lists are under the explore icon on the left).  While I get a lot of great information that I don't see in my lists or circles, the other great thing about searches is that you find new people to follow.  I will typically add the new person to a secondary topic list / circle to monitor to see if the person provides good content and not too much spam (spam to good content ratio has to "feel" just right).  

What other tips or tricks do you use to gain value out of for Twitter or Google+?

Search in the Enterprise and HR Systems

SEO and HCM the start of a profile
Image: Eric Ziegler
Three weeks ago I started a series of blog posts about search engines in the enterprise.  My premise was that the search engines in the enterprise are not as good as the search engines in the internet.  I do have to say though, that this is most likely not completely the fault of the vendors that provide such tools, but more about the difference on how people create content for consumption on the internet vs. the enterprise.  This was the premise of my first post.  In the next set of posts, I started to propose that there are ways around the behaviors of employees for people on the internet and the search engines used in the enterprise could adapt to improve the search experience.  In my second post, I discussed how using the context of the employee can provide enterprise search engines a boost in providing improved search results. In my last blog post, I started to provide more details on what I mean by employee context by discussing connections of employees (e.g. following each other). I provided several ways connections can improve search results.  

In this blog post, I plan on discussing another part of how employee context can improve search results.  The Human Capital Management (HCM) profile is my focus for this blog post.  Companies have a wealth of profile information on each employee.  This profile information comes from the Human Resource or Human Capital Management (HCM) systems.  HCM systems contain data that captures who each employee works for and who each employee works with.  These systems also know what each employee's job title, where they are located (building, country, etc.) along with having the employees entire job history.   

HCM Connections : As discussed in my previous blog post, connections provide information that can improve search results. HCM systems provide many different types of connections.  The first connection is between employee and boss.  The second connection is the connection between peers on a team or within a department.   While the employee might not be following their boss or the people they work with, they still have connections with these people.  Bosses, employees and their peers all work together on projects, documents or presentations.   Using similar reasoning as the Directly Following example in my previous blog post, search results can be improved by these HR releated connections. The content created by a manager or by a peer should get bump in relevance because of the relationship between that employee and the person doing the search.

Location : Another piece of information that often comes from the HCM systems is the location of the person.  When I talk about location I mean, the country and city the person works.  I also mean where the office the person sits in, assuming they don't work from home.  If they work from home, this information is typically captured also.  Each of these locations can be used to improve the search results.  For example, if the employee is located in Belgium, and searches benefits information, search results should be returned in context, and not return a link to the Japanese benefits content.    Or if the person searches for what is being served for lunch today, the lunch menu for the company cafeteria that is closest to his building (if it is not actually in his building) should be the top result returned.  Again, search results in context.

While I highlight only two types of data from the HCM system, there is the potential for a log of other information that could be used to improve the search results for the employee.  Of course there are concerns that need to be addressed.  If there is personal information about the employee, there are privacy or security concerns.  But if careful planning occurs and the correct legal and security teams are consulted, the data from the HCM system can dramatically improve search results for each employee.

What other types of HCM data could be used to improve search engines in the enterprise?  What other types of connections can make search engines better?

Enterprise Search Failure - Connections

E2.0 Enterprise 2.0 Socbiz Social Business
Image: Eric Ziegler
How often do you hear someone say, "why doesn't our enterprise search work as well as Google search? Bing?" or "Why can't I find the content I want  to find." or "I can't believe our search engine sucks." or "Our enterprise has a very small fraction of the content that Google searches and I still can't find the content I am looking for." or "FIX IT!".

In my previous blog posts, I started a series of  posts about internal enterprise search and how it is not as good as internet search.  In my first post, I provided an overview of how internal social interactions can improve internal search engine results.  In my second post, I discussed how using the context of the employee can provide enterprise search engines a boost in providing improved search results.  As a definition for what I meant by employee context I proposed that employee context is made up of a wide variety of types of information, including HR system information, social profile information, social connections and social interactions.   In this blog post, I plan to discuss how the power of social connections can be used to improve search results within the enterprise.  

When I mention connections, I am referring to the idea that one employee "follows" another employee.  This following is similar to those external social networking sites such as facebook, twitter and google+.   But how can these connections between employees be used to improve search results?  Below are several illustrations of how connections can improve search results for each employee.  For each of the examples below, I am using the following base example to illustrate my point:  

Joe, an employee, follows five other employees and has 15 employees following him (Joe).  In addition, the five employees Joe is following, follow a combined 20 more people (some with multiple people following the same person).   Each of these connections (both direct and indirect) can play a key role in improving Joe's search results.  

