Tuesday, November 22, 2011

7 Ideas for Your Next Social Network for Employees

Since attending Dreamforce in early September, I've spendt a lot of airplane time pondering the future of social enterprises, especially social networks for employees. Whether we’re talking about co-workers or customers, the objective is still the same – successful attraction and retention. The primary difference may be the importance of aligning your own people around the mission so that they can better serve your customers.

The first step is to have richer information about your peers available at your fingertips. Why do you need to go to LinkedIn to find out that the new hire you just met speaks fluent Mandarin (and six other languages) and has 15 years experience in the public sector? Thankfully, we have profiles built into Chatter.

Compare Chatter, though, to the poor people who work for enterprises where employee information is limited to a couple of fields in Outlook. Click on an email address and you can find out who they report to and who they manage. If you’re lucky, you might even get a current phone number. This is only slightly more useful than name, rank, and serial number.

In the interest of increasing employee satisfaction and productivity, here are seven ideas formed during my frequent Boston-to-SFO round-trips.

1. Create your own V2MOM.

If you have spent any time around salesforce.com employees, you may have heard us talk about “V2MOM.” While it many sound like the prototype for a new Tesla engine, it’s actually an initiative Marc Benioff started back in 1999 in the formative days of the company. It stands for Vision (what do you want to achieve?), Values (what are the attributes you need to be successful?), Methods (what are the key strategic imperatives?), Obstacles (what are the roadblocks?), and Measures (what are the key metrics?).

At a previous employer, we attempted to do something similar with a Balanced Scorecard. This was a quarterly/annual exercise driven by the COO. The primary obstacle was a lack of buy-in. This is not the case at salesforce.com. Every employee will be expected to create his/her own V2MOM before the start of the new fiscal year. These will be posted on Chatter. Trust me, it’s a powerful exercise.

2. Use “Chatter boards” for collaboration and transparency.

Last week I was one of several hundred employees invited to participate in a three-day company offsite. The sessions were also broadcast globally so that other employees could participate via their laptop or iPad.

Flanking the stage were a pair of over-sized monitors displaying Chatter posts on the presentations. The extended audience was able to see the 2,224 comments (based on 1,027 original posts) and 3,404 “likes” generated by more than 800 physical and virtual attendees across all departments and geographies. If you posted an idea, you received instantaneous feedback – not all of it positive. Comments are still coming in. Now, that’s an employee social network!

Note: If your company is not ready for that level of transparency, you might want to point that out in your V2MOM under “Obstacles.”

3. Create an alumni network to help attract talent.
Did you see the article in The Wall Street Journal (October 24) on “boomerang employees”? As the adjective suggests, these are the people who are looking to return to a previous employer after having discovered that Nirvana was the name of a band, not a better place to work. Why focus on those who want to come back? In many cases, they want to bring some talented colleagues with them.

As the newspaper pointed out, alumni networks are not a new idea. McKinsey & Company has maintained its program since the 1960s. While it didn’t say how many people have rejoined the management consultancy over the decades, it is a very safe bet that this network has been a good source for new business and talent referrals.

Using Siteforce and Chatter, you could have your own alumni net up in a very short time. Now you have a new V2MOM entry under “Method.”

4. Host a Virtual Job Fair.

Speaking of recruiting, have you ever thought about hosting a virtual job fair? No, I’m not talking about picking a HR avatar for Second Life.

Last month The Wall Street Journal (October 31) wrote about how companies like Procter & Gamble are using virtual career fairs to find new candidates. Last month, P&G hosted 900 potential employees across Western Europe. Job seekers were able to chat with representatives from a wide range of departments.

While I’m not aware that we have actually built virtual job fairs for our customers, we could help you create your own using Siteforce and Chatter. Chatter would be especially useful for capturing the dialog with your future employees.

5. Develop a network for your Baby Boomer employees.

While Baby Boomer sightings may seem relative rare at salesforce .com, this is not the case at many other companies. Take a look at the U.S. Federal Government. As many as half of all employees will be eligible for retirement before the end of the decade. The same is true in the utility industry.

