Tag Archives: Social Business

Employee Engagement – an Executive, Managerial and Individual Responsibility (Part Two)

In Part one of this series, we looked at the executive responsibilities the C-Suite has when undertaking the establishment of the right company culture for its employees. Shareholders are slowly but surely beginning to realize that leading others altruistically not only results in more productivity but also increases ROI — a Christian principle written in the Bible thousands of years ago.  When one considers that the industrial revolution took place more than 200 years ago, it’s about time for 21st century management, stuck in 20th century practices, to update its fundamental premise and adapt to the ubiquitous communicative technology our crowd-centric, knowledge-based society. 
 
Employee engagement isn’t a natural result that business leaders should automatically expect.  The C-Suite, and particularly shareholders, should stop here for a minute and earnestly think about what employee engagement means for their organization.  Again, employee engagement ought to be considered as the worker’s emotional “payback” on how he or she is being treated by the organization that employs him or her.   
In his article: How Shareholders Are Ruining American Business Justin Fox writes the following:
 
“One could attach many adjectives to the giant banks that tumbled down during the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008: reckless, greedy, hubristic, stupid. Here’s one that may come less readily to mind: shareholder-friendly. But that’s what they were. Several studies have found that the more shareholder-oriented a bank’s corporate governance and executive-pay arrangements were heading into the crisis, the more trouble the bank got into. A misplaced focus on pleasing shareholders, it seems, must be added to the roster of causes of the crash.”        
Let’s stress again to our 21st century shareholders and C-Suite, that Return on Employee Engagement (REE) or, mostly disengagement, is the emotional and intangible by-product of how the workforce honors or dishonors the company they are working for.  It is the resulting outcome of three basic business components:
 
1. People and their well-being as employees and family members while at work or away from work.
2. Products/Services’ sustainability, quality and benefits for all employees, users and consumers.
3. Profit, because every company needs to make money.
 
Profit should be the resulting outcome of employees’ positive engagement while manufacturing high quality products and/or services.  Pillars 1. and 2. should be the cornerstones that contribute to the success and overall health of a company’s culture and financial results.  Profit should be the end result of manufacturing extraordinary products or services by a super joyful workforce, motivated to go above the call of duty.
  
How can workforce, clients and suppliers thrive in a toxic environment when the basics of company culture are wrong? What will JP Morgan’s “emotional” and financial damages be after last November’s Twitter hashtag #AskJPM high-jacking?  Should JP Morgan start all over again?   
 
JPMorgan
 
Renaming Human Resources into Human Capital
 
Today, most businesses are still carrying the hierarchical woes of the “enlightenment” era and its resulting Industrial Revolution; a time when machines became the center of “human” manufacturing processes. Back then, the steam engine revolutionized the 19th century and brought in a “machine-centric” work ethic in the newly “industrialized” manufacturing environment.  Managers had to ratify the short processes that would be performed by uneducated workers pouring in from rural areas.  At that time, managers owned the knowledge of how machines operated. The plant worker had the sole purpose of implementing the manufacturing steps as quickly and efficiently as possible.  Workers were not hired for their brain capacity but solely expected to work the machines.  Henry Ford powerfully expressed it when he once said: “I pay my workers to bring their bodies to work and the bastards insist on bringing their minds.” 
 
Dragging our business ethics and infrastructures out of the 19th century footprint remains a challenge.  The practice of using people as “machines” is still present when one considers the modern euphemism of “human resources”. Humans are still relegated to the level of resources or machines. Their main purpose was, and still is, to speed up the manufacturing process while minimizing costs. The 19th century machine-centric manufacturing processes have barely changed today.  We continue to cling on to them while cleverly (or not so cleverly) relocating our manufacturing premises to international areas where “cheap labor” is still available.  
 
In the Huffington Post article “S&P 500 CEOs Make 354 Times More Than Their Average Workers”, dated April 15th 2013, it was reported that UnitedHealth Group CEO-to-employee pay ratio is 1,737:1 and Wal-Mart CEO-to-employee ratio is 717:1.  One wonders about the pay ratio when considering that Wal-Mart employees are hopelessly fighting for a minimum yearly salary of US$25,000. 
In the International Business Times article: “Wal-Mart Says ‘Save Money Live Better,’ But Workers Don’t Make Living Wage And Rely On State Benefits” Christopher Harres wrote: ”… a study from June found that Wal-Mart workers in Massachusetts are forced to use government benefits like food stamps and Medicaid to top up their average salary.  A similar report from California found that 44,000 employees rely on around $44 million worth of taxpayer money to get by. It’s thought that up to $1 billion is spent annually by states all across America to subsidize the lowest-paid Wal-Mart workers, according to ChangeWalmart, an advocacy group in support of Wal-Mart employees.”
 
The French Revolution was supposed to introduce: Liberté Egalité et Fraternité (Liberty, Equality and Fraternity) but what happened to this old adage when considering the ruthlessness of corporate shareholders?  How can Wal-Mart expect its employees to represent its culture (and by the way what is Wal-Mart’s culture?) when there is an obvious lack of respect, fairness and equity towards them?  How about Wal-Mart’s suppliers? Are these paid fairly or do they also have to apply for subsidies?  What is the resulting quality of the food the average US citizen has on his dinner plate?  Can truly nourishing food result from such capitalistic greed?  
 
In Part three we shall look at middle management and the role it should play when implementing an open culture versus a hierarchical and silo culture. Looking forward to your suggestions and comments on this post. In the meanwhile, I wish all my reader a successful 2014 and God’s blessing upon all your undertakings. 
 

Employee Engagement – an Executive, Managerial and Individual Responsibility (Part One)

In this three part series, I would like to cover three principles of employee engagement as inspired by an article written by Blessingwhite in January 2013.  Blessingwhite spelled out three important areas well worth revisiting and expanding upon.  These principles or responsibilities can be applied to any business, group, or association, and should be carefully examined and studied by CXOs, middle-management and employees alike. These points deserve to be called The Three Fundamentals of Employee Engagement:
 
1. Executive responsibility:  trust, communication and culture
2. Managerial responsibility:  coaching, relationships and dialogue
3. Individual responsibility:  ownership, clarity and action
 
Part 1:  Executive Responsibility
 
As I have covered in past blog articles company culture, positive or negative, will define the outcome of an employee’s emotional attachment to the company, his work satisfaction, leadership acceptance and trust.  Positive company culture IS the most important prerequisite for employee engagement and will result in dedication, creativity and innovation.
 
