Is This Future Shock?

musings on how technology is changing my business environment

Archive for November, 2007

Lots of Web 2.0 bits

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Since I started using Facebook regularly, the most interesting things I’ve found are:

  • blog posts written by others, that lead me to find out more about what’s happening in the internet area (OK, I’m failing to avoid saying Web 2.0)
  • bits in people status feeds that make me think “I wonder what that is?”

Some of the things I’ve found recently (yes, I know they’re all probably old hat)

Twitter – letting folk know your presence/activity

Jaiku – another presence/group/blogging monitoring thing, with the ability to add “channels”

Spinvox – does voice to text stuff, but lets you update Facebook/twitter/Jaiku by phone, which is fun

Tumblr – which allows you to rapidly add links, quotes, text, photos to a stream – and you can add channels, too. I use it for grabbing links, which I RSS to my blog

Tabblo – a photo/text/story/printing site – lets you *easily* bring photos in from Flickr and fairly easily from Picasa; let’s you produce interesting photo displays that you can print as PDF; locally; for free …

Picknik – which lets you edit *online* phots on your PC, Picasa, Facebook, Flickr. Very nice.

Pandora – recommends – and plays – music for you based on characteristics of music that you’ve indicated you like. Lots of fun, and works differently to last.fm which I also use

I think I’ll probably edit this as I recall/use more bits ‘n bobs.

Written by SteveEllwood

November 27th, 2007 at 10:30 am

So, how's your outsourcing going?

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If you look back, perhaps you can occasionally learn what the road ahead may bring.

JP Rangaswami, MD of BT Design used to work at Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, and was a believer in outsourcing – as are we all in this day and age.

He had some useful warnings, listed here:

http://www.watersonline.com/public/showPage.html?page=129216 

But what about outsourcing, which has become Wall Street’s cost-saving darling? Isn’t this one way banks can rid themselves of routine tasks? Rangaswami warns investment firms of the seduction of supposed cost savings. “What I lose with offshoring is far more than I gain,” he says of DrKW’s own experience, which was “focused on the war for talent rather than wage arbitrage. With outsourcing I may reduce the core execution cost but I pay for it by increased coordination and training costs.” DrKW found in some cases that the local offshoring staff had to be spoon fed and that the typical attrition rates of 40 to 50 percent meant they were often training staff to ultimately benefit others.

Rangaswami also urges firms who do embark on outsourcing contracts to “clean up their garbage first,” rather than dumping it onto the vendor, who will most likely charge a considerable premium for the cleansing. “In the current climate, we cannot afford to feed the mouths of outsourcers. The focus has to be on getting rid of the layer of fat and then parceling it off neatly to someone who has the critical mass to provide economies of scale,” he says.

Sensible really. Work out what you’re outsourcing; why; and what the likely true return is.

Written by SteveEllwood

November 23rd, 2007 at 10:37 pm

Posted in JP,Management

Do you want transactions, or relationships?

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JP’s blogged about VRM a few times.

Recently, he mused

I believe in VRM. I believe that in the 21st century, product-driven advertising is fundamentally flawed. Personal recommendations, whether direct or via collaborative filtering, count for a lot more. Recommendations from people I know and trust, recommendations that scale now that I have the tools and the technology to discover the recommendations and act on them.

I followed the link, and ended up with a discussion of the scenarios that result depending upon your answers to 2 questions.

Q1: Who controls the interactions between vendor and customer?
Q2: Are the interactions focused on transactions or relationships?

having looked at these, I found I much preferred The Global Village or
The Matrix (Blue Pill).
Why? Because it centres on relationships. These relationships tend to benefit both parties…

… which is why we should strive to build our relationships as strong as we can.

In my mind, who controlled the interaction, was much less important.
I’m interested in the views of others.

Tara Hunt in her Dear World of Marketing post pointed out that

Truly long lasting brands are those who build RELATIONSHIPS with their customers, who then go off and recommend them to others they have RELATIONSHIPS with. …

Believe me, this VRM stuff is not only good for customers, but it is good for YOU as well. It puts you firmly in the position of being exactly where you need to be (available) when the customer has money in hand, poised to purchase. It puts you in the role of helpful sidekick. It makes you indispensably useful.

