Tag Archives: culture

Marissa Mayer’s Yahoo! Mistake (It’s Not What You Think)

This post has been moved to http://www.forbes.com/sites/larryhawes/2013/02/28/marissa-mayers-yahoo-mistake-its-not-what-you-think/

Thoughts on the 2011 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium

This entry was cross-posted from Meanders: The Dow Brook Blog

The annual MIT Sloan CIO Symposium was held earlier this week. I live-tweeted heavily from the event, but also wanted to share some thoughts in this more structured blog post.

CIOs are, as a whole, a conservative group. They are attuned to identifying and minimizing risk in their organizations’ information environments. Most CIOs experiment with emerging information technologies while observing what other, more progressive, organizations do with those same tools. Once the majority of CIOs in large companies are comfortable embracing a new technology, the market for it rapidly expands.

Speaking with and listening to a number of CIOs attending the MIT Symposium made one thing clear — markets for technologies enabling more agile business decision making at a lower cost are about to explode. Most of the CIOs in attendance agreed that they must implement cloud, mobile, social, and analytics technologies now to support rapidly evolving strategic imperatives in their organizations. The mantra “do more faster and at lower cost” surfaced in nearly every session I attended.

What does this mean for enterprise software providers? First, their offerings must be architected and include functionality to support multi-tenant cloud hosting and delivery, mobile access, social interaction, and the identification of patterns resident in large data sets. These capabilities are quickly becoming table stakes necessary to successfully compete in the enterprise software market.

Second, we are about to see a new, large wave of investment in enterprise software. The combination of the business imperatives noted above and pent-up demand from the last few years of recessionary cost-cutting focus within enterprise IT departments has led CIOs to declare that now is the time to retool, if it isn’t already too late. Hubspot’s CEO, Brian Halligan, noted during the opening keynote panel that cloud and mobile “are not the future”; they are technologies we all should have adopted two years ago.

Comments from various CIOs attending the event underscored the limited ability that enterprise software providers have to enable signifiant, beneficial transformation in the way their customers run their businesses. Many panelists noted that they already have helpful technical tools in-hand, but that they aren’t being used to optimal advantage because of existing cultural and leadership roadblocks in their organizations. On the subject of leveraging big data, Rob Stefanic, CIO at Sensata, presented supporting examples from work they’ve done with their customers. Many organizations they’ve worked with collect voluminous amounts of data, but do little to make sense of it, much less adjust the business accordingly. He also spoke of one customer that had a handful of employees doing potentially meaningful analysis of operating data, but no one else in the organization was aware of their efforts or the insights generated. Stefanic neatly made the point that pattern mining and recognition is a big shift for his organization and it’s customers, which will require changing from a reactionary culture to one that values the ability to predict the future with reasonable accuracy.

In the end, there were few new ideas presented at the 2011 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium. Instead, I left the event with a sense that there will soon be a large increase in spending on next-generation enterprise software, but that investment will be largely wasted, because the buyers won’t be able to make the systemic cultural and organizational changes necessary for the new tools to make a measurable difference. The missing piece for success is experienced management consultants that can help organizations review and revise their core beliefs, behaviors, and policies to really transform how they operate. Until that void is filled, vendors will sell more software, but organizations will continue to realize minimal benefits from investments in those tools. Even if normally conservative CIOs support their use.

Social Business Transformation: Focus on Small, Not Sweeping, Change

“…transformation happens less by arguing cogently for something new than by generating active, ongoing practices that shift a culture’s experience of the basis for reality.” — Roz and Ben Zander, The Art of Possibility

The recent debates, at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference and in the blogosphere, about E2.0 and Social Business have made one thing clear to me. Too many of us dwell on the transformative aspects of social business. Myself included.

This is likely so because most organizations value other things more highly than their people and act accordingly. Their behaviors cry out for transformation to those who envision a better way of doing business.

However, achieving sweeping transformation of the way that people are considered and treated is the wrong goal for most organizations.

It is important to remember that not all companies wish to transform themselves into social businesses, much less anything else. In fact, most begrudgingly embrace transformation only when they are forced to do so by changes occurring around them.

Instead of concentrating on “big bang” transformation, we should seek to make a series of small changes to a business’s people practices and systems. In other words, leave the organization alone. Do not focus social change efforts directly on organizational structure or culture.

It is more effective to address specific policy, process, and technology problems at the individual or role level. Let those snowflakes of change add up on top of each other to create a snowball that, when put in motion, will continue to grow until it becomes an unstoppable force. Measure impact in the same additive manner instead of seeking the big, single instance of benefit favored by traditional ROI analysis.