Directly following:  Joe is directly following five other employees.  Content created, modified or interacted with (comments, likes, tagging, bookmarking, etc.) by these people has a higher importance to Joe then other employees.  Think about it, Joe is following these people for a reason.  So why is the content these people create, modify and interact with not given higher relevance when providing search results to Joe?

Directly being followed: Similar reasoning can be used for the content created by the 15 people following Joe, but it goes in reverse.   Joe does not realize that the 15 people are creating good content.   Joe is not following any of these people, but they are following Joe because he creates content that is related to ideas each of them are interested in.  Because of this, the content these people create has a higher chance of being valuable to Joe, he just doesn't know it.  But there is a caveat to this, Joe is not following these people, either because he has knowingly not followed these people or he has not discovered these people.   Because of this, the content created by these 15 employees should not receive as much of a relevance boost as content created by the direct followers.  

Indirectly Following: Again, similar reasoning can be used for the indirect followers.  Joe is following 5 people who are following a total of 20 people that Joe is not following.  Since Joe trusts and follows those 5 people, there is some merit and a higher chance that the content created by the 20 indirect employees will be of higher relevance and importance to Joe.  Because of this, the content created by these 20 employees should get a relevance boost in the search results. But just as the 15 employees that follow Joe, there is a caveat.   Joe is not following these people, either because he has knowingly not followed these people or he has not discovered these people.   Because of this the content created by these 20 employees should not receive as much of a relevance boost as content created by the direct followers.

With these improved relevance boosts for people direclty following, directing being followed and indirectly following, Joe searches on the term Java and receives results with an improved relevance boost for the 5 employees he is following, the 15 employees that are following him and the 20 indirect employees. In addition, the content from the 5 direct employees has the largest relevance boost, with the 15 employees following Joe and the 20 indirect employees he is following improving the relevance but not with as much of a boost in relevance.  

With these search engine algorithm improvements, the search results have just gotten tremendously improved, making searching for content a better experience for Joe and every other employee.  In future blog posts, I plan on continuing to discuss topics of how to improve internal enterprise search engine results. Future topics include reviewing how HR systems, employee profiles and social interactions can be used to improve search results.  So check back periodically to hear my thoughts on how enterprise search can be much better than it is today.

Enterprise Search and Context

Image: Breen Jones (link)

In my previous blog posts I talked about enterprise search and the reasons why search was not as good in the enterprise as it is in the enterprise.  The post was about why enterprise searches fail and that using social internal to an enterprise, enterprise search can be greatly improved.  +Joachim Stroh (@Joachimstroh) posted a comment on my blog that adds to my ideas.  He states:

"The traditional view is that content is coming from carefully curated repositories that are tied to corporate taxonomies that are tied to search facets. Way too complicated...."  

My response is absolutely correct! My thoughts are that if an employee has to do something beyond what is necessary for the job it probably won't happen.

So if employees are not helping other employees to find the valuable content they created, how do you improve search in the enterprise?  In my previous blog post, I mentioned that social business / E2.0 are both valuable ways to improve search results.  But there must be other ways to improve search.  In addition, social is way deeper than I could ever talk to in one blog post.  In this blog post, I will attempt to outline how enterprise search can be improved by providing search results based on the context of the employee performing the search.

As I did in my last blog post, I want to first analyze what are some of the tricks that internet search engines use to improve search results for each end user.  Internet search engines provide search results based on the context of who the person is that is searching.  They use the location of the person and provide results that are located closer to their current location.  Internet search engines keep track of each person's recent interactions and uses those interactions (which search results did they click) to improve search results. Internet search engines have now started the trend of incorporating end users social interactions to improve the results.  They are using a persons connections (relationships, who they are following, who they interact with most often) along with a host of other social information to improve search results. Each of these improvements to internet search is about providing search results in the context of person doing the search.  For example, when I search on a term, the potential that the search results are different for me vs. you are getting higher and higher.  These changes to how internet search engines provide search results to people is very powerful and a great way of providing the best results possible when there is a humongous amount of content in the internet.

