Category Archives: Enterprise Social

How to get started with social media

A few months ago I wrote a post on how I use various social media sites, but realized I didn’t share how I arrived at those use cases/decisions so here it is.

First and foremost  identify what you hope to get from your social media experience. If one of your goals isn’t to share knowledge then re-think why you are trying to use social media.  I have heard, well read, that Twitter is one of the largest groups of people who love to share their knowledge and experiences.  When I decided it was time to be more involved I had several reasons – becoming more involved in a community I was passionate about, learning from others, sharing my experiences and meeting others who shared similar interest were my key drivers for getting started with social media.

Next you will want to identify the key areas you want to focus on.  For me this was an easy task as I had decided to veer off my (at the time) current career trajectory and re-focus on more hands on/engineering type roles that would hopefully revolve around virtualization, VMware and other related technologies.

Once you know what information you want, do some research and identify what networks are most active in that area.  I find Twitter to be much more active with others in the VMware/engineering space versus Facebook so I started with Twitter and later expanded into other networks.  While I use some platforms in a similar manner, I also have specific uses for others.  For example Twitter is my primary social network where I will engage openly with everyone, and use Google+ in a similar fashion while leveraging circles to share more personal information such as pictures of my family with just a limited subset of circles.  You will likely also find yourself involved in groups with no real tie to a particular social media site/tool such as local meet up groups, blogs or webinars.

Now, develop a plan.  Once you have identified the reasons why you want to be involved, and which communities are most active your plan could be as simple as taking time to focus on one specific aspect and expanding into other areas as you become comfortable in others.  For example, after several attempts and “figuring out” Twitter, I focused simply on using it as a tool to stay up to date on information from various vendors who I enjoyed working with.  This made an easy transition into following others who were talking about the same topics, learning from and meeting those people.

Finally –  push yourself.  It is easy to stay in an area you are comfortable – with people you know, information or skills you may already excel at but you won’t grow if you do not challenge yourself.  One area that I just stumbled into was being more out going, as typically I am quiet and reserved and don’t go out of my way to talk to people.  One night I just happened to see someone I follow on Twitter who lives out of state ask where he could get dinner just a couple towns away from me as in was in the area for work, several other people who already knew him suggested some places and others even were going to meet him there so I just threw myself into the mix and had some great conversations over dinner with people I had never met – that was far outside my comfort zone.  Of course in a scenario like that, ask first don’t just show up!

If you are struggling with how to get started, leverage social media as a means to get information and learn and you will likely find that over time you will start engaging and sharing more information naturally as others are already doing.

 

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Building a Business Case for Social Business Software via @JiveSoftware #socbiz

Back in a previous life I was asked to take on two projects, an “intranet” upgrade and an “customer portal” – the requirements for both were lose and the intranet upgrade seemed fairly obvious, just upgrade from SharePoint MOSS 2007 to 2010 (or 2013 depending on timing).  For the customer portal project I partnered with the Director of Marketing to define the scope of the project and determine what our constraints might be – budget and executive buy in where the two biggest concerns which was odd to me since the CEO asked for the customer portal in the first place.  As we started down this path I quickly realized what people wanted in an intranet, and what we wanted to provide to our customers had almost the exact same requirements – the projects converged and the rest, well we got acquired so the project never launched but I met a great company called Jive Software and the rest of this article was information provided at their Jive Road Show from the spring of 2012 to help build a business case for Social Business (or Social Enterprise) software.

