Social Media to Social Business

Nice post at HBR blogs by David Armano about social media becoming social business. David makes the point that organizations today are understanding more the value of conversations and hence the value of being social in terms of business functions. Two parts where i feel he makes some important points:

On one hand, the public desires authentic interactions in social spaces from real people. There is now an expectation for real-time response. On the other, a business or organization requires a system to be in place that coordinates activities.


Organizations that integrate social into how they do business will embrace social as a layer that’s woven into the fabric of each business function over time.

Look at it carefully, and it seems we are rediscovering something inherent here. Why i say rediscover is because these reminded me of what i understood of Enterprise 2.0, as an organization form rather than the technology which enabled, in some ways necessitated the change in the form of the organization. These discussions were happening not too long ago, something i have written about before.

I am not sure many organizations have reached the stage where they are looking at an E2.0 form of working, and we dont yet have an understanding of of what this form would be. One aspect, for example, is whether hierarchies would remain in the E2.0 era, or would they disappear, or would we see them morph into something different from what they have been.

Are you seeing changes in the organization form? The way i see it, i see changes in the way people are interacting when it comes to work, these interactions becoming more social, but when it comes to organizations, this change would be far more gradual.

10 Things About Google+

Theres quite a bit of buzz about google+ (i am not trying to play with words here), and opinions about the social network seem to be divided. Some folks i am coming across believe that this is the next big thing in the social space. Others believe that theres not much to it, and that there is not much to say that it would be as well accepted as some think it would be.

I tend to take a position somewhere in between. I feel its early days yet to find out how google+ would shape up. What more functionality would google add to it? My thoughts:

1. The look and feel is quite cool, but it would take some doing to get used to the usability. If you are used to linkedin and facebook, you would probably find usability to be a bit different, which at times (at least with those on the other side of the hill) leads to some form of an adoption curve which would need to be taken care of. Not that the curve would be steep necessarily, but it would be there.

2. Some of the features are cool, but at times i feel much more is being read into them. By and large, folks quite like the concept of circles. Though facebook has lists which, from what i understand, are somewhat analogous, the look and feel of circles seems to be quite nice.

3. Using circles to share content privately may not be the right way of looking at it. Rather, circles could be more useful to share content in a more targetted manner, so you can share content which is relevant with a set of people. For example, if you are sharing something work-related, your college friends dont need to see it. Apart from this, i am not sure whether one should read much into it.

4. I have been trying to share an unplugged AC/DC video, but havent been able to do that because the Public option is right at the bottom of the list, and if you try to scroll, the list closes. But then, its early days, and i would think that google would be taking care of a lot of the things folks are saying.

5. Hangout is something which needs to be tried out. Seems to be quite cool.

6. A social network is more about people than about platforms, so the discussion needs to be more about usage than about features.

7. This one’s from Amit Virmani … would google+ have got more traction if they had an option to transfer content from facebook?

8. Posts and comments look like people discussing something and is quite nice.

9. Older posts come to the top of the timeline if there is a recent comment, which means that a post which creates conversation remains at the top of the timeline, which is quite cool, but not always, and could distract from the latest updates coming from your network.

10. Sparks is a neat feature.

Do leave your feedback about these thoughts.

Social Apps, Business Processes …

I had written earlier about social enterprise apps, where i had takled about how the interactions of people with business processes are a very important part of knowledge creation, this being an important reason for why enterprise apps need to facilitate connections between people who complement each other with knowledge requirement and availability. Taking up from there, one would need to look at how this could be done.

To begin with, enterprise apps need to recognize that these connections as it is exist. You would be working with so many people, out of whome, with some you interact more frequently than with others, because of the nature of work. This is something which could be leveraged to enable creation of connections within the organization. A production manager, for example, must interact quite frequently with the inventory managers, and the software developer must interact more frequently with others working on the same technology, and with others from the same vertical (in addition to the pantry folks, for when the coffee machine goes kaput), or the sales folks need to interact more frequently with the dispatch folks to make sure material or services are delivered on time to customers.

This is not to say that knowledge flows in organizations can be straitjacketed along business processes, but there is a higher probability of people collaborating on a business process interacting with each other, and needing inputs from each other on a regular basis. Once this is understood, an app could help to surface connections between positions, in addition to the social networks that people develop among themselves. What this means is that the Shift Incharge has a higher probability of building a connect with the Stores Manager, and this could be facilitated by the apps.

