E2.0 – Because Users Matter

I just read the blog Enterprise software under attack posted by Elena Galitskaya .  In that blog, a Sr. VP of Infosys is quoted as saying:  “Enterprise software still doesn’t care about users. Its focus continues to be serving executives, rather than employees, because executives make buying decisions. Therefore, we see all the song and dance about BI and in-memory computing, while employees continue to suffer with terrible UIs and no options.”

This made me think a bit about comments made by our guest Leonardo from this past week in class.  One of the interesting stories he told was about use of E2.o software and a grassroots adoption effort proving its value before introducing it to the boss (and asking for approval).  I don’t remember if he said the boss would have rejected the idea or not, but I am sure if she would have, she would have only been following some established corporate policy for IT adoption/implementations within the firm.

When the executive leadership team takes the step to invest in a big $$ IT system – no body will to follow up by saying “aw, shucks – you found an E2.0 alternative that you can customize, adapt to work just right, and it costs $9.99/mo – sure, you go ahead and use it”.  Sadly, it becomes more important to save face for the leadership team, then to save the time, energy and frustration of masses under served by corporate IT and those that take them to sales lunches.

I am far from believing that E2.0 will solve all IT needs or problems facing industry; that said, one size  – one IT system doesn’t fit all, but if the only thing the enterprise software guy has to sell is enterprise software…you can bet that is the only game in town.  As for the users – well, they really just don’t matter, that is until they become CIO’s and begin writing the checks.

RAA #1: Dogear Social Bookmarking

Millen, D. R., Feinberg, J., & Kerr, B. (2006). Dogear:  Social Bookmarking in the Enterprise. Paper presented at the CHI, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Purpose:  The purpose of this research was to establish user value of social bookmarking within business verses personal use.  To accomplish this, the researchers developed a social bookmarking tool for a field test deployment with the plan to analyze adoption behavior and user experience.  The tool was designed and customized in order to meet the needs of the targeted user audience, which were self identified as IT professionals/experts.  Design attributes included:  1) both personal and business links could be saved, sorted, viewed and 2) links could be made private, shared for particular groups or department use only.

Methods:  The method used for the study was a field test deployment of their bookmarking tool (Dogear), within a VERY large IT firm employing over 300,000 associates.  Word of mouth was used to promote use of the tool within the firm.  Both quantitative and qualitative data was collected for analysis.  The quantitative data was harvested from the activity logs of the users (clicks, creates, etc.) while qualitative data was harvested from intracompany blogs and direct emails to the researchers.

Main findings: The main findings of this study suggest that social bookmarking is a tool that can be adapted and may be considered beneficial in the business environment.  Most contributors commented that use of the tool did assist them in information finding.  The large number of user shared links (vs. private) seems to indicate user willingness to share information with co-workers, which may lead to community building by helping employees with common needs/interests find each other (expert location assistance). In addition the volume of posted links would tend to indicate a business need for information location and retrieval.

Analysis:  I found this study interesting and important in that it choose to deploy an actual beta Ent 2.0 tool into the real world of work.  Often I read research that appears meaningful to industry, only to read further into the article and discover the population used for analysis was college age research subjects rather than a representative population for the average firm.

That said, while the authors did deploy the tool into an enterprise setting, they chose an IT industry setting – which I feel is especially problematic when trying to gauge an IT based tool’s acceptance and “value”.  Perhaps it was just an unfortunate oversight, however I feel there is a case to suggest substantial population bias with this firm’s participation.  In this scenario, I am suggesting the bias is in favor of any IT based tool that would be presented.  This situation was made worse as many participants self reported as  “experts”, indicating even a higer level of IT user than “average”.  Had this tool been trialed in a consumer products, automotive, or any other non- IT based firm, I feel the evidence (which was very well presented) would have been much more compelling.

What Neighborhood do you live in?

This weeks course readings revolved around several key points associated with social media which have their roots in early traditional communication and social network theory.  While these theories are often laden with complicated mathematics, the concepts and approaches they portend are easy to relate to and offer a unique way of understanding or considering the new world of social media.