If your company is facing a potential brain drain because of near-term retirements, now is the time to start building a network of their skills and contact information. You may also want to begin thinking about compensation plans should your bring them back on a consulting basis. Again, Siteforce and Chatter can help you.

6. Create a recruiting site for military veterans.

As you may be aware, an estimated 41,000 U.S. soldiers will be returning from Iraq by the end of this year. More will be coming back from Afghanistan in 2012. Unfortunately, all will be coming home to a tough economy and 9% unemployment. Can you help?

The U.S. Senate recently passed the Returning Heroes Tax Credit. This provides up to $5,600 in tax credits for hiring veterans, and up to $9,600 for disabled veterans.

7. Leverage prediction markets to tap the “wisdom of insiders.”

Over the last few years, a lot of attention has been paid to The Wisdom of Crowds. But, are you doing enough to tap the knowledge of the people working for you?

Many of us once worked for a company where a senior executive made a bold, aggressive announcement that a brand new product would ship by a specific date or that an overly ambitious project would be completed within a Mission: Impossible timeframe. If Las Vegas had offered odds, we would have bet everything against a favorable outcome. Ah, if only management had asked us.

What if you were to allow any of your employees to wager on the likely outcome of major business decision? Chances are that they would be more accurate than your senior executives. Many companies are deploying prediction markets to help create more accurate sales forecasts, improve project and portfolio management, and provide better risk assessment.

As for me, I’d bet you could see one or more prediction markets on the AppExchange within the next 12 months. Any takers?

In the meantime, I welcome your feedback and ideas.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

“The Social Economy” Embarks for New Harbor, Bigger Ship

Seven weeks ago I posted a short piece on this site announcing the launch of Stellwagen Research and this blog.  Both were created to focus on the broader issues of the Social Economy, including the next wave of enterprise applications and platforms, social intelligence, Big Data, information visualization, and the corresponding effect on the “future of work.”  These topics have been passions of mine from my days at AMR Research.

While the goal of circumnavigating the social economy remains the same, I’m shifting to a new port and a more seaworthy vessel.
As you may have read on Twitter, LinkedIn, or ZDNet , I will be joining salesforce.com in a new role -- Chief Enterprise Strategist.   I’m excited about the opportunity to work with some of the world’s largest companies to help them in their transformation to “social enterprises.”

Why the change in course?
As I sat in the audience at the recent Dreamforce event, I realized that I was witnessing the start of the next major upheaval in enterprise software.  The social enterprise breaks down hierarchies and builds a tight, inclusive web with employees, customers, partners, and suppliers.  If you’ve read my previous posts, you know I see a huge opportunity in the “social supply chain.”

To me, Chatter represents the future of work.  The desktop is dead.  Instead, we need to have our laptops, tablets, and smart-phones seamlessly linked.  Information must be continuously updated and pushed to us.
The logical next step is to aggregate all of the Big Data in a virtual network operations center that visually displays your global performance in real-time – all at the swipe of your hand.  Touch here and see the pipeline by region or product or profit or rep. 

Force.com is a double threat to the current world order.  While it started out supporting “edge-apps-in-the-cloud” away from the core position that ERP vendors have enjoyed, that’s changing as new vendors move closer to the center with apps for ERP, financials, order management, and contract/configuration management.  In addition, Force.com has become the best-selling platform for do-it-yourself apps.
As an analyst, I always enjoyed watching the action from center court or the 50-yard line.  Salesforce.com offers me the opportunity to move my seat much closer to the eye of the upheaval. 

I can’t wait.
What do you think?

As always, I welcome your feedback and ideas.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

On-Premise ERP Vendors and the Case of the Boiling Pot

Next month marks the 20th anniversary of Robert Reich’s appearance as the keynote speaker at AMR Research’s annual fall executive conference. You may recall that shortly after his speech,  he became the U.S. Secretary of Labor under President Clinton. We like to think that appearing on the AMR stage helped propel people to prominence, but that might be a stretch.
As I recall, he opened with a story about a frog. If you dropped the amphibian into a pot of boiling water, it would leap out ASAP.  If you started the same experiment with a more moderate temperature that you gradually increased to the boiling point, you would have a different outcome. Poached frog, anyone?
His point was that we are quick to react to dramatic events, but fail to respond to more gradual change.
The idea of on-premise ERP vendors as frogs occurred to me around 4:30 this morning. For some reason I was thinking about a recent conversation I had with a former AMR colleague.  When I asked him what he was doing these days, he said he was working on replacing a legacy J.D. Edwards implementation running on IBM System i with NetSuite. 

