Tag Archives: Microsoft

Gaining executive commitment to interactive intranets

Are you finding it difficult to get the executives in your organisation to buy into the need to use social media tools in your Intranet? We find that the business case is a good way to achieve this.

In many of our clients’ organisations, the Intranet is little more than the place I go to, to see the lunch menu or get my leave forms.

It’s no wonder then that executives don’t realise how powerful it could be. The advent of social media is all too often seen to be time wasting and a waste of bandwidth.

Microsoft has just released SharePoint 2010 which contains the latest collaborative tools embedded into its content management and sharing tools. Social media is going to become the norm in large corporates. Companies are migrating to this platform or looking at other collaboration tools to enhance performance in the organisation. The challenge now is to get the full potential of social media on the executive agenda.

We have found the business case an effective way to get executive attention.

A business case clarifies the value of any opportunity. It is the single-most important document in gaining commitment to the strategic interactive intranet or any other opportunity.

A business case is part sales and part marketing. It represents the opportunity to present a compelling justification for funding an investment to achieve the organisations mission, goals and objectives. An effective business case generates the support, participation and leadership commitment required to transform an idea into reality. A business case identifies an opportunity. It provides context and content and describes the desired objectives and outcomes in terms of the business. It describes how and who will be affected. The how and who typically evolve around individual or organisation behavioural changes.

The business case will breakout specific alternatives and their associated impacts. A strong business case for an intranet investment puts that investment decision into the strategic context and provides the executives with the necessary information to make an educated decision.

Putting a business case together for the interactive intranet

Interaction between employees is not new, but for the first time, the ability to interact online through the Intranet is becoming a reality. This is going to have a significant effect on the way we do business. In the same way as eMail changed the speed at which business is conducted the Intranet is going to become he strategic backbone of the organisation and is going to significantly impact on our effectiveness efficiency and the way we do business. But we have very little historical evidence and case studies which have quantified the improvement brought about by this interactivity.

Traditionally, innovation occurs in products, processes or business models. The latest thinking has been well researched by Gary Hamel in his work The Future of Management. The modern Intranet is not only a new tool, but it also enables new ways to manage people. For this reason, we cannot use the past to forecast the future. Our best attempts to make a case for an interactive Intranet are going to have to be around describing the intangible business “steroids” on the Balanced Scorecard as defined by Kaplan and Norton , which lead to business improvements.

You need to put a business case together in order to justify the resources and capital investment necessary to create an Interactive Intranet.

The Business Case is usually primarily a financial document, however in the case of using SharePoint 2010 (or any other web 2.0 enabled CMS software) in order to create a robust Interactive Intranet, the software and concept is so new that there is very little evidence of what differences these new tools can make and there are so many hard and soft permutations that it is difficult to quantify the financial implications. We therefore have to modify our approach to developing the business case to looking at those variables which, if enhanced using SharePoint 2010’s capabilities, will deliver on the organisation’s business objectives.

We find that the best approach is to:

  • Understand the organisational objectives and identify where the interactive Intranet could support delivery;
  • Analyse the internal variables (culture, competence and processes) at a high level, which could influence the successful attainment for the business objectives;
  • Look at what is happening in the competitive landscape;
  • Identify relevant best practise which is enhanced by SharePoint 2010 and can significantly enhance competitive advantage, such as Collaboration , Crowdsourcing and Innovation etc;
  • See where else SharePoint 2010 has made a difference for other Microsoft clients (if our client is migrating to SharePoint 2010), alternatively look for case studies on interactive intranets; and
  • Make recommendations for the prioritisation and roll out of the Intranet optimisation strategy.

We document all the relevant facts and link them together into a cohesive story. This story tells the executives about the what, when, where, how and why.

  • Why is the project needed?
  • How it will solve the issues or opportunities facing the organisation;
  • How the solution addresses the issues or opportunities (benefits);
  • What will happen to the business if the project is not undertaken (the do nothing scenario)?
  • Priorities and timing;
  • An indication of how much money, people and time will be needed to deliver the solution and realise the benefits: and Suggested Metrics for quantifying success.

