Looking Beyond the Product to the Purpose: MS Office 365 Groups

Need a conversation starter? How about the Mac vs PC? IPhone vs Galaxy? Facebook vs Twitter? Beach vs Mountains? Clinton vs Trump? Nothing better to while away a few hours than an animated conversation and debate about why I might prefer one product over another. We all know in the end that despite extensive reported analyses and feature lists and the like, our choices are likely deeper than a simple feature by feature trade-off. It’s much subtler than that. An Apple zealot is aligning with Apple’s stated core purpose; its user experience mantra. People will keep lining up outside Apple stores as long as Apple can sustain its mantra. A swipe instead of a click may not seem much, but for an Apple zealot it reinforces their strong preferences to buy Apple.

These were the thoughts going through my mind as I took the deep dive to try and understand what Microsoft’s Office 365 Groups was really all about. Like most Yammer followers I fear the day when Yammer groups might be replaced by some generic “one size fits all” group structure. Of course Microsoft are quick to point out that O365 Groups are not a product but a “Groups Service”. I then spent over an hour listening to a Benjamin Niaulin more in depth webinar on the ‘product’. Benjamin used slightly more colourful terminology like a ‘fabric’ or ‘experience’ to describe O365 Groups. Yes, it appears like the ultimate ‘plug and play’ for groups. And like Benjamin, I believe there is a lot of positives to be said about the O365 Groups vision, if indeed Microsoft are able to get the ‘plumbing’ right. But I was still left with one nagging concern. As a long term Yammer supporter I believed in the purpose of the founders. I could forgive some deficiencies (I can’t edit a post I made…really?) because I felt that our purposes were aligned and therefore on the whole, the pluses would far outweigh the minuses. O365 Groups felt like Head Office had come to invade my world for the ‘greater good’. While I’m fully supportive of the ‘greater good’; could we just ensure that no ‘babies are thrown out with the bath water here?’.

Benjamin Niaulin did a great job of promoting the O365 Groups’ ‘Experience’ over the underlying products, imploring us to think in terms of user experience rather than Yammer, Sharepoint, Outlook, Skype etc.; which brings me to the point about ‘purpose over product’. Our experiences are largely driven by purpose, which is also impacted, but not totally directed, by our work roles. In our work analysing organisational networks  we regularly see collaboration patterns following the formal organisational structures. This reinforces to us that work is being conducted as designed by the organisation. However, it’s far from black and white. We also just as regularly see informal patterns of collaboration that are utterly invisible to the senior management. Is this non-compliance? Sometimes it is. More regularly though, it’s simply people being people and improvising around the formal lines of business, to fulfil their needs and purposes.

So if O365 Groups is to fulfil the promise of a customisable user experience one must look below the product features of the underlying products, through to the core purpose of what that product was created for in the first place. With many of these product components now having been acquired by Microsoft, it is important to not lose what made these products attractive in the first place. With this in mind the O365 Groups’ ‘Experience’ can build on the strengths of these products, rather than what many of us fear; a compromise solution that will detract from the experiences that we have worked hard to achieve in the pre-O365 Groups world.

For me it would be as simple as sitting down with some lead users and developers of the underlying product suite and asking questions like (with my answers for Yammer as an example):

  1. What core principles do you think this product’s designers had when they first developed the product?”
    • Not a hard one. I believe ‘networking and community’ is the core theme
  2. “What are some core features that to you exemplify the core purpose?”
    • The ability for anyone in the organisation to create and self-manage a group/community, without management oversight, is a core feature for community.
  3. “What was the core business problem that you believe these designers had in mind?”
    • As evidenced by the post-acquisition activities of the Yammer founders, the ‘Unresponsive Organisation’ was a key business target
  4. “What current features/use cases have been added for convenience more so that reinforce the core purposes?”
    • I think some of the features to ‘compete’ with shorter term team collaboration options e.g. instant messaging (now gone anyway), high frequency email alerts (though can be controlled). Perhaps security is another; do we really need private groups in Yammer?
  5. “What are the 3 most important new core purpose features you would like to see irrespective of the Office 365 Groups charter?”
    • With a focus on reinforcing the core ‘networking and community’ purpose, I would like to see a stronger focus on facilitating deeper relationships in communities. Also it’s important that communities do not become siloes in their own right, so some visibility of interconnectedness (or otherwise) between groups/communities is important. Thirdly, perhaps extending the group admin features to cater for differing group/community leadership roles like conversation moderator, content manager, event organiser etc..

If we were to complete a similar exercise with leaders/developers of Team Sites, Outlook, One Drive, Skype I suspect we would find:

  • Non-overlapping core purposes. Office365 Groups needs to avoid any erosion in functionality that support core purposes.
  • Several non-core features of one product that are core features of another. These can comfortably be stripped away once the plumbing is complete to the alternative source, if and when needed.
  • A product roadmap that would build up the product peaks (core purpose), rather than fill up the valleys with compromised features.

office-blog

Q&A: Start-ups vs Large Corporates

start-up-versus-corporate

SWOOP Analytics celebrated its 2nd Birthday late last month with our distributed workforce face to face, many for the first time; and also many of our early adopter partners and clients. Unlike most start-ups addressing the consumer market, SWOOP Analytics targets the ‘big end of town” i.e. large corporates and public institutions who’s procurement practices go far beyond someone simply pushing the ‘buy’ button. We have been fortunate to have several highly experienced executives and consultants advising us on our product startup journey. We thought we would take advantage of their presence to conduct a mock Q & A panel session, modelled on the ABC show Q & A. We chose our panel members based on their experience with working and advising both start-ups and large corporations. Our panel topic was “How can Startups work Effectively with Large Corporates”.

