About cdangson

I am a collaboration strategist for tibbr. This is my personal blog.

Enterprise Social Governance: Who Owns What and Why

Blog post published to tibbr blog.  Slides on SlideShare.

For large companies, a well-defined governance framework is critical for scaling and sustaining social networking participation across the enterprise.  Adoption of social networking software remains an industry challenge and the general lack of leadership remains one of the largest culprits.  Social networking depends on a critical mass of participants (people) who are connected by a common purpose or interest that drives sharing behaviors.  The purpose of a social networking governance framework is to define this common purpose and set of goals to guide the entire business on how to leverage this new software for positive business outcomes.  Otherwise, people will use social networking as they see fit, mostly for their own individual or departmental gain, which will ultimately inhibit any social business initiative that provides any real, business value.

In the case of social networking, governance is less about control than it is about guidance and leadership.  A command and control approach to governance will backfire with social networking because it does not promote an environment built on trust.  A culture of trust is a critical success factor for social networking because it relies on employees taking initiative to volunteer information about themselves and their work which they will not do if they do not trust how this information will be used.  A clear understanding of rules of the game fosters trust.  That is why a governance framework that establishes a common interest for sharing information with coworkers is essential.

This presentation describes the best practice approach to enterprise social governance as well as the key roles and responsibilities to support a successful social software deployment.

It Takes Two: The Case for IT and Business Involvement in Social Software Rollout

This blog post was also published on the tibbr blog.

Social software has been around for many years, but we’re still at the beginning of social software use in business. In fact, Forrester Research reports only 12% adoption of enterprise social tools among nearly 5,000 US information workers surveyed last year. I argue this lack of adoption is due to not having the right stakeholders involved in the process of buying, planning and rolling out the software.

I am observing two dead-end scenarios with how social software is being rolled out to an organization. I see issues when business end users take the initiative to buy and use a new shiny social tool without the involvement and endorsement of IT.  In this scenario, IT does not trust the security of the software and ultimately shuts it down. I also see issues when IT is purchasing social software based on a laundry list of features without involving input from business end users.  In this situation, IT buys a software platform with so many bells and whistles that business users lose productivity in trying to figure out how to use it for work and ultimately leave it alone.

This is why it takes two – both IT and business working in tandem to plan and design a successful social software rollout.

Enterprise rollouts require IT involvement to ensure performance, data security, global access and interoperability with other legacy systems.  In this way, IT builds the foundation for social software solutions to scale across the business.  Because social software is only as good as it is used, enterprise rollouts also require input and involvement from business-end users. They paint the picture of how social software can be used to share knowledge and collaborate at work.  A critical piece of launching social software is to have a core team of people who are natural communicators and produce lots of content that will help seed conversation.  That’s why I like to engage with Corporate Communications and/or Marketing from the business side.

At tibbr, we’re big believers that social software has to fit within the natural flow of work. This requires an understanding of how business end users actually work (information best obtained by them directly) as well a method for interaction between social software and the other critical business systems workers use to get their work done.  Social software is both a business and technology decision and needs a champion from both IT and business to ensure successful implementation.

Building a Business Case for Customer Community

One of the biggest issues we see today with branded customer communities in the enterprise is the creation of digital islands failing to foster an engaged community.  We often find this issue is due to lack of careful planning that accurately illustrates the level of commitment required to build and sustain the community.  Many companies dive right into building a community before realizing just how time- and budget-consuming such an initiative will be.  Building a branded community ain’t cheap, ain’t easy and ain’t fast. Take the time to plan for success and build a detailed business case for community.

