The Smart Infrastructure of the Future Hinges on Smart Partnerships

Last week I attended a Data Science Summit at the University of Central Florida (UCF).  The day merged two of my favorite topics: Smart Cities and Data Science. It was the final event in a series held by the Southern Data Science Conference.

The event opened with a partnership announcement by longtime partner Siemens. The technology company committed to over $1 million in in-kind hardware, software, and expertise to build out capabilities to the UCF Smart Infrastructure Data Analytics Lab and will incorporate the existing Siemens’ Digital Grid Lab.

“There’s a definite synergy between buildings and the grid, as seen with energy becoming more decentralized and buildings assuming more of a prosumer role,” said Mike Carlson, President of Siemens Digital Grid – North America. “The opportunity to take what we are already doing with UCF related to grid digitalization and combine supply and demand in coordination with technology for building automation will make this a benchmark program for Siemens.”

Through the Smart Infrastructure Data Analytics Lab, Siemens will leverage data through machine learning, real-time analytics and artificial intelligence to help automate certain processes to be initiated by building systems whenever possible.

Dave Hopping, President, Siemens Building Technologies and Dr. Michael Georgiopoulos, Dean, UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science

The UCF students and faculty will have the opportunity to experiment with various aspects of smart building infrastructure with real-world implications. For Siemens, the benefits are abundant in research, application, and ready-made talent pools.

UCF is known for its partnerships with industry. The relationship with Siemens goes back three decades, and has been a successful partnership resulting in Orlando’s national reputation as a leader in sustainability.

In the fall of 2017, Siemens provided UCF with an in-kind grant of product lifecycle management software with a commercial value of $68 million, one of the the largest grants in university history.

 

 

Still in Love with Tech

A few weeks ago, I was quietly seated by a window in a noisy Cambridge Chipotle eating my burrito bowl.  It was a warm, sunny day and I was watching MIT students buzz between classes and enjoying the farmer’s market set up in the tents nearby.

I remember saying to my friend that I was sure I was the oldest person on that block that day by ten years.

I snapped this photo to capture the memory. It was more than the warm, sunny day and the activity, it was the “tech community” that I wanted to preserve. It occurred to me in that experience, that there is something unique about the type of individuals who are drawn to tech.

Tech is a big tent that extends to every race, religion, gender, ethnic background, age, and sexual orientation. Yes, of course we can argue about how career opportunities, advancement, and access to capital is still subject to the same prejudices as other industries, but the basic mastery of the skills– when it comes to 0’s and 1’s– is blind to human differences.

Spending time walking around MIT, and recently attending events at UCF, as well as participating on our Data Science board, I realized I’m still as much in love with tech as I’ve ever been.  I attended a Data Science Summit yesterday on the UCF Campus where more than one panelist and speaker made the comment, “This is a great time to be alive.” The inference was that there is so much possibility right now with the technology we have at our disposal, it’s almost as if so many of us who’ve been in this field for our entire careers have been waiting for this exact moment.

For that reason, I decided to reclaim my time with the ITSinsider blog.  I’m going to start writing about the areas that I’m interested in. It’s where I started a dozen years ago here on the web, and it led to some interesting places. Hope you come with me for the ride.

Working Out Loud for a Better World – Part II

A friend sent me a story this morning that describes how officials in New York City have been frustrated with the city’s domestic violence problem, “Domestic Abuse Killings Climb as Murders Drop, Frustrating New York Officials.”  Among several issues, the story highlights the “spotty coordination and communication among the police, prosecutors, city housing officials and organizations that provide services to victims.”  This lack of information-sharing is not unique to New York City or any other jurisdiction.

I’ve often observed, quizzically, that a field so focused on “power and control” issues has so many power and control handicaps in addressing solutions associated with intimate partner violence.  One agency won’t share information with another for political reasons; one organization has a personal vendetta against another competing for funding; a national nonprofit has competing interests for exposure and support from a state and/or local nonprofits, etc.  Over the past two years researching how “things work” in this field, I’ve seen it all.  Power dynamics are at play that are counter-productive and antithetical to the mission of attempting to find real solutions to this social epidemic. But, I get it. The same fiefdom battles are present in corporate America.

Luckily, as an outsider to this work, I have a unique vantage point devoid of turf battles.  Also lucky for me, I have a decade’s worth of insight on how to engage a disparate community focused on a singular mission. Who knew my enterprise social expertise would serve me well in exploring innovative ways to make a difference on this thorny social problem?

Enter Yammer, the Microsoft Enterprise Social Network, and a risk-taking, progressive law enforcement agency comfortable working with partners to find solutions.

