Saturday, February 23, 2013

A New Direction, A New Role

This post marks a new direction for my blog. Since completing my MBA program at Boston College in 2010  I have started to put my research into action, taking a leadership role at a Boston based financial services firm deploying an enterprise collaboration platform to a global workforce of over 30,000 employees.

Over the past 2 years I've been working with various stakeholders across the company to make social business a reality. My posts going forward will over a variety of topics derived from my experience and lessons learned, including:

- Creating a comprehensive governance model that aligns with existing policy
- Selecting the right technology
- Integration with existing technology
- Training (executive, end-user, community managers)
- Adoption
- Reporting & Metrics

These posts express my personal opinions and experience and in no way reflect the position of my employer. It's my hope that these posts will aid others in their social business journey. As I've become active in the world of enterprise 2.0 the openness and willingness to share experiences, challenges and even failures from other firms has surprised me. It's clear that professionals in this area have embraced the nature of collaboration, even beyond the firewall. These posts are my attempt at paying it forward.  

I look forward to hearing from others attempting to drive social business adoption, or anyone with thoughts they wish to share!


Monday, November 29, 2010

Location-Based Services: Going too far?

Location-based services (LBS) represent a clear opportunity for retailers to broaden their breadth of consumer information. By promoting LBS activity among consumers they can hope to develop a much more complete picture of consumer behavior. This information could augment that compiled by businesses through loyalty/rewards programs that track in-house purchasing trends. By understanding where else their customers shop, how often, and what they purchase, businesses can attempt to capture greater wallet-share among their established customer base.
Though the benefit to the business is fairly clear to me the benefit to the consumer is a little tougher to come by. Personally I've looked into Foursquare and Facebook Places, but see no benefit to participating in them. I have no interest on being the "Mayor" of any store, or earning "badges" for completing tasks, trying new services. Certainly discounts are the most popular incentive for businesses to spur activity among rewards programs and I'm sure that will translate to LBS fairly well, but personally I have a limit to the amount of information I am willing to disseminate for a free bagel at DD's. LBS is far beyond that limit. It also sets a dangerous precedent in my opinion. What's next? If you "subscribe" to a certain retailers LBS promotion allowing them to track you through GPS constantly in exchange for discounts, will everyone will a cell phone become a tool for data mining, are they already?
I realize this is an evolving trend and like I said, represents a tremendous opportunity for businesses to compile data, but as consumers we have to decide for ourselves where the line is. How much information are you willing to give up to receive discounts at your favorite coffee shop? How would you feel if that information was hacked off the corporate server? How would you feel if the internet ads you were seeing suddenly reflected not just what you search for in Google, Yahoo, etc., but where you went yesterday? I'm not much of a conspiracy theorist, but I am somewhat private I guess, certainly enough to make a conscious decision not to participate in LBS myself. I don't protest its existence, I just fear some consumers, especially young ones, will jump at the opportunity while not fully understanding its implications.

"Is Google Making Us Stupid?" (The Atlantic, July/August 2008)