By documenting everything together in one story, it is easy to link the issues to the solution and the benefits and identify where the organisation would be without the project.

The development of the overall business case also identifies holes or problems with the solution. Moreover, the organisation will have a way to measure its success. This analysis is also be useful for the leadership team to prioritise this project against the many other initiatives that require capital investment.

The business case provides a consistent message to many different audiences. As a high level view of the entire project the business case manages the expectations of all the stakeholder divisions affected by the project (customers, management, operations, research & development, service, sales, accounting, finance, etc.).

The length of the business case should be kept to a minimum, ensuring it stays on topic, presents relevant information in a clear and concise manner and it be focused on supporting management in making decisions.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We write business cases, create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication and manage brand conversations with consumers.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za

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Filed under Enterprise 2.0, HR Intranet, Interactive Intranets, Web 2.0

Know what you want before embarking on BI projects

Businesses are facing more sophisticated competition in the market every day and the race is on to constantly deliver higher levels of customer service. Delivering better customer service first requires a greater insight into customers’ preferences and behaviours. Social media is a good source of additional behavioural data. This is a sound basis to develop a strategy for retaining those customers who are best suited to the organisation, while “incentivising” those customers not suited to the business, to switch to the competition.

While many organisations do not know where to start gathering information about their customers, others know exactly where this information resides- hidden in the company’s data and call centre stores and locked in sales and marketing databases, on social media sites and in back-end financial systems.

The irony is that while many organisations possess this information, it is often not usable. Companies that attempt to use this information in its ‘tangled’ format soon give up, pleading ‘data-overload’. Business intelligence (BI) gives organisations the ability to unravel the hidden knowledge in this knotted data and deliver actionable insights to the decision makers.

But implementing a strategy is not a simple task of acquiring some software, pointing it at the relevant stores of data and expecting answers to begin rolling out. In order to achieve success with a BI project a company needs to consider its key business goals and the actions that it needs to take to deliver on these objectives efficiently and effectively. BI provides the bridge between the goals and the performance. For example it delivers the insights required to enhance customer relationships through effective interactions with customers in terms of both content and medium, it streamlines the distribution of goods and services through demand forecasting, or it can reduce risk by predicting fraud or identifying consumer attacks on your brand.

With a clear understanding of how BI will underpin the business’ delivery goals over the long-term, an organisation must ensure that the supporting data has a high level of relevance and integrity and that it is intimately understood. This will ensure that it will be effectively and efficiently interrogated so as to deliver meaningful insights that can be actioned across the organisation, with the resultant outcomes being tracked and measured over time.

Best practise dictates that the company’s customer data is centralized into a single, accessible and useable repository and then analyse it. Sales data should be linked to marketing data and combined with all other data related to customer interaction, including data from back-end financial systems so that a customer centric-view of the customer can be created. This in itself is a huge advantage for the organisation, since it will identify the same customer in all his guises across the organisation’s data stores and present a consolidated view of the company’s transactions and interactions with each unique customer. To further enhance this data as a platform for analysis, it should also be enriched with relevant external market data, including key demographic variables and the like.

Having built the necessary data repository and ascertained the required insights from the analysis function to support the strategy of the business, the analysis should commence with five simple objectives in mind: who; what; why; when and where.

The ‘question’ or ‘end-goal’ could be, for example, to identify: who the ideal customers are after incorporating any hidden costs associated with servicing them. Then one can plan on incentivising or engaging with customers with these same characteristics to begin doing business with the company and encourage the non-ideal customers to move to competitors.

A good first step to this process is to analyse the company’s revenue streams and build an ideal client portfolio around each of those revenue streams, taking into consideration the fixed, variable and hidden costs associated with these revenue streams. It is imperative that the entire organisation is involved in this process.