So how does enterprise search learn from internet search?  Enterprise searches can do every one of these techniques to improve search in the enterprise.  And the amazing thing contextual search results is that I believe this is the one spot where enterprise search can do a much better job than internet search.  Enterprise's have a wealth of basic information that they know about employees.  While the internet search engines can learn from personal profiles, enterprise's can use information from the human resource systems along with personal profile information (internal and potentially even external (privacy could be an issue here)).  Enterprise search engines can learn from the interactions people have every day.  For example, the systems employees use and interact with each day can provide a wealth of information on how an employee does their job and what systems they use most. But interactions don't just happen with systems of record, but they also can occur on internal social platforms.  These social platforms can provide a large amount of information about who people are connected to, what interactions they have with other people, and the types of topics they are most interested in.   Lastly, by combining many of these pieces of information together, you can determine an employees expertise, which can also influence and improve search results for that employee.

In future blog posts, I plan on talking about the internal search engine topics.  This topic is so large and has so much potential that I will be creating several blog posts on how "employee context" can improve enterprise search.  Topics will include: the employee profile, the influence of interactions, the connections of employees and expertise of employees.  Each of these topics will review how they have the ability to improve search results for the employee.  So check back periodically to hear my thoughts on how enterprise search can be much better than it is today.

Enterprise Search Failure

Change Direction
Image by: Phillie Casablanca - link)
How often do you hear someone say, "why doesn't our enterprise search work as well as Google search? Bing?" or "Why can't I find the content I want  to find." or "I can't believe our search engine sucks." or "Our enterprise has a very small fraction of the content that Google searches and I still can't find the content I am looking for." or "FIX IT!".

Fix it sounds so easy, but it isn't that easy.  Internet search is dramatically different than enterprise search.  While there are many technical  differences, the biggest difference is not technical by behavioural.  People creating content in the internet are creating the content with the hope that others will find it.  These people, creating content on the internet, have personal incentives (marketing, personal brand, selling a product) to have other people find the content they are creating.  They use many different techniques to improve the finability of their content.  So, what techniques do they use to improve their content?

They tag their content, they use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) sites to improve their content for search engines.  They use social media to  market their material, which also improves the findability of their content.  The more references to their content, the more likely the content will  show up in a search result.  By using social media, people are attempting to garner a loyal following that promotes their content (think free advertising).  And if they can use social media to have their content cross linked and promoted by other people, the chances that more people (directly connections and indirect connections) are going to see their content, which in the end is exactly what they are attempting to do.

Let's contrast this with what happens in the enterprise.  In the enterprise, employees create content typically for a specific group of people, not  intending for the content to be found.  In many cases, employees are not creating content to be shared. (There are exceptions but those are for  specific groups setup to share corporate information, such as a corporate communications teams).  In contrast, the vast majority of the enterprise is creating documents and information and not thinking about how the information could be found or discovered. They are not sharing and there are no  incentives (personal or corporate) to share the information.  In many organizations the tools the employees use to create content and store the content is not even setup to allow for the content to be easily found.  Enterprise search engines often are not even searching the repository where the content is stored.  While the technical connections are not available, the employee is not helping the rest of the company to find their content either.  For example, when the employee wants to let someone else know about their content, what tool do they first turn to?  eMail.  If you are lucky they send a link to the content.  If not, they send the attachment in the email.  The only people that benefit from the later is the sender and the recipient.  In addition, in both scenarios, search engines don't learn and improve relevancy when eMail is used.

What are some ideas on how to improve the search results in the enterprise?   Incorporating social media techniques into the enterprise is one method of improving search results in the enterprise.   By providing a platform for people to collaborate, share, and to tout what they are working on is just one step in improving search results.   If an employee can use these tools and the search engine can learn from the enterprise social media interactions, the search results will improve.  By providing these hooks, such as tagging of content, cross linking of the content, and getting more people to interact with each each other and with communities will improve the search results, much the same way social media improves the search results in the internet.

But that is not the biggest thing that needs to occur.  While a technology can be put in place to allow people to interact, interactions don't occur because of the technology.  Companies have to change their culture;  companies have to get their employees to think from a sharing perspective. They have to create information and documents with the realization that others can find it and learn from it.  Companies need to find the incentive for the employees to partipate and be active and to share.

