Social Networks: Good Or Evil?

As we witness truly historic events in the Middle East brought about in part by citizens empowered by social networks, we are also seeing disturbing trends that may yet result in social networks becoming a force for evil. 

A client recently pointed out how timely this sentence was from my recent report on social innovation networks:

“Even state and local government services are not immune as disgruntled citizens quickly assemble and make their voices heard, potentially to the point of toppling unpopular leaders.”

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Social Business Strategy

Social technology is certainly a hot topic, but for many CIOs the emergence of islands of social technology across the enterprise feels like a touch of déjà vu.
 
IT has been here before, having to clean up islands of automation that left organizations unable to coordinate information and react rapidly to changing market dynamics. Many organizations are already pressing ahead with multiple social media initiatives aimed at solving business or customer challenges — and that's preferable to doing nothing. But should CIOs help their organization step back and take a more strategic perspective on social technologies? By doing so, I believe CIOs can help avoid integration challenges down the road. 
 
I'm suggesting that the more mature organizations (where social technology is well-established) should begin to refocus social technology efforts in support of a broader business strategy. At the same time, IT needs to help ensure the technologies being deployed meet the technology architecture needs of the business of today and tomorrow.
 
This is the subject of a recent report called "Social Business Strategy." The research takes a strategic look at how organizations are using social technologies and reinforces the suggestion that CEOs need to establish a social business council. We need to think beyond point solutions in order to maximize competitive advantage.
 
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Retail 2020

Retail 2020?What will retail will look like in 10 years? This is an important question for many CIOs and CEOs, and not just those in the retail sector.

To get a feel for the future of retailing, earlier this month I made my annual pilgrimage to the National Retail Federation (NRF) conference and expo in New York. The most significant difference I noticed between this year and last year was that in 2010 everyone was talking about multichannel retail while keeping an eye on social technologies as a future trend. This year the buzz was around full channel integration/retail-anywhere or what might be called "zero-channel retail."
 
Zero-Channel Retail
For many years retailing has been broken out into "channels" based upon how products are put into the hands of the consumer. Channels include: retail stores, outlet stores, Internet, catalog, etc. In the past each channel was managed independently of the others (recall how some retailers actually created separate companies to run their Internet retail business). Last year there was a big focus on how to integrate online and physical retail into one, seamless channel.
 
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10 From 2010

Looking back on 2010, I put together a list of my top 10 favorite things that made a difference in my year and was surprised to see how heavily travel featured in my list:

Pandora One:  I love listening to music while working, so my iPod is always close by. But this year I discovered Pandora – a music streaming service that finds and plays songs based around any favorite song you use to seed it. You can create multiple “stations” around different songs, composers, bands and even combine multiple seed songs on one station. I have created music stations for every genre of music to suit my mood. For example, while writing research I listen to one of six classical stations and while chilling with a glass of my favorite wine I listen to a station I called… "glass of wine radio"! Pandora offers a free version supported by ads and a premium version, Pandora One, which offers unlimited high-fidelity ad-free streaming for $36 a year. This year I moved to Pandora One because I wanted the higher-quality music feed and I love finding new music through Pandora. I regularly listen to Pandora on my PC, through the desktop app, and on my BlackBerry, which I connect to my home audio system to play music back through my hi-fi. http://www.pandora.com

Netflix Watch Instantly: I don’t watch a lot of TV, but my wife and I are real movie buffs so having easy access to movies through streaming is a big deal for us. We love the variety available through Netflix and their watch instantly service. As well as watching movies, we also find ourselves watching TV series through the service. http://netflix.com

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How To Develop A Social Innovation Network

Customers already use social technologies to wrest power away from large corporations. Now employees are adapting social technologies in pursuit of innovations to support these empowered customers; Forrester calls these employees HEROes (highly empowered and resourceful operatives). By designing social technologies as part of their Innovation Networks, CIOs and their IT teams help establish new Social Innovation Networks — innovation ecosystems employing social technologies to enhance HEROes' innovations. These Social Innovation Networks help drive faster, more effective innovation across the enterprise. And CIOs must rise to the challenge of nurturing and developing these networks while structuring their IT teams to fully support them.

In an earlier post, I described how we’re entering a new era of social innovation. Building on these concepts in subsequent research has led to the latest report “CIOs: Support HEROes – Create Social Innovation Networks Using The PACT Framework” (and yes, I’m guilty of introducing yet another acronym).

PACT: Process, advocates, culture, and technology

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Who Will Win The Retail Battle: Apple Or Microsoft?