Culture is everything, from the little things we miss when living away from home, to the way we “do” things.  It’s the way we tick and contribute to our working environment, as well as the technological and digital tools we are most familiar with. Company culture is the foundation of every employee’s well-being and work satisfaction. 
 
Culture is the “heart” of the company and if a culturally-responsible executive leads with warmth, care, love and concern, the “fruits” will be visibly seen in a happy, engaged workforce.  A company’s culture can be defined by what employees are saying about the company when the boss is not in the room! Some years ago, en route to an interview in Bavaria, I stopped at a local bar with the clear intent of finding out the reputation and culture of the company I had applied for a job with.   I was very surprised by the overwhelming negative comments that some of the locals, including employees, were freely expressing! The emotional reaction of the people around me was overly negative and almost compelled me to return home!  I wished the Managing Director of this medium business (€300M) had been there to assess and identify the fruit of his labor and the resulting company culture!
 
Negative company culture affects productivity, motivation and product development and my personal incident serves to highlight the statistics that 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged!  The cost? “According to Gallup’s calculations, actively disengaged employees — the least productive — cost the American economy up to $350 billion per year in lost productivity” … “ This is a yearly cost of at least $2,246 per disengaged employee.”. According to The Economist, 84% of senior leaders say disengaged employees are one of the three biggest threats facing their business.  
 
Stop! Let’s be positive and proactive, and give ourselves four examples on how to promote a transparent culture of communication and trust from the top down! Remember… culture percolates down from the top!
 
1. Create a coffee-shop area within your company.
 
This will become the place where employees gather!  Allow them to meet during work hours and not just during breaks! Don’t limit the coffee shop to just free coffee and snacks.  As a matter of fact encourage workers and especially top management, to use the coffee shop for meetings, brainstorming, after-work parties and any motivational scheme Human Resources is creative enough to come up with! The coffee shops should become company hubs where crowd-sourcing and co-creation is encouraged during, before and after work hours!
 
2. Create graffiti walls
 
Encourage people to drop their ideas on the wall! If company culture is positive, comments will be honest, yet respectful. Allow every employee, partner and supplier access to the wall, but only reward the non-anonymous comments. This will surprise many workers especially if the organization has been hierarchical from the start! At first the workforce might be reluctant, but as they observe management using it first, the employees will follow.
 
3. Reward the best innovative ideas
 
Every month, reward the 20 most exciting graffiti.  This will definitely be a sign that management does mean business, and that ideation is being encouraged from all levels and from all workers! Who knows, your employees might even get their friends and family involved and the flood of ideas could be crowd sourced.
 
4. Reward the best criticisms
 
Look for the best criticisms and encourage employees to come up with real problems, particularly if they do not have the solution!  Employees can sometimes perceive that their inability to solve a problem means a lack of competence, when actually they may not even be responsible.  Best criticism rewards allow openness and the chance to eradicate and tackle real problems.  
If management uses the graffiti walls and frequents the coffee shops, not only will it set an example of company transparency, but this will also encourage workers to follow their example! This brings us back to culture and the need for management to walk the talk and not just talk the walk! Leading by example is mandatory if a serious culture shift is to take place!  Leaders who persist in functioning as silos should be dealt with swiftly and consequently.  Silos need to be torn down.  As a matter of fact, the higher in the hierarchy the faster it should happen! Remember Tony Hsieh at Zappos: study his writing and listen to his recommendations! Could you imagine a rowing team with one of its members paddling in the opposite direction? Absurd, right? If HR accepts this type of behavior, how on earth can a business keep afloat and achieve its highest potential in the face of roaring competition.
 
In Part 2 of this series we will look at the challenging responsibility of middle management and the cultural door-keeper it has traditionally been.  Did you know that Microsoft has around 500 VP’s, each building their own silos?  An obvious by-product of this is hanging on to obsolete products such as Microsoft Office!

Five Crowd-Sourcing Lessons Learned from a Retail Business Moving its Shop Location

Manuka Wholefoods is a remarkable little shop owned by a family of New Zealanders living in Chichester (West Sussex) in the southern part of the United Kingdom.  Manuka Wholefoods retails a full array of organic products such as grocery, dairy products, fruit and veggies, skin and body care, nutritional supplements and organic wines.
 
For personal reasons, the Manuka Wholefoods business owners had to travel right before relocating their shop within Chichester.  Beyond the traditional emails sent to their customer database, the on-site working crew, led by highly capable and motivated Shop Manager Claire Burgess, decided to give customers a little map-flyer helping them to visualize the new location.
 
1. First, start the crowd-sourcing project within your own team
.
Creating a readable map everybody could understand turned out to be a challenge. Claire could have printed out the typical Google map, had it photocopied and “voila, here you go customers, take it or leave it!  But insightful Claire Burgess wanted to go a step further. She decided that not only should customers understand and be able to read her map, but more importantly customers should be able to visualize the new shop location.  In order to create the best possible drawing, Claire first sought advice from her own team.  By doing so, she enthusiastically included them in the project while gaining their motivation and support.  
 
2. Crowd-source with own employees for personnel engagement and motivation
 
The three Manuka Wholefoods team members had different views and expectations on what the map should look like.  After briefly conferring with each other, they all decided to try out a Google version.  At that time, the Google map seemed the logical choice since the team could perfectly understand the directions from the old location to the new. 
 
3. Test your idea and ask for genuine feedback from your crowd
 
Claire Burgess went one step further.  She started showing the map to her customers, and asked them if they could visualize and understand where the shop was going?  Although 80% of Manuka Wholefoods’ customer base is from Chichester, most of the customers to whom the map was shown had genuine difficulties reading it and understanding where the shop was moving to.  Claire’s team realized that many of their customers did not know the street names or names of the city landmarks.  The team had to pause and accept the fact that the map they created and perceived as logical and easy to follow, came across to the majority of their customers as confusing.  The quintessential lesson they learned was the fact that they did not find out until they genuinely started to ask.
 