Consider first that a sociogram can be a simple diagram showing the relationship between you (EGO) and others (nodes).  The connections we form between each other are called edges, and when diagrammed connect us like little sidewalks connecting houses.   These sidewalks indicate relationships and can have directionality to express how the relationship exists between connections (one way if you know them, they don’t know you – or two way, you both know each other).  When many people are adjacent to you (you have a direct relationship with them), this is called a neighborhood.  When a very tightly formed neighborhood exists, one that is fully connected or only having a few gaps – this is known as a clique.

The “sidewalks” joining us together can be either weak or strong depending on your familiarity with the person you are joined to; these are referred to as weak or strong ties.  Those with a lot of strong ties are often considered power brokers of what is called “social capital”.  This clout allows them to be heard by many, but also to exert a great deal of influence over their sprawling neighborhood, which may actually look more like a suburb, city or continent thanks to the scale of the internet!

As we ponder some of these concepts in the context of social media, and for me – specifically in the space of Enterprise 2.0, my mind begins to spin with research questions as I consider what the neighborhoods within industry look like.

  1. Where do the industry “sidewalks” take us, and who lives there?  Does the “house” (node) have someone we value due to their knowledge and capability?  If so, can we see based on the sidewalks and neighbors how much social capital they have in the firm?
  2. Who is excluded from the clique like neighborhoods within industry and what does that tell us about the culture of the firm and neighborhood?  We know information/innovation sharing happens more slowly when there are cliques, so what is the implication for that firm if their “city of neighborhoods” all look like cliques?
  3. What are the demographics of each neighborhood, and like the urban plight we have witnessed in the “real world” due to dying neighborhoods, are there indicators of “corporate urban plight” on the horizon seen as dramatic changes in the neighborhood (i.e explosive perculation)?

So many questions, so little time to sleep – but for sure, the data being collected within the firm (Ent. 2.0) and outside the firm (social media), offers a wide open playing field to revisit many old social network theories, and uncover many new ones as well.  On a personal note, this network perspective and the research that supports it should cause us to pause a moment to consider what neighborhood we live in.  Have we unconsciously isolated ourselves in a way that could impact our ability to gain valuable information, learn new things and question our viewpoints, or have we purposely locked ourselves in our “houses” within a closed “gated community”?

I know where I have been living…   I also think I hear a moving van pulling up my driveway right now….

Online Identity Management – Crowd sourcing the Marketing Script

Reflections on our weekly readings on Identity Management… from an ENT2.0 perspective

Background 

When it comes to Enterprise 2.o and concerns for SM integration into the business environment, risk management issues reach the top of the list for concerns for using it and or excuses for avoiding it.  Of course this makes sense, as for many firms – their stock value is only as high as their customer’s regard for their brand.  In most traditional large firms, teams of marketing folks carefully craft the brand image, with skillfully chosen verbiage, logos, fonts and images to convey the essence of their product/service.  To use Goffman’s theater metaphor, this group of “insiders” might be seen to operate like a collaborating group of writers idealizing and producing a script for the inanimate actor… the brand.

While there are many “stage hands” behind the scenes that enable the brand to play its role as the scriptwriters intended, i.e. (designers, manufacturers, customer service support, logistics, etc.), for the most part – it is the marketing arm of the business, (with some occasional help and guidance from the legal department) that is either credited or cursed for the performance of the brand in the marketplace.  The brand image (i.e. identity), is what the marketing team says it is.

Leap forward

Consider now for a moment a brave new world; a business environment where due to transparency and accessibility of Ent. 2.0 tools, the script for the brand is in the hands of the entire firm (more or less).  Through tools that allow us to collaborate both inside and outside of the firm; with our business partners, customers and suppliers, the brand takes on the role as conceived, written and directed by all of the “stage hands” including marketing;  a sort of crowdsourced script for our actor the brand.  It is at this point, the lawyers and financial analyst responsible for risk management are all running for the doors and selling off their company stock.

Step back

The situation with this forward looking Ent 2.0 business environment is only scary, if we doubt the ability(skill/talent), credibility(maturity/wisdom), and intentions(understanding/ethics) of our workforce to effectively communicate brand value.

It is on that note that Ent 2.0, like other forms of social media, are not innately good or bad – they are rather tools for communicating that if improperly managed, can forever damage the identity of the brand (or person) behind them.  In that way, Ent 2.0/SM is no different than other forms of mass media… use them wisely, they are your friend – do otherwise, and you will be picking yourself up off of the Wallstreet trading floor with the other sell-offs.

