Sunday, January 3, 2010

Innovating New Products and Brands

If you're not yet convinced that your next product (or that of your competitor) will be successfully influenced by a community of avid users, you need to watch this TED video featuring Charles Leadbeater.

And remember, your internal experts may already be constraining you as the paradigms developed from past successes create blinders. Even Einstein fell prey to these forces; his productivity began to drop significantly as he reached his mid-thirties.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Social Computing for the Enterprise

Many companies wrestle with social media’s application to their business. Enterprise 2.0 tools seek to enable a vision of an open, collaborative organization where new information is created quickly and discerned just as easily. Software vendors will make Enterprise 2.0 sound simple, but the devil is in the details and the devil brings with him much angst.

Since Enterprise 2.0 centers on “user generated content”, initial thoughts around Enterprise 2.0 may turn to SOX compliance, record retention, discoverability, legal exposure, and the like. But issues more fundamental to the ultimate success of any business in deploying Enterprise 2.0 tools have to do with organizational culture, employee awareness, and training.

A recent blog post by Phil Wainewright speaks to the challenge business faces. Enterprise computing has for years been built around the system itself; the business processes, policies, and procedures employed to deliver a particular product or service. Traditional ERP systems are extremely effective at enforcing business rules around financial management, supply chain planning, order management, customer relationship management, and the like. What those systems don’t do well is expose how a particular business process is experienced; experienced by employees, vendors, or customers (a.k.a. - stakeholders).

Businesses are often slow to respond to change and the ERP systems they use represent the codification of years of business practice and corporate culture. Challenging the status quo represented by an ERP system takes time. A portion of the wait time spent in bringing about change arises out of the effort to modify software and corporate policies, but the majority of the delay stems from “dwell time” in the organization; the assessment by a range of functional silos that ultimately results in the tacit acknowledgment that change is required.

Enterprise 2.0 tools enable a business to systematically capture and expose how stakeholders experience and engage with the business, its policies, and processes; thus accelerating the identification of changing stakeholder needs by discerning community managers. This systematic information capture properly applied will significantly reduce the time required to define and enact a change in business practice.

Make Your Resolutions Fun

Change isn't always easy. But bringing about change doesn't have to be hard. What an inventive way to incent healthier behavior.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ambient Awareness, Part Deux

In writing about Web 2.0, Clive Thompson coined the phrase ambient awareness. He said, “Each little update, each individual bit of social information is insignificant on its own, even supremely mundane. But taken together, over time, the little snippets coalesce into a surprisingly sophisticated portrait of people’s lives.” I have no quarrel with his assessment and even like the phase ambient awareness.

Lew Platt, former CEO of HP approached the same idea with a different thought: “If HP knew what HP knows, we would be three times more profitable.” As I’ve considered both men’s assessment on collaboration and knowledge management, I have begun to form my own definition that is a compilation of their thoughts and those of others.

In my experience, successful application in a business setting of Web 2.0 and all the technologies surrounding the space (a.k.a. – Enterprise 2.0), is really about using social computing platforms to make relevant information not simply more accessible. But to have it flow throughout the organization as a byproduct of organizational activity such that a shared view of the business is derived by all participants in the social computing environment. Just as we do not give conscious thought to breathing or maintaining our body temperature, the creation, dissemination, and maintenance of tribal knowledge can be made implicit in daily activities through application of social computing platforms.

If such an environment can in fact be fostered, what benefit is to be had? I anticipate the benefit will come in two forms:

· Capitalizing on the viral spread of innovative ideas in a rapid, iterative, entrepreneurial fashion.

· Better decision making by improved contextual awareness for each and every business decision.

The benefits I mention are of my own opinion. I welcome dissent and robust debate on this.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Enterprise Social Computing

Too often firms select software in hopes that it deliver a solution to a problem. Typically, this is done without serious consideration to the affected business processes; or hoping organizational change can be avoided, yet expecting improved business performance.

I remind myself of these experiences as I embark on an interesting engagement leading a team through the process of defining requirements for an enterprise social computing platform.

The early days will focus on developing a common language, governance models, and a broad understanding of the business goals and objectives for such a platform. This process of surfacing the team’s thoughts is really a framing exercise designed to guide additional days of requirements definition. The requirements will lead to the selection of a solution or solutions and an organizational structure and method for managing collaboration.

There is a clear need for social collaboration inside and outside the four walls of the business. Along with collaboration is portal functionality to support document sharing, ratings, reviews, and collaborative development of text, video, presentations, and other media for internal and external consumption. I am wondering if this becomes a single solution or multiple pieces of software. At this point, I don’t see a single, monolithic solution out there. But I may be proven wrong.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Web 2.0 and a god's eye view

My good friend Dave Stein (pilot, musician, and Martha’s Vineyard regular) recently wrote a blog post questioning whether a sales team should be equipped with “Sales 2.0” tools. Dave rightly points out that no software, in and of itself, ever solved a business problem. These tools must be directed to a specific set of objectives against which management can measure progress.

Dave’s post elicited a rather vociferous response from Michael Webb. While Dave raises a legitimate question that warrants discussion, Michael chooses to flog his own book of business; a book built around Lean Six σ methodologies applied in a sales environment.

I live in an environment where we apply Lean Six σ methodologies to our sales processes every day. And for all the great results derived, Lean Six σ is but one of a set of tools, not the be all end all that Michael Webb’s book of business compels him to suggest (Michael conveniently overlooks operational effectiveness as a prerequisite to sales effectiveness).

Sales 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0, or whatever banner you choose to fly social media under, directed at a specific purpose or purposes can greatly enhance sales force effectiveness. Take a project driven, team selling environment for instance. Selling in this environment, the team typically finds itself dealing with a blizzard of long email threads, phone tag, and conference calls that prove limited in their productivity, all directed at closing the deal.

Sales 2.0 is about creating ambient awareness for the team. The conference call I mentioned before creates awareness
during the call. But after the call, the participants all go their separate ways and have a difficult time keeping everyone in the loop...until their next conference call.

Since Dave is a very good pilot I will use an analogy of flight to make my point. The F-15 Eagle is my generation’s air superiority fighter of choice used to project U.S. air power around the world. The current generation is the F-22 Raptor.

I consider the F-15 a lethal, but
anti-social weapon. A flight (more than a single aircraft in coordinated operations) of F-15’s will break formation to engage targets, manage threats, etc., all the while maintaining radio contact to coordinate their activities. This need for regular radio contact places a significant added workload on the pilot and creates limits to the effectiveness of their coordination (think intermittent conference calls during battle).

The F-22 is lethal
and social. Yes, the F-22 was in to social networking before it was cool. The F-22 features an Inter/Intra-Flight Data Link (IFDL) that “allows all F-22’s in a flight to share target and system data automatically and without radio calls”...or conference calls. This social networking capability enables each pilot to have ambient awareness of each of the other pilot’s fuel, armament, targeting, and threat assessment data. This heightens the efficiency and effectiveness with which attacks can be coordinated. And at the risk of offending some, I will point out that the Air Force refers to this capability as providing a god’s eye view of the battle, both in the air and on the ground.

So, to dismiss Sales 2.0 out of hand is to utterly misunderstand its potential when applied for specific purposes. And I suspect Dave Stein will continue to fly circles around Mr. Webb.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Innovating Air Superiority

I am fascinated by how organizations learn and innovate. This clip from The Atlantic talks about how the Indian Air Force figured out how to make a cheap, antiquated MIG more mission capable through software updates and inexpensive hardware modifications, beating some USAF F-15 pilots in war games.

The F-22 Raptor will be critical to maintaining the U.S's unfair advantage in the skies.