Presenting Four Cases That Can Help You Transform Your Organization Into A Social And Collaborative Business

My colleague Ted Schadler and I recently completed a six month investigation into social business and collaborative transformation. As the title of the report -- The Road To Social Business Starts With A Burning Platform -- suggests, these complex workforce programs work when there is a compelling motivation to change behaviors among employees, business sponsors, andRead more

If You're Not Helping Lay The Foundation For A Social Business, You Need To Start Now

The movement of information is key to today's global economy. Companies like General Electric send their design concepts to countries like India, allowing developers there to localize products to suit the domestic market. Firms like Intercontinental Hotel Group create customer communities to gather input from customers to fashion new services. Businesses like handheld device manufacturer Psion (recently acquired by Motorola) build social platforms to connect their partners to their customers in order to formulate new solutions. And prospective customers tap into social media like Facebook and Twitter to gather information and express ideas, which we see has the power to alter the course of companies as well as countries. In this environment, a successful company's competitive advantage comes in part from its ability to grow an information advantage -- the ability to share, process, and act upon information more rapidly than the competition.

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Online Collaboration Tools Address A New Set Of Business Challenges, But Are They Ready For Your Business?

Today, we published our first Forrester Wave™ on the cloud strategies of online collaboration software vendors, evaluating how eight vendors -- Box, Cisco Systems, Citrix Online, Google, IBM, Microsoft, salesforce.com, and Yammer -- are constructing collaboration services. Unlike a traditional Forrester Wave, this assessment was designed to look at how these vendors are addressing the lingering questions many IT leaders have about online collaboration technology:

  • Is it ready for the prime-time enterprise spotlight?
  • Will it keep me secure and compliant?
  • Does it fit into my business environment?
  • Is the vendor in the online business for the long haul?
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Yes, Gamification Can Help Your Business Internally

Happy New Year, everyone. As I customarily do, I'm looking back on 2011 with an eye toward emerging trends that bear watching. In the latter half of last year, I started to receive a lot of questions from content & collaboration professionals and journalists regarding gamification. The fuel for this undoubtedly comes from businesses' burgeoning love affair with gaming dynamics in consumer web marketing efforts (chronicled by Forrester here, here, here, and here). The questions I get, though, are from individuals looking to understand if gamification has business uses outside of enticing consumers to engage more deeply with the company.

As an analyst who has covered serious gaming (the use of games and gaming dynamics to teach, change attitudes and behaviors, and inspire action) for five years, these inquiries bring a smile to my face. As you may guess, my answer to these interested parties is, "Of course you can use gamification to enhance other processes in your business." My confidence in gamification's utility to internal business processes comes from the fact that, at its core, this is an old idea in business. You might have just said "huh?" Permit me a moment to explain.

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Oracle Makes Their Play For Social Enabled Business Processes

On Wednesday afternoon, Oracle's Larry Ellison unveiled the Oracle Social Network. The fact that he did so on the same stage Marc Benioff used in San Francisco's Moscone Center to announce Salesforce Chatter's centricity to the "social enterprise" won't go unnoticed, and not simply for all of the not-so-subtle shots Mr. Ellison took at his former colleague's outfit. For content & collaboration professionals, the thing to note about these dual announcements is they mark, along with IBM's "social business" strategy, an attempt by vendors to make social software relevant to the entire workforce by tying them into specific business processes.

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Dreamforce 2011 Notes: Salesforce Wants To Be The Collaborative Interface Between Your Business And The Market

While the Metallica concert and guest appearances by MC Hammer and Neil Young during Marc Benioff's opening keynote made Saleforce.com's Dreamforce 2011 entertaining, my principle reason for venturing out to San Francisco was to hear Salesforce's vision for how it was going to turn Chatter into an enterprise-wide collaboration platform. What they showed was an elegant, natural extension of their core value proposition as a CRM and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) provider. In a nutshell, Salesforce wants you to use Chatter to connect internal business processes to the external social web in which your partners and customers live. This is not a new vision, of course. We've argued the importance of external collaboration for purposes of product management and marketing and even profiled a company that has rolled out technology and changed its corporate culture to embrace intercompany collaboration. What makes Salesforce's story compelling is how it intertwines Chatter with its database, social listening, CRM and PaaS capabilities. Mr. Benioff presented this as a three part story:

  1. Create a social profile of the customer. The Radian6 acquisition is brought to bear here. Salesforce proposes using this technology not only to understand customer sentiment, but to take a snapshot of indivdual customers by using their interactions with social media to learn who they are. This information is used to build a "social database" which can round out a customer record in the CRM system.
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Is Social Software Relevant To Information Workers?