4. You miss the point if your business gets it, but your “crowd” or customers don’t
 
Manuka Wholefoods’ sales team started asking customers for suggestions.  It became clearer that a readable map would have to be made from scratch.  Unneeded street names were removed.  Thanks to the help of many customers, the map became a crowd-manufactured effort featuring four arrows originating from the former shop and ending at the new location.  The customers preferred a map overview with directions along the main roads rather than the most direct route along unfamiliar streets. Furthermore, customers then requested that it would help if pictures of known landmarks and shops could be added to the map to create a complete visual of the new location.
 
ManukaWholefoods is moving-medium 
5. Assume nothing and get your crowd’s attention
 
Although posters announcing the move were strategically placed, these seemed to be of little use unless pointed out to customers. In this day and age, we are all busy, preoccupied and in a rush.  We see but do not read; we hear but do not listen! That’s
why folks, with any message you want to communicate, you’ve got to get people’s attention.  We all are creatures of habit. We often overestimate the relevance of a message by genuinely assuming that people are interested. 
 
Once the map had been finalized, 750 copies were personally given out by Claire Burgess and her team.  Furthermore Manuka Wholefoods will have to distribute additional flyers to encourage its customers to create new shopping habits. How many customers will forget and realize that the location has changed when suddenly faced with the old empty shop?  Over the next three to six months, Manuka Wholefoods will have to remind, coach and reward customers for having adjusted to a major change:  shopping at its new location.
 
What is your crowd-sourcing experience as a business owner?  What are some of the lessons you’ve had the chance to learn? I am looking forward to your comments and suggestions:  Until next time, I wish you all a successful week. 

 

Six Reasons Why Social Business Strategists should read Jacob Morgan’s “The Collaborative Organization”

I purchased Jacob Morgan’s “The Collaborative Organization” on Amazon UK at its full price.  “The Collaborative Organization” is a strategic Enterprise Social Software guide and a monumental must read for any CEO, CMO, CIO and CCO (Chief Culture/Customer Officer) wanting to successfully implement Enterprise Social Software within his enterprise.  Erik Brynjolfsson, coauthor of Race Against the Machine writes: “Most business leaders understand how critical collaborative tools are to the success of their companies.  What they need now is a guide based on hard data and practical experiences that show how to put those tools to work.  Morgan fills that need with this book.” 
“Rapid pace of change is occurring in technology, human behavior and business culture” writes Morgan.  It is imperative for organizations to check and if necessary update obsolete intranet/extranet platforms and radically transform internal and external communication.  Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Lew Platt once said:  “If only HP knew what HP knows, we would be three times as productive.”  Please bear in mind that Morgan has a full array of added case studies on his Chess Media Group website adding tremendous value to the study of his book.
 
The Collaborative.Organization-medium
 
1. Enterprise Collaboration Tools bring real advantages to companies willing to implement social business software solutions.
 
Among the top reasons for enterprises considering the implementation of Enterprise Social Software (ESS) Morgan’s top six are:
- Connecting colleagues across teams and geographies (72%)
- Increasing productivity (65%)
- Fostering employee engagement (60%)
- Fostering innovation (59%)
- Capturing and retaining institutional knowledge (59%)
- Enabling access to subject expert (54%)
Morgan uses many case studies to back up his enterprise social software exposé. 
 
2. Accelerate the serendipity of weak ties with the use of social business software solutions
 
“One of the most visible changes for companies is often how horizontal communications lines open up across various enterprise silos” writes Morgan.  He discusses the risks companies are facing by not implementing social software tools as well as the possible threats to be faced while implementing them.   
 
3. Excellent delivery of the technology landscape
 
Morgan’s technology landscape is a strategic overview social leaders will greatly appreciate when considering their social platform menu.  Morgan and his Chess Media Group have done a meticulous job at surveying all the different collaborating platforms, and the percentage of companies using mashups, wikis, blogs, prediction market platforms, forums, Ideation platforms, RSS feeds, micro-blogs, collaborative file sharing and social email and much more. 
 
4. Social Enterprise Software evaluation matrix
 
Morgan offers an excellent vendor evaluation matrix, which is very well presented and easy to use.  It will help social leaders to rank ESS vendors according to specific areas such as::
- Vendor management, product roadmap and viability
- Ease of use and intuitiveness
- Price
- Features
- Technology integration and security
- Customization and integration
- Product features: people
- Support and maintenance
- Vertical expertise
 
5. Adaptive emergent collaboration framework
 
Morgan delivers another useful matrix with five core areas:
- Goals and objectives (company, department, metrics, customers and employees)
- Organizational culture (leadership, mutually beneficial value, change management, openness and evangelists
- Process (escalation, information management, automation)
- Technologies (tool selection, integration, training, adoption, maintenance and upgrades)
- Governance (best practices, guidelines, employees, customers, metrics)
Morgan recommends a maturity model of adoption made of seven steps and the different milestones achieved during their implementation.
 
6. Culture and technology are the two most important drivers
 
Morgan stresses enterprise culture and how it is one of the most crucial pillars of Enterprise 2.0 when attempting to establish the right foundation for hybrid, intern and external communities to communicate and engage.  Morgan quotes Carl Frappaolo “Culture is the single greatest potential asset or detriment.  A culture conducive to collaboration will compensate to some degree for awkward processes and inadequate technology.  In contrast, a culture not conducive to collaboration will ignore, or in the worst case sabotage, even the most sophisticated technology and process approaches to open transparent sharing.”
 
The Chess Media Group has meticulously researched and produced a superb textbook for any CCO, CMO, CIO and CMO to assist him or her into implementing enterprise social software.   Morgan has delivered another crucial piece of the social business puzzle on how to prepare, organize, evaluate, measure and drive the adoption of social software tools.  Although Morgan has written a superb work, one frustration remains: the somewhat poor quality of the charts and figures as displayed by the publisher.  A little more effort could have been made in order to enhance this work.  The Collaborative Enterprise belongs to the text-books every social business strategist needs to own.  My personal thanks and kudos to Jacob Morgan for having published a wonderful book that greatly contributes to the new discipline of social business strategy.