Serendipitously, I discovered the work the High Point Police Department (HPPD) was doing with its groundbreaking domestic violence program early into Big Mountain Data’s launch.  There were a number of programs and areas I wanted to explore with HPPD as an entrepreneur who had a lot to learn to get up to speed, so I invited the agency to join our Yammer network. I created an external network where we could focus on different projects and initiatives in a friction-free, egalitarian network. Over the past two years, about 40 different individuals have joined the network.  It includes law enforcement, film directors, university researchers, national experts on Domestic Violence, crime analysts, data scientists, producers, writers, and attorneys.  This unlikely team of allies came together to lend expertise to a number of projects we’ve been exploring.

yammer-hppd-wol

High Point’s current Police Chief, Ken Shultz, worked with us day-to-day for the first year or so on our various programs and initiatives as Deputy Chief.  I asked him if I could interview him on his experience with “working out loud.”  He was happy to comply.  “We’re used to working in groups.  We try to be very transparent with our community,” he said.  He admitted they weren’t sure what it would mean in time and resources to work so closely with us, but in hindsight, he said, “The work has been very successful.  The initial work we put in answering your questions has paid off drastically.”  He spoke at length about how our involvement bringing so many players together has helped the department expand and develop even better relationships within High Point.

You’re an outsider, but you’re seeing people who might have solutions for us; you’re bringing people in from outside and getting them involved. That’s something we would not have been able to do on our own.  We didn’t know who these people were; we didn’t have that ability to connect so the more people that have been participating in Yammer, the more connections we’ve had and the more resources have been thrown at us and the more support we’ve been able to have. – Chief Ken Shultz, High Point Police Department. 

The magic of “working out loud” is the instantaneous access everyone has to the conversation, the explanations, the decision-making, and the answered questions that benefit everyone in the network.  In tech terms, we call it the “network effect” of the increased exponential value of the network’s shared knowledge with every added node.  In this case, the nodes are people with expertise to bring to bear on a difficult problem.  These are experts whose paths might not cross – ever in their careers.

What’s next?

The High Point Model has tremendous potential to make a serious difference on how communities address domestic violence. HPPD has going on six years of experience with this approach, and new sites are expressing interest in replicating what High Point has done, every day.  We’ve begun a “Replication Sites” group in Yammer where sites all across the country can join our network and learn from those already in some stage of progress.  Effectively, new agencies coast-to-coast now have access to the institutional knowledge already resident within our network with the added benefit of being able to ask direct questions to people on the ground making these changes in their communities. New nodes = greater intelligence and knowledge-sharing.

In an era where so many have become divided and intransigent, working out loud humanizes us.  It keeps the focus on the greater goal we all agree we want to achieve.  Solving the world’s toughest social problems will take a village of committed souls bound by a united interest.  Working out Loud provides a path and a way forward toward that end.

 

 

 

 

 

Working out Loud for a Better World – Part I

working out loudIt was about six years ago that the concept of “Working out Loud” started picking up traction in the blogosphere. It was an easy way to describe the contagious, fun way to work in a more transparent, generous, and authentic way.  Of course, you needed a platform to work out loud on, but the tribe who was following this new mode of corporate conversation, communication, and collaboration was already well aware of the power of enterprise social networks.

My friend, Bryce Williams of Eli Lilly, an inaugural member of The 2.0 Adoption Council and later a Change Agent as well, had attended a panel at the 2010 Enterprise 2.0 conference, and heard the term used loosely to describe this new phenomenon.  Bryce, a regular blogger, then remixed the phrase to create an entirely new way to look at working collaboratively in a large enterprise social network.  His original blog post describes his thinking.

Of course, the purpose of the Council in those days was to accelerate learning and sharing, so it wasn’t long before others started remixing and re-purposing what Bryce had started.  The most notable WoL champion today is my hero John Stepper who left his investment bank day job to strike out on his own mission to spread the love of Working out Loud to the ends of the earth.  John’s book, Working Out Loud: For a Better Career and Life has become the revered playbook for this fast-growing movement. (There’s a web site too.)

We’ve been saying in the Change Agents Worldwide network, that we can “feel the tide is turning.”  Last week was international #WOLweek, and while scanning the post-election news, I serendipitously stumbled upon this incredible photo on Twitter:

This 8 x 12 foot sign was literally affixed to an office building in Sri Lanka. Who would have imagined in those early days, circa 2009, that this could possibly result from a group of like-minded, random people who came together to improve the world with enterprise social networking technology?  I could.  