Here were our selected panel members:

Dr. Eileen Doyle

Eileen is an experienced executive and company director for big end of town companies like BHP, OneSteel, Boral, GPT, Port Waratah Services, Oil Search and the CSIRO. We also identified Eileen as one of the most connected female company directors on the ASX in our ASX networking studies. But most importantly she is also an Angel investor in Swoop and a former chair of Hunter Angels, so she was well qualified to join our panel.

Ross Dawson

Ross is recognized as one of the world’s leading futurists. He is regularly engaged for keynote speeches and consulting advice by the ‘big end of town’ clients like Macquarie Bank, Ernst & Young, Proctor & Gamble, News Ltd and many more about what is coming ‘down the pipeline of future technologies’. A long term friend of the Swoop founders, Ross is an entrepreneur himself, with several startup initiatives on the go.

Allan Ryan

Allan is the founding director of the Hargraves Institute, celebrating its 10th birthday this year as a leading community for major corporations focusing on innovation.  Many of Australia’s leading organisations have been sharing their innovation experiences and practices in the Hargraves community. And Allan has had a front row seat in observing how large and complex organisations are addressing the innovation challenge.

swoop-panelists

The panel were actively ‘grilled’ by an enthusiastic audience. And the panel to their credit, responded in good spirit. Here are some nuggets of wisdom shared by our panel:

  1. How can big corporations work more effectively with start-ups?

Eileen shared the mindset is different in a large corporate, where you have to look at risk in a different way. The balance between risk and reward is tilted to risk in a large corporate and reward in a start-up, which is why the majority of start-ups fail. Interaction between the two works well when there’s a genuine need that the large corporate has, which aligns with what start up is doing. Her advice is investors will not get rewarded if corporations don’t take risks, it’s ok to fail which we need to learn to celebrate.

Ross shared that it’s key for big corporations to set up mechanisms to deal with start-ups, like accelerators, incubators and hackathons. There needs to be more structures and governance to support transformation. As a Futurist he helps people think about the future to make better decisions today, that will make a different in the future.

From his work at Hargraves Institute, Allan shared that large organisations are maturing rapidly. His advice to start ups was to find the most mature area which has the need for your service and give them a solution that doesn’t give them great risk to test and try.

  1. Quality versus innovation?

An audience member asked about the importance of IT security for starts ups and another shared it can be boring to get the basics right, how crucial is this for successful innovation? Panelist’s shared:

  • Start-ups need to get their disaster recovery and IT security right, at least to the level of the Organisation they’re engaging with.
  • Start–up products need to have their quality right and be tried and tested. Quality is more important than innovation where there are winners and losers.
  • Start-ups need to adopt a philosophy of forever getting better in the basics and making sure they’re improving.
  1. Can Australia become the Silicon Valley of the Southern Hemisphere?

For Australia to further foster the success of start-ups Panelist’s suggestions included:

  • Linking the quality of Australia’s research to effective commercialisation on a global scale
  • Promoting innovation as ‘invention accepted by the market’ by private and public businesses spending more in this area.
  • The Government providing tax breaks and recognition of greater risk.
  • Universities taking a what’s best for the whole country mindset versus what individual academics might want to do.
  • Encouraging small businesses to be more innovative and teaching kids how to have fun doing new things.

Our takeaway message was large corporates have multiple entry points, so it’s important not to get discouraged and keep looking for the people that have roles with a larger risk profile in them.

Image citation: https://www.tnooz.com/article/startup-chic-vs-corporate-geek-can-gen-y-retention-predict-success/

 

 

What do Customer Communities have in Common with Employee Communities?

In June we wrote a blog post “Is Bridging the Enterprise-Consumer Social Networking Divide a Bridge too Far”, which went to some length in describing why these two worlds appeared to be operating in different solar systems.  In fact, we pointed out that blindly adopting the media centricity and activity measures from consumer social networking into the Enterprise, could actually cause more harm than good. In this post we want to explore what might be common and potentially useful adoptions from the consumer world to inside the Enterprise. I must say that this post has been influenced by Michael Wu  coming to town and telling us a little about his perspectives on the ‘Science of Social’ . Michael is the chief scientist at Lithium, an organisation that specialises in customer communities. While my interest in customer communities is somewhat less than my interest in Enterprise communities, Michael Wu is well regarded in the world of data science, so I was sure to learn something from him; and I wasn’t disappointed.

The two key insights I took away was that Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) are not social networks as we have come to perceive them; and secondly there is some useful commonality between customer communities and employee communities.

