This past quarter, I did pretty well.I’ve got a bunch of these awards, but I’m really proud of this accomplishment. This one was almost 2 years of really hard work. Of tons of cold calls and relationship building and massive amounts of rejection. Fortunately, it paid off. I’ve been at Socialtext almost 2 years. It has been a great ride and I’m really looking forward to a bunch more awards and quarters like this past one.
I’ve been really excited about this latest announcement from my company, Socialtext. So many organizations are looking for a micro-blogging platform, but don’t want a.) it hosted in the cloud or b.) a full collaborative suite.As a customer of mine said recently, micro-blogging is the gateway drug to social networking. Today it is 140 characters, tomorrow it is blog postings and wiki edits.SocialText.
It is really exciting to be part of the team announcing Socialtext Signals this morning. When we launched Socialtext Dashboard back in the fall, it was a cool product, but taking a lot of that content and adding it to an AIR client has transformed the way that I use our platform. Dashboard is really cool and there was a lot of helpful information in there. If you don’t use Socialtext, Dashboard is a customized home page that you create based on on content that is important to you and your company. A customized intranet home page, if you will, with just the information that is important to me. The most important element of Dashboard has been being able to keep track of the changes to content that I’m explicitly interested in and being able to Signal, Socialtext’s microblogging platform. Like Twitter, Signals is only so useful as a browser based service. To see your updates, you have to keep toggling back to the window where you have it open. This is a bit disruptive. So it was 10 pounds of awesomeness in a 5 pound bag when our engineers developed an AIR client for Signals. Like Twhirl, Signals AIR is a persistent desktop client that not only provides updates from your colleagues, but it also has extremely tight integration with the entire platform. So a.) I’m alerted when people I work with share thoughts, ideas, questions, etc (like Twitter) b.) I’m able to see updates to content that I have an explicit (someone commented on your page) or implicit (someone you follow made this change) interest in followingc.) If someone I don’t know says something interesting, I’m able to drill down into that persons profile to see their contact info, what they’ve been working on, and learn more about their areas of expertise.Over the past month or so of using the client, I’ve found that it makes me significantly more productive and, even more important, I feel like I’m more in touch with people who aren’t in the office. It truly delivers on the promise of having team members share ideas and get questions resolved more effectively.Of course, I’m biased, but take a look at what others are saying:TechCrunch – The activity stream which Socialtext makes visible is very particular to its products, and in fact is designed to keep employees engaged with those products. Any time someone changes a page that you’ve created or edited in the past, it shows up as an activity. So constant updates from Ralph in engineering about the progress of a project serves as a reminder for everyone else to do their part as well.Mashable – Rather than market Signals as a standalone enterprise microblogging tool – of which there are already many – it’s integrated into Socailtext’s broader social networking and wiki platform, which already includes features like activity streams so you know when colleagues edit wikis, make a blog post, or upload a document, for example.PC World – those involved in tasks like product development who manage sensitive and confidential information, are better served by Signals, which lets them microblog in a secure, controlled environment, he said. “With Signals, you can ‘tweet’ without giving out a secret to the Twitter public,” Aparicio said.
Coming off of a great Q4, my CEO, Eugene Lee, asked everyone on the sales team to write a quick blog post about what they were most proud of that the team accomplished in the quarter. I’m probably going to keep that as an internal blog post, but at the beginning of December, Silicon Valley Business Journal named Socialtext as the winner of the Emerging Tech award for 2008. So that is definitely something to boast about a bit.I was especially happy to see that Socialtext beat Zimbra in the category. Don’t get me wrong, I love Zimbra. Think that it is a great product, but Zimbra was the last Yahoo! property that I worked on prior to leaving to come to Socialtext. In fact, I was even having some conversations about transferring over to that business unit permanently. Not that I needed my decison to join Socialtext validated, but beating Zimbra is pretty sweet.
About 70 percent of searches on a companywide intranet are people searches, Mayfield said. But invariably those searches are futile, according to the IBM Global Human Capital Study 2008. Of 400 human resource executives surveyed at 40 companies worldwide, only 13 percent said they are “very capable” of locating an individual with a particular area of expertise within their company.“Without a system to capture and catalog specific backgrounds and skills, matching employees to positions can be a hit-or-miss affair dependent on anecdote and who-knows-whom,” the study said.Enter Socialtext’s products. Employing social networking and wiki technologies as means of collaboration and knowledge-sharing provides an avenue to discover expertise within your company by increasing the transparency of what people know, how they apply it to their work and how they can apply it to yours.