The big story behind the phenomenon of this worldwide movement is just starting to unfold. Of course, talk of a possible Slack IPO doesn’t hurt. But truthfully, Slack was late to this game (2013) and had been working somewhat independently of the community that fueled the organic adoption of social tools. The way had been paved by many that came before Slack took off.  For instance, McAfee’s seminal piece in MIT SMR is already a decade old.

I’m just as excited as ever about the possibility of enterprise social tools to improve life on the planet.  In fact, I kicked off my social impact startup, Big Mountain Data, using Yammer. Part II of this post is next that explains that.

Welcome to the future.

What is Your Network Telling You?

I caught up this week with Cai Kjaer whom I’ve known via the social web as one of the founders of Optimice.  We used Optimice at Change Agents Worldwide to map our core competencies within the network.  I’ve always been a big fan of Social Network Analysis (SNA), and feel we are leaving a lot of actionable information on the table when we don’t observe what is happening organically within our networks.  As just one example, ESN strategists spend a lot of time identifying who might be a good candidate to advocate for working socially, but a lot of this work is anecdotal, and champions are identified via word-of-mouth. Software can do this fairly easily once you map the activity on the network.

crossteamThe Optimice team has launched an analytics tool, SWOOP, that may help large networks reveal intelligence that is not intuitive or otherwise obvious.  The software platform is the result of over a decade’s worth of consulting mapping organizational networks. At present, the team is working with Yammer and Chatter networks, but they have plans to work with more large-scale ESNs.

For large enterprises that view the ESN as the foundation for culture change, quality improvement, and innovation, it’s more or less a no-brainer to employ a tool like SWOOP. Some of the ESNs already have fairly sophisticated analytics, or at least used to, last time I checked.  But Yammer, in particular, has experienced explosive growth now that it’s free with O365, and the analytics are really weak. Something like SWOOP has not been available to its large communities until now, AFAIK.

peeps
The good news around this software is there is a lot of interest in introducing the power of SNA to large enterprises, but there hasn’t been an easy way to do that without expensive, complicated consulting.  With SWOOP, at a low price/seat investment, you can immediately start “listening” to what your network is telling you. The power of SNA becomes more attractive when you can start identifying how your network can save you time and money.  It’s not just eye-candy, in other words. Kjaer likes to say, “Collaboration is a contact sport.” So true. When you can look at connections cross-organizationally, and see data that reflects the role individuals are playing within their groups, you have a guidepost, a key performance indicator of sorts. Moreover, the ESN starts to take advantage of the potential for “emergent” behaviors that got the original Enterprise 2.0 champions so excited. (Myself included.)

I will be watching this area with much interest.  I’ve already got some ideas of how SWOOP can make a difference among some successful ESN customers already.  If you want to give the platform a try, you can sign up for the company’s free benchmarking tool.  I’d love to hear your progress.

 

 

 

 

Are Social Practitioners and Evangelists Truly Different?

My friend, Alan Lepofsky, has always made this point, “Social people are different.  The rest of the world is not like us.” Ironically, Alan and I get into the most hair-splitting among our pro-social circle of friends, but I’ve come to understand he is absolutely right about this. “We” are a different breed.  The online spirit of generosity, kindness, sharing, transparency, a first-instinct of collaboration is unique to a small tribe that discovered and advocated for social technologies in the enterprise. When we try to introduce these tools to our friends, our family, new clients, other colleagues, it falls flat.  It’s “2.0 adoption” all over again. It’s made me wonder if we truly are different. Are our brains wired differently?  I’d love to test this with a social scientist. My hypothesis is we have a “giving” gene.

My French friend, Cecil Dijoux, whom I’ve come to know via the social web apparently sees the same phenomenon.  In this video, he refers to us as “Asbergers” which he picked up from the Silicon Valley HBO series where it was meant to be “weird.” Of course, Asberger’s is a serious condition on the Autism spectrum, but I grok the sentiment. “We recognize each other by the way we think and talk.”

It’s unusual to want to change the world, or to pursue a purpose with passion at work. It’s counter-intuitive to behave in a way that benefits a group vs. our own self-interest (exclusively).

I’ve always believed there were more of “us” than “them” if only we could get the message out to the rest of the world about the freedom and joys of working socially. Effectively, once you start working this way, it changes your worldview. You become more empathetic, less self-serving. Lately, I’ve become cynical. I never thought I’d lose my faith in humanity to do the right thing, but as the years go by, the more I think I simply just want to connect to the other “giving gene” people.

If you know what I’m talking to about, let’s connect. We may not be able to change the rest of them, but if we add more nodes to our team, we will have meshed together our own social network of like-minded, giving people. And that’s a beautiful thing.