UC And Social business

communication - looking hearing talking
(P. Shanks - Image)
When you think of social business does unified communication jump to mind?  When you think of unified communication, does social business jump to mind?  No?  My guess is that you are not alone but for me, they do go hand in hand.  Why?

Social Business is about improving communication and collaboration and sharing in real time, near real time, and non-real time.  The typical mechanisms used in social business include activity streams, discussion forums, question and answer, ideations, etc.  All tools that improve collaboration and communication. And these ideas translate very well into working with clients and customers.  But they don't provide every mechanism that people use to communication. 

So this is where unified communication fits in.  Imagine a scenario where an two employees are collaborating on a document.  Let's call them Jim and Judy.  Jim is actively working on the document and runs into a problem.  He needs to contact Judy to ask her opinion.   What does Jim do today?  he looks Jill's name up in the company directory, and calls her using his desk phone.  Or maybe he opens his chat application find her name in his contacts list and starts a chat session with her.  Or maybe he opens his video chat application and starts a video chat with her.  In each of these scenarios, Jim had to find the information or open the application to start the real time communication.  But why?  

Why couldn't Jim click Judy's name, which has been associated with the document and start a chat session her?  or call her?  or start screen sharing session?  or start a real time collaboration / co-authoring session with her?  If unified communication was integrated into the base system, this could be possible.

Let's imagine a second scenario.  Imagine that Jim is working with a client/customer named Jawad.  Jim and Jawad is a highly valued client / customer and has an initiative that requires both Jim and himself to work together on multiple documents and have many interactions together.  Today they use email and phone calls to make this happen. The documents that need to be edited are sent via email and versions are created on top of versions - with each keeping their own set of "versions".  The job gets done, but only after 40 - 100 emails and several phone calls that had to be scheduled. 

Why couldn't Jim and Jawad work together on a shared and secured social  business site?  Imagine them working on the documents.  The system provides presence awareness, allowing Jawad to see when Jim is available.  In fact, it provides more transparency, by providing not so common status' such as away from my computer, on the phone, or in a meeting.  Imagine that Jawad is working on a document and requires input form Jim.  He see that Jim is available.  Jawad clicks Jim's name to start "communicating" with him.  The system indicates a phone call will start (the system knew to call Jim on the phone rather other communication methods because of a set of rules defined by Jim, indicating that he didn't have video chat capabilities because he was working from home.  Both Jawad and Jim's phone ring and they start talking about the document Jawad is working on.  In the middle of the call, Jim suggest they convert the conversation to an online-coauthoring session, so he can show Jawad to get his point across.  

Social Business is about providing engagement between parties, employee to employee and employee to client/customer.  But it doesn't bridge the gap completely as there is always the next step.  Combining unified communication with social business provides that next level of communication to provide a better experience for everyone, employee, client and customer. 

Keep your friends close ...

changing goals or executive mayhem
 Horia Varlan - orig image

In one of Luis Suarez recent blog post he asks a great question. My initial response to his question is in a comment on google+, but I thought it would be better to respond to his blog post with a blog post of my own. My hope is that this blog post will spark some more conversation. For Luis' full blog post, feel free to go read Luis' entire post. It really is a great post and worth the read. In Luis' blog he frames and then asks the following question:
"... Remember when perhaps 3 to 4 years ago we used to go to all of these social networking for business events and suit and ties were just missing from the equation? You could hardly see one or two in a large room. They were the outcasts, to a certain degree, and perhaps frown upon for no good, nor apparent, reason. But if felt good. It felt disruptive, provocative, heretic, even a bit rebellious of what you have been experiencing all along. Well, fast forward to today and it looks like in a good number of social business related events the suits and ties are back! Have we become a bit too formal and given up on our outrageous, heretic ways? We are no longer seeing ourselves, social business evangelists as disruptors? Have we, finally, been assimilated by the corporate world, before our job is done and completed? What do you think?"
What do I think? I have a couple of theories. I am sure others have theories. Let's hear from you. I am interested in what other people think on this topic.

