Archive for April, 2008

Refocusing less on numbers and more on quality creation

April 29, 2008

Over the last few weeks I have been discussing, overheard and read about Enterprise 2.0 Return On Investment (ROI). I’m familiar with this term having used it in the past to justify and overcome financial objections when investing in IT technology. ROI is a cost saving measure with the argument being: you invest in this product or service now; you will pay off the initial investment by this date; and then you are left with a reduced operational cost.

Firms invest in IT to reduce costs through increased efficiency or invest to increase revenues by gaining long term competitive advantage. In the 1990’s investing in an email infrastructure was justified on early mover competitive advantage and today email has become so commoditised it is seen as a cost of doing business. Businesses and some suppliers are attempting to put an ROI on Enterprise2.0 tools but history shows ROI does not work with collaborative tools.

Our current management approach to business teamwork projects is woefully ineffective as highlighted by the research in Susan Scrupski excellent blog post. Enterprise2.0 has the potential to bring valuable business benefits through increased team collaboration, however cost saving ROI IT projects are often seen as a more attractive option because of the short term measurable gains.

A typical project to innovate a process or product can be challenging to measure and has a high possibility of failing, let alone delivering an ROI. The result is firms choose not to innovate because of the risk of failure.  Sucessful innovation projects often come from the people on the ground who understand customer problems and needs. Enterprise 2.0 can bring competitive advantage through the firms often most expensive and unique asset, their people.

But how far do we go? Pampering staff seems to be a trend in software development firms such as Google with their free cafe, games rooms and other generous benefits. Compelling benefits are also being used by small firm such as Carsonifeid in the UK offering a Macbook/iphone and 4 day working week for new employees and 37 Signals also on a 4 day week will even  pay for your hobbies.

People are not machines that produce at a constant fixed rate and ROI does not work with them or the tools they use. Making a knowledge worker work at a continual high rate or long hours does not increase the employers return. The focus needs to be on quality and not quantity output. The time management guru Tim Ferriss refers to attention currency and the innate human ability to only have so many quality attention hours. Googles benefits are not just trying to attract the best quality staff, they are also providing an environment where the people have the energy and time to create together.

Knowing the numbers is key to any organization, however if the focus shifts to working overly by the numbers we can lose sight of our people and unhappy staff effect future profits. Because of the perceived long term and unclear returns many firms are unwilling or unable to take a more quality approach on teamwork. This is the challenge in justifying an Enterprise 2.0 management approach and the associated technologies.


Unlearning the technology bible to find transformation innovation

April 21, 2008

Last week I was challenged by a blog reader as over using Geoffrey Moore’s technology innovation curve. In 2006 Crossing the chasm was described by, Tom Byers of Stanford, as “still the bible for entrepreneurial marketing 15 years later” and only last month AIMM produced a  thorough 90 page report that uses the innovation curve categories to track the progress of Enterprise 2.0 technologies:

This report aimed to define Enterprise2.0 and uncover firms perceptions and positions on this emerging technology. Rather than summarize the report you can find views on Niall Cook blog post or CMS Wire ‘Organizations Still Don’t Get Enterprise 2.0’.

Moore’s technology innovation curve acts as a guide to past patterns of innovation and can shed some light of possible future patterns. The innovation curve has become so engrained for such a long period of time, in the timescape of the technology market, the real value is to be drawn from predicting the behaviour and actions of industry groups, who have faith in and play by the rules of a industry standard ‘bible’. I therefore think it is fundamentally important to understand the rules laid down by a gospel of technology innovation, before the patterns generated by these rules can be broken and transformational innovation realised.

By transformational I refer to a changing of the rules of the game as Google has achieved with their run away success ad generating model, much to the annoyance of Microsoft’s Ballmer referring to Google’s as a ‘one trick pony’ in 2007 and Microsoft’s change in strategy the same year, ‘We are ‘hell-bent on succeeding in ads’, Ballmer .   

Ballmer punching air


Naturally the ideas from Crossing the Chasm are not without there weaknesses and the book could do with updating as highlighted in an article in 2007 by Alex Iskold of Read Write Web, however it does offer us an platform from which to predict the cause and effect patterns of both customers and industry players. Players such as Microsoft and Oracle who hold the gateway to the convensional route of the mainstream market. My point is that to find truly significant innovative possiblities we need to understand how a market thinks and then unlearn all we have learnt to really innovate. As Einstein put it, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”

Turning 2.0 potential into mainstream reality

April 15, 2008

Andrew McAfee of Harvard University provides an excellent example of effective blogging to a target audience. In 2006 McAfee coined the phase ‘Enterprise2.0’ when he published an article which ring fenced Web2.0 technologies adapted for business to bring real organisational value. Tools such as Wiki’s, Blogs, RSS, Tagging and Search enable users to Search, Link, Author, Tag, Extend, Signal collective information and knowledge. Since 2006 McAfee has taken the mantel of these new business tools and work methods to spread the word of a better way of work together in business.