Wondering where to start introducing social practices and technologies in your organization? Look around. What specific challenges are customers, employees, and partners turning to each other to overcome? How are they finding someone who can help, and how are they interacting once they have identified that person? How is what they have learned shared with others?

Now imagine and investigate ways that your organization can help all of its constituents work together to solve those problems faster and less expensively. Be sure to consider technology that enables this, but do not forget to examine policy and process changes that could help too.

That is the way to improve your organization while recognizing and supporting its existing, inherent social nature. Forget about large-scale transformation. Focus instead on using people power to solve specific problems and challenges that, while small by themselves, add up to a significant gain for the business when addressed and overcome.

What Exactly is a Social Business?

In March, Jive Software created a new market category — Social Business Software (see my post on the announcement.) Jive published a manifesto that contains their definition of Social Business.

“The Social Business allows and rewards open conversation between colleagues, partners and customers. It relies on the power of social connections to shape new products and services, and to propel new revenue and earnings growth. It embraces Web 2.0 technology in the form of Social Business Software to enable this critical change.”

Jive’s definition is a good start, but ultimately does not go far enough. It implies organizational, cultural, and technology elements, but does not explicitly invoke all of those terms. Also, there is no mention of business process in the definition.

In June, partners at the Dachis Group began publicly touting Social Business Design as a new category of professional services. The volume was turned up on the concept last week, when Dachis acquired Headshift. Even I noticed the forward momentum, in this post, saying that “It would be difficult to overstate the importance of this action, as it instantly legitimizes social business as a management discipline on a global scale.”

While the Social Business Software and Social Business Design labels have gained increased usage, there is a problem with the common, core component of those phrases — Social Business. A Google query of the term produces a well-established definition that does not even apply to social computing:

Social business is a cause-driven business. In a social business, the investors/owners can gradually recoup the money invested, but cannot take any dividend beyond that point. Purpose of the investment is purely to achieve one or more social objectives through the operation of the company, no personal gain is desired by the investors. The company must cover all costs and make profit, at the same time achieve the social objective, such as, healthcare for the poor, housing for the poor, financial services for the poor, nutrition for malnourished children, providing safe drinking water, introducing renewable energy, etc. in a business way. The impact of the business on people or environment, rather the amount of profit made in a given period measures the success of social business. Sustainability of the company indicates that it is running as a business. The objective of the company is to achieve social goal/s.

If Enterprise 2.0 and Social Media advocates are going to try to hijack the phrase Social Business, there must be a clear, consensus definition in place. Since an adequate definition is currently lacking, despite Jive’s good attempt, I thought I would write one and start a communal process of building something we can all use moving forward.

My working definition of Social Business appears below. Please comment extensively on this, even at the level of specific word changes. Also feel free to invite others to read the definition and comment (directly on the blog please). I will gather and consider all comments, then revise the definition and re-post. Thanks in advance for your feedback!

Social Business: A business philosophy that emphasizes employee trust and autonomy as an alternative to hierarchical command-and-control management. Additionally, the philosophy views customers and business partners as trusted components of the organization, not as external constituents. The philosophy should be supported by appropriate organizational design, culture, business process, and technology strategies and investments. Like any other business philosophy, Social Business produces results consistent with accepted definitions of a viable, on-going business.

Enterprise 2.0 is Neither a Crock Nor the Entire Solution

Dennis Howlett has once again started a useful and important debate, this time with his Irregular Enterprise blog post entitled Enterprise 2.0: what a crock. While I am sympathetic to some of the thinking he expressed, I felt the need to address one point Dennis raised and a question he asked.

I very much agree with this statement by Dennis:

“Like it or not, large enterprises – the big name brands – have to work in structures and hierarchies…”

However, I strongly disagree with his related contention (“the Big Lie” as he terms it) that:

“Enterprise 2.0 pre-supposes that you can upend hierarchies for the benefit of all.

Dennis also posed a question that probably echoes what many business leaders are asking:

“In the meantime, can someone explain to me the problem Enterprise 2.0 is trying to solve?

Below is the comment that I left on Dennis’ blog. It begins to answer the final question he asked and address my disagreement with his contention that Enterprise 2.0 advocates seek to create anarchy. Is my vision for the co-existence of structured and recombinant organizational and work models clear and understandable? Reasonable and viable? If not, I will expand my thoughts in a future post. Please let me know what you think.

Enterprise 2.0 is trying to solve a couple levels of problems.

