More Serendipitous Social Upside Vignettes

Continuing with my series on unexpected windfalls and other business benefits realized from socialworking, here are two more examples.  I need to anonymize these to protect the member companies.  One is a large retailer, the other is a large life sciences multi-national.

Social Delivers the Goods (and more)

We’ve all had that experience when we waited for that shiny, new appliance to be delivered.  In this case, it was a washing machine.  Our member, a large retailer, prides itself on its service to customers in its appliance department.  When the delivery driver arrives at the home, they pick up the old appliance, install the new, test it for 15 minutes, and teach the homeowner how to operate it.

This leading retailer delivers thousands of appliances every day.  Delivery drivers (independently) were starting to see problems with a particular model of washer.  As it turns out, a fitting on the back of the washer had been changed by the manufacturer, and they were leaking after installation. The vendor didn’t know about it, the merchant didn’t know, and the drivers definitely were not informed the manufacturer had made the change.  But, the same problem was presenting itself around the country from different stores delivering the appliance.

A few of the delivery drivers turned to the company’s community space and asked, “Is anyone getting leaking problems on this model of washer?”  Once they realized what happened, they were able to stop a problem that would have been a major issue in returns, liability, flooding basements and utility rooms, simply because the manufacturer had decided to change the fittings and didn’t inform the merchants. (Do I hear social supply chain anyone?)

The activity stream of collaboration and sharing got the message to the merchants and back to the vendor and the problem was fixed in a matter of weeks vs. months.  Without a social platform for this mass-scale type sharing, it could have racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to customers’ homes, diminished customer experience, aggravation, etc., before it bubbled to the surface in a meaningful way.  “The platform gave them the opportunity to share.  Now, the enterprise has to listen,” said our member.

The rewards of over-sharing

Many of our members (some say, like Sisyphus) are trying hard to change the culture at their large organization to encourage new social behaviors.  One of the killer tools in the social toolkit is the “work out loud” axiom.   Work out loud dictates that rather than burying your work in email threads or unsharable telephone calls, you publish what you’re doing and thinking online in a collaborative space (all day long) so others can learn what you know, and likewise, you can mine the intelligence of others’ expertise and experience.   This sort of thinking often falls into criticism from those who are not enmeshed in social business transformation.  The particular vignette  I’m about to discuss cropped up in a thread in the Council where I was grousing about grief I was getting in our Enterprise Irregulars back channel on social business.  My EI compadre, Esteban Kolsky, had expressed his opinion on all things social with this comment directed to me:

…that has nothing to do with being social, and they are not mutually exclusive. you can collaborate without being transparent or authentic – and the whole Kumbaya aspect of being social has been overplayed and shown to have not correlations with real business results. The whole “social” revolution is not about producing more data (as most people expect) but about purposeful engagement in new channels – which if you did not know how to do before, you cannot do now. Know who you engage and how, not just throw you stuff out there for everyone to pick it up. Twitter is no more than an awesome and free PR tool, not an engagement network. Facebook is no more than a way to stay in touch with friends and family. If you can prove otherwise, I am listening- but the people with the best results in the “social” world will tell you it is not simply about “being out there” or being transparent or authentic or collaborative.

Of course, I politely disagreed with Esteban, but in the subsequent discussion with the Council members, a number of great gems emerged to reinforce my opinion.  One of which is the following shared by one of our Life Sciences members:

“Serendipity happens. If you just wait to share until someone ‘needs to know’…you miss potential opportunities. We had this happen a few weeks ago. A marketing person shared information openly to create awareness about their approach to a new project…and someone from research saw it, and commented about some existing data from her department along the same lines. The two teams got together offline as a result and saved us tons of money thanks to knowledge re-use and reduced duplicate effort. Without just ‘being out there’ for the sake of ‘being out there’…that wouldn’t have happened because we are too large to identify all those opportunities on purpose.”

I asked him if he could quantify the savings.  He investigated it and related this to us:

Savings from serendipity: $250K – a planned research project was cancelled thanks to the shared learning across departments.  The existing data was determined to be more informative toward the cause than what the new project would have generated anyway.

Increased Sales: Sales projections estimate a potential sales increase of $30M over 5 years, thanks to the improvements applied to the marketing approach.

Intangibles:  Better insight into customer experiences, leading to improved resources that aid in providing better outcomes for the consumer.

So, by being transparent, authentic, and collaborative in this new way, the member company decreased operational expense by $250K and potentially added $30M in future sales from this single event.

Another member, Joachim Stroh, summed up the conversation neatly with this illustration.

Enjoy!

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. 

Social Business on the Ground

When we set out to investigate case studies, we were looking for “slam dunk” examples where 2.0 initiatives were inextricably tied to business results. In effect, we wanted to begin to dispel the criticisms that e20 was just the next silly, narcissistic exploit to enter the enterprise on the heels of yet another consumer fad: web 2.0.

Well?  We didn’t find those “slam dunk” examples. But, neither did we find any “failures.” What we did find was a massive movement shaking the bedrock of enterprise as we know it. The enterprise plates are still firmly in place, but our investigation revealed tremors– sudden energy being released among the employee population that is poised to crack the foundation of business as we’ve known it.

Time and time again we heard, “This is the most important initiative I’ve ever worked on in my professional life.” There’s something chilling, something inspiring about the people and companies who are leading the charge toward reinventing themselves to become socially savvy. As you read through these profiles and cases, you’ll come to appreciate while all of these companies are still early in the process, they all are confident they will succeed in their long term goals.  Some are realizing early successes already.   The prevailing operational mission at present, however, is to succeed at catalyzing the “ideological reformation” at the root level of the organization that needs to take place before real business value can be extracted, measured, and fine-tuned.  It’s a bit of a Catch-22, and almost as maddening and dangerous as originally described in the novel that coined the phrase.

