Yakabod has been providing knowledge management solutions since 2003, primarily for the US intelligence community to date. Their flagship product is the Yakabox Knowledge Network. I reviewed it on this blog earlier (see Yakabod Provides Robust Knowledge Management with a Social Side).Like a number of enterprise 2.0 providers, they realize that many of the issues for a successful adoption of their offering are not technical and they have broadened their offerings to include adoption support.I recently spoke with Yakabod CEO Scott Ryser and Ian Bramson, Director National Intelligence Engagements about their experiences helping clients with adoption issues and the services they provide for this effort.
Scott said that their developers are able handle any technical issues for their clients relatively easily. The harder tasks come with the change management and other people related concerns. They have set up an adoption services group to support these efforts and Ian is part of this group.A significant part of the change management effort is to enable a shift in the collaboration mentality. Since a lot of their work is in the intelligence community, they have had to encourage users to share their work before it is finished so others can comment on it and gain insights in a timely manner.
Ian said they offer two principal types of services: organization culture readiness and implementation effectiveness. The culture readiness involves a variety of methods including interviews, surveys, focus groups, and working on site with their users for direct observation of the work environment.This is the type of anthropology I used to enjoy in my past life doing large-scale knowledge management implementations.They started doing this informally but it has now become a formal part of their offering with a developing set of methods and measurements.It is offered to the client as part of step one along with a pilot of their tool set.
Scott said their knowledge management tools work best when wrapped around a business process, and there needs to be a lot of personal contact to properly integrate the tools with the process. I could not agree more. In fifteen years I never saw a successful KM effort that did not do this.The culture assessment looks at such issues as the structure of the organization, the nature of the hierarchy, the empowerment of employees, the presence of a mentoring system, physical and virtual work environment, and the promotion and reward system.
They share their results in an honest and through manner with the client, no matter how sensitive, and try to get commitment to address any issues that might be obstacles to a successful implementation.They focus more on raising awareness and getting commitment to change than producing the change. Scott said that the organizations can best change themselves, if they understand their issues and have the determination to address them.Ian said there is a saying in the government that you ”speak truth to power and let power decide.”
Scott mentioned that they are at the beginning of this effort but they are collecting data. Once they have enough instances, they will be able to offer predictive statistics on what is essential for a successful implementation.
One of the issues they address is the collaboration dynamics in the organization. Are there opportunities for unstructured exchanges during business processes or is everything planned and structured?What is the speed of collaboration? How fast can people connect and what are the obstacles? Are there tools in place to support this collaboration? What are the information silos in the organization?
Another issue is the power of inertia. How fast can the organization change? Are they always re-organizing so employees feel that can ignore change? Are there frequent changes in leadership so employees feel they can wait out efforts? Are the employees savvy in social technology?
They also look at the implementation profile for the particular effort. Is the organization ready for this initiative? Is there executive support? Is there a sense of urgency? What are the consequences of not doing anything? What is the leadership strength of the sponsor? What is the financial commitment?How good is the fit of the solution with the need? Do the targeted business processes allow for knowledge sharing? How relevant is the process to the mission of the organization? Do the targeted processes go across the organization (the broader the better)?
Another key area is what they call “winning the middle.” They realize that you need middle management support for the initiative to be successful.This is especially important with enterprise 2.0 efforts as they often allow information to more easily go directly from workers to senior management, bypassing the filter of middle management. They look at the role of middle management in deciding on the effort, as well as their support. How does success of the effort fit into middle managers’ accountability areas? How does it affect their advancement?
A final area we discussed was the adoption strategy. It looks at such issues as the presence of a project-related coaching plan for executives and middle managers. Do people understand the nature of the required change? Is there a user advocacy process? Can the plan adapt?
Scott and Ian said that they take the assessment results and fold them into the implementation planning process.They create a dashboard using the Yakabox that looks at the key issues raised in the assessment. They allow for a constant comment stream from users to make feedback transparent to everyone. They give the senior executives a direct view into the thoughts of the users. I like the fact that they are using their own tool to aid the implementation. This gets people familiar with the tool, as well as demonstrates its value.
Yakabod also provides customer advocates (Yakabod staff working directly with end users) to enable feedback and to provide assessments of progress on the change management issues. They also train their replacements by recruiting customer employees to address these issues.
