Lloyd's Of London Takes Facebook To The Board

[Update: I wrote this post originally for HBR.org. It's now live in shortened form on Harvard Business Review's site: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2010/09/it_in_the_age_of_empowered_employees.html.]

Peter Hambling, CIO of Lloyd’s of London, the venerable insurer, has made Facebook a priority for customer communications that required board approval. But more on that later. First, some background . . .

It's the nature of things. Some people look for ways to do things better — and that includes your employees. Some of your employees are questing for a better way to get things done. If there's a better way out there, they'll find it. That's a good thing because the thing they're trying to do better is their job. Serve your customers. Solve your business problems. Improve your operations.

It's always been true: Incremental innovation and process improvements have always come from those closest to the problem. It's the basis of kaizen, a system where employees continually improve manufacturing processes. It's also a founding principle of Six Sigma — tap employees' relentless, incremental quality improvements.

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Forrester Content & Collaboration Forum: Get The Empowered Story First Hand

Our new book, Empowered, will be in book stores on September 14. But for a real-world conversation about what it means to unleash employees to solve customer problems using readily available technology, come to our Content & Collaboration Forum in Maryland just outside of Washington, D.C. on October 7 and 8.

Yes, this is a pitch to come to a Forrester event, but I promise you that it will be worth your time if you're looking for help with such Empowered topics as enterprise social, empowered employees, iPad in the enterprise, innovation, collaboration in the cloud, videoconferencing, and IT consumerization as well as deep dives into critical topics like search and taxonomy, enterprise content management, and what it means to be a content & collaboration leader.

You'll get two days of my Forrester analyst colleagues' presentations and face time as well as keynote presentations from some great and experienced content & collaboration executives. GM's Steve Sacho is way ahead of the curve in understanding how to turn consumerization from IT threat to business opportunity. Richard West of the defense firm, BAE Systems, is bringing his story of how investments in knowledge management and collaboration have empowered employees to work more efficiently together to solve customer problems. Both speakers as well as Zach Brand, head of all things interesting at NPR Digital Media (yes, that NPR), will share their stories, lessons, and experience.

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Zimbra Appliance: VMWare Executes On Cloud-Based Email

VMWare has got it down: Sell a virtualization solution with anchor applications (and seats) that no service provider can live without, starting with email. This is the call we made when VMWare bought open source email and collaboration provider Zimbra from Yahoo! last February. And now they've delivered with the upgraded Zimbra Collaboration Suite Appliance 6.0 targeted at service providers and other virtual cloud hosters. What it means:

What it means #1. VMWare is solidly in the market to provision service providers with email. Service providers that want to resell Google or Microsoft's email have the benefit of low capital costs and rapid deployment. But service providers that don't want to resell another vendors' cloud services need a solution that runs at low cost on cheap servers with easy peasy provisioning. That's what the Zimbra collaboration appliance promises. Will it deliver? Love to hear from service providers on this one.

What it means #2. VMWare drives another nail into the coffin of on-premises business email. At $5/mailbox/month for cloud email, if you take away client software and mailbox administration costs, our analysis shows that it costs twice as much to host a mailbox yourself than to host it in the cloud. This offering gives service providers around the world the opportunity to compete at that price. So who would use on-premises email? Only someone with stringent requirements, massive scale, or a recent upgrade. Even the federal government is moving to cloud-based email as GSA has announced.

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Evaluate Your HERO Project -- Find The Gotchas, Share Results, Build Support

Yesterday we launched our Empowered microsite. On this site you can find lots of resources about our new book, including the blog, where to buy the book in bulk, how Forrester can help your empowered strategies, and a new HERO Project Effort-Value Evaluation tool.

First, some background. When Josh & I first began investigating HEROes (highly empowered and resourceful operatives, basically folks like you who make a difference using new technology), we knew that we needed a way to assess the effort that your projects required. And then we realized that you were tackling new technology solutions because you saw the value they could provide. So we needed to help you assess the value and the effort.

Thus was born the HERO Project Effort-Value Evaluation tool that we introduce in chapter 2. This tool includes five value questions and five effort questions that categorize your project into one of four classes and provides you some high-level guidance on what to watch out for. The online version of the tool also creates a nice email format with the results of your evaluation, which you can easily share with colleagues to get them involved in the project.

I think your best use of the tool is to sanity check your thinking on the project, get insight into the questions you need to answer before getting started, and get others on board with your project goals. If you're in business, it's a way to get IT involved. If you're in IT, it's a way to help your business colleagues scope a project and get your help with it.

We can also help you assess the project and provide additional insight into where you should dig deeper.

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