Six Reasons Why Social Business Strategists should read Mark Fidelman’s Socialized!

I bought Mark Fidelman Socialized! on Amazon at its full price (no discounts or coupons from Mark) and just finished devouring it. Fidelman  delivers a fundamental work that greatly contributes to the heated debate of Social Business development.  Fidelman not only shows, but proves how quintessential it is for businesses to harness the power of social.  Not only with tools and technologies, but first with their immediate communities aka company workforce.  Time is ripe for dismantling the prevailing command-and-control leadership style. The militaristic/hierarchical leadership approach ought to be replaced with Jon Husband’s Wirearchy structure.  So why should you read Socialized!Social Media ROI expert Dr. Natalie Petouhoff: “Fidelman’s ability to simplify key concepts like the Digital Village, Darwin’s Funnel, and the Digital Network, gives the reader a unique and important understanding of the power of Social Business. You’ll be sorry if you don’t read this book before your competitors do.”
 
Mark Fidelman: Socialized http://amzn.to/10gw8CR

Mark Fidelman: Socialized http://amzn.to/10gw8CR

Fidelman and his team interviewed business leaders around the globe in order to present to us a state-of-the-art social business road-map.  Fidelman lives and breathes what he writes.  He is the sort of individual any social minded person ought to connect with; either on Twitter/LinkedIn, and Forbes where he is a regular contributor.  Socialized! not only talks the walk but most importantly walks the talk.  It is a practical text-book backed up with countless case studies and examples anyone aspiring to become a social leader should be aware of and study
  
2. Culture, culture and more culture is the foundation to any social business undertaking
 
Fidelman emphasizes culture as the 101 prerequisite to any potentially successful Social Business Strategy.  Fidelman: “Why after all do we insist on employees following our orders, and why do we call it insubordination if they question them? … Yet the companies that are leading in today’s world recognize the benefit of an empowered workforce that feels connected to the organization.  Empowered employees understand not only how to make great products, but more importantly how to create cultures that continue to make great products well into the future.”  Socialized! will assist CMOs and CCOs (Chief Cultural/Customer Officers) not only to analyze their existent Social Business state, but provide them with a detailed 10-point Social Business Culture development program.  
 
3. Building first an internal digital village and then an external digital network
 
Once the infrastructure of a cooperative culture has been established, business leaders will need to handpick the internal evangelists and shepherds (regardless of their rank) who will co-create their internal digital village — the nuts and bolts to any Social Business foundation
 
CXOs need to remember that becoming a Customer Service or/and Customer-Experience oriented company first  requires the emotional support and buy-in of their internal communities or “Smart Tribes” (as coined by Christine Comaford in her brand new book).  These “Smart Tribes” or internal communities represent the company’s intrinsic power that will transform the  traditional working communities into enthusiastic business advocates.  
 
After the creation of an apropos culture and the establishment of the right people foundation, the social team will need to select the social media platforms and its supportive collaborative technologies (Intranet/Extranet/SCRM/Social Business Software).  This will make sure that the Social Business community sets up the proper internal tools to construct its external digital network.
 
4. The new Social Business Playbook
 
Youtility author Jay Baer states: “Socialized! is an imminently readable, practical, and modern guide to social business.  The playbook section alone is worth the price, and then some.  Fidelman has added an important piece to the corporate social transformation puzzle.” Fidelman:  “In practice, management should provide the right atmosphere, guidelines, technologies, and opportunities for employees to thrive.”  Socialized! delivers a 15-point playbook: here are some of the highlights:
 
- Building an internal and external community
- Connecting and empowering thought leaders
- Recruiting a Chief Social Strategist or a Chief Cultural/Customer Officer
- Becoming an own media publisher, which makes me think of Michael Brito’s upcoming book: Your Brand.
- Replacing traditional inbound marketing with content marketing
- Leveraging employees, suppliers and partners to foster innovation
- Enhancing customer support to become the strength of your company
- Using Gamification to engage employees, partners and customers
- Creating the potential for serendipitous relationships
 
This last point is my favorite and reminds me of the romantic comedy “Serendipity” starring John Cusack and  Kate Beckinsale.   Fidelman himself gives a wonderful example of serendipity with StaffUnity:  an automated employee lunch club system provider.
 
5. The rise of the social employee
 
Fidelman  makes the case that, social networks, consumerization of IT, mobility, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device: smartphones, phablets and tablets) and cloud computing are all being part of the social and technological developments a 21st century enterprise cannot fail anymore to ignore. 
 
6. Measuring the ROI (Return On Investment) of a Social Business Strategy
 
Fidelman stresses that social business initiatives should only be undertaken if those can be measured.   He goes on to say: “Before starting any social initiatives, you must first identify objectives such as:  “improving customer relationships, product innovation, acquiring and retaining employees and growing revenues.” 
 
 
Image Credit: PulsePointGroup.com: The Economics of the Socially Engaged Enterprise

Image Credit: PulsePointGroup.com: The Economics of the Socially Engaged Enterprise

 
Social Business metrics and ROI are  very well documented in a 2012 study by MIT in collaboration with the Deloitte institute.  The Economist Intelligence Unit and the PulsePoint Group published a study showing that 81% of interviewed leaders agree that social engagement has the following tangible benefits on the following areas:
 
- Project management
- Innovation
- Collaboration
- Efficiency gains
- Cost saving
 
In conclusion, Fidelman’s Socialized! is a management textbook that provides all the necessary steps for a clear pathway towards a successful social enterprise journey:  
 
1. Reviewing the existent culture of an enterprise
2. Setting up an internal digital village
3. Attaching an external digital village to the internal one
4. Establishing a social business strategy
5. Measuring Social Business ROI
6. Reviewing, correcting, adapting and repeating
 
Any leader wanting to understand the implications and repercussions  of a Social Business development program should study and dissect Socialized!.  Kudos and thanks to Mark Fidelman’s altruistic attitude for having taken the time to give us one of the best researched Social Business Strategy text-books ever written thus far. 
 