Scott said that while they╒ve been delivering services for a long time, they are just at the beginning of formalizing this offering. They realize that they have a lot to learn and will be refining their methods as they go along. I like this attitude. It will make them more successful in both the short term and the long term.This is an exemplary effort and I am grateful that Yakabod is willing to share their practices with us. I plan to check in after a while to see what else they have learned.
The following is a guest post by Ivana Taylor, a member of the Small Business Trends Expert Network.
Just about every day I have a conversation with a small business owner who gets over 90% of their business strictly from referrals. That doesn’t surprise me. What DOES surprise me is how uncomfortable these individuals are with social media tools.
The most common question small business owners ask is “How will this make me money?”
This is the wrong question. Social media is not a money-making machine. Social media is a relationship building machine.
It’s the most amazing networking and referral building machine since the telephone!
If you have a system for selling your products and services, why wouldn’t you have a system for building your network? Yet, most people don’t. That’s why I’m going to share five social media tools and show you how to use them in specific ways to turbo-charge your networking.
1. Facebook is one of the fastest growing networking tools among professionals and small business owners. You can create a fan page or a group around your company or product, then invite your contacts to join.
Turbo-tip: Use the fan/business pages and groups to ask questions about what’s important to your group or inform them of new product offerings and specials. These pages are interactive and allow for comments and pictures to be posted. So don’t be shy about putting up pictures of people or products and ask for comments. The real value is in the conversation that you have with your group or fans.
2. LinkedIn. The power of LinkedIn lies in your level of discipline to using this networking tool creatively. If you haven’t created a group or company page, do it today! Be sure to make a point of telling all your contacts that you have one.
Turbo-tip: In addition to listing job titles and companies you’ve worked for – add other “roles” that you’ve played. For example create a title called “Committee Chair” and list the non-profit or Church organization that you led. If you’ve written a book list “Author” as a title and the name of your book as a company. If you’re a “speaker” then say so and list the topic that you speak about. This gives people the opportunity to see you as an expert in a variety of areas.
3. Twitter. So many people use Twitter to “advertise” their product or service. In reality, Twitter is a powerful tool to increase your sphere of influence. Twitter allows you to actually build relationships with centers of influence and connect with people who may have appeared to be “too big” or “too out of reach” to connect to. Chances are pretty good that if you talk to someone via Twitter, they will talk back. Take that opportunity to build on the relationship.
Turbo-tip: Use the Twitter Search feature to search on keywords from your industry. For example “real estate investor” will yield all the tweets that use those words in the 140 character message. Take the time to check out those profiles and start a conversation with anyone who is interesting to you.
4. Blitztime.com. If you really want to take networking virtual and digital, take a look at Blitztime.com. This is a subscription service that serves as both a networking and an accountability group for its members. Check out the existing groups and see if any of them are interesting to you. There are groups of CEOs, social media junkies, and even job searchers. This is a great solution for networking from your desktop.
5. QuoteActions.Rick Itzkowich was looking for a way to re-connect with people he had met networking AND he wanted to add some value too. This is how he came up with QuoteActions. This is a simple subscription service that will allow you to send the people you meet a daily quote that they can use to improve their business and their life.
Turbo-Tip: When you meet someone at an event, send them a QuoteAction invitation in an e-mail. If they subscribe to your quotes, you will appear in their mailbox every day. It’s a wonderful way to stay in touch and give value.
The last and final Turbo-Tip of them all is not a tip, but a necessity for new businesses, existing businesses that want to grow, or job hunters: work on your social networking every single day. Using these social media tools will allow you to build a broader network without leaving your desk.
About the Author: Ivana Taylor is CEO of Third Force, a strategic firm that helps small businesses get and keep their ideal customer. She’s the co-author of the book “Excel for Marketing Managers” and proprietor of DIYMarketers, a site for in-house marketers.
Alpha Software is now offering software to help business create online AJAX databases without coding requirements. I recently spoke with Richard Rabins, their CEO. Alpha was first started in the 1980s and had a database product, Alpha Four that competed with Dbase based on ease of use and speed. Richard said they sold the company. However, in 2000, they bought back the key assets as they saw the emergence of the Web as a great platform for applications.
Richard said that first generation online applications were slow when compared to desktop apps and this hampered adoption. Then AJAX appeared to bring speed to Web apps.They developed Alpha Five to allow business users to develop complex online AJAX based databases without coding requirements. It works with any SQL backend and any Web browser.