(She’s fairly damning about corporates setting up Facebook pages, mind, but I bet she’d expect them to react to try and retrieve relationships)

Written by SteveEllwood

November 23rd, 2007 at 2:39 pm

Posted in VRM

How should corporates engage with Facebook?

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Facebook has now started a wide range Business Services, and a number of businesses are establishing Facebook Pages.

One I know relatively well, was a firm called Plusnet ( a wholly owned subsidiary of BT) , who set up their pages at Facebook on November 9 – (the link won’t work unless you’re a Facebook member, but the closed model isn’t the point of this posting).

They’ve decided to set up an official presence there, in addition to their engagement with an “unofficial” PlusNet group. How’s it working? Difficult to say, they have attracted about 100 odd fans in the couple of weeks since the group has been formed. How are they going to interact with people with issues? Well, on their user forums, they do actively engage with their customers. I hope they’ll do so in Facebook, too.

Why do I think it is important?

Well, in a Web 2.0 world, the way companies do business, largely through their marketing, is changing, and we have to step up to it.

In 2001, Idris Mootee discussed a new 4P’s in High Intensity Marketing. This was pre-Web2.0. He talked about

the “New 4Ps” model to supplement the traditional marketing 4Ps. They are Personalization, Participation, Peer-to-Peer and Predictive Modeling. …

The first “P” is the simple idea of “Personalization” which now takes on a whole new meaning … I was focusing on customization of products and services through the Internet.

The second “P” is the concept of “Participation”, it is to allow customer to participate in what the brand should stand for; what should be the product directions and even which ads to run. This concept is laying the foundation for disruptive change that we have yet to see the full impact. Looking back I was grossly underestimating the degree of democratization brought about by this idea. By enabling each of us to create and publish our own stories, the power of deciding what we read; listen and watch has spread from a handful of media companies to anyone with a camera, a connection and a computer.

The third “P” is “Peer-to-Peer””interruptive” which refers to customer networks and communities where advocacy happens. The historical problem with marketing is that it is in nature, trying to impose their brand on the customer. This is most apparent in TV ad, which pushes out its own idea of what brand is without engaging the customers. These “passive customer base” will ultimately be replaced by the “active customer communities”. Brand engagement happens within those conversations.

The last “P” is “Predictive Modeling” which refers to neural networks algorithms that are being successfully applied in marketing problems (both a regression as well as a classification problem).

His recentish post about this highlights changes

strategic marketing theory, concepts and practices. In this “experience economy”, strategic marketing now plays a different role. It is now “conversation-driven”, “social network-powered”’, “technology-enabled” and “information-intensive”.

Miss the conversations about you on Facebook… miss the pressure points you need to hit.
Don’t engage with your customers where they want to enage with you, they may not stay your customers.

If you want to be 1st for Customer Service, you need to be hearing what your customers are telling you.

After all, how do you want to hit the headlines in a Web 2.0 world?
“They talk to me from Facebook” or “I complained via YouTube

Most big corporations have a High Level/Executive Complaints team; maybe they could actively pursue service improvement opportunities that are made in similar public spaces. After all, why haven’t the normal routes worked?

The Cluetrain Manifesto has a few thoughts about how people might interact

  • We like this new marketplace much better. In fact, we are creating it.
  • You’re invited, but it’s our world. Take your shoes off at the door. If you want to barter with us, get down off that camel!
  • If you want us to talk to you, tell us something. Make it something interesting for a change.
  • We’ve got some ideas for you too: some new tools we need, some better service. Stuff we’d be willing to pay for. Got a minute?
  • You’re too busy “doing business” to answer our email? Oh gosh, sorry, gee, we’ll come back later. Maybe.
  • You want us to pay? We want you to pay attention.
  • Your product broke. Why? We’d like to ask the guy who made it. Your corporate strategy makes no sense. We’d like to have a chat with your CEO. What do you mean she’s not in?

