Archive for June, 2010
by Bill Ives
There are a number of ways to monitor the web to see what and how your company and others are doing. Many of these require more configuration than the average business user is willing to engage in. Workstreamer is designed to address the need of users such as sales and customer service reps, supply chain managers, and others who what to easily track what is occurring and what is being said on the Web about specific companies.
I recently spoke with Hank Weghorst, Co-Founder and CEO and Suaad Sait, Co-Founder, about their offering. It is described as a “real-time business listening platform” that allows you to stop searching and start listening. They automate the listening function for tracking business information, not just social mentions of your brand. So it brings in data from blogs, tweets, social networks like LinkedIn, contact directories like Jigsaw, finance sites, CRM services like Salesforce, and more. The results are presented in a stream of findings that can be expanded to drill down on specific companies. You can see a sample screen below.
Looking at the screen above from left to right you first see the user and the companies they are following. Then you see the feed of detail as around each company. The waving line shows the varying amount of buzz. The numbers indicate the change in mentions from the day before. Then the company details are offered with icons linking to such sources as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Jigsaw (the business card site). The next column provides what they call the tone cloud. It is a tag cloud like visualization that shows the key themes emerging for each company and allows you to drill down to the specific mentions.
In the far right column you can see the other team members. Workstreamer allows the formation of groups to share information. They start with others in the same domain but then others can be added. This team feature comes in handy as you can comment on results and these comments are shared with team members. For example, a sales manager can point out the significance of news items to the rest of the team or ask someone to follow up on a change within a client. You can see a comment in the screen below
One of the things I especially liked was the capability of expanding the results through specific visualizations. For example, the numbers of job openings over time is presented in a line graph. Details on executives from Jigsaw are displayed in a table. Each visualization is specific to the type of data covered. Below you can see an example of job postings for a tracked company displayed in chart within the stream of other news items.
It is very easy to start tracking a company. Workstreamer has already added over million companies into their database and they continue to add more. So if you type in a name, they offer you instances to choose from. If the name is not in their database yet you can still start tracking it. I gave them the name of a very small local company and they came up with it instantly. The goal is a one-click start and this appears very possible.
Workstreamer does a lot of filtering for business relevance so you are not overwhelmed by useless information. You can also select to narrow results to specific content types such as news sites or social media. In addition, you can connect Workstreamer to your LinkedIn and Salesforce.com accounts. They provide nightly email summaries of the top news in the firms you are tracking.
The current version of Workstreamer is free. They plan to remain free through 2010 to build awareness. The free version will always be available and always retain its features. In 2011 they plan to offer a fee-based premium version with additional features. For what I have seen the free version is quite robust and useful. I am very impressed with both the ease of use and the usefulness of the data visualizations. I plan to give it a try myself.
by Bill Ives
Novell’s latest collaboration offering, Pulse, provides a real-time collaboration environment for the enterprise that brings authoring, communication and social messaging together in a single secure solution. Built to work alone or in concert with existing collaboration tools, Novell Pulse uses the Google Wave Federation Protocol to allow seamless integration with other co-editing and collaboration tools, such as Google Wave, as well as new extensions that third parties can build on top of the Novell Pulse platform. It draws on instant messaging, document sharing, social connections, real-time co-editing and enterprise controls.
Recently I spoke with Andy Fox, the VP of Engineering at Novell and Wendy Steinle, Director of Marketing for Novell Pulse about what Pulse brings to enterprise 2.0. I have been intrigued with Google Wave (see My Notes and Thoughts on Google Wave Video Demo). The Google Wave Federation Protocol allows any organization to build their own wave service that can interoperate with all other Wave providers, including Google. By adopting the Google Wave Federation Protocol, Novell Pulse will let users collaborate across systems, in real-time on a character by character basis.
Key features of Pulse include granular policy-driven controls at the person, group and organization levels. Collaborative editing and document sharing enable users to get work done with other users in real-time, from co-editable online documents to the ability to share, view and comment on traditional office documents in real time. Andy showed me an example of this. A single interface allows users to see, sort, filter and send direct messages, blog postings and group feeds from one place. Document presence shows users in this single in-box when their colleagues are visiting, editing or commenting on a document or message.
