My daughter is graduating college next week, and I’ve been thinking about all the advice this next generation will get from relatives and friends. In the 60s, Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate) received well-intentioned advice from Mr. McGuire, a family friend, to pursue the plastics industry. Plastics and U.S. manufacturing conjure up an image of the industrial age economy we once knew. Well, 45 years later, all that has changed. Plastic is out and “elastic” is in.
I caught up with my former colleague Nick Vitalari yesterday at the third annual Austin IT Symposium. Nick and Hadyn Shaughnessey who covers innovation for Forbes wrote, The Elastic Enterprise: the New Manifesto for Business Revolution. The book is well-researched with conclusions drawn from over 80 interviews with leading companies practicing open, elastic strategies. Essentially, the books lays out how enterprises will have to re-conceive “how we scale and operate businesses in the 21st Century.” Based on five core “dynamics,” the book simplifies and makes crystal clear how large enterprises will need to transform. The book is a quick read, highly accessible and chock full of great examples. Pick it up for a flight or download it to your favorite e-reader.
The Symposium agenda was centered around the issues CIOs need to understand to embrace the Elastic Enterprise. A special thanks to my friend Keri Pearlson and the Austin SIM chapter for an invite to the event.
Did you just DM me TWICE? I will tolerate this from Russian spammers, porn stars, and the occasional life coach, but I will not sit quietly while you damage your brand @MSFTEnterprise. MSFT has always in the upper right “most likely to fail” quadrant for me with Social because the company has always been late to the party, buys its way in, and has never demonstrates it groks the Zeitgeist of social.
NEVER, never DM an influencer unless you want to have a real, human conversation. Otherwise, you’ve just set yourself up for reinforcing entrenched beliefs.
I caught up with Sam Lawrence just before SXSW to hear about his latest milestone with the company he founded in 2011, Crushpath. Readers of this blog will remember Sam as the first highly visible CMO for Jive Software. Sam’s Go Big Always blog defined the category for social software back in ’09. Sam’s contribution was always edgy, always provocative, and always right. There were few in our space that had the voice, influence, and insight Sam had early on. I’ve missed him over the years, and am really happy to see him back with this amazing new offering. I told Sam on the phone I simply could not be objective about this product because I frigg’n love it. Even though I was a Sam fan already, I’m an even bigger Crushpath fan.
What is Crushpath? As usual, Sam says it best:
Crushpath gives people a way to pitch their product, service, idea, or event with a simple, one page website that grabs the attention and captures leads in a way that email can’t. Your pitch is searchable, shareable, and social, so you get tons of eyeballs on it and are notified every time someone is interested. Then, keep track of your business relationships with a chronological play by play of all activity as it’s happening.
Sam gave me a trial account to experiment with, so I’ve begun building a few pitch sites to see how it works. The elegance of the user interface and drop-dead-simple design is what does it for me. Until I spoke to Sam, I didn’t realize Matt Wilkinson was a co-founder. Matt led product development for another product I absolutely love: Socialcast. So, that the product is simple to use, looks great, and has a lag time of about 15 minutes to usefulness does not surprise me, considering Matt’s track record with building great software.
But, really, what makes Crushpath brilliant is what it does. It’s built on the philosophy that “everyone pitches.” And this is where the company taps into a wellspring of need that has previously gone unanswered in the market. The plethora of junky email marketing, CRM systems, cold-calls – younameit – that clutters up today’s marketing outreach is sorely in need of a dramatic improvement. Crushpath cuts to the chase. It sums up what you’re selling and let’s you do that in a straight-forward, no nonsense way. In the company’s latest announcement, Crushpath reduced its pricing to $9/mo. for a limited time. At that price, it’s the best investment you can make on the social web to get your story out and connect directly to your market. Definitely check it out. I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I do.
Over the past few months I’ve begun to reflect upon how I arrived here at the intersection of process and innovation in the Enterprise. It occurred to me that everything I learned as a researcher, a writer, and an industry observer in the services provider space (my pre-Internet career) now had great bearing on what I was seeing in the Enterprise as a result of the pace of disruptive technologies impacting the market. The question that kept re-emerging for me was: how are rigidly defined business processes that were hammered out in the 90s reconfiguring to adapt to better, faster, more efficient ways of meeting customer needs? Even more puzzling is, if my friend Josh’s old joke is correct, “SAP is like pouring concrete into a company,” how are large enterprises dismantling foundational ERP systems to include disruptive technologies? After all, no 21st Century business can stand to stay frozen in the past. Even SAP itself is retooling to provide greater flexibility and real-time actions and insights with its HANA in-memory database and its JAM social platform.
This big question has been vexing me for a while, so I asked my friend and fellow Enterprise Irregular, Phil Fersht at HfS Research, if he’d be interested in an exploratory study to see how BPO providers and consultants are responding to new advances in mobile, social, the Internet of things– all new capabilities that were not present when the majority of institutional business processes were “cemented” into the Enterprise. I’ve seen evidence of several companies who’ve been introducing social, in particular, to provide greater value to customers. Of course, some of the best examples are coming from platform vendors themselves such as this post, “Enterprise Social is about Business Process Redesign” by CEO Michael Idinopulos at Socialtext. But, I’ve seen other examples such as Deloitte’s work in this area explained in this post, “Social Reengineering by Design,” and even examples about how large consulting firms are changing their own internal processes as a result of new ways of working, as evidenced by this post, “Spark – taking Collaboration and Corporate Social Networking to a new Level at PwC.” Luckily, Phil agreed this is an area definitely worth pursuing, so we’ve kicked the study off this week. We’re compiling data and hope to publish results in the early May timeframe.