On the first insight, this is how Dr Wu characterised the customer engagement journey:

customer-community

In his commentary he positioned Facebook as a social network of pre-existing relationships, of which only some were based on shared common interests. In his view social networks were good for building awareness and reach, but not in influencing a purchasing action. For this level of influence, he promoted the role of the customer community; where actions could be more effectively influenced by those with a shared context. In essence he was arguing that each played their respective roles at different parts of the engagement funnel. When I look at ESNs like Yammer, there is no explicit connections being built like in Facebook or LinkedIn i.e. connections being sought and accepted. We do have Twitter like ‘Follows’ which can be interpreted as a network; but follower networks are more like one-way subscriptions trails and therefore would only weakly imply a relationship exists. So in essence, ESNs do not have the benefit of an authenticated social graph in the way that Facebook and LinkedIn do.

The point in common is in Figure 2, showing the customer community. The lack of a social network to create ‘reach’ is less of an issue for the Enterprise, as they have corporate directories for that purpose. The Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action phases in the funnel could equally be applied to the multitude of employee communities established in the ESN. Having an ‘Action’ as the end point we feel is entirely appropriate for an Enterprise community. As we have written previously, without actions, tangible value from an ESN is questionable.

dr-wuA key new message that Dr Wu provided was on his recent work with Geoffrey Moore on a four gears model for viral adoption. Wu suggests that those joining a group or community (acquire gear) immediately gain a ‘weak tie’ with all other members on the strength of their shared interest. The ‘engage’ gear helps turn some of these ‘weak ties’ into ‘strong ties’ and eventually trusted relationships; through the vehicle of online discussions and conversations. The ‘enlist’ gear acknowledges that there will be ‘super users’ who will drive the conversation and facilitate many of the connections. In SWOOP these are our Catalyst  and Engager  personas. In the Customer community, these people become the influencers and advocates. The final gear is ‘monetise’, which means making a sale and earning some revenue. Some would suggest that this is totally appropriate for the Enterprise as well. However, it is fair to say that Employee communities can be much more diverse than a customer community and therefore the action isn’t always as easily connectable to a monetary return. That said, this ‘performance gear’ should be able to connect actions taken by the community members, to the Enterprise’s mission and goals, as a minimum.

So there we have it. While Consumer and Enterprise Social Networks do appear to work in different solar systems, there is just enough of an overlap to make the learning worthwhile.

Tyranny of the ‘Long Tail’

Longtail

The advent of Internet enabled e-commerce brought an increased focus on ‘Long Tail’ distributions . Internet organisations like Amazon are able to exploit their low marginal costs by selling low volumes to the Long Tail of buyers with unique non-mainstream needs. The Long Tail has therefore been celebrated as the new opportunity of the Internet age. Even knowledge sharing systems e.g. blogs, podcasts, video have celebrated the increased reach that the Internet facilitates. The ubiquitous 90/9/1 rule acknowledges that 90% of participants are simply consumers of content.

The Pervasive “Long Tail” Distribution

Our own work with communities and social networks identifies the Long Tail effect. Our benchmarking of ‘Key Players’ with ‘off-line’ social networks identified that the majority of those with large personal networks is confined to a selected few. Our Key Player index identifies how concentrated the core of the network is by measuring the % of participants that represent 50% of all connections. For off-line communities we found that the key player index is typically between 11% and 32%. However, when we applied this measure to online Enterprise Social Networks (ESN), this range drops to from 4% to 12%, meaning as little as 4% of the community members are responsible for 50% of all connections, accentuating how online communities amplify the Long Tail effects. To further demonstrate how pervasive this long tail distribution is, in an earlier post we showed how the social cohesion within Yammer groups in one Enterprise followed the long tail power curve distribution. In a follow up analysis we dug deeper into the group we identified as the most cohesive, to better understand what was happening inside. And what we found was another long tail distribution. Of the 243 staff who had been active in this group, over a period of 18 months since launching, 70 had only a single interaction, while 12 members (5%) were responsible for nearly 68% of all interactions. So even in what are perceived the ‘best’ community groups, most of the connecting is being done by only a selected few.

Knowledge Sharing is not Enough?

Here is the issue. Just because more people are exposed to new information and knowledge, can we assume that new enterprise value is being generated? Perhaps for those organisations that measure their success through increased readership, this is fine. But I would argue that increased readership, if it doesn’t result in increased actions, is a shallow benefit at best. We experienced the same issues with Knowledge Management (KM) in the 1990s. In those days KM solutions were largely content centric. It was common to celebrate shared content. Those of us at the centre of KM programmes of the day were however continuously challenged by our executive to demonstrate real value. I can still recall our CEO addressing the knowledge team by saying “I’m not interested in awards or newspaper articles about how great our KM programme is. What I want to see is real, on the ground, impacts”. While we could see a real change in the level of knowledge sharing that was happening, evidence of real impact was limited to selected anecdotes and one off case studies. As impressive as some of these were, they were far from representative of a sustainable enterprise wide change. Interestingly, this is where many Enterprise Social Network community managers now find themselves today.

Engaging the ESN “Long Tail”

It appears that we cannot escape the ESN “Long Tail”, so what can we do to engage them in more active collaboration? We will be addressing this more comprehensively in future posts, but its suffice to say that simply appreciating the extent of its existence and then creating some targeted interventions is a good start. Taking a leaf out of Amazon’s play book, we need to accept that the needs of the “Tail” are not the same as those at the core. Likely their needs will be more diverse and unique. It’s therefore incumbent of the community leaders to ensure that there is a sufficient richness and diversity in the conversations they seed, to attract greater participation from the ‘Tail’.