When he said that, I wondered how the J.D. Edwards team had responded to the loss.
Here are three scenarios.  Which one do you think is most likely?

1.       The sales team had no idea they were being displaced.
2.       When they heard, they pleaded with the customer to keep paying maintenance until the switch over was completed, thus avoiding a total loss of revenue.
3.       They alerted parent company Oracle that there might be an opportunity for Fusion-in-the-cloud.

I suspect many of you picked one of the first two options.
On the flip side, any bets on whether NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson has already begun working on a whole JDE/System i replacement strategy?   How soon  will it go up on his website alongside comparisons with QuickBooks, Microsoft’s Great Plains, and SAP?

With 10,000 customers, NetSuite remains the early leader.  It has picked up some new competitors, though.   Sandy Kurtzig, creator of the best-selling MANMAN MRP II package used the recent Dreamscape event to launch Kenandy.  Think of this as the cloud-and-social version of MANMAN.  She stood on stage alongside Kleiner Perkins’ Ray Lane with both wearing buttons with a bar through the ERP acronym, a nod to salesforce.com’s famous “No Software” logo.   By the way, Kleiner led a $10.5M first round investment.  Salesforce.com is also an investor.

She was later followed on stage by Infor’s Charles Phillips.  Ironcially, his company’s product portfolio includes the original MANMAN software. Think Ms. Kurtzig will be targeting some of Infor’s legacy base?
Rootstock’s Pat Garrehy and team also used Dreamforce to announce their plans to offer ERP software to salesforce customers.  They currently offer manufacturing apps for NetSuite, too.  The company is  taking a slightly different approach than Kenandy by including salesforce CRM and FinancialForce as part of the suite. Mr. Garrehy also has significant ERP experience having run Relevant Business Systems for 20 years before selling it to Consona in 2006.  Like Kenandy, they are eager to target the lucrative, legacy on-prem  base which easily exceeds 100,000 customers.

This is not to say that the on prem vendors don’t have cloud products available.  They do.  But, they also face significant organizational hurdles.  If your sales model is based on reaching specific revenue targets, how do you get reps to switch from large, one-time perpetual license deals to a subscription model?  What incentive does a sales manager or sales EVP have to transition to recurring revenues?  After all, you have to keep feeding the quarterly revenue beast.
What do you think?

If you read this and said “baloney, my company is too big for cloud ERP,” look around at some of the purchase decisions being made by your peers in neighboring business units. You may be surprised that their cool new business intelligence apps that you admired are running in the new MicroStrategy Cloud. 
My point is that the new innovation around social and mobile is taking place in the cloud.  While cloud adoption started at the edge with sales force automation and HR, it’s moving towards the center with ERP and business intelligence.

Two decades ago Mr. Reich warned an audience about the risks of ignoring change.  It merits repeating today.  While the water doesn’t seem too hot right now, it’s better to have a seat at the table than to be the meal.

As always, I welcome your feedback and advice.  Please add your voice to the conversation.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Today’s Lunch Discussion: Five Emerging Supply Chain Trends

Since starting Circumnavigating the Social Economy, a large part of each day has been filled with conversations around emerging supply chain trends. This has been accompanied by offers to attend conferences and participate in product/strategy briefings.

Based on these conversations, I’ve put together a brief list of five trends that I’m tracking. The first is an outgrowth of last week’s post, the next two are from ongoing discussions with key vendors, and the last two came courtesy of two articles I ripped out of The Wall Street Journal this week.
Demand for social supply chains is starting
Last week’s post on social supply chains drew several positive comments and a lot of personal email. While readers acknowledge that there are cultural/political barriers, many see the need for a collaboration medium like salesforce.com’s Chatter to serve as the system of record for all discussions between brand owners and tier 1 suppliers. Let’s see where this goes.
Hottest trend:  Supply Chain Control Towers

Over the last three weeks, I’ve talked to three software vendors that are developing control towers to manage the extended supply chain. Not surprisingly, each has taken a different tact. One is focusing on the infrastructure needed for near real-time sense-and-respond.  Another is morphing planning and execution functionality to allow changes in supply and demand to cascade up and down the chain from the brand owner to the supplier’s supplier.  The third is adding simulation capabilities on top of its popular planning software.

This is just the start.  Many more vendors are expected to offer their own versions over the next couple of quarters. 
Supply Chain Execution-as-a-service

In the last 10 days, executives at two software firms asked me for my perspectives on outsourcing core supply chain processes.  At first I thought they were talking about some of the demand planning outsourcing that Accenture was performing for clients at a Mumbai site that I visited in 2007.

That wasn’t what they meant at all.  Instead, they asked what I thought about contract manufacturers offering to manage the procurement and manufacturing processes for their customers.  While it’s hard to imagine a company like Dell ceding this level of control, I could see how this type of service would have appealed to salesforce.com in the fictional DealBook scenario I created last week.  This bear’s watching.
Titanic supply chains

Six years ago while I was at AMR Research, I wrote about the concept of “predatory supply chains.” I argued that smart companies look for ways to cut off their competitors’ oxygen.  The two examples I cited were Apple’s cornering of the flash memory market before the launch of the iPod, and Toyota’s investment in and purchasing deal with a core supplier of hybrid transmissions that prevented others from matching Prius sales.
What’s the flip side of predatory? How about Titanic where a partner’s failures can sink your boat?

Last Tuesday, The WSJ wrote about how “Nokia’s Troubles Hit Suppliers.” Nokia’s cell phone sales woes have caused problems for chipmakers at STMicroelectronics and Texas Instruments. STMicroelectronics’ wireless division saw a 34% drop in second quarter sales over the same period last year. This resulted in a $102 million operating loss. 
Nokia is TI’s primary customer for applications processors having bought 85% of units shipped. TI recently blamed Nokia for its lower quarterly sales guidance. Overall, TI’s share of that processor sector has dropped from 34.5% to 19.2% over the last year.

It’s not just Nokia’s travails. Hewlett-Packard’s recent decision to stop producing WebOS products could not have been viewed as good news inside Qualcomm which had been a key chip supplier.
Retailers:  Give your best customers a free iPad

OK, so this one is a stretch. Last Wednesday, The WSJ published an article based on a Forrester Research survey that found that tablet users were more likely than PC users to buy something from a retailer’s site – 4-5% conversation rate versus 3%. The same piece said that tablet users also spent more per order – as much as 10-20% more.

If you remember my reference to Burberry in my September 8th post, it would not be too much of a leap to imagine the fashion leader distributing tablets clad with its iconic tartan pattern to key customers. Here we see the convergence of social commerce with the social enterprise. 
What do you think?

As always, I welcome your feedback and ideas. Please add to the conversation.


Wake Me Up When September Ends

Ah, September can be such a cruel month in New England. As the first day dawned, the Red Sox were in first place, 1.5 games ahead of the Yankees and 9 wins better than Tampa Bay. It was great to be a Boston sports fan.

Well, you know what happened next. The team with the third highest payroll in baseball limped on to a 7-and-20 record over the final four weeks. After Hurricane Irene swept through on August 28, the Sox never won back-to-back games.
The dreaded and feared collapse again reminded Fenway fans of the opening paragraph from A. Bartlett Giamatti’s great essay, “The Green Fields of the Mind.” Here’s how the former commissioner of baseball described our dependence on the sport:
“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”
October can be a nasty stretch, too. In a few weeks we will be reminded of the 25th anniversary of Game 6 of the Sox-Mets World Series. Please wake me when October passes, too.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Get Ready for “Social Supply Chains”

When Marc Benioff outlined his vision for the “social enterprise” at last month’s Dreamforce, he described social networks for employees, customers, and products.  Being a long-time supply chain analyst, I was surprised that he didn’t talk about social networks for your suppliers. 

Let me do it for him.

This past week I was in the Rocky Mountains to attend E2open’s (www.e2open.com) annual customer event.  As I sat listening to some of the world’s smartest supply chain practitioners talk about the challenges keeping up with an ever-expanding list of new SKUs and new product categories (e.g., tablets), I wondered whether Chatter could be deployed as the preferred collaboration medium between brand owners and their top suppliers. 

After all, it would seem that you would want to capture most or all of the back-and-forth discussions on forecasts, purchase orders, engineering changes, shortages, and other factors versus using email, IM, fax, etc.  in this case, Chatter could be used as a knowledge management system, too.

If you’ve been around chief procurement officers for Fortune 100 high tech companies, you know that they tend to be deadly serious people.  While many CPOs might read this and spontaneously scream “Not in my lifetime!” let me outline a social supply chain scenario for you.

Caution:  This scenario has a 0% probability
Imagine that Marc Benioff and Michael Dell are meeting right now to discuss Marc’s idea for the salesforce.com DealBook, a new tablet designed specifically for business apps.  Over lunch, Mr. Dell agrees to license some of his IP and to share his suppliers in exchange for royalties on each unit sold.

When Mr. Benioff returns home, he announces the news to his executive team.  They immediately create “Project Aloha,” and set up new Chatter streams including “Launch Teams,” “Development Schedules,” “New Product Ideas,” “Tier 1 Suppliers,” “Carriers,” “Competition,” “Sales Forecasts,” and “Cost Targets.”  In addition to all internal communications, Chatter also becomes a content repository as third party information such as IHS’ iSuppli Teardown reports get added for all to share. 
Next step:  Create a social network for suppliers

Here’s what could happen next:  Within 72 hours an internal team makes the trek down 101 to E2open.  Their goal is to get rapid access to the 50,000 suppliers in E2open’s trading network.  When they get there they discover that their new partner is a salesforce customer and used Force.com to write a new application to streamline the onboarding process.  A deal is quickly negotiated, but with one condition – Chatter will be the collaboration standard for all supplier interactions.

Over the next few weeks and months the network expands from design firms, contract manufacturers and Tier 1 partners to include critical suppliers embedded deeper in the supply chain.  It also includes selected AppExchange partners who have agreed to provide free 90-days trials of their software as well.  In a short time, Chatter is conveying P.O.s, demand updates, engineering changes, and updated launch information to key suppliers. 

Then expand to customers/partners
Thanks to the network, the sales team soon has DealBook prototypes that they can preview to selected carriers, retailers, and customers.  Verizon and BestBuy ask salesforce.com to create a shared partner network built around Chatter.  They want to begin training employees and creating marketing plans ahead of the launch.

As word begins leaking out about Project Aloha, salesforce.com turns to its Radian6 team to monitor the buzz.  This gets shared over Chatter to the employee, supplier, and partner networks.
Leveraging Chatter on the day of the launch

On launch day, salesforce.com sends its employees out to key retail sites to track the success of the new DealBook.  Immediately, the field begins submitting videos of the lines outside the store and interviews with customers and the retail employees.  Messages are coming in on product sales and competitive responses.  Every comment is recorded on the new Chatter Map and arranged by geography. 

As the first batch of DealBooks quickly sells out, salesforce.com sets up a new Chatter stream to track re-sale prices and volumes on eBay and Craigslist.
Meanwhile, marketing has created a new social network for the DealBook itself.  Customers log on to download the video of the Metallica performance at Dreamforce.  They also post their ideas on new features they want to see in DealBook2 as well as their views on how the new tablet stacks up against the iPad.  Thousands post YouTube videos and Like it on Facebook.

What do you think?
Still sitting there with your arms folded muttering “Not in my lifetime”?

As always, I welcome your feedback and ideas.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

What’s Next: A Salesforce Social Network for Ad Agencies and Marketers?

Last week I wrote a piece for salesforce.com’s CloudBlog that asked “Will ‘Mad Men’ Drive the Social Enterprise?”  This fleshed out some of the ideas I raised in last Monday’s post on social networks.  The not-so-subtle message was that the cloud leader should be aggressive in pursuing relationships with ad agencies.

This drew a comment from one reader questioning whether there was a role for agencies in the Social Enterprise.  He didn’t see the need to let any company come between our customers and our brands.