Written by SteveEllwood

November 23rd, 2007 at 2:12 pm

Posted in Facebook

Tagged with , , ,

Wikis and intranets

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In an ongong bid for speed and agility, my company are changing the way we manage resources on the intranet.

I’m a proselytiser for social networking and wikis (I love my TiddlyWiki, FWIW) so I’m hoping we’ll see significant changes.

Lars Plougmann has written in a couple of places about what you could do if you have no intranet. In If your organisation has no intranet: An opportunity

He suggests some of the disadvantages of an intranet

  • Information changes quicker than the intranet team can update it. No content is static.
  • When the perception is that the information on the intranet is not up to date it stops being the first source for vital business matters
  • The intranet structure typically reflects the shape of the business as of yesteryear
  • The process for updating information on the intranet involves finding out who is responsible for a particular page, then describing a proposed change in an email which gets added to a work queue. Most people only involve themselves once in that process if they don’t see the page updated within a short time
  • Ownership is often skewed: When only a few people can edit stuff on the intranet, an “us” and “them” culture arises. In the worst cases, the intranet becomes the object of blame and ridicule.

and he suggests that a wiki can address many of these shortcomings, with use of tagging, links and *search* – surely a key component of any Knowledge management system.

If you tie authoring in a wiki to ID, then control is easy and if someone screws up… revert the change.

In How to avoid mysterious golfing cart accidents he develops this further and   suggests he has a client who wants to replace their intranet with a wiki. Why?

  • To cut the publishing cycle from days or weeks to minutes or seconds thus ensuring that the content is more relevant
  • To move from content nobody wants to read written in corporate speak to information about what is really going on written in a human voice

He point back to the Cluetrain Manifesto for a lovely quote

“The intranet revolution is bottom-up. There’s no going back. If a company doesn’t recognize this, the top-down intranet it puts in can breed the type of cynicism that results in ugly bathroom graffiti and mysterious golfing cart accidents.”

More wikis; more involvement; more openeness; more benefit – like the Cluetrain says

  • What’s happening to markets is also happening among employees. A metaphysical construct called “The Company” is the only thing standing between the two.
  • Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman. “

Go and re-read (or read if you haven’t) the 95 theses.

Written by SteveEllwood

November 16th, 2007 at 4:28 pm

Posted in blogging,wiki

Tagged with , , ,

Email and its effectiveness…

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At work, we’re having another periodic set of valuable exhortations about email overload – and there are various good practice guidelines coming out.

Valuable, too. But I like the 10:1 email rules from Lars Ploughman

  • 9 people read the email
  • 8 people file the email (in their private folders, thereby duplicating effort)
  • 7 people are interrupted in their work or thoughts when the email arrives
  • 6 people will never be able to find the email again
  • 5 people didn’t actually need to know about the change
  • 4 people joining the project in the next phase wouldn’t have received the email
  • 3 people will be able to find the email again, should they need to
  • 2 people will check back to the email at a later date when they need the information
  • 1 of them will understand the email in context, be able to find it at a later date and action it

So, does that mean more wiki working; more proprietary software; or social networking.

Me? for a project? I’d go for wiki, with links to a controlled repository.

Written by SteveEllwood

November 15th, 2007 at 5:46 pm

Posted in email

Facebook keeps on rolling…

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Stowe Boyd, a key blogger on social networking inter alia is suggesting that corporate blogs may wind down in favour of Facebook Business pages?

Is he right? He’s actually experimenting

“So I think I will try an experiment. I will retire /Messengers — maybe permanently — and set up shop on Facebook. The existing content at /Messengers will be migrated to /Message, and some bits of it might be repurposed for the new page at Facebook for Stowe Boyd And The /Messengers. Go take a look.

… but I am interested to see if my biz presence fans out through fans. Fan me!”

I’m still working on how we could usefully interact with our customers on Facebook; looks likely some other folk will be thinking about that, too.

Some commenters think *less* companies are going to allow Facebook interaction.

I think they are wrong.

Written by SteveEllwood

November 15th, 2007 at 5:39 pm

Posted in Facebook

How do business users use Facebook?

