Tuesday, January 26, 2010

LotusSphere 2010: Orlando, we have a problem!

"Orlando, we have a problem" was the title of the funniest session I attended during LotusSphere 2010 on monday Januari 18. Two crazy Scotsmen, but crack lotus admins Paul Mooney and Bill Buchan did a very inspiring session on how small mistakes can lead to huge catastrophes.
(photo Ed Brill)
Paul and Bill discussed 10 worst cases of 'fatal errors' that literally crippled entire companies. How can you send all 18,000 employees on holiday in just one click? Well, it happened! Of course, they did not just share the best jokes in sysadmin land to us, they investigated how these errors were made and presented the lessons learned.

Link to the presentation at Paul Mooney's site.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

LotusSphere 2010: TeamPark the best solution in the market

During the first major keynote with client showcases, one of the case studies was Sogeti's offering of TeamPark which was introduced to the 8,000 + audience by Sogeti CTO Michiel Boreel.

LotusSphere 2010,Orlando,Florida,IBM,Walt Disney World

As said in a previous blogpost, many companies find it hard to put real KPI's on Corporate Social Networking and Michiel also touched this subject; "there is a chance that your managers see social collaboration as a whole new waste of time" but in this day and age you have to push the limits, especially as a global IT company. The world is changing fast and competition heats up. As a company, you need to be agile and close to the market. You need to keep up to speed in terms of the latest developments. That is the reason why Sogeti chose to implement Lotus Connections 2.5 by the end of 2009: It's the challenge to increase the speed of innovation by engaging the talent of your employees.

LotusSphere 2010,IBM,Connections,Orlando,Florida,Walt Disney World

Michiel described the for stages of the TeamPark methodology; Awareness, Strategy, Implementation and Live. In many IT projects we do the strategy and the implementation but we do not do the first and last phase: Awareness and bringing the platform to Live. Especially when it comes to corporate social networking, these stages are essential. Else you would have an empty restaurant. And where do people eat? Not in the empty restaurant, but one across the street where it's busy. Now if your company would be like that, your employees would probably eat out in restaurants like Facebook or LinkedIn.

A social environment breaks down into five areas: Socialness, Organicness, Collective Intelligence, Aliveness and Linkedess (it needs to be S.O.CI.A.L.)

According to IBM, Sogeti's TeamPark offering currently is the best in the market when it comes to implementing social software in companies. If you would like to know more about TeamPark, just leave me a message or contact me on twitter (@vjburns), or call your nearest Sogeti Offices off course ;)

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LotusSphere 2010: Social Collaboration delivers Real Business Value

The first big keynote session after the OGS (Opening General Session) was KEY106: Social Collaboration delivers Real Business Value in which Jeff Schick asked: What is your companies collaboration culture? Is it phone? Is it email?

LotusSphere 2010,Orlando,Florida,IBM,Walt Disney World

What do you think will get you the best response? Is that dropping an email bomb on your employees or a dynamic search of a live site? Not surprisingly we are still in the proces of justifying corporate social software. We need metrics to convince our managers.

A number of partners and clients came on stage to showcase how collaboration has helped their business grow. First of all, Saleem Avan, Head of IT at the United Nations showed us how collaboration helps them to be agile and creative in harsh situations.

LotusSphere 2010,Orlando,Florida,IBM,Walt Disney World

Other client showcases included Thomas Anger, manager Collaboration Services at Sun Life Financial (and guess what his blog is called: Anger Management. That drew a few laughs), Sogeti CTO Michiel Boreel (which I'll get into later), Travis Hall - Director of Client Engineering at Union Pacific and Eve McLain from ACI which deliver payment processing solutions

KEY106 Social Collaboration Delivers Real Business Value at Collaboration Matters.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

TeamPark and Lotus Connections 2.5

Since early april IBM has been running a managed beta for their next big release of Lotus Connections. Version 2.5 is officially set to come this friday, the 28th and we've been fidgetting around with this beta version since the beginning. Time to have a quick look at what's new.

The biggest changes compared to LC 2.0.1 are the addition of two new services: Files and Wiki's, but there are lots of minor changes as well. I won't go into too much detail on the specs, there are probably dozens of sites who will do so, I'd rather share a glimpse of what we've done with it in our project called TeamPark.

