Archive for Enterprise Blogs & Wikis

Filtering Microblogging and Activity Streams

The use of microblogging and activity streams is maturing in the enterprise. This was demonstrated by recent announcements of enhancements to those components in two well-regarded enterprise social software suites.

On February 18th, NewsGator announced a point release to its flagship Enterprise 2.0 offering, Social Sites 3.1. According to NewsGator, this release introduces the ability for individuals using Social Sites to direct specific microblogging posts and status updates to individuals, groups, and communities. Previously, all such messages were distributed to all followers of the individual poster and to the general activity stream of the organization. Social Sites 3.1 also introduced the ability for individuals to filter their activity streams using "standard and custom filters".

Yesterday (March 3rd), Socialtext announced a major new version of its enterprise social software suite, Socialtext 4.0. Both the microblogging component of Socialtext’s suite and its stand-along microblogging appliance now allow individuals to broadcast short messages to one or more groups (as well as to the entire organization and self-selected followers.) Socialtext 4.0 also let individuals filter their incoming activity stream to see posts from groups to which they belong (in addition to filtering the flow with the people and event filters that were present in earlier versions of the offering.)

The incorporation of these filters for outbound and incoming micro-messages are an important addition to the offerings of NewsGator and Socialtext, but they are long overdue. Socialcast has offered similar functionality for nearly two years and Yammer has included these capabilities for some time as well (and extended them to community members outside of an organization’s firewall, as announced on February 25th.) Of course, both Socialcast and Yammer will need to rapidly add additional filters and features to stay one step ahead of NewsGator and Socialtext, but that represents normal market dynamics and is not the real issue. The important question is this:

What other filters do individuals within organizations need to better direct microblogging posts and status updates to others, and to mine their activity streams?

I can easily imagine use cases for location, time/date, and job title/role filters. What other filters would be useful to you in either targeting the dissemination of a micro-message or winnowing a rushing activity stream?

One other important question that arises as the number of potential micro-messaging filters increases is what should be the default setting for views of outgoing and incoming messages? Should short bits of information be sent to everyone and activity streams show all organizational activity by default, so as to increase ambient awareness? Perhaps a job title/role filter should be the default, in order to maximize the focus and productivity of individuals?

There is no single answer other than "it depends", because each organization is different. What matters is that the decision is taken (and not overlooked) with specific corporate objectives in mind and that individuals are given the means to easily and intuitively change the default target of their social communications and the pre-set lens through which they view those of others.

FINRA Affirms Regulation of User-Generated and Social Content

In a Regulatory Notice released earlier today, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) opined that brokerage firms and their registered representatives must retain records of all communications related to the broker-dealer’s business that are made through public blogs and social media sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

"Every firm that intends to communicate, or permit its associated persons to communicate, through social media sites must first ensure that it can retain records of those communications as required by Rules 17a-3 and 17a-4 under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and NASD Rule 3110. SEC and FINRA rules require that for record retention purposes, the content of the communication is determinative and a broker-dealer must retain those electronic communications that relate to its “business as such.”

Brokerage firms will now be required to archive and make discoverable business-specific content produced by their employees. They will also have to establish and maintain procedures that ensure a supervisor has either approved an interactive electronic communication before it is posted, or that a "risk-based" method of post-communication review exists and is exercised.

"While prior principal approval is not required under Rule 2210 for interactive electronic forums, firms must supervise these interactive electronic communications under NASD Rule 3010 in a manner reasonably designed to ensure that they do not violate the content requirements of FINRA’s communications rules.

Firms may adopt supervisory procedures similar to those outlined for electronic correspondence in Regulatory Notice 07-59 (FINRA Guidance Regarding Review and Supervision of Electronic Communications). As set forth in that Notice, firms may employ risk-based principles to determine the extent to which the review of incoming, outgoing and internal electronic communications is necessary for the proper supervision of their business. "

In addition, FINRA’s guidance states that all organizations under its purview must establish and communicate social media usage guidelines for their employees, and that those individuals must also receive employer-provided training on those guidelines.

"Firms must adopt policies and procedures reasonably designed to ensure that their associated persons who participate in social media sites for business purposes are appropriately supervised, have the necessary training and background to engage in such activities, and do not present undue risks to investors. Firms must have a general policy prohibiting any associated person from engaging in business communications in a social media site that is not subject to the firm’s supervision. Firms also must require that only those associated persons who have received appropriate training on the firm’s policies and procedures regarding interactive electronic communications may engage in such communications."