Over time with continued collaboration, employees can create a knowledge repository to browse and search through.
So that is nice.I was also really happy to see that my friend David Thompson over at Genius also won the award for best internet technology.
Evaluating social media for your company is very different from evaluating most other technologies that you’ve deployed in the past. The difference is that, in order for social media to be successful, it takes people.I was in a meeting today in which a prospect was walking me through how they typically do software evaluations, including a proof of concept. This person was really forthcoming with details and explained how, in a recent proof of concept for an email encryption solution the company selected a preferred vendor and a back-up vendor, installed the system internally, rolled out to a handful of users, then ran a survey to get their opinion. The whole process took about a month. It was a great, methodical way of rolling something like email encryption out to several thousand people. He wanted to do it again with Socialtext.Unfortunately, this type of implementation doesn’t work with social software. Social software requires people to be successful. Nothing sucks more than a social network with just you in it. Remember when you signed up for Facebook and didn’t know anyone and didn’t understand why anyone would spend time there? That will be your enterprise social network with fewer than 25% of your employee base. Now you have tons of connections in Facebook and you can’t get enough of it. Your company’s social network should leverage the same principles. More people = more value.It also takes a bit more time than traditional technology does to get a good sense of how effective it will be. Trialing traditional software is a pretty binary experience. It either works for your people or it doesn’t. You know pretty quickly whether or not it is a 1 or a 0. Did it install? Check. Did it work in all supported environments? Check. Does it work as advertised? Check. Social software will do pretty much everything that you expect it to do from an architectural stand point, but if no one uses it, there is no value. You can’t learn that over night.So how do you have a successful implementation?
1.) Delineate WHO from HOW - How your implement social software is your roof. Who uses it and why is your foundation. Who you partner with are your walls. Don’t build your roof first, then your foundation, then your walls. This works with traditional, installed software but the analogy breaks down for social software.
Before you even begin to work with a partner to supply you with social software, you need to know why you want it in the first place. Collaboration isn’t an answer, it is a result. People collaborate today using phones, email, faxes and smoke signals. Define several specific goals, (i.e. The sales team will use this to share competitive intelligence) and success metrics (i.e. We will have 100 pages and at least 3 anecdotes of sales people winning competitive bids based on information in this system). Until you know these variables, you have no guidance. You have no foundation and your roof and walls will collapse.
2.) Give it time – I always advise 12-months to see value, but you can probably get a good idea in 6. You’ll have no idea after 3. You have to consider that, in a strong roll out of a solution, you will provide people with some initial content so that they aren’t staring at a blank page, you will have some templates so that novice users aren’t starting from scratch, the platform will be integrated into your existing services, people will be trained, etc. Even in the best of cases, people using this system will just start socializing after 2 – 3 months. Ideally, if enough people are there, they will really be cranking in 6-months. In 12-months, you’ll know definitively if it is a success or not.
3.) Feed it People – Like Soylent Green, successful social networks are made of people. If you have a 3,000 person company, you will get little to no value out of a 50 person deployment. There simply isn’t enough critical mass to make it successful. Let freedom ring and make it available to as many people as possible. Your defined use cases and success metrics should justify the investment and the nuggets that are discovered will be icing on the top.
4.) Don’t Bake Until You Know What You’re Hungry For – With traditional software, it is easy to do a bake-off between vendors. Pepsi Challenge style. You install a few things, try them out for a few days and decide what you like best.
Shopping for social software is more like buying a home than a soda. You do your homework before writing an offer. You discover if you like the neighborhood, the school district, shopping near-by, property taxes, your neighbors, parking, weather, how much maintenance will be required, HOA fees, etc, etc. The challenge that you’ll see if you try to Pepsi Challenge social software is that you’ll roll it out to 25 or so people, let them bang on it for 3 months, but because there isn’t content and not a big enough user base, no value will be seen and you’ll be back to square one in six months. Even worse, your business users will have adopted their own, siloed systems to actually get their work done.
Implementing a social network in your company can have amazing ramifications to your business. At this point, it’s been proven to make a considerable difference to revenues, profits, productivity and morale. However, if it isn’t implemented properly, if you focus on building your roof and walls before your foundation, it will be shaky at best and ultimately crumble and you’ll scratch your head wondering where you went wrong.What are your thoughts? What has worked or not worked in your experience deploying these solutions?
I got really lucky today and was able to write a guest post for Jennifer Leggio at ZDNet. I’m really honored that Jennifer chose me for this. Here is the post.Don’t Forget, Your Users are People TooI regularly have an interesting conversation with our CEO, Eugene Lee, about who uses our platform and what are they doing with it. Here, I’ll give you a test in 2 questions.Question One: When implementing a new system, any new system, for your community, how do you refer to the end users? What if you are implementing social media for your company? Who is going to use the system? Users? Employees?What about people (maybe the title of the post gave that one away)?Far too often, I meet with people that that simply think of the end users as users. Sometimes with a capital ‘U’, but always users. Heck, even the lawyers are in on it with EULA. Simple lesson: users use word processing systems. Users use spreadsheets and complex, dated, home-grown systems that helps allocate customer service resources. Employees take up space and use electricity. Employees are a number.People, on the other hand, have names. People share ideas and information. People form communities. People, are the backbone of your organization and their ideas, especially in a crumbling economy, are the ones that will make or break your company. People, not employees and certainly not users.There are many important components to a successful enterprise social media strategy, tools, goals, design, roll out strategy and many others, but few are as important as who is going to use the system and what they are going to use it for. Who is going to use the system, as described above, are the people who form communities of photographers and a network of REST Ninjas. They are the people who are developing your new ad campaign and the people who are driving revenue and the people who play Ultimate on Wednesday afternoons. People save the day.Question Two: What are they going to use the system for?If you said collaboration, that is a serious FAIL. Of course you are going to use social media to collaborate. That is like buying a fax machine for faxing or a word processor to process words. But what are you going to collaborate on? Please, don’t say documents and spreadsheets.Listen, you don’t go to the doctor because you are sick. Sickness is the by-product of something deeper, something more concise. You go to the doctor because you have a headache or a stomach ache or numbness in your left arm. If you just show up at your doctor and say your sick, but can’t describe any symptoms, you’ll be given a sugar tab and sent on your way. If you have a more specific problem, you can diagnose it with a very specific solution.Your enterprise social media strategy needs a similar level of specificity in order for it to succeed. It is great to ‘want to collaborate’, but for an implementation to really succeed and in order to get the highest level of adoption, what ails you has to be very clearly defined. Case in point, I spoke with a firm last week whose collaboration strategy on weekly sales reports was for the VP of Sales to send an emailed report to her 30 reps. Each rep had a specific window in which they had to fill out the report and mail it back to her. At the end of the week, she would compile the report and roll it up to her CEO. The process took each rep about an hour to do and was more complex than what could be completed in a traditional SFA. The VP of Sales was spending a measurable part of her week on this report.Not only was this a very well defined problem, it was a problem that had serious revenue implications. Not investing in social media to fix this is akin to not taking your medicine that the doctor prescribes to you for high blood pressure.Baseline Magazine just named Enterprise Social Networking as one of the top IT trends for 2009. If you’ve made it this far, enterprise social media is undoubtedly on your radar. As you develop your strategy, early identification of the people who will be using this system and a laser defined purpose will ultimately ensure the highest level of adoption.
It is awesome working for a company that is creative, fun to be part of, cutting edge and in-demand. It is more awesome when the company does altruistic things to help out people impacted by the current economic crisis.To that end, I’m really excited that Socialtext is offering free Corporate Alumni Networks to any organization that recently had to lay-off any of its employees.As Ross explains: Today, Socialtext is meeting this latent need with a free Corporate Social Network offer for the 2009 Recession. Any former employee and HR director of a company that reduced its workforce by 5% or more in the last year can create a private Corporate Social Network for free by applying here. Please note that this offer does not include free user support. We ask for an HR contact to be involved to encourage a constructive tone, enable the HR department to share informational resources and so the company can leverage the network over time for connections, knowledge and expertise. However, as was our experience with the PeopleSoft Alumni Network, the energy and participation will likely be driven by the grass-roots.