by Shiv Singh
At the Razorfish 9th Annual Client Summit, I presented five big ideas for social influence marketing. These were ideas that I felt would matter in the next two years. The audience for the presentation was 600 senior marketers but the ideas I emphasized have relevance to all decision makers within an organization. Here’s the presentation with the five ideas. Let me know what you think.
by Shiv Singh
Tomorrow is a hectic Intranet day for me. In the morning I’m co-hosting an Intranet Live episode on the first Intranet media channel and then I’m spending the afternoon with a pharmaceutical client brainstorming the best ways to redesign an intranet to deliver meaningful value within the next seven months.
I was planning for tomorrow and it got me thinking about the future of intranets once more. And I realized that Intranets as they are in their current form really do not have and should not have a future. First developed in the late 1990s and popularized by Netscape, Intranets were never meant to evolve into the complex beast that many have become today. They were designed to fuel collaboration, knowledge sharing and group communication. They were meant to be the road that employees took to connect with each other and not deeply with content. But over the last eight to ten years, they’ve grown in size, scope and have become these ocean liner type digital products that are supposed to meet every employee’s electronic need.
It’s time for that to change once more. It’s time in my opinion for us Intranet managers, practitioners, consultants and gurus to rethink what an intranet should be. I don’t know what it will look like but I do know that it’ll become more invisible and more accessible through any other enterprise application. It will privilege connecting people to one another over connecting people to content and it’ll work on any device or platform that it may be accessed from. It won’t hoard data and it’ll reflect the pulse of an organization versus its information archives and internal politics. It will be about collaboration among and between employees, partners and customers fueling new ideas and insights all at once. That’s what it feels like to me. What do you think?
by Shiv Singh
Last year a group of renowned scholars and business leaders got together to discuss the future of management. Organized by Gary Hamel of the Harvard Business School, the two day event was designed to think the fundamental principles, processes and practices of management that will drive success in the future. The group identified shared beliefs and after much contentious deliberation also “moonshots of management.”
The shared beliefs included the notion that management is one of humankind’s most important social technologies, a recognition that current management models are seriously out of date and third that management must be reorganized to become more adaptable, innovative and inspiring places to work. Of the 25 moonshots of management, a few stood out for me which I’m discussing here. You can find the complete list on Gary Hamel’s blog.
1) To ensure that management’s work serves a higher purpose both in theory and in practice. It must be oriented towards the achievement of significant and noble goals. This makes obvious sense as management is always a means and never an end unto itself. However, a critical question is whether managers are incentivized to genuinely think in terms of significant and noble goals and measure themselves against these higher purposes. Would you say that of AIG for example? Does the stock market reward companies that do? I’m not so sure.
2) Fully embed the ideas of community and citizenship into management systems. This is defined as the need for processes and practices that reflect the interdependence of all stakeholder groups. I would argue that by defining it that way, the embedding is not going far enough. The management systems need to be an amebic translation of the communities from which they rise and in turn serve. Thanks to communication technologies those stakeholder groups aren’t static and nor are their perceptions of the organizations. The community is a lot closer to the organization than ever before.
3) De-structure and disaggregate the organization. This one is explained as the need to become more adaptable and innovative by disaggregating larger entities into smaller, more malleable units. I respectfully disagree with this notion, With the advent of advanced web based communication technologies, the social media revolution and the flow of ideas between organizations and into them, the size of the organization matters less. It is more important to allow for the natural flow of information, the organic creation, evolution and dissolution of social networks and for emergent, situational mechanisms to support this malleability. It is not a question of big versus small.
4) Create a democracy of information is another interesting one and is explained as developing holographic information systems that equip every employee to act in the interest of the entire organization. This is important and I would argue necessary to simply hold onto the most talented employees. However, I would argue that the point is not to develop a new information system rather than to provide access to the information or the “company APIs” so that employees can create their own information systems, leverage third party ones as they choose and then act in the best interest of the entire organization. A little more letting go is needed here.
5) Depoliticize decision-making which is defined as allowing decision making processes to be free of positional biases and done in a manner that taps into the collective wisdom of the entire organization. Here’s another one that I’d say is a touch naive. You cannot depolitize decision-making as long as you have the company as an organizing unit with corporate hierarchies in place. To try to depolitize is unrealistic. It is better to start by encouraging employees to declare their politics and recognize how their own decision making is influenced by their positional biases. Tapping into the collective wisdom is important but it too can only be successful when the biases are revealed.
So how doe these five points relate to technology and workplace productivity? Because a lot of these issues are contested, negotiated and enacted within the digital environments of large organizations. Whether the decision making is taking place in a collaborative workspace, information is being shared via a wiki, organizational units are being formed or ideas are being harnessed on an intranet, these all happen digitally through the electronic culture of an organization. These thoughts are also posted at Going Social Now.
by Shiv Singh
Back in September I posted my thoughts on Yammer here. At the time I felt that Yammer held great promise but I was concerned with it competing with Twitter. In a nutshell, I felt that enterprise microblogging would always struggle to compete with broader microblogging unless all our streams could be aggregated. After all, how many conversations can we follow while we’re at work? I have a 1,400 followers on Twitter and I get 200-300 odd emails a day. Can I handle another channel?
Nevertheless, I decided to watch how Yammer was getting adopted in my own workplace. I work for a 2,500 person company and we’re a highly social bunch though most of the communication takes place on our email lists and through our enterprise wiki. Many employees (probably around 150) are on Twitter as well. Would Yammer have a place here?
