Show me the money… not the smiley faces.

When I was interviewing Nathan Gilliatt a few months ago for a webinar we were doing for our clients on the basics of blogging, he introduced me to the importance of online communities. I felt so strongly that he was correct about online communities’ importance in the social media landscape that I recommended incorporating a session on online communities at Office 2.0 and had Dion Hinchcliffe host the panel. A few weeks ago, I serendipitously stumbled upon a Social Media Club of Austin meeting on Facebook where Dell managers were going to be presenting their blogging and online community experiences. Caroline Dietz, the online community manager for Dell’s IdeaStorm gave a good synopsis of how the community is harvested for new product ideas and improvements for Dell. I had the opportunity to spend a few moments afterwards talking to Dell’s chief blogger, Lionel Menchaca, which I really enjoyed.

NYTimes IDC chartThe one question I managed to get in during the open forum that I felt was obligatory was related to how measurable an impact has Dell’s social media strategy been on Dell’s business–in material (read:financial) terms. There was a lot of discussion regarding how the social media strategy is changing the culture at Dell, how customer satisfaction is improving, etc. And, I’ve seen some reports on the before and after social media at Dell. But, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to ask a public company if this social media razzmatazz has really made, well, a serious difference in the company’s affairs. It’s so easy to be seduced by this technology and to see it working for startups and small pilots, but large public companies have weighty issues.

I’ve attended enough investor analyst conferences, and I’m wondering can Dell’s social media strategy help Michael Dell the next time he’s in front of Citigroup’s Richard Gardner and he has to explain why Dell has fallen from the #1 PC maker to the #2 PC maker worldwide? Better– can Dell’s social media strategy play a role in regaining Dell’s market leadership position?

I’m also wondering why in this recent interview (9/7) with Steve Lohr of the New York Times, why didn’t Michael Dell take the opportunity to highlight how the company is effectively using social media to help Dell “get back to its roots” by directly speaking to the customer base (and listening in return)? Dietz’s answer to my direct question about whether there have been any material results from the efforts was more or less, “no.” But, maybe it’s just too early to tell. Menchaca said Dell started the blog in July of 2006, so perhaps the results are not yet measurable in these terms.

I guess I’m just in the mood for some results. There is a wide and growing wider community of experts in the social media space. Perhaps there is solid data on this that I have not seen. Something we’ve been discussing in the Enterprise Irregulars group is how social media and enterprise 2.0 differ which would account for it having slipped my view, but that topic is a post for another day and probably involves taking a crack once again at the arbiter of all 2.0 legitimacy: wikipedia. Not sure I’m in the mood for fighting with the wikipedians.

The session with the Dell folks was interesting, despite my growing impatience for iron-clad case studies of 2.0 in business success. I learned a lot, actually.

Game Day: Office 2.0 in San Francisco

Here we are!

Ismael just informed me over 600 people have signed up for this year’s conference. I’m sitting here in the second row, close to the stage. My colleage, Tom Steinthal, and I got here early in the main show room to ensure we’d have a power source. There is a terrific wireless network this year, and the bandwidth on two floors is promising to deliver all the wifi all bloggers, speakers, and demo presenters need

If you were unable to get here this year, my friends at Veodia (remember Veodia from the McAfee/Davenport debate?) are live-streaming all the sessions. Information on that can be found here.

We’re getting some instruction on how to use our iPhones to navigate the conference. Very cool. About to start the first panel…

Update: The opening panel featured:

Om Malik (Moderator), Founder, GigaOmniMedia
Steven Aldrich, VP Strategy & Innovation, Small Business, Intuit
Denis Browne, Senior Vice President of Imagineering, Business User Organization, SAP Labs
Danny Kolke, Chief Executive Officer, Etelos
Richard McAniff, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Office, Microsoft
Jonathan Rochelle, Product Manager, Google Spreadsheets, Google

Opening panel Office 2.0

I was particularly impressed with Danny Kolke of Etelos.

Update:  Adam Carson kicked off the Enterprise 2.0 Track.  He’s doing a thorough job explaining the difference between web 2.0 and the realistic front line issues facing user adoption in the enterprise.   With his specific focus on the investment banking sector in the Financial Services market, he’s doing an excellent job kicking off the key issues he confronted during his 9-month journey as a one-man internal evangelist.

