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I’m a Customer and I Have a Question … Should I …

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… 1) send an email, 2) try to call ( into the hell of “Press 1 for …, Press 2 for …” ) or should I just 3) put it out on Twitter ?

Well, it seems that Salesforce.com is getting ready to bet on Door #3 above.

It’s not too much of a stretch to wonder how quickly this will affect the call-center work force of the future. 

Here’s the direct quote from Salesforce.com’s SVP of customer service and support:

“While $20 billion of software is being spent on call centers, the customers are somewhere else,” he said.”

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Salesforce jumps on the Twitter-for-CRM bandwagon

By Caroline McCarthy

“Twitter customer service: It’s the hot new thing that all the kids are doing! Salesforce has added a new application to its “app exchange” so that clients who use its Service Cloud product can better wrangle Twitter for customer service purposes. It’ll be available this summer.

With the app, called Salesforce CRM for Twitter, clients can monitor Twitter messages that pertain to their company, aggregate the replies and conversations around those messages, and then respond to the inquiries and complaints and whatnot.

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Read the whole CNET article here … 

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The PersonAll-ization of Knowledge Work … On Your Work Screen

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In November of 2008 I spent several weeks in Paris, France speaking at a conference and with several Enterprise 2.0 startups, and was pleasantly surprised at some of the sophisticated concepts and capabilities I discovered.

One of the ongoing (and growing) trends in the workplace is the personalization of work … how you, the individual knowledge worker, carry out the work, choose and use the tools with which it is carried out, and fit yourself into the attendant rhythms of collaboration and co-creation built up from processing constant flows of information. I have written about what I call the “mass customization of work” before … I’ll Do It My Way – The Mass Customization of Knowledge Work, and Personalizing Collaborative Work … Individuals and Co-Creation.  I am about to add this post, which may be the beginning of a series on the personalization-of-work theme.

One of the interesting startups I encountered is PersonAll, being developed by a couple of young French entrepreneurs, Jeremy Grinbaum (President, previously of Google Enterprise search) and Jean-Patrice Glafkides (CTO, previously of HP Software).

PersonAll provides organizations with the means of offering its workers a fully personalized knowledge work portal. It allows each and every employee of an organization to integrate external information (from RSS feeds and other sources) to create always-on sources of information on markets, customers, industries, issues, topics, etc. of interest and utility to the worker) and all pertinent internal information (work team, departmental and organizational objectives, the organization’s news, new policies, access to databases and archives, internal collaboration platforms, etc.).  It also enables each and every employee to publish information to destinations where they are involved in the activities of a given community or group.

PersonAll accomplishes this through what Jeremy and Jean-Patrice call a “strategy of constraints”, wherein peoples’ configurations and activities are managed by permissions. Users can access a catalogue of portlets (modular pre-packaged / designed content).  There are two types of modules; 1) generic modules which users can customize within certain constraints (such as an RSS reader) and 2) specific modules selected from the previously-mentioned catalogue.

Here’s a quick look at a personalized work screen (though I suspect that the picture is not sufficiently large for you to get a decent sense of the different personalized components).

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Effectively, PersonAll lets you, the user, configure the screen you always have in front of your eyes and ears with the combinations and configurations of flows of information and information-processing services that are the most useful to YOU, that help you be your most productive according to your cognitive and collaborative styles.

An extensive use of tags is at the heart of PersonAll’s design and functionality.  This serves two key aspects:

1. the classification of “objects” (profiles, articles, modules, etc.), and

2. the management of users’ rights and permissions.

Essentially, this enables the easy and rapid formation, sustenance and (self) management of work communities around topics, subjects and other items of interest and pertinence.

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PersonAll’s business model is aimed at helping organizations reduce costs while improving knowledge worker productivity.  This will happen through  enhancing effective collaboration and at the same time providing employees with choice when it comes to the the work tools they use.  For example, with their own personall-ized work portal, people can migrate easily between projects or between social computing environments.