  1. Okay so I didn’t agree with their number 1 – the first order of business is to learn what “social” means to different people in your company.  Once you have this understanding, develop training – one on one, department or for the entire company about what being “social” means in today’s digital world.  Everyone needs to be on the same page or your project won’t get off the ground.  “We are already a social business” said one executive who sat in his office all day behind closed doors – made my skin crawl, he wasn’t even social in the sense of talking to people never mind how to be social in a digital format.
  2. (This is where Jive started) Align the social business initiative to your companies critical business initiatives – this is an important step so you can align the cost of the project to actual initiatives for the business, in our case it was creating a customer portal, increasing sales and improving the customer experience.
  3. Gain strong executive (and Finance) sponsorship – obvious but critical for any project.  Get as much money in the bank as possible – I had CEO and CFO approval, and a free 6 month pilot lined up and it still got denied (but we were also in the process of getting acquired)
  4. Select the right initial groups and engage key people early – This is why I added my own number 1 requirement – it may be difficult to know WHO the right/key people are with, well, being social!  I opted to ask the entire company for volunteers and created a team of 20 people to tell me what they wanted, what would help them in their day to day job and with their customers (be it internal or external).  If you know of someone who is completely opposed, thinks that “social is for kids” get them in on the project early – your biggest opponent can quickly become your biggest proponent (proponent…is that a word?  meh)
  5. Mindfully model and mentor through content and interaction seeding – social enterprise is all about engagement.  If your not using the software, not having conversations, sharing information it will just become a document management system, or that system you wasted the companies money on!  Help people start conversations and discussions, maybe start with how it can be leveraged within just groups or departments and then show how it can span the entire company.
  6. Design and build for engagement – provide guidance and examples for people to model their usage after until they are comfortable with the platform, at which point it will start to be natural and the growth/engagement organic.
  7. Communicate bottom up and top down – short version – everyone needs to be engaged on the platform.  If the CEO is not listening, its not working.  A platform like this can generate so much great information for the business leaders to act on.
  8. Measure – take baselines, before and after the project launches.  Know what you business initiatives were (item 2) and know how those performed both before and after you go live.  Is employee satisfaction up?  Customer retention up?  Having these metrics will continue to provide proof that transforming your business into a social business matters.

Jive software acquires meetings.io

I am a huge fan of Jive and have also been keeping an eye on several up and coming web conferencing / meeting services – one of which was Meetings.io.  Meetings.io announced yesterday that they were acquired by Jive – now two of my favorite products will become one.  I was glad to read that Meetings.io will continue to be developed and supported as not everyone I work with is a Jive customer, but also look forward to the Meetings.io technology being integrated into Jive (Google+ Hangout type feature?) to make that platform even more collaborative in the Enterprise Social space.

Another interesting use case this expands for Jive is as a learning environment, rather than a traditional LMS you can now use (you can read more about Jive for an LMS here an https://community.jivesoftware.com/docs/DOC-61859)

Teach why before you teach how

I had a great conversation the other day about IT strategy and how IT can be a strategic partner to the organization.  Now maybe I am a bit biased, but I would like to think one of my strong points is my ability to look at a technical request, from the simple to the very complex, and consider the organization’s goals; whether for the entire organization, a specific line of business or an individual, and think about how that request aligns to those goals. I began to wonder if I am really as strategic as I thought, and as I reflected on my career I realized I was extremely lucky as a  young professional to have several managers / mentors, as far back as a summer job after my senior year in high school, always focused on why something should be done – and in many cases left it up to me to figure out the how.  I think this is important for several reasons, but most importantly if you are always thinking about the why, it almost becomes second nature to think strategically about almost everything you do even if its just as simple as understanding the need of one specific person or as complex as understanding the needs for an entire accounting/SFA/ERP system across an the organization.

As we move to a more social world, a more social enterprise it is more important than ever for managers and other senior level people to focus on teaching why something should be done versus just how something should be done.  If your teams can think about the why, inevitably this will spark conversation about the best way to accomplish a goal and lead you to a better solution, a more strategic solution and one that will likely have buy in and acceptance across the organization.

Why/How do Universities Use Social Media via @studentforce

Enterprise Social Media Platform Evaluations

Recently IDC released their rankings of enterprise social media / social enterprise platforms, and it was clearly Gartner like in its pay for rankings play (I used to work for IDG so maybe I believed IDC was better than that).  Having recently gone through an extensive search for such a platform I thought I would share my insights on the various platforms we considered.  No vendor has paid for anything stated in this article nor do I have any affiliations with any of the vendors (unless you count my VCP5-DV certification with VMware as an affiliation with SocialCast).  Furthermore, I did not look at company size, revenue or any other means of measurement outside of features, innovation and user experience.

Ranking Enterprise Social Platforms based on a recent effort I lead within my company.