Office 2.0 Enterprise 2.0 Track Zeros in on Adoption Issues

office 2.0 logo

In true 2.0 form, the conference organizers for the Enterprise 2.0 track team have been collaborating around the world, assembling an A-list of early adopters on Enterprise 2.0, evangelists, and visionary entrepreneurs. Using Skype, IM, wikis, and the occasional email, we have been able to bring together a terrific team of speakers from three continents.

Ismael will be posting the agenda sometime in the next 24 hours, and some of the invited speakers are not yet confirmed, but I wanted to start getting the word out about what we have going on on our side of the house (there is a mobility track running concurrently with the Enterprise 2.0 track).

I already blogged about the dynamic duo Gavin/Revell Show which will open the conference track on Day One. This presentation will set the agenda for much of what will be discussed at the remainder of the two days of the conference, as these guys were early into the Enterprise 2.0 game. As Ismael is interested in focusing this year specifically on customer issues, the Pfizer case study will cover the gamut of early adoption issues. I don’t know exactly what these guys will present, but if my hunch is correct, you may want to bring ear plugs to soften the sound effects of their presentation. 🙂

We also looked hard at what is happening in the social media space in the enterprise. We are still trying to put this together, but our intention is to have Facebook, Ning, Plaxo, and LinkedIn together on a panel moderated by Shel Israel. Shel has agreed, and we’re slowly signing up the vendors… I’m particularly excited about this one. Please start formulating your questions for this panel. Remember, you’ll be able to send your questions directly to the panel via your iPhone…

Like Andy McAfee says, “It’s not (just) the technology.” Culture, culture, culture is the new barometer for success with Enterprise 2.0. But cultural changes can be painful especially within a large enterprise. Some argue they are too disruptive to be effective and that hierarchical systems work for a reason. We put together an expert panel on Culture in the Enterprise to discuss these larger issues. Similarly, we will have a Customer Panel who will share real war stories from the trenches. From investment banks to pharmaceuticals to manufacturers, hear first hand from evangelists and practitioners what’s working and what’s not.

Day Two begins with a presentation by Adam Carson who has been on a mission to bring Enterprise 2.0 to Morgan Stanley. Adam’s story took some interesting twists and turns this year. Everyone will find something they can relate to in Adam’s presentation. Then, coming from half-way around the world will be Stephen Collins who has done some of the best slideshare presentations I’ve seen on Enterprise 2.0 this year. Steve will present “Knowledge Worker 2.0.” Who is the KW2.0? It’s you.

This year’s new collaboration tool is mindmapping. We included a session on the power of visual collaboration. This panel will explain this powerful new collaborative tool and how to employ it within the enterprise. Finally, still pending confirmation, we hope to have Dion Hinchcliffe give us a wrap-up of the state-of-the-market in Enterprise 2.0 and then lead a panel on company-sponsored user communities such as SAP’s Software Developer Network (SDN). Other user communities we are recruiting include Sony, Webex, and Atlassian. If you have a large user community and would like to be on this panel, please let us know.

These sessions may change as we near the conference date, but this is what we have planned thus far. Keep checking the Office 2.0 site for Ismael’s posting of the conference track agenda.

Plaxo? Well, well, well. An old friend suddenly turns heads.

So, I’ve been using Plaxo for a long time now. Probably years? I dunno. When did they launch? I seem to remember always having my contacts online with Plaxo in recent years. It’s always been handly to have an online database of my contacts. Plus, I really like the user-generated, self-maintenance of my personal contact database. Makes life really easy for people who never getting around to digital housekeeping. I guess LinkedIn is the same idea, but Plaxo has always been a nice convenience for me, but something I would have filed in the “personal productivity” category of life’s niceties. Kind of like a Swiffer or my Polaris.

But, all that is changing. Little Plaxo may be the engine that just could give Facebook a run for its market dominance. I know I’m not the only one who thinks so. I saw this piece on Wired today, “Slap in the Facebook: It’s Time for Social Networks to Open up.” It was also picked up by Tom Regan, an NPR blogger, here. And I’ve already blogged about the impression Plaxo made out at mashup camp with its 3.0 release demo.