We will continue to track the progress of these early adopters.  Regardless where you are in the spectrum, we all succeed when every case succeeds.  We’d like to thank IBM and MIT’s Center for Digital Business for lending support and sponsorship to this series of cases and profiles. Special thanks to all @20adoption members who participated in the series.

Current profiles and cases are posted on The 2.0 Adoption Council web site.  Feel free to download at will.  We have a few more coming, as well.

The Chief Evangelist Officer – How does your CEO compare?

We have a wide range of experiences with executive support relative to adoption of 2.0 in the Enterprise.   Some of our members are ecstatic when their CEO blogs on an internal platform without first going through PR; some try to keep the initiative under the radar of the leading executives.  We’ve seen it all.

That said…

This video by member @ted_hopton‘s company, UBM, is the new standard-bearer.   For all of you battling for executive support, watch it and weep.  🙂

Of course, we all hate the fact UBM calls its socio-collaborative platform a Wiki, but we’ll take it.

Awesome job UBM team!

Adoption is Dead. Long live Adoption!

Rumors surrounding the death of adoption have been greatly exaggerated.

The 2.0 Enterprisey crowd is gearing up to head to Boston for our annual pilgrimage.  This will be my fourth conference as a participant and board member.  Having watched and often interpreted the trends in this sector, I find it interesting to report that things have not changed much in general since our first get-together in 2007.   While it’s true that we have many, many more organizations large and small experimenting with and committing to 2.0 strategies– internally and externally– and the business itself is morphing into something much more grand and all-encompassing, the truth of the matter is: we are still early adopters of this new way of working.

The notion of “adoption” in general occasionally gets called into criticism by bloggers who are looking at the phenomenon purely through the lens of new technology adoption.   The adoption phenomenon is much more far-reaching and encompasses a wholesale reinvention of the way we will work in the future.  Social data and social layers that will filter transactions in the enterprise are the Next Big Thing in enterprise.  Period.  But before we can get there, we need to on-ramp legions of employees to change their attitudes and behaviors to maximize the benefits of what the socially connected universe offers.

It’s easy for us who spend a lot of time on the social web to re-imagine where we are in real terms relative to widespread embrace of social strategy and tactical best practices.   This is a mistake, and we need to scale back our expectations and see the immediate opportunity for what it is: an early adopter market.  This reality has been difficult to swallow, perhaps especially for me.   We’ve kicked off our case study series and early indicators are reinforcing the relative immaturity of the market.  We’ll have more details on those in upcoming months.  The good news is: we are all really early on a phenomenon that is changing the world as we know it.  This social transformation will be larger and more comprehensive than any technology transformation (including the Internet and mobile) we’ve seen thus far.  Those of us who are in this for the long haul know this instinctively and welcome the opportunity to shape the future.

That said, the Council members (who are squarely on the front lines of galvanizing change) have been working hard to put together some thinking on what’s working and what’s not  on the Adoption Trail.  In addition to our full-day workshop, we have an  entire track devoted to adoption issues at the conference this year.  I invite you to hear directly from these customers– at their sessions, at lunch, at the bar, in the halls… wherever they are.  You’ll know them because they’ll be wearing our pins, as well as a star on their badges.  We have over 30 Council members attending from a variety of industry sectors including: IT/High Tech, Telecommunications, Pharmaceuticals, Public Utilities, Government, Construction, Publishing, Retail, Non-Profit, Health Care, Financial Services, and Manufacturing.

On the last day of the conference, in the last session time slot, I’ve reserved time to discuss “what we missed” in our agenda planning.  As board members, we try hard to include everything topical that’s fit to present, but invariably, we could fall short and miss or underplay something important.  This session is an attempt to capture that lost content and discuss it with a panel of customers and industry thought leaders (including Dennis Howlett and Lee Bryant, as well as a team of sharp shooter Council members).  So, while you’re attending sessions, please keep a mental note of anything you feel has been missing from the dialog all week and bring it to the session.  We’re going to try and keep the session as interactive as possible.

Look forward to seeing you all in Boston.

Let Go and Let Talent

What is the most important leadership competency for the successful enterprise of the future?  According to a new study by IBM’s Institute for Business Value, CEO’s point to creativity as the engine for future growth.

Creative leaders are key to driving the kind of change large organizations require to wrestle with global complexity and information overload.  Open leadership coupled with inspiring creativity is the management mantra of this new decade.  It’s a far cry from the pop management themes of yesteryear which advocated tightly controlled hierarchies, silos, and re-engineered and structured processes that slashed costs, jobs, and produced routine outcomes.

One of the reasons I love working with the Council members is because their energy and passion is nearly limitless.  They all work in the sweet spot of this new corporate cultural revolution.  Selling transparency, collaboration, trust, and authenticity– they’re armed with the principles that will guide their organizations to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

As these corporate positions are relatively new, there is a lot of flexibility and opportunity for our members to express creativity to advance the state of adoption company-wide.   Along these lines, I want to highlight one of our members’ (Ted Hopton) efforts to inspire adoption of its socio-collaborative platform.  Called, “the Wiki” (although admittedly, much more than a wiki), UBM employees brainstormed fun and engaging ways to introduce its employees to Jive SBS 4.0’s new features.  As it turns out, employee Chris Harris (aka DJ $crilla) is an award-winning rapper.  He wrote the lyrics, performed, and directed the video.  The video was also filmed and edited by UBM employees.

And what did the CEO, David Levin, think of the creative execution?   He was the chief sponsor and appears in a cameo role.  Big ups, all around.