FINRA’s guidance marks the beginning of a new era for financial services companies and their use of external social media. However, the Financial Services sector is not the only one that will be subject to regulation of communications made via blogs and other types of social software. An IBM Senior Product Manager related last week at Lotusphere that IBM customers in the Healthcare and Utilities industries were also beginning to ask about the management of user-generated and social content.

If your organization is currently required to comply with regulations pertaining to the use of email and instant messaging for business communication, expect to see similar requirements placed on your management of external blog and social media site posts in the near future. At some point, it is likely that these regulations will also be applied to internal communications conducted via enterprise social software.

Is your organization ready for this new era? Gilbane Group’s seasoned advisors can help you prepare to manage user-generated and social content. Contact us today to learn how.

Conference topics for Gilbane San Francisco – Updated

Though we are still catching our breath from the Boston conference and the holidays, it is time to get moving on our annual San Francisco conference, which the 3rd week of May this year. The conference site is http://gilbanesf.com, is still mostly populated with 2009 information, but will be updated this week with a new site design and current information. Content from the 2009 event is at http://gilbanesf.com/09/ will be moved to a subdirectory and continue to be available.

In the meantime, The description below is taken from the draft site and will give you a good idea of the topics we’ll be covering. If you are interested in submitting a speaking proposal, remember that the deadline for submissions is January 18. See https://gilbane.com/speaker_guidelines.html.

Oh, and the Twitter handle is http://twitter.com/gilbanesf and the hashtag we’ll be using is #gilbanesf.

Gilbane San Francisco 2010

Web, content, and collaboration technology have reached a new level of maturity. This is true in terms of technology, but more importantly, it is true in terms of what businesses expect to be able to do with these tools. Web and enterprise content management permeate every aspect of an organization. Public facing internet sites are the front door to an organizations’ products and services, and where customers, partners and investors engage with the corporate brand and develop perceptions. Internal websites, whether in the form of intranets, blogs, wikis, or portals, provide knowledge workers increasingly efficient ways to collaborate and share knowledge. Customer and internal-facing applications share requirements that call for a number of enterprise content, publishing and infrastructure technologies, such as multi-lingual, social media, search, and integration software.

Gilbane San Francisco is organized into four tracks so that whether you are responsible for marketing, IT, a business unit, or an internal function, you will be able to easily navigate among the conference sessions. If you are responsible for customer-facing business activities start with the Customers & Engagement track, and then add appropriate sessions from the Content Technology & Content Publishing tracks. If your role is focused on internal collaboration, knowledge sharing or support activities, start with the Colleagues & Collaboration track, and supplement it with sessions from the technology & publishing tracks.

Track 1: Customers & Engagement
Corporate websites are now the most important public face of an organization, and the best way to grow, and communicate with, a broader customer base. Successful sales and marketing now requires Web sites that can reach a global audience, a mobile audience, and an audience familiar with social media and used to richer media. Websites also need to be findable, accessible, engaging, real-time & responsive, and have accurate and timely information that is synchronized with other channels. This is a tall order, but it is what your customers expect, and what companies are building.

Attendees:
For anyone responsible for marketing, business, or technical aspects of public facing websites, including, sales & marketing, digital marketing, brand managers, business units with P&L, Web strategists, IT, Web managers, business managers, digital media, e-commerce managers, content managers and strategists.

Topics:
Web content management, analytics, web design and UI, social media, rich media, global reach, multilingual practices, personalization, information architecture, designing for mobile, e-commerce, search engine optimization.

Track 2: Colleagues & Collaboration
Well-designed internal websites for collaboration on projects or operational activities, whether in the form of intranets, portals, blogs, or wikis are critical for supporting modern corporate missions. Social software has reignited interest in enhancing employee collaboration and knowledge sharing, and the right use of social software, alone or combined with an intranet or portal, is a competitive requirement. Employees already use it, and expect it, and can be much more productive with it. While some business use-cases are obvious, companies are a long way from having enough experience to know how best to integrate and deploy different types of social software to best support business requirements.