 
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Seven IT Eras Leading CIOs to Become One of the Key Evangelists to a Social Business Strategy (Part 2/2)

In the first part of this two-part series, we reviewed the four IT-eras that have shaped and transformed the CIO role into a digital mediator and one of the key technologists of the new Social Business (Enterprise 2.0) era.  We saw how mainframe computing led to personal computing then followed by Internet and finally the broadband technology.  The consumerization of IT has brought us the “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) movement. BYODs are compelling our 20th century business models (based on the enlightenment era and its resulting industrial revolution) to include workers personal devices such as smartphones, tablets and phablets.           
 
5.  Mobile era
  
Uwe Vielle defines mobile computing as “the ability to use computing capability without a pre-defined location and/or connection to a network to publish and/or subscribe to information.”  Mobility requires new type of softwares or SaaS (Software as a Service) stored in the cloud as well as brand new hardware handsets such as smartphones, tablets and phablets (Samsungs Note II) also known as BYOD.  
 
Post-PC-Era (www.phonedog.com)
 
Two weeks ago, Gartner reported that combined ultra mobile devices, tablets and mobile phone reached 1.872 billion in 2012 and would reach around 2.7 billion by 2017.  Gartner expects a 7.6% decline in PC sales while saying: “This is not a temporary trend induced by a more austere economic environment; it is a reflection of a long-term change in user behavior.”  Broadband and IT-consumerization both contribute to mobility.  Ubiquitous Internet access compels us to centralize our data to a central location: the cloud.
 
6.  Cloud Computing
 
Cloud computing could be compared to the technological shift electricity went through a century ago.  At that time, Thomas Edison favored direct current (DC) systems.  DC was eventually replaced by Guillaume Duchenne’s (1850s) and William Stanley’s (1880s) alternative current (AC).  Alternative current made it much easier to industrialize the production and transport of electricity.  In a similar way the alternative current analogy could be used for cloud computing.  It is not the flow of electric charge that periodically reverses direction, but our computing routines.  IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) and SaaS (Software as a Service) deliver the foundation upon which private users can upload their personal digital belongings. 
 
Traditional software vendors like Microsoft are transforming their “one way” Office product into an SaaS platform while offering a 20GB SkyDrive cloud storage.  In May,  Flickr rolled out a whopping 1TB (Terabyte) of cloud-storage for free accounts.  Laptops and notebooks paved the way to mobile computing.  Consumerization of IT brought the diversity of multi-screen computing via smartphone, tablet and phablet devices.  This newly acquired ubiquitous mobile  flexibility threatens the very livelihood of US-PC giants such as Dell and Hewlett Packard.   
 
7.  Post PC era
 
Broadband, mobility and cloud computing confirm the steady decline in the sales of personal computers in favor of “post-PC” BOYDs.  BYOD threatens the use of traditional software in favor of cross-platform applications such as Android, Java or iOS.  In 1999, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates coined this development as the “PC Plus” era.  In 2007, Steve Job renamed it the “post-PC device” era.  According to IDC the U.S. PC market contracted 12.7% year-to-year with a 18.3% decline compared to the fourth quarter of 2012.  “A new report from International Data Corporation (IDC) shows a 13.9% decline in first quarter PC shipments compared to 2012.  The ‘year-on-year contraction marked the worst quarter since IDC began tracking the PC market quarterly in 1994,’ according to IDC.”  
 
Post-PC-Era (www.intomobile.com)-medium
 
The US PC-industry is in a dire position.  Last year Hewlett Packard announced that it would lay off over 27,000 employees.  Dell’s troublesome privatization endeavors are still going on and a 274-page proxy filing  states,  “Dell – the company and the man – wants to move away from PCs because making money in the global PC market is about as easy as selling tap water in a rainstorm”. 
 
8.  Social Business   
 
Not too long ago, the CIO was considered (and in many cases still is) the technological IT-drill sergeant in many companies.  He was the technological door keeper, who in the name of “security” only granted employees the right to specific choices of hardware and software.  A major shift began when computing mobility entered enterprises with the use of laptops and notebooks.  Emails and data access became mandatory and VPN (virtual private networks) were created.  Consumerization of IT could be for the former CIO king what the 1789 French Revolution was to Louis XIV.  CIOs are losing their controlling grip and are forced to accept the BYOD revolution and the respective operating systems such as Symbian, iOS, Android, Window & Blackberry to name just a few.  Added to this culinary buffet of BOYDs and operating systems let’s not forget our newly acquired social media channels.  Social media are transforming customer service, experience and marketing altogether and terminates the traditional hierarchical company customer communication era.  Traditional outbound marketing methods (pay, pray and spray) are being replaced with inbound/content marketing which in turn is rapidly evolving into convenience marketing. 
 
Ladies and Gentlemen welcome to the age of social
Meine Damen und Herren willkommen im sozialen Zeitalter 
Mesdames et Messieurs, bienvenue dans l’ère sociale
 
 
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Seven IT Eras Leading CIOs to Become One of the Key Evangelists to a Social Business Strategy (1/2)

In the last 10 years, the modern CIO has transformed himself into an IT chargé d’affaires (mediator) and a key technological emissary.  He has become one of the key players to the development of any successful social business strategy.  In this two-part series, we will review the seven stages that led IT to transform its traditional door-keeping role into the technological beacon of a social enterprise.  Without further ado, let’s review the last fifty years of IT’s technological maturing and unraveling.
 
1. Main Frame Computing
 
In the mid 70s, my dad and I regularly headed to the wholesale outlet in Orléans (France) to get our grocery supply.  As a teenager, one item particularly fascinated me, the huge IBM tabulating machine in the administration hall. 

An employee would insert the punched-cards into the machine.  Then, this giant would print out an invoice with all the trimmings.  Needless to say, this was in the mid 70s state-of-the-art technology:  the era of mainframe computers (mostly used for transaction processing) roughly covering the late 50s through the 70s.  A computer professional would probably smile at the informal way I associate this device to the mainframe era, but at that time it was an impressive technology only larger businesses could afford.

This IBM machine was known as the “Card-Programmed Electronic Calculators (CPC).  Mainframe computers would soon be followed by mini, micro and personal workstations also known as personal computers.

