Experimentation, success, failure, and fun with global collaboration.

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In the spirit of drawing the Enterprise 2.0 community together, I started a small experiment this week. On Tuesday late in the afternoon (Austin time), I set up an open Google spreadsheet to capture Twitter IDs for folks in the community who felt they associated with Enterprise 2.0. Within minutes, the spreadsheet was buzzing, popping, and humming with simultaneous edits being made from all over the world. Of course, the initial tweet was retweeted throughout various follower communities and social networks which led to a bit of a viral chaos. A few times we even had a complete breakdown in the spreadsheet where Google couldn’t keep up with the simultaneous edits. At another time, someone had either inadvertently erased all the data, or maliciously erased all the data… in the end it didn’t matter because someone else had made a copy and we quickly reverted to an earlier version. All of this happened in a one – two hour period, in different time zones. Within two hours, there were over 200 names on the list. Today, there are nearly 300 people who’ve added their information to the original list which contained 10 people. You can see it for yourself here.

The experiment was incredibly fun. So many people participated and truly enjoyed the process. It brought the community together, and I think everyone “met” or was introduced to another enterprise 2.0 community member they did not know about who is active on Twitter. Yesterday, a few of us started weighing different options to leverage this community in a deeper forum. I asked Ross Mayfield if he would volunteer a wiki workspace, and he graciously agreed. In the course of setting up the workspace, we discovered (who knew?) in order for folks to complete their profiles, they would have to be invited via email.

Email!? The anti-thesis of the Twitter community! So, with a lot of LOLs, Ross, Dion Hinchcliffe and I realized there are still things we are learning about Enterprise 2.0. The good news is, we all can learn together. Failure can be fun and leads to product improvements, not disaster.

Last week, I passed my third year anniversary on the ITSinsider blog. (Yay!) The spirit of worldwide cooperation and sharing still moves me in this space. This experience over the last few days reminds me of a 2006, great Q&A I did with Joe Kraus, who is now at Google. Kraus’ vision for DIY computing is indeed coming true. These social bonds that are gluing our collaborative energies together are making it all the more interesting and the successes are celebrated universally.

The takeaway here is, don’t be afraid to experiment. Don’t be afraid to fail or embarrass yourself. We’re still in the early days of reinventing “work.”

Reality Check 2.0

Over the past month, I’ve been wrestling with blogger’s block. A number of items have kept me from blogging, but the key agitator is the current economic crisis. I’ve attended conferences; I’ve participated in discussions on social media; I continue to Yammer and Twitter, but in the back of my mind a blaring alarm is sounding off. It seems so many in the 2.0 community (who still have a job or have clients) is either in denial or is missing the bleak macro picture here.

This weekend I was watching the Sunday morning news roundups, Former Secretary of State James Baker, speaking on “Meet the Press” reiterated what we’ve been hearing for weeks now, “…it is very serious. It’s far worse than the downturn that we saw back in the 1987 when we had a stock market collapse when I was Treasury secretary. That one was much less broad and severe, but even that took us two years to come out of.”

Now, no disrespect to my late GenX and GenY readers and friends, but Boomers have some experience here that may prove helpful. Those of us who were engaged in the technology workforce in the late 80s and early 90s had to move fast to help our customers cut costs and work smarter. For me, that meant the birth of Business Process Reengineering and Outsourcing. For others, it meant the birth of Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP. Now, you could argue whether any or all of these initiatives actually delivered the results intended, but the fact remains: lots of software developers and consultants made a huge market in downtime adversity.

This recession/depression is poised to eclipse any downturn we’ve seen in our lifetimes. As I canvas the Enterprise 2.0 landscape, I find myself wondering: what is our killer economic crisis app/movement? Twitter? Facebook? Will we save the U.S auto industry by social networking?

Really?

I can assure you, there will be no Federal bail outs for 2.0 startups. Some startups will stretch their life expectancy with VC funds, but at the end of the day, it’s show time. How will you help your customers and future customers grow or at least sustain their business through this economic downturn?

The Enterprise 2.0 Advisory Board is convening in an online forum to discuss themes for this year’s conference. The conversation quickly migrated beyond the soft benefits of social collaboration to the hard, measurable benefits businesses need when navigating through tough times.

Mike Gotta of analyst firm Burton Group contributed this remark:

“Some of the phrases I keep hearing: 1. Efficiency (cost containment/avoidance, streamlining, etc.) 2. Execution (all-things-lean, process refinement) 3. Effectiveness (process and people performance, measurable productivity) 4. Rationalization (of budgets, of projects, of platforms) 5. Governance and metrics to support the above. Operations (run the business) and investment to protect top/bottom line engines (grow the business) are still ok – transformation unless it maps into some of the above areas is more discretionary – a good strategist will not cut to the bone… but overall – it’s a run/grow the business more than transformation. Business transformation (at least in my head) is more than just changing a process. Anything “soft” is getting a hard look – sure – some savvy execs will keep a portfolio perspective and still invest in some long-term areas and not slash things to the point that when the economy rights itself they are strategically behind but they (1) may not have any choice and (2) may not get broad agreement from their peers.”