Attendees:
For anyone responsible for internal websites, portals, collaboration & knowledge sharing activities, including, knowledge managers, product managers, project managers, IT, and content managers.

Topics:
Collaborative authoring, intranets, knowledge management, search, wikis, micro-blogging and blogging, managing social and user-generated content, integrating social software into enterprise applications, SharePoint, portals, social software platforms, enterprise 2.0 strategies.

Track 3: Content Technology
There are many different technologies involved in building web and enterprise content applications. Some of them are simple and some complex, some are open source and some are commercial, some are available via license, some as a service, some are ready for prime time, some aren’t, and some might be ready, but are controversial.

Attendees:
For those who are either responsible for technology decisions, or those who need to keep up-to-speed with the latest technology for enterprise content applications of all types, including, central IT, departmental IT, strategists, and managers who need to know what’s possible and what’s coming.

Topics:
Multi-lingual technologies and applications, XML, standards, integration, content migration, mobile, search, open source, SaaS, semantic technologies, social software, SharePoint, XBRL, and relevant consumer technologies.

Track 4: Content Publishing
Multi-channel publishing has been a goal of many organizations for years, but it is now more important than ever – and not that much easier. In addition to more traditional print and web channels, smartphones, e-book readers, other mobile devices, and even “in-product” displays need to be considered. In addition to more channels, there are more media types to manage. Dynamic publishing is a key business requirement for both single and multi-channel delivery.

Attendees:
For those responsible for content creation, management, and multi-channel/multi-lingual publishing, IT and others that need to learn about publishing technology because of new multi-channel demands, including corporate or commercial publishers, content managers, digital asset managers, documentation managers, and information architects.

Topics:
Multi-channel publishing, multi-lingual publishing, e-books, tablets, mobile, digital rights, digital asset management, documentation, structured content, XML, dynamic publishing, and publishing business models.

eTouch Releases SamePage 4.2

eTouch SamePage has announced it has released SamePage version 4.2 with a customizable dashboard, stronger e-mail integration and advanced plug-in features in order to meet the needs of a remote and social-media friendly workforce. SamePage version 4.2 includes a number of new features important to remote and knowledge management workers including: advanced email integration that enables remote workers to more easily ‘wikify’ content from any smartphone; dynamic portal-like dashboard with drag and drop widgets that can be personalized at company and individual levels, eliminating the need for a separate intranet portal product; a wide selection of new plug-ins that can be customized for each enterprise, including tag cloud and project member plug-ins, among others; more detailed analytics, usage and content reports for administrators; ratings on Blog posts and more blog analytics; Support for Microsoft Office 2007; WYSIWYG enhancements to further simplify the user interface; and increased privileges for the system user or administrator to manage pages and projects. http://www.etouch.net/

The Nexus of Defined Business Process and Ad Hoc Collaboration

My friend Sameer Patel wrote and published a very good blog post last week that examined the relationship of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and enterprise social software. His analysis was astute (as usual) and noted that there was a role for both types of software, because they offer different value propositions. ECM enables controlled, repeatable content publication processes, whereas social software empowers rapid, collaborative creation and sharing of content. There is a place for both in large enterprises. Sameer’s suggestion was that social software be used for authoring, sharing, and collecting feedback on draft documents or content chunks before they are formally published and widely distributed. ECM systems may then be used to publish the final, vetted content and manage it throughout the content lifecycle.

The relationship between ECM and enterprise social software is just one example of an important, higher level interconnection — the nexus of defined business processes and ad hoc collaboration. This is the sweet spot at which organizations will balance employees’ requirements for speed and flexibility with the corporation’s need for control. The following (hypothetical, but typical) scenario in a large company demonstrates this intersection.

A customer account manager receives a phone call from a client asking why an issue with their service has not been resolved and when it will be. The account manager can query a workflow-supported issue management system and learn that the issue has been assigned to a specific employee and that it has been assigned an "in-progress" status. However, that system does not tell the account manager what she really needs to know! She must turn to a communication system to ask the other employee what is the hold up and the current estimate of time to issue resolution. She emails, IM’s, phones, or maybe even tweets the employee to whom the issue has been assigned to get an answer she can give the customer.

