MAD Perspectives Blog

Finding the Needle in a Haystack

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Have you ever been in a situation where you're pursuing a large opportunity and you need to tap a resource, any resource, that has won a similar deal or delivered a similar project?  How have you gone about finding those resources?  I know that in my former life at HP, I frequently saw sales and consulting leads trying to tap the collective knowledge at the company in order to succeed at an account.  It was like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack!




I was in a global role that allowed me visibility across all geographic regions.  I had knowledge of the different types of deals that were in process and if a consultant in Asia was seeking advice from a colleague he/she would call or email me to see if I could connect them with someone with relevant experience
Notice, I said CALL or EMAIL.  Yep, they picked up the phone or wrote an email asking for assistance.  Sometimes they just needed references.  Other times they wanted to understand the technology solution that had been proposed to a similar customer.  Other times they wanted to learn about the capabilities of our myriad of software partners.  Finding a relevant resource could take them hours, days and even weeks.  They and many others like them did not have access to solutions that allow them "broadcast" their needs to a general audience.

The bottom line, was that there was no centralized system that allowed them to easily find colleagues with experiences they could tap into.  They had a database of customer wins, but many times these databases were regional in nature and not visible across geographic boundaries.  Additionally, these systems might have reflected outdated information.

Why am I sharing these challenges?  It is the experience of having been the linchpin tying these geographically dispersed indivduals together that gave me the insight to recognize the value that social netorking platforms can bring to the enterprise.  Most companies have an internal directory that captures your basic details such as job role, organization, location and contact information.  Imagine that you can add incremental information such as knowlege of software systems and hardware platforms, previous roles, industry expertise, account relationships, special interests, personal interests.   Now imagine it is as easy to use as social networking platforms such as LinkedIn or Facebook. 

When we implement social media behind the firewall, we open the door to a new kind of collaborative communication.  Now, employees have the ability to broadcast their question.  For example, a solution architect in Poland is pursuing an opportunity with a small broadcast company.  He knows that his company has provided solutions to other broadcasters and he has searched the company intranet for information.  However, he just can't find the information he needs.  He knows he just needs some guidance - perhaps a 30 minute phone call.  Using an internal social networking platform he could post his questions and the collective community would be able to start providing answers.  The community, by its very nature, provides answers, links, contacts.  And, this information is available to the next person with the similar question.

Think about your organization and how knowledge is shared.  I bet you have some kind of knowledge management program, formal (if you are a mediaum-large company) or informal (if you are a small business).  Are there inefficiencies?  Do you have a plan to tap into the collective knowledge resident within your employees?  Think about how social networking platforms can help you can improve collaboration, actively find and tap into resident knowledge and facilitate employee efficiency.

What's your perspective? 



The Ford Fiesta Movement

Peggy Dau - Monday, October 26, 2009

Have you heard about the Ford Fiesta Movement?  If not, check it out Ford's press release.  Ford, who did NOT accept stimulus funds from the federal government, is thinking out of the box in its campaign to introduce the Fiesta to the U.S. market.  Rather than spending millions on traditional media channels, Ford elected to use social media platforms to generate buzz and promote the Fiesta's arrival in the U.S in early 2010.

The Fiesta has been a Eurpean best seller for several years and as the auto industry works to consolidate brands and become more eco-friendly, they decided to bring the Fiesta to the U.S.  Given the target driver for this zippy, smaller car, using social media to create awareness and attract potential buyers is brilliant.
Buyers love reading recommendations from others (think Zappos) and getting "insider" information.  Ford has 100 agents test driving, blogging and tweeting about their experiences with the Fiesta.

What has Ford accomplished with it's social media campaign?
     - 1.3M+ YouTube views
     - 500,000+ Flicker views
     - 3M+ Twitter impressions
     - 50,000 interested potential customers
          - and, 97% of these potential customers do not own a Ford!

How did Ford succeed?  They thought about the target buyer for this cost-effective, fuel efficeint car.  More and more potential buyers of all kind of goods are leaning towards social media platforms to learn about products and user experiences.  Beyond the social media platforms, Ford has created a fun, interactive site where you can design your own Fiesta and find out some of the likes and dislikes of other Fiesta fans.

Ford leveraged the energy of the community to great success.  I can imagine Ford will have a hard time keeping up with early demand for the Fiesta.