Over the last five months, adoption of Yammer has been limited. There’s been no shortage of awareness, people are familiar with Yammer and we’ve even discussed its strengths and weaknesses on our mailing lists. But for one reason or another it hasn’t taken off though one team has used it really extensively. I blame this predominantly on the fact that we’re simply an email driven culture and one that collaborates through wikis and online project workrooms. Nevertheless, Yammer deserves another chance. And its just gotten that chance.
We’re running an office wide event (open to around 450 people) in our New York office today. We’re planning to have Yammer streaming on a large screen in the background giving people the opportunity to provide realtime feedback through their laptops. We contemplated using Twitter but decided not to as that would not be protected. Because the event has been promoted quite widely, there’s been a flurry of Yammer sign ups in our organization in the last two days. Will Yammer be used actively during the event and will this jumpstart adoption? Time will tell and I’ll report back on the results soon. Watch the space for more.
by Shiv Singh
I spoke at the Social Networking Conference in Miami two weeks ago on “Web 2.0 and the Enterprise: A Symbiotic Relationship.” As someone who’s advised Fortune 1000 companies on Enterprise 2.0 strategies as well as their Social Marketing ones, I see those two worlds blurring very much.
Historically, they’ve been treated as two very different beasts but I believe with the consumerization of the enterprise and the portability of social graphs the walls that divide the two are breaking down. And not just that but to do one effectively, an organization will need to be practicing the other as well. View my deck from the conference.
by Shiv Singh
Jacob Nielsen has just published his thoughts on the 10 Best Intranets for 2009. Now I’ve been following Nielsen for a number of years and his intranet rankings too while leading teams that designed intranets for 30,000 employee plus companies and publishing best practice reports. Needless to say, I know the intranet space well and have an opinion on it.
I invariably feel that the Nielsen rankings are more a reflection of how he defines the intranet space than what denotes a best intranet. The reason is that his definitions of what an intranet is, how it should be measured and results are all left a tad bit vague for me. Don’t get me wrong, the intranets he chooses are stellar and his guidance is strong but there some opinions of his that I contest. So here’s a critical look at some of the points that he’s highlighted in the article where he introduces the top intranets.
The biggest trend that he sees is in the growth in the number of employees supporting an intranet. That seems strange to me. I would have thought that with the move towards social applications and self organization, the core team supporting the intranet would have gotten smaller rather than larger. Is his opinion based on a statistically significant sample of all intranets or based on the composition of submissions?
Nielsen argues that intranets are getting more strategic by virtue of their team sizes, reporting lines and the functionality on them. I agree they’re getting more strategic but I think that’s largely because intranets are integrating with the other parts of an enterprise infrastructure. Also, the intranets are now knowledge management and social network driven tools more than ever capturing the tacit information that resides in people’s heads. That’s what’s making them strategic too. Its important to remember that its not just about team sizes, reporting lines and rich uses profiles. They matter but there’s more to the story.
I like the attention being given to the social network and collaboration features in the article. CEO blogging also gets a mention. That’s along the lines of what I’ve been seeing in the intranet space too. And quite frankly, these are obvious trends. What I do wonder about it is the participation from employees on the CEO blogs. Also, does the CEO blogging replace top down email communication? I was a little surprised to see no mention of wikis. Why was that? Are they not getting enough attention or are they badly implemented. I’d be interested in learning more about that.
The article also talks about personalization and customization taking hold. That makes sense but I must admit the type of personalization being discussed is still rather rudimentary. Customizing links, and creating customized reports are intranet elements that I’ve seen for years. Those are important but I’ve started to see a lot more from intranets – personalization driven by the composition of a person’s social network and usage patterns, customization based on the time period (end of quarter versus a normal day) etc. I’m surprised that some of those more advanced solutions don’t get mentioned.
And lastly, I found the extrapolation about Sharepoint intranets unusual. Don’t get me wrong, Sharepoint is a great platform for intranets but as with a lot of the other thoughts in the article by Nielsen, I think it is unfair to generalize about the state of all intranets without talking about sample sizes and being statistically significant with the data.
So here’s my plea – next year please share the total number of submissions for the awards, the countries from where the submissions came from and categorize the submissions by size (employees using the intranet). Without that data, it is hard to pay too much attention to this list of the 10 Best Intranets for 2009.
It is worth noting that my agency did not submit any intranets for the awards last year. We do buy the reports often because they’re still insightful.
by Shiv Singh
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Apparently, President Obama will not be allowed to have his blackberry with him. It is a security risk and he wouldn’t be in compliance with the Presidential Records Act if he carried it around. Imagine that. An efficient use of technology is a security risk. But then it got me thinking. Do organizations depend too much on email? Has email become a lazy way to communicate and collaborate? With all the copying and blind copying going on in emails, is it serving as more of a distraction than a productivity enhancer?
A recent IDG report highlighted that there will be 40 trillion inbox clogging spam e-mail messages this year resulting in smart companies building separate email system – email systems that are detached from the Internet.On the surface, it may seem excessive to build a private email system to avoid spam. But the strategy does have merits. Its not that employees won’t be able to email the outside world (many of them need to just to do their jobs) but rather it’ll separate external email from internal communications.
Now lets see if we can take this thought process a little further. What if employees were limited to say a hundred emails a day. And if they went over that limit they were charged 25 cents per email sent. What would that do to the organization? Would it mean more meetings? More stopping by each other’s desks? Better and more efficient uses of the corporate intranet? A reduction in knowledge sharing? Increased productivity as employees would be spending less time cleaning up their inboxes?
It is hard to know but it might be one way to fight what I’m going to call “internal spam” just as private email systems fight public spam. This doesn’t get much attention but I’m willing to bet it hampers productivity and fuels laziness.