Sales, social media behavioural data, marketing, manufacturing, procurement, delivery and management input is key to the successful implementation of a BI project and ensures that the results gained from a BI initiative are actionable across the organisation.

It is imperative that the company has the appetite to act on findings. It is pointless embarking on a fact finding mission, like that involved in a BI process, if the business is not prepared to respond to those findings by investing in or re-engineering business processes.

When it comes down to it, BI only presents real value to an organisation if the integrity of the underlying data is sound, the data is intimately understood and the organisation is prepared to action the findings. It is only after “actioning” these findings that the organisation will begin maximising the benefit from attracting and retaining ideal customers, reducing costs and ultimately becoming more profitable.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication and manage brand conversations with consumers.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za

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Filed under Business, Digital Communities, eMarketing, Enterprise 2.0, Facebook, Google, Internet, Web 2.0

Social Media Optimisation

A few weeks ago, in an article called Man verses the Machine, I wrote about the search algorithm (as used by search engines, for example Google) verses digital curatorship (whereby the people using social media like Facebook drive the information and content delivery, through posting, sharing and liking). Here are some more thoughts on the subject

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a critical strategy for driving people to your website, but it is only one aspect of the modern digital strategy. With social media there are more meaningful and effective ways of bringing in audiences. The term for this is social media optimisation (SMO.)

SEO uses algorithms to rank top search results. SMO uses audience behaviour to determine what’s important. SMO differentiates and distinguishes individuals, making sense of their specific content wants and needs. Real people articulating real interests eliminates the algorithm as middleman.

The social network is starting to replace the search engine as the average web user spends more time on Facebook than Google. We need to reengineer our approach driving traffic to our content and building our digital brands. Here are some elements of an effective SMO programme.

Find out and evaluate what the audience wants

SEO is based on pandering to search engines to bring you more audiences, by using key words and metatags. But with social media, the new formula is to grab people’s attention in such a way that they will bring you more audiences.

The first step is winning the attention of the audience and knowing what it wants. The key question is, who are they, what do they want from you and when and how do they want it? Fortunately, this data is abundant. You can find it in your social media sites, analytics system, in customer research, in your competitors’ wins. The trick is to make use of that data and experiment to find these insights.

Knowing what the audience wants means asking and observing them and then delivering value that they want to be associated with. Then track what gets consumed when and by whom.

By asking the audience you also get people immediately engaged in the conversation.

Build your community

The tactics of SMO will change over time, in much the same way that social media will change. Today, Facebook and Twitter are the two significant social media platforms.

An effective SMO strategy is about getting the community started. Set up a marketing drive to bring your fans to your community page. Use Facebook’s advertising platform to help make potential friends aware of you. Use viral networking to get people to invite their friends. Build a base of influencers to a size that approaches critical mass, so that you are fully connected within the social network from the beginning, rather than sitting outside just looking in.

Create content worth spreading

Once you know what your audience wants, and you have a community to appeal to, now comes the part that great marketers are good at. Designing for sharing is much more than just designing for consumption. In some instances the practices that help marketers succeed in SEO are deadly in SMO. If you stuff a page full of keywords, match the URL to the keywords and keep the content readable by algorithms, you will that find a boring website which falls flat on your users and they will not distribute.

Instead, publish content that is worthy of being shared and wrap it in experiences that your users can’t wait to share with their friends — with pride — which is the emotional fuel that powers the “Like” button.

Package to get attention

These days you’re competing for attention in a Facebook feed or Twitter stream.

Facebook and Twitter are networks and so their value is to be found in quantity (the more there is the more value to each user) but for successful marketers it’s about quality. Standing out in the crowd puts the focus not just on what you say, but on how it’s said. What are the iconic images and headlines that appear in a Facebook feed?