  1. Intimately know your customers:  Really get to know the customers the community will potentially serve.  Leverage in-depth interviews in addition to surveys.  What do customers need?  What problems do they have?  What communities do they belong to and how do they participate?  What do they like and not like about those communities?  Ask how a community sponsored by your company can enhance their experience.  Don’t overlook asking customers if they even want to participate in a community sponsored by your brand.  Ask customers their opinions about what role should the brand play in the community.  We have found customers typically expect the brand to play an active role – it’s a matter of how active.  Is there an interest a large group of your customers share that can be leveraged as the foundation for bringing together a community?  Conduct a conversation audit to know what consumers are saying about your brand online.  Leverage this listening data to anticipate the types of conversations that will occur in your community
  2. Define the target audience:  Based on customer research, which customers will benefit from community the most?  Will the community serve different types of customers?  Are certain customers the focus of key business objectives?  Map this out on a whiteboard to understand all the options and determine where to focus the community.  Once the target audience is defined, figure out how to best reach this audience and the type of community it prefers.
  3. Connect community to specific and timely business objectives:  This seems like a no-brainer.  Still, so many businesses are blinded by ‘all of our competitors have a community.’  The community is mistaken as the end when it is really the means to an end.  What are business objectives and what type of customers are the focus?
  4. Review competitive communities:  Determine what communities already exist that target a similar audience and solve for a similar problem.  Join these communities if possible to assess their strengths and weaknesses.  Determine how your community will differentiate.
  5. Build to solve both a customer and brand problem:  Branded communities are the bridge between customers and organizations.  Communities have to serve the needs of both in order to survive.  What are the unmet needs of customers?  What are the biggest challenges for the business?  Where do customer issues and businesses challenges intersect?  What problems can a community realistically solve for?  What processes need to be in place to support the community is solving these problems?  For example, a community to gather customer feedback on products and services without the feedback loop and processes to support the business in acting on this feedback will turn into a branded community of haters.
  6. Design for desired behaviors: Many companies make the mistake of launching a community out-of-box before thinking through the desired customer behaviors the platform features need to support in order to achieve business objectives.  A good exercise I recently conducted with a brand is to outline in detail the required community features and functionality based on customer preferences and the online behaviors we wanted to see exhibited in the community.  For example, if you want the community to persuade customers to buy more product, how will the platform encourage and enable this behavior?  If you want the community to promote word of mouth, how will the platform support sharing within and outside of the community?  How will these sharing behaviors be tracked?  Launching a community with all the bells and whistles without a plan for how the features and functionality should be used is a recipe for failure.  Customers will not use the tools without guidance for what to do and what’s in it for them.
  7. Develop a measurement plan:  What are key performance indicators for the community?  What are the community health metrics?  How will these measures prove achievement of business objectives?  Are there dependencies on other groups and websites for measuring success?  For example, how will you integrate web analytics to know where community members go when they leave the site?   How often will you analyze and report on these metrics?  Will the community reporting be incorporated into a larger customer analytics dashboard?
  8. Create a content plan:  Community is about its members, but great content is what it takes to attract them and keep them coming back.  Creating engaging content can be the biggest challenge for brands.  This is mainly because companies put the community manager in charge of creating content.  Community content creation should not be taken lightly.  It’s a huge task to constantly create new content for a community and get it approved by Compliance – one best assigned to a person or team that already specializes in content creation.  (Tip: Content creation can be outsourced.)  The content plan needs to define the purpose, tone of voice, style and formats for community content.
  9. Plan for promotion:  How will you promote the launch of the community and attract your target audience to the site?  Think through all possible channels, both on and offline, to socialize the existence of the community.
  10. Sell the community internally to garner support:  Customer communities require the support of the entire organization.  No one can predict exactly what a customer will say or do here.  It’s safe to say customers will post a complaint or ask for help – issues that the community manager cannot and should not handle alone.  It’s best to gain buy-in from other internal groups and educate them on the commitment of time needed to support the community before it launches.  A major component to selling the community internally is learning to speak the language of each external group approached to support initiative.  The community sponsor should translate how the community will help achieve the goals of other departments. We recommend enterprises create a community task force that includes a representative from Marketing, PR, Research, Analytics, Content/Production, Customer Service, Legal, Compliance, IT, and even from Agencies or Consultancies involved in customer initiatives.  (Tip: Meet with Legal as soon as possible because this is where most of the community project delays occur.)
  11. Determine the platform provider:  Picking the platform provider to host the community should be one of the last things you do in the planning process.  While most of the providers appear to support similar features and functionality on paper, how they support these features and functionality is what differentiates them.  Will you consider an open source solution or use a full-service, third-party provider? Do certain providers have more experience serving clients in your vertical industry?  Do certain vendors have a culture and style you prefer?  Do certain vendor platforms require more costly customization to meet your needs than others?
  12. Scope the business requirements:  The community sponsor needs to take the time to think through all of the business requirements to support the community.  Define the FTE staffing model, internal processes and workflows, professional services, and technology required to support the community at its various stages.
  13. Forecast the budget required to build and sustain community:  The budget includes technology platform costs (setup and ongoing maintenance), technology systems integrations costs (e.g., single sign-on, CRM integrations), FTE people and agency costs, content costs, marketing and advertising costs (to promote community), and more.  To understand the ROI of community, the sponsor needs to meticulously track exactly how much budget is allocated to support such an initiative.

