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.

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.





WIIFM on Working Socially?

Let’s be honest: change bites!  Most people do not like change.  Change brings uncertainty, a loss of security and control, a fleeting feeling of helplessness, and even panic.  Helping large organizations embrace disruptive change is a tall order.  What’s needed are roadmaps, play books, guidance, intelligence, patience, and a little inspiration.  But, change can be positive.  And, guess what?  If done correctly, it can be painless and enjoyable especially when you’re working with social software.

To that end, Change Agents Worldwide offers a variety of services to help companies make this transition.  We do it in a unique, network-based, new economy model.  Today, we’re announcing our first group project.  We partnered to help Salesforce’s Chatter team explain the “WIIFM” (What’s In It For Me?) of working socially on an enterprise social network.  So many of us are used to the benefits of working socially, but it’s still a foreign concept to much of the working world.  Part of our charter is to enlighten employees on the benefits of working in a new way.  Adoption is still an issue for most social collaboration vendors, and as Change Agents, we want to fix that.  We are experts in this, and we believe an understanding of social networks is core to the future of business.

Take a look at the creative tools we helped create for the Chatter team under the tutelage of the fabulous Maria Ogneva.  Maria is one of the most knowledgeable social collaboration professionals in the business.  We worked very closely with Maria and our amazing creative and brilliant friends at The Tremendousness Collective to create this animated video and accompanying infographic.  Also, a hat tip to our Change Agent Bryce Williams who coined, “Work out Loud.”





Download the infographic here:


That Sound You’re Not Hearing in Your Business Could Be Fatal.

If we’ve learned anything over these past six, going on seven years of covering the internal social collaboration sector, it’s that the social web has become a catalyst for intellectual curiosity.


“Fools,” said I, “You do not know.
Silence like a cancer grows.”   Simon and Garfunkel


If we’ve learned anything over these past six, going on seven years of covering the internal social collaboration sector, it’s that the social web has become a catalyst for intellectual curiosity. Tribes are forming everywhere with the growing popularity of niche sub-groups from LinkedIn to Google Communities. As quickly as you can say “add me,” this socially savvy collective is connecting, learning, and sharing with effortless, timeless ease. In other words, the long tail of interesting projects and topics is attracting talent to shared interest groups with like-minded professionals every moment around the social globe.

The future of the enterprise is already here albeit unevenly distributed in blossoms of network connections.  What are not unevenly distributed, are the individuals that “get” social collaboration and new modes of working. Small networks of professionals have always been present in the business world, but what’s different in the social era is the degree to which strong bonds and real relationships are forged on a foundation of meritocracy and reciprocal trust.  Not only do we know who you are, we observe your behavior in the network, and make judgments about your contributions and motives.  And absent an economic incentive to work together, individuals are sharing for the sheer pleasure of learning and teaching.

With a healthy, organic socio-collaborative corporate philosophy and pleasing UX platforms to foster it, talent will not stray outside the corporate walls for intellectual stimulation.  The corporate town hall will be buzzing with ideas and positive energy.  But, if your internal network is deathly quiet, or worse – non-existent, you can count the hours before your best performing future-worker talent connects itself to that outside world permanently, leaving you wondering why you didn’t see the big shift soon enough to make the change that could save your company.

The key to keeping your talent in-house and focused on organizational goals is to ensure the company’s mission is in sync with individual passions and interests. Command and control has been rendered obsolete in a galaxy of independent thinkers. It can putter on in the short term, but will never survive the long term.

I was poring over the lengthy back and forth between Nick Carr and Clay Shirky over the future of the book publishing industry a few weeks ago. At the same time, I stumbled upon this timeless piece by Boston Consulting Group founder Bruce Henderson about the difficulty of effecting change in a large organization.  PUB DATE: 1968   Henderson points out there are predominantly three dependent reasons why companies fail to change and ultimately fail altogether:  executive management doesn’t recognize or believe there is a fundamental shift underway important enough to affect the business, leadership doesn’t champion the change, and by the time they figure it out, it’s too late. In the final analysis, what hit me like a ton of Blockbuster brick and mortars is how foolish it will be for large enterprises to reject the premise (and practice) of social collaboration.  In the same way that media content is being re-purposed, repackaged, and re-distributed, so it will be for the knowledge assets of knowledge workers.  The degree to which executive management can recognize these important trends and retain its intellectual capital will be key to managing the shift.