In principle, the widespread use of PersonAll in an organization also facilitates obtaining values from latent and explicit folksonomies, as PersonAll also offers the organization a range of statistical analysis tools whereby aggregate views of the kinds of exchanges and use of information flows and services can be examined and analyzed, as catalysts for augmenting the organizations ‘collective intelligence’.

In terms of technical design and architecture, PersonAll is based on Java standards, and is optimized for the major browsers like IE, Firefox, Safari and Chrome.  Of course it is designed to plug into and sit on top of all major / common forms of integrated information systems such as those found in most major enterprises …. the “of course” at the beginning of this sentence refers to the fact that if it weren’t it would not be very useful in PersonAll’s target market, non ?  Sacré bleu, zut, alors !

It is also ‘backwards compatible’ with browsers and enterprise platfroms / portals, and completely compatible with what most of us call the “Consumer Web 2.0″.  As Jeremy and Jean-Patrice pointed out to me, enterprise social computing can be characterized generally as 2 to 3 years behind the consumer Web in terms of trying, using and adapting to web tools and services, and they are aiming to make it easy to try and adopt … or let’s say minimizing the reasons for any given enterprise to say ‘No’.

PersonAll has some early revenue-generating clients, a good degree of recognition and profile in the Enterprise 2.0 space in France, and some exciting plans up their sleeves for the next year or so.

As some readers may know, I think that the use of social computing tools and services combined with collaborative platforms is THE future of knowledge work and that this major trend will inexorably lead to the re-design of fundamental assumptions about the design of knowledge work.

The personalization of knowledge work and PKM (personal knowledge management) is clearly an established and tangible trend. Given a few breaks and early adoption by a few progressive organizations, I think that this small but smart French start-up has an interesting and exciting future in front of it.

Stay tuned .

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Twitter Clones Will Be A Common Feature of Collaboration Platforms …

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.. and an essential tool in turning flows of information into useful and applicable knowledge.

This would not be the first time I (and many others) have said this, but here’s a new post on the TechCrunch blog that strongly reinforces that prediction.

People have been using IM in the workplace for quite a while.  But the one-to-many-many-to-one capability offered by Twitter (and Yammer, and other platforms that already have Twitter clones as part of their feature repertoire) is tailor made for effective ongoing communications for project teams, value webs comprised of vendors, suppliers, clients, etc.)

We’ll see a lot more of it … the online version of popping your head around the cubicle or walking over to the next department to talk to someone for a quick update and running into other interesting people and information on the way.  Happens all the time.

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Socialtext Adds Twitter-like “Signals” And a Desktop AIR App
Erick Schonfeld

March 3, 2009

In yet another sign that this will be the year of the activity stream, Socialtext is adding a Twitter-like message stream to its enterprise wiki/workspace service, The new feature is called Socialtext Signals, and it appears both as a widget in the Socialtext dashboard and as a standalone desktop app built on Adobe AIR.

Socialtext Signals is essentially an enterprise version of Twitter, much like Yammer. Employees within a company can micro-message each other without competitors or the rest of the world snooping. They will see only the messages of the co-workers they are following. In addition to the 140-character messaging between co-workers (the “signals”), there is also an “activity” tab. This generates a micro-message every time a person you are following takes an action inside Socialtext, such as creating a wiki page, writing a blog post, or making a comment.

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Simple “Why’s” Regarding Enterprise 2.0

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With thanks to Luis Suarez of IBM Spain for pointing to Laurie Buczek of Intel outlining the company’s reasons and path towards the large-scale adoption of social computing

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  • Employees Want to Put a Face to a Name
  • Too much time is lost to find people & information to do your job
  • Getting work done effectively in globally dispersed teams is challenging
  • New hires want to have a way to integrate into Intel faster
  • Restructuring and employee redeployment impacts Organizational Health
  • We reinvent the wheel over and over again
  • We learn more via on the job training, then we do in a classroom
  • We need to deliver radical innovation in a mature company
  • When the mature workforce starts to retire, they carry knowledge out the door

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Stretch … Breathe … Listen … Concentrate … Repeat Again and Again

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Via Hylton Jolliffe of Beeline Labs, a link to this May 2008 gabfest.  Actually, I remember writing something about it at the time … perhaps The Wisdom of the Organization Crowd ?