Design for virality

Viral distribution is about much more than the content itself — it’s also about an experience that promotes sharing. Your site, your experience, and your Facebook page all need to be designed for virality. Turn content into interactive features with sharing. It starts by making sharing easy:

  • Include the familiar “like” and “share” icons;
  • Place them in obvious places next to the article you want them to share; and
  • Pull social conversations relevant to your content in as a live feed on your website. Let people see what other people are saying on your Facebook page and Twitter and let them participate in the conversations right from your site.

Previously I have written about The Porous Web where your audiences seamlessly osmosises from areas of low value to high value. Doing all of these things provides a tightly integrated social experience.

Engage and reward your audience

Get involved in the conversation to stimulate dialogue, talk alongside your users and ask them what they want. Engage your audience like a community member not a marketing executive.

Validation is all about appealing to people’s emotional desire to look and feel good. Rewards for these people are intrinsic to the sharing itself.

Measure and experiment

On every page measure how many people viewed it and shared it, and how many more people that brings. You can test and vary every element, from the tools that promote sharing, to the content itself. Test rigorously and learn what works for your website, community and your audience.

These are just some of ways that SMO can be effectively deployed. The most important thing right now is recognising that SEO is important but that social media is changing the rules.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication and manage brand conversations with consumers.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za

 

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Filed under Business, Digital Communities, eMarketing, Facebook, Google, Web 2.0, Web Marketing

Ten lessons learned from successful intranets

Not all intranets are created equal.

Great intranets increase productivity, knowledge sharing, collaboration, communication and delivery on strategy. Lousy intranets are at best repositories for leave forms, but more dangerously, with the advent of social media and employees’ concomitant expectations from their experiences on the web, they can become bottlenecks and a source of frustration and disengagement.

Here are ten lessons that we have learned from developing Intranet strategies for large corporates.

Hard code the organisational strategy into the intranet

Interactive tools on the intranet enable much more robust interaction between employees and departments. It lets employees do things far more effectively and quickly, including the wrong things…

The organisational strategy needs to be examined in terms of where it is going, how it is configured to get there and the key performance areas in order to support each employ on the intranet.

Profiling

By profiling each employee we can customise the intranet so that they only see what is relevant to them, this reduces information overload and communication fatigue. Profiling also enables us to attach employees to certain projects, track on line behaviour, understand organisational networks, or to search for employees based on their skills and experience and availability.

Process

Processes are the glue within the organisation. The more effective the processes, the more effectively the organisation functions. Buy evaluating which processes are responsible for creating the most competitive advantage and optimising them on the Intranet, you create high performance organisations.

It is important to bear in mind that technology must enable organisations, particularly with new social media functionalities. Organisations shouldn’t be squashed into processes within technologies.

Integration

There are other technologies in the organisation which could be integrated into the Intranet to provide useful data, for example MS Outlook could be integrated into SharePoint 2010 to ensure that only available employees are surfaced when searching for resources across the organisation for projects.

Other technologies which we have found useful to integrate include SAP which supports the organisational processes for servicing customers and SAS data-mining tools.

Have a strong content governance structure

An intranet is only as good as the relevancy and currency of its content. Ensure that roles are defined; owners, authors and approvers are trained; content management functions are built into the job responsibilities; and process champions are identified.

Ensure user adoption

Due to the federated structure of large organisations we recommend that you get inputs from all the different business units and departments during the course of the project.

Several rounds of usability testing should be conducted during the design and development of the intranet.

Road shows, timely communication through emails and web meetings and efficient internal marketing should be conducted throughout the roll out.

Reserve time for beta testing where users from different departments do multiple ‘test drives’ and provide feedback.

Technologies are better adopted when people see the purpose of using them, they are intuitive and when they make the user look and feel good, yet another reason to profile employees and map the digital processes to the way they work in the real world.

More isn’t necessarily better

A portal with a lot of outdated content has very little value.

During the planning stages of content migration, identify which content is outdated or irrelevant. Conduct content identification exercises with your departments using content architectures and migrate or create new content as applicable.