We looked at the development tool. You can assemble the components of a database with point and click and drag and drop in the absence of coding. It seemed easy enough for me, a good sign
Richard offered some use cases to demonstrate the complexity of AJAX databases that can be created without coding.In the first case, a national retailer recently developed a comprehensive database for 5 million users. They had 5,000 photo centers and wanted to generate more foot traffic.The retailer looked at the church market as many churches have photo-based member directories. Maintaining these directories is a real challenge for both the administrators and the church members so it was a business opportunity for the retailer.
To streamline the photo directory process the retailer wanted to provide an easy to use database where church members could upload their photos and much of the directory creation process was automated. This required a complex database backend with comprehensive reporting capabilities, the speed of AJAX, and good security.Here is sample screen showing a church staff member.
It also needed flexibility. For example, if a church was in Canada, the drop down listing of US states needed to switch to Canadian provinces.Using Alpha Five they able to quickly create this database. Here is video demonstrating how the system works and its comprehensive components. Below is a search results showing images.
In another case, an insurance company wanted to provide 24×7 customer service and promote more customer self-service through the Web. For example, accidents could be self-reported online without and status of claims checked at any time.I know from recent experience this would be a big help.
In a third case, New York City wanted to put fire fighters, police, and ambulance on the same radio frequency. This was quite a complex process and Alpha Five was used to create the database to manage and track the process.
To offer companies more flexibility, Alpha has decoupled development from deployment for SaaS applications. You can also automatically reconfigure interfaces for fit different devices. Richard showed me how an interface scales down to fit a mobile device. The application modifies itself rather than requiring two different interfaces.
Richard shared an interesting fact. In 1915 95% of electricity for companies was generate don-premise. By 1930, 95% of electricity came the grid. He sees a similar change occurring with IT resources and it makes sense.At the same time, the fastest growing computer device is the smart phone. These two things will certainly change with way we work with data.
Alpha initially planned to just offer tools but now provide development services with their tools as many companies requested this.Richard said their current users are about 40% third party developers and 60% power business users within a company. Here is their Alpha blog for more details.
Be Selective With Your Social Networks
With plenty of social networks and limited time, Entrepreneur’s Jennifer Shaheen advices caution when joining them. “What is this new social network or affinity group all about? Is your potential customer in this group? To find the answers to these questions, spend some time looking at the demographics of the typical member. You can often find them by reviewing the information on the about page or the advertising section of the website. Check out third-party information on the community–this may include blogs, media outlets or research groups. Look for research that shows outcomes, not just the demographic or membership information.”
Is Your Networking Effective or Is Technology Making You Lazy?
Sandy Norton underlines the importance of follow-up in building relationships for networking. “We hear so much about personal branding but regardless of the newest buzz words, branding is nothing but your reputation and your integrity. As it has always been, your decision to ignore people and not follow-up properly will affect your reputation and bring questions about your integrity. With social media that affect can be faster and much more far reaching and damaging than in the past. Many companies have learned this the hard way. Don’t burn your bridges with people because you never know where they may be in the future. Networking isnot a sprint, it is like running a marathon. You need to be in it for the long haul for it to be successful.”
Reputation, Social Media And Your Boss
Mitch Joel shares the results of a research on corporate attitudes to social media on Twist Image. “Anytime there is a platform that is open and fairly democratized, institutions and companies more accustomed to “controlling the message” get worried and express the potential for corporate damages that could be associated with employees speaking their minds. In this study, 74% of executives felt that online social networking platforms make it very easy to damage a company’s reputation.”
Finding New Employees, via Social Networks
In the NY Times, Julie Weed features some of the methods companies employ to search for new talent on the web. “…Mr. Scanlan said that recruiting through his employees’ social networks was a natural progression from using Craigslist and job Web sites over the past few years. He hopes to make this grass-roots type of recruiting part of his company’s culture. ‘This is beyond the H.R. department,’ he said. ‘All employees should be talent recruiters.’
The new networking
Bill Lohmann discusses the do’s and don’ts of online networking in the Times Dispatch. “Talk to anyone who knows social media, and they use words like ‘genuine’ and ‘transparent,’ ‘personalization’ and ‘immediacy,’ ‘relevance’ and ‘value.’ Whether you’re an individual or an organization, forgetting any of those is the fastest way to have people tune you out. The same goes if you don’t produce anything worth reading, or, even worse, if you’re perceived to be a guy ringing a doorbell selling magazine subscriptions. People don’t want to be spammed. Or to hear what you ate for breakfast.”