Importance to Research & Interests

As was suggested by many of our readings, users of the tools should be carefully trained on the ramifications of information put forth; they need to be made aware of analogies like backstage/frontstage; policies for use and control need to be in place before the first Tweet, Blog or Wiki are created to mitigate risk and maximize reward.  In the busy-ness of doing work in the wide open space of social media/Ent 2.0, people need to be made aware and reminded of the need for a split identity.

As I move forward on my case studies, I will be looking for comments around policy and training to see if this idea of “preventative medicine” is part of the  Ent. 2.0 deployment mindset.  I will also look to see if there is any relationship between the absence of these policy and training perspectives and the success/failure/rejection of Ent 2.0.

Personal Identity

On a personal note, my approach for managing my identity online has been one of conservatism.  Essentially, if I control the amount of material associated with my identity out there, then the likelihood of a negative identity is reduced.  I frequently google various versions of my identity to see what comes up, and monitor that for appropriateness.  As is, I limit my web identity to my professional/academic identity or a “secret identity” that has no relation to me whatsoever, and leave the majority of my personal/private identity to be left invisible to the masses.  This is growing harder and harder to do, but I believe from the perspective of my own risk management, this is the right approach for me.

Researching Enterprise 2.0

My research project will involve developing an in-depth literature review on Enterprise 2.o integration into firms.

This extensive literature review will incorporate both academic publications as well as less formally published case studies related to how firms are integrating Ent. 2.0 technologies.  The goal of this literature review is to develop a clear understanding of “The current state of Ent. 2.0 at the firm level”.  The benefit of investigating case study research is that these studies allow the inclusion of multiple sources of evidence to investigate a given topic in a real life environment. (Yin, 1989).

Effort will be taken to accumulate the largest possible body of knowledge on the topic in order to enable proposal development for subsequent large-scale research as part of my dissertation research on knowledge transfer.  Depending on the volume of accumulated literature, it is conceivable that the deliverable could incorporate a proposed (or initiated) research design involving content analysis and/or use of Radian 6/Visible Technologies as the research methodology.

Yin, R. K. (1989). Case Study Research: Design and Methods. London: Sage Publications Inc.

Enterprise 2.0 – New tools for IT or cultural change agent for the industrial masses?

I have just read Putting Ent.2.o into Context by Andrew McAfee and there were some interesting comments some of which came from Laurie Buczek.  Ms. Buczek seems to be getting at the heart of the issue regarding Ent 2.0 and industrial adoption when she touches on the notion of culture. For sure, nothing will drive cultural change like a total upset in the corporate tool kit;  have you ever witnessed an ERP implementation?  Often you will hear how poorly these implementations go with harsh comments about the capability of the software, the usability of the reports, and the lack of adequate training.   I would argue however that it is rarely the ERP implementation that is to blame so much as it is the ERP system which forces the uncovering of all the rogue processes, unwritten corporate rules, and tribal knowledge that operate in a latent fashion until disturbed from its “natural state”.  To add insult to injury, the users feel subjected to the system design whims of the IT department that drive the radical operating changes.  

In reflecting on how  “Ent 1.0” implementations like this affect the corporate culture, it made me think about Ent. 2.o more deeply.  Ent 2.0 presents a bit of a paradox.  Consider for a second that in most firms the IT group/dept is the last bastion a silo’d organization that accepts little feedback or input; as a user -you are forced to take what they give you.  Imagine now the cultural change Ent. 2.0 represents for those who hold all the control (the IT Group).  Not only will they lose control, but worse yet… the users get to decide what to use, when and how to use it, and can change and reconfigure it on a whim!  How cruel this seems that the tools of the IT world could be turned against their very kind.  On the other hand, no longer can the masses blame the IT group for the lack of adequate tools, resistance to implement new options, or the absence of training.  The industrial USERS carry the burden to incite Ent. 2.0 use and make Ent. 2.0 effective within the business….(or not)….  not leadership, or heaven forbid the IT group.

So, Ms. Buczek I totally agree with your words, “Culture will change as a result of the pervasive use of social tools.  Lack of cultural change is not social business’s biggest failure.  The biggest failure is the lack of workflow integration to drive culture change.”