In the image below you'll see the main services for Connections: Profiles, Communities, Blogs, Files, Wiki's Bookmarks and Activities. In yellow (the middle part) you'll see the new, cool, microtweeting like functionality of Connections 2.5

One of the big advantages of Connections is that it is people centered and not document centered, like Microsoft Sharepoint. You can tag about everything, including people so that it becomes very easy to find experts. Obviously, it is very important to stimulate everyone to fill in their profile details, so we added a few things to the default Connections 2.5 implementation. On the left hand side you'll see two widgets below the profile picture (oui, c'est moi). The first is the standard Tagcloud for your profile (which is minimized now) which we use to find expertise and interest. At Sogeti, we work for different customers all the time so we added a "MyClients" widget. We added an extra field to the profile page where we can fill in the Clients we've worked for, and they appear in the bottom left widget "MyClients" This way we can easily find who's been working at a specific client to get references.

A second Widget we've made is to stimulate everyone to fill in their profile information and is a Profile % Complete counter, quite similar to what you'll find on LinkedIn. Currently my profile is 51% complete as you can see in the right column. Basically the widget counts which profile fields have been filled in, and assigns a weight to that. Obviously a profile picture carries more weight than the phone number of my (sadly) non-existent Assistant.

So, that's it for a first view of the Sogeti TeamPark platform based on Connections 2.5. More to follow.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Building Intelligent Organisations

Last month I've blogged a bit about what the important SOCIAL factors are in creating corporate social networks. Today my colleague Patrick Savalle published a first presentation on the TeamPark approach which is designed to help organisations successfully implement corporate social networks and become more intelligent organisations.

In every organization processes can be identified that do not function optimal in the normal, so called bureaucratic or formal structure.

Finding people or expertise, sharing and leveraging implicit knowledge, exploiting the wisdom of the crowd, using the special talents of people, driving sustainable innovation. Many processes run more efficient and are more effective using the social networks of the organisation.

Many tasks can be accomplished better by organizing people in communities instead of teams. An organization that knows how to use communities, social networks, crowd-sourcing, broadcast communication, self-organization and other ‘2.0’ concepts has an advantage over competitors and offers an appealing working environment.

The Intelligent Organization knows; build it with TeamPark

At the SlideShare presentation you'll also find a transcript to go with the presentation.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Key to the Magic Quadrant of Social Software

A few posts back I did a quick comparison on Microsoft MOSS 2007 and IBM Lotus Connectins to see which one is best suited for Enterprise 2.0, for Corporate Social Networking. One of the criteria we've developed in our TeamPark approach at Sogeti is that the software needs to be S.O.C.I.A.L.

In this comparison I also showed the Gartner graph on Social Software;

In their review, Dogear Nation rightly pointed out that for instance Yammer, Facebook, Twitter and so on are missing. So where have the Garter researches been?

However, the graph also shows that none of the currently available platforms moves into the socalled 'Magic Quadrant';

The Gartner Magic Quadrant is a proprietary research tool developed by Gartner inc., a US based research and advisory firm. It is designed to provide an unbiased qualitative analysis of a “markets’ direction, maturity, and participants

Time to work magic

In the upper left quadrant we see both Microsoft and IBM named "challengers" with a great capacity to execute (read established corporate penetration), in the lower right quadrant we see a number of "visionaries" like Atlassian, Jive and Socialtext. The majority however falls into the lower left quadrant of "niche players" and no solution has made it to the magic quadrant yet.

What does it take to get into the magic quadrant? In blunt translation of the Gartner graph it should be Microsoft buying Atlassian for instance to combine 'completeness of vision' with 'the power to execute'. But that is not the correct answer.

If we mix up Jive with IBM or Atlassian with Microsoft it does not create a winner, it will not be a magic quadrant recipe, because it will undoubtedly be a functional cocktail from a technical point of view, not from a social point of view. It will result in a (probably very good) platform which offers everything you would want, but in the end won't work.

The 'ppp' Protocol

What does it take to get into that magic quadrant? Basically this is an identity management based issue. In my opinion we use the web in three ways:

  1. Private
  2. Personal
  3. Professional

Probably we should rename 'www' to 'ppp' ;) .You could argue the terminology though, it could just as well be personal, social and professional. However, I think theseare the three domains to which we use the internet and with the current cloudcomputing trends this will create a new paradigm for identity management (IdM) and this will be the key in stepping inside the magic quadrant.

In the 'old days' we had our home pc to facilitate our 'private need', meaning we used it to store our documents, photos and accessed the internet to find information for our hobbies. We also had a corporate pc on which we stored our work related documents. And in the Web 2.0 age we started to use the internet for social interaction.

Nowadays, more and more is shifting towards webbased functionality. We use Google Docs for our documents, share our photo's on Picasa, Webshots, Flickr, Paintbucket or wherever. We started blogging, and we started Tweeting...

Each of these three domains is becoming more and more webbased and it confuses us, it frustrates us. We're constantly putting up content on a variety of sites, distributing our lives through various media to various audiences and we often find the content should move beyond the boundaries of just one domain and we end up duplicating the same information to another blog or wiki.

IdM Divergence is Key

The current trends on aggregation, the creation of lifestreams is convergence; pulling the content of various media into one single lifestream distributed to all our contact. Regarding the three domains however, we want - no, NEED - divergence; one single point of entry and the option to distribute it to different audiences, across the boundaries set by these domains. One of the functional prerequisites is the ability to organically group contacts (there are more ;)) regardless of the domain they are confined to.

This is, what in my opinion, will make it impossible for each of the platforms mentioned in the Gartner graph to truly claim the Magic Quadrant. Each of these solutions focus on one particular domain; social / personal or professional. The Magic Quadrant platform needs support all three domains in one coherent mashup of these multiple online identities we have fostered with ample mechanisms to guard our privacy, with the appropriate tools to include and exclude people to see certain types of information. It needs to be able to discern who is allowed to see which part of a certain domain

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What is Social Software?

A few posts back I did a quick comparison on Microsoft MOSS 2007 and IBM Lotus Connectins to see which one is best suited for Enterprise 2.0, for Corporate Social Networking. One of the criteria we've developed in our TeamPark approach at Sogeti is that the software needs to be S.O.C.I.A.L. But what exactly does it mean?

As of this moment we only have a Dutch version of our book available, so I'll try and write up a few bits and pieces here on the blog.

Social Software

The foundation of Enterprise 2.0 is social software. A TeamPark which has a lot in common with MySpace for instance, but with clear differences.

What should your TeamPark look like? Whatever we think of and eventually build, a core requirement should be that it should be a place where people like to come to, without directions in their function description or receiving notification all day long to let them know something of interest has been added, or changed. A corporate hangout which lets people experience community and mutual interest. Various literary sources call this aliveness, as an important quality of social websites and, as far as we're concerned this pretty much nails it. It is just like in real life, as people are looking out for signs of life to find a place to socialize. Once inside that environment it takes some time to find the talk of the town.

It is not really that difficult to sum up what is necessary to build a social website, more or less. Which means; which are the elements that give a website a social character. A website on which you lookup a telephone number or are reading a text is not really social. In no way you can see what happens or who else is there, what the others think and there are definately no options to collaborate. A social environment does show these signals. As soon as you can see the presence of others, track their activities it suddenly gets a lot more social. It is perceived entirely different, and these signals, or stimuli, create an environment to interact. Which (inter-) actions actually do take place, and the result of these actions in consequence is primarily dependent on the focus the designer puts in the environment. The design of the website is a dominant factor, both the layout as the interaction design, in delivering the right stimuli.

All these stimuli a social environment offers, will stimulate people to engage in conversation, produce content and share ideas.

A conversation is quickly started by allowing users to react to a newsarticle. Different sorts of conversations can be facilitated by various web elements ranging from Instant Messaging to Chatboxes, Shoutboxes and a forum.

If there is a lot of content added to the environment, it will become important to weigh (rate) and filter which will allow content to surface that really has value, is popular, interesting, funny or up to date. With these mechanisms you avoid an information overload and stimulate quality.

As soon as a website starts to get a lot of users, the urge to create subcommunities arises. Each of these will form itself around special interests or themes. In large groups individual ideas are lost in the din and a sense of anonimity grows. A well designed social website stimulates growing optimum sized communities.

Finally, it requires enough mechanisms which truly enable to leverage the talent of the crowd. These are called aggregationmechanisms. Participation and UGC (user generated content) only is not enough.

Translation: Johan Vermij / VeeJay Burns
Original: TeamPark Method, the development of the intelligent organisation Page 13/14 by Arnd Brugman and Patrick Savalle, Sogeti Netherlands.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Corporate Social Networking

All around us, companies feel the need to go Social. As the web grows and companies see their employees blog and interact, share knowledge everywhere, suddenly we have to take Social Networking behind firewalls and create a corporate walled social garden.

It's not that big of a surprise senior management sees merit in embracing social networking as communities are pretty loyal and dedicated. It would be nice if we could bind our employees so strongly and also use their creativity to get better. It's probably no surprise either that they just don't quite get the essence of social networking. In the end it is about information, about knowledge that is the company's main asset, isn't it?