Disclaimer: There are a million different details to planning for a customer community not included here.  This is a high-level outline for how we approach building a business case for a customer community.

Interesting comment to this post on Dachis Group Collaboratory here.

Rules of the Road

My husband and I are terrified of failure, but failing to pass our first attempt at the California written driving test is a funny story to share. We went to the DMV to register our cars and apply for a California license. We did not realize we would have to take a written driving test.

First, I must say it truly amazes me how unhelpful and confusing the DMV experience can be. Not surprising that behind every employee is a sign explaining the legal trouble a person faces for verbally abusing employees.

Luckily my husband and I passed our second attempt at the test. We recommend others try studying the handbook the night before. Our excuse is that we’ve been driving in Massachusetts for the past 8 years.

We spent the entire weekend after that experience discussing the exam. The test is tricky. For example, we knew which way to turn the front tires while parking on an incline. But which way do you turn the wheels on an incline when there isn’t a curb?

We laughed the hardest at this sign at Sawyer Camp Trail in Crystal Springs stating that the bicycle speed limit is enforced by radar. What? Really? And we thought this state was liberal. Apparently we have some new rules to learn.

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Moving out West

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Emerson said “life is a journey, not a destination.”  For me, the journey is sweeter when the destination is desired.  On Tuesday, April 26, 2011, my husband, dog and I embarked on a four day journey across the United States from Boston, Massachusetts, to San Mateo County, California.  I had wanted to relocate to the San Francisco Bay Area for the past three years – ever since I started to travel there for work as a social media analyst.  My first hike at Mount Tam with two of my closest friends left a permanent impression – living in San Francisco was all I could think about thereafter.  After three years, life worked out to grant my wish.
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I wanted to share our cross-country trip with family and friends.  I have added a few details about our journey in order to help those who embark on the same journey in the future.
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The trip is approximately 3120 miles.  We drove between 800 to 900 miles per day to complete the trip in a little under four days (3 overnight stays).  My husband and I took turns driving for 3-4 hour stints.  We agreed to drive from sunrise to sunset each day and lucked out with daylights saving time and time zone changes working in our favor to give us nearly 14 hours of light each day.
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We began our trip on Interstate 90 West, heading from Boston to Albany, then Buffalo to Cleveland.  Google Maps suggested we take 84 West and go through Connecticut and Pennsylvania, but we decided to follow our Garmin GPS system which suggested we stay on 90 West.  We had to pay tolls on I-90 (I-84 is toll-free), but we did not get stuck in heavy traffic until we hit Cleveland during rush hour.  In Indiana, we took I-80 West – the road that would take us the rest of the way to California.  There were long stretches of highway under construction and lots of highway patrol officers writing tickets to speeders.
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When the sun set, we stopped for the day in Indiana.  I didn’t take many pictures because the scenery was familiar to us.  We were very fortunate to be avoiding the severe weather to our south by taking this northern route.
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Our second day we drove the Oregon Trail through Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska.  This is where we encountered the large, white windmills. The golden rolling hills of Iowa prompted my husband to comment on the ‘amber waves of grain.’ The imagery combined with the familiar phrase led me to busting out America the Beautiful.  I rarely sing, so this must have been a real treat for my husband and dog.
