For me the conference highlights were the opening two sessions from JP Rangaswami (Salesforce.com’s Chief Scientist) and John Hagel (Director of Deloitte and authour of The Power of Pull). JP’s “Nature Doesn’t Do SLA’s” used Zen style slides – small white text on black background, a few keywords only per slide – combined with his inimitable style and wit. He started by raising concerns over the term “social business”. Why do we need business to be social? If it isn’t social, what is it? Anti-social? He suggested that we need to rediscover a social dimension we’ve lost, and worried that people his age (and my age) might be remembered as the generation that gave us Excel and management by spreadsheet. I’m delighted that he talked about the importance of The Cluetrain Manifesto helping us realize that marketing has moved from one directional broadcast to 2 way conversations. He talked about how work is changing. Business used to run with a financial system largely to do with product and customer and largely hierarchical, with planning based on historical snapshots predicting the future. But business is morphing in to a network of relationships and capabilities. Investment related to human capital and knowledge capital were the kind of projects that used to get cut because we couldn’t quantify their value, but today relationships and capabilities MUST have metrics so we can justify these resources. He talked about the transition from the agricultural age, to the industrial age, to today’s information age, or knowledge worker age, but he worried that we:
“Insist on taking the detritus of the industrial age along with us!”
Management are used to predicting and measuring the flow with linear constructs, planning tools and defect rates, and then we’ve made things worse by applying these same practices to education and healthcare. He suggested we’re on:
“an acid trip of believing the processes we are building are repeatable”.
He suggested that we corporate workers fill up our time with meetings. Should we really be letting Outlook run our schedule? Actually, we should realise that it is:
“OK to do nothing when there is nothing to do!”
His argument is that it’s smart to keep our fixed costs low, but our most valuable asset is ourselves – so filling up the diary with meetings is the last thing we should do.
He went on to talk about technology and how we now live in a world where rapid change is actually the constant. The tools we use are changing dramatically at home and at work. TV has stopped being a resource for the household and has now become personal. The mouse and GUI that we’ve all grown up with is changing to a touch screen. Our young kids don’t have to be taught IT like previous generations. They expect to interact with devices by touch augmented with voice, and Moore’s Law is going to keep those changes coming even faster. With that change we have to move from recognizing process to recognizing patterns. We have to spend more time aligning ourselves with the many exceptions, than we do dealing with the rules.
Bringing us back to the corporate world, JP was worried that we spend as much time on privacy as we do on collaboration, and that those two things are diametrically opposed. We’re not yet comfortable about the way these two fit and how they are changing. Some of us still believe that knowledge is power, or worry that the customer will find out the real story – in a social media driven world, neither of those make sense. Actually, our kids are growing up in a time where things work completely differently. They’re pretty smart about their privacy, but their privacy is more granular. Their concept of ownership is different from ours when it comes to file sharing, music, or tagging and sharing photos. The corporate tendency is to build a perimeter or a firewall, but that’s not going to work in this new world. We need new constructs. Work is less like an assembly line and more like a video game. We need to be able to play in the sandbox, find out how and then work out who can help us. He likened the traditional, hierarchical management structure that we’ve grown up with to the QWERTY keyboard. Something invented to slow the system down to make it work. Now we have more granular, near instant communication with anyone inside or outside the organisation we don’t need that constraint, and that has major ramifications for the way business works.
He finished by talking about this time as a renaissance, giving us the ability to find something we’ve lost for 50 or 60 years. We live at the most fabulous inflection point. We are living with the first generation where the technology curve is inverted. Our children come in to the workplace with knowledge of the of the Facebook style of connections and collaboration, pre trained for the new world of work. He cracked the joke that knowledge is to know that a tomato is a fruit not a vegetable, but wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad. However, we should also celebrate the older generations’ experiences provided they are properly shared.
John Hagel actually used no slides at all. He agreed with JP that we are in the middle of a huge shift. We live in world where there are diminishing returns, and we have to work harder and harder for the next increment. However, he believes we on the cusp of moving to a world with an increase in returns, where we are moving from stocks to flows. He talked about recent history, where the business model for corporations was to develop some proprietary knowledge, and then protect it, and extract value from it over time. That approach has created huge wealth and multi-nationals, but in a world of accelerated change, knowledge stocks depreciate. The only way to increase economic value is to participate in more and more knowledge flows. This is where social software comes in to play, but maybe the most valuable flows exist outside of your institution? How can you participate and bring value back in?
In recognizing this, he suggested that a corporation’s every instinct is to add social everywhere. Actually, Hagel believes going slow at the outside is the way to go. He suggested:
“Small moves, smartly made can make big things happen.”
