The Urgency of Now

Picture 1The news about Sarah Palin broke today while I was working.  Where did I see the news?   Twitter (of course).  Seconds turned to minutes, and I found myself impatient with not knowing the inside scoop on the why behind the resignation.  What was the target of my impatience?  The Twitter community.  Seems ridiculous, but it’s just expected these days that you’ll get to the heart of a breaking story within seconds.

To that end, it reminded me I wanted to write a post about the “unbearable heaviness of not-being” current.  Way, way back around the Christmas holidays, I was flattered to be one of only three reviewers for Andrew McAfee’s book on Enterprise  2.0 by Harvard Business Press.    They asked me to review the manuscript, and I accepted (for a small stipend).  They gave me a couple weeks to review it, and I submitted my comments in mid-January.

At the back of mind, however, and something I probably should have included in the review and regret now that I didn’t was a lingering doubt.  “This book will be obsolete before it’s published for the community of folks who track this sector.”

When Andy and I caught up at the Enterprise 2.0 conference, he told me that he too is really troubled by the delay on the publishing schedule.  He had hoped the book would have been published by the conference deadline (June), but it is now pushed back until December.  December?   You’re kidding me.

The demand for Andy’s book is today, not six months from now.  I’m wondering if, as a community, we can lobby Harvard Business Press to move the publication date up as its value is inextricably tied to its timeliness– especially in this fast-moving space.  The Editorial Director in charge of the publication timeline is Jacqueline Murphy .   I urge you to contact her and express your support for moving the book up in Harvard Business Press’ publishing queue.  I also started a Facebook group with the same goal.

SXSW through the Enterprise Prism

There was something about SXSW that reminded me of trick-or-treating. It’s an amazing opportunity to travel around in groups (in various costumes) and collect delicious bite-sized morsels of innovation. But it reminded me of something my (once) 3-year old son said after he flopped into bed after his first Halloween night, “Let’s do that again tomorrow!”

SXSW is a once-a-year phenomenon, but a great harbinger of trends. Much of the conversation is about web-related design and measurement, politics, the social media revolution, and every-possible-thing-that-could-ever-be-possibly-said about Twitter. In the mix of fun and frolic, there were a couple gems that I picked out that would bring value to the enterprise.

Pepsicozeitgeist

One of the best, IMO, was Pepsi’s sponsorship of the PepsiCo Zeitgeist Twitter Visualizer. This eye-candy visualizer was created by Amy Hoy and Thomas Fuchs, two Ruby on Rails/Javascript knighted heros and the brains behind Freckle and Twistori. Pepsi turned to NY digital strategy stealth firm Undercurrent to link its brand to SXSW. Pepsi had a number of initiatives at the show, but the zeitgeist effort was really interesting to me on a number of levels. Before I discuss how enterprise could make practical use of such a visualizer, I want to highlight how courageous it was for Pepsi to get behind the zeitgeist project. I spoke briefly to Pepsi’s Josh Karpf, Manager Digital and Social Media and Bart Casabona, Sr. Manager, Communications/New Media about it. “It was a leap for us; it hadn’t been done before,” said Casabona. Jordan Berkowitz, Group Director at Undercurrent pointed out that when they designed the application, there was to be, “No filtering based on content.” The PepsiCoSXSW team was integrated into the social media scene and knew there might be objectionable content broadcasting at the event and online, but wanted to create an authentic, digital experience with the Pepsi brand. Even though we were in bluedot Austin, where weird rules, it occurred to me a corporate brand like Pepsi had a lot at risk attaching its logo to random tweets. What I loved about that, however, was the giant brand was willing to move outside of its comfort zone. And the brilliance of the zeitgeist project is Pepsi integrated its brand into the customer experience of SXSW in an authentic and subtle way. “We’re social media folks,” said Karpf. In other words, they get it. Even though the community acknowledged Pepsi was behind the visualization, Karpf pointed out they were saying, “This is a brand, but it’s still awesome.”

The complete visualization can be seen in a series of one-minute videos on the Pepsicozeitgeist YouTube page.