While this does look like an appendix to the workflow management system which the apps would already have in place, this is bringing in a perspective to workflow management which is people-centric rather than being purely process-centric. Somewhere between the people and process centric approach? Or am i leaning too much towards the process aspect?

Social Enterprise Apps

Over the last few days, i am seeing some posts coming on the topic of social components in business apps. This is an encouraging trend, i feel, give that these are two aspects of the organization which need to be aligned with each other, but this is something which is usually not appreciated. Agree, number of enterprise apps players have built social capabilities into the apps (something i have written about before), but there are other questions which then become important for organizations to look at. This is something which is important to effectively utilize the social capabilities which are being built into enterprise apps. This is a development in the right direction, something I have written about before.

To begin with, the fact that enterprise apps and social media are not mutually exclusive is something which must be understood well by organizations.  The usual thought process is that business and people aspects of organizations are separate from each other. I suppose thats where the concept of hard skills and soft skills comes from? Even if that be so, the point is, that organizations tend to miss out on an important aspect … that people and business processes are two facets of the organization which go along with each other. This is going a bit beyond the usual “people are the most valuable assets” philosophy, and understanding that end of the day (beginning as well), it is the people who make business processes work, and this interaction of people and business processes is an important point of knowledge creation.

This is where an important benefit of blending social tools into the enterprise apps will come from. The idea is, as people interact with business processes, they need to bring to bear upon processes knowledge which may or may not be available with them. This is why this is the point where the apps need to facilitate the connections between people who can complement each other in terms of knowledge requirement and availability. This usually is something which is done today by SOP’s, or other manuals which more often than not are not quite easy to understand, quite apart from not being able to capture the nuances or jugaad (workaround, though that doesnt quite get to the spirit of jugaad) of these processes which people interacting with these processes on a regular basis understand.

This is one of the important reasons why social components are an important aspect to enterprise apps. More about how i feel this could be done later.

Changing Paradigm of Learning

There is an interesting conversation with Marc Rosenberg … about the way the idea of learning is changing. Actually, i would say that this is not so much about how learning is changing, but rather, how we are able to understand how learning is changing in the organizational context. This probably has more to do with learning managers having better tools to be able to address learning needs at a number of different levels.

Lets look at it two ways. Today, a lot of organizations have either moved their learning framework towards a blended learning approach, or are in the process of doing that. This is based on the understanding that people could learn either in a classroom, with learning being driven by a trainer, or they could learn alone, and these approaches could be integrated into one to be able to create an experience of learning which is independant of the learning method. This also has to do with training budgets and getting people away from their work for long enough time to attend training programs. This, though, is only one side of the learning scenario.

Another aspect of the learning scenario which is being seen more and more as the new way of learning is informal learning. This, though, like i said, is more to do with us understanding this, rather than this being a new process. Let me take an example. Back in college, there were classrooms where we studied subjects where information was given to us by the learned Professors, and we tried to cope with it as best as we could (not spectacularly, i would have to say, but nevertheless, most of us managed). This was supplemented by endless hours of slogging on one’s own (yeah, right! i can hear quite a few folks say, but maybe we could ignore those hooting). A third way of learning (used as a desperate measure, the night before the end-semesters) was when the course for the exam the next day would be divided into a group of friends, each of us would study some part of the course, and teach it to the rest (which essentially meant endless cigarettes and mugging, but thats beside the point). Hmm … sounds like social learning, if you ask me.

What is important here is that as learning professionals we need to understand that people learn from formal, structured methods, while at the same time, learning from the informal methods which have been around for quite a while. This, i feel, is where the ideas of Training and KM come into close contact with each other. KM, with the understanding that knowledge sharing is essentially a social process, being used in conjunction with the Training idea of structure being provided to guide the learning process. I feel the two need to go in conjunction. Some of the social media platforms can add value to the trianing paradigm through creating the peer-learning idea for people attending trainings. More engagement can be created with learners both before and after the training, enabling to build a connect with co-learners, in the shared context of the learning process they are part of, which is important for any kind of knowledge sharing.