2. PC Era
 
IBM underestimated the fact that by the mid 90s, personal workstations would usher in Personal Computer that eventually would replace the typewriter.  Some of us probably remember the Commodore PET, the first successfully marketed personal computer introduced in 1977.   
The predecessor to IBM AS/400, System/38 was first made available in August 1979.  It was marketed as a minicomputer for general business and department use.  It was sold alongside three other product lines, each with a different architecture not compatible with each other.  Digital Equipment Corporation used this IBM weakness to expand.  Digital Equipment was acquired by Compaq in 1998 which then merged with Hewlett Packard in 2002.  In the meanwhile Paul Allen and Bill Gates had founded ”Micro-Soft,” the combination of microcomputer and software, which became a US$ 42 billion corporation.  
 
3. Internet era
 
Internet service provider (ISPs) began to emerge in the late 1980s and early 1990s. CompuServe (my first email address) was a service provider founded in 1969.  CompuServe was the first major commercial online service in the United States that became a leading worldwide internet service provider.  In 1998 CompuServe became a subsidiary of America Online Inc. (AOL).  Internet has become a global system of interconnected computer networks to serve billions of users worldwide.  Since its email commercial start, Internet technology has added: instant messaging, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) with services such as Skype, two ways interactive video calls and finally the World Wide Web including discussions forums, online shopping, blogs and more recently social networks.
 
4. Internet broadband and the World Wide Web era
 
Broadband Internet access or broadband is a high-speed internet access that replaced the awkward dial-up “modus operandi” some of us remember.  Dial-up bit rates varied from 33 to 64 kbit/s and required a telephone line.  Broadband started supplying higher bit rates with the crucial advantage of not disrupting regular phone lines.  It also provides a continuous “always on” connection.  Then came the World Wide Web, a system of interlinked hypertext documents accessed via the Internet.  Broadband supports a much faster World Wide Web browsing experience, faster downloading/uploading of information, video telephony, computing mobility with VPNs (virtual private networks) and online gaming experience. 
 
Next week, we will post the second half of this two-part series with the last three reasons why IT should become the technological beacon of a social enterprise 2.0 transformation.  In the meanwhile I wish you a very pleasant rest and a wonderful weekend. 
 
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10 Ways for Small and Medium Businesses to Establish a Social Business Strategy (1/2)

Our world is getting more complex every day.  Technology evolves at a speed that is hardly possible to keep up with.  The amount of information is exploding and as Clay Shirky points out, we need to avoid filter failure.  We are at the threshold of intelligent marketing because now, Big Data is available.  We are moving from descriptive and predictive to prescriptive business intelligence.  How do we establish an effective business strategy, the one that will give our businesses the necessary room for successful growth and development?  What should its priority list look like?  Social media, blogging, inbound or outbound marketing, curation of information, website updating, brick and mortar shop, digital shop?  Trying to answer such a complex question within a ten point two parts blog article is a daring undertaking, but here is a modest attempt at doing this.     
 
1. Regularly review and refine your company mission, values and goals
 
This could be a daunting task, but a simpler way of restarting the process is to review your unique selling proposition (USP) and then divide it into three sub-categories: company mission, company values and company goals.  Having a sharp and targeted vision is quintessential for refining and pursuing a suitable strategy.  Reviewing your mission is crucial as business opportunities and changes do take place.  IBM, in the mid 80s, was the personal computer leader. IBM wrote US$ 16 billion of losses under the baton of Lou Gersten with 35.000 workers made redundant.  IBM finally sold its mainframe business in 2003 and, under Ginni Rometty’s leadership, concentrates on three core areas: analytics, cloud computing and emerging markets. Should IBM have failed to adapt and change, who knows if IBM would have become the thriving social business leader it has been now for the last several years. 
 
IBM-Social-Business_Ginni.Rometty_01 
A challenging way of applying technological trends could be to ask yourself if you could “create your 140 character brand promise”?  Can you summarize your company’s strategy in 35 words or less? The shorter and the clearer, the easier it will be for your communities to understand your mission and purpose.  It will help your business to energize its community while making it an active part of its purpose and vision.  Here are three USP examples which are each worth billions of dollars:
Domino’s Pizza: “You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less—or it’s free.”
FedEx: “When your package absolutely, positively has to get there overnight”
M&M’s: “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand”
 
2. Keep transforming your content marketing into convenience marketing
 
Traditional marketing is no longer sufficient.  Businesses which mostly concentrate on their own activities and products are promised a tough time ahead.  Today there are many companies that master innovation and customer experience by creating and listening to their communities. Such companies like IBM, Amazon or Starbucks give their customers the opportunities to consult, advise and recommend new products and services.  Starbucks understands that some of the best ideas come from their own grass root marketers, the ones entering their coffee-shops day in and day out.  Could there be a better source of feedback than the one coming directly out of their customers’ mouths?  
Consider your website as a customer hub with people coming and going, uploading and downloading information. The more your business listens to its community, the more focused its content marketing will be.  Some of the platforms to distribute your content could be  how to, tips, recommended sites and resources, books, authors, literature, recipes, videos, interviews, podcast, webcast, webinars and so much more.
 
Image Credit: www.hyken.com

Image Credit: http://www.hyken.com

3. To blog or not to blog

It’s great to hear what Chris Brogan has to say about blogging:  “No matter what, the very first piece of social media real estate I’d start with is a blog … It’s a website, with lots of built in features that make it useful from the search perspective, and simple from a content creation perspective…”  Blogging is like jogging for the brain.  Euan Semple once said:  “You do not know what you think until you write it down.”  At first blogging could be a strenuous way to ratify your thoughts, but the best way to freely express your personal ideas, views and expertise.  A blog is all yours and you may write (within reason) whatever your heart desires.  To blog or not to blog, this is the dilemma and the sooner your business starts the easier it will get. Blogging, like jogging, takes training, dedication and relentless commitment.  Avoid blogging about your products and services.  Concentrate on answering, sharing and inspiring.  Give your community what they want.  This will be the first act into bringing traffic to your website, and a natural way to gain traction and attention. 
 
