Serendipity Happens… to Deliver Million$

As the world turns… social, expect to be surprised by the fruits of serendipity.  When large workforces embrace working socially, or as I love to call it – in “socialworking” mode, they discover new ways of solving problems and creating opportunities.  Insights are revealed in the fluid web of connections and sharing. We’ve seen a dramatic mood swing toward all things social this year.  Even the naysayers have been touting the benefits of working socially recently.

I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight just one example of how working in a truly social organization delivers benefits that could never have been predicted in an executive conference room undergoing the scrutiny of a hard-core ROI analysis.

 

The Million Dollar Cry for Help

This vignette comes from our member Andrew Carusone at Lowe’s Companies, Inc. who told the story at our workshop this summer.  Lowe’s on-boarded 100% of its employee base to its collaborative platform, IBM Connections last year.  That’s every executive, store manager, retail clerk, and stock boy on the payroll.  The entire Lowe’s workforce of 289,000 employees have access to Connections.  What’s interesting is that less than 17,000 of these employees are salaried employees, and even less are members of the management team.  The challenge for the Lowe’s social business team is to inspire the employee base to turn to the platform in the course of their normal day’s work.  For some employees, it comes naturally.

During beta tests, an enterprising Paint Department employee decided to try something new to demonstrate the ease of cleaning a Teflon paint tray.  She poured latex paint into it, let it dry, and then peeled the paint out whole.  She left both the paint “mold” and the paint tray on the paint counter.  Customers were amazed and delighted. Suddenly, she was sold out of the paint trays and shoppers were clamoring for more.

The employee turned to all of her traditional channels to get additional inventory.  She accessed the company’s enterprise inventory system, however, like most major retailers, the business process tightly controls the amount of additional inventory employees can request.  After exhausting other traditional sources, the employee then turned to the Connections platform and asked “out loud”* if anyone knew how she could get more inventory.  Funny thing happened.  Although everyone felt her pain on the inventory shortage, they started replicating her paint mold/tray demo in their stores.  And guess what?   Suddenly other stores were selling out of the paint trays too.  As interest in the thread and the display idea grew in popularity, sales skyrocketed.

When applied on an enterprise level, the unique display idea represented more than a million dollars in additional revenue of the SHUR-LINE Teflon 9″ Metal Tray.  With that single serendipitous public share –employee-to-employee – at the kind of scale that Lowe’s enabled with its full workforce deployment, ideas like this can easily pay in full for the technology platforms that enabled it.  And this is just a single example.  Our Lowe’s members say these examples happen all the time.  I have a few more along these lines from other members I’ll post in the future.

What’s interesting to me in this example is that when the sanctioned business process that the Lowe’s employee was “workflowed” to use failed to deliver, it prompted her to seek out alternatives. (The company regulates how much inventory a store can order and when.)  She also reached out via other channels: email, phone calls, etc., with little success.   It was only after she circumvented the traditional sources and leveraged the power of pull within her employee base, did the company realize this unexpected windfall in revenue.   Not because she was able to order more inventory (her original ask), but because she shared her clever merchandising technique with the employee base creating demand for her idea far beyond her single store.  As Andy says, “What felt like a pebble – landed like a stone!”

It was the innovative idea that went viral in the company, resulting in the huge inventory demand (and subsequent sales) corporate-wide.   Smart employees throughout the ages have always found better ways to accomplish their goals, but these massive collaborative platforms are yielding leapfrogs in productivity and serendipitous wins on a large scale.  Be sure not to overlook this important upside of working socially.  In other words, “Be careful what you don’t ask for, you just might get it.”

*We talk a lot about “working out loud” in the Council.  Try it.  It just may delight you. 

Zen and the Art of Enterprise Maintenance

Surreptitiously, while I was inspired to write this post, I heard Garrison Keillor on NPR’s Writer’s Almanac do a short birthday piece on Robert Persig, author of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.”  For other Hippie 2.0’s out there, “Zen” occupies essential shelf space on the permanent library.  (GenY’rs: read it.)  Persig, a philosopher of sorts, penned a brilliant quote in two parts.  Here is the first part,

“The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.”