The employee to whom the issue was assigned most likely cannot use the issue management system to actually resolve the problem either. He uses a collaboration system to find documented information and individuals possessing knowledge that can help him deal with the issue. Once the problem is solved, the employee submits the solution to the issue management system, which feeds it to a someone who can make the necessary changes for the customer and inform the customer account manager that the issue is resolved. Case closed.

The above scenario illustrates the need for both process and people-centric systems. Without the cludgy, structured issue management system, the customer account manager would not have known to whom the issue had been assigned and, thus, been unable to contact a specific individual to get better information about its status. Furthermore, middle managers would not have been able to assign the case in a systematic way or see the big picture of all cases being worked on for customers without the workflow and reporting capabilities of the issue management system. On the other hand, ad hoc communication and collaboration systems were the tools that drove actual results. The account manager and the employee to whom the issue was assigned would not have been able to do their work if the issue management system was their only support tool. They needed less structured tools that allowed them to communicate and collaborate quickly to actually resolve the issue.

We should not expect that organizations striving to become more people-centric will abandon their ECM, ERP, or other systems that guide or enforce key business processes. There is a need for both legacy management and Enterprise 2.0 philosophies and systems in large enterprises operating in matrixed organizational structures. Each approach can provide value; one quantifiable in hard currency and the other in terms of softer, but important, business metrics (more on this in a future post.) The enterprises that identify, and operate at, the intersection of structured process and ad hoc communication/collaboration will gain short-term competitive advantage.

Assessment of My Enterprise 2.0 Conference Predictions

The Enterprise 2.0 Conference was held last week, in Boston. Prior to the event, I made some predictions as to expected learnings and outcomes from the conference. Today, I will revisit those prognostications to determine their accuracy.

Here is the original list of things that I anticipated encountering at the E2.0 Conference this year. Each prediction is followed by an assessment of the statement’s validity and some explanatory comments:

A few more case studies from end user organizations, but not enough to indicate that we’ve reached a tipping point in the E2.0 market: TRUE The number of case studies presented this year seemed to be roughly the same as last year. That is to say very few. The best one that I heard was a presentation by Lockheed Martin employees, which was an update to their case study presented last year at E2.0 Conference. It was great to hear the progress they had made and the issues with which they have dealt in the last year. However, I was genuinely disappointed by the absence of fresh case studies. Indeed, the lack of new case studies was the number one conference content complaint heard during the event wrap-up session (indeed, throughout the show.)

An acknowledgement that there are still not enough data and case studies to allow us to identify best practices in social software usage:
TRUE This turned out to be a huge understatement. There are not even enough publicly available data points and stories to allow us to form a sense of where the Enterprise 2.0 market is in terms of adoption, much less of best practices or common success factors. At this rate, it will be another 12-18 months before we can begin to understand which companies have deployed social software and at what scale, as well as what works and what doesn’t when implementing an E2.0 project.

That entrenched organizational culture remains the single largest obstacle to businesses trying to deploy social software:
TRUE The “C” word popped up in every session I attended and usually was heard multiple times per session. The question debated at the conference was a chicken and egg one; must culture change to support adoption of E2.0 practices and tools, or is E2.0 a transformational force capable of reshaping an organization’s culture and behaviors? That question remains unanswered, in part because of the lack of E2.0 case studies. However, historical data and observations on enterprise adoption of previous generations of collaboration technologies tell us that leadership must be willing to change the fundamental values, attitudes, and behaviors of the organization in order to improve collaboration. Grassroots evangelism for, and usage of, collaboration tools is not powerful enough to drive lasting cultural change in the face of resistance from leadership.

A nascent understanding that E2.0 projects must touch specific, cross-organizational business processes in order to drive transformation and provide benefit: TRUE I was very pleased to hear users, vendors, and analysts/consultants singing from the same page in this regard. Everyone I heard at E2.0 Conference understood that it would be difficult to realize and demonstrate benefits from E2.0 initiatives that did not address specific business processes spanning organizational boundaries. The E2.0 movement seems to have moved from speaking about benefits in general, soft terms to groping for how to demonstrate process-based ROI (more on this below.)

A growing realization that the E2.0 adoption will not accelerate meaningfully until more conservative organizations hear and see how other companies have achieved specific business results and return on investment: TRUE Conference attendees were confounded by two related issues; the lack of demonstrative case studies and the absence of a clear, currency-based business case for E2.0 initiatives. More conservative organizations won’t move ahead with E2.0 initiatives until they can see at least one of those things and some will demand both. People from end user organizations attending the conference admitted as much both publicly and privately.