Enterprise Social Computing - a real life example from Intel

Peggy Dau - Monday, October 19, 2009




There are seveal thought leaders in the use of social computing within the enterprise.  One, who has been very open in sharing their experience, is Intel.  We all know Intel as a leading technology company.  I am writing this blog on a laptop with Intel inside.  However, we may not instantly think of Intel as a leader in social computing.

In fact, Intel began defining its social computing strategy and implementation roadmap in early 2008.  Like many companies, Intel was concerned that employees would become distracted by social networking platforms.  However, they also recognized that social computing could transform the way Intel employees connect with each other and lead to greater communication and collaboration. 

Intel began by defining their top level business challenges.  Their challenges are similar to those expressed by small, medium and large businesses:  improve knowledge sharing, increase the speed of innovation, facilitate employeed learning, provide leadership and protect intellectual property.  With these challenges in hand, they established goals which their social computing strategy would have to address to be considered a successful strategy.  They also considered the need for governance, executive support and risk assessment.

With a lot of information in hand, Intel then proceeded to define a variety of Proof-of-Concepts.  They wanted to be sure they understood the way that their various teams were currenlty communicating and collaboratin  so that any new solution would enhance the user experience.  This effort allowed them to clearly understand employee pain points. 

Note, Intel had not yet discussed the technology.  It is important to focus on the company culture, goals, challenges and processes before beginning the technology discussion.  The architecture they selected reflects the needs of large enterprise businesses to integrate new social media tools with existing platforms and networks.    This addresses concerns about process, investment and employee adoption. 

Intel has published a white paper with further information about their process and strategy evolution.  It's enlightening and validating.  I would encourage any business that is trying to figure out how they can implement social networking tools, behind the firewall, to check out this whitepaper and Intel's blogs on the topic.



The New York Times is a community

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, October 07, 2009

I feel compelled today to write about the New York Times newspaper.  My thoughts are prompted by announcements from Conde Nast regarding the “death” of Gourmet magazine and People Magazine’s celebration of its 35th anniversary.  They made me think about what’s happening in the publishing industry. 

The New York Times is a venerated publication that has had a few stumbles in recent years and is part what we generally accept as a dying industry.  The New York Times Company is conglomerate of various daily newspapers (e.g., NY Times, Boston Glob, and International Herald Tribute), related websites (e.g., www.nytimes.comwww.boston.com ) and informational websites (i.e., About.com).  However when we think of the New York Times, I think that most of us think of the newspaper itself.

Newspapers have been our source of insight, information, news and entertainment for over 500 years.  In fact, the advancement of print technology is credited with advancing the democratization of society by providing all classes of people with access to news and information.  It is this idea of democratization that first set off my internal thought process on the similarities between periodicals and social communities.    Let’s compare the New York Times and social networking:

 

New York Times (physical paper and online)

Social Networking sites (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg, etc.)

Access

 

daily

24 x 7 (online)

24 x 7

 

Cost

Subscription for physical delivery

Free (online)

Free

 

Opinions

Editorials

Blogs

Customer feedback

Limited

Yes (online)

Expected!

Integration with social media platforms

Yes (online)

Yes

Use of video

Yes (online)

Yes

 

As the New York Times has invested in its online presence, it has become both a destination and a community.  Readers, who have long appreciated the content provided in the newspaper edition, can find that same content online.  The nytimes.com site preserves the look and feel of the print front page, with easy access to the various special interest sections.  Additionally, they can access video interviews with thought leaders and business leaders , interact with tech columnist David Pogue and share articles, videos and opinions with their peers via a plethora of social media platforms.

In fact, this focus on their internet presence should benefit The New York Times.  Per Nielsen, newyorktimes.com attracts 20,118 unique users who spend approximately 31 minutes per use on the site.  This is more than twice the number of readers on any other newspaper site (i.e., USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, etc.).  Their attention to brand, integration of video and leverage of community should help drive incremental revenue.  While the overall revenue to the New York Times Company, from digital, was only 12% in FY08, it is clear that digital is their future.  Just look at their R&D investments.