What I really like so far about the Plaxo platform is the sensible approach to the nonsensible “friending” silliness of Facebook. For instance, our HR leadership at BSG Alliance has a hard time embracing Facebook as a serious social networking platform when new employees and customers are faced with choices such as these (see screen shot):

Facebook hookupsAnd try as hard as I might to convince others that Facebook really is for business, “REALLY GUYS!”, screen shots emailed around the company like this don’t help my case much. So, I have to concede that, yes, Facebook still has a way to go before we can allow it into the realm of real corporate power, quiet dignity, and serious prestige that comes with the territory of selling to the F500.

So, Plaxo, which did not start its business plan in a college dorm room majoring in party photos, approached the social networking exercise the way business people actually are networking. Basically in three large buckets: Business, Friends (real friends), and Family. Perfect.

Taking a page out of David Weinberger’s, “Everything is Miscellaneous” perhaps, we all can probably sort everyone we know into those three categories if we had to and add some to both or all three depending on how relationships change in our lives over time. Plaxo starts with the whole “mess” (in Weinberger’s terms), and we customize the sort from what we have already– if you’re already a Plaxo user, that is. I guess it’s even easier if you’re not a Plaxo user, you can start fresh.

The only major issue I had with assigning categories to my existing contacts is there are so darn many of them after these years. I emailed Joseph Smarr (the Plaxo Architect from the video on my blog) and asked him if there was any way to group categorize contacts. He said, “We’re working on it…”

Plaxo ConnectionsLook how easy they make it to connect to your “friends.” In this case, I’m sending an invite to Craig Cmehil who is already in my Plaxo network. Once I connect to Craig as a Business contact, I can isolate his feeds (blog posts, videos, twitter posts, delicious posts, and whatever else Craig is doing online that he cares to share with me and others) to my business network. Now, we are getting closer to a practical social networking tool for the Enterprise. Although, admittedly, it will be difficult to break the Facebook addiction.

plaxopulse

Try the new Pulse on Plaxo. I’m curious what the reaction is going to be.

Meet Charlie – Live at the St. Regis. Tickets going fast…

Meet Charlie

There is no better Enterprise 2.0 Case Study than the story of Charlie and his viral travel throughout the Enterprise 2.0 worldwide community (tens of thousands have viewed the show on slideshare and many more have forwarded it to friends and colleagues). Well, maybe the story of Pfizer and two passionate believers who felt they could maybe use collaborate enterprise 2.0 tools to change an enterprise in culture, in process, and in practice.

Who knew?

Scott Gavin and Simon Revell will be speaking at the Office 2.0 conference to tell their story. The funny parts, the sad parts, the silly parts, and the fantastic parts. It’s history in the making. The conference agenda is filling out nicely, but this one was worth blogging about straight away…

Here they are in real life:

GavinRevellThompson

From left to right: Scott Gavin, Bill Thompson (BBC journalist), Simon Revell.

Exiting Stage Southwest– Weird Austin. Home, home on the Strange. AND mashups.

As Marc Andreessen says, the new B2B is “back to blogging.” My posts are really thinning out because I’m in the throes of moving to Austin. If you’re following me on Twitter and Facebook, you all know this already. I’m going to to try and jam a few posts in today that have been in the backlog queue.

First, my sincere apologies to Vyew and Freshbooks! Two fantastic interviews I have done in the past few (jeez it may be over a month now) that I have not had time to write up. I promise I will get to these ultimately! It may have to wait until after Office 2.0 at this point.

Second, I am in fact, finally relocating to AUSTIN. Wow. Whatta town. Every time I go to Austin I learn something different that I like about it. If all goes well, I should be there by the end of the month, probably sooner. Speaking of relocation… Remember my relocation fantasy? While I was at Mashup Camp, I had the great pleasure to meet IBM’s Dan Gisolfi in person who took me through the personalized QEDWiki mashup he made to satisfy my wanton mashup desire… (OH THE SPAM I will be attracting because of this post. C’est la guerre, n’est-ce pas?). Dan was able to mashup the GreatSchools.net web site with available real estate and customize a viewable “situational app” just for my personalized benefit. Well, not just me, but for anyone who is interested in relocating. Awesome.

You can view the demo of that QEDWiki mashup at this link. Please give it a looksee.

What struck me about this mashup was although I was thrilled personally, it occurred to me we were invariably disrupting a 1.0 business model in the process. Sites that depend on advertising and eyeballs stand to lose with mashups. The challenge with mashups will be how to rationalize the web services sharing in ways that benefit the content providers. This is still new to me, but the ramifications were obvious even for a neophyte.