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.”

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.

Social(er)text: From Wiki to Wonderkind

I’ve often said that Ross Mayfield is one of the best 2.0 evangelists we have in the community. So, it’s no surprise that Socialtext recently announced a wholesale makeover this week that not only defines the company as a thought leader in Enterprise 2.0, it launches the company into an entirely new category. Known universally in the 2.0 community as “the open source enterprise wiki company,” Socialtext now crosses over to a robust, social collaborative platform player with a great deal of promise.

Socialtext 3.0 supplements its excellent wiki functionality with a Netvibes-like widgetized dashboard front end that enables individual users to personalize their enterprise interface with workspace updates, conversations (internal and public), user profiles (with LDAP and Active Directory integration), a new micro-blogging capability, RSS and life-streaming feeds, and drag-and-drop-ready external widgets. The renewed Socialtext offering is cleanly designed and offers a host of possibilities for small and large enterprises. In effect, Socialtext 3.0 has presented a “mashup palette” from which a user can customize his or her enterprise experience blending external seamlessly with internal.

The new features/capabilities are offered as a trio of applications: an improved wiki, Socialtext People, and Socialtext Dashboard. Additionally, Socialtext announced its own enterprise micro-blogging interface, “Signals” which provides context-relevant secure social messaging. Read more on Ross’ blog.

On our briefing yesterday with the Enterprise Irregulars, two major advantages for Socialtext stood out for me. The first was an extremely attractive pricing scenario. The price/seat with Socialtext is incomparable in the market with this much potential enterprise system integration and social functionality. The second was Socialtext’s approach to targeting business process-oriented LOBs that are eager to embrace 2.0 tools where material improvements with collaboration and social networking are well understood. These two advantages, combined with the Socialtext heritage of thought leadership on all things enterprise 2.0 have positioned this company well going forward. With the recent addition of Alan Lepofsky who was IBM’s senior strategist for Lotus and under its new CEO, Eugene Lee, I’m bullish on a Socialtext strong finish in a market that has become increasingly crowded.


The Secret to Successful 2.0 Evangelism is found in Social Intelligence

I was invited to speak at one of our executive client briefings last week.  The theme of the “Executive Perspective” was examining the “Core/Edge Dynamic.”  nGenera defines the “core” as the collection of processes, systems and infrastructures that have evolved over many years and effectively run today’s large enterprise.  The “edge” is the emerging suite of Internet-based capabilities that promise a huge competitive advantage in the form of increased innovation, productivity and agility.  My role, specifically, was to demonstrate how an “Edgling*” leverages social networking and web applications for personal productivity and innovative gains for the enterprise.

Part of the agenda included a talk by Gregory Berns, the Distinguished Chair of Neuroeconomics at Emory University.  Berns’ soon to be published book, “Iconoclast” outlines how and why iconoclasts essentially think and behave differently than non-iconoclasts.  In 2.0 evangelism, very similar to the role of an iconoclast, we’re attempting to change people’s behavior which Berns admits is difficult and uncomfortable.   As a part of the lecture, we were given advance copies of Berns’ book.  I was particularly drawn to his chapter on “Brain Circuits for Social Networking.”   This chapter explains that in order for an iconoclast to be successful and sell a new idea, he or she must leverage two variables key to social intelligence: reputation and familiarity.

In my talk, although I was chartered to expose our clients to a “new way of web-working,” I found I was not connecting with the audience.  For starters, as this was the first time I was before this particular set of clients, they had no idea who I was or what level of authority or credibility I had to present my ideas.  Although my nGenera colleagues did a great job of introducing me and how I work, the clients had no firsthand experience with me, so they therefore (especially given the content of my presentation) met my ideas with skepticism.  So I failed on the first variable, reputation, to sway my audience to consider a new way of working.

Secondly, the matter of familiarity delivered the final death knell to my chances of converting any new prospects to my scary 2.0 religion.  For the most part, what we (edglings) immerse ourselves in daily on the social web is wholly alien to the way large enterprise management works.  Many of our clients are not even in front of a computer most of the day.  It’s a series of back-to-back management meetings and various engagements where they’re reviewing or preparing presentations in order to make decisions on operational issues that keep the company gears running.  The suggestion to stay tethered to a micro-blogging platform was received as eagerly as if I had asked them to grow antennas out of their heads.

Of course, there is always the unfortunate possibility that I was just an awful presenter and that is the reason why the session did not go over well.  (We did have a little Skype trouble…)  Yet, I know how to read an audience, and it was obvious to me they just weren’t connecting with what I was trying to show and explain to them.  In Berns’ book, he explains that in order for an iconoclast to effectively sell a new idea he or she must make the audience comfortable with the idea.  In fact, there is neurological evidence that suggests the brain processes unfamiliar things as  “alarming and potentially dangerous.”

I’m publishing this account of my experience to caution other evangelists to explore as many ways as possible to bridge the gap between what the client already knows and the richness of what you are trying to present.  Our eagerness to spread the “good news” of 2.0 will continue to fall on deaf ears if we can’t make the story relevant and compelling in terms the clients can appreciate.  Further, we need to summon our own courage to overcome their innate biological fear of change in order to truly unleash radical innovation.

