Month: April 2009

Social software is a (good) trojan horse for Enterprise 2.0

Social Software in the enterprise can have great direct value: human relationships between companies and their customers, and improved collaboration and process within organizations.

However, I think there are 2 important trends of which social software in the enterprise is just the first hint:

1. Enterprise software needs to work for people, not vice versa. Social software is reminding people in enterprise that software can be usable and useful at the same time. Most enterprise software is very powerful, but dramatically underutilized by people who spend more time trying to avoid it than use it. This will no longer be tolerated.

While many companies are putting prettier faces on enterprise software tools these days, this should and will lead to a fundamental change in how software is defined – by talking to its users – not business or IT “subject matter experts”, but actual users.

2. Social software is the beginning of the next generation of corporate scalability and management. Today’s hierarchical management by objectives (sort of) type of business structure evolved over the years from the “divide and conquer” school of thinking. Which is good. But at a certain point “divide” becomes “fracture and scatter”.

Social software – and the cultural changes that make it valuable will change the basic form of corporate structure and leadership. Leadership will play an even more important role -that’s leadership in the real sense of engaging people with your goals and your ideas in a way that makes them want to give their all for it. But authority will be different. Decisionmaking will be different. The opportunities provided by an intense dedication to continual improvement will change the short term, siloed, hide anything that looks like bad news, status quo that has held so many companies and so many people back for so long.

What will this look like?

IT departments will be given new agendas – they’ll start to be evaluated on technology adoption and satisfaction, and the efficiencies gained. They’ll be recruited as partners in solving hard problems. I think they’ll like it.

Senior management will share more information, decentralize decisionmaking and expect a much higher level of efficiency from their teams. And everyone will benefit from that.

creative, connective and compounding collaboration, revisited

A couple of months ago I introduced some words to describe different types of collaboration – what they can achieve, what the obstacles are. ..

Here’s the next generation of that thinking of what I believe are the 3 fundamental models of collaboration….

1. Creative – this is the kind of collaboration where you have an explicit team, and an explicit goal “Marketing launch of new product” or “widget redesign” or “budget planning”, or whatever.

you have a group of people who all have some stake in or some contribution to be made to the outcome.  you sit (literally, virtutally or figuratively) at the table working out how to get things done, then you go off and do them, checking in at intervals on progress and issues that come up.

2. Connective – this is the “connecting the dots” problem – While working your day to day work, you “hear” from the extended organization in ways that let you find similarities, serendipities, trends and patterns in information or ideas.

The most infamous example of this type of collaboration is in the intelligence community – ever since 9/11 it is a security imperative to make sure that information silos don’t prevent people from identifying important trends and patterns in information. Like there are bad guys learning to fly airplanes and get visas into the US.

This is one area where the new concepts in social media are driving fantastic progress and innovation, but also one of the most deviously tricky problems to solve. Its extremely difficult to find and measure those things that might exist, but you can’t be sure.

In spite of this interesting challenge, progress is being made.

3. Compounding.

This is the idea that if you can find it, you build on what has been done before.  So – if I know what resources Joe used to respond to an RFP, then I can refer to the same sources for similar information. If I’m bringing a new analyst up to speed, I can give them access to all the people, resources and assets that I routinely use to get work done, enabling him to begin to do the same. Instead of creating a new powerpoint template, i can focus on the content of the darn thing.

Also challenging and less well understood than you might think, the goal of compounding is what spawned the ill fated “knowledge management” initiatives of the 90’s which attempted to codify the un-codifiable.

98% of knowledge in an organization is tacit – that is to say not officially documented, tabulated and indexed. So trying to find it in traditional ways is difficult. Again, social media has made dramatic contributions here – collecting the tiny comments and questions, the who asked who answered and what did they refer to that heretofore has been lost in email trails that go cold and die….

more on what to do with these ideas later….

I’m Speaking at the Potomac Forum Again

Last month I spoke for an hour on the culture and technology of collaboration within the government, the benefits, barriers and specifics steps to take to begin or grow a collaborative environment. It went pretty well, I guess, because we were asked to blow out that hour into a full day. We gathered up some smart, engaging speakers along with myself to put it together.

I had such a good time last month that I’m really looking forward to this one. I met lots of fabulous people and the discussion was intense!

Check out the blurb for this one here: