business, trust and the death of email

The post a matter of trust in business sparked a few conversations which is awesome, one of the longer discussions was worth turning into a post to continue the conversation online and keep a record of it;

As email slides out of favor it’s being replaced by social computing, generation Y are starting to enter the workplace and we’re faced with a change in our communication behavior. We’re seeing email replaced by IM and microblogging, documents being created collaboratively on wiki’s or gen Y’s equivalent Google Wave. Right now internal tools are often poor relations of newer cloud based tools that gen Y are already using. As we just mentioned, the wiki is a prime example compare it to Google’s Wave product; one does collaborative editing by a sinlge user, one at a time and the other multi-user collaborative editing in real time, using a wiki after Google wave is like going back from the MP3 to the CD.

As result, social computing will break down the barriers between corporations and it’s customers, discussions will take place on blogs, Twitter, in Facebook, in the open which will and should involve collaboration from people outside the organisation.

Lot’s of big brands have engaged in social computing for their benefit, but in order to maintain the relationship, it’s important that the customers trusts the organisation. The example in the blog post, the pizza company, although not the greatest example there’s plenty of better ones, deomostrates that taking part in the conversation with customers can provide a clear benefit to both.

Therefore it must be transparent communication, no hidden agendas, as every fact can be checked quicker and in more depth that the corporate world can imagine. This conversation, this dialogue based on trust will turn customers into advocates for your products, look how many videos there are for products such as the iPhone on YouTube, most if not all are created by people who have a passion for the company and it’s products, not by the manufacturer.

How does this fit if you’re a services business like Orange Business and not a product based business you may ask, as a suggestion, I’d start be exposing the product guys to customers and encourage the conversation so that the new products are anticipated and eagerly awaited and are exactly what customers want and to do all this requires …trust.

photo from Benjamin Ellis

also posted here on Orange Business Live

a matter of trust in business

A keynote from Peter Sondergaard SVP Gatner, ended with the phrase “may the computing force be with you” but spent a great deal of time covering the topic of social computing and trust. In terms of social computing and it’s clearly ‘much more than just adding a Facebook logo to your web site’ was a key message from Gartner, a hugely respected thermometer of trends, was “do not put in place a policy or technology to inhibit this”, those that do will be big losers.

The example of a major Norwegian packaged food manufacturer was used and a little know fact that 18% of Norwegians eat pizza on Christmas eve. The IT department had engaged with its consumers and was talking parts in conversations with them. As a result of engaging with it’s customers a signal was picked up that ‘paprika’ was not liked in many of its pizza products. This signal identified through trusting the IT department to engage led to the development of a product that excludes ‘paprika’. This paprika-less pizza has gone on to be the biggest selling product in the range.

The trend of social computing was the number one trend highlighted by Gartner, the ability to engage the consumer and allow them to contribute to the business is not to be ignored. Technology can enable trust to be managed, revisit behaviors as the world is changing

also posted on the Orange Business Live Blog

#orangelive10

ignore these technologies at your peril

The keynote of Gartner’s SVP, Peter Sondergaard, highlighted how the priorities of business have changed within a short period of time. Gartner identified that in 2009 the top 3 technologies were Virtualisation, Business Inteligence and cloud computing. Looking at the top three in 2010 brings a change in those technologies which are priorities to; Cloud Computing, Advanced Analytics and Client computing.

The first technology not to avoid is Cloud computing, a major technology trend is seeing huge investment, with Gartner expecting that within just a few short years, up to 20% of businesses will own no IT assets, highlighting a major shift to the cloud and managed services. Virtulisation of the client’s environment is becoming a route to cloud computing, so in affect is stepping stone to cloud computing.

Avoiding this second technology is a bad idea, Advanced Analytics. This is allowing businesses to realise that potentially the Meta data they have may be the most valuable asset. Gartner indicates that the current crops of business analysis models are outmoded and need replacing, as unstructured data becomes key data. The credit card business were highlighted as how the meta data they have is allowing them to make business decisions and subsequently offers to consumers not based on spend amounts, but how credit limits can be adjust by life style changes such as divorce even.

The third technology not to avoid is client computing; Peter Sondergaard challenged perceptions with the statement that by 2014 80% of users in western world and affluent users in emerging markets will have a smart phone. This shift to client computing requires businesses to change how they interact not only with it’s consumers but also its employees as they demand access to application to interact with the business via their Smartphone.

also posted on Orange Business Live Blog

Will the iPad be used by Corporations?

We’re just days away now from people getting their hands on Apple’s latest product the iPad, a tablet device or appliance about twice the size of the iPhone. There is speculation that it’ll sell 6M units in 2010 which is a pretty huge number for what essential is a locked down appliance.

So where will all those devices go? Most if not all will go to the same people that (religiously) buy Mac books and Mac book air’s. I guess that most people will buy them to consume media whilst traveling or just sitting on the couch for instance watching episodes of Lost bought from iTunes, but who else could buy them?

We’ve seen the iPhone creep into the Enterprise at the expense of Blackberry (which ironically is creeping into youth culture with it’s built in IM app). How many emails do you now seen in your outlook inbox with the words ‘sent from an iphone’ at the bottom, I see a growing number. There is a view that the iPhone is a consumer device more so than a business supplied corporate handset, but due to it’s ease of use and the size and scope of the  “there’s an app for that” store, we’re seeing it creep in as the power users phone of choice.