For enterprises, it’s easy to see how this live-pulse tracking visualization could be used during a large Enterprise event such as Oracle’s OpenWorld or SAP’s Sapphire and ASUG events (providing, of course, everyone was a faithful Twitter user). But even beyond live events, the visualization could be customized to monitor conversations among key customers and fed to field sales forces. The location-based data could provide some very interesting G2 for key accounts. HR and internal communications groups could use the visualizer to monitor employee sentiment, as well. The uses go on and on. Worthy of some exploration.

Apture

Another impressive tool was Apture. I ran into CEO Tristan Harris at one of the sessions. Harris himself impressed me because he pitched me while waiting in line from his iPhone. He had his demo-to-go all queued up (presumably, in case he ran into, say, a reporter). In the blogger’s lounge, I signed up. I had a little trouble signing onto the demo with Apture because I don’t manage my own blog server files, but it seemed easy enough to install once you got past that hurdle. Apture is a free blogging tool that lets you instantly find any type of media and link them in-place. It’s used by the Washington Post, BBC News, and since SXSW, The New York Times. I see an enormous potential for this product inside the enterprise… again, providing we can get the Enterprise onto collaborative 2.0 platforms.

Check out Apture’s Twitter demo.

iStockPhoto

I also really appreciated a discussion I had with Marketing Manager, Yvonne Beyer, at iStockphoto. picture-1Here’s a tip for iStockphoto fans: CopySpace (TM). Check it out under Advanced Search. It enables you to “grid” your search by the area where you need room for copy on an image. GREAT tool for those large image slides. Not sure everyone is using iStockphoto in the enterprise, but you should definitely add this to your DIY toolkit. Some quick stats on iStockphoto include the company adds 40,000 new images and other media products a week that are vetted by 100 inspectors around the world. It has paid over $1.1M in royalties to artists, and many members of their community are making more than six figures with iStockphoto. Not really a pure enterprise product, but a great service for business folks who want to create their own visuals coupled with a strong business model that depends on community.

Even though SXSW is in Austin, I’m debating on going next year. There really wasn’t a lot of good enterprise content to be found. My plan is to liven up the Enterprise 2.0 conference (June, Boston), so we have a pseudo-sxsw of our own. I made a recommendation to the Advisory Board that we actively solicit sponsors for more parties and fun venues. Zoho sponsored a cruise a few years ago that was a lot of fun, for instance. Even though the sessions are always great, the best reason to attend events is to network in the traditional sense– meet and greet and share war stories face to face.

Hope to see you in Boston. Pack a lampshade.

UPDATE: Yvonne Beyer pinged me with a staggering correction: iStock pays out around 1.1 million in royalites a WEEK. She also added Lise Gagne from Montreal is one of the iStock contributors disclosing she makes 6 figures with well over 830,000 downloads to date. www.istockphoto.com/lisegagne

ITSinsider is looking for love not work… :-)

humptydumptyI read an old-fashioned user-generated column in Newsweek this week where a young woman quoted her mother as saying, “…finding a job you love means never working a day in your life.” For the past nearly two years, I’ve had the special privilege to cover the Enterprise 2.0 sector as an employee of nGenera. Hands down, I have had the best job in the business. I’ve met extremely bright people and have had the opportunity to listen to real Enterprise customers as they struggle with the choices related to introducing 2.0 into their large enterprise environments.

I will continue to work with nGenera, as the company continues on its journey. But I will continue as an independent, not an employee. Although, admittedly, it’s scary facing the prospect of not having a salary during oh, say, the worst economic crisis ever in my adult life time, I remain optimistic. Let’s just say I’m taking a huge leap of faith that dictates when I jump off this ledge, there will be a large, strong net– the social web– ready to catch me. I’ve been inspired by so many in the 2.0 community to trust, to share, to work together to achieve common goals. Now I’m putting my own rhetoric to the test. Is there a market here or not?

I hope you’ll help me prove there is. If you’re interested in speaking to me about any way I can help your organization grapple with 2.0, or if you’re a vendor who feels misunderstood and under-appreciated, you know where to find me– I’ll be home, here on the social web. I look forward to having a conversation.

And, if you really want to help, but don’t have a budget (lol), do me a social networking solid and leave me a recommendation on LinkedIn.

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

picture-7

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.

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.