Strong search is important

Search is the most frequently used functionality on any Intranet, be it people search or content search. Provide different ways of searching, but keep it simple. The majority of users like to just key in a keyword, press ‘enter’ and be provided with relevant results.

The intranet should help many people be more productive, using their time to full potential instead of trying to find information for half the time.

If you are using SharePoint 2010 create document libraries which enable information to be created once and updated in one place despite multiple views, that way all the information on the intranet will be kept consistent.

Listen

Listen to what users have to say. Provide multiple avenues for gathering feedback and be open to feedback regardless of how harsh or positive it might be. Listening to the users is the best way of identifying user behavioural patterns and enabling you to keep improving the Intranet.

The intranet isn’t an IT-driven initiative

Many companies think of the intranet as an IT-driven initiative. This isn’t true and should not be the way an intranet is approached.

As the department responsible for improving communication, Corporate Communication is the champion of the communication, the same goes for the role of HR and line management in employee relationships, and operations in process optimisation.

It should be a partnership with IT bringing new ways of using technology to the forefront and enabling the company through tools that support their workflows on the intranet.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication and manage brand conversations with consumers.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za

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Filed under Business, Enterprise 2.0, HR Intranet, Interactive Intranets

Hard-coding the organisation’s strategy into your Intranet

In the past, Intranets have been, at best, archives of potentially useful information like leave forms and what is on the lunch menu at the cafeteria, covered in a strategic veneer of the organisational vision, mission and values on the landing page. In many organisations, Intranets are mausoleums of unfindable and outdated documents.

With the advent of the interactive web (web 2.0) we have the ability to hard code the organisational strategy into an organic ecosystem which forms the backbone of the enterprise, surfacing knowledge and behaviour in ways impossible before. The secret lies in data modelling.

Because web 2.0 enables employees to engage with the Intranet, they are generating metadata about how they are using the information and connecting with each other. There are a number of data sets that we can combine in the same way that DNA is structured to make the intranet dynamic and far more useful.

These datasets include information from people’s profiles, who they are, what interests them, what they are working on, their key performance areas etc. Other datasets come from the metadata in documents, what they are about, who is creating, reading, updating and commenting on them, the taxonomy how the information is categorised and stored.

When infusing these datasets with meaning, we use data architectures to inculcate the organisational strategies. These architectures are generated by translating the organisational strategy into a matrix configured according to KPI’s and organisational design.

So how do we do this?

We start with the organisational strategy, what is the vision is for where the organisation is going and how it will get there? What products and services it sells, which geographies, where its competitive advantages are, what are its strengths weaknesses opportunities and threats?

Then we examine how the organisation has been configured to do this, what is the organisational design, what are the employees key performance areas, what processes are in place and which technologies are being used?

At a deeper level of granularity, we translate the employee data into profiles from which we get the information about how they deliver on the strategy. Typical data includes variables about where they fit into the organisational structure, what information they need, what tasks they need to perform, the knowledge and skills and experience they have.

The categories of information that employees need to do their work is translated into a taxonomy and site structure which is intuitive and web 2.0 tools, such as wikis and blogs are added to enable them to engage with each other and create read and update information and knowledge.

Making it easy to find what they need is ensured by using semantic and predictive search. This is important because unless employees find the Intranet useful and easy to use, they will not use it.

Next we map the organisational processes for delivery on the strategy and relate them back to the employees using data. We also examine the other tools that we have to hand for data input, such as the technologies which could be integrated including ERP systems etc. Workflow is built into the processes on the Intranet.

Metadata is created for documents, online conversations and behaviours. This can be automated in applications like MS SharePoint 2010, and will feed into the search.

We can also identify additional external datasets which could enhance the employees ability to deliver, such as RSS feeds from the Dow Jones or the latest updates from industry research bodies.

A word of caution

Projects like these should not be undertaken lightly, the development of Intranet strategies can take a couple of months and requires executive commitment.