I asked Andy about microblogging and he said they have merged blogging and microblogging by allowing messages to start small but expand beyond the usual limits imposed on microblogging. He mentioned that many business messages often relate to documents and need to go beyond tweets. This flexible blogging capability allows users to share, follow and comment on topics and ideas. You can engage in real time chat around documents or images. Unlike IM, these conversations are archived and become searchable. Messages are seen by your followers and can be directed at individuals and groups.
The ease of use and ad hoc nature opens up some interesting use cases. For example, a manager can ask for her staff’s travel budgets. Instead of the siloed email option, the conversations can occur real time and in a transparent format. While this open exchange can occur in a wiki, it is more difficult to set up and does not operate in real time.
In another example, document co-creation becomes simpler. It operates real time like Google Wave. The comments and brainstorming can be easily incorporated on a character by character basis. Collaborative meeting notes can operate in the same manner.
A suggestion system in Pulse allows users to recommend people and groups. There are also customizable personal and group profiles with added fields, sections, tables of content and gadgets. You can visit profiles to connect with other users or groups that a person is following or who are following that user or group.
Novell Pulse integrates with both Novell Teaming (see Novell Teaming 2 Brings a Richer Collaboration Feature Set) and Novell GroupWise (see Novell GroupWise 8 Brings Enterprise 2.0 Capability to Personal Productivity Functions). It is currently being used by over 4,000 customers in a pre-beta format. Pulse is planned for a release later this year. I think it brings a number of innovations to enterprise collaboration and look forward to its release.
by Bill Ives
A few months ago I wrote a series on the innovative and award winning approach Booz Allen is taking to enhance enterprise collaboration and engagement (see Implementing Enterprise 2.0 at Booz Allen: The Series). Recently, I spoke again with Walton Smith, the Program Manager for Booz Allen’s information sharing efforts and the lead for the Government 2.0 client practice. Walton said that the first version of Hello, the collaboration platform, covered the exchange and archiving of tacit knowledge. Now they wanted to expand it to incorporate document management in an integrated and collaborative manner.
Booz Allen selected SharePoint for the document management application as 90% of their clients used it and they already had an enterprise license. To extend the collaborative capabilities they made use of a number of third party tools including MindTouch and some other open source offerings. MindTouch was added as the wiki platform because of its ability to scale and the flexibility to rapidly develop mashups and social applications. It could also be easily integrated into the overall Hello skin.
The new version of Hello includes a front end dashboard built on the iGoogle model. Users can configure it to meet their individual requirements. The third new feature is the capability to support projects. In the prior version of Hello everything was open. Now you can put in security levels to create private subsets of the conversation to support a project team. They also have added FAST for enterprise search as it provides a federated search across applications. The search results bring back related people and documents at the same time. These are all great next steps to make the collaboration platform more robust and serve a broader array of needs within the enterprise. Here is a sample screen.
We also discussed their micro-blogging efforts (which plan to be installed in the near future). Walton likes micro-blogging for circulating content because of its speed. Busy managers and consultants often do not have time to write a blog post or make a wiki entry and email is too limited. However, they can quickly push information and ideas around the firm through micro-blogging. He finds that it also levels the playing field for information exchange. Messages more quickly move up and down the organizational levels as anyone can put a message into the micro-blogging system and anyone can respond. The traditional filters of company hierarchies can be put aside, furthering the speed of communication. At the same time private groups can be easily set up for conversations within levels as needed.
In addition to supporting individual exchanges, micro-blogging can become the vehicle for virtual group discussions. For example, Booz Allen has held several forums through micro-blogging. In this case senior executives make themselves available for questions at an agreed upon time. Employees can follow the discussion thread and make contributions. This provides a new sense of connection, as well as updates on where the firm is going which is especially valuable for a global organization of 23,000 people operating in almost every time zone. Even if people cannot participate, these forums are archived and accessible at any time. We have seen these group dialogues on Twitter. Moving them inside the trusted environment of the enterprise can further open up the conversation.