Social networking — a different kind of friendship
On eConsultancy, Geno Prussakov takes a look at several types of social networks and varying degrees of closeness for online friendships. “Some believe that all social networks are generally the same, but in a video posted by BusinessWeek a week ago Danah Boyd of Microsoft pointed out that the assumption that there is essentially only one sort of social networks (that we are talking about in different ways) is wrong. There are, in fact, 3 types of social networks: (i) personal networks (people you trust, and sincerely care about), (ii) behavioral social networks (people you spend time with, and communicate with on a regular basis), and (iii) articulated social networks (examples: cell phone address book, Facebook, Twitter). ‘The challenge is that we don’t understand the relationship between these three types of social networks and we’re trying to find ways to make sense of the theory that has come out of sociology and try to apply it’ to our marketing said Boyd.”
The use—or nonuse—of social tools sparks Twitterstorm
Lauren Barack from the School Library Journal on the role of social media in modern education. “The issue comes at a critical time. Library media specialists, already hampered by dwindling budgets over the years, are feeling the impact of the current recession, with further cuts to resources and even staff. So how to remain relevant has never been more important. The fact that the conversation was itself conducted via social media only underscores the need for media specialists to be conversant with these tools.”
Confessions of a social network-aholic
Leslie Toy describes getting burned out by a little too much connectivity in SGV Tribune. “Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a hermit who hates human contact. But something about the increased ability to keep in touch makes me more possessive of my privacy. As people my age continue to grow up with ever-accelerating technology, it will be a challenge to stay in the present instead of worrying about how to word current whereabouts or how pictures will appear on public profiles. When you obsess about what your life looks like to others, I find you forget to enjoy it for yourself.”
It’s been a great journey. The more I look into social media and report on its current use the more it seems that others, from corporates to government agencies, are starting to ‘get’ social media.
For those of you still lagging behind, here are some stats that might get you motivated to join in the conversation (… that means both listening and talking):
2/3 of the global internet population use social media 
3 in 4 Americans use social media 
4 in 5 Australians use social media at least monthly 
People now visit social media websites more than they use personal email 
Time spent on social media websites is growing 3x the speed of internet adoption 
What are they doing? In Australia, the statistics indicate:
39% – news feeds
29% – instant messaging
26% – social networking
22% – blogs
Hitwise reports that of all websites visited by Australians:
4.03% visit Facebook
1.44% visit YouTube
1.12% visit MySpace
0.81% visit Wikipedia
These are interesting numbers from a government information and communication perspective because of the 2,094 websites that Hitwise monitors the combined traffic only equates to 1.3% of which the Bureau of Meteorology attracts 0.36%. It suggests that people would rather go to YouTube and be one of the 100 million people who watch some of the 13 hours of video uploaded every minute. If you were to watch all the content on YouTube though make sure you’ve got lots of popcorn because it would take you about 412 years.
So what about other social media webistes? Some suggest that people arn’t engaged or maybe its only a small proportion, yet the statistics speak for themselves:
13 million articles in Wikipedia
3.6 billion photos on Flickr in June 2009 — roughly 1 photo for every 2 people on the planet (world population is est 6.7 billion by United States Census Bureau to be 6.7 billion)
Twitter grew by 1382% from January to February 2009
3 million Tweets on Twitter per day
5 billion minutes spent on Facebook every day
1 billion pieces of content, from links and news to photos and blog posts, shared on Facebook each week
If Facebook was a country it would be the 8th most populated in the world ahead of Japan which is 127.7 million according to the Japan Statistics Bureau
If you’re not part of this conversation, this collaboration, this community, then your stakeholders and your clients are obviously talking to other people.
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1. Nielsen, Global Faces & Networked Places, 2009
2. Forrester, The Growth of Social Technology Adoption, 2008
3. Internet World Stats, 2008. Internet Usage Stats and Telecommunications Market Report
SharePoint continues to expand its use as an enterprise content sharing platform.Microsoft provides an open API and encourages third party developers to supplement its functionality.Titus Labs has responded with a very useful set of functionality that provide some needed features to SharePoint. I recently spoke with Charlie Pulfer and Sandra Catana of Titus Labs on their new release.Titus Labs was founded 4 years ago and has been providing email and document classification for MS Office. It has over 800,000 licensed users within 150 large clients.There are three main components to the new SharePoint release: Metadata Security, Document Marking, and PDF Control.