If the organisation is dysfunctional, or the processes are not optimised, you can wind up coding inefficiencies into the DNA of the organisation.

It is important to ensure that whoever facilitates the development of the strategy is a business minded person who understands how organisations function and be optimised.

Technologist often understand the software and could fit the organisation into the software, where because web 2.0 is all about people, the business must define the technology requirements.

Benefits of this approach

The benefits of this approach are numerous:

  • A data driven approach enables agility within large organisations because as they change, it is possible to code new directions, processes and innovations into the strategic backbone of the enterprise;
  • Communication, information and knowledge can be pushed to employees in a bespoke manner based on their specific requirements.
  • It is possible to create an individually customised view of the Intranet to ensure that employees only see what they need to see which increases the relevance to each employee, and reduces information overload;
  • Knowledge can be created once and used multiple times;
  • Organisational networks can be surfaced for succession planning, and to understand who is networking with whom; and
  • Performance can be managed through an understanding of what individuals are doing.

By using a data driven approach we can now code the strategy and the way we do things into an organic, expanding Intranet and truly drive competitive advantage.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication and manage brand conversations with consumers.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za

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Filed under Blogging, Business, Digital Communities, Enterprise 2.0, HR Intranet, Interactive Intranets, Semantics

Unlocking the Business Value of Microsoft SharePoint 2010′s social computing tools

In 2007, Microsoft bought 5% of Facebook, a very wise move indeed as it has enabled its SharePoint 2010 developers to work closely with the Facebook developers to understand Social networking and to build this knowledge into the SharePoint 2010 release as Social Computing tools.

These intuitive social networking tools create enormous value at an enterprise level within large organisations, however, unless we recognise that SharePoint and Social Computing has the power to change the very way we will be doing business in the future, we will never realise the potential social computing affords us.

Businesses should avail themselves of this opportunity to re-evaluate their strategies and processes to take advantage of the power of this collaboration platform and, in the words of Gary Hamel, innovate themselves into the future.

Competitive advantage does not come from technology, but how we use that technology. After all, the competition can easily acquire SharePoint 2010, but it is the firm which unlocks its business value most effectively which will benefit from the competitive advantage. This means investigating their collaboration requirements, interrogating their innovation processes, developing new Digital Marketing strategies and evaluating their people management across the modern interactive Intranet, and that is just a starting point.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication and manage brand conversations with consumers.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za

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Filed under Blogging, Business, Digital Communities, eMarketing, Enterprise 2.0, HR Intranet, Interactive Intranets, Macroeconomics 2.0, Semantics, Web 2.0, Web Marketing

Approaching Enterprise 2.0, beware your mindset

I recently read an interesting article by Donald Sull entitled “Why good companies go bad” – Financial Times (3 October 2005). In it he expands on the concept of “active inertia”, saying that “companies  often respond to even the most disruptive market shifts by accelerating activities that succeeded in the past. When the world changes, organizations trapped in active inertia do more of the same. A little faster perhaps or tweaked at the margin, but basically the same old same old.”

Sull uses the example of organisations trapped in active inertia as resembling a car with its back wheels stuck in a rut. Managers step on the petrol and rather than escaping the rut, they only dig themselves in deeper.

He talks about clear commitments being required for company’ initial successes, but he says that these commitments harden with time and ultimately constrain a firm’s ability to adapt when its competitive environment shifts. He discusses distinctive success formulas which focus on employees, confer efficiency, attract resources and differentiate the company from rivals.

Five categories of commitments comprise the success formula for organisations:

  • Strategic frames – What we see when we look at the world, including definition of industry, relevant competitors and how to create value;
  • Processes – How we do things – entailing both informal and formal routines;
  • Resources – Tangible and intangible assets that we control which help us compete, such as brand, skills, technology, real estate, expertise, etc.;
  • Relationships – Established links with external stakeholders including investors, technology partners or distributors; and
  • Values – Beliefs that inspire, unify and identify us.