I must admit, upon reading the title of this article my immediate, subconscious reaction was a resounding "YES". This stance was summed up nicely toward the end of the article when the author discusses Plato's Phaedrus in which Socrates "bemoaned the development of writing." His fear was people would substitute books for personal knowledge, taking for granted the abundant availability of information in text form. Though this contention is clearly laughable this day-and-age, I believe the fundamental stance echoes today with the evolution of the internet. I fear many replace their desire for structured learning with the immediate access to a broad base of information on the internet.
In reality this article addresses whether or not the internet, and it's accessibility encapsulated by the functionality of Google, is changing the way our minds work, as opposed to making us "stupid". It suggests our minds are adapting to the easy accessibility of such a broad base of information by focusing quickly and superficially. That we tend to multi-task and maintain a shallow depth on any one topic/subject. That people who have adapted to the internet to access information no longer read books or articles of great length, rather they prefer to access the exact information they need when they need it via Google, or other search tools.
Though we rely on primarily qualitative data to make these contentions at this point, awaiting more in-depth studies, I think it's fairly clear these points have a great deal of merit. I certainly related with the author when he reflected on his inability to focus intensely on any long piece of literature, his mind tending to wonder and his preference to multi-task. As a matter-of-fact during the time I read the article and posted to this blog I returned 2 text messages, 3 e-mails, and took a phone call, clearly my level of focus could be brought into question.
So, the real question posed here is will fears of the internet's negative impact on our cognitive ability prove to have merit, or will they shadow Socrates’ fear of the written word in Phaedrus? Personally, as I've mentioned, I think the contention that the internet is changing the way our minds work has a lot of merit and will likely continue for some time. As far as having a negative impact on our cognitive abilities, or making us "stupid" I'm not so sure. Thinking differently does not necessarily make us stupid. I believe the broad availability of information, whether it be written word, internet, Google, Wikipedia, etc., is a good thing, The easier the accessibility the better. I believe this access will breed greater innovation and more impactful developments in the future.
What do you think? If you were born today, with the level of access we are afforded, how would your upbringing have changed? Do you think your long-term capabilities would be impacted? Negatively/positively?


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Consumer Vigilantes, Business Week: 3/3/2008

This article is another reminder of the power social media, and the web in general, provides to the average consumer. Through organized blogs and web pages scorned consumers can unite to exchange information and become a powerful, collective force against organization that empower them, through poor customer service. The level of power these groups amass is directly correlated to the level of poor customer service delivered by the corresponding companies. Cable and cell phone providers are typical targets due to the lack of immediate alternatives and ease of switching. Often times for both this would involve purchasing new equipment, service cancelation fees, and potentially many calls with customer service representatives on the part of the consumer. This makes people feel locked-in and frustrated, turning to alternative options to deal with their frustration.
Its clear that this is a trend that is not going away. As more and more people become active with twitter, facebook, blogs, and other social media platforms, this practice will certainly grow and intensify. Companies would be well-advised to address this possibility within their customer service department. In the article an area within Comcast's customer service department is discussed. This unit was tasked with monitoring social media outlets for issues and providing solutions to the consumers to alleviate their concerns. Though they were probably a little late to the game on this, I think other companies could learn a valuable lesson from them in this department. Cutting these concerns off as early as possible will certainly quiet the movement down and hopefully cause the group to discontinue their page/blog/videos/etc.
Having worked in financial services, and other service industries, my entire career I have noticed there are always some customers that are never happy. I think we've all sat next to THAT GUY at a restaurant, at the store, wherever that just won't be content unless his/her entire meal is comp'd and the server tips THEM just for their patience. I fear these types of consumers may represent a certain sub-group of these "consumer vigilantes". When I hear about the customers posting executive phone numbers, personal lines in some cases, I get a little concerned. What's next, home address? If these, let's call them difficult-to-please, consumers take to these methods it will pose an interesting problem to companies. Do they buy them off with discounts, vouchers, etc (equal to the restaurant manager comp'ing the patrons meal even though there really wasn't any major issue with service) or do they stand strong and counter the attacks with their side of the story??

What do you think, where is this trend heading and how should companies respond? 