It's not in the functionality.

The next thing your senior management will probably ask for is a thorough analyses of requirements and a turn up a full list of features. A Social Networking site should have blogs, wiki, forum, chat, and so on. Over the past month I've been doing just that and made a thorough comparison between Microsoft MOSS 2007, IBM Lotus Connections and Telligent Community Server. Drawing up comparison charts, listing the functionality is a cumbersome job. Especially when the result is that there hardly is a difference. All platforms offer more or less the same functionality.

They're all the same, or not?

When it's all about the same, the obvious choice for senior management is to stick to what they know and we already use inside the company. From this reasoning, many companies will probably go for Microsoft MOSS 2007 (or MOSS 14 if they can wait until 2010) as it will offer the basic functionality you would want and integrates well with the other corporate software, and even allows you to keep sharing those all important documents.

It's like playing in a rockband.

Last week I attended a presentation by my Swedish colleague Andreas Sjöström, who founded the website inarockband. In his presentation he said working for Sogeti was like playing in a rockband:

inarockband.com builds on the analogy that working for Sogeti is like playing in a rock band.

Just as rock musicians we are serious about our passion, instruments and customers. In our creative work we understand that everyone in the project plays and important role, just as every instrument counts.

Working with Sogeti is not about working your career, but about your passion. Be passionate about your work, try to excell and in excellence delight the crowd.

In my opinion, Corporate Social Networking also fits this analogy. Blogs are a stage to enthuce and delight, communities a place to share passion. When we look at platforms to support this we are looking for simplicity, easy to use software instead of massively complicated configurable packages. The most suitable software for the job is Social, Organic, Collectively Intelligent, Alive and Linked.

It needs to be S.O.CI.A.L

We at Sogeti are passionate about our job. We like to excell. Small wonder we are constantly working up new books on best practises, creating new standards and methods. One of the latest books we've come up with is about moving from Crowd to Community. The second part of the book deals with the Teampark idea, a method to implement and adopt social software inside companies. In the next release this part will be extended and worked out into a full approach.

In the acronym S.O.CI.A.L my colleague Patrick Savalle has tried to capture what the elements are that empower social software:

These are the key elements for Social Software. From this vantage point, there is a clear winner when it comes to Enterprise platforms: IBM Lotus Connections. Whereas MOSS will excell in sharing explicit knowledge, LC will tap into the implicit knowlegde of your workforce.

Into the Magic Quadrant

I'm not saying Lotus Connections is the perfect match, but from an enterprise point of view, it's closing in on the magic quadrant, as Gartner puts it:In the graph IBM is not yet in the Magic Quadrant, and Microsoft isn't far behind. Don't get me wrong, MOSS isn't a bad product, not at all and I'm not saying IBM has done the trick yet, but they're slightly ahead at this point in time. In June last year, the CIO magazine also ran an article on IBM vs. Microsoft in the Social Software space and concluded:

While both vendors showed their products could integrate with existing e-mail systems (especially e-mail systems that they sell, such as Notes and Exchange), IBM’s Lotus Connections looked, at minimum, a year or more ahead of SharePoint in its social computing capabilities out of the box.

It was a lot prettier looking, too.

If we look at the road ahead, this conclusion still stands with Lotus Connections 2.5 going into Beta in April and expected to go Gold by Mid July whereas Microsoft MOSS 14 is due for early 2010. However, it is more than just release dates. It is about the core focus of the product. In terms of S.O.CI.A.L aspects, LC2.5 still has a more informal, organic, people centered approach than MOSS 14, which (from what I have seen under NDA) still is more formal and hyrarchical focussed on information, despite all it's slick tricks.

Scaling the Walls

Identifying the right triggers to create Social Networks is not a guarantee for instant succes though. On the one hand, setting psychology loose on Social Webdesign to delight the crowd and direct communities, creating emergent behaviour is tricky, but on the other hand we have the issue of the walled gardens. Companies will try to contain these platforms behind their corporate firewalls.

About a year ago I did a project in wich security played an important role. The client went into extremes to protect its data. However, all it's corporate knowledge, its value, could be found on Wikipedia for free. Knowledge and creativity are hard things to contain, they will find a way. Take blogging for instance.

From a bloggers point of view, his main drive will probably be to build a reputation. Blogging is more than just jotting down short things you are passionate about. You want to excell and gain authority. A global audience will probably suit you better than a limited corporate stage can offer.