My first theory is that the executives have actually decided that they like some of the ideas being proposed. But have they bought into the entire vision or just part of it? Could it be that the executives are following the old old adage, "keep you friends close, and your enemies closer". If this is true, then what executives have done is to fool the practitioner into a lull by bringing the practitioner close, keeping a close eye and providing support in some areas but squashing other initiatives. The outcome of such an activity is that the vision will never come to complete fruition and the revolution is squashed before it gets too far downstream.
My second theory is similar. The executives have bought into the plan. They believe the ideals that are set and are working with the practitioner. But in this scenario, the practitioner has become complacent, not pushing the limits because they have had success and have become more conservative in their approach. The successes have fed the practitioner into not wanting to risk losing the success by continuing to push hard. Basically, "why would I want to buck the trend? I am in line to move up in the company. I have made it,no need to continue to push."

My third theory is following a totally different path. Maybe we (the practitioners) lost track of the end goal. For me, my end goal changes every year. I am always looking for the next thing to improve collaboration, communication and mobility. Have "we" lost what the end goal is or have we just lost the collective end vision because everyone has taken the initial idea and gone in a different direction with different goals?

What reasons can you come up with on why we, as practitioners, have appeared to become complacent? Or maybe we are not complacent. What evidence do you see across the industry that proves the differing opinion?

Social Business, Mobility, and Security

security, social business, mobile
Lock by xserve (Lok Leung) from Flickrhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/xserve/368758286/
Time for some viewer participation.  Raise your hand. If any of the following statements is not true, you can lower your hand.

  • You work for an organization that strictly enforces security?  
  • You work for an organization that is strictly regulated and require lots of compliance?  
  • You work for an organization that does Social Business?  
  • You work for an organization that allows you to mix mobility and social business and compliance together while doing it securely?
If you are still raising your hand, look around and count the number of people with their hands still raised. I would guess that you could count the number of people with their hands still raised on one hand.

The solution of building a secure social business solution with compliance buy-in is tough enough as it is, but once you decide to put it on a mobile device, all bets are off.  Why?  Instead of answering the question directly, let me ask you more questions ...  Is your organization willing to lose that valuable information that occurred when two or more employees collaborated on a solution?  How about if that collaboration occurred between an employee and a customer? Partner?  What happens if that collaboration between employees and customers included privacy data or confidential data?  So think of this scenario if you are not worried.

Joe, your star salesman is out and about, meeting with one of his best clients, Jill.  Jill asks a question about how the next version of software will work.  The information she is asking about is confidential at this time, as the company does not want its competitors to know about the new features in the next version of software. 
Unfortunately, Joe doesn't know the answer to the question and would like to get the answer quickly. He would rather not have to get back to Jill and prefers to provide a thorough but quick answer.  He knows the development team can answer the question and uses his mobile social business application to ask the question.   
Jan, one of the developers sees the question from Joe and quickly responds back to Joe, but warns him that if this information gets out, they could have some serious issues.  Joe trusts Jill to not spill the beans and since Jan responded quickly, Joe is able to respond to Jill with the latest information (since he was gabbing it up with Jill).
After Joe meets with Jill, he heads to the airport and while there, leaves his phone in the bathroom.    

What do you do?

The organization has the ability to remotely wipe the device. The organization manages the device and enforces the use of PIN/password on the device and the organization enforces the use of encryption on the device.  
But are those security mechanisms enough?  Managing the device is difficult.  If the device is taken off line, remote wiping the device is not possible.  While a pin/password is good, hacking a PIN (typically 4 digits) is not difficult (9999 combinations).   Passwords are harder but not that much harder.  The device can have a policy set to wipe the device if too many attempts to type in the PIN or password occur.  But in all honesty, who cares about the PIN when you are most interested in the data on the device. Cracking/rooting the device without the use of the password/pin is easier and safer to ensure the data on the device is not wiped.  And once you do that, the device's flash memory(think disk drive) is available to be read.  

So how secure is that confidential data on the device?

You can decide to wait until the device manufacturers and O/S developers play catch-up to make this type of  "security" more "secure".  That could take years.   What do you do?

There is another solution, build an application that is secure.  Have you ever heard of the term, managed application (as compared to managed device).   Managed devices dictate what the owner of the device can and can't do on their device.  It enforces the encryption of the device, forces passwords and other security mechanisms.  In contrast, a managed application allows the developer to dictate what is available for the application and enforces its own security, without relying on the device manufacturer.

How?  A managed application ensures that all of the application data is encrypted, separate and potentially in addition to the device encryption.  A managed application enforces a password for the application.  In the above example, the social business application and the messages sent are secured in transit and if they are stored locally to the device, they are encrypted by the social business application (managed application). If compliance is needed, build it into the system, either capture it at the server side, or provide some means to capture it from the device.

