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.

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.

What’s your nGen Era Story?

BSG Alliance, my employer, changed its name to nGenera (en-gen-ER-a) this week. I really like the new name and logo. Because we’ve grown so fast (acquiring 5 companies in less than a year), it was important to mash-up all the humans under one single identity and brand.

I’m sure someone in my company will correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it was my idea to center on this meme we call “Next Generation Enterprises.” We kicked around a lot of strategic messaging ideas in the early days and this one stuck. Everyone and their half-brother is now moving into the space we scoped out about a year ago. Of course, we are ahead of the game and have a strong revenue story, so we can be smug for about 5 seconds.

The nGen meme comes to us by way of our in-house guru, Don Tapscott. Most readers of my blog should have already seen Don’s talk this year at one conference or another. I’m incredibly proud to be associated with the think-tankers up at Don’s research organization in Toronto. If you aren’t feeding the Wikinomics blog, today’s the day to start. Terrific bits of brilliance on the 2.0 scene come out of there on a daily basis.

We also have a deep and wide reservoir of expertise in the Talent arena with voices such as Tammy Erickson who is blogging on Harvard Business Online. One of the areas where we excel is pegging trends in the demographics of the workplace. Don refers to the cohort of kids who’ve grown up digital as N-Gens. In Don’s talk, he tells a story about how he thought his son was a prodigy when he was young, but soon realized all his son’s friends were prodigies too. They’re born digitally wired.

So it’s this particular slice of our nGenera story I want to focus on in this post– how different the “youngsters” are from us. This weekend I took my son and his friends to see “Shine a Light” the Martin Scorsese concert film of the Rolling Stones. I kid myself that just because I share an appreciation for 70s bands with my son, I’m cooler than my parents. I’m so not cool in his eyes at all.

I already blogged a while ago about how my son is a guild master on World of Warcraft, but the latest development came this year when his 6th grade teacher asked the class to take a keyboarding speed test. I remember taking typing in high school. A passing grade was 40 wpm, and it was tough for most of my peers to pass that test. My son Alex types 118 wpm with one error. He’s 11.

In the past month, Alex figured out how to use iMovie. He is now the neighborhood film director/producer/publisher. I am arranging for tutoring lessons so he can learn Final Cut from an nGenera GenY who works in our office. Like Don’s son, my son seems like a prodigy to me, but he’s just a normal nGen kid. He lives online. T.V. is a background noise if it’s on at all. He goes to school with his iPod, txts his friends with his phone, and IMs from his MySpace page most of the night, while surfing YouTube for skating videos.

Is Enterprise ready for my son and his friends? No. That’s my mission for nGenera: To make work like play so you can make more money doing what you do.

I’ll leave you with one of Alex’s videos. Taking a page out of Debbie Weil’s comment handbook, feel free to leave a comment for Alex. “No need to say you know me.” 😉

<a href="http://youtube.com/watch?v=C4OKzlEWKZQ&amp;hl">http://youtube.com/watch?v=C4OKzlEWKZQ&amp;hl</a>

What is your nGen story?

Enterprise 2.0 Photo Gallery on Flickr

Flickr group for w2.0I started a group photo gallery on Flickr for photos related to Enterprise 2.0. The photos are open to the public for use in presentations, documents, etc. I started with the AA|RF technology summit I attended last week here in Austin. I’ll post more as I go to conferences during the year, and I encourage any readers here to post there too. You can subscribe to the Enterprise 2.0 group feed too, to keep abreast of what other people are posting. Please feel free to post topics, share your photos and ideas.

Now, we’re collaborating. 🙂