I’m really happy to be working in this area that combines my long history of covering the traditional outsourcing sector with my area of interest for this current iteration of my career in next generation technologies. Phil has done an amazing job with HfS Research, too, so I’m proud to be contributing to their strong brand in the market. HfS was recently named one of the leading analyst firms in a formidable field of competitors. Last week, I paid a visit to my longtime business advisor Mort Meyersen, who is an icon in the outsourcing field having helped build EDS and then Perot Systems. It feels good to be back among old friends, mashing up what I’ve been learning from new friends.
I will be working hard on this study for the next few months, but also working on the startup we announced a few weeks ago, Change Agents Worldwide. So, busy, busy, but really having fun. Hope to see some of you at SXSW, but I will be hunkered down and only getting out to a few of the evening events. Please keep up with me on Foursquare if you’d like to connect while you’re here in Austin.
Every social graph tells a story. In this sweeping visualization of nodes and connections, you can see the shape of my career history and relationships. This imprint of my LinkedIn social network was generated yesterday. You can see how new contacts and interrelationships jettisoned off from my base when I started to work at 7Summits. You can also see how one person in my network connected two clusters. You can also see how some of my “Austin” friends are also “Dachis Group” friends. The LinkedIn Maps tool will show you who is most influential in your network and how their connections overlap with yours. Definitely worth a download and a journey into your own path.
I have been invited to speak to an upper level undergraduate class at UT Austin, The associate professor is Dr. Jeffrey Treem teaches a course called, “Social Media and Organizations.” Among other things, I plan to talk to the students about the vital role our network plays in our career. It can serve as the very foundation of our success. Regardless of the company or the organization you are affiliated with at any moment, the real value in your work experience comes from the relationships you form. The reciprocal trust and value exchange you negotiate with each and every node in your network is the real asset of your career. Sure – credentials, knowledge, performance, achievements – all matter a great deal, but they pale in comparison to the power of your own personal network. Think carefully about your most significant career changes, chances are someone you know played an assist in your move.
I’ve always been fascinated with Social Network Analysis to draw conclusions and make predictions about organizational performance. The science is there, and I know that some of the larger social collaboration and community platform companies are doing impressive work in this area. Michael Wu, Chief Scientist at Lithium, is one of the more interesting veteran researchers to talk to on this subject. He has been applying social sciences and large-scale network analysis techniques to make actionable observations and predictions for the benefit of Lithium’s many customers for years. I know that Jive has expertise and some ongoing work in this area too. David Gutelius, whose company Proxima was acquired by Jive, is a lead in this area for Jive. While I was at IBM Connect last month, I saw a number of experimental research projects showcased in IBM’s Innovation Lab. Several of them held a great deal of promise. For instance, Community Player analyses how a certain event or community member influences behavior in a network. Community Player is being developed by researchers at IBM Research in Haifa. It originated as part of the EU-FPZ project ROBUST. System U focuses on exploring computational discovery of people’s intrinsic traits from the traces they leave on social media. The project focuses on profiling customers as individuals, yet on a very large scale. This research is being done at IBM Research – Almaden. And something that a few of us have been kicking around for a while is being explored at IBM called Work Marketplace. It’s a concept around crowdsourcing your network for work and projects.
Dr. Treem and his academic colleagues are working on studying this area. I’m really looking forward to diving into this more and learning as much as I can about the current state of this sort of organizational science. If you have sources (academic and commercial) on how SNA is being applied in enterprise networks, please let me know. It’s a key area that holds tremendous promise.
Enterprise platform startup Opal Labs wants to make Enterprise work more like a consumer experience. The Portland-based startup launched officially in October 2012. The founders had previously founded a digital agency, We the Media, where they served very large Enterprise clients. The exposure to Enterprise enabled the team to work closely with a flagship customer to create its first market-ready app. Opal Brainstorms was designed to enable workforce professionals to contribute unique ideas and collaborate on problem-solving. Completely SaaS-driven with a simple signup, employees and partners can get started in minutes. Built with user experience in mind, the Brainstorms app is elegantly designed with a Pinterest look and feel.
I stumbled upon Opal because the company recently teamed up with TEDxAustin to enable participants, partners, speakers, and the public to engage in conversations around this year’s event which took place this past weekend. George Huff, Opal Labs CEO and co-founder, spoke to me last week about the company. I asked him, “Why Enterprise?” He responded, “I want a business model that isn’t advertising. We started in Enterprise, and that’s what we know. We know we can have so much impact there– and we want to have impact.” Huff recognizes that just like cash flow is critical to a successful business, “idea flow” will secure its future. He wanted to key into the ideas and problems every company faces. He asks, “Who has problems in a business?” The answer, of course, is “everyone.”
Opal Labs is 100% bootstrapped with about a dozen employees. Huff says they have been making money for about a year with a solid portfolio of large enterprise clients. The company headquarters are in Portland and has a London-based subsidiary that serves a flagship client: ARUP. Pricing for Opal Brainstorms is $10/user/month with an annual contract, but the company will negotiate larger scale enterprise license agreements.
I’m looking forward to watching this company grow. With HTML5 and superb design skills, there is no limit to the problems Opal can start addressing in large Enterprise. You can find Huff on AngelList, Twitter, and LinkedIn.