It seems clear to me that most of these "25 Stretch Goals For Management" can arguably be informed by the emergent organizing principle I call "wirearchy". For example, all of the following are elements of management that are addressed in the article "Will Enterprise 2.0 Drive Management Innovation ?".

  • embed the ideas of community and citizenship
  • reconstruct management’s philosophical foundation
  • eliminate the pathologies of hierarchy
  • reinvent the means of control
  • reinvent strategy making as an emergent process
  • de-structure and disaggregate the organization
  • share the work of setting direction
  • create a democracy of information
  • expand employee autonomy
  • create internal markets for ideas, talent and resources
  • enable communities of passion
  • retool management for an open world
  • retrain managerial minds

It also seems clear that we will, collectively, not go back to the existing models of management, although the process of transition to these new goals is really only still in the early days.  As I re-read the list of stretch goals I am reminded of Peter Vaill’s book "Learning as a Way of Being – Strategies for Survival in a World of Permanent Whitewater" and I end up thinking that any competent OD (organizational development) practitioner will have been talking to organization / management clients about these issues for at least the last decade.  That is the core message of "Will Enterprise 2.0 Drive Management Innovation ?" … that the transformation of management is available and accessible from organizational development principles but probably needs some re-framing.

By the way, I don’t like the implications of the term "moonshots" used in Hamel’s post.  I do not see these issues as "moonshots" but rather as an intensification and amplification of changes that have been underway for some time now but that many or most organizations are struggling with because of legacy structures and the accompanying assumptions about how activities are and should be managed.

What do you think ?  Are networks here to stay and will their impact on traditional management continue to accumulate ?  Will social computing be the medium that helps these necessary changes take place, or will the changes be forced onto traditional management whilst they go kicking and screaming, full of resistance, into the future ?

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25 Stretch Goals For Management

In May 2008, a group of renowned scholars and business leaders gathered in Half Moon Bay, California, with a simple goal: to lay out an agenda for reinventing management in the 21st century.

The two-day event, organized by the Management Lab with support from McKinsey & Company, brought together veteran management experts such as CK Prahalad, Henry Mintzberg, and Peter Senge; distinguished social commentators including Kevin Kelly, James Surowiecki and Shoshana Zuboff; and a number of progressive CEOs, including Terri Kelly from WL Gore, Vineet Nayar from HCL Technologies, and John Mackey from Whole Foods.

Before arriving, each of the 35 attendees participated in an hour-long interview. The double-barreled question:

What is it about the way large organizations are currently managed that will most imperil their ability to thrive in the decades ahead; and given this, what fundamental changes will be needed in management principles, processes and practices?

[ Snip ... ]

First, that "management" — the tools and methods we use to mobilize resources to productive ends — is one of humankind’s most important social technologies.

Second, that the "management model" that predominates in most large organizations is now seriously out-of-date. This model has its roots in the late 19th century, and was invented to solve one overriding problem: how to get semi-skilled human beings to do the same things over and over again, with perfect replicability and ever-increasing efficiency. This was, and is, an important problem, but it is not the most important challenge for today’s organizations.

Third, that we must, therefore, reinvent management in ways that will make large organizations fundamentally more adaptable, more innovative and more inspiring places to work — that will, in short, make them as human as the individuals who work within them.

After two days of sometimes contentious deliberations, a set of "moonshots for management" began to emerge. These challenges are described in full in the February 2009 issue of the Harvard Business Review, and are summarized below:

1. Ensure that management’s work serves a higher purpose. Management, both in theory and practice, must orient itself to the achievement of noble, socially significant goals.

2. Fully embed the ideas of community and citizenship in management systems. There’s a need for processes and practices that reflect the interdependence of all stakeholder groups.

3. Reconstruct management’s philosophical foundations. To build organizations that are more than merely efficient, we will need to draw lessons from such fields as biology and theology, and from such concepts as democracies and markets.