He talked about 3 basic models of social software adoption that he sees in enterprises:
- Bottom up adoption with teams forming to solve a problem, and figuring out what tools they need to support the team.
- Some executive goes to a conference, catches the social media wave and targets an ad hoc deployment based on what he/she’s heard.
- A massive deployment for everyone, with executive’s deciding that they “need a Facebook page” or “need Twitter”.
With any of these approaches relatively few of them can quantify any impact at all. There is no idea of where the highest impact area might have been, and that can lead to information silos just like earlier tools did. This lack of effectiveness can lead to a backlash, and so the big deployment might be abandoned.
Hagel postulated that the missing ingredient is:
“a systematic link to metrics that matter.”
Senior execs have metrics that are financial, like growth in revenue or profit. Middle management have operational metrics like customer churn rate. The lowest levels in the company have performance metrics, measuring their specific the success of their particular jobs. Hagel’s contention is that social software deployed in a more targeted way and measured against these metrics, would be more successful (and he’s so right!). Where can I maximise impact from this deployment? He suggested the richest area is around exception handling, which he called the shadow economy of the enterprise. He suggested 60-70% of knowledge workers is devoted to exception handling, and this is the ideal place to use social tools to find the right people and connect to the data. He talked about a municipal authority who were looking to improve. He helped them find the place where there was the most pain, which was a rapid growth in the cost of maintenance. They were measuring mean time to failure and the length of time to get a bus back on the road. They focused this social media project on this exception handling – on getting people to come together and get the right parts in the right place. The use of social software wasn’t limited to knowledge workers or about building a community, but extended to the workers who fix the busses – they all embraced social software because it addressed the real operational metrics that matter.
His second example was around the SAP Developer Network. He talked about SAP’s Hasso Platner bringing in Shai Agassi, new blood from outside, but starting him with the new Netweaver product at the edge of the business because bringing him in to the core of SAP would be too disruptive to the existing culture. To help speed the adoption of the Netweaver technology Shai started SDN based on fairly straightforward forum technology. The idea was to connect the developer community so they could help themselves and each other, and reduce the load on traditional SAP technical support. You’ll have seen the success story. The community now has more than 2 million members, and the average time to resolution of an issue is 17 minutes! That’s an incredible driver of productivity. People aren’t paid to contribute their time, but the system has reputation metrics so developers can enhance their profile and their careers – software recruiters have quickly learned that this is the pace to go to find good people. Within the community developers seek each other out to work together, like the ESME project that my friends Dennis Howlett, Dick Hirsch, Anne Petteroe and others worked on. SDN got the investment it needed and became successful because it addressed the key metrics that matter – reducing calls to technical support and accelerating the adoption of the Netweaver product. Hagel didn’t say this, but I’ve heard anecdotal evidence from others that it’s estimated SAP have saved 25-30m Euros a year in support costs with SDN.
Hagel suggested that most change management exercises fail. You have to treat them as part of a political exercise. There will be entrenched interests and isolated champions. The trick is to strengthen the champions and neutralise the opponents. Focussing the project on real metrics enhances your chances of doing both.
Finally he talked about the role of social software in strengthening and giving rise to more passion amongst the workers. We need to integrate passion in an ever more pressurised and competitive world. He agreed with JP that we are moving from a world of process to patterns, and suggested that the exceptions are invisible. With social software we can create records, and then we can learn from those records.
I listened to Stuart McRae of IBM talk about how they’ve used forums and social tools, and the well publicised IBM Jams to transform their organisation. I listened toi Dion Hinchcliffe talk about the drivers for what he called “next-generation business”. He discussed examples like IBM reducing email traffic by 29%, Transunion getting 50 times ROI, Siemens and Atos Origin declaring they will eliminate email entirely within 3 years, or Goldcorp generating $3.5Bn in value through crowd sourcing prospecting with social tools. These are good stories, but I was disappointed not to hear any new case studies.
Sadly I was called away straight after lunch, so I’ve been checking with Anne Marie McEwan, Benjamin Ellis, Anne McCrossan, Jon Ingham and Jemima Gibbons to find out what I missed. Overall there were some great ideas to help make your enterprise social software implementation a success. Some key words which were my takeaways:
â Business is moving from process driven to pattern driven
â Focus effort on exception handling and barely repeatable processes
â Relate the project to real metrics that drive the business
â Always address “what’s in it for me?”
(Editor’s aside: When I linked to Shai Agassi‘s wikipedia page, I thought – blimey, I recognize that photo! So with the wonders of Flickr they’ve used one of my own snaps – this social media stuff can be quite cool sometimes…)
Photos courtesy Benjamin Ellis