There were 4 vendors clearly head and shoulders above the rest – Jive, MangoApps, Yammer and SocialCast in that order.  Jive, from the features we were looking at, the innovation in their new products and the user experience delivered were what I would expect from such a platform.  MangoApps is a close second, their latest version is extremely impressive and anyone looking at Jive, Yammer or SocialCast should put MangoApps on your radar now.  SocialCast and Yammer round out the top 4, with a slight edge to Yammer in terms of features.  One concern I have with both is their ability to innovate given that they are owned by much larger companies (with a slight edge to SocialCast/VMware in terms of being able to innovate new solutions).

After that there is a pretty major fall off to the next tier with only SAP Jam (really a SuccessFactors product) nearing the leaders quadrant.  Other major players hovering between niche and major players are SalesForce Chatter, WebEx Social (aka Cisco Quad), SharePoint and SocialText.  I almost left WebEx Social off the list since, best I can tell, its still vaporware but since Cisco Quad actually existed I will give them the benefit of the doubt since I was impressed with the demos I saw.  Microsoft needs to realize quickly that Yammer is the front end that SharePoint should have always had and create a compelling cost benefit for SharePoint customers to adopt it or simply lay it on top of SharePoint now and continue to sell Yammer to companies who don’t want/need SharePoint in the background.

There are several other niche platforms that might provide you with some new features/functionality that you do not have in your corporate intranet today but are lacking in terms of features or user experience and don’t bring anything new to the table that isn’t copied by the others in front of them.  Also, there are still a few old school players who bring basic profiles and forums but I don’t live in 2002 anymore – I want more than forums and glossy icons.

Time won’t permit me to get deep into a hands on review with each of these platforms but am certainly willing to speak with anyone who is working on a similar project to share my views and experiences in more detail.

How I leverage social media personally and professionally

Social media, be it Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn or even OG platforms like Blogger or WordPress can be powerful tools both personally and professionally.  Each of these platforms, to me, has a purpose (I just realized what purpose Google+ meant to me).

Twitter – This is my primary social networking tool.  I use Twitter to find and share information, connect or follow people who share similar interests and even meet new people in person (I am a trend setter here, I met my wife in an AOL chat room in 2000).

Facebook – I connect on Facebook very sparingly, only with family and close friends as this is my primary means of sharing personal information about myself and family so I won’t connect with just anyone (nor will I show you my Facebook profile if we aren’t already connected).

Google+ – This is a combination of Twitter and Facebook in terms of features, and I leverage Google+ similar to how I leverage Twitter but taking advantage of the advanced features like hangouts, circles etc.  I connect with other people that I may or may not have met for the purposes of sharing and finding information.

LinkedIn – I use LinkedIn as a means to promote myself professionally and connect with past and current colleagues and again will cross over and connect with people I have met on other social network platforms.

Blogging (WordPress, Blogger or Tumblr) – I use my blog to share my thoughts and experiences in hopes of being able to help other people who are wondering about similar topics.  My posts may be anything from something about a new feature in VMware, social media trends or just a random rant.

Now I know there are a lot more social media type services available, some I use, some I don’t but those are more fringe use cases and not part of my everyday life.  That’s not to say you shouldn’t use those – quite the opposite.  If you are passionate about photography or art you should certainly be on Instagram or Pintrest, or if you are passionate about dining maybe Foursquare or Yelp are higher on your list.  Your mileage will vary with each and every social media site based your interests.

If you find these services useful, don’t forget there are several ways you can leverage social media and the power it harnesses at work as well through private/internal social enterprise collaboration tools like Jive, MangoApps or SocialCast.

Twitter and social media for disaster recovery communication

One of the major projects I have been working on for the last few months is a business continuity / disaster recovery plan.  Now that most of the technical details were out of the way and tested, thanks in large part to (insert plug) nScaled it was time to work on the communication and escalation procedures.  One problem, Hurricane Sandy showed up before they were done.  Since I had already been giving this a great deal of though, I decided to try Twitter as our primary means of communications during the storm since we were going to shut down all our servers to avoid data corruption (no generator and limited UPS run time).  I do not work for a technology company – so the majority of our company is mostly what many would consider non-technical users (compared to a team of developers, customer support, QA people etc…) so I was a bit worried about adoption of using social media as a means to share important information about the status of the systems and plans to shut down and restart them.   After a bit of debating between myself and my other self I went for it and setup a Twitter account (first person that finds the account wins a… hmm I have nothing good … signed piece of paper from me?) and updated the account diligently before, during and just after the storm when all systems were brought back online.