4. Eliminate the pathologies of formal hierarchy. There are advantages to natural hierarchies, where power flows up from the bottom and leaders emerge instead of being appointed.

5. Reduce fear and increase trust. Mistrust and fear are toxic to innovation and engagement and must be wrung out of tomorrow’s management systems.

6. Reinvent the means of control. To transcend the discipline-versus-freedom trade-off, control systems will have to encourage control from within rather than constraints from without.

7. Redefine the work of leadership. The notion of the leader as a heroic decision maker is untenable. Leaders must be recast as social-systems architects who enable innovation and collaboration.

8. Expand and exploit diversity. We must create a management system that values diversity, disagreement, and divergence as much as conformance, consensus, and cohesion.

9. Reinvent strategy-making as an emergent process. In a turbulent world, strategy making must reflect the biological principles of variety, selection, and retention.

10. De-structure and disaggregate the organization. To become more adaptable and innovative, large entities must be disaggregated into smaller, more malleable units.

11. Dramatically reduce the pull of the past. Existing management systems often mindlessly reinforce the status quo. In the future, they must facilitate innovation and change.

12. Share the work of setting direction. To engender commitment, the responsibility for goal setting must be distributed through a process where share of voice is a function of insight, not power.

13. Develop holistic performance measures. Existing performance metrics must be recast, since they give inadequate attention to the critical human capabilities that drive success in the creative economy.

14. Stretch executive time frames and perspectives. Discover alternatives to compensation and reward systems that encourage managers to sacrifice long-term goals for short-term gains.

15. Create a democracy of information. Companies need holographic information systems that equip every employee to act in the interests of the entire enterprise.

16. Empower the renegades and disarm the reactionaries. Management systems must give more power to employees whose emotional equity is invested in the future rather than in the past.

17. Expand the scope of employee autonomy. Management systems must be redesigned to facilitate grassroots initiatives and local experimentation.

18. Create internal markets for ideas, talent, and resources. Markets are better than hierarchies at allocating resources, and companies’ resource allocation processes need to reflect this fact.

19. Depoliticize decision-making. Decision processes must be free of positional biases and should exploit the collective wisdom of the entire organization.

20. Better optimize trade-offs. Management systems tend to force either-or choices. What’s needed are hybrid systems that subtly optimize key trade-offs.

21. Further unleash human imagination. Much is known about what engenders human creativity. This knowledge must be better applied in the design of management systems.

22. Enable communities of passion. To maximize employee engagement, management systems must facilitate the formation of self-defining communities of passion.

23. Retool management for an open world. Value-creating networks often transcend the company’s boundaries and render traditional power-based management tools ineffective. New management tools are needed for building complex ecosystems.

24. Humanize the language and practice of business. Tomorrow’s management systems must give as much credence to such timeless human ideals as beauty, justice and community as they do to the traditional goals of efficiency, advantage, and profit.

25. Retrain managerial minds. Managers’ traditional deductive and analytical skills must be complemented by conceptual and systems-thinking skills.

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We Will Be One

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I wonder if this means it will be you or your computer that enrolls in this "university" ?

Via the Guardian

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Ray Kurzweil to head futurology school backed by Nasa and Google
The Singularity University will offer courses in artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and biotechnology

Ian Sample

An American inventor who plans to live for ever has been appointed head of a new school for futurologists backed by Google and the US space agency Nasa.

Ray Kurzweil, who worked as a computer scientist before turning to future gazing in the late 1980s, will become chancellor of the Singularity University based at Nasa’s Silicon Valley campus in California.

The institution gains its name from a controversial 2005 book by Kurzweil, entitled The Singularity is Near. In it, he argues that the exponential advance of technology is set to transform society by giving rise to computers that are more clever than humans. The leap in computing power will drive rapid advances in other fields, he claims, that together could solve the problems of climate change, poverty, famine and disease.

In an earlier book, Kurzweil predicts the creation of "nanobots" that will patrol our bloodstreams, repairing wear and tear as they go, and keeping our bodies perpetually young.