Image citation: http://www.longtail.com/about.html

Need to convince someone? Bring Data (and a good story)

Big data

As Daniel Pink suggests “to sell is human”.  Even if we do not have a formal ‘selling’ role we are always looking to ‘sell’ someone on our point of view, our recommendations, our need for their help etc.. As data analysts we live and breathe data every day, whether we are looking to develop some new insights, prove a case or simply explore possibilities. In the end we are doing it to influence someone or some group. In these days of ‘evidence based decision-making’ I am wary that one person’s ‘evidence’ is another person’s ‘garbage’. You don’t have to look much further than climate change sceptics to appreciate that. I was therefore intrigued when I came across Shawn Callahan’s recent blog post on “The role of stories in data storytelling”. Shawn talks about the use of ‘story’ before, during and after data analysis.

Before data analysis stories

Before data analysis is about understanding the dominant ‘story’ before your analysis. For us a good example of this is our recent work on comparing relationship analytics with activity analytics. The dominant storyline was (and probably still is) that social analytics used in the consumer world i.e. activity measures, are sufficient for use inside the enterprise.

During data analysis stories

The ‘during the data analysis’ story is about how stories evolve from your act of data analysis. Our story in the interactions vs activity debate was about one of our clients observing some analytics provided by Swoop and finding that the measure for social cohesion was far more reflective of their view of how different communities were collaborating and performing than the activity measures reported beside them. For us the ‘stories during data analysis’ is continual. We are always looking to find the ‘story behind the data’. And this usually comes when we can talk directly to the owners of the data, in what we call ‘sense making’ sessions. As an example, we are currently looking at adoption patterns for Yammer using some of the benchmarking data that we have collected. We have learnt from experience that collaboration happens best within ‘groups’. Our prior analysis showed that the social cohesion between groups varies a lot and follows a typical ‘power curve’ distribution when sorted from best to worst. We are now looking at how these groups evolved over time. What patterns existed for those highly cohesive groups versus those that were less cohesive? Is there a story behind these different groups? Our evolving stories are merely speculations at the moment, until we can validate them with the owners of the data.

After data analysis stories

Knowing Doing GapShawn Callahan identifies these stories as needed to bridge the gap between what the data analyst ‘knows’ and what the decision makers need to act on.  He goes on to describe types of data stories, being a chronological change, explanation or discovery stories. He recommends that if you are trying to instigate change from a dominant current story, then it has to be a better story than that one. Thankfully in our case we don’t believe there is a dominant story for the use of activity analytics with Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) implementations. Of course there are supporters, some quite passionate, but the majority point of view is that they are insufficient for the needs of the Enterprise. That said, you still need to come up with a good story. And that is still work in progress for us. We can use a discovery story to relate the trigger for the data analysis we conducted being a simple comment from a client. But our sense is that we will need even more data (evidence) couched in some powerful stories told by individuals, who have changed their interaction behaviours for the better, based on the analytics that they were provided with.

I should finish by giving Shawn’s recent book “Putting Stories to Work” a plug, since I have just completed reading it to help us develop that story. So watch this space!

80% of Enterprise Social Networking System Users are Mostly just Looking…is this a problem?

80% Observer HeaderWe have been comparing organisations using Yammer over the past 6 months. Of the 15 organisations we have compared to date, on average 80% of actual users (not just lurkers) are active on the system less than once every 2 weeks. We kindly classify them as “Observers” . On first blush a typical response is “that’s terrible”. Other more optimistic ones suggest if we measured the lurkers as well, then perhaps it wouldn’t look so bad. But whatever the number, what is a good number? And interestingly enough, some suggest this is what we should expect. Isn’t that what the 90/9/1 rule would predict? Overwhelmingly though, we see community management and the executive want the number to be better; but how much better? 30% engaged and active? 40%?, 60%?, 100%?

Of course the answer is, as always; “it depends”. Some organisations that have many field staff, like retail banks, supermarkets, mining and resources, transport and logistics might argue that these front line staff would not have the time in their day to access the Internet. Therefore having the Yammer system limited to management and functional specialist staff may be understandable, but mobile technology is now changing this situation dramatically. We have observed many ‘front-line’ staff interacting with their colleagues using their mobile devices and apps like WhatsApp or Facebook. Another perspective, which speaks to the 90/9/1 rule, are organisations designing their Yammer installations to be expert driven learning systems, where a selected few (1%) act as the experts who are largely responsible for answering the questions from the 9% who ask, leaving the vast 90% lurkers to benefit from ‘observing’; though we really don’t know, as all lurker measuring systems are questionable. Just because I scrolled over or clicked on some content, doesn’t mean I learnt something. To me this is a ‘safe’ option. Online forums have proved their value long before ‘social’ became fashionable, especially in highly technical areas. But should we be satisfied with a last century online forum, with the addition of some ‘social’ buttons, as our modern enterprise social networking platform?

At the other end of the spectrum are those that are feasting on the Social Business good oil. For these organisations it is not enough to simply dress up the age-old forum as a social networking system. These organisations acknowledge that all non-automated business processes are inherently social. We provided some illustrations of how even 21st century entry-level staff can no longer work alone. If indeed you believe this proposition and that your Yammer platform should support this, then accepting an 80% observer rate is like accepting that 80% of your staff only have to work once every couple of weeks.