*”Edgling” was originally coined by Stowe Boyd.

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.

Office 2.0: The “2.0 National Convention”

So we have the Democratic National Convention starting this morning in Denver, the Republican National Convention starting next week in Minneapolis. It occurred to me that the Office 2.0 conference is like the “2.0 National Convention” for high energy attendees who are looking to shape the 2.0 agenda going forward. With nearly 100 speakers and panelists from all walks of the 2.0 experience, the conference provides a ground floor opportunity to learn what the trends are, what’s working, what’s not. What’s different about Office 2.0 from many other tech conferences is the conference exists purely for the pleasure of the member attendees. It’s designed to deliver the best possible customer experience because it’s a celebration of the phenomenon of productivity and mobility afforded by the cloud-ready second generation Internet.

In case you didn’t know, the Office 2.0 conference was conceived as an experiment, along with the meme. “The term originated with Ismael Ghalimi [1] in an experimental effort to test the hypothesis that it could be done today, that he could perform all of his computer based work in online applications.” (Source: Wikipedia). For the past three years, those of us who’ve helped Ismael, literally scramble in 6-8 weeks time to pull together a best practices agenda and a worthwhile conference experience for all attendees. The process reminds of conferences I used to pull together when I was an industry observer in the outsourcing sector last decade. I created conferences with all the right people, with all the right topics, because I wanted to go!

Because the conference is non-traditional, this year we had a late setback that will hurt Ismael. That upsets me, personally, because this effort is truly such a labor of love for those who take part in it. Despite that hiccup in an otherwise fantastic show shaping up, I’m looking forward to a number of items on the agenda this year:

  • The Unconference. If you’ve not been to one of these… make time on your agenda for this one. Ross Mayfield will once again coordinate this pre-show event. It’s your opportunity to speak, to attend, and participate in discussing the burning issues you have as you consider your own Office 2.0 journey.
  • The Surprise Keynote: Ismael simply will not tell us who it is! ITSinsider will pay an unconference admission if you post your correct guess on the discussion thread regarding the mystery guest.
  • The GE Case Study: I first saw the internal GE social network with my client, Greg Simpson (CTO, GE) early this summer. Greg was going to speak at the conference, but couldn’t arrange his schedule. Coincidentally, Oliver Marks saw Dr. Sukh Grewal speak in July at the Social Networking Conference. He moved quickly and asked him to join the Office 2.0 agenda. I’m certain it will be an excellent case study from one of the most innovative enterprise clients on the planet. See Oliver’s post on the GE social network from July.
  • Platform-as-a-Service Panel: Hosted by SaaS guru, Phil Wainewright, this panel includes leading tech platform vendors such as Salesforce.com, SuccessFactors, Zoho, and Longjump. I’m interested to see where these panelists agree and disagree. The stability and reliability of online apps depend on them getting this right.
  • Wachovia case study: Pete Fields, who only had 20 minutes at the Enterprise 2.0 conference, will have more time to detail his experience with rolling out a social network/collaboration strategy for Wachovia to over 100,000 employees. Plenty of time for Q&A too.
  • The Changing Face of the Enterprise: Adoption in the Real Business World: The theme of this year’s show is Enterprise Adoption. Sam Lawrence, everyone’s favorite e2.0 blogger, will be hosting this panel with a great lineup of early adopter veterans.
  • Entering and Leaving the Workforce: nGenera has a treasure chest of data on this topic. Our Exec VP, Nick Vitalari, will moderate this panel which includes a retired F500 CIO and a 15-year old student!

These are just a few that I know I’m interested in… but experience has shown I generally learn more at sessions where I’m hearing the speakers for the first time. Although there will be scores of new vendors to visit in the pod demo gallery, I’m going to do my best to attend every session.

Incidentally, for small startups who (say, weren’t chosen for TechCrunch50 or can’t afford to go) want to get some excellent exposure for their products, be sure to check out the Office 2.0 Launchpad:

Office 2.0 Launchpad
You’ve started a new company developing a cool Office 2.0 product? Your company has 5 employees or less? You want to show your product to investors and media representatives? The Office 2.0 Launchpad is for you! Hosted by the Office 2.0 Conference to take place in San Francisco, CA on September 3-5, the Office 2.0 Launchpad will let you schedule one-on-one demos with over 50 members of the VC community, and more than 100 analysts, bloggers, and journalists, alongside potential customers and thought leaders from the Office 2.0 industry. If you’re interested, please send an email to ismael at monolab dot com. The first ten applicants come for free. The next get in for $995, barely enough to cover food and hotel costs. Hurry up, for we only have a limited number of spots available!

What’s included:

  • One full attendee pass
  • Listing on the Office 2.0 Launchpad page
  • Access to the one-on-one demo scheduling system
  • Dedicated page on the office20.com website for one year
  • Video recording of your demo and publishing on the office20.com website

Needless to say (but I need to say it), the conference is going to be great. I’m looking forward to meeting many of you for the first time and catching up with friends. Several of the EIs are going, so there will be plenty of socializing in meatspace. Don’t forget to wear your Twitter decal on your badge. 🙂

See you in San Francisco!

photo credit: brian solis