This is an industry that is well aware of the technological shifts, but they still have a customer base that wants to read the physical product.  They may elect do so due to personal preference, distaste for reading online or lack of internet access.  The New York Times is aware of the shift and is adapting through cost reductions on the print side of the business.  Perhaps they were slow to understand the true impact, but they now walk a fine line between the physical and digital worlds. 

So, don’t write off the newspaper industry.  Perhaps the medium will change, but the information and the community will remain.   They reflect the shifts and challenges facing many enterprise businesses.  Adapt your models.  Adopt new technology.   Acknowledge your community.

What’s your perspective?



What is social media?

Peggy Dau - Monday, October 05, 2009

As I've been ramping up MAD Perspectives and talking to former colleagues and potential clients, the same question continues to arise.  This question highlights the reason why consultants are jumping into the social media mix.  The question is:  what is social media and why is it important to my business?  I had made an assumption as I ramped up this business.  That assumption was that my potential clients understood what social media is.  Well, you know what they say about assumptions!

Social media (aka social networking, social computing, social software) is a software, platform or technology that enables employees, business partners, companies and customers to connect, communicate and collaborate. Social media is participatory, online media where news, photos, videos, podcasts are shared for feedback by anyone.  Social media is open and democratic.  It is a listening platform that can act as a guidepost for information about your brand, products and services.

The business use of these technolgoies varies based on company goals.  Many of the initial business uses of social media were external facing.  Companies like Dell, Comcast, JetBlue and others utilized Facebook and Twitter to augment their online customer support capabilities.  They actively listened to their customers to address perceptions of poor customer support and subsequently improved their relationships with their customers.

The evolution (not revolution) that is currently under way is about how to leverage these platforms, within the enterprise, to:

- form communities based on common interests, expertise or knowledge
- share information
- invite debate
- find specialized knowledge
- organize work teams
- collaborate on work projects
- increase visibility

The benefits to the enterprise fall into categories such as:  sharing best practices, improving knowledge sharing and knowledge management, increased socialization within the enterprise, adding structure to ad hoc conversations, capturing collective knowledge, enhanced project management, reducing travel expenses.

It is important to define and gain agreeement and committment to your company goals for the use of social media.  Social media touches all business groups in your company.  I've highlighted a few ideas on how social media can help your business.  I encourage you to think about how social media can help your company achieve its goals. 

What's your perspective?



HP Skyroom - collaboration for this millenium

Peggy Dau - Monday, September 28, 2009

Hewlett-Packard is garnishing high praise for its new video conference softwareHP SkyRoom.  HP first announced the software in March 2009 but has demonstrated it at last week's DEMOfall'09.  The collaboration software is designed to enable dispersed teams communicate and share information and 3D images. 

This video collaboration solution incorporates features of HP's Halo telepresence solutions with its Remote Graphics Software.  This allows up to 4 users to see each other and make eye contact while viewing the prsenter's desktop with 2D or 3D igrpahics and full motion viewo.  The software also incorporates instant messaging softawre such as Microsoft Office Communicator or Jabber.

This solution acknowledges the increasing geographic dispersion of work teams and the growing concern regarding travel expenses to bring these teams togehter for face to face collaboration.  SkyRoom enables cost-effective alternative for enabling secure, online collaboration.  the software will be available on all HP Z Workstation platforms effective October 1, 2009, however it may also be purchased as an individual or floating licesne, with pricing starting at $149/single license.  For now, the software is only funtional with other HP Skyroom platforms and only within the  corporate network.

For further technical insights, Tim Wilson has written an excellent review at the Creative Cow.

It is promising to see HP leverage its Halo technology, HP Labs innovation and Workstation leadership to deliver a cost effective solution to enable spontaneous meetings with support for high-definition content which is so valuable for design engineers as well as post-production editors.  This solution takes desktop video conferencing to the next level!

What's your perspective?



Social Media at IBC?

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I recently attended IBC as mentioned in my blog of Sep 8.  I was curious to understand how this event which focuses on the technology surrounding the broadcast and media industries, would reflect the increasing uses of social computing.  I was surprised to find only a limited presence.

As I meandered through the exhibition, I was looking for indications that vendors recognized the value of the conversation that social media enables.  These vendors clearly understand the power of video and have created, developed and enhanced their abilities to create, manage and distribute all kinds of video content.   This industry, like many others, is all about workflow.  There is a sequence of events that must occur and if that sequence is interrupted there is usually an impact on the outcome - video or storytelling in this case.