A new awareness that social software and its implementations must include user, process, and tool analytics if we are ever to build a ROI case that is stated in terms of currency, not anecdotes:
TRUE Interestingly, the E2.0 software vendors are leading this charge, not their customers. A surprising number of vendors were talking about analytics in meetings and briefings I had at the conference, and many were announcing the current or future addition of those capabilities to their offerings at the show. E2.0 software is increasingly enabling organizations to measure the kinds of metrics that will allow them to build a currency-based business case following a pilot implementation. Even better, some vendors are mining their products’ new analytics capabilities to recommend relevant people and content to system users!

That more software vendors that have entered the E2.0 market, attracted by the size of the business opportunity around social software:
TRUE I haven’t counted and compared the number of vendors in Gartner’s E2.0 Magic Quadrant from last year and this year, but I can definitely tell you that the number of vendors in this market has increased. This could be the subject of another blog post, and I won’t go into great detail here. There are a few new entrants that are offering E2.0 suites or platforms (most notably Open Text). Additionally, the entrenchment of SharePoint 2007 in the market has spawned many small startup vendors adding social capabilities on top of SharePoint. The proliferation of these vendors underscores the current state of dissatisfaction with SharePoint 2007 as an E2.0 platform. It also foreshadows a large market shakeout that will likely occur when Microsoft releases SharePoint 2010.

A poor opinion of, and potentially some backlash against, Microsoft SharePoint as the foundation of an E2.0 solution; this will be tempered, however, by a belief that SharePoint 2010 will be a game changer and upset the current dynamics of the social software market:
TRUE Yes, there are many SharePoint critics out there and they tend to be more vocal than those who are satisfied with their SharePoint deployment. The anti-SharePoint t-shirts given away by Box.net at the conference sum up the attitude very well. Yet most critics seem to realize that the next release of SharePoint will address many of their current complaints. I heard more than one E2.0 conference attendee speculate on the ability of the startup vendors in the SharePoint ecosystem to survive when Microsoft releases SharePoint 2010.

An absence of understanding that social interactions are content-centric and, therefore, that user generated content must be managed in much the same manner as more formal documents:
FALSE Happily, I was wrong on this one. There was much discussion about user generated content at the conference, as well as talk about potential compliance issues surrounding E2.0 software. It seems that awareness of the importance of content in social systems is quite high among vendors and early adopters. The next step will be to translate that awareness into content management features and processes. That work has begun and should accelerate, judging by what I heard and
saw at the conference.

So there are the results. I batted .888! If you attended the conference, I’d appreciate your comments on my perceptions of the event. Did you hear and see the same things, or did the intense after hours drinking and major sleep deficit of last week cause me to hallucinate? I’d appreciate your comments even if you weren’t able to be at E2.0 Conference, but have been following the market with some regularity.

I hope this post has given you a decent sense of the current state of the Enterprise 2.0 market. More importantly, I believe that this information can help us focus our efforts to drive the E2.0 movement forward in the coming year. We can and should work together to best these challenges and make the most of these opportunities.

Oracle Announces Enhanced Oracle Beehive

Oracle announced enhancements to Oracle Beehive. Oracle Beehive delivers a range of collaboration tools including email, calendar, team workspaces, conferencing, and instant messaging on a single platform. With the enhancements, organizations using Oracle Beehive can establish more efficient communication channels to enable easier collaboration and improve individual and team productivity. Updates to the latest release of Oracle Beehive include‚ Web-based Team Collaboration – team workspace software that builds on an enterprise-specific security and compliance framework offers an environment for teams to manage activities and information; it includes wikis, team calendaring, RSS support, contextual search, and advanced file sharing and can be centrally provisioned or set up by the team with no portal requirement; Enhanced Web and Voice Conferencing – enables organizations to apply security and content management policies to conferencing; expanded feature set includes on-demand conference recording and retrieval; Expanded Integration with Desktop Productivity Tools – helps eliminate training costs and user adoption challenges by allowing users to take advantage of familiar software. Oracle Beehive can be deployed on premise or through Oracle On Demand. www.oracle.com