What is Your Network Telling You?

I caught up this week with Cai Kjaer whom I’ve known via the social web as one of the founders of Optimice.  We used Optimice at Change Agents Worldwide to map our core competencies within the network.  I’ve always been a big fan of Social Network Analysis (SNA), and feel we are leaving a lot of actionable information on the table when we don’t observe what is happening organically within our networks.  As just one example, ESN strategists spend a lot of time identifying who might be a good candidate to advocate for working socially, but a lot of this work is anecdotal, and champions are identified via word-of-mouth. Software can do this fairly easily once you map the activity on the network.

crossteamThe Optimice team has launched an analytics tool, SWOOP, that may help large networks reveal intelligence that is not intuitive or otherwise obvious.  The software platform is the result of over a decade’s worth of consulting mapping organizational networks. At present, the team is working with Yammer and Chatter networks, but they have plans to work with more large-scale ESNs.

For large enterprises that view the ESN as the foundation for culture change, quality improvement, and innovation, it’s more or less a no-brainer to employ a tool like SWOOP. Some of the ESNs already have fairly sophisticated analytics, or at least used to, last time I checked.  But Yammer, in particular, has experienced explosive growth now that it’s free with O365, and the analytics are really weak. Something like SWOOP has not been available to its large communities until now, AFAIK.

The good news around this software is there is a lot of interest in introducing the power of SNA to large enterprises, but there hasn’t been an easy way to do that without expensive, complicated consulting.  With SWOOP, at a low price/seat investment, you can immediately start “listening” to what your network is telling you. The power of SNA becomes more attractive when you can start identifying how your network can save you time and money.  It’s not just eye-candy, in other words. Kjaer likes to say, “Collaboration is a contact sport.” So true. When you can look at connections cross-organizationally, and see data that reflects the role individuals are playing within their groups, you have a guidepost, a key performance indicator of sorts. Moreover, the ESN starts to take advantage of the potential for “emergent” behaviors that got the original Enterprise 2.0 champions so excited. (Myself included.)

I will be watching this area with much interest.  I’ve already got some ideas of how SWOOP can make a difference among some successful ESN customers already.  If you want to give the platform a try, you can sign up for the company’s free benchmarking tool.  I’d love to hear your progress.





Focusing on Adoption (exclusively) is a Dead-End

For an early adopter market, adoption in this space always seems to get a bad rap.  Why is that?  Because adoption is not the end-game.  It’s the beginning.  In the Council, the members are focused on changing hearts and minds and promoting the use of social tools in order to drive acceptance for a new way of working.  In Deloitte’s excellent report issued today, Social Software for Business Performance, we couldn’t agree more with the findings.  In fact, the rap on “adoption” uses our research to make the point.  There is no benefit in adoption for adoption’s sake.

It’s important to understand that “technology” adoption is the beginning of the journey.  It’s the first wagon wheel turn on a Westward Ho! trek toward complete embrace of a workforce that is socially calibrated and connected.  If you want to experience the benefits of working socially, workforces need to be comfortable and see the benefit of the radical internal organizational change it requires.  It sometimes amuses me that the folks who are critical of the adoption effort required are not particularly proficient in working socially in the first place, and cling to the world they know which is process-oriented and rooted in the industrialization (machining) of the enterprise.

I’ve often said that the adoption story is much less about the technology than it is about the organizational dynamics required to rewire the culture toward a more open, more egalitarian society if you will.  My source on this does not hail from any new technology fad.  In fact, it’s a paper originally published in 1957.  It is a supplement to a paper called, “How Farm People Accept New Ideas.”  It draws from a sociology, not technology foundation.

Introducing these concepts and making them stick inside a large organization is, indeed, a lot like cat-herding.  But, these are not cats or kittens. Change is painful and difficult inside large organizations.  One of the best quotes we heard from last year’s BlackBelt Workshop at the Boston Enterprise 2.0 conference was from one of our members who said, “These are not cats we’re herding; they’re Tigers, and they bite!”

Business process oriented vendors are getting savvy to social.  Council members just had a great Q&A yesterday with SFDC’s Chatter lead, Chuck Ganapathi, yesterday, and we’re planning a demo and conversation with Tibbr in the near future.   My prediction is we will see new business processes that replace or obsolete old ones more and more as, well, adoption proliferates throughout the enterprise.