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I was glancing at the Facebook news (thanks, Google Alerts ) and saw an interesting piece on facereviews (looks at facebook applications) on how a senior product manager uses Facebook.

It was all about using the networking capability of Facebook itself (rather than the applications), and suggested a rather more positive view of Facebook than LinkedIn.

“Business users need to remember that business is all about people and your relationships with those people. Keeping connected to those people in your network is important for a multitude of reasons.

…talks about how she keeps in touch with her network of work, career and business connections worldwide… She keeps connected to her peers … via Facebook.

She shared why she prefers facebook to Linked In from a business perspective and how the Facebook experience is much richer and more personal with those business contacts. She also talks about how Facebook really makes communicating easy and much more personal than Linked In (too stark & regimented)”

I’m a moderately interested user of Facebook, and have a nascent network on LinkedIn. Currently, I’m certainly learning more and getting more interest from Facebook. I think I share Jennifer’s view.

I’m thinking more now about how a corporate entity can use Facebook to build relationships within the group – and with its customers. Now doubt I’ll post more later.

Written by SteveEllwood

November 14th, 2007 at 9:57 am

Posted in Facebook

The death of Internal Comms?

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In another interesting post, Richard at Inside Out  asks some interesting questions about how the future will change for Internal Comms professionals.

He highlights change into operational networks rather than managed communication hierarchies – in truth these changes are taking effect already, as harassed professionals use a variety of methods to prune their email overload –  some here – some  more  ruthless.

I use filtering in Outlook to move corporate briefings to another folder which I’ll read when I get chance to, in an airport/station, when I’m grabbing a coffee.Some colleagues filter out *anything* that is cc’d to them. Basically, they are making a choice to try and tone down the CYA emails.

How do you make me read your message? Well, in truth, you can’t. You have to make me want to know what’s important, and good internal communicators know this. Make it easy for me to get the message when I want it; make it snappy to read; keep the format consistent. Then I might read it.

Sending a weekly dirge of “What’s happening in MegaCorp, Blue Widgets Division”, will just get your message canned. Sending a series of links *may* be better, as at least you won’t be quite so hated, but probably won’t get your message across better.

As Richard points out, communication is being done through a variety of means: blogs, recommendations,  social networking, like Facebook (where this blog is publicised  and my other ShaiDorsai blog is imported to)

“A world in which the information consumer controls what they consume from a menu of feeds – basing that choice on the reputation of the source, recommendations from colleagues and serendipitous discovery through social networks. Interactions are almost exclusively real-time and informal in nature.”

I reckon he’s right; some communicators are naturally gifted and can manage their messages intuitively, and have the focus and time management to do this themselves.

Many who need to communicate won’t have the ability or the time to manage the new media… and Richard and his ilk can continue to earn their money.

Now, how he communicates this message to the senior executives is crucial… I wait with interest to find his next steps…

Written by SteveEllwood

November 7th, 2007 at 12:59 pm

Posted in blogging

Tagged with ,

Is Facebook a symptom or a cure?

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In a thoughtful post at Inside Out Richard asked if

“‘… there seems only one cause behind all forms of misery: bigness’ (i.e. as the organisations around us get bigger, we feel smaller, alienated, lose autonomy and control and become institutionalised – we become, ‘… dominated by gigantic, impersonal, bureaucratic, standardised entities’).

I wonder whether the phenomenal popularity of social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook are another manifestation of this malaise, or part of the solution?”

I’m firmly of the view that Facebook is part of the solution. It allows groupings to form outside the normal hierarchical or organisational boundaries, and lets people learn from each other – and perhaps more importantly from each others contacts very easily.

I can follow Inside Out easily from Facebook, along with multiple other aspects; yes, I know *I* could use an RSS feed, but Facebook is somehow both easier and more welcoming.

Although, as was pointed out to me quite firmly by another colleague, providing links to Facebook content without considering that not everyone is a member and “with time to waste” could be considered rude.

So far?I think it has the potential to be a cure.

Written by SteveEllwood

November 2nd, 2007 at 2:06 pm

Posted in Facebook