On G+, Facebook, and on our private discussions in the Council, I’ve been relentless with the same mantra that the re-engineering of the enterprise for this era is about re-tooling hearts and minds.  We are aiming to change the world of work.  All the re-engineering that packaged, streamlined, and removed human error (and innovation) in the last era (the Debbie Downsizer 90s) left a lot of baggage behind to undo.  I lived through that era.  And even though a lot of consultants, systems integration firms, and enterprise applications vendors got rich, the price corporations paid in crushing the human spirit was far greater than the costs saved on process improvement.

Unless you haven’t noticed, U.S. corporations are under pressure these days to perform.  Getting them back on track to record earnings is going to require something difficult to measure on a balance sheet or excel spreadsheet: human intuition, motivation, ingenuity, passion.

The radical changes folks like Luis Suarez, Ross Mayfield, Stowe Boyd, Euan Semple, and many others have been championing for a long time support this fundamental philosophical do-over of corporate culture.  It begins in the hearts and hands of a few evangelists/change makers/trust agents/intra-preneurs to beat the drum for change.

Now, the second part of Persig’s quote is,

“Other people can talk about how to expand the destiny of mankind. I just want to talk about how to fix a motorcycle. I think that what I have to say has more lasting value.”

To get to the “fix” part of this equation, it’s going to take the smarts and knowhow of everyone who’s focused on the Enterprise.  There’s a great thread on G+ from Sameer Patel on the “how.”  The lasting value will be to apply the spirit of social revolution in the enterprise to the practical application of social in the enterprise.  I’ve heard reports from Dreamforce that the rhetoric-to-reality gap was pretty stark once you left the Benioff keynote cathedral and walked onto the show floor.

This is the hard part.  Delivering on the promise of social.  So consider it a clarion call for all practitioners, consultants, and vendors (big and small):  Figure it out.  Bring it home for the rest of us and the planet.  We’ve done the first hard part which is selling the promise of revolutionary change.  And we’ll keep beating that drum, btw.  It’s the backbeat to the song we’re singing.

A presentation I gave earlier this year to member 3M on the power of Change Agents.

A Social Baptism for the Enterprise. Hallelujah and Amen.

About this time last month, I was undergoing a crisis of faith.  Faith in what brought me to this space: the promise of what the next generation web could be and could do to change business as we know it, as well as society at large.   My faith was shaken by a few ripples in the foundation.  I posted this short blog post on our Council Jive site:

I got some great feedback from members, but remained somewhat in a state of insecurity.  Things exacerbated when later in the month, a host of conversations had cropped up in the blogosphere on the failure some individuals were experiencing regarding adoption of social technologies inside large enterprises and critics taking delight in the “I toldya so” grand opportunity.

As the summer of 2011 was coming to an end, I found myself wondering whether I was the only one pursuing some greater purpose? Had I been completely delusional?  Blindly naive?

My crisis of faith ended on the morning of August 31, 2011.  

Mark Benioff, Salesforce.com CEO, whom I’ve been heralding as the voice of the new Enterprise generation since I saw him speak last year, killed it in his opening keynote for Dreamforce 2011 with the messaging I (and many others) have been consistently preaching for the past five years.   And, considering Salesforce’s Dreamforce is now the largest technology conference in the world, the social baptism that every one of those 45,000 in attendance and many more who were tuning in around the world received was epic.

So, with grace and humility, I have been re-energized.  You kinda either get this or you don’t.  If you do get it, I hope you’re rejoicing. I know I am.  If you don’t get it, don’t worry, it will benefit you too despite your willingness to embrace it.

If you are a believer, or just socially curious, I highly recommend you watch Benioff’s keynote.