Why Yammer? What about the other channels of Email, Chat, Skype etc.. Of course these are all popular collaboration channels. In fact Microsoft, with their acquisition of Volometrics, now have Organalytics which can expose insightful collaboration patterns in email and chat conversations. We believe it’s not an “either-or” situation, but staff need to be on both. Our research on collaboration channels identified that channels like email, chat and voice are substantially restricted to team level communication. Whereas Yammer was the only channel that connected across the enterprise. We see an enterprise ‘fusion’ of channels is optimal, more so than trying to identify particular tools by tasks.

So how do we bridge the huge gap of 80% observers, to everybody onboard and actively collaborating on the platform on a daily basis? Sounds a huge challenge based on where we are today. And it can’t be done through incremental thinking. It does require a whole change in mindset. Here are my recommendations on a mindset that could convert the 80% observers to 100% actively engaged workers:

  1. Do not accept that your ESN is simply a Q&A forum where a selected few ‘experts’ do all the work. Start to think about forming groups for each team and/or all non-automated business process teams. In this way every area of the business should be represented by at least one group. Logically these teams would exist as a layer independent of traditional enterprise level groups, that continue to draw their individual members from teams. Teams
  2. Provide analytics that help everybody and not just the management. Think about making available personal analytics aimed at helping all staff members develop their own personal improvement programs and perhaps share them with other staff; not unlike a personal fitbit for network collaboration. We have written about how analytics can help you “Work Out Loud”. Provide Team level analytics, so that teams can compare and contrast their performances with other peer teams.
  3. Make the assumption that everyone in your organisation is motivated to learn and improve themselves and independently contribute to the organisation without the need for continual management oversight. In fact, along with a belief in your organisations mission, this is precisely what Daniel Pink identified as what 3 motivations drive today’s workforce. Yammer will become the ‘go to’ place for both getting your work done, while improving your own capabilities.
  4. Currently most organisations have installed a few community managers to support the Yammer implementation. They are usually supported by group leader volunteers, who may become Yammer champions. This will not be enough to bridge the gap. We need to transform all your line managers into ‘community managers’. This is where the hierarchy meets the network; as preached by Organisational change guru John Kotter in his award winning book XRL8. We need to force this intersection by making the teams identified in the formal hierarchy, groups in the network; with their leaders acting as key inter-team communication brokers and Team ‘Catalysts’.

Now I hear you saying, well that’s all well and good, but can you show us an organisation that is already doing this? The answer is: not in the organisations for the size included in our benchmark (more than 1,000 staff), but more regularly we see this in smaller more agile organisations. So the essence of the challenge for the larger enterprises is to facilitate agile teams onto the Yammer platform for their day-to-day work. It’s harder to be an “observer” in a team, so the more work teams that move onto Yammer, the more engaged your workforce will be overall.

 

 

SWOOP Analytics helps organisations drive enterprise wide collaboration and stronger adoption of enterprise social networking platforms, through its unique relationship centred analytics. We value the democratisation of analytics, meaning there is value delivered to all staff. We currently draw our insights from Yammer, but soon also, Salesforce Chatter. Contact us for a free trial and benchmarking report at: www.swoopanalytics.com

Working Out Loud with ESN and ESN Analytics : A Conversation Starter

WOL graphic

This week is Working Out Loud week #Wolweek. In celebration of this important event, this article continues our theme on smashing the productivity sound barrier; in this instance by Working Out Loud (WOL). We have chosen to focus on WOL in the enterprise, facilitated by the Enterprise Social Networking platform (ESN) and ESN analytics. While it could be claimed that the rise of ESN technology provided a key impetus for the acceleration of the WOL movement, ESN analytics support of WOL practice has not been extensively discussed. In this post we are providing some propositions on how particular ESN analytics could support and facilitate WOL and consequential breakthrough productivity performance.

We have framed our propositions around specific key WOL messages provided by John Stepper in his book Working Out Loud, someone who as much as anyone, is responsible for the WOL movement. We have selected key messages verbatim from the book. We then humbly provide some suggestions on how we believe ESN analytics could help individuals effectively WOL. We have no evidence on how effective these initiatives may be. In the spirit of WOL, we are simply putting them out there for comment and improvement suggestions.

We apologise in advance, for the length of this list. Stepper identifies so many important issues, that it was hard for us to leave any out, so we hope you will persevere to the end with us. Perhaps we could develop a virtual WOL circle for those interested in WOL analytics?

So here it is….

1. “Working in an open and generous, connected way helps you tap into your innate psychological needs. A richer, more diverse network gives you access to more opportunities”

 So how do we find out how diverse our networks are? Is my network more or less diverse than my peers? What measures can I use to find out how diverse my network is? There are proven measures of diversity that can be employed to assist with this task. Might we be able to use those?
 
2. “ There are 5 key elements for WOL: Purposeful Discovery, Relationships, Generosity, Visible Work, a Growth Mindset”

Can we track and measure any of these elements in a way that we could monitor self-improvement? Perhaps “Visible Work” is the simplest if we can track ESN postings made. “Relationships” could also be measured, both in number and intensity/quality? Generosity could perhaps include all ESN contribution, posts, likes, replies, notification and mentions made. How about Purposeful Discovery and a Growth Mindset? Any ideas?