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We stopped at a Holiday Inn Express in Lexington, Nebraska.  We had been staying at the Holiday Inn Express since they allow dogs ($15-$30 pet fee depending on location).  We arrived at 7pm CST – just in time for a complimentary glass of beer and wine.  This was the nicest hotel we stayed in during the trip (pictures of our room in the slideshow above).  There was a 24-hour gym and a pool.  There was a Walmart at the exit if guests needed to pick anything up.  If you stay here, be prepared for the stench of manuer that generally hangs in the air from nearby cattle ranches.
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The third day of our trip was incredibly scenic driving through Wyoming, Utah and Nevada.  This is where I started to take lots of pictures.   The Great Plains of Wyoming were vast and open.  You could see for miles and miles.  It was like looking out over the ocean, except it was land.  The horizon was shaped by towering mountains to the north and south.  I’m pretty sure the mountain range to our south was the Colorado Rockies.  Wyoming is where we began the gradual climb, reaching more than 8,000 feet above sea level at Sherman Hill Summit between Cheyenne and Laramie.  This is the highest point west of the Mississippi River.  This was also our first encounter with snow.  I was driving and my husband was sleeping, so we did not get any pictures of this part of our trip.
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Northern Utah was beautiful with its dramatic landscape.  We quickly encountered mountains here.  Our pass through Mountain Dell was a surprise.  I had stopped at the Salt Lake City International Airport a handful of times for a layover.  I saw Oquirrh Mountains in the distance from the airport surrounded by a valley, so I assumed I-80 West would go through the valley, not the mountains.  My husband who has a fear of heights did not particularly like driving through the mountains in Utah.  We saw a truck that had completely overturned on the way down one of the mountains.  We saw snow in Utah as well.  This was not a welcome sign since we thought we had left the snow behind in New England.
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The western part of Utah was flat and offered view of the salt flats after we passed the Great Salt Lake.  We immediately encountered casinos when we crossed the Nevada border.  We stopped for the night at EconoLodge in Elko, Nevada.  This was the worst hotel we stayed at during our trip, but it was one of the few in the area that would allow dogs.
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We woke up in disbelief to snow in Nevada.  It had snowed 1-2 inches overnight and the roads were barely plowed at 7am.  This was the scariest part of the trip because we had to climb mountains in snow.  Highway patrol officers were forcing truckers to stop and apply chains to their wheels.  We lost some time driving slow in snow, but we made up for it once we hit a long stretch of flat, dry highway close to the Nevada state border.
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California presented us with one more mountain to climb in Truckee near Lake Tahoe.  In Sacramento we took I-5 south to pick up my husband’s car from Dependable Auto Shippers in Livermore (we had shipped his car two weeks in advance).  We arrived to our new home Friday, April 29th at 4:30pm PST.  Our POD was already there.  We used United Mayflower Labor Services to move our furniture.  We had a great experience with all three moving services.
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We are excited to continue our life journey out west.  Let us know if you are in the area.

Designing for Decisions in Social Business

“What separates a good design from a bad design are the decisions that the designer made.” Jared M. Spool, Anatomy of a Design Decision.

During his SXSW Interactive presentation, Jared Spool entertained with audience with classic examples of web design fail. The audience enjoyed a good laugh in judging poor web design examples based on the final product. But after the ice breaker, Spool challenged the audience to think about all of the decisions a designer made that led to that final design style. The most insightful part of the presentation was Spool’s reference to his research at User Interface Engineering about what separates successful from unsuccessful companies as it relates to designing user experiences. Spool entered the research project with the hypothesis that successful companies would have the best design methodologies. He left the research project with vastly different findings. The results showed that the most successful companies actually lacked methodology while the ‘struggling’ companies were the ones trying to put methodologies in place.