Embrace, Don’t Replace

That kind of thinking fails to take into account the existing, often long-term, relationships between agencies and their clients.  Instead of trying to displace the creative team, salesforce.com must embrace them. Taking a page from Facebook might be a good start.

Last April, the social network giant started Facebook Studio for agencies and marketers.  The site features “Creatives Talk Live” webcasts, a Learning Lab to help agencies and their clients get started with social networks, a Studio blog, and a directory of the global agencies that are members of the community.
The most attractive part for agencies, though, may be the opportunity to brag about their work.  There is a Gallery of nearly 250 submissions built on Facebook.  Most are built around well-known brands.  You will also notice a Showcase featuring the top 20 campaigns.  Facebook describes this as “celebrating the very best work created using Facebook.” 

These are brilliant ideas.   No other industry gives out more awards than the advertising world. 
You can be sure that the “Likes” for each campgaign are closely monitored, too.  Overall, 162,000 Like Facebook Studio.

What do you think?
Should salesforce.com create its own Studio?   It has a lot of the pieces that creatives need – Radian6 for sentiment analysis and data visualization, Force.com and Heroku for custom development, and Chatter for collaboration.  It also has the advantage of being more open than Facebook in that it embraces Google, Twitter, and other social networks/tools.
As always, I welcome your feedback and ideas.


P.S. Here are the links to the Cloudblog and CloudAve posts.  You can add your comments there, too.



Monday, September 12, 2011

More New Social Network Opportunities

In my last post, I wrote about salesforce.com’s plans to provide social networks for employees, customers, and products.  Now it seems that I can’t pick up a newspaper or magazine or my laptop without seeing a wide range of potential applications, especially around social networks for products.  Here are some examples:
Social nets for products:  Look to medicine and the wisdom of cars
Reading the online edition of MIT’s Technology Review is as much a part of my daily routine as enjoying a cup or two of coffee.   Over the last few weeks, TR has published several pieces on emerging medical innovations that one day may be a critical part of our health care.  For example, there was a piece this morning on a new tumor monitoring system that can be implanted in the body to measure blood oxygen levels.  The data would be fed wirelessly to your doctor.
Other articles have discussed sensors that can monitor blood pressure and glucose levels.  Both TR and The New York Times have published pieces on sensors/monitors embedded into temporary tattoos.  These “epidermal electronics” might one day replace the maze of wires attached to a patient’s body.
As I write this, I am wondering how this gets commercialized.  Does my doctor’s office sign me up for a modest fee or will it be advertising-supported?  Can I use Chatter to talk to my doctor and with other patients with similar diagnoses?
As for vehicles, I’m a sucker for an article promising me “personalized directions” based on traffic, weather, and my own driving habits.  In late August, TR published an article on a study conducted by Microsoft Research in China.   Apparently, researchers tracked the GPS movements of 33,000 taxi drivers to figure out the optimal route based on the day’s conditions.   
What about road safety?  Last week, TR described some new work being performed on vehicle-to-vehicle, and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications.  It quoted the U.S. Department of Transportation as estimating that “80% of serious accidents could be avoided” if we could tap the wisdom of cars.
In the vehicle examples, there would be no shortage of potential providers.  A quick list would include car companies, insurance firms, SiriusXM satellite radio, and quick serve restaurants – “Today’s traffic is brought to you by McDonald’s.  Hey, the highway is backed up for eight miles thanks to the rain.  There’s a McDonald’s at the next exit.  Come on in for an Egg McMuffin and wait out the storm.”
Social nets for customers:  Cars, tires, and newspapers
In his August 31 keynote, Marc Benioff talked about the conceptual social network he designed for Toyota.  On that same day, The New York Times wrote about how Ford was teaming with Zipcar to reach young drivers.  Ford will be supplying the car sharing service with vehicles on 250 college and university campuses in the United States.  You can already imagine the Chatter stream on recommendations for car preferences, restaurants, lodging, and tourist attractions aimed at this demographic.
Keeping with the focus on vehicles, in mid-July Bloomberg Businessweek wrote about Continental’s efforts to reach the “tire guy” at local car repair shops and garages around the U.S.  During the course of the year, the world’s fourth largest tire manufacturer will invite 950 independent reps out to its south Texas track to test drive its products.  This is big business as the local guys influence 80% of the purchase decisions in the $13 billion retail market  for new tires. 
Again, you can imagine Chatter streams with video clips featuring squealing tires (and corresponding ring-tones).  Watch how Continental’s tires handle adverse conditions.  Check out their traction and braking.  View how the company differentiates from its competitive positioning.  Oh, and feel free to do some merchandising.
As for newspapers, this morning The Boston Globe introduced its first pay site – www.bostonglobe.com.  The big technological innovation is the new “responsive web design.”  Basically, the paper automatically renders to the traits of the viewing device, be it smart-phone, iPad, or PC.
I looked to see if the new version offers a Chatter-like feature.  The website said only that a “comments” section is planned.  I suspect that this will be more of an internal political/cultural issue than a technical development. 
Social nets for employees:  Don’t forget your alums
Last month TR had a short piece on Infosys’ iEngage, an internal network designed to link its 130,000 employees who are spread across the planet.  It has also opened up the site to an estimated 20,000 former workers.  If you’re planning a social network for employees, you may also want to figure out how to include support for former workers.  They can be an important source for new business or may be interested in part-time work.
What do you think?
As always, I welcome your feedback and ideas.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Closer Look at Salesforce.com’s “Social Enterprise” Strategy