Chatter: From Both Sides Now

The gala event, Dreamforce,  isn’t really my gig. The Enterprise Irregulars know “up and down and sideways” everything related to Cloud-computing. One of our EIs, Anshu Sharma, was a key architect  of Salesforce’s database.com offering announced last week.   In short, I spare everyone my uninformed opinion on most things Cloud-computing related for which I’m certain my EI pals and everyone else is grateful. But, because I’m an Enterprise Irregular blogger, I guess, I was invited to attend Dreamforce this year.  And even though I’m not really clued into Salesforce (the company), I accepted the invite because I wanted to see for myself – eyes and ears on the ground – what Chatter was all about and how it would fit into the social business landscape.

The good news on Chatter

The good news on Chatter is more about Salesforce.com than it is about Chatter the social tool. Like I said last year, having Benioff move front and center to embrace the social revolution is like a dream come true.   This sector needs a Benioff.   Grafting on JP Rangaswami to the SFDC social story was pretty slick as well. It occurred to me at Dreamforce that an item that has been conspicuously absent in the internal social-collaboration space (heretofore  called Enterprise 2.0) has been high quality marketing with great creative and real reach beyond the echo chamber we’ve been nestled in for the past four years.   So, the combination of Benioff who’s somewhat larger than life in real life and agency-designed creative is a huge plus to our sector.  Score one for professional marketing, awareness building, promotion, and tech rockstar iconoclasts. Related is the nature of Salesforce’s corporate culture. Again, I admit ignorance writing about a company I don’t know very well, but there is a detectable undercurrent of raw ambition that seems to drive the company ethos. It’s also a winner-takes-all, scrappy underdog vibe that is easy to spot from Benioff’s jabs at old skool enterprise vendors and thinking, to the high energy vibe on the floor of the Cloud Expo exhibit hall emanating from Salesforce employees and partners. Score two for raw ambition and high energy.  To make a distinction, Salesforce strikes me as the perfect blend of raw ambition without hubris. That’s tough to achieve in a competitive market, but that’s how I see it.  From a company whose primary customer is sales people, it kinda makes sense.   The remaining plus in Salesforce’s corner is its deep technology prowess and its playa status in the broader tech market due in some part to its status as a public company with revenues over $1B.  It’s unlikely to me that Chatter will face any technical obstacle it can’t solve or any partner who’ll reject its overtures. So, score three for technology wunderkind with deep pockets.

The bad news on Chatter

Even though it was announced last year at Dreamforce, Chatter is late to the party.  In the Council, we have hundreds (yes, hundreds) of the largest enterprises in the world already engaged in a social business initiative.   Granted, Dreamforce, is like a “revival” (h/t Dennis Howlett) for Salesforce customers and its ecosystem, so there was a lot of giddiness surrounding Chatter and its game-changing energy.   I found myself commenting to my blogger friends, I felt like I was surrounded in a sea of n00bs who just discovered social.  That’s actually not bad news, but it is bad news if the legions of non-converted enterprise employees flock to social via SFDC and cause a disruptive wrinkle (and endless analysis paralysis) in the strategic plan that’s already underway on another platform.  In truth, most of our members are not zealots for their platform (well, some are), but most of them simply want to deliver the best social collaboration platform for the company.  When we first started discussing the Chatter phenomenon, most of our members said something similar to this,

“I am a little worried about it “cannibalizing” some of what we are trying to do.”

Remember, the Council represents a small minority of all organizations on the planet who will eventually move to social platforms.  But, they happen to be some of the furthest along and most advanced.  One of our members summed up a good response after it was all said and done,

“I just got off the phone with Salesforce, followed by a conversation with our internal team that manages it. We will “turn it on” for current Salesforce users only. It will not be positioned for or compete with our enterprise solution. In doing so, we get data on how many Sales folks choose the “Hide Chatter” button, and if by some chance it does take off wildly, that becomes a good problem to solve later next year, and we can look at a much bigger play…”

So, net net Chatter arriving on the scene is probably a good thing for our sector.  I personally am counting on those ambitious SFDC n00bs to spread the word far and wide to the unconverted.  The faster social becomes a phenomenon in the Enterprise, the sooner we get to the promised land.