What does Unified Communication mean to me?

mobile device, unified communication
Courtesy of Dru Bloomfield
This blog post is a future looking, what I believe should happen with respect to Unfiied Communication in an organization.  Some of the concepts below push beyond what the current Unified Communication vendors provide today.  These thoughts and ideas are from my own personal perspective.
Before you read on, I want to make sure that the reader understands that I am making an  assumption that 1) you understand what Unified Communication means from the industry perspective.  2) you understand what technology and tools are included, based on what the industry provides.  If you don't understand these items, I suggest looking around for the definition of Unified Communication and talking with some of the technology leaders and vendors to get a more in depth perspective.  

Unified communication must be:

Multi-technology.  UC tools must be able to work with all types of technology: video, audio, video call, phone, IM, Presence.  It must be able to deal with multiple consumer based technologies and work on all types of devices. UC has to work for the customer and the employee.  

Cross over.  UC tools must be able to provide a means for the consumer/client to dial in and have it routed to the correct person. UC tools must provide a way to dial out to the consumer/client. And this has to work across all of the types of technology.  Consumers should be able to see employee status (for those special relationships) and the UC tool should provide an online/real time collaborative environment for the consumer/client and employee to work within.  And in it all, this cross over UC tool needs to integrate with the offline collaborative environment, such as a social business tool.

Flexible (integrated).Say that I am at work, taking care of a customer.  The transaction I am working on requires some special skills.  In line to the application that I am using, the application should provide me a list of experts or group of subject matter experts to talk to if I have a question about the transaction or to obtain special approvals.

Mobile.   UC tools need to be available from anywhere, anytime, on any device.  A phone on my desk at work.  A phone on my desk at home. My personal mobile device.  My company provided mobile device.  My personal computer. My company provided computer. And when I am out and about, the system better provide a means for me to connect, even on an old / slow data connection.  Any device, anytime, anywhere.  (in data connections are not high enough to support video, the system should recognize this and make that type of communication not available).

Security. The UC tool better be secure.  On any device, anywhere, anytime.  When a message is stored local to the device, it better be encrypted in case someone were to hack the device I use. The way the tool connects to the companies systems better be done in a secure manner (e.g. encryption).  Security is important since inevitably, the UC tool is going to be transmitting confidential information.

Intuitive.  Gone are the days that I have to type in #'s to get through a menu system.  Visual is the way of the future.  Simple intuitive touch screens, via the desktop or mobile device.  Don't make me use the system the way it used to be done. Don't translate those menu systems directly into the UI interface.  In fact, don't assume I am going to use the system the way you expect me to use it, make the system intuitive enough that it prompts me for thing I do most often, or shows visually the items that I am most interested in based on my previous use of the system.

Virtual.   UC tools must be able to work in a virtual environment - and I mean all features, video, audio, etc.  None of this, it audio only works and you are out of luck.  The virtual desktop is near upon us and these tools must work reliably and easily within a virtual server and desktop world.

Highly Configurable UC tools must be able to provide a way to configure them, so that I can  indicate I am available or not available (presence). In addition, I should be able to say that I am available over an audio connectin (e.g. phone) but not over video (think, bad hair day).  The system should be able to change the status based on rules such as time of day, the person trying to contact me, and the channel they are trying to connect with me.  Remember, if UC is available on any device, any time, any where, employees are going to need to setup ground rules of when they are truly available and when they are enjoying time with the family and are "off the clock".

A UC tool better be a tool that provides value to the way I talk and communicate with other people.  It better be easy to use, to find the person I am looking for quickly and easily, especially in in the context of what I am doing and better have the full range of ways of communicating included in the solution.  It better be integrated into my job, in such a way that it is intuitive and provide business value to my companies bottom line, via improved customer relations to improved methods of getting the job done.



% Engagement in Organizations
Engagement is a hot term in many organizations. Everywhere I turn, I see someone mentioning or talking about it, or reporting on it. For instance, I was reading Jacob Morgan's blog recently and one of his blog posts references Modern Suvey's most recent 2012 Spring national norms study on employee engagement across the U.S. workforce. While Modern Survey polls on only 5 results, the results they received are simliar to results reported by Gallup and other industry thought leaders on engagement of employees.

