Archives For Business

In a network economy, major competitive advantage is gained by having a strong developer ecosystem.  The more software that’s written for a product, the better the product becomes.  Generally.  The vast iPhone App Store catalog sets the phone apart from it’s competition.  The phone is a slick piece of hardware, but if it had the Jitterbug’s app catalog I don’t think it would sell as well.  Why not use the same model in the enterprise?

You’re  standing up your workforce collaboration platform, which is a good thing.  But, much like your cell phone, your collaboration platform becomes superior the more applications  integrate with it.  (Your goal is to make everything social, right? )  Why not set up a framework for developers (assumption: your company has software developers with spare time) to build apps and integrations for your collab platform?  Surely, your team doesn’t have the bandwidth to tackle that amount of work in a reasonable amount of time.  Instead of having them catch all the fish, why not let them teach others how.  It scales better.

A couple of benefits I see here:

  1. As you increase the number of systems integrated with your collaboration platform customers (your employees, in this case) will be able to customize their working environment: personal portals/dashboards aggregating tasks, tools, processes, training, policies all in one place.   The promise of these collaboration platforms is that they can do this kind of aggregation, but the reality is that you already have systems that manage many of these things separately and are not ready to get rid of them.  And, to some degree, why should you?  Some of these systems are good at what they do but would be given a big boost if they were made social.
  2. Increased user adoption of your workforce collaboration platform (because of #1)
  3. Software engineers like this idea (at least the ones I’ve talked to).  They not only get a chance to spend more time in their cube, but they get to showcase their ‘gold nuggets,’ as one developer put it to me.  I think the technical term is egoboo.  Not sure if you have the concept of reputation management in your collab system, but this could certainly play into that.
  4. You could possibly crowd-source and prioritize the apps/integrations to be built.  This would help fuel the adoption of #2 and would get the engineers in #3 fired up if they knew they were coding a solution that other employees want.
  5. It’ll  get the good, reusable artifacts out from under that one-off CMS you’ve got.  The more systems you can make social, the more value they provide.  See #1.
  6. Distribute the scope creep.  From what I’ve experienced, it’s easy to get pulled in lots of different directions.  So many customers (again, employees in this case) are eager for social & aggregation capabilities that you end up with scope creep (read: proliferation).  Not only could you distribute the creep, but you could increase speed to market and customer satisfaction.  It’s really like you’re expanding your project team.

Integration into other systems is a must when it comes to workforce collaboration.   If you’ve got the right kind of business, the internal AppStore makes a lot of sense.  The combination of potentially crowd-sourcing and prioritizing development could take your workforce collaboration software to the next level.

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October 2, 2009 — Leave a comment

Ever think you know someone really well and then you meet one of their siblings and they’re completely different?  You never could have imagined it.  Same parents, same church, same school, same neighborhood.  What gives?  One goes out all the time, the other stays in.  One got straight A’s, the other never finished high school.  One likes their beef grass-fed, the other is vegan.  I think you get the idea.

Well, IT projects can be a lot like that.  You can have two projects, same goal and they can be worlds apart.  Same company, same vision, same CEO, same culture, same training.  What gives?  Well, I’ve had the opportunity to work in such an environment (project = e2.0 deployment) and I can tell you what gives.  It’s the requirements.  Well, not so much the requirements but from whom they come.   Talk to IT.  Talk to BD.  Then talk to HR, Marketing, Comms.  Then go and talk to your ‘product’ folks.  Worlds apart.  Even though everyone at the company is committed to the same mission, they’ve each got their own role and their own care-abouts.  The ‘thing’ they want designed is obviously going to be biased to what makes their world tick.

So, to whom do you listen?  It’s a tough decision in the ‘social world’.  My advice is actually the same I offered in this post I wrote in June (I was at the e2.0 Conference in Boston).  The difference is that now (more than 3 monhts later) I’ve got the experience to back it up.  Turns out I was right.  Doesn’t happen often.  But when it does I’m going to blog about it.  Here’s an excerpt:

My advice to you is do your homework.  Know the vendor space, know your architecture, know your security model, know your requirements.  Most importantly: know your business and how this new tool set will help you solve your BUSINESS problems.  Do all of this before even approaching a vendor.  Get a sponsor from your BUSINESS.  HR is not OK.  Comms, eh, you’re getting warmer.  IT…COLD.  Get at the heart of what your company does and find out who does it.  Once you find them, they will tell you everything you need to know.   If you can make them happy and solve their problems you greatly increase your odds of success.

Looking back on that advice, it’s a little rough around the edges, but it absolutely rings true.  Jeremiah Owyang has a new post here where he urges companies to bring ‘social’ beyond just the marketing department.  I agree, but if you’re talking internally focused efforts (and I understand that wasn’t his intent, so this is not a criticism) his advice doesn’t go far enough.  You need to start with the ‘core of your business’ folks.  They will cover many requirements of the other functions, but it won’t work the other way around.  Once you get the right requirements from the right people you’ll have created an excellent foundation from which you can become holistic.

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