Being an evangelist you would expect McAfee to be a good Blogging example, however I’m astounded by the sheer volume of hits on his site (6.5m) for such as niche area and the position the site has propelled him to. Ziff Davis Enterprise has ranked McAfee at 38th in their list of ‘the 100 Most Influential People in IT.‘ ,to which McAfee attributes his blog as the ‘main reason I made the list’.

Two years since McAfee’s report Enterprise 2.0 tools remain in the mainstream sidings only offering the potential to bring value and benefits to firms. The most important party in this equation, The Customer, sees the potential but many remain hesitant, unsure and in some cases unconvinced. Here are some thoughts on E2.0 from US CIO’s in February 2008 (CIO Magazine):

Industry consultants and market researchers have found objections to implementing E2.0 tools include: resistance organisational cultural change; the need for an integrated set of E2.0 tools; integration with existing applications and cost. Many E2.0 tools originated from technical innovators, for example Wiki’s (Wiki, Wiki means very quick in Hawaiian) was originally used by software developers for easier documentation and has evolved into business use overtime. These tools have now moved beyond innovators to visionary users who can see the potential business benefits. Reflecting on Geoffrey Moore’s book ‘Crossing the Chasm’ the point of change from the Early adopter (Visionary) to the Early Majority (mainstream), Moore describes the early majorities need for industry specific references, experiences from know relationships, a competitive market and low risk decisions to buy from a reliable provider with a quality, integrated and well supported product set.

Innovation does not stand still and these current E2.0 tools will evolve and change to meet customer needs and problems. As the big boys of the software industry such as IBM, Microsoft and Oracle start to sit up and take notice of the user interest these tools are generating they will start to introduce new offerings. The hyper activity on McAfee blog is perhaps evidence of the potential business users see from E2.0 tools, with suppliers following the potential demand, keen not to miss out on a new wave of innovation.

It remains to be seen which of these tools in their current form will go mainstream and what exactly they will evolve to become over time. One thing we can be sure of is that the underlying problems E2.0 products are helping to solve such as effective team working and information / Knowledge management will not go away. It is highly likely that current problems, such as our increasingly overflowing in-boxes, will continue to scale the priority list until the problems become totally unmanageable and solutions must be found.

The ‘voyeuristic’ pleasure of watching someone else’s thoughts unfold

April 6, 2008

Having been convinced of the writers addiction to receiving feedback through channels such as blogs and Twitter I turn to focus on why the reader returns to read new blog entries, posts comments or even shares the link with friends. The value to the reader of repeated interactions can include learning new information for social, career or company gain or perhaps it is simply for pleasure.

For many years I have been fascinated by TV programs dedicated to watching others life’s. More recently this has been taken to a new level with Reality TV which I believe was challenged by the Truman Show movie (or reinforced depending on your point of view).

It would seem for many there is a ‘voyeuristic’ pleasure to be gained from watching someone else’s life and the web social media phenomenon maybe tapping into this powerful need and desire. These new technologies give the viewer an opportunity to get even closer to a subject with an instant view into a real, familiar and non-fictional characters life.

Many years ago I was friends with one of the consultants I once worked alongside at an IT consultancy. We both moved to work for Novell at the same time but have not been in touch for many years since he moved to the USA to progress his career. He was very passionate and committed to his work and this is shown on his Novell blog.  Recently he moved from Novell to Microsoft after a conflict over direction, with this highly charged change and emotional fallout played out on his blog. The strange thing is I have rediscovered our friendship through his blog story, although it is only really a one way relationship.

We can now communicate with many close-tie friends, loose-tie contacts and strangers using the new social media technologies with the reader selecting the people who they want to read about whether it be a friend, contact or someone who has interesting or useful things to say.

As a society we have been growing the number of information channels and now the individual can selectively choose the information they wish to receive, be it from a specific TV channel, specialist interest publications or feeds from the Internet. This continuing fragmentation of channels has created a crisis in the media industry and is fundamentally changing how we are being targeted by advertisers. ‘Ad’ based Internet sites such as Facebook and viral marketing campaigns are leading innovation in the marketing industry.

Social media is a developing channel being harnessed by many individuals to market themselves and promote their employers using the ‘Play’ or ‘Act’ of there life to attract an audience. It seems the line between work and home life is continuing to blur with new technology and attitudes changing how we communicate on a personal and business level.

Truman exits one reality into another..