I'm not saying anything shocking when I say enterprise social software, has been a hot topic over the last five years. The set of technologies designed to flatten corporations have spawned dedicated blogs, press, and conferences. And our surveys of content and collaboration professionals show businesses are embracing these technologies: 42% of firms are making new investments in Enterprise 2.0 software, and 46% are investing in team workspaces (on which social technologies often ride into the enterprise). So, obviously we're over the hump and well into this new social era of business, right? Well...not so fast.

I'll go out on a limb here and say that businesses are not more social - at least, not in the broad-based fashion people envisioned when we first started talking about Enterprise 2.0 in the heady days of the mid-2000s. How could it be? According to our recent survey of 4,985 US information workers, 28% of the workforce uses a social technology. While you may be thinking to yourself this is a good start, allow me a moment to point out some key differences between Enterprise 2.0 users and the rest of the workforce:

  • They're your highest paid employees. Over half of this group earns more than $60k a year, compared to just 36% of non-users.
  • They're the most educated members of the workforce. Sixty-five percent of this group has completed at least a 4 year college degree compared to 55% of the rest of the workforce.
  • They're the leaders in your office. It's not surprising to see 49% of this group are managers are executives given management's enthusiasm about social technologies. Just 31% of non-users are in similar positions.
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Microsoft's Office 365 Allows Flexibility In Enterprise Collaboration Technology Strategies

Yesterday morning (June 28), I , along with a small group of Microsoft customers, partners, and members of the technology and business press, sat in a SoHo, NY, gallery to listen to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announce the release of Office 365, the long-awaited successor to Business Productivity Online Standard Suite (BPOS). In his remarks, Ballmer positioned the product set as a way for businesses of any size to facilitate communication and collaboration. What he and all of the multimedia presentations in the gallery stressed was how Office 365 addressed the productivity and collaboration needs of IT-constrained small and medium-sized businesses. While smart business (it helps Microsoft tell a compelling story against Google, which is doing well in that part of the market), the natural question I heard from people in the room was, "What about the enterprise?"

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"Anywhere, Anytime" Work Means IT Must Provide The Right Technology, To The Right Person, At The Right Time

Giving workers flexibility in when, where, and how they work is a hot topic right now. The US federal government has passed legislation to make telecommuting easier and multinational firms, like State Street, are instituting programs to let employees choose when and where they work. Why are organizations emphasizing this so much? Mobile and remote employees have more control over their work/life balance and won't have to stop working if circumstance prevents them from coming to the office. Furthermore, they can easily be collocated with clients and allow the company to reduce its real estate and carbon footprint. However, as this chart from my new report, Demystifying The Mobile Workforce, shows, information workers may be moving more quickly to this flexible way of working than their companies currently acknowledge: 66% of the North American and European workforce work outside the office at some point during a month.

If business leaders and their counterparts in IT are to get in front of this trend, they have to understand their mobile and remote workforce. For example, who is shifting work between the office and home? What technology are they using to do so? Do they believe that the company is doing a good job of providing them the policies and technology to work in this way? If business and IT leaders can't answer these questions, they will be hard pressed to accurately:

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Are Businesses Missing The Benefits Of Collaboration Technology?

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a customer case study session hosted by Cisco. Representatives from two clients -- SmithAmundsen (a law firm) and Republic Services (a waste management company) -- discussed how they were deploying Cisco unified communication and collaboration technology within their businesses. While the two speakers presented compelling stories about the need for collaboration within business, what caught my attention was where their companies received value. The constant refrain was these technologies saved money on travel, office space and IT expenditures. This isn't a new story: last year at Cisco's Collaboration Summit, Vid Byanna of Accenture mentioned that travel cost reduction was a big driver for his firm adopting desktop video technology for its remote workforce. Nor is this a Cisco-specific story: I recently published a report that shows the majority of content and collaboration professionals say travel reductions is the #1 benefit of collaboration software. But does it teach us the right lesson about the value of collaboration software?

In general, when we think about finding ways to let employees come together in groups to do work, we assume some type of business benefit: faster problem resolution, more innovative ideas and quicker time to market are a few examples. So why, in a business world where 42% of the workforce is mobile, do just 19% and 9% of content and collaboration professionals see improved innovation and faster time to market, respectively, as outcomes of using collaboration software? I have a couple of ideas that I'll be testing in my research going forward. I think this disconnect springs from one of three places:

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