4. Transform your website into a social hub and your visitors into your website co-creators
 
Amazon is a fabulous example of information crowd-sourcing.  When inquiring about books, the first thing most of us do is to find out about customer book-reviews.  Amazon has long understood that their website is not about them, but about the communities reading the books it sells.  It’s about letting visitors write reviews, comment on other people’s reviews, create groups and meet like minded readers.  It’s about customers’ wish-lists (a fabulous way of gathering marketing information) and remembering their interests, likes and dislikes. Amazon is a platform where people meet, read, comment, upload videos reviews and create personal profiles.  A company’s website should altruistically answer, inspire and educate its community.  It is not about your products or services, it is about your community, their worries, their interests and what inspires them.  Consider reserving enough space for uploading videos, reviews, articles and for giving your visitors the chance to become your website’s co-creators.
 
5. Carefully choose your social platforms
 
According Wikipedia, “Social media refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks … It allows the creation and exchange of user-generated content.”  Social media is the new technological platform businesses use to promote physical or digital goods.  Social media networks should be kept to a minimum: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ and YouTube.  Pick three or four and get professional help.  A Facebook and Pinterest expert like Mari Smith will save you time and money as she keeps up with ongoing platform changes and updates. Mari will provide you with the necessary support while you concentrate on your business.
 
In part two, we will review the last five fundamental points connected to the ongoing review of a successful social business foundation.  
 
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Ten Lessons Aspiring Social Businesses Should Learn from a Spider Web (Part 2)

We often consider spider webs a nuisance … something annoying, but we often dismiss the very skillful show of one of our planet’s state-of-the-art technologies.  In Part One, we reviewed five remarkable characteristics on how an aspiring Enterprise 2.0 could learn from spider silk properties.  Let’s look at five more lessons a discerning observer should be willing to consider:
 
6. Spider Silk combines both tensile strength and ductility (stretchability)
 
Scientists at Arizona State University (ASU) have decoded the secret of spider silk’s strength and what makes the fiber at least five times as tough as piano wire. “Spider silk has a unique combination of mechanical strength and elasticity that make it one of the toughest materials we know of,” said Professor Jeffery Yarger of ASU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. The tensile strength of spider silk combined with its ductile i.e. elastic properties (stretching and retracting) is well worth appreciating. For any of us, it would be hard to imagine grabbing a man-made bar of steel and stretching it to an extra forty per cent to its original length. The fact that this exceptional biological polymer (related to collagen) perfectly combines tensile strength and ductility is mind-boggling to say the least.
 
Clipboard Image
Image credit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/science
 
How do we set up company structures that are more flexible? Businesses that can “stretch” (such as a spiderweb capturing prey) when customer demand grows, but also businesses that can “retract” when its demand decreases?  How should these businesses embrace structural changes and seamlessly rebound when disruptive trends kick in?  Such theoretical questions are difficult to answer and ratify. An adaptive (stretchable and retractable) enterprise roadmap would be even more complex.
 
7.  The Spiderweb silk has stickiness properties
 
Spiders produce five main categories of silk.  One of them is the capture-spiral silk, used for the capturing lines of the web.  This sort of silk is sticky, extremely stretchy and tough, which should make us wonder how a spider can avoid entangling itself in its own web.  To this day, scientists are still not sure how it is possible for them not to get caught in their own trap.
 
What is the level of cultural stick-to-itiveness that companies have to offer? How does the Human Resource department attract, motivate and retain talent while minimizing personnel turnover?
 
8.  Spiders create exceptional spider web architectures
 
In Science Daily’s column “New Light Shed On the Mysteries of Spider Silk”, Dr. Kristie Koski and her colleagues from the University of Stanford report: “There has never been anything quite like spider silk.  Stretch it.  Bend it.  Soak it.  Dry it out.  Spider silk holds up … it can expand nearly a third greater than its original length and snap right back like new.  Ounce-for-ounce spider silk is even stronger than Kevlar, the human-made fiber used in bulletproof vests.”  Koski goes on to write: “The complete elastic response of spider silk is described by five elastic constants that define how the web reacts to any possible combination of forces –stretching, bending, soaking, pulling or twisting.” 
 
penmai.com.forums.science
Image credit: http://www.redorbit.com
 
How about our business structures? How far can we stretch them, bend them, pull them or even twist them without destroying them?  Have we ever considered the wisdom of a spider web and all its hidden attributes?  Have we ever tried to apply some of those principles to the form-functions of our schools, universities, government and businesses?
 
9.  Spider webs can capture water from the air
 
In the journal Nature, Chinese scientists have reported that silk is not only renowned for its strength, but also outstanding at collecting water from the air: “Sparing the creatures the hunt for a drink”.  We are here witnessing the awe-inspiring beauty of one of the most incredible sights God’s engineering hand has ever created.  “A tapestry of bright pearl-like water drops hanging on thin spider silk in the morning after fog” says Lei Jiang, the scientist from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.  He goes on to say: “The spider silk can be several tens of micrometers in diameter, whereas the water drops can be thousands of micrometers wide.  The silk properties change as it contacts water, which causes the bumpy silk fibers to smooth out and drives the water towards the bumpy knots in the spindle, where it gathers into large droplets.” 
 
Image.Credit_BBC.co.uk
Image credit: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science
 
Do we conceive products with compelling beauty and majesty while promoting safety, health and sustainability?  When considering some of the shoddy architecture I’ve personally seen in Paris, London, Los Angeles, Manila, Osaka, Beijing, Moscow, Barcelona and New York, I do not think they contribute to the beauty and enhancement of our environment. Do we boost technology by making it sustainable, durable and of compelling beauty such as the pearl-like water drops hanging on thin spider silk? Or does our industry prefer to plan the breakdown of specific parts for purpose of future gain and enrichment?  
 
10. Spider silk has antibacterial properties
 
In their research article: “Evidence for antimicrobial activity associated with common house spider silk”, Simon Wright and Sara Goodacre, from the school of Biology at the University of Nottingham, researched and proved the antimicrobial quality of some spider silk when confronted with micro organisms.  In Heimer, S. (1988). Wunderbare Welt der Spinnen. Urania. p.14, we read that the peasants in the southern Carpathian Mountains used to cut up tubes built by Atypus and cover wounds with the inner lining.  It reportedly facilitated healing, and even connected with the skin.  This is believed to be due to antiseptic properties of spider silk and because the silk is rich in vitamin K, which can be effective in clotting blood.
 
