The Information Workplace Gets Social

"Super, then you'll have plenty to talk about!"

                                           Greg Marmalard, Animal House

Collaboration and social technologies continue to be hot in 2010. In Forrester's 2009 Enterprise Software Survey, we asked respondents to rate the following on a scale of 1-5:

How important are the following software initiatives in supporting your firm's current business goals?

          -Increase deployment and use of collaboration technologies

58% answered 4 or 5. In conversations with clients, it's clear that as we exit the current recession and enter a new economy, firms are betting on knowledge workers to drive competitive differentiation in the same manner that they bet on technology to drive efficiency in the early to mid-90's. The trend is particularly strong in North America and Western Europe where big bets are being made on innovation, design and other differentiation that will derive from more efficient, better connected knowledge workers.

This trend indicates high level, organizational goals and is likely to be more dependent on sociology than technology. The truth of the matter is that firms that have made large investments in collaboration, particularly social technologies, and have not made an accompanying investment in driving organizational and cultural change, have struggled. Why then, the trend toward investments in collaboration technologies?

The answer is that technology will support the efforts in a very significant way. And, in the case of social technologies, 2010 will be a break out year. Why? The market is clearly hungry for solutions and the vendors are poised to deliver.

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Is There a Role For Pre-moderation In Internal Social Networks?

"Well, as of this moment, they're on double-secret probation!"

Dean Wormer, Faber College

Recently I have had a number of conversations regarding the role of pre-moderation of internal social networks. Just by way of explanation, pre-moderation would be the approval of all content (posts and comments) prior to posting. Over the past several years and hundreds of conversations with enterprise clients, this has rarely come up.

Just to be clear, there is risk associated with enterprise social networking. There is nothing about social technologies that precludes requirements for privacy, security, maintenance of intellectual capital, regulatory compliance, etc. However, given the right degree of attention, these all are manageable. In fact, over time, social technologies will reduce the risk associated with all of these (more on that later).

OK, so if anyone can say anything at anytime, that's risky right? Well, in thoery, but in reality, not really. Remember, we're talking about internal social networks. Presumably, these are IT sanctioned, authenticated solutions. In other words, everyone knows who you are. And, we can assume that with some degree of planning and education, your users will be aware of the policies that govern the environment. And if you post something not within policy, well you get put on probation (or maybe double-secret probation). Animal House references aside, many a fine internal social networking policy begins with "don't do anything that will get you fired".

There are three key points here:

  • One, provide a sanctioned solution for your organization because if you don't they may well find something on their own and that could be a whole different kind of trouble.
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You do not understand collaboration

I swore that I was not going to say anything further. I really, really tried, but I'm going to have to throw away the little plastic medal that says, "Two Weeks And No Buzz." Here's a must-read quote that a colleague forwarded to me:

So why exactly did Google Buzz launch with some key social features missing? Jackson said that while Google employees were testing out the product internally, they never had much desire to mute any of their coworkers, and that their email contact list closely matched the people they wanted to follow on Buzz. Obviously, that wasn’t true for most people once the product was released outside of the Googleplex. Which is why Google is considering pre-releasing new Buzz features to a few thousand opt-in users long before they’re rolled out to the public.

The short version: "It worked for us inside the firewall, so we never thought it'd have a problem outside the firewall." Of course, an enterprise collaboration tool is a wholly different kind of solution than a social networking tool, so the requirements for the former do not completely cover the latter.

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Cisco's IME: Step One In Bringing B2B Voice & Video Into The Internet Era

You can use Internet protocols to make phone calls inside your own network. And you don't have to pay for the minutes. But you can't do the same thing with a business partner. Instead, you have to pay a carrier like BT or AT&T to carry the phone call over the public switched telephone network (PSTN).

 

(PSTN is an analog network born in 1878 when Bell opened a switching office in New Haven, CT. It's done us proud, but it's time to move to a digital network.)

 

It's even worse for video conferencing. If you want to have a video conference internally, you can use your IP network to do it. But if you want to do a video conference with a business partner, you have to use a complex business gateway link and pay a lot of money for it.
 
Cisco thinks it's time to change that. We spoke with Cisco executives Tony Bates, Barry O'Sullivan, and Joe Burton about Cisco's intercompany media engine (IME), a new technology to replace PSTN with its Internet equivalent. Cisco's goals are audacious:
 
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