The ability of the iPhone to encroach into the enterprise shows that the iPad may well enter markets that it’s not initially aimed at too. Take the Text book market, text books are expensive (or they were when I last bought one!) and they are heavy to carry around. We’re already seeing text book publishers’ work with software companies to bring their content to the iPad. So could we see School, Universities, and educational establishments in general take up the iPad as the device of choice to provide the educational content?

I’m not sure if iPad will creep into the corporate environment as a lot of content creation goes on and at the moment the keyboard is king. However, I can see Apple selling a lot more than 6m iPads over the next few years into a whole host of new markets as it’s an easy to use/manage/upgrade wireless appliance with what looks like a great screen. What does this mean for the Telco’s; it means yet more networked devices requiring a pervasive network and ubiquitous computing creeps ever nearer.

Will Yammer follow hot on the heels of Twitter?

Use of Twitter, the micro-blogging web-site that allows people to post 140-character updates, has exploded in the UK over the last few months; traffic to the site increased by a staggering 974% over the past year according to Techcrunch UK. The site itself now ranks as the 291st most visited site in the UK, and was described by the Telegraph as the best known microblogging site:

Twitter is probably the best known of all the “microblogging” sites, and it has been incredibly popular with geeks and the technorati since it launched in 2006. People post messages to the site, either via the web or by text message, and these “tweets” are forwarded on to their network of friends and contacts

Twitter’s seminal moment in the UK was on the Jonathan Ross show on the 23rd of January . This show marked the return of Jonathan Ross following an “enforced holiday”. Both the presenter and his guest Stephen Fry– a self-confessed geek and blogger- are avid users of Twitter, and on the show they discussed how the site works and how they use it.

Following this programme, numbers of @Stephenfry followers have rocketed. Stephen Fry now has over 160,000 people following him on Twitter, which means that he has overtaken many of the superstars of the tech world such as Kevin Rose (you see those Digg buttons to the right? He’s the guy behind them) and is closing in on the number one, Barack Obama.

This prime-time moment brought Twitter to the attention of the general public, and it hasn’t looked back since. Interest in @stephenfry reached a new level as a result of the “#frylift incident”. Stephen got stuck in a lift  for about an hour and twittered his followers with updates. He even used his iPhone to Twitpic a photo of his predicament (viewed 77,000 times) .

This incident was featured in several  major news papers, including The Guardian blog and even the Daily Mail

So, as Twitter grows massive in the UK and elsewhere, the next question is – will micro-blogging take off within the enterprise? Recent Techcrunch50 winner Yammer provides a micro-blogging platform to enterprises, free of charge and with some level of confidentiality. Yammer is pretty much like Twitter, but is designed for closed groups or companies. Orange has a group on Yammer with a growing number of active users. Jason Calacanis, CEO of Mahalo, is quoted as describing Yammer as “The best communication and productivity tool available in the market today.” on the front of the Yammer home page.

My own view here is that most people aren’t inclined to blog because they find it too difficult. Micro-blogging, on the other hand, is so simple that there’s almost no excuse not to. Its adoption by so many time-poor people is, in my opinion, an indication of how easy it is to interact with your customers or your peers.

Twitter is already being used by several big organisations and brands to talk to their users. For example,Scott Monty from Ford and Connor Maples from Orange. Lance Armstrong (not an enterprise but very much a brand – Livestrong) is twittering his training in the run up to his forthcoming Tour de France title challenge, in an attempt to be transparent and interact with his fans.

Twitter is increasingly being accepted as a worthwhile tool which allows you to interact with your community. Does micro-blogging have a place as a collaboration tool specifically within the enterprise, and will this help Yammer follow hot on the heels of Twitter?

also posted here

Facebook in the Enterprise

Once upon a time, employees had restricted access to the phone. When email arrived, users faced further restrictions- often, you could only email someone in the same company. Many organisations currently place restrictions upon access to Facebook – why?

Our methods of communication are becoming quicker all the time. We started with the letter, moved onto fax, then email, and we are now moving towards IM (and in some extreme cases microblogging applications such as Twitter). Even our news consumption is becoming faster and less centralised through the use of these tools, as we snub news sources such as BBC and CNN in favour of decentralised citizen journalists. (For example, the Hudson plane crash was ‘Twittered’ and pictures were also posted on Twitpic).

As we demand ever faster interaction, traditional methods of communication are used much less frequently- when was the last time you faxed anything, for instance? To some extent even email falls by the wayside in this era of instant messaging. Facebook takes advantage of the need for rapid communication and provides a platform to facilitate this. It allows IM, profiles and groups, along with systems which can invite people to take part in activities, share documents (including pictures) and even host conference calls for free.

I can see huge value in an enterprise tool that allows the employees to build a profile of their skills and interests, and update it with information about current projects. This tool could provide disparate employees with a platform to share pictures and documents and facilitate the formation of communities or teams working on particular tasks. It would allow people to easily find help from others with similar interests, or those who happen to be working on a similar (or worse, duplicate!) project.

Collaboration is one of the keys to success and the required tools are out there. So why aren’t organisations embracing Facebook – or at the least installing an internal version of it? Is it down to the same fears that restricted access to the telephone- perhaps a reluctance to trust employees to use their time and tools judiciously?

Also posted here: Orange Business Live