From a technology standpoint, E2.0 is addressing the failure of existing enterprise systems to provide users with a way to work through exceptions in defined business processes during their execution. E2.0 technology does this by helping the user identify and communicate with those who can help deal with the issue; it also creates a discoverable record of the solution for someone facing a similar issue in the future.

From a organizational and cultural perspective, E2.0 is defining a way of operating for companies that reflects the way work is actually accomplished — by peer-to-peer interaction, not through command and control hierarchy. Contrary to your view, E2.0 does not pre-suppose the destruction of hierarchy. Correctly implemented (philosophy and technology), E2.0 provides management a view of the company that is complementary to the organization chart.

Addendum: See this previous post for more of my perspective on the relationship of structured and ad hoc methods of working.

Assessment of My Enterprise 2.0 Conference Predictions

The Enterprise 2.0 Conference was held last week, in Boston. Prior to the event, I made some predictions as to expected learnings and outcomes from the conference. Today, I will revisit those prognostications to determine their accuracy.

Here is the original list of things that I anticipated encountering at the E2.0 Conference this year. Each prediction is followed by an assessment of the statement’s validity and some explanatory comments:

A few more case studies from end user organizations, but not enough to indicate that we’ve reached a tipping point in the E2.0 market: TRUE The number of case studies presented this year seemed to be roughly the same as last year. That is to say very few. The best one that I heard was a presentation by Lockheed Martin employees, which was an update to their case study presented last year at E2.0 Conference. It was great to hear the progress they had made and the issues with which they have dealt in the last year. However, I was genuinely disappointed by the absence of fresh case studies. Indeed, the lack of new case studies was the number one conference content complaint heard during the event wrap-up session (indeed, throughout the show.)

An acknowledgement that there are still not enough data and case studies to allow us to identify best practices in social software usage:
TRUE This turned out to be a huge understatement. There are not even enough publicly available data points and stories to allow us to form a sense of where the Enterprise 2.0 market is in terms of adoption, much less of best practices or common success factors. At this rate, it will be another 12-18 months before we can begin to understand which companies have deployed social software and at what scale, as well as what works and what doesn’t when implementing an E2.0 project.

That entrenched organizational culture remains the single largest obstacle to businesses trying to deploy social software:
TRUE The “C” word popped up in every session I attended and usually was heard multiple times per session. The question debated at the conference was a chicken and egg one; must culture change to support adoption of E2.0 practices and tools, or is E2.0 a transformational force capable of reshaping an organization’s culture and behaviors? That question remains unanswered, in part because of the lack of E2.0 case studies. However, historical data and observations on enterprise adoption of previous generations of collaboration technologies tell us that leadership must be willing to change the fundamental values, attitudes, and behaviors of the organization in order to improve collaboration. Grassroots evangelism for, and usage of, collaboration tools is not powerful enough to drive lasting cultural change in the face of resistance from leadership.

A nascent understanding that E2.0 projects must touch specific, cross-organizational business processes in order to drive transformation and provide benefit: TRUE I was very pleased to hear users, vendors, and analysts/consultants singing from the same page in this regard. Everyone I heard at E2.0 Conference understood that it would be difficult to realize and demonstrate benefits from E2.0 initiatives that did not address specific business processes spanning organizational boundaries. The E2.0 movement seems to have moved from speaking about benefits in general, soft terms to groping for how to demonstrate process-based ROI (more on this below.)

A growing realization that the E2.0 adoption will not accelerate meaningfully until more conservative organizations hear and see how other companies have achieved specific business results and return on investment: TRUE Conference attendees were confounded by two related issues; the lack of demonstrative case studies and the absence of a clear, currency-based business case for E2.0 initiatives. More conservative organizations won’t move ahead with E2.0 initiatives until they can see at least one of those things and some will demand both. People from end user organizations attending the conference admitted as much both publicly and privately.

A new awareness that social software and its implementations must include user, process, and tool analytics if we are ever to build a ROI case that is stated in terms of currency, not anecdotes:
TRUE Interestingly, the E2.0 software vendors are leading this charge, not their customers. A surprising number of vendors were talking about analytics in meetings and briefings I had at the conference, and many were announcing the current or future addition of those capabilities to their offerings at the show. E2.0 software is increasingly enabling organizations to measure the kinds of metrics that will allow them to build a currency-based business case following a pilot implementation. Even better, some vendors are mining their products’ new analytics capabilities to recommend relevant people and content to system users!