At the annual Dreamforce conference last week, salesforce.com’s Marc Benioff unveiled his company’s “Social Enterprise” initiative before a very crowded and highly enthusiastic audience.  In the first of his two keynotes, Mr. Benioff described his plans for social networks for employees, customers, and products.   This post looks specifically at those offerings.  Look for other Dreamforce analysis to follow.
In my view, the company’s collective genius comes in delivering brand-new-to-the-market-software while simultaneously providing dramatic improvements on existing concepts.  For example, any one who built an intranet portal using Plumtree or worked on the internal team that created IBM’s BluePages, could argue that they were ahead of the curve on employee social networks.  Likewise, Communispace would claim that it has a 12-year head start developing digital communities around consumer brands.
The difference, though, is in salesforce’s ability to seamlessly integrate/embed all of the new software into its existing platform.  It then leverages its user experience to create strong, favorable buzz, stimulate global demand, and execute on a broad scale. 
If you’re thinking that my view may have been altered by standing too close to the stage while Metallica performed at the opening night soiree, then you don’t understand the rapport that Mr. Benioff and team have with their customers.  It’s very Apple-like.
 Here’s a closer look at the three new social networks, and some speculation on what could come next.
Employee social networks:  What does your company use to help speed information-sharing? 
How do you find out about the status of a development project or a large $MM deal?  Do you subscribe to those teams or do you email/call friends involved?  Tools like Yammer are OK if you want people to know what you’re doing, but they were not designed for real-time collaboration. 
Salesforce.com’s Chatter changes all of that.  During the opening keynote, I sat next to one of the company’s top executives.  Pointing to his iPad, he showed me how he used it to keep track of specific deals, customers, sales teams, and documents.  The new release of Chatter adds support for presence, chat, sharing, workflow, and approvals.  There is also an API for third party vendors so that their apps can “talk” to Chatter.  Chatter also allows customers and partners to be linked in to the conversation.
The only pieces missing seemed to be a template for actually creating an employee profile and a framework for talent management.  While you could use your LinkedIn profile as a base, that’s really designed to attract attention outside of your company.  In addition, there’s a lot of proprietary information that you would not put into that network.  (Note:  Many customers use Force.com to create these employee-centric applets/applications.)
Customer social networks:  Extending your brand
The best argument for customer social networks came when Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts joined Mr. Benioff on stage.  Ms. Ahrendts had a slide of the napkin that Mr. Benioff had used to draw all of the links between her company’s goals and the various constituencies that her company serves, and the various ways that his company could help hers.  She then described how Mr. Benioff had whipped out his iPhone to snap a photo of the results of their impromptu brainstorming session and then emailed it to his team to solicit input for how they could best help the $2B fashion leader.  Immediately, ideas come in from around the globe via Chatter.
Burberry’s employees tend to be young – more than 70% are under 30.  This Facebook generation is a natural for collaboration tools like Chatter.  Its employee social network appears to be tightly linked to the new product launch of Burberry Body fragrance.  Combining the two networks creates a high level of transparency around the campaign and results.
There’s more to customer social nets than Chatter and a cool website.  There’s also the ability to monitor and respond to all of the comments that consumers are making about your brand.  As Mr. Benioff noted, there’s a lot of social traffic to navigate.  Every day more than 200 million tweets traverse the globe.  Meanwhile, you and your peers are updating your Facebook page to the tune of 1.5 billion posts a day.