Walton related another use case as micro-blogging can serve as an ambient alert system that tracks events within the enterprise. There was an issue around a new smart phone roll out. The IT people responsible for this began to see concerns on the micro-blogging system long before the volume of help tickets rose to alert status. They were able to quickly address the issue through the micro-blogging system and other channels, indicate they were aware of it, and add that a fix was on its way. The speed of detection that micro-blogging offered turned what could have been a black eye for the IT people into an example of proactive responsiveness.
Walton sees micro-blogging as a means to stay in touch with the pulse of the enterprise. This can be oversight of a tactical issue like the smart phone effort or more strategic topics such as what are people hearing from clients in the field or what are the main concerns of employees. Many of the enterprise micro-blogging tools have recognized this potential and have implemented metrics and dashboards to aggregate messages for more comprehensive monitoring.
I continue to be impressed with what Booz Allen is doing in the enterprise 2.0 space and look forward to Walton’s presentation at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston.
The system recently received another award, this time from CIO Magazine. The award citation noted that “Booz Allen Hamilton wanted a “deliberately fun” way to increase collaboration among its 23,000 worldwide staffers, especially those who might feel isolated while working at client sites. Its solution: Hello, a suite of tools including blogs, forums and wikis that make it easier for employees to find staff with specific expertise, and to mine and enlarge the consultancy’s knowledge base. The system serves the company’s goal of finding ways its employees can “work together differently” and has also added to the bottom line: While Booz Allen doesn’t sell Hello, it has leveraged its experience with the system to develop customized Enterprise 2.0 solutions for clients.”
by Bill Ives
Cornerstone OnDemnad has been providing an integrated online talent management solution for ten years. They now have over 3.7 million subscribers giving them one of the largest subscriber bases. The most recent addition to their integrated suite is social networking through the Cornerstone Connect module which was launched in October 2008. I recently spoke with Charles Coy, Director of Product Marketing at Cornerstone, about their offerings.
Charles said that Cornerstone has been in both the learning management and talent management market for some time. Now the providers in both spaces are tending to merge toward integrated offerings that address both issues. This makes sense since, as Charles noted, the learning component makes the talent management actionable. In Cornerstone’s instance their competency assessment capabilities help set up the learning agenda for individuals.
Cornerstone has extended the range of integrated products by adding social networking to create a five-part suite. Each of these components is available separately but now over 70% of their clients are using more than one module. The five components are: learning management, enterprise social networking, performance management, succession planning, and support for engaging the extended enterprise. Here is a sample screen from the talent management system.
The learning component includes collaborative learning, instructor-led classes, e-learning, and virtual classrooms. Some of the content comes from the SkillSoft library (see my post on their extensive offering: SaaS enters e-learning Through SkillSoft). The performance management system has a fully integrated workflow from competency assessment to performance reviews and development plans and on to such components as goal management, certification tracking and compensation modeling. Succession planning links talent pooling with career pathing to support development plans. The extended enterprise capability supports customer and partner training and certification.
We spent more time on Cornerstone Connect, the social networking component. Here they have brought in such enterprise 2.0 capabilities as blogs, wikis, forums, RSS, and microblogging to support collaborative learning. I think this is a great move as I have seen the many benefits of using social software in the learning space. Below is a sample main page for Cornerstone Connect. It fits within the overall framework of your career, profile, team, resources and reports.
Rather than simply providing generic social software, Cornerstone is adapting these tools to focused learning use cases and Charles went over a few. The first is employee on-boarding. The Connect module helps new hires engage with communities such as their work team and/or other new hires. This is an ideal use case for the conversations and introductions that can occur through social tools. Below is a sample screen where you can see authors, community members, topics, and postings.
Another use case is social learning. They have seen an increase in demand for social learning. I can understand this as peer learning has generally been one of the strongest forms of education and the transparency of social media can inspire even greater performance in peer learning activities. I have seen this in situations where the outcomes became significantly better once a social learning tool was introduced.
Cornerstone clients have also used Connect to support business partner on-boarding and customer enablement. Like with employee on-boarding, anytime you want to create greater connections as part of the learning efforts, a social networking tool can provide useful benefits. Employee alumni networks is a related use case as organizations have increasingly wanted to stay connected to former employees to tap into their experience and, in some cases, to create new sales channels.