Microsoft began opening its own retail stores in 2009 and recently began a push into more US cities. A recent post by George Anderson on Forbes.com about Microsoft's new store format prompted me into some late-night analysis. It appears Microsoft's store format strategy is to ride in the draft of Apple by building larger-format stores very near, if not adjacent to, Apple's own stores. As a retail analyst and both an Apple and Microsoft customer for over 25 years, I feel compelled to weigh Microsoft's retail strategy against Apple's (and since I cover retail strategy from a CIO perspective, it feels appropriate to publish here).

Comparing eight success factors

Location: I'll start here, as it was the subject of the original post. Across from Apple may be the only sensible choice for MS, but the challenge MS has is that Apple is a destination store, i.e. people plan to go there for the experience. This makes it less likely they will decide to browse the MS store because it is close. On the other hand, assuming MS does some promotions to attract traffic to its stores, they are likely to also drive additional traffic to Apple. Predicted winner = Apple.

Store architecture: Size isn't everything! Sure Microsoft can copy Apple and go for outstanding store designs and even build them bigger, but Apple architecture is designed to reinforce a consistent brand image: minimalist, clean lines, designer. Microsoft's designs can reinforce many things about its brand, but it's hard to see the consistency in a way that's possible with Apple. Predicted winner = Apple.

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Should CIOs Have A Role In Strategic Investment Planning?

Strategic Investment PlanningAt Forrester’s recent Business Process And Application Delivery Forum, there was a very interactive session on “Using The Next-Generation PMO To Promote Innovation,” led by Margo Visitacion. The premise of the session was that leading-edge PMOs (project management offices) are evolving to a more strategic role, focused on portfolio management of business investment rather than just IT projects or programs.

Many clients have suggested their PMO mission is already elevated to this level. They now focus their efforts on everything from guiding business leaders through building a business case for the investments they want to make, to guiding decision-makers through selection from the portfolio of investment proposals, to tracking benefits realization and ROI after the fact. PMOs with this kind of business-focused, strategic mission have greater business impact and are often close partners with executives leading their firm.

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Will BlackBerry's PlayBook Start A Tablet War In The Board Room?

With today’s announcement of the PlayBook tablet PC, BlackBerry is launching a huge bid to try to retain any customers who have not yet fled to the iPhone and iPad.

Due to be released in early 2011, there is a lot for CIOs to like about the new PlayBook. BlackBerry is hoping that by making the PlayBook easy to integrate into the enterprise, and leveraging its much touted encryption security so much in the news lately, CIOs will back the PlayBook over the iPad.

Blackberry Playbook tablet PC

The PlayBook will be compatible with BlackBerry Enterprise Server and, when paired through Bluetooth to an existing BlackBerry Smartphone, will use the phone as a data transport, only temporarily caching content on the PlayBook.

Some features of the new PlayBook make it very desirable when compared to today’s iPad, such as support for Adobe Flash, Mobile AIR and HTML5; symmetric multiprocessing; built-in HD cameras front and back (think HD video-conferencing); microUSB connection and HDMI output. To control all of this the PlayBook will use a new operating system based on the QNX Neutrino microkernel architecture. What we don’t know: how long the battery will last (a big selling feature for iPads is its long battery life); and what price the PlayBook will sell for. Without seeing a PlayBook up close, it’s hard to say how these features compare to an iPad. After all, one of the most elegant things about an iPad is how it feels - you feel an almost instant connection to the device.

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Beyond Social Computing: Lessons For CIOs In The Empowered Era

Just when you were getting your mind around Social Computing, Forrester has concluded that Social Computing is a steppingstone along the path to the empowered era. At least that’s one of the findings you’ll discover in the new book Empoweredco-authored by Groundswell author Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler, published today by Harvard Business Review Press.

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CIO Tips From The Gov2.0 Summit

As I reflect back on the highlights from the Gov2.0 Summit last week (and read back through my Tweets), it's easy to identify the underlying theme that seemed to resonate throughout the event:

Governments need to open up access to data to allow nongovernment groups (private enterprise) to develop citizen-friendly applications that leverage the data in new and useful ways.

The very first session highlighted some fascinating public transport services created on top of open government data (see embedded video below).

 

A Case for Open Data in Transit

There were certainly some compelling arguments made in favor of this approach — not the least being that it's a highly cost-effective way to provide improved services to taxpayers who ultimately foot the bill for government IT efforts. As an investor in government IT (I pay taxes), I'm fully supportive of anything that improves services and reduces costs!

One of the most memorable quotes came early on from Carl Malamoud when, in his opening keynote, he suggested, "If we can put a man on the moon, surely we can launch the Library of Congress into cyberspace." (See his keynote below).

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