Even Stowe Boyd, who coined the term “social tools” back in 1999 had this to say:

I am one of the biggest advocates for ‘social’ in the world, but I think it is too limiting for E2.0, and perhaps off message in the econolyptic times we are in.

I think the right theme is something more around ‘making the web work for business’—some blendo idea that allows E2.0 to mean
a/ the adoption of web tools and culture within the enterprise,
b/ the use of the web to better connect the enterprise to the greater world, and
c/ most specifically, the use of web 2.0 IT principles to reinvent enterprise IT, (like cloud computing, AJAX, web services, and so on).

The bottom line is: focus on the bottom line. We are collaborating for survival.

Update 12/01/08:  McAfee blogs on ideas for saving Big Auto.

The trouble with social media is, well, people.

Last week introduced a whole new twist on the social media pretzel for me. Social media was great when it ran on positive mental attitude and a go-go economy, but now that people (the stuff networks are made of) are acting like humans, well, harrumph, it’s time to re-examine this social media phenomenon, eh?

Jive Software, a company I’ve mentioned numerous times on this blog, had to face an uncomfortable RIF (Reduction in Force: a euphemism for layoffs; this decade’s answer to downsizing) and let go 40 or so of its employees. I’m sure the company wanted things to go as smoothly as possible, as these things are never easy. Trouble is, one of the RIF’d employees blogged the experience and it got picked up on the mother-of-all-exposure tech blogs, TechCrunch not once, but twice kicking up his blog stats 10-fold.

The topic surrounding the sanctity of transparency in bad times bounced through our company like a hot potato. Our recruiter eventually posted this piece essentially alleging that sour grapes employees should use caution when airing their laundry for fear of future employability or any potential career repercussions.

The individual in question, Chris Kalini, along with his wife Jessa, are both what we’ve come to know as “Gen Y” employees. Chris is a web designer and now happily employed at Euro RSCG as a front-end web developer/designer. The problem with Chris is, well, he blogs his life. Everything gets published– from playing pool, to helping friends move, to ordering pizza, to cooking with Jessa.

Did anyone expect him not to blog losing his job?

Here at nGenera, we have two world-renown experts on this cohort. First is Don Tapscott, who introduced “paradigm shift” into the management lexicon and authored over a dozen best-selling business books, most recently, “Grown up Digital” which is a follow-on to his earlier work, “Growing up Digital.” Second is Tammy Erickson, McKinsey Award-winning author, and President of nGenera’s Innovation Network. Tammy blogs as a discussion leader on the Harvard Business blog and is coming out with a new book, “Plugged In: The Generation Y Guide to Thriving at Work” in November. I’ve heard both of these Gen Y gurus speak and they both will attest to how young adults of this generation live freely, openly, transparently. It’s partly what defines them as one of the most interesting generations to study. This is also the generation that will lead 21st century politics and drive innovation.

I asked Chris if all this sudden web-celebrity bothered him. His answer was just what I predicted, “I’m totally cool with it,” he said. As for the transparency possibly being an impediment in his life? He said, “I love that my kids will be able to see my blog one day. I wish I could have seen my grandfather’s blog… to have known what he was thinking and doing every day.”

So brace yourself. As the economy squeezes and the RIFs roll in, Gen Ys and all members of the digital community are going to be Facebooking, Tweeting, Friendfeeding, Plurking, MySpacing, and yes, blogging their exit with your company. Put a little thought into making it a humane and respectful departure– if for nothing else, your adoring grandkids’ sake.

Dell Heaven

Wow. About a year ago, I gave Dell a hard time about linking its social media efforts to measurable business results and more specifically, Michael Dell, in an interview with Steve Lohr (NY Times) where he could have at least made reference to how social media is being leveraged as a secret weapon to win the hearts and minds of disenfranchised customers and turn around Dell’s (then) battered reputation.

Since that time, there have been many Dell social media success citings, but the best I’ve seen so far is this article in this month’s Fortune magazine piece “Michael Dell ‘Friends’ his customers.” The writer, Jon Fortt, points out the financials are still not yet proven, but the tone of the piece weighs heavily in favor of Dell’s efforts.

“The real question is whether customer-friendly operations like IdeaStorm translate to better financials. The jury’s still out on that.”

We recently had a nice chat with some folks at Dell regarding their Twitter use that is generating revenue as well as good will for areas of Dell’s business. Check out Shel Israel’s piece in Businessweek on Ricardo Guerrero’s (@ggroovin) pioneering efforts with the Dell Outlet (@DellOutlet).

Alas, progress marches forward. Look at how far we’ve come in a year. Yet, when Michael Dell can point to its social media efforts directly linked to regaining its number one position in the PC market, we will all have a party on Twitter. On that glorious day, my enterprisey friends, we will have arrived. I’m chill’n the champagne in advance.