3.    “Purposeful discovery is a form of goal-oriented exploration, to guide your decision making and lead to better possibilities. It is equivalent to lean startup….your initial goal orients your activities. As you get feedback and learn, you adapt your goal accordingly”

We could monitor replies you get from your postings. You might then identify how often your goals have been adapted, based on some specific feedback. But what if you have got little feedback online to work with?

4.    “Your network, if developed properly, gives access to knowledge, expertise, and influence. Ideally your network includes clusters of strong ties with people who trust you so you can exchange valuable information, as well as weak ties with people who are different from you, who have information and contacts that you and your strong ties don’t have.”

Bridging and bonding ties are the core analytic principles from social network analysis (SNA), so there is a vast science available to exploit to help us with the above. Using ESN logs it is possible to identify the mix of online strong and weak ties one has:

Annotated Screen Shot Network mapCould you see yourself using information like this to help build your network?

5.    “Self-interest and other-interest are completely independent motivations: you can have both of them at the same time.”

Much has been written about your “Give-Receive” balance and in fact how important it is to be balanced. Adam Grant in his best selling book Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success identifies how givers, receivers and matchers can best manage these complementary roles. Sandy Pentland’s research on what makes great teams, goes further, to emphasise the importance of short, sharp give and receive interactions.

We think that a personal give-receive measure identified by your posting/replying etc. behaviour would be a valuable contribution to this aspect of WOL. You could simply review your recent ESN activities and count posts, likes, mentions etc. made and received. Is this something you would be comfortable doing?

 6.    “The interesting part isn’t the technology, but the benefits people experience from using the technology….you don’t have to be online, but your online presence extends your reach, multiplying your possibilities.”

It goes without saying that to benefit from analytics you do have to work out loud, online, as much as possible. But clearly there will be challenges with this. Do you think the benefits will outweigh the personal costs of going online?

7.    “Focus on getting better, instead of being good…emphasizing improvement instead of performance can make a significant difference in effectiveness and confidence. To help you avoid the resistance to change, frame the entire process as a learning goal. Focus on getting better, rather than being good.”

Systematic improvement methods have been with us for decades. While there are many improvement themes, from Total Quality Control, Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, Business Process Management, the common factor is performance measurement. This makes ESN analytics central to any improvement initiative. The Stepper WOL book provides many excellent examples of manual and semi-automated ways of tracking performance. Would online analytics that can make this task easier help you sustain your focus on this improvement process?

8.    “Who can help you with that goal? Start by thinking of people who are already doing something related to your goal…”

Inside the enterprise these people could be framed as fellow “stakeholders” in your goal. Some may already be in your network. Others you will need to recruit. Once you have identified your ‘hit list’, you could start to selectively reach out via the ESN. Some stakeholders will have complementary goals to yourself. ESN analytics could then be used to monitor your hopefully growing stakeholder relationships, over time. Is this something you could practically see yourself doing?

9.    “Dale Carnegie principle “Give honest and sincere appreciation”. A small gesture of appreciation is to recognize the other person’s work online….”

A ‘Reply’, a ‘Like’, a ‘Mention’ provided are all signals of appreciation from you. Why not total them up and monitor them as your personal ‘recognition given’ index, over time. Of course, it also works in reverse, for recognition received. It seems quite a trivial thing to do when one considers the level of appreciation it can engender. Who doesn’t like getting likes! Do you agree?

10.    “You want to develop the habit of regularly reviewing your relationship list asking, “What do I have to offer that can further develop the relationship? You also want to review your contribution list and, for each item, ask, “For whom might this be a contribution”. By repeatedly working your lists, thinking in terms of relationships and contributions will come more naturally over time.”

This sounds like a customer relationship management (CRM) system, where experience tells us that the data recording part is the most onerous. This is where ESN relationship interaction capture can reduce the workload and provide you with more opportunity to assess the analytics that might identify how well your network interactions are aligning, or not, with your current relationship focus list. How do you feel about this? Over the top? Or a necessary means to an end?

11. “Keep track of a few things for each person – your last contribution, the date of the contribution, and the date for the next one – can turn your relationship-building efforts from ad hoc to systematic”

Like with the previous point 10, manual tracking can prove too onerous for many people to sustain. ESN analytics already tracks much of this data, which can then be selectively reported for your convenience. But again, as for the last point, would you be comfortable doing this? Let us know why or why not?

12. “How your contribution will be received depends on how well you know the person and how you present the gift… even asking for help can be framed as a contribution.”

By using ESN analytics to identify and list your strong and weak/non-existent ties, you may be able to tailor your messages appropriately. But would you trust the identification of your strong and weak ties to an analytics system? Do you have any better ideas to achieve this?

13. “By the law of the few, some people in your relationship list have much more influence than others. Putting extra effort to identify and develop relationships with them will produce outsized results.”

A core value achieved from SNA is the identification of the influencers in a network. Using ESN data and SNA is likely to provide stronger evidence of who the real influencers in your network are, than simply solely relying on your intuition. We know that SNA is good at this identification of influencers, but it can never be 100%. Would the provision of a ‘prospective’ list be of value though?

14. “To deepen relationships…go beyond liking and commenting on other people’s work to creating your own original contributions”

In our work on ‘Personas’, we identify four common behaviours: Observers (minimal activity); Commentators (a preference for responding); Catalysts (an ability to attract many responses from their posts) and Engagers (those that can balance catalysing and commentating). This point is about learning how to be a catalyst i.e. posts that can engage an audience. ESN analytics can monitor your ESN interaction behaviours. There are many of you out there who are excellent catalysts and can write extremely engaging posts. Any tips for those catalyst aspirants?