Regarding this, Hutch Carpenter wrote an interesting article on his blog "I'm not actually a Geek" where he asks how much scale is actually needed in Enterprise 2.0 Employee Adoption.

Blogs: The nature of a blog is a single person’s thoughts, observations and ideas. Inside companies, these applications can be tools for the ongoing recording of things that fall outside the deadlines and process-oriented activities that make up the day. Making them public is a great way to share these contributions with other employees and establish your record of what’s happening. If only a few key people blogged inside a company, there will be value in that.

The article raises many interesting issues, but the question remains if we should take it all behind walls. It is quite true that Blogs do not require a large scale adoption, It will take justa few catalysts to start interesting corporate blogs, but if you want your employees to excell, to put effort into this Social Environment you have to offer them a worldwide stage. Have them interact with the world instead of limiting them to peers.

From a knowledge point of view we really have to consider which information really is actually a corporate asset. Is it knowledge on technology (which probably is out there on the web anyway) or is it about privacy, personal data and sensitive information about competitors or clients?

It's a brave new world

When you carefully look around in your company you might find these catalysts; passionate people who engage and delight the crowd. These thoughtleaders and visionaries inside your company probably have their own blogs, as they will be sharing their passion, having a global stage to build their reputation. Do we really want to confine them inside corporate walled gardens? Will they combine the pursuit of their personal passion and delight the corporate crowd? You will undoubtedly find out they will put more effort in personal blogging than in corporate blogging if we rigidly put our Corporate Social Network behind firewalls.

The current Social Networking trends focus on aggregation, pulling together updates from a variety of media into a single lifestream. If I look at my Plaxo Pulse stream for instance puts my twitter messages and my blogposts into a single update stream which is visible for all my connections. The next challenge will be to move from this information convergence to information divergence. This divergence will allow me, as a blogger, to write one passionate article and distribute it to the medium I chose and the audience I choose. This divergence will even more require personal and professional digital presence to blend, calling for better identity management and privacy measurements. In short, getting into the Magic Quadrant of Corporate Social Networking will not be about more features, but about smart blending of corporate and private digital identities.

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Friday, January 09, 2009

What is Social Webdesign ? Is it dangerous?

In my post yesterday I briefly mentioned a potential danger of social webdesign. But what exactly is social webdesign?

Social webdesign is not about website builders building websites for social networks. Well, not entirely. Social Webdesign is more than putting together a social network, making a site design and putting bits of code into the website. Social Webdesign is about the features on these websites that create communities and addiction.

It's actually about psychologists designing mechanisms that get you hooked, that pull you in hook, line and sinker untill you can't get out anymore.

From a graphical design point of view you could argue that the Facebook design is rather boring, maybe even unattractive. From a technical design point of view you may fuzz about their ecosystem and from an Interaction Design point of view you may freckle over the layout of the interface, but looking at it from a Social Webdesign point of view, it's a different ball park. Social Webdesign is about what makes Facebook work, about the widgets, the features that have attracted millions of users almost overnight.

Let's go S.O.C.I.A.L.

Social webdesign works around several key principles, which we at Sogeti have neatly called S.O.C.I.A.L;

  • Socialness: The measure in which a platform stimulates social interaction and gives social incentives.
  • Organicness: The ability of a platform of self organising communities.
  • Collaborative Intelligence: Mechanisms to make talents explicit and converge
  • Aliveness: Necessary signs of live, buzzcreators and talk of the town to create a vibrant community to which people can easily connect.
  • Linkedness: ‘no social platform is an island’…

These principles are the foundations to our Teampark experiments, an enterprise solution to utilise the power of the community inside corporations. Social Webdesign can benefit companies to leverage the creative forces inside.

The hidden danger to Social Webdesign

There's a side to social webdesign though. Yesterday I blogged a little on how Authority based filtering for example can bring about the danger of creating an elite, a dominant opinion in which new and refreshing ideas are taken out of the equasion.

First class social webdesign can have the power to play the masses. It can ignite emergent behaviour and lead groups of people into doing things they would normally not do individually (or are even strongly opposed to). It may well bring about the tools to mass manipulate.

Further reading tip:

One site you might want to check out is Joshua Porter's blog called Bokardo. It is a blog about interface design for social web sites and applications, about recommendation systems, identity, ratings, privacy, comments, profiles, tags, reputation, sharing, as well as the social psychology underlying our motivation to use (or not use) these things.

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