What i found particularly interesting was:

… Precious classroom time is allocated more to teamwork, problem solving, creativity and rapid response to critical issues. Trainers will have to embrace much more of a facilitation and coaching role, and instructional designers will have to get used to less predictable course content and more real-time modifications to make courses more relevant and valuable.

Why this is interesting is because i feel this brings out the essence of how informal and formal learning can be brought together to create a more effective learning experience. People learn on their own, or in groups, and then come together for a discussion-centric training, with the trainer being more the moderator for the discussion, initiating, guiding, moderating, orchestrating the discussion, and chipping in from time to time to participate in the discussion, too. What is even more interesting is that instructional designers need to get used to creating courseware which keeps changing every time a training a delivered. This again is not new. When i used to train, i used to skip slides from the ppt to adapt it to the discussion that would be going on in the class. This is something which probably becomes more and more important in the scenario we are talking about here. Social media can play an important role here, and this is not just about within the classroom, but outside it, too.

Web2.0 and E2.0

Coming back to a topic which has been much written about, and much discussed, i can almost hear you asking why i would want to add to the already voluminous work which has been written about the topic. The reason why i thought i would write one on this is because there are a few thoughts i have, coming across writings about, especially about E2.0 which are going in a direction which i cant understand.

What i am referring to here is that i am seeing more and more references to E2.0 as being a technology architecture, and this, i feel, takes away from the very idea of E2.0 … what i feel is that E2.0 need not be about technology. Its about people, at the same time, its about organization structures. In other words, E2.0 needs to focus on the interactions between people and organizations, on the role people play in organiaztions, and how interactions between people, and interactions people have with the business environment of the organization, including processes, hierarchies and so on, and how these contribute to the functioning of the organization.

Technology here needs to be the enabler. While that is cliched, i would also add that that may not necessarily be so. Technology, in addition to being an enabler, can also be the starting point for developing new ways of working. For example, the idea of E2.0, of getting people from across the organization together on a virtual platform, leveraging knowledge from people across the organziation, across the organization hierarchy, to streamline the value chain and deliver greater value to value chain participants, originated from the web 2.0 technology which has emerged over the last few years, and has led to whole new ways of collaborating and working which we are seeing changing the way organizations work, and, from the discussions we are having, the way organizations could be structured in the future.

Blended Learning

A question i have been thinking about for a while now is what proportion of training in an organization should be e-learning, and what proportion should be in-class training. I had created a poll recently about the question here, and the responses (though not numerous) point to a 30% – 40% range. Now, i agree this would be different for different kinds of businesses, because for different kinds of work different dosages of e-learning could be recommended, but i was asking the question in an overall way.

Why i am asking this question is because blended learning is a concept which a lot of organizations are going towards, and i am trying to understand what this blend could be made up of. Of course, the blend does include in-class training, and e-learning, but the questions that come from here are what proportion of e-learning, and whether there can be other tools which can enhance the quality of this blend.

The question about proportion seems to be answered with the poll. If we look at, for example, 40% of the training being e-learning, we are then saying that majority of training must still be in-class. In other words, organizations need to look at e-learning as supplementing in-class training, not replace it. Question that comes now is whether there are tools which can be used to enhance this blend from formal training.

At this point, i read a blog post by Gautam Ghosh about the future of social learning which i think is a nice read. What i found interesting was the idea of how social media would get integrated into the learning platforms of the future. For this, we are assuming that learning is a social process, and this assumption seems to be a valid assumption, so we will go with it. If we do, we can then look at how social computing can enhance the training engagement with learners. Again, it is important to understand that social processes would not, at least not in the near future, replace formal training, but rather, supplement it, enhancing the engagement and reach, in terms of learning, of formal training. This can be seen if we look at both training, as well as social computing being people-centric. Even apart from that, social computing, i feel, is an important ingredient in the blend of blended learning, one which training organizations need to include in the learning mix.

Lets look at it this way … there are two forms of learning … formal and informal. We must undersstand that both forms have their value, and training functions need to include both in their training strategies. If formal learning is about training, then informal learning leans more towards the social aspect of learning, and this is where social computing needs to play a role. One aspect which i feel is important for this is social platforms integrated with LMS platforms in a way that makes discovery of learning, and the relevance of informal training to formal training easy to identify. What this means is that this integration must be able to surface the interconnects between the formal and informal aspects of learning and bring them together to create a single learning platform.