15. “Enabling and encouraging an audience to be part of your work helps amplify it.”

This is a reinforcement of the previous point 14 on “how to be good catalyst”. Writing an engaging post or reply, that gains a significant response, is about how it is written, as well as the audience it is directed at. Writing something for your strong ties (once you have identified them), is likely to result in a good response. ESN analytics might help not only identify your potentially most receptive audience, but also report on the response, both in volume and timing. Is this something you would find valuable?

16. When you’re a linchpin, your purpose is no longer about what you might accomplish, but what you and your network could accomplish together.

In point 13 we noted how influencers might be identified in your network. Once you have achieved ‘linchpin’ status you will indeed be identified through your ESN interaction patterns, as an influencer. You will most likely now show ‘Engager’ type behaviour in your larger than average network. ESN analytics can help you measure and monitor your journey to linchpin status. For early ESN implementations, we regularly see the ESN community managers as linchpins. We sense though that while a community manager might feel good about being acknowledged as an ESN linchpin, their heart is in creating many more linchpins across the organisation. Are we right in thinking this?

What tomorrow looks like: WOL and Analytics together

Let’s now try and visualise what the enterprise might look like should all these propositions prove true. Would the enterprise be able to achieve “breakthrough” productivity improvements through ESN and ESN analytics deployment?

In this scenario we would see:

  • All staff at all levels using WOL practices, both online and offline.
  • The ESN has replaced email as the ubiquitous communication channel of choice.
  • Through WOL at all levels, enterprise goals are evolved through active participation through the ESN.
  • Cascading of organisational goals is no longer required as all staff have had the opportunity to participate in their setting in the first place. They have also aligned their own personal goals with input from others in their network.
  • Adapting to changes in environmental conditions no longer requires extensive organisational change management programs.
  • WOL allows all staff to be appraised of both enterprise and the personal goals of their colleagues, in real time.
  • Working with their strong-tie network, teams can now execute on team activities without the need for continual review and approval processes. At the same time, all staff will now and have access to their weak tie network, the prime source of innovation and new value creation for the Enterprise.
  • Online ESN analytics becomes the predictive data platform, which the organisation relies on, to achieve the agility and adaptability required to thrive in challenging marketplaces.
  • While staff are well connected internally, their networking performance is not constrained by Enterprise boundaries.
  • Market intelligence is no longer only the purview or the marketing department, but something that is potentially accessible by all staff, as it happens.

Would a world like this be able to smash the productivity “sound barrier”? We think so.

In the spirit of WOL and WOLWeek, we are keen to facilitate a virtual WOL circle on ESN and ESN analytics for WOL. With our SWOOP social network analytics platform in mind we want to create a product that is totally in synch with WOL principles and practices. At the same time, we anticipate that participants in this WOL circle will have their own goals for joining up, that are not related to buying a new tool or analytics product. For us the key value for joining a WOL circle like this is to work toward a common vision we all have for WOL and to have fun breaking through that productivity sound barrier together, both for yourself and your respective enterprises.

Are you up up for it? Then reply here….

 

5 Ways to Blast through the Productivity “Sound Barrier”: Trading Pipes for Platforms

Pipes-Platforms

We are in an age where the vast majority of large organisations in developed economies are struggling to find ways to seriously boost productivity. The recent OECD report on the future of productivity identifies the growing gap between those super-productive organisations and the rest. They highlight ICT playing a key role in the future of productivity. The now ubiquitous “digital disruption” phrase, in the USA in particular, is providing real-life examples of the productivity boom enjoyed by successful digital platform businesses. Businesses like Ebay, Amazon, AirBnB, Uber, Facebook, Linkedin and the like have already blasted through the productivity “sound barrier” with their relatively small staff and high impact business models.  But what about those established large businesses that are often the target of these upstart platform providers? How can they match these productivity behemoths in the marketplace?

Through our organisational network analysis work we have taken hundreds of organisational x-rays of traditional organisations over the past decade or more. Many of these firms are looking to collaboration for a step change productivity boost. Organisational network analysis identifies how work is really happening, under the cloak of the formal organisation chart, by surfacing the real people to people dependencies. Importantly it identifies the true internal influencers, many of whom are invisible to formal line management. The over-riding theme that we see is the predominance of productivity silos. In essence the formal business units are collaborating intensely within their own walls, but with precious little connectivity between them. In most cases the productivity of one business unit can be totally undermined by the productivity aims of another. Regularly firm KPIs will even encourage internal competition. Its not surprising that the OECD has found that for the majority of organisations, productivity growth is stagnating. We found that when organisations leveraged their identified internal influencers, at all levels, good stuff happens, and happens fast.

Lets reflect a little on how we got here in the first place. Before the “age of the platform” the big productivity toolsets were engineering toolsets. Total Quality Management, Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing, Business Process Management were designed to bring well-engineered systematic methods to productivity enhancement. As useful as they have been, we are now in marginal returns territory. No productivity sound barrier will even be approached by pushing these familiar themes. Where we are seeing sound barrier breaking productivity is in the world of “platforms” that facilitate human initiative to connect and produce.