While these results are interesting, I have questions that I believe would help me understand more about the data and help me make a better decisions related to what engagement means to me and how I manage the people that I manage. My questions range from the simple, to the indepth. 

For instance, what types of companies actually used Modern Survey's poll? How about Gallup? Are these polls from groups that are statistically random enough that they prove that this is an overall trend or were these organizations self selecting, and have the risk of skewing the data and analysis? If I were to want to look at what is really happening in the industry or within one company, can I compare against an industry trend line on engagement? What are the trends associated with engagement? Over a period of time, are they going up? Are they going down? Are we measuring and comparing over a 3-6 month time period or has the data been analyzed over a 5-10-15-20 time period? 

The reason I ask for a longer trend line is to guage if companies are really worse off now than they were before, or have we been muddling through poor engagement for a long time and the hope is that engagement will improve overall performance. 

Also, can we prove a company actually has the ability to impact engagement, or are their other factors that play into the final result? I am sure the answer is yes, companies can impact engagement of their employees but there are many other factors that also influence engagement, which are outside the control of the organization. For instance, did engagement scores drop when the economy dropped or gone up? Are there other real life incidents that impact engagement results? 

Maybe the data is available that I am asking for. I am sure that someone has something they can show me that would provide me more information; that would provide me the answer to the questions I have asked. 
If it appears that I don't agree with engagement in organizations, I want to be clear. I do believe in engagement and the power it has. My question is more about, how much power does it have and I always believe in a healthy does of fact checking to ensure that the amount of value anything provides is fully vetted.


Keeping it all straight

Silly putty meets Mr. Potato Head
Over a week ago, I had a colleague of mine say to me:
"Do you write all of the things you learn down? It seems like you have a wealth of knowledge and I was wondering what your tricks are for keeping it all straight"
My response to her was that I don't write things down. I just keep the bits in my head. I told her that I read many different topics that interest me, and I listen to podcasts every day, to and from work. All of these things are absolutely true. But after I said that, it got me thinking if there was more to it. To be honest, I still don't have a great answer to the question. I do know that I listen, form opinions, engage, and adapt in topics that interest me. My assumption is that this is the basics how I obtain knowledge and get smarter on topics.

When I listen, I will often start with someone that is guru or expert in a topic. But I don't just listen to the experts, because the experts provide an opinion influenced by their experiences. That is not to say that the experts are not extremely knowledgeable, I just mean that that I don't only listen to the experts. I listen to clients, customers, and other people that are interested in the same topic. I listen to implementer's, practitioner's and end user perspectives. Each person has their own perspective, their own experiences, their own points of pain and desires. They are worthy of being heard.

As I am listening (and no, these are not done in a "waterfall process"), I start forming my own opinions, based on what I am hearing and in a similar fashion to the experts, these opinions are influenced by my personal experiences. These opinions are formed based on what I know has worked in the past and what I believe might make a difference going forward.

As I am forming my opinions and listening, I am engaging people, sharing my thoughts, sharing what I have heard, and bouncing new ideas off of people. Seeing what sticks and expecting and hoping that people will be willing to provide honest feedback and new direction. I continue to listen and form new opinions. With the engagement, my hope is that I either find others that are as passionate as I am, or that I find people that are willing to listen and over time become just as engaged.

To be able to listen, form opinions, and engage others, I find that being able to adapt is crucial. So as I listen, form opinions and engage others, I am continuously adapting. Without adapting, my fear is that the conversation, the collaboration, and the willingness to share will stop. If I don't adapt, the people that I had hoped to engage and become passionate will stop being engaged. The people that I have been listening to will not share their experiences and the opinions that are so valuable to what is in the future will dry up or become irrelevant.

After thinking about this question for over a week, I am grateful my colleague asked me the question. It got me to think beyond my day job and provided me an opportunity to form an own opinion. My hope is that I can get others to engage on this topic. So I will ask the question, how do your learn? What is the basis for your learning? Deep down, what keeps you engaged?

If I were to re-answer the question my colleague asked me a week ago, I know my answer would be different. I would say, because I am engaged and passionate about a subject, I know that by listening, forming opinions, and engaging others will help me form a better picture in my head that is much easier to remember and pass along to others. But without being able to adapt, no one will be there to hear what you have to say. thoughts?