Monday, November 8, 2010

USAA: Generation Y Assimilation- MISQE

When does an Enterprise 2.0 assimilation tool that promotes social activity and integration among new hires become more of a distraction than a benefit at work? This is an interesting question that organizations across the world are trying to figure out within this new era of social media at work.
This look into "Nexus" and it's utilization among USAA's IT department brought up some important issues. First, it may be tough to quantify the benefit of social integration into an organization, but it's importance is very clear to those who are attempting it. Building a base of friends at a new organization makes life so much easier. You can ask them questions about organizational norms, how to accomplish certain tasks quickly, where to go for what, and as illustrated in this case if an associate relocated for the position a forum to help assimilate them to the area is equally as critical.
Second, Enterprise 2.0 social media tools will inevitably provide both positive and negative consequences to the organization. The question will be do the positives outweigh the negatives. Does the quicker assimilation and happier employee base outweigh the loss of productivity due to social interaction at work. In the grand scheme of things, is there even a loss of productivity? Again, this may be tough to quantify.
Last, if these tools are to be utilized, they should be used by everyone. Selecting one group/division to use it while everyone is on the outside looking in could very well counteract any positive effects the tools had. It was clear middle management in the IT department at USAA had build animosity toward the new hires and rightfully so in my opinion, they were being left out of experiences, opportunities and benefits simply because they’re more tenured.
At the end of the day I think it's clear these can be powerful tools with a great deal of benefits, but an organization must be willing to go full-scale and take the good with the bad. You cannot seek the benefits of greater social interaction (increased productivity, associate satisfaction, etc.) without accepting the downside (questionable use of work time, resources, associate focus), they go hand-and-hand.

What do you think, if you have a tool like Nexus at work is it more of an organizational benefit or distraction? If you don't have anything like it, would you want it?


Monday, November 1, 2010

Communispace: HBR Case

Communispace is a company that offers targeted consumer insight through a network of communities to aid a variety of companies in product development, marketing techniques, and general market insight. This case study analyzed the company’s business profile and whether it would be wise for them to broaden their operations into word of mouth campaigns, where instead of soliciting information from online community members they would provide products to a target online community in the hopes they would talk about the benefits of the products with friends, co-workers, family, etc.
The client in this case, that was requesting Communispace facilitate their word of mouth campaign, is a large consumer packaged goods company that could represent a major repeat source of revenue in the future. Though there is some concern amoung executives that doing this could adversely affect their core business of soliciting honest feedback from online communities, I feel like this concern is unwarranted. This seems to be a logical step for Communispace and would in no way effect their current business model, as long as this was clearly segmented from their current business model and new community members recruited specifically for the purpose of a word of mouth campaign. I might also develop separate branding for this new product as not to create confusion over Communispaces' core business of soliciting information from targeted online communities.
When considering a new product/service a company should analyze whether: A) There is a clear demand for the product/service, B) Whether this product/service is something current customers demand (providing a cross-selling opportunity, C) Whether the company has expertise in this area, D) What kind of initial investment would be required and what's the overall risk of failure?
In this case they have a large client requesting this service, it is a logical transition from their existing business model, it is something existing clients could benefit from, and requires little additional investment. To me this would be a no-brainer. After helping companies develop a new product I would solicit them to start a word of mouth campaign with a separate community, adding potential for additional revenue. Communispace could become not only a passive marketing research company, but a proactive viral campaign outlet.

Good article with a complete overview of issues involved: 9/10

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Case Study: Virtua's Social Media Plan..." (Gartner)

This case study is a brief outline of a global information technology services company’s implementation of social media policy for employees. It discusses the steps Virtua took to educate employees on the potential benefits the firm could realize from responsible social media interaction with other employees and current/potential customers and the guidelines it wanted employees to follow.
In the end Virtua realized many benefits from the social media plan it launched, including sales leads, increased customer interaction, and a broader online presence. They also learned a few important lessons. I found a couple of these to be especially important.
First, though it is important to educate employees on the firms goals with social media and monitor their involvement, this must be done so "with a light touch". Slip-ups and misuse is bound to occur at some point, most likely early on in the game. It’s important to use these as a lesson to educate employees on what is and what is not appropriate. Second, not everyone has the same need to engage in social media. Having different requirements for different roles is preferable. I think this is important because forcing individuals to use social media really runs counter to the fundamental purpose of social media. You can't force people to talk to others, or like others in real life and this is true online as well. The interaction must be genuine, otherwise it’s not worth having (ever been stuck in an awkward conversation with someone you didn’t like or had no interest in talking to??).  
This case study is a brief outline of some important issues to consider when implementing social media in the workplace, it would be a nice supplement to broader research on implementation steps.