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.
Walking down one of the cavernous halls at the Palazzo hotel in Las Vegas, we approached one of my Enterprise Irregular (EI) colleagues, David Dobrin. Dobrin looked surprised to see me and said, “What are you doing here?” I said, “I’m here to learn!”
Yes, I attended my first SAP TechEd this week and this is where learning happens. TechEd is in four cities around the world this year: Shanghai: March 13–14, 2014, Las Vegas: October 20–24, 2014, Berlin: November 11–13, 2014 and Bangalore: March 11–13, 2015. An “elder” explained to me that TechEd is the physical manifestation of the online community that lives 24/7 around the world in SAP’s SCN community. The earliest form of SAP’s SCN was launched in 2002. The community has shape-shifted over the years to become the glue that ties together customers, mentors, evangelists, partners, and every member of the SAP ecosystem.
I was encouraged to attend TechEd by everyone’s favorite community host and star community advocate, Marilyn Pratt. Between Marilyn and another one of my EI brethren, Craig Cmehil, the inimitable SAP evangelist, I knew I’d be in good hands to learn as much as possible from the community who turns out for SAP TechEd. As a newbie to the space, my challenge for this trip was to get a better understanding of all things big data and data science. My hosts, Mike Prosceno and Andrea Kaufmann did a fantastic job lining me up with SAP experts with whom I could share ideas and get a better understanding of how SAP was solving customer problems with big data via its HANA platform.
So what did I learn?
On Tuesday, I tagged along with Marilyn who was introducing Megan McGuire, lead for Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF)‘s new eHealth Unit, to various individuals and groups within the SAP community. The goal was to see how SAP’s technology could further assist McGuire in her ambitious aim to provide timely, accurate information, monitoring, and accessibility for all MSF projects in 26 countries. The challenges associated with data collection, language differences, data formats, even stable connectivity in remote regions all complicate MSF’s goals of going “digital.” In understanding the complexity of the work MSF set out to achieve, I could see easily how this could translate to any large organization. What was particularly interesting to me in the MSF approach was its emphasis on design thinking to frame the approach. MSF’s strategy was designed in collaboration with ThoughtWorks which has an emphasis on disruptive technology for social good and change. In the evening, McGuire was treated to the talents of about 75 SAP developers who formed teams and participated in a 4-hour data visualization challenge using MSF data and SAP’s Lumira data visualization tool. Although I didn’t participate on a team, I was encouraged by how quickly the teams – many of whom had never used SAP’s Lumira – were able to start finding insights in the data. Again, getting a real-time view into the challenges associated with data formats provided a number of teaching moments.
On Wednesday, I met with several SAP experts and customers who were all taking advantage of the HANA platform. One of the most interesting was Enakshi Singh, a neuroscientist, who is working with Stanford University on Genome research. Singh told me that with SAP HANA, researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine are able to collapse the time to analyze large genome variant data from days to minutes and even seconds. The speed of the platform is accelerating learning and new discoveries around the world in the important work related to understanding the human genome. I also met with Byron Banks, another one of SAP’s big data experts. Banks and I discussed some of the challenges associated with what I’m aiming to do with Big Mountain Data. He was generous with his insights and it was obvious to me how much commercial application of big data and data science can be applied directly to solving some of society’s greatest challenges. I found the same spirit of generous giving at a luncheon hosted by Moya Watson, another SAP Mentor. Moya gathered a number of SAP friends and fans (customers) who are interested in advancing technology for social good. The discussion was exhilarating and chock full of great ideas.
Finally, I met with an enthusiastic team from Duke University who’ve created a real-time app to collect and present stats related to the famed Men’s Duke Basketball team. With help from NTT Data, Duke’s athletic department was able to complete a “passion project” begun by a former Duke employee who aggregated all Men’s basketball data dating back from the early 1900s. The project resulted in the first fan-facing data visualization and analytics tool in collegiate-level athletics. All the data is stored in the HANA cloud and presented via SAP’s Design Studio which was deployed natively on HANA. The team’s project, which goes by the hashtag: #DukeMBBStats, will launch November 14, just in time for the new season.
