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social business summit, london / part 1 April 15, 2011

Posted by nicholas gill in dachis group, social business.

One year on, the Dachis Group Social Business Summit was back on it’s global tour to share and spread the social business gospel; where are we today and what does the next year hold? This year I was more selfish and bagged a ticket myself as the content looked more interesting than most of the other social events that just preach to you about what you already know. I wanted to learn something new and be inspired. So did I? I’ve tried to capture my notes from the day below and created some crap visuals to illustrate. Be warned, this is long and in two parts – part 2 here.

Change, Context, Conflict

JP Rangaswami, Chief Scientist (does he have Bunsen burners in his office?) @ Salesforce.com is a great presenter in the storytelling mode. The nub of the presentation was that businesses have engineered social out of the enterprise and we’re latterly trying to re-capture it. An HR example of this is the use of euphemisms to avoid the issue; we right-size, we don’t fire people. We blame the system because our enterprises are built to be non-social. We are in the knowledge age but still conform to the repeatable process of the industrial age. This is our context. Factories were created and expanded based on formulaic input/output that could be repeated and refined. The knowledge age doesn’t play well in this construct. So instead of releasing the knowledge (or Cognitive Surplus), we create meetings. Because our working day must conform to the process of the industrial age. 9-5. And downtime is a sin. Our workload in the information age is rarely steady. It’s lumpy. Some organisations embrace lumpyness; Google’s Lab Time is the best example of this.

So we must change from process to pattern. From same, same, same to trends that will repeat. Not exactly. But if we record the pattern, we understand it. We understand the conditions and why something didn’t work before and change that pattern. This taps into the vogue statement of “fail fast”.Where the industrial age was linear, the knowledge age is non-linear. With sandbox thinking, cloud computing and free-roaming mentality, it is now more possible to be non-linear. But it takes organisations to be engaged across the enterprise.

Conflict is an area that scares the bejesus out of a lot of people. The notion of sharing versus not sharing. We live in an open society. But not everything has to be shared. It’s not 100% open or 100% closed. There are gradients. Social sharing on Facebook is an example of perimeter security; letting some people in but not others. The collective sharing of memories lives here. With who you choose to share them with. Because our data is not one chunk. It’s granular. You don’t tell them your salary though. That’s still in the safe. Or is it?

And then he ran out of time. Which was a shame.

John Hagel from Deloitte then popped up and carried on with some themes and although most people clapped like automatons when John said he wasn’t going to use powerpoint, I always find at least some charts help with keeping your audience focussed and with you. I swayed and starting wandering my eyes around because I find it hard to fixate on one voice for 30 mins with no other stimulus. Perhaps because I work in a creative industry? This may just be me though. Anyway. The premise was of a shift from diminishing returns to increasing returns activated through a more social approach to business. The Good ole BCG experience curve is the former – work harder to get less. Previously we jealousy guarded our knowledge stocks; we guarded it, extracted it and made money from it but the money reduced as we extracted more because it wasn’t replenished. Now we release knowledge, get more people collaborating on it and increase our returns. Continually. Because we shift mentality from knowledge stocks and guarding to knowledge flows; a larger and broader range of contribution to knowledge stocks which accelerates growth.

Of course everyone wants to accelerate growth so how do you go about it? Start small. Don’t blanket the organisation. It won’t work. Identify small movements that will trigger cascades of action and enable momentum. These little impacts need quantifying though. John calls these Metrics that Matter. So Facebook Likes is not the holy grail? (I am being facetious). Maximise impact of the trigger projects by quantifying the impact across the organisation. C-level = financial metrics. M-level = operating metrics (i.e. churn reduction). Front line = performance metrics (job measures).

Don’t start these triggers at the core of the organisation, start at the edges. Where there are less barriers (and less stakeholders). At the core there are likely to be entrenched views. At the edge are likely to be champions with passion to challenge convention.

Start where the organisation feels pain. 60-70% of all corporate time is spent on exceptions. Which supports the arguments above that business today is not process driven; how can it be if less than a third of time is spent confirming to process. Collaborative problem solving the exceptions can be the catalyst for change. SAP was used as the example where after opening up the developer forums, average problem resolution time was 17 minutes. Ignoring the time element, this brings to life the abstract concept from JP about patterns, recognising them and understanding the conditions. If one developer is experiencing something another developer had and resolved previously; how much more efficient to share, recognise and resolve than plough a  lonely furrow.

Stuart McRae, IBM. Jam to Action.

Previously I wouldn’t have said IBM were particularly social. Big, lumbering, procrastinating yes. Social and agile? No. But then here’s the thing. They’re changing. Because they have to. And one of they key ways they are doing this is through Jams – collaborative places that enable enterprise transformation. There are no guitars in their jams. That came later in the day.

