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.

Crowdsourcing – A New World of Work?

This weeks readings offer a broad variety of views on the topics of crowdsourcing and open sourcing.  Through the readings the authors attempted to not only answer the question of what these new phenomena are, but they also tried to place them in contexts outside the expected spaces of social media, and consider rather the opportunities for their mainstreaming.

As some of you might know, the research I have been focusing on for the last couple years involves the world of work, and the impact industry faces due to the transitioning workforce from predominantly Baby Boomers to the incoming droves of Millennials.  Some of what I have learned about the Millennial generation is a bit about their work habits and preferences.  While on the surface you may be asking “so what”, in reading the literature on crowdsourcing and reviewing the attributes of “work” that are finding success within crowdsourcing, it may be that crowdsourcing migrates from “fad supporting social media behavior”, to a possible norm as “a new world of work”.

As the articles point out, there are great benefits and efficiencies that can be derived from crowdsourcing:

  1. Collective intelligence (Surowiecki)- imperfect individual judgement, offset by the scale of many and the aggregation and review of a hundred sets of eyeballs.
  2. Commoditization of “simple”tasks (Kittur, Smus, Kraut)- decreased investment with increased speed and a portion of benefits associated with a diverse solution set, though that is debated due to limited web access related to socio-economic status (Surowiecki).
  3. Worker Flexibility (Oreg-Nov/Haythornthwaite) – Only work on what interests you and what you can make time for; no need for a long-term commitment or even a great deal of in-depth expertise.  Individual contributors not only welcome, but valued in an environment with low coordination requirements.

These are just a few of the crowdsourcing benefits that the various authors highlight, but as I compare those to the work desires of Millennials, many common threads arise;  to work collaboratively, but have an individual voice; to work flexible (and shorter) hours without the confines/trappings of a traditional work environment; to work on things “that matter”; to make work “fun”(Twenge 2006).

The article by Oreg/Nov (Oreg & Nov 2007) also shared with us why someone would be motivated to work for free (or nearly free) in crowdsourcing/opensource work.  Again, the idea of working on what matters (mostly for increased self-development) but also for increasing individual reputation topped the list.  In traditional industrial work environments you are paid for your work (well above crowdsourcing rates), that said – only rarely do you get to choose the projects you work on, determine the flexibility of your own work hours, or control the FUN in the FUNction of your role.  Perhaps crowdsourcing provides a “work re-invention” opportunity to not only endear the Millennial generation, but also increase the competitive positioning of U.S. firms?  Maybe if “novel, rare or coveted” work problems (Brabham, 2008 p.83) were carefully examined within the firm and crowdsourced (rather than outsourced) we could reinvigorate job prospects for our young domestic workforce?

If such a sea change in job development/placement was made not with industrial greed in mind, but rather the sustainability of U.S. jobs in mind, I wonder how this shift might be viewed?  Perhaps crowdsourcing as part of a new world of work offers a meaningful and flexible alternative for Millennials and a new option for our U.S. Industrial base.

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….

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.

Marketing – The Industrial low road in the land of Social Media

Ok, so I am the new one around this social media (SM)neck of the woods, but already in my brief scan of SM sites, you just can’t avoid the word “marketing”.  It has to be one of those words that really pops out in many tag clouds; yes – I have actually learned what this is and it is only day 2!

It makes me think about when I first lived in the city of Atlanta, every street seemed to begin or end with the word PEACH TREE…  Couldn’t anyone think of something a little more creative?

Let me give an example of what I am talking about.  In the article Jump on the social media bandwagon, the author suggests that industrial type firms can benefit from social media, but then fails to take the high road to suggest these “for good not evil” purposes, and slides back into only discussing the marketing benefits.

Surely there is a greater, deeper and richer connection between social media and industry than Ms. Van Wyk’s suggestion of making B2B connections through LinkedIn, right?  How about industrial based collaborative learning communities, R&D technical discussions, or perhaps networks of those interested in a particular industry?

Come forth citizens of social media land…  point me toward the HIGH road beyond SM as marketing.