There are a variety of platforms that enable the intergration of applications for ingest, store, edit, manage or distribute of a media asset.  These platforms simplify how organizations manage their digital workflows.  There are conversations that accompany the various tasks within these workflows.  Today, most of these discussion occur on the phone or via email.  I wonder if there is an opportunity to utilize social networking tools to facilitate the conversation.

Would project teams using tools such as Adobe After Effects or Apple Final Cut Pro be interested in opening the post-production editing disucssion to the usually dispersed team via a social computing tool (with relevant security models in place)?  Would it be relevant to discuss they myriad of post-production processes?  Could it be useful to track and capture this discussion?  Social media is inclusive.  It allows all community participants to follow and engage in the discussion.  It's a perspective I plan to investigate further.

What's your perspective?



Digital Media at IBC

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I'm on my way to IBC (International Broadcasters Conference) in Amsterdam, September 10-14.  This conference brings together the global thought leaders and vendors in the broadcast and new media space.  As expected, the conference agenda focuses on those technologies related to the creation, management and distribution of video.  In particular, the delivery and distribution of video content continues to evolve simply because we as consumers desire to access content on a variety of different devices which access content through a similar variety of network protocols.

Watching the trends in the broadcast industry where quality is of the utmost concern, usually paves the way for understanding options available to the enterprise.  While the enterprise typically does not require a 24x7 broadcast center, they do need to understand the challenges of creating, storing, editing, promoting, distributing and consuming video content.  I'm looking forward to seeing what's new!  I'm also interested to understand how this industry is incorporating social media in a more strategic manner. 

What's your perspective?



Don't Forget Rich Media!

Peggy Dau - Monday, August 31, 2009

MAD Perspectives focuses on digital media strategies. Of course, the plethora of digital media solutions available is constantly evolving.  As a result there are ongoing challenges within companies to determine which solutions are the best fit to overcome recognized challenges or to achieve stated goals.

Thanks to the rise of the Internet, advanced  (and always improving) networking solutions and a myriad of devices, employees are connected 24X7 in the office, at home, on the soccer field or at the airport.  There is much written about employee productivity.  Much of this productivity is due to the use of digital media solutions which are usually categorized as either rich media solutions or social media solutions.  Companies have been deploying rich media solutions for the past 10 years or so.  These video-centric solutions facilitate executive communication, distance learning, remote meetings, product training and more.  With the introduction of social media into the enterprise, one may wonder if it will displace rich media.  In fact, they are complementary solutions that round out a complete communication and collaboration strategy.  They will drive greater productivity and create stronger employee relationships regardless of distance.

A valid question arises about where or why to use rich media versus social media or both.  Today, let's focus on rich media.

When do I use rich media?  Isn’t it more expensive?

These are questions you may ask yourself as you consider alternatives for your corporate communications strategy.  Rich media solutions are optimal when:

a) Visual communication can provide intrinsic value to the message being delivered. 
If there are graphical presentations that emphasize key points, webcast provide a simple forum to share that information.  They are also available after the event for on-demand consumption.  This is helpful to road warriors who are not always online when webcast events occur.

b) It is important for executives to be seen and heard by their workforce.
When any level of executive is delivering a message regarding company policy, performance or process, it is meaning for these managers to enable their teams to "see" how important the information is to them.  It reinforces their commitment to the message and often rallies the troops to understand or adopt message content.

Solutions such as web conferences, video conferences or telepresence are viable solutions.  Selection of the appropriate rich media solutions is dependent on the size, geographic location of employees and type of message being delivered.

c) Virtual face to face collaboration enhances interaction.
The ability to see your teammates greatly enhances any kind of collaborative session.  It is important to build a personalized business relationship.  Reading their facial expressions and body language can highlight issues or concerns that may not be raised verbally.  On the other hand, participants can see the excitement when they come to agreement and are moving a project forward.

Video conferencing at the desktop level or in telepresence scenarios provide great value for these meetings.  Factors such as number of participants, goal of meeting, capability of solutions should be considered when planning for or utilizing video conferencing solutions.