Titus Labs Metadata Security for SharePoint allows administrators to build access rules based on the document’s assigned metadata properties. These metadata rules can then be assigned to a document library or content type. Metadata Security can automatically produce specific permissions for each document in the library, without having to do tedious item-level permission assignment. Here is a close up of the permission setting screen.
The idea is to focus security at the document level rather than the library level. This allows for documents with different security access to be in the same library. It avoids the need to set up separate libraries for each security level that can be an administration and version control nightmare. Because per-document security is much easier to set up, administrators can easily create a Document Library that different groups of users can share. The metadata can be within the document application such as Word or entered within SharePoint. The Titus Labs application works behind the scenes and uses Microsoft’s Active Directory.
Titus Labs Document Marking for SharePoint automatically adds labels to Office documents as they are added to a SharePoint library. Labels can be added to the document header, footer, and/or watermark. The label content is completely configurable by the administrator, and can be based on text strings or derived from the document’s metadata. Administration is handled through the regular SharePoint administration interface, using a custom policy. For example, you can add a confidential watermark to enhance security and compliance.Here is a document with a watermark and header added.
Document Marking for SharePoint makes it possible to label hundreds or even thousands of existing documents in a SharePoint document library. Administrators simply assign a label or watermark policy to an existing SharePoint document library. The next time a user opens a document from the library they will see the document labels. Charlie walked me through the process and it is very intuitive.Here are four demos of the new tools.
Titus Labs PDF Control for SharePoint automatically creates PDF versions of Microsoft documents as the documents are added to SharePoint. This is difficult to do if you have a MS Office version older than 2007 as many do. The PDF conversion takes place transparently in the background, and requires no additional software on the user’s desktop. If the source document changes in the future, the PDF is updated automatically, which ensures that the PDF version is always up to date. Here you can see the process for creating PDFs.
Administrators can control the permissions on both the source document and PDF in SharePoint, so that some users can access the original documents, while others can see only the PDF. Both versions are stored in the same SharePoint Document Library, which makes document management easier.
I like all of these enhancements and can easily see the value.They are certainly functionality that should be within SharePoint.As SharePoint usage grows it makes sense that these tools will get a wider following.
As many of you will know, there’s been a debate going on for some time now about the relative effectiveness and the ROI of formal and informal learning (formal learning being structured-and-scheduled courses and other measurable forms of content delivery, informal learning being the myriad ways people exchange information that becomes incorporated into one’s perspective or ways of doing things).
This debate has been intensified by the growing presence and uptake of collaborative platforms which seek to engage peoples’ social tendencies and mimic the ways they interact with information and each other to get things done.
The points made by these three executives from T Rowe Price, Sun Microsystems and Booz Allen Hamilton aren’t new to those of us who have been following and facilitating the uptake of this new generation of knowledge work tools and methods.
They do, however, underscore how clear it is that the dynamics spawned by a half-decade’s experience with social computing and social networks will undergo a massive migration into the knowledge workplace of the near future.
Learning Executives Discuss Social Learning at the ASTD 2009 International Conference
Be sure to catch Bill Ives' ongoing review series in which he looks at online, sharable database apps. The focus of Bill's reviews: web-based business software that enables companies and individuals to better organize, track, and share information, as well as better manage projects, processes and workflows.
Looking for apps that help you and your team get work done?
Check out the AppGap's Appopedia, an ever-expanding section with reviews of more than 150 of today's best tools to help you better manage projects and collaborate. Reviews are presented in a useful directory that breaks down tools by category and function, e.g., online crm, project management, human resources, security, etc. Check it out here.
The AppGap Webinar Series
The AppGap has hosted a series of discussions with leading thinkers and doers intended to illuminate how new apps and approaches are changing the way we work and help companies and individuals implement better collaboration, project management, and productivity practices and solutions. Access, via the links below, the recordings, each about an hour long, of the discussions.
The AppGap is a blog and resource on the future of work and how new tools are addressing age-old challenges of organization, collaboration, and innovation. But it is also an idea: that there remains a gap between the toolset that exists and what's needed...
Can today's project management software be done better? What can online CRM help companies companies accomplish? Which development platform can help individuals and organizations build better online databases, Web based applications, and HR solutions? And what are the processes and best practices that help organizations large and small achieve success. Find out more.