Finally, Mr. Benioff, if you’re listening, all I can say is Thank You from the bottom of my bottomless heart.

SMC Austin Chapter hosts a conversation on Social Business

SMC Austin is held at the original Austin City Limits studio. Gorgeous venue.

Be there: Register today.

Just when you think you have all the answers, something crops up that challenges your beliefs on how Social Business works and will work in the future.   Whether it’s new platforms/tools, new regulation, organizational changes, even world events — the Social Business world does not stand still and learning in this space is highly iterative.  At Dachis Group and for our Social Business Council members, we face this reality day in and day out.  The good news on Social Business is there are ample opportunities to increase and share your learning.  To that end,  I’m going to be moderating a panel discussion on Social Business at the upcoming Social Media Club Austin meeting next week. (Tuesday, 8/16 from 6pm – 8pm CT).  I hope you can join us if you’re local, and if you’re not, I’m sure the tweet stream will be buzzing.  The twitter hashtag for Social Media Austin events is #SMCA.

We’ll have a great panel of vendors (who just happen to have great “user” experience as well) relating their own journeys on transforming their clients, as well as their own companies, to become fully-functioning Social Businesses.  There is a lot of collective wisdom represented on this panel of experts, so I hope you’ll join us in the conversation.  This will be my speaking debut to our awesome local Social Media Club chapter (most active club in the world, outside of San Francisco I hear).  I’m looking forward to mashing up my knowledge of the internal enterprise social space with the external expertise resident in this town, as well as meeting lots of new social enthusiasts.

On the panel we will have Jive’s Deirdre Walsh, who is somewhat of a hometown hero of mine as she led National Instruments‘ social strategy prior to joining Jive as Social Media Manager.  Then, we have the amazing Kat Mandelstein who has been a terrific champion for Social Business at IBM and one smart cookie on all things social.  Kat is also on the international board for the SMC and has done a great job supporting the Austin SMC chapter as Vice President.  The other two panelists are Will Staney of VMware (which recently acquired Socialcast) and Jean-Claude Monney of Microsoft.  I have not yet met Will or Jean-Claude, but have heard great things about them, so I look forward to hearing their insights.  Will has an impressive background in introducing social media and adoption of social technology at VMWare with a  solid foundation in community management and new media strategy. Jean-Claude leads Microsoft’s technical strategy in the Discrete Manufacturing industry, chairs the Microsoft High Tech Customer Advisory Board and represents Microsoft as the chair of the OAGi High Tech Council, a global B2B standards organization.

In preparation for the panel, we’re soliciting your questions ahead of time so we can get them into the session.  Don’t be shy.  Let us fashion the panel to suit your interests.

Send us questions you’d like to hear answered.

See you there!

 

 

News Flash: Social in the Enterprise is not for Amateurs

In the early days of experimentation with 2.0 in the Enterprise, anyone could really fire up a wiki or blog, port some RSS feeds, and call an impromptu meeting in the cafeteria to recruit a renegade team to collaborate and share.  A lot of the enthusiasm and passion that surrounded these tools stemmed from these small pilot efforts.   Today, workforce collaboration and social ideology is top of mind in the largest corporations.  One interesting metric we decided to track at the Council was “who” is tasked in the Enterprise to get this job done.

Working with our Dachis Group | XPLANE colleagues, we created this infographic that details who’s leading social business efforts internally, and where they fit in the organization.  As you can see from the data, social business is serious business and merits primarily six-figure, Director level oversight.  This survey represents about 100 of our members from some of the largest corporations in the world who are currently engaged in a worldwide rollout of a 2.0 transformation initiative.

Another key point revealed in the data is that it’s not IT exclusively leading these efforts.  Although we have a large concentration of IT members, several other areas are represented.  In particular, Knowledge Management, Learning, and Innovation are well-suited to communicate and translate the benefits of working in a new social paradigm.

The infographic can be downloaded here. Enjoy!

 

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.