Here is the crux of the problem: Compliance versus Initiative. Sangeet Paul Choudary elegantly describes this as “Pipes vs Platforms”. Traditional firms work as pipes, trying to push as much through the pipe to the customer, as cheaply as possible. This requires people to essentially “comply” with codified business processes to achieve this. Boosting productivity in the pipe means more rules and bigger, more expensive pipes. But here is the rub. The rules rarely work in all situations. The pipes regularly leak. Increasing and costly overheads are required to manage these leaks, But it’s a losing battle. So what we get is flip flopping between departments in the service centre; off spec products sitting in the warehouse with nowhere to go; continuous delays waiting for the only person who knows what to do to come back off leave; falling through the cracks is now more like toppling into the crevice.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. How is it that Buutzorg, the Dutch neighborhood nursing organisation can grow to a very profitable market dominating 7,000+ employees in 7 years, with no “pipe” style business process management in place? Indeed how have all of the successful platform companies like Uber, AirBnB, Ebay, Amazon achieved their success with scant regard for the “accepted” productivity tools mentioned? The key is that they have leveraged human initiative. They have established platforms on which individuals can leverage their own collective initiative to succeed in the work they want to do. Its not a world without rules though. The rules however are designed not for compliance to a pre-determined process, but for sustaining productive interactions in a busy digital marketplace.

But what about you; stuck in an old world bureaucratic organisation, being weighed down by increasingly onerous compliance regimes and time-wasting overheads to your main work? Should you just leave for greener pastures? One school of thought suggests that “too big to let fail” is exactly the wrong thing for governments to support; as these organisations will never be able to change sufficiently to meet the required productivity levels. But pragmatically, if 90% of the world’s firms sit in this space we need to find another way to break through that sound barrier.

Here are my recommendations for both organisations and individuals who feel trapped in that productivity wasteland:

  1. For business processes requiring human judgment, change the management style from pipe to platform i.e. remove the process rules and let people self manage.
  2. If a process can be automated with 0% chance of failure, automate aggressively.
  3. As an individual, work to be a linchpin. This does not mean to become a bottleneck, in fact the exact opposite. Be seen as the “go to” person that can get things done. Ask for forgiveness rather than permission. Once you have achieved this status, help as many others around you to do the same.
  4. Find the linchpins in your organisations and leverage them ahead of any formal processes.
  5. Finally, value relationships over processes. In the longer run breakthrough, sustainable productivity is a human centered trait.

See you on the other side of that sound barrier!

Communicating Diagonally: New Value Pathways via Enterprise Social Networking?

Diagonal communication

One of the keystone value claims for implementing an Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) platform like Yammer, Jive or IBM Connect is facilitating horizontal communication paths across the enterprise. Traditional organisational hierarchies have proven to be poorly suited to sharing information and knowledge sideways, as designed communication pathways at the base of the hierarchy would have information move vertically upward before moving across and then downward to its waiting audience. A lot can happen to an intended message as it makes this tortuous path, often resulting in a poor communication result.

But what about “Diagonal Communication”? By this we mean communication paths that connect leaders of business units to non-leaders of other business units and visa versa, as shown by the dashed diagonal pathways below.
Diagonal structure

A natural response would suggest a potential undermining of the leaders’ authority i.e. if I as business leader, were found to be communicating directly with a staff member of another business unit, would this be disrespecting that member’s own business unit leader? Likewise, if as a non-leader, I seek to communicate directly with a leader of another business unit; am I disrespecting my own business unit leader by not involving them in the communication? It is this reticence that no doubt hinders this style of communication in traditional hierarchical organisations; arguably at some cost to the organisation.

Recently we completed an analysis of collaboration patterns with a major financial services company by analysing the usage logs of their ESN (Yammer). The objective was to understand the value being gained to date by applying our social networking analytic measures. Because this was a ‘relationships centred’ analysis, we aimed to go beyond the simple usage traffic measures and only include connections where a true reciprocal interaction had occurred i.e. to be included in our analysis a specific two-way interaction between two individuals had to have occurred to produce a link. As anticipated, the horizontal collaboration paths across internal business units were indeed prominent, but perhaps the bigger surprise was the size of the diagonal communication paths: 

Diag Comms Table

The results indicated that the diagonal linkages were nearly three times the number of the vertical, within business unit, connections. One can only speculate as to why. Perhaps the ESN was seen to give license for this form of informal communication, without the concerns attached to more formal communication. Perhaps it is a response to such  ‘protocol’ constraints by releasing a pent-up demand for communicating diagonally in a more timely fashion; with the knowledge that the formal channels can be enacted should the communication escalate to something significant.

Whatever the reason there is significant value to be gained though opening up diagonal channels of communication. Firstly, the opportunity to accelerate more radical enterprise innovations. Radical innovations typically result from the bringing together of inputs across a diversity of sources, like other business units. Formal channels can kill off an innovation opportunity simply through its bureaucratic nature. Secondly, organisational politics can result in mixed messages as communications move up and down a hierarchy. Diagonal communication can open up a more open and active narrative across the organisation, leading to more informed and responsive decision-making. Last but not least, ESNs, by opening up informal diagonal channels of communication, while potentially not undermining the formal channels; allows organisations to get the best of both worlds: Social + Business.