Bonus:  A recent study by the CEB links healthy collaboration to breakthrough performance

Two Surprising Statistics on Social Business Progress in the Enterprise

Over the summer, we conducted a short survey among the Social Business Council members to gauge where large enterprises are regarding their progress introducing social to the enterprise.  The request was made by a Council member who was looking for some hard benchmarking data he could share with his team.

We wanted to answer the question:

“How far along are the leading early adopters?”

The results were eye-opening.  So many of us who track the market are always saying how early we are, how we are just at the beginning of this transformation,  how it could take a decade or so to really start seeing the fruits of our efforts, etc.   But, we really didn’t have a lot of  hard evidence.*  Now we do.

The first eye-opener was where early adopters report they are.

Nearly two-thirds of the companies surveyed (57%) reported that that only 10-20% of their eligible workforce is active on the platform.  The flip side of this statistic is, of course, that there is a lot of room to grow, and it opens up large opportunities for consultants, vendors, and social business advocates to help companies succeed here.

The second big reveal for me was the number of companies who indicated there is no real integration between their external social initiatives (social media/customer outreach) and their internal social efforts (a.k.a. Enterprise 2.0).  It was nearly unanimous: 96% reported there was nothing today that integrated their social business initiatives, although nearly half reported this was on the planning board.

In short, the survey asked 10 simple questions, yet essentially debunked some of the hype that circulates on the social web regarding the state of the market. In essence, the social business phenomenon is real, but all stakeholders vested in the market would be well-advised to exercise some patience in expecting game-changing results.

Dion Hinchcliffe wrote a longer piece on ZDnet with some of his takeaways, and you can download the report here.

*These survey results reflect the progress of  a unique cohort: very large enterprises with more than one billion USD in annual revenue that are actively engaged in a social business initiative.  Smaller organizations may report different results.




Serendipity Happens… to Deliver Million$

As the world turns… social, expect to be surprised by the fruits of serendipity.  When large workforces embrace working socially, or as I love to call it – in “socialworking” mode, they discover new ways of solving problems and creating opportunities.  Insights are revealed in the fluid web of connections and sharing. We’ve seen a dramatic mood swing toward all things social this year.  Even the naysayers have been touting the benefits of working socially recently.

I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight just one example of how working in a truly social organization delivers benefits that could never have been predicted in an executive conference room undergoing the scrutiny of a hard-core ROI analysis.


The Million Dollar Cry for Help

This vignette comes from our member Andrew Carusone at Lowe’s Companies, Inc. who told the story at our workshop this summer.  Lowe’s on-boarded 100% of its employee base to its collaborative platform, IBM Connections last year.  That’s every executive, store manager, retail clerk, and stock boy on the payroll.  The entire Lowe’s workforce of 289,000 employees have access to Connections.  What’s interesting is that less than 17,000 of these employees are salaried employees, and even less are members of the management team.  The challenge for the Lowe’s social business team is to inspire the employee base to turn to the platform in the course of their normal day’s work.  For some employees, it comes naturally.

During beta tests, an enterprising Paint Department employee decided to try something new to demonstrate the ease of cleaning a Teflon paint tray.  She poured latex paint into it, let it dry, and then peeled the paint out whole.  She left both the paint “mold” and the paint tray on the paint counter.  Customers were amazed and delighted. Suddenly, she was sold out of the paint trays and shoppers were clamoring for more.