Spool rationalized the results stating that methodology is a systematic, repeatable approach to a process based on following specific set of rules. He found that design rules did not work for designers. According to Spool, rule-based decisions prevent thinking. With rules, designers appeared to fall apart when faced with an exception. Designers of the successful companies were on the opposite side of the spectrum (shown below) in that they relied on tricks and techniques. In the case of successful companies, designers were left to their own devices to make informed decisions rather than follow hard and fast rules.

Source: Jared Spool, Anatomy of a Design Decision, SXSWi 2011 featured speaker presentation. Posted on Twitter by @kennethkunz from Yfrog.

Spool’s dissection of design decisions applies to what we refer to at Dachis Group as social business design. Successful companies trust and empower all employees to make informed decisions, not force them to follow strict, top-down methodology and dogma. Dave Gray’s The Connected Company blog post points to research supporting this concept.

“It’s not about design for control so much as design for emergence. You can’t control a complex system, but you can manage its growth, and there are a lot of things you can do that will position it for success…Design by connection is not a top-down activity so much as bottom-up. Complex systems just don’t work that way. In a complex system, you need to pay attention to small things and make little adjustments along the way.” Dave Gray, The Connected Company, 2011.

During our recent Social Business Summit, John Hagel explained how the problem businesses face in today’s information age is that current knowledge is diminishing in value at an accelerating pace. Knowledge workers need to constantly refresh knowledge stocks. Businesses can no longer rely on competing with one piece of proprietary knowledge. Businesses must participate in a larger marketplace of information exchange to maintain a competitive edge.

According to Hagel, the key to a successful business is “small moves, smartly done” that lead to a cascade of change. If we apply Spool’s teachings, we discover that each of these small moves are a result of many smaller decisions. The insight that emerges is the most seemingly unimportant decisions lead to small moves that combined over time have a huge impact (good or bad) on business. So I’ll make a leap in making the following statement:

What separates a successful business from an unsuccessful business is how it supports the millions of decisions its employees make.

There’s compelling evidence for companies to trust employees’ workarounds on established methodologies to solve business problems.  If you don’t trust your employees to make informed decisions, you need to look more closely at your hiring practices and training programs.  Trusting, supporting and empowering employees to make their own informed decisions is the most powerful way for the enterprise to scale operations and allow for the flexibility and innovation required to be competitive. Design for open business cultures, ones that are networked to support the sharing of employee expertise and learned techniques at scale.

Culture and Customer Service

My husband and I have a goal to travel overseas at least once per year.  Last year we had the opportunity to visit Barcelona. The Travel Channel had highlighted Spain as a culinary travel destination, so of course my husband being a big foodie wanted to go.  We were not disappointed.  We ate at Taller de Tapas, La Taverna del Clinic, and Ca l’Isidre.  What we found interesting during our trip was that even the 4-5 star restaurants seemed to take forever in bringing us the check.

At first, we joked that we were probably just inpatient Americans wanting to rush a meal.  We noticed how Catalans take their time to enjoy a cigarette with coffee after dinner.  My husband and I wondered if the waiter or waitress was waiting to see if we would smoke after dinner (we do not smoke).  After enjoying such wonderful dinners in Barcelona we felt awkward labeling the long delay for our check as poor customer service.  Was Barcelona a place not concerned with good customer service?

El compte, si us plau.

After conducting some research, I learned it is customary in Barcelona for diners to initiate the request for the check.  In fact, it is considered rude for the waiter or waitress to bring the check before diners ask for it.

“The customer is always right in Spain….The waiter will not bring the bill until he is asked to bring the bill by one of the diners.”

Source: TripAdvisor, Spain: Guide to Etiquette in Spain.

This was so interesting to me because I felt the opposite was true of my experience in American restaurants.  Hence, my disappointment with the waiter or waitress not promptly bringing our check.  Here in the U.S., waiters or waitresses anticipate when diners want the check and often initiate the conversation.  In Barcelona, the dining party is supposed to initiate the request.

Given my area of work, I think about how businesses are leveraging social technologies to scale customer service.  Learning from my experience in Barcelona, I am now more careful not to assume that good customer service interactions will be defined in other parts of the world the same way we define it in the U.S.