When thinking about the SAP TechEd experience, it occurred to me how valuable an asset the SAP SCN community is to SAP’s business. In the cacophony of over 7,000 visitors to the show, the attendees seemed to all “know each other” in that way only a strong community can bond individuals. The community creates an experience with the SAP brand that enriches professional development, loyalty, and spurs innovation. Where SAPPHIRE, which I have attended many times, focuses on new SAP announcements and a concerted effort to connect with customers, SAP TechEd is an event by the SAP community for the SAP community. It was difficult to tell who was an SAP employee, a partner, or a customer. It was just a blur of passionate people sharing and learning from their friends and colleagues.
The best lesson I learned in Las Vegas? This will not be my last TechEd.
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.
About this time last month, I was undergoing a crisis of faith. Faith in what brought me to this space: the promise of what the next generation web could be and could do to change business as we know it, as well as society at large. My faith was shaken by a few ripples in the foundation. I posted this short blog post on our Council Jive site:
I got some great feedback from members, but remained somewhat in a state of insecurity. Things exacerbated when later in the month, a host of conversations had cropped up in the blogosphere on the failure some individuals were experiencing regarding adoption of social technologies inside large enterprises and critics taking delight in the “I toldya so” grand opportunity.
As the summer of 2011 was coming to an end, I found myself wondering whether I was the only one pursuing some greater purpose? Had I been completely delusional? Blindly naive?
My crisis of faith ended on the morning of August 31, 2011.
Mark Benioff, Salesforce.com CEO, whom I’ve been heralding as the voice of the new Enterprise generation since I saw him speak last year, killed it in his opening keynote for Dreamforce 2011 with the messaging I (and many others) have been consistently preaching for the past five years. And, considering Salesforce’s Dreamforce is now the largest technology conference in the world, the social baptism that every one of those 45,000 in attendance and many more who were tuning in around the world received was epic.
So, with grace and humility, I have been re-energized. You kinda either get this or you don’t. If you do get it, I hope you’re rejoicing. I know I am. If you don’t get it, don’t worry, it will benefit you too despite your willingness to embrace it.
If you are a believer, or just socially curious, I highly recommend you watch Benioff’s keynote.
Finally, Mr. Benioff, if you’re listening, all I can say is Thank You from the bottom of my bottomless heart.
Just when you think you have all the answers, something crops up that challenges your beliefs on how Social Business works and will work in the future. Whether it’s new platforms/tools, new regulation, organizational changes, even world events — the Social Business world does not stand still and learning in this space is highly iterative. At Dachis Group and for our Social Business Council members, we face this reality day in and day out. The good news on Social Business is there are ample opportunities to increase and share your learning. To that end, I’m going to be moderating a panel discussion on Social Business at the upcoming Social Media Club Austin meeting next week. (Tuesday, 8/16 from 6pm – 8pm CT). I hope you can join us if you’re local, and if you’re not, I’m sure the tweet stream will be buzzing. The twitter hashtag for Social Media Austin events is #SMCA.
We’ll have a great panel of vendors (who just happen to have great “user” experience as well) relating their own journeys on transforming their clients, as well as their own companies, to become fully-functioning Social Businesses. There is a lot of collective wisdom represented on this panel of experts, so I hope you’ll join us in the conversation. This will be my speaking debut to our awesome local Social Media Club chapter (most active club in the world, outside of San Francisco I hear). I’m looking forward to mashing up my knowledge of the internal enterprise social space with the external expertise resident in this town, as well as meeting lots of new social enthusiasts.
On the panel we will have Jive’s Deirdre Walsh, who is somewhat of a hometown hero of mine as she led National Instruments‘ social strategy prior to joining Jive as Social Media Manager. Then, we have the amazing Kat Mandelstein who has been a terrific champion for Social Business at IBM and one smart cookie on all things social. Kat is also on the international board for the SMC and has done a great job supporting the Austin SMC chapter as Vice President. The other two panelists are Will Staney of VMware (which recently acquired Socialcast) and Jean-Claude Monney of Microsoft. I have not yet met Will or Jean-Claude, but have heard great things about them, so I look forward to hearing their insights. Will has an impressive background in introducing social media and adoption of social technology at VMWare with a solid foundation in community management and new media strategy. Jean-Claude leads Microsoft’s technical strategy in the Discrete Manufacturing industry, chairs the Microsoft High Tech Customer Advisory Board and represents Microsoft as the chair of the OAGi High Tech Council, a global B2B standards organization.
In preparation for the panel, we’re soliciting your questions ahead of time so we can get them into the session. Don’t be shy. Let us fashion the panel to suit your interests.
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.