Again, there have been tools like Umbria that provide sentiment analysis.  Let me remind you though that the salesforce difference is that everything is seamlessly integrated into the core.  There’s no jumping in and out of disconnected apps or multiple log-ins and windows.  It’s all right there on your laptop, iPad, or smart-phone.
One last point, I see customer social networks (and the product version, too) as creating a whole new sales channel in the creative community, especially the interactive agencies who want to leverage their research capabilities and creative skills.  This has enormous potential.
Product social networks:  Linking to the Internet of Things
Four years ago Mr. Benioff used the Dreamforce stage to unveil Ideas, a website designed to gather customer likes /dislikes on products, services, and policies.  This started as an internal tool and quickly spread to Dell and Starbucks.  Thanks to one customer’s post on MyStarbucksIdeas.com, coffee drinkers now have the option of putting a “splash stick” in the hole on the lid to keep the contents in the cup.
While Ideas seems to have receded into the archives, I was really intrigued by the concept of a product social network.  The idea came from discussions that Mr. Benioff had had with Toyota. Instead of friending the car company, your BFF could be your Prius.
Personally, I couldn’t imagine being a frequent visitor to a car company’s website.  But, if I was a Prius owner, I might be interesting in improving my mileage or extending the life of the vehicle.  In the future, after your commute home, your Prius could connect to salesforce.com and report the number of miles driven, the average speed, and details about fuel consumption.  In the morning a message could be pushed to your iPhone offering a graph on how you did yesterday against your peers and offering suggestions for improvement.
There are already tools like that in use today.  Nike and Adidas have designed software for runners that track distances, speed, and performance relative to goals.  Wait until this expands to other exercise equipment, medical devices, and prescription drugs.
The product social network has already extended into routers from Enterasys.  While I’m not sure what kind of conversation you could have with a piece of networking gear, I can envision a world where sensors and the physical plant can provide status reports and alerts over Chatter.
Where will salesforce go next with social networks?
Given my background as a long-time supply chain analyst, I would assume that someone inside salesforce.com is already thinking about social networks for suppliers, trading partners, logistics, and distribution. 
Product lifecycle management is another area ripe for information sharing and collaboration.  I remember the bewildered looks on the faces of PTC executives when I suggested that they add market-related information to Windchill. 
I would also look for social networks geared around the public sector – whether something like an Open311 initiative for a municipality or a campus-wide offering for your alma mater covering everything from curricula to intramural sports or a hub for your favorite cultural activity or charity.  All could benefit from getting closer to constituents. 
I could also make the case for social networks built around your favorite sport/sports team or hobby.  Think of the opportunities for highly targeted marketing.
And lastly, what about the home version?  Forget about emailing or texting your spouse and kids.  Set up Chatter streams to track activities, projects, vacations, family obligations, homework, and the like.
What do you think?
OK, OK, so maybe I’ve gotten way ahead of where salesforce.com is headed.  I did want you to get a sense for why I think the social enterprise/social economy is such a Big Idea.
As always, I welcome your feedback and ideas.  Please add your thoughts to the conversation.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Welcome to Circumnavigating the Social Economy!

Just wanted to let you know that I'm starting a new weekly blog that looks at the nascent world of the "Social Economy."  While salesforce.com's CEO Marc Benioff has labeled this as the "Social Enterprise," it's more than the activities at individual companies.  It's how all of this in the aggregate will combine to change the way we engage with our employees, customers, suppliers, and even our products and the "Internet of Things."

Please join me on this journey.  As always, I welcome your feedback and advice.

All aboard!