Do our company products and services sustain our livelihood?  Do our business protocols provide our workforce with physical and emotional assets in form of education, personal growth and vision?  Does middle management nourish the strength and potential of its workforce by facilitating information taxonomy and its distribution?  Or do most structures suffer from a command-and-control mentality going back to the enlightenment age and war room strategies?  
 
Much more could be written about spiders, but I hope that we all could gain a better appreciation for the sustainable world which is just around us.  May we strive to contribute and make our work and world a better place where more sustainable values become the drivers of our business endeavors.  In the meanwhile, we continue to deplete our earth from the very resources that sustain our physical lives.  One thing is certain:  the air we breathe, the food we eat, the sleep we need and the love we cherish, none of these components will ever be digitalized.
 
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10 Lessons Aspiring Social Businesses Should Learn from a Spider Web (Part 1)

We often consider spider webs a nuisance… something annoying, or we look at them as the irrefutable evidence that we have not done our housekeeping properly. We often forget or dismiss the masterful exhibit of one of our planet’s state-of-the-art technologies. Most likely, the majority of us have no particular knowledge about arachnology (the scientific study of spiders). To tell you the truth, I did not even know the word until I looked it up in Wikipedia: “A spider web, spider’s web, or cobweb is a device created by a spider out of proteinaceous spider silk extruded from its spinnerets. The spinnerets are the glands spiders use in order to produce silk. Some spiders are capable of manufacturing up to eight different silks during their life time.”
To conceive such an engineering exploit is a technological tour de force. Spider webs are so stunningly complex that their study has become a science. Around the world, arachnologists analyze the physical properties of spider silk. They consider its scientific uniqueness and the technological input it may bring to future man-made woven materials. We can learn a lot from spider webs and spider silk. We can draw many analogies between their properties and the properties our private and professional communities could and ought to display.
 
1. Spider silk is one of the toughest bio-materials yet known
 
The tensile strength of spider silk is greater than the same weight of steel. Spider silk is five times stronger than steel and three times tougher than Kevlar. Spider silk starts as a liquid protein, which is too small to see without magnification, then hardens to a solid when exposed to air. Spider silk can be stretched significantly (one fourth of its length) before it breaks. It can withstand temperatures from -40°C to 220°C.
How resistant and resilient can our organizations be? How are our business communities confronting adversity and bouncing back from defeat? How expandable and stretchable are our enterprises, businesses and societies? How far can they “spread” and “stretch” before they finally break or collapse?
 
Spiderweb
 
2. The spider web has the ability to adapt to different levels of stressOne of the remarkable keys to the stability of the spider web is the fact that “a spider web design, and the unique properties of its silk, allows just a single thread to break so the rest of the web remains unharmed.”  Can we say the same about our education systems, our management models and our manufacturing routines?  Someday, could a giant corporation like Apple tumble or “break”?  Could it be the reason that the unpredictable and creative genius of a Steve Jobs is not around anymore?  Could this cause a threat to Apple’s long-haul business strategy?  In “Apple Might Have a Bad 2013: 10 Signs of Trouble Ahead,” eWeek columnist Don Reisinger wrote:  “Apple could be in for trouble, as there are signs that iPhone demand is waning and its mobile market share is starting to slide.” If a corporation is threatened, will it adjust and adapt the same way a spider web can?
 
3. The silk’s molecular structure allows it to stretch
 
When a filament is pulled, the silk’s unique molecular structure unfurls as stress increases, leading to a stretching effect… The durability of the web is not just controlled by how strong silk is, but also how its mechanical properties change as you stretch it” says Dr. Buehler.  Darwin’s bark spider can weave a huge web over flowing rivers, stretching from one bank of the river to the other.  In order to stretch from bank to bank the Darwin spider must weave anchoring lines of up to 25m!  They weave such large tapestries by using one of the toughest, most energy-absorbing silks ever discovered, tougher than any other known biological and most man-made materials.  How tough and resistant do we train our workforce to be?  What sort of company culture and vision do we impart to them?  How far do we allow our workforce to stretch their minds and broaden their outlook?  How do we build bridges between departments and company silos?  How can we overcome isolated competitiveness for the benefit of community success?  When purchasing deliberately keeps a low inventory to earn CFO strides, production is postponed, client delivery is late, client production lines stops.  Does this sound familiar?  Unfortunately, it sure does to me.
 
Darwin_Spiderweb
 
4. The breaking of a single spider silk thread never threatens the entire web structureResearching on the spider web functionality, Dr. Buehler, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology goes on to say: “If a building, a car or an airplane is exposed to large mechanical stress, it typically breaks as a whole and the entire structure becomes dysfunctional.” He continues: “Each individual thread of silk could be ‘sacrificed’ to maintain the overall structure.  How far can our communities stretch before they break?  How much stress can they take?  Why did Kodak file for bankruptcy in January 2012?  Didn’t the management foresee the technological trends and the reality that sooner or later cameras would be digitalized?
 
5. Spider silk becomes spider food
 
Did you know that spiders can nourish themselves from the silk they produce? Spiders produce a large quantity of silk, roughly 59.43 meters (65 yards) a day or 70.81 km (40.44 miles) in their entire lifetime.   We could compare spider silk’s double functionality (web weaving and food) to bamboo which is commonly used for scaffolding in Asia but also consumed as a delicious plant.  Will we ever see the day when a man-made product will be used both as building material and food?  When will shareholders understand that greed destroys our planet?  It’s time to replace polluting manufacturing plants with clean sites and an environmentally biodegradable production output.  How much longer can we pollute, destroy and loot the very planet that sustains us?  Companies, entrepreneurs and leaders should bear in mind that short term greed will soon destroy our children’s right to live abundantly!  One thing is certain:  the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink… none of it will ever be digitalized!

In part two, we will look at five more spider silk properties and the physical and spiritual lessons they discretely continue to teach us, should we want to observe and learn.    

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