"The law of accelerating returns means technology eventually will be a million more times powerful than it is today and cause profound transformation," Kurzweil told Associated Press after his appointment was announced.

The new institute will offer courses on artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and biotechnology and is due to open its doors to its first class of 30 students this summer.

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Homo Zappiens Will Have Square Eyes, Fingers That Are Live and Linked, and Hearts That Are Connected …

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For at least the past decade Wim Veen of the Technical University of Delft has been exploring learning and the educational process over the first 10 – 15 years of a kid’s life by delving into the behaviours involved in interacting with screen, software, hyperlinks and other people and the neuro-plasticity of the brains of these young people.  He published Homo Zappiens – Growing Up in a Digital Age. in January 2007. 

More recently and with a different emphasis on the emergence into adult society Don Tapscott published Growing Up Digital – The Rise of the Net Generation.  A decade ago Douglas Rushkoff wrote and published Children of Chaos – Surviving the End of the World As We Know It  and Playing the Future – What We Can Learn From Digital Kids.  There are other books that touch on core areas of this once-in-history shift to being digital, like coiner-of-the-terms digital natives and digital immigrants Marc Prensky’s books Digital Game-Based Learning and Don’t Bother Me Mom – I’m Learning, Steven Johnson’s Everything Bad Is Good For You and Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind – Why Right-Brainers Will Rule The Future.

Here via the Guardian (excerpt below) is more evidence that the massive transformation to culture generally and our ways of working, learning and playing is well underway and involves creating or having a physical and a social infrastructure for continuous connection and communication.  It’s easy to assume that this is becoming the case all over North America, Europe and parts of Asia. Of course there are many less affluent who cannot own such a personal infrastructure, but as I have observed on numerous travels over the last several years there’s heavy and growing use of (for example) access in libraries or in Internet cafes or via mobile phones / devices in other places in the world. 

In my opinion this supports the conclusion (reached long ago by most of our world’s visionaries, people like (long ago) Stafford Beer, John Seeley Brown, Neal Stephenson, Vint Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee, Nicholas Negroponte, there’s so-many-others …) that as the future unfolds the basics of peoples’ behaviours and the social structures of their organizations and institutions will inevitably undergo DNA-like mutations.  It has to do with fundamental change to cognitive functioning and every individual’s digital-social habits (Twitter as "grooming", for example) viewed as an eco-system of feedback (which in my opinion should lead to us being able to "see" fractal patterns of human behaviours over the long term .. and there may be some math to it.

And for all this, I confess a certain sadness. 

But I must say that in my circles of friends and acquaintances, I am seeing children between the early ages and 15 that are getting some very healthy balance.  Many (not all) of the kids I know (through being friends with their parents) play outdoors a fair bit, have designated media access times, don’t obsess with computer games, read books and have hobbies .. just like when I was growing up. 

Though it would have been cool to have a MacBook and an iPhone and an MP3 player and BitTorrent and cheap or free digital storage when I was growing up ;-)

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Internet generation leave parents behind
• Change in communication creating divide, says study
• Children spend six hours a day in front of screens

Polly Curtis

Children are spending increasing amounts of their lives in front of televisions, computers and games consoles, cramming in nearly six hours of screen time a day, according to research.

The online activity is building barriers between parents and children, the authors say, with a third of young people insisting they cannot live without their computer.

From the age of seven children are building multimedia hubs in their rooms, with games consoles, internet access and MP3 players, which they wake up to in the morning and fall asleep to at night, according to the study of five- to 16-year-olds.

Girls in particular are likely to chat online to their friends at night and 38% take a console to bed instead of a book.

Some parents who have stopped their children from having a TV in their bedroom for fear they will watch it too much have justified internet access on the basis that it will help with homework.

But the latest from market research agency ChildWise finds children and young teens are more likely to socialise than do homework online. Some 30% say they have a blog and 62% have a profile on a social networking site.

The report is based on an annual survey, now into its 15th year, of 1,800 children at 92 schools across the country. "This year has seen a major boost to the intensity and the independence with which children approach online activities," the report says.

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