Initial success reinforces management’s belief that they should fortify their success formula. With time and repetition, people stop considering alternatives to their commitments and take them for granted. The individual components of the success formula grow less flexible – Strategic frames become blinkers, resources harden into millstones hanging around a company’s neck, processes settle into routines, relationships become shackles and values ossify into dogmas.

Ossified success formulas are fine, as long as the context remains stable. However when the environment shifts, a gap can grow between what the market demands and what the firm does. Managers see the gap, often at an early stage, and respond aggressively to close it. But their hardened commitments channel their responses into well-worn ruts. The harder they work, the wider the gap becomes. The result is active inertia.

One seismic environmental shift, apart from structural changes in the global economy, is the advent of web 2.0 or the interactive internet. The new Internet has radically changed the rules of the game, customers have more power, companies have the ability to harness the Internet to apply many minds both internally and externally to collaborate and innovate.

Many companies are investigating Enterprise 2.0, but they are still filtering their interpretation through their existing success formulas.

In organisations I have worked with, I often see the role out of Enterprise 2.0 technologies from the IT department as though it was any other Enterprise technology like SAP or Oracle. Whilst there is nothing wrong with the technology being owned by the techies, web 2.0 has fundamentally changed the way that businesses will do business in the future and should be owned by the business. Often web 2.0 seems to be interpreted as the technical ability to blog, or a wiki, bolted onto a content management system for a website, or the document management system within an organisation.

In reality Enterprise 2.0 should be accompanied by a strategic review of how a company is doing business, its environment and its new, empowered customers and expanding markets. Processes need to be reviewed and designed from the user backwards, the way we handle orders and complaints needs to be streamlined, or the world will know all about a company’s unwillingness or inability to address issues. People’s skills need to be analysed, have they got what it takes to be able to communicate across porous company boundaries, do they know how to maintain their personal and company brands in an increasingly transparent business environment, has the organisation got enough dedicated resources to engage with powerful consumers and other stakeholders? What relationships are going to be key to the future of doing business and are the entrenched value systems compatible with a new business environment?

Many companies are looking to their suppliers for advice on how to roll out Enterprise 2.0, if the suppliers are technology companies or PR companies, firms need to realise that they will approach web 2.0 from their own mindset. PR companies see web 2.0 as an extension of the companies’ communication. Technology companies see it as an addition to the application architecture.

Microsoft has just released their magnificent SharePoint 2010, but it is important to realise that this is still just a software application. Granted its potential is fabulous, but until organisations review their strategies, processes and competencies, they are not going to realise the full power of the web. If they don’t think through their success formulas, the application will be implemented in such a way as to reinforce or aggravate the “active inertia”, enabling people to do more of the same more quickly. Generally the skills in technology suppliers are geared towards rolling out seats and adhering to good project management principles. They are not strategic business thinkers and need to partner with people who are focused on how companies create competitive advantage and function in the business environment.

Applications do not conduct business, people do. If employees in the organisation are required to collaborate for the organisation to become more successful, then the fact that they now have the tools to do so is not necessarily going to improve collaboration, they may need to be taught to collaborate – when, why, how? If people are required to engage with customers to shorten sales cycles, but the value system within the organisation is all about risk mitigation and proprietary methodologies, then the value system may need to be adapted to fit the modern business environment. If processes are designed from a point of view which suits the organisation and call centres have been deployed to cut costs, then no amount of wiki’s and blogs or the ability to “share” on Facebook is going to appease outraged customers who will take their gripes public.

Enterprise 2.0 requires greater levels of maturity within organisations and sophistication in how they function successfully in an ever changing environment. By reviewing their success formulas companies can use the web to compete in an extraordinary way and conduct business in a structurally changed business environment.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication and manage brand conversations with consumers.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za

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Filed under Business, eMarketing, Enterprise 2.0, Macroeconomics 2.0