Tag Archives: social software

The future of enterprise collaboration

I have just finished talking to a group of university students who were invited to IBM Hursley today. I had about 15 minutes to discuss Enterprise Collaboration, and I used the time to take a quick tour through IBM’s size, diversity and organisation, and talked about how the way I operate has changed since I got engaged in blogging internally four years ago, and how I “broke through” the firewall.

Towards the beginning of the talk, I asked three questions to get some group discussion going, and asked the students to shout out some answers. Here’s a summary of the responses.

1. What kinds of tools do you think enterprises use to communicate internally today?
“Skype”, “online meetings”, “MSN” (email and phone came right at the end of the list)

2. What kinds of tools would you like to use in a work environment?
“Facebook”, “Skype”

3. Is it a good idea, or appropriate, to communicate and share through firewalls?
“It’s important, for networking”, “companies could have their own version of Facebook internally”

I didn’t seed any of these responses! Very interesting… I think I’d expected the answers to question 1 to be email, wiki, blog etc., but those are all old school (and possibly, irrelevant) as far as this group was concerned. I guess the outcome of this entirely unscientific survey will be old news to some people, but I found it fascinating.

Update 17th June:
Thanks for all the interest in this post! I should just reiterate that this is not new news – as @andysc said to me after the talk yesterday, the idea that “email is how I communicate with my parents” is as commonplace as the idea that some of us may have had that “snail mail is how we communicated with our grandparents”. The point here is about the expectation of speed of spread of technology within corporations. I found it a very interesting perspective, although I guess I’d half-expected some of the answers. I just hadn’t expected the “old tech” to be buried so far down in the consciousness. But then, when I left university, web browsers were just emerging and I had a desktop email client at home, but yet I suddenly found myself at work using a green-screen terminal emulator to access what was, to my mind at the time, a hideously hard-to-use mail system called MEMO which required the use of line-editing commands.

One other point, given my own interest in these two technology spaces – Andy C asks below about microblogging, and I certainly mentioned our use of these tools internally and externally, but it didn’t seem to be on the students’ radar; secondly, I spoke about attending meetings in virtual worlds and the relative effectiveness compared to a teleconference, but again that didn’t come up as an idea in the responses to the questions at the start. So it seems (again, based on a highly unscientific study of a limited pool of London MSc Management students) that the technologies that are “expected” in the enterprise are those that have reached widespread consumer adoption outside it.

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Socialising with geeks – My developerWorks

I spend a lot of my time talking to IBM customers, prospective customers, and, well, anyone who will listen, really, about how social software and social networks have transformed the way I work and connect with others – both in my job, and my daily life. In many ways it’s a disproportionate amount of time – my day job does not strictly focus on social software, and I’m not in our Lotus brand where this kind of thing would be my bread-and-butter. The point is that I’ve gained a lot from my early adopter status, I have compelling examples to share (I hope), and I’ve followed IBM’s trajectory in this space very closely. Best of all, I’m invited to talk about this stuff.

You may be aware that our process around a lot of the social software space has developed from our Technology Adoption Program – after proving that an enterprise blogging platform (BlogCentral), rich user profiles (our Bluepages internal directory), enterprise social bookmarking (Dogear) and other services worked on a large scale inside the company, we released Lotus Connections, an enterprise social software platform built from these innovations.

My two worlds have now come together. I have a lot of interaction with IBM customers and folks who develop using our technology, and I’ve been a long-term advocate of IBM developerWorks, since before I joined the company, in fact. I’m the first to admit that sometimes our product documentation lacks examples or can be a tricky read, but developerWorks consistently delivers great content by developers, for developers, which I always find hugely useful.

Over time we’ve opened up developerWorks to increasing amounts of interaction. There have been forums for a long time. Last year we introduced developerWorks Spaces, which enabled users to form their own interest groups and build customisable portals for sharing data. Last week it was time to put Lotus Connections into developerWorks (or is that the other way around?!), which led to the creation of My developerWorks – now anyone can sign in with their IBM ID, create a profile, make connections with friends or those with similar interests, and track and share their content. ReadWriteWeb describes it as “the world’s geekiest social network”. You know what? I don’t mind if it is…

There’s a great, short podcast on the usability and design experience behind My developerWorks on the developerWorks podcast channel. Oh, and if you’re a member, come and connect with me!

Sharing my knowledge on growing technical communities with Web 2.0

I was asked to talk to a group from another large organisation on the topic of “Sustaining Technical Communities using Web 2.0” this week.

It has been a few months since I last gave a presentation. Those of you who have seen some of my previous presentations will recognise a fair few of the slides, images and themes.

One of the things we talked about during the morning (I was booked for a one hour slot, but we seemed to fill two hours with ongoing discussion – and then I went back for more conversations at lunchtime) was the idea that Web 2.0 is about OPENNESS – both in APIs, and also crucially, social openness. I picked up on a great line from Ian Davis.

Web 2.0 is an attitude not a technology. It’s about enabling and encouraging participation through open applications and services. By open I mean technically open with appropriate APIs but also, more importantly, socially open, with rights granted to use the content in new and exciting contexts.

It’s more than this, too – it’s about being prepared to lose a little control. This is one of the hardest thing for a lot of people in business to get their heads around, since they have come from a background where one’s network, knowledge, and contacts are valuable. Of course, this is still true – but you can get so much more value from sharing those resource and joining them up. One reason I enjoy being a social bridgebuilder.

In that spirit, I’ve posted the slides on Slideshare.

It was a really invigorating morning… talking to a group of guys who are engaged in the same space as me, looking for ideas about what works and how to drive adoption of some of the tools and techniques. We covered a whole series of areas from the basic technologies, swapping stories about our experiences, and talked about how microblogging can be applied inside and outside the enterprise. A really pleasing after-effect was finding a bunch of comments on Twitter thanking me for the presentation!

A few items of follow-up reading I recommended:

The thorny question of social software ROI

One of my good friends from IBM UK moved out to New Zealand a few years ago. Since then, Chris Sparshott has been, as he puts it, “morphing into a Social Media Specialist within IBM” (aren’t we all!) “along with running the day job as a technical Sales consultant”.

In a recent post, Chris shares a slideshow where he attempts to demonstrate how it is possible to measure the value of Social Networking within an enterprise. The whole question of ROI has been a tricky one, and various people have dismissed the very notion of attempting to measure “investment value” in this space. Chris has come up with some other options – measuring time and effort, and measuring contribution. It’s an interesting discussion, and I think it works well.

By the way, Chris has some other great slideshows over on Slideshare. Well worth a look. He’s sparkbouy on Twitter.

Web 2.0 Expo Berlin

Web 2.0 Expo Europe 2008In a little over a week I will be heading to Berlin for the Web 2.0 Expo… along with a bunch of my colleagues from the social software scene inside IBM, many of whom I’ve not had the opportunity to meet in person before. It should be an exciting few days. I’ve registered on the CrowdVine network for the event and started to build up a list of folks that I want to meet up with – if you are going, feel free to do the same (although I may not be updating my profile a great deal now until closer to the time of the event – don’t take offense if I don’t add you back immediately).

Right. I’m off to stock up on my MOO cards 🙂