Once the dust settled my curiosity got the better of me so I created a survey via SurveyMonkey.com and sent it out to all our employees – the results:  shocking!  Within just a few hours about 1/3 of our users responded to the survey (50 to be exact).  Of those 50 only 4 did not know we had the Twitter account setup (it was announced late on Friday afternoon).  Of those 46 employees,  39 said “the information was timely and relevant and kept me informed even though we did not have email” (84% for those who like percentages) versus 7 who said “No, the information did not help me.”  Not a bad adoption rate for something announced late on a Friday afternoon and put into use on Monday morning.

I had a section for open ended comments at the end, and asked anyone who said the information was not useful to please give examples of what they expected.  Some of those comments included:

  • “More frequent updates would have been nice, even if just to say nothing has changed” and “I think I was expecting perhaps a few more progress reports than I saw. Good communication tool however” – fair enough, I did get a little lazy with it around 8P EST.
  • “I do not use Twitter and had no intention of signing up for it. Following the news reports gave me just as much information”, “I don’t have a Twitter account and I don’t know if I can see the information without one” and “I don’t have twitter so it was no help to me” – these are on me, I didn’t do a good enough job explaining how it could be used (i.e. you don’t have to sign up for an account to use it).

And that was it for the negative comments, some of the positives:

  • “A great tool! Thank you!”
  • “Loved the use of twitter!”
  • “I really appreciated the twitter account, and I think it was very helpful.”
  • “Great idea and greatly appreciated”
  • “Not only did I use the account to get all of the facts of where we stand, I turned on notifications after following the account to get the tweets in real time! Love it!”
  • great way to get the information – thanks!”

Why is this shocking (to me)?  This is not a “social” company the way Jive or SocialCast would have you think of it.  We are very traditional – send email, having meetings, send spreadsheets to track project deliverables etc. so this was very much outside of the comfort zone for how most of our employees are used to working and communicating with each other.  So while your mileage may vary I would highly suggest leveraging social media tools as a means of communication in your disaster recovery plans.

Do you use social media for this type of communication?  What are your plans and what do you think about using social media for disaster recovery related communications?

The business case for the social enterprise – step 1A and 1B

I had an interesting discussion about the “Consumerization of IT” and how it is much much more than just BYOD.  Consumerization of IT, while inclusive of BYOD, is also the expectation on consumer like user experiences in enterprise applications.  Enterprise applications that have focused on UX are the leaders in their industry.  Look no further than Microsoft’s acquisition of Yammer – and Yammer isn’t even the best but Microsoft recognized that SharePoint did not match the experience we have as consumers on platforms like Facebook, Google+ or Twitter.

I have been involved in implementing ‘communities’ for both internal and customer facing purposes as far back as 2004 why MySpace ruled the world and there are 2 critical steps to ensuring you have success in starting your project.  First, identify clear use cases and needs across the entire organization or function where you are looking to implement this solution.  You should always tie these to business initiatives as well – for example ‘increasing customer engagement’ or ‘increasing sales by n’ since these platforms can have positives effects in both areas.

The next step I feel is important, really more of a 1B than a 2 (and can argue with myself as to whether this should be 1A) is secure budget early.  For as many successful implementations I have seen, I have seen just as many never launch even though you did step 1A flawlessly because we were never going to get finance to sign the check.  Make sure you have a clear dollar amount, approved by your highest level finance person and the CEO.  Money can always disapeer, but make sure you have  a clear understanding with your execs on this project moving forward.

Why you need a Social Enterprise platform

Social networking is more than tweets and likes, its more than just blogs, wikis and user profiles.  Yes, those things are all tools that help achieve “social” but it is ultimately about an experience, a feeling you can give your employees to feel empowered (you know those people you hired that are experts at anything from marketing, customer service, finance or IT) to be more productive, to work better across functional and geographic teams.  I have spent months researching these platforms and there is none better than Jive (www.jivesoftware.com / http://www.jiveon.com), though MangoSpring appears a pretty good second.  Culture matters to people, being able to connect, share ideas, ask questions and for help beyond just the teams or cube mates they know.  If you don’t have any plans to implement an enterprise social platform to replace (or at the very least greatly enhance) your companies intranet you should start looking now.