The bottom line is to think about what we are communicating and why.  This drives the selection of the appropriate digital media solution.  In some cases, traditional solutions such as email and the phone are still the best way to connect.  Think about what you are communicating (budgets, project updates, strategy, product announcements, financials, etc.) and the confidentiality or regulatory concerns associated with it.  Then consider who needs to consume the content.  With these questions addressed, the appropriate solution will become clear.



Microblogging Within the Enterprise

Peggy Dau - Monday, August 17, 2009

We’ve all read of the increased usage of Twitter.

The business model is still unclear, yet twenty somethings, CEOs and celebrities are using Twitter every day.  There is a love affair with expressing oneself in 140 characters or less.

We’ve read stories about how Twitter has impacted customer service at companies like JetBlue, who has been able to respond to customer tweets regarding a lack of flights for key events, allowing JetBlue to add more flights.  Additionally, JetBlue recently created an account on Twitter to offer last minute discounted tickets.  However, these are examples of customer facing uses for micro-blogging.  We can all agree and imagine many scenarios where this form of instant broadcast communication can provide benefit to both the enterprise and its customers.

However, what about micro-blogging behind the firewall?

When we consider who uses tools such as Twitter, it provides some insight as to who the early adopters may be within the enterprise.  It is clear that new employees are coming to companies with a different set of expectations regarding communication.  They come armed with mobile and other wireless enabled devices with the expectation to communicate instantly and  informally.  While the company will expect them to adopt existing methods of communication, such as email, this generation is happy to blast messages to a wide audience, happy to gain feedback and opinion from a diverse group.  These twenty-somethings currently use Twitter to share all kinds of information.  They will bring their habits and methodologies to the enterprise.  Additionally, employees of all ages are frequently using various instant messagin services to connect.  While this is primarily one to one communication., it still reflects a desire for instantenous communication with peers.

Can microblogging knowledge sharing be adapted for the enterprise?

Can we effectively communicate business thoughts in 140 characters or less?  And, can we capture and save these conversations for future reference?

Apparently, we can.  Deloitte adopted Yammer and has used it to alleviate advertising cost by inviting employees to create taglines for a new campaign.  Employees from across all departments were invited to participate.  They were able to view all contributions and generate new concepts without engaging an outside agency.  AMD has encouraged the use of micro-blogging within the corporation for employees to comment on quarterly executive webcasts.  As a result business groups within AMD are investigating how micro-blogging can help them organize and distribute content.

High Tech firms such as IBM and Oracle created their own micro-blogging tools (BlueTwit and OraTweet) for internal use and to allow their employees to experiment with micro-blogging within the enterprise.  OraTweet is now available for external customers.  Smaller, emerging companies are also providing microblogging solutions .  They include:  Yammer, Utterli, SocialText, SocialCast and Present.ly.  The point is that companies from the very large to the very small are creating micro-blogging solutions.  They believe there is value to quickly posting news, creating links to blogs and forums, gathering customer feedback, providing real-time updates on customer events, marketing and sharing knowledge behind the corporate firewall. If you and your company are thinking about trying a micro-blogging solutions, keep these  thoughts in mind when assessing vendors:

User Identity and Security
Utilize a solution that clearly identifies the employee as your company’s employee.  Your content is your intellectual capital.  You do want to ensure that the information shared via micro-blogging is behind the firewall.  It is possible to leverage intranet LDAP registries. This has the benefit of a single identify for email and micro-blogging.

Reliability and Scalability
Twitter is infamous for its service outages.  Enterprises may want to consider a distributed (rather than centralized) deployment of servers. Given the number of possible users within the enterprise, this will reduce the server impact.  Additionally, the solution must be interoperable with existing enterprise applications.

Groups
While micro-blogging publicly is a very social experience with an understanding of the broadcast nature of the message, behind the firewall it may not always be appropriate to “blast” a message to all employees.  Business groups, departments or project teams may want to micro-blog within the team.  A solution that supports the definition of groups is useful.

Like many social media solutions, it is difficult to define a tangible ROI at this time.  Micro-blogging within the enterprise is new and evolving.  It should be part of an overall communication and collaboration strategy.  It is not a standalone strategy to solve problems of knowledge sharing or community building.  It is a way for employees to quickly share their thoughts, news, information and more, as they experiment with it.  Social media continues to democratize the enterprise.  Micro-blogging is one more tool in your digital media toolkit supporting that effort.

What's your perspective?