Cornerstone has used Connect itself to set up a Suggestion City to crowd-source new product ideas and receive feedback on existing ones. They also use it for their own new product training. I am sure that new use cases will continue to emerge. Their future product plans include enhanced metrics on the connections and communication that occurs through Connect. I think this is a smart move as part of the value of using transparent tools is taping into the content that emerges through these conversations to look for trends and better understanding the pulse of an organization.
I like what Cornerstone is doing with the integrated approach and the increasingly social nature of their talent management suite. They now have plans to make versions available for the small to midsize market that is largely underserved with these types of comprehensive capabilities.
by Bill Ives
I have been interested in both the broad array of tools for Web monitoring and the emergence of practical semantic technology tools. NetBase addresses both of these interests, so I was very pleased to recently speak with Jonathan Spier, NetBase CEO, and their CMO, Lisa Joy Rosner. Jonathan said that NetBase now reads four languages: British, American, Canadian, and Austrailian. Having lived in three of these countries I can understand the need to treat them separately.
So I asked what it means to for the software to read a language. Jonathan showed me an excellent slide reproduced below. A traditional search tool such as Google treats all words the same. Traditional text analytics uses a dictionary for sentiment but still treats words in isolation so mistakes can be plentiful. NetBase understands grammar and picks the pivot words that determine the context for meaning.
NetBase was taught English by a team of computational linguistic PhDs. They have now created several targeted versions. One of these is ConsumerBase that looks at brands on the Web. It is described as an insight discovery tool that is used for “social media understanding”. It was co-developed with several of their Fortune 500 clients, including five of the top 10 CPG companies in the world, with the goal of making it accessible to the business user for market research.
ConsumerBase goes beyond simply monitoring for mentions to providing a software generated understanding of what is being said. With monitoring tools you need to know what you are looking for. A tool like ConsumerBase allows you to discover things you did not know to look for about your brand or other content of interest. It reads over 50,000 sentences a minute, 10 billion documents a month, along with 400,000 social media feeds.
We first looked at what was being said about the Wii from Nintendo. Below you can see as screen providing the likes and dislikes connected with the Wii. You can also see sound bytes. Drilling down on any of the items in either tag cloud will allow you to go deeper into the content. These results were generated in a few seconds while we talked. It does not use pre-categorization but does the categories on the fly to help you find the unanticipated. It can look at the same word from a positive or negative sense as it understands the context. For example, the Wii is connected with the term injury in both positive and negatives ways. It can be seen as a way to help recovery from injuries (e.g. regaining balance after traumatic brain injury) and it can be seen as a source of injury (repetitive strain injury).
In the screen below you can see a pie chart of the top likes around a product. In this case, it is Listerne. The text is small to see in this image but the pies in the chart are labeled with the green area representing the 51% who like it because it kills germs and smallest slice in blue mentions the 4% who feel it can be a mosquito repellent. I will have to try this.
You also break the results into other categories such as emotions and actions and then have positive and negatives within these categroies. In the example below we see the mixed emotions and behaviors connected with the Prius. There seems to be strong love and hate around this product and these are the top two emotions. Likewise buy and not buy are the top two actions discovered.
I like the flexibility in data visualizations. ConsumerBase also takes out potentially irrelevant data. For example, if you type Comcast into Google you get a lot of returns connected with the word love. It turns out that much of this is from the presence of Randy Love a Comcast employee who blogs a lot. ConsumerBase will recognize this as potentially irrelevant and not include it.
To help with analysis they have developed a Brand Passion Index that measures the intensity of consumer passion for brands expressed in social media. In the image below ConsumerBase used the index to look at grocery stores. We can see the strong passion of love for Whole Foods and Costco and the strong passion of hate around Walmart.
I like both the technology and the data visualizations. It is nice to see both aspects done well in the same product. Jonathan mentioned that clients tell him that the tools can be addictive and I can certainly see this. ConsumerBase certainly takes brand monitoring to greater heights and depths at the same time and it could understand that both attributes were positive in this sentence.