The employee turned to all of her traditional channels to get additional inventory.  She accessed the company’s enterprise inventory system, however, like most major retailers, the business process tightly controls the amount of additional inventory employees can request.  After exhausting other traditional sources, the employee then turned to the Connections platform and asked “out loud”* if anyone knew how she could get more inventory.  Funny thing happened.  Although everyone felt her pain on the inventory shortage, they started replicating her paint mold/tray demo in their stores.  And guess what?   Suddenly other stores were selling out of the paint trays too.  As interest in the thread and the display idea grew in popularity, sales skyrocketed.

When applied on an enterprise level, the unique display idea represented more than a million dollars in additional revenue of the SHUR-LINE Teflon 9″ Metal Tray.  With that single serendipitous public share –employee-to-employee – at the kind of scale that Lowe’s enabled with its full workforce deployment, ideas like this can easily pay in full for the technology platforms that enabled it.  And this is just a single example.  Our Lowe’s members say these examples happen all the time.  I have a few more along these lines from other members I’ll post in the future.

What’s interesting to me in this example is that when the sanctioned business process that the Lowe’s employee was “workflowed” to use failed to deliver, it prompted her to seek out alternatives. (The company regulates how much inventory a store can order and when.)  She also reached out via other channels: email, phone calls, etc., with little success.   It was only after she circumvented the traditional sources and leveraged the power of pull within her employee base, did the company realize this unexpected windfall in revenue.   Not because she was able to order more inventory (her original ask), but because she shared her clever merchandising technique with the employee base creating demand for her idea far beyond her single store.  As Andy says, “What felt like a pebble – landed like a stone!”

It was the innovative idea that went viral in the company, resulting in the huge inventory demand (and subsequent sales) corporate-wide.   Smart employees throughout the ages have always found better ways to accomplish their goals, but these massive collaborative platforms are yielding leapfrogs in productivity and serendipitous wins on a large scale.  Be sure not to overlook this important upside of working socially.  In other words, “Be careful what you don’t ask for, you just might get it.”

*We talk a lot about “working out loud” in the Council.  Try it.  It just may delight you. 

Focusing on Adoption (exclusively) is a Dead-End

For an early adopter market, adoption in this space always seems to get a bad rap.  Why is that?  Because adoption is not the end-game.  It’s the beginning.  In the Council, the members are focused on changing hearts and minds and promoting the use of social tools in order to drive acceptance for a new way of working.  In Deloitte’s excellent report issued today, Social Software for Business Performance, we couldn’t agree more with the findings.  In fact, the rap on “adoption” uses our research to make the point.  There is no benefit in adoption for adoption’s sake.

It’s important to understand that “technology” adoption is the beginning of the journey.  It’s the first wagon wheel turn on a Westward Ho! trek toward complete embrace of a workforce that is socially calibrated and connected.  If you want to experience the benefits of working socially, workforces need to be comfortable and see the benefit of the radical internal organizational change it requires.  It sometimes amuses me that the folks who are critical of the adoption effort required are not particularly proficient in working socially in the first place, and cling to the world they know which is process-oriented and rooted in the industrialization (machining) of the enterprise.

I’ve often said that the adoption story is much less about the technology than it is about the organizational dynamics required to rewire the culture toward a more open, more egalitarian society if you will.  My source on this does not hail from any new technology fad.  In fact, it’s a paper originally published in 1957.  It is a supplement to a paper called, “How Farm People Accept New Ideas.”  It draws from a sociology, not technology foundation.

Introducing these concepts and making them stick inside a large organization is, indeed, a lot like cat-herding.  But, these are not cats or kittens. Change is painful and difficult inside large organizations.  One of the best quotes we heard from last year’s BlackBelt Workshop at the Boston Enterprise 2.0 conference was from one of our members who said, “These are not cats we’re herding; they’re Tigers, and they bite!”

Business process oriented vendors are getting savvy to social.  Council members just had a great Q&A yesterday with SFDC’s Chatter lead, Chuck Ganapathi, yesterday, and we’re planning a demo and conversation with Tibbr in the near future.   My prediction is we will see new business processes that replace or obsolete old ones more and more as, well, adoption proliferates throughout the enterprise.