That more software vendors that have entered the E2.0 market, attracted by the size of the business opportunity around social software:
TRUE I haven’t counted and compared the number of vendors in Gartner’s E2.0 Magic Quadrant from last year and this year, but I can definitely tell you that the number of vendors in this market has increased. This could be the subject of another blog post, and I won’t go into great detail here. There are a few new entrants that are offering E2.0 suites or platforms (most notably Open Text). Additionally, the entrenchment of SharePoint 2007 in the market has spawned many small startup vendors adding social capabilities on top of SharePoint. The proliferation of these vendors underscores the current state of dissatisfaction with SharePoint 2007 as an E2.0 platform. It also foreshadows a large market shakeout that will likely occur when Microsoft releases SharePoint 2010.

A poor opinion of, and potentially some backlash against, Microsoft SharePoint as the foundation of an E2.0 solution; this will be tempered, however, by a belief that SharePoint 2010 will be a game changer and upset the current dynamics of the social software market:
TRUE Yes, there are many SharePoint critics out there and they tend to be more vocal than those who are satisfied with their SharePoint deployment. The anti-SharePoint t-shirts given away by Box.net at the conference sum up the attitude very well. Yet most critics seem to realize that the next release of SharePoint will address many of their current complaints. I heard more than one E2.0 conference attendee speculate on the ability of the startup vendors in the SharePoint ecosystem to survive when Microsoft releases SharePoint 2010.

An absence of understanding that social interactions are content-centric and, therefore, that user generated content must be managed in much the same manner as more formal documents:
FALSE Happily, I was wrong on this one. There was much discussion about user generated content at the conference, as well as talk about potential compliance issues surrounding E2.0 software. It seems that awareness of the importance of content in social systems is quite high among vendors and early adopters. The next step will be to translate that awareness into content management features and processes. That work has begun and should accelerate, judging by what I heard and saw at the conference.

So there are the results. I batted .888! If you attended the conference, I’d appreciate your comments on my perceptions of the event. Did you hear and see the same things, or did the intense after hours drinking and major sleep deficit of last week cause me to hallucinate? I’d appreciate your comments even if you weren’t able to be at E2.0 Conference, but have been following the market with some regularity.

I hope this post has given you a decent sense of the current state of the Enterprise 2.0 market. More importantly, I believe that this information can help us focus our efforts to drive the E2.0 movement forward in the coming year. We can and should work together to best these challenges and make the most of these opportunities.

Enterprise 2.0 Conference Predictions

e2conf_logoThe Enterprise 2.0 Conference begins this evening in Boston. Conference organizers indicate that there are approximately 1,500 people registered for the event, which has become the largest one for those interested in the use of Web 2.0 technologies inside business organizations.

The most valuable part of last year’s conference was the case studies on Enterprise 2.0 (E2.0) from early adopter organizations like Lockheed Martin and the Central Intelligence Agency. They presented an early argument for how and why consumer oriented Web 2.0 could be adapted for use by businesses.

Here are some things that I anticipate encountering at the E2.0 Conference this year:

  • a few more case studies from end user organizations, but not enough to indicate that we’ve reached a tipping point in the E2.0 market
  • an acknowledgment that there are still not enough data and case studies to allow us to identify best practices in social software usage
  • that entrenched organizational culture remains the single largest obstacle to businesses trying to deploy social software
  • a nascent understanding that E2.0 projects must touch specific, cross-organizational business processes in order to drive transformation and provide benefit
  • a growing realization that the E2.0 adoption will not accelerate meaningfully until more conservative organizations hear and see how other companies have achieved specific business results and return on investment
  • a new awareness that social software and its implementations must include user, process, and tool analytics if we are ever to build a ROI case that is stated in terms of currency, not anecdotes
  • that more software vendors that have entered the E2.0 market, attracted by the size of the business opportunity around social software
  • a poor opinion of, and potentially some backlash against, Microsoft SharePoint as the foundation of an E2.0 solution; this will be tempered, however, by a belief that SharePoint 2010 will be a game changer and upset the current dynamics of the social software market
  • an absence of understanding that social interactions are content-centric and, therefore, that user generated content must be managed in much the same manner as more formal documents

So there are some of my predictions for take-aways from this year’s E2.0 conference. I will publish a post-conference list of what I actually did hear and learn. That should make for some interesting comparison with today’s post; we will learn if my sense of the state of the market was accurate or just plain off.

In the meanwhile, I will be live-tweeting some of the sessions I attend so you can get a sense of what is being discussed at the E2.0 Conference on the fly. You can see my live tweets by following my event feed on Twitter.