There was a lot of general beating up on email during the day. But not necessarily addressing the route cause. Email itself isn’t the issue. It’s the way people use it erroneously; arse-covering cc’ing, reply to all, sending stuff that could be accessed more easily elsewhere, using it as storage and to the earlier content – knowledge stocks. Compound this with the shocking filing state on most company servers (I’m convinced ad agencies are the worst offenders here. Never seen an organised server system in any company I’ve worked for) and you quickly understand the email overload backlash. Which I’m not sure will go away with some of the thoughts of Stuart and the other presenters later in the day about collaboration. Surely there’s an even bigger social overload issue we’re rushing headlong into if the root causes of email abuse aren’t addressed? Just look at tagging. In a former life the tagging was created by one person who looked at things with a viewpoint that was mainly counter-intuitive to everyone else. Net result the social sharing was like an empty bar. Nobody went there because you could never find anything. That aside, I liked the work Stuart shared.

Most organisations are created in silos. Silos inhibit knowledge share. Silos need to become permeable because to break them down is undeniably a Utopian solution rather than a practical one. Think instead of DMZs (De Militarised Zones) between silos to start to affect change.

Permeable silos need to share more effectively. email – in it’s current usage mode – is poor at this. By socialising the data in collaborative places, you increase discoverability. You discover it when you need it; not when someone decides to email it to you.

So how do you go about becoming this social business? IBM use an acronym (and we all love a good acronym) of AGENDA.

Align organisational goals and culture
Gain “friends” through social trust
Engage through experiences
Network your business processes
Design for reputation and risk management
Analyse your data.

In an area that is laced with impenetrable bull, these are five simple steps that are easy for any organisation to adopt although the word “Network” sticks out like a sore thumb in anything other than a software company and may get the IT folk all excited about cables and stuff. Stuart also referenced the IBM White Paper on becoming a social business as a good bedtime read.

The Jams in IBM require employees to be engaged in the process. Because employees are the differentiator of a social business. Used better and more engaged, the organisation becomes more transparent and more nimble. The Jams create a huge amount of data. This is where the sceptical business leader may get the jitters; if email overload is an issue, a seemingly free-for-all jam would potentially be seen as anathema. So it requires software to control, manage, curate, sift and sort the wheat from the chaff. And of course IBM are a software company so all tickety boo. But you can’t automate everything. You need human eyes and brains to understand what’s happening. And here’s the missing chasm in this brave new world. Nobody is talking is talking about the human cost. The Nokia person answered that when I asked her in the Q&A afterward. There was collective sharp intake of breath in the room (or so it seemed to me) when I asked it. More on that in part 2 as she was after lunch. And I’m getting hungry.

Dion Hinchcliffe, Dachis Group.

Billed as high impact social success stories I was eagerly awaiting some tangible evidence and case studies. But the evidence was on the last slide and although it was “in the appendix”, I don’t have the appendix nor was it signposted on the day or sent afterward so I am left perplexed. Where is this appendix please? I seem to remember the examples in highlight form weren’t exactly the legendary stuff of legend so I won’t be chasing around the nooks and crannies of the internet for it. My feeling at the time of the presentation was of being bored at this stage. The talk seemed to tell things any person half interested in the social sphere knows inside out using the well-thumbed Morgan Stanley report as back up. Yes, yes we know this, tell us something new. Well, not quite new but a new way of describing the drivers of a more social economy:

  • Pervasive connectivity
  • Friction-less interaction platforms
  • Next gen mobility
  • Information superabundance
  • Inherent transparency
  • Focus on network effects (more value the more people have it, NOT viral)
  • Rise of social capital

And here’s a diagram I created to make some sense of the change in usage from email to social tools and text between ages.

And of course the shift within the shift is also important. As more time is spent in social comms, increasingly it is being used on mobile devices. I again found myself suddenly wanting to become the defender of email and the bringer of common sense that of course young people are using email less because they’re not in the workforce yet where email is the main communication tool. So while this may look nice, it’s also blindingly obvious why. I’m not sure corporates will suddenly excuse graduates from email because they prefer IM. Some stats flowed about IBM using social to reduce email by 29%, and Siemens have a 3 year plan to delete all emails. Sounds great but, as referenced earlier, overdosing on social communications is already rife. The firehose needs to be tamed otherwise there is a great danger of social becoming a worse offender than email. We consume more information because we have the fear of missing out. And the consuming becomes paralysing if it goes unchecked and uncontrolled. But software will save the day. Apparently. I still think the human element will balls it up because even if we become more open, transparent and collaborative, if we don’t adhere by rules and process, we’ll just have data spaghetti. Maybe I just lost a bit of positivity because I was hungry?

So, that’s the first half. Second half here.

There is also a wiki of pretty much everything to do with the Summit here.



1. Esteban Kolsky - April 16, 2011

thanks, fantastic summary… well, the first two speakers at least – then got mundane and redundant.

nicholas gill - April 18, 2011

@Esteban thanks for chiming in. The speakers or my writing?

2. Esteban Kolsky - April 18, 2011

both, of course. speakers provided the content, but i liked your summary.

3. social business summit, london / part 2 « [bluurb] stuff and things - April 18, 2011

[…] post captures the afternoon sessions of the London leg of the Dachis Group Social Business Summit. You can find part 1 here. Over lunch I had the chance to properly catch up with the lovely Ross Taylor who I had the […]

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