Well, I've decided that we're at a bit of an inflection point here.
We've exceeded all of our initial expectations.
We've created far more value than we had any right to expect.
And now, I think it's time to step back, and think a bit around "where do we go from here?"
To Summarize So Far
Not quite a year ago, we started looking at this whole "enterprise 2.0" thing as a business tool and business strategy. We framed the goal as "social media proficiency" for our company.
Our first step was big, but conceptually simple: put up a behind-the-firewall social software platform, get people to use it productively, and then see where things take you.
We're now approaching the third part of that three-phase approach.
So, What's Going On With Your Social Platform?
All sorts of great things. Sure, we've got a nice number of active, vocal users -- but it's more than that.
Not an hour or two goes by where I don't spot some sort of high-value discussion going on somewhere. These are discussions that either would have never happened, or would have happened much more slowly and less spontaneously than before.
People finding people, talking about things they care about.
We've got dozens of active, thriving communities, and more are popping up all the time. Early on, I despaired about the poor success rate of new communities, but that's not such a concern anymore for a variety of reasons -- like a focused resource on community development (Susan), and general improved comfort with the whole process.
Len mentioned in his blog that he's now got a "discussion feed" on our corporate intranet portal -- a ticker of who's talking about what. As a result, we've got a steady (and curious!) crowd heading our way.
"Community effects" are now evident everywhere -- there's a spirit of volunteerism, helping out, welcoming new people into the crowd, and so on.
And, well, I've lost count on how many good blogs there are out there now.
Compared with what we've spent, this has got to be the most ROI-positive IT project I've ever heard about.
I just can't prove it easily ...
We got started as a "pilot", but now it's time to build a bigger foundation behind the firewall: beefier servers, more storage, maybe some database opimization, a dedicated IT person to help us, and so on. IT is willing to help, we just need to work through the process. The good news is that the platform's growing success is pretty obvious to everyone.
It's also pretty clear that we'll need to add video to the mix. Not the produced, formal kind, but the unproduced, informal kind. And, as we get into more video, not only will we need more storage (good thing we're a storage company), but video streaming becomes interesting, and -- of course -- more load on the network.
Not to pick on the Jive people, but I think we're going to be routinely busting various limits in their product -- nothing serious, but when you've got thousands of active users, the physics can change. Minor growing pains in the big scheme of things, I'd offer. We'll also have to probably spring for a dedicated test/dev environment, since we want to stay on the "release train" just as fast as we can.
Our Mobile Workforce
We desperately need to find a way to engage our mobile knowledge workers. Sure, they have laptops, they just use them infrequently. The target of choice? A CrackBerry, to be sure ...
Our initial "mobile" list is pretty simple.
First, we need to make sure people can respond to posts from email. I'm told that the product can do this, we just need to shake it out, show people how to use it, and so on.
But that doesn't give you a sense of what's going on elsewhere, does it? Ideally, we'd present our "webtop" interface to our mobile users, but that's not practical on several levels. I'm guessing that the answer is a configurable RSS reader (sitting behind the firewall, naturally) that can watch various groups, and feed via a mobile browser. There's also the thorny problem of getting VPN access from BlackBerry web browsers to servers resident behind the firewall.
Finally, it'd be great if someone could post to a pre-defined space or two via email ...
Bottom line -- I'm going to need some budget to buy some stuff, and get some smart people to work this out.
Our company has a "content backbone" built around our own product -- Documentum -- that's not part of the current environment.
I want two things here: first, I want to expose existing corporate content to be part of the discussion in our social environment, and, second -- I want selected wikis, conversations, blog posts, etc. to be "captured" as enterprise content for feeding into other content-driven business processes.
The integration is being worked (so I'm told!), but -- there's still going to be budget involved to acquire the technology, integrate it, manage it, and roll it out to everyone.
Despite the complexity and costs, I see this next step as absolutely essential on multiple levels.
Going Outside The Firewall
Behaviorally, we're ready to start forming external communities. We may not have all the pieces 100% in place (roles, technology, processes), but we're very close.
Despite our vendor's best efforts, we're still not 100% comfortable with the hosting approach we're taking.
Part of it is on our side -- just like we had to dedicate resources to foster internal proficiency and hide the guts of the technology from people -- we're going to have to assemble a small team to provide shared services for the ever-growing list of people who want to start external communities of different flavors.
We can't expect them all to be proficient Clearspace admins, can we?
I also think we're getting more comfortable with the idea of "community diversity" outside the firewall.
I can remember a time when the thinking was a small number of large communities. It's now shifted to a large number of smaller communities, with "navigation aids" to help people find other things they might find interesting -- an interesing consequence of our internal experiences.
I'm also expecting a similar learning curve when we go outside. Our first few (hopefully small!) communities may struggle a bit, but -- over time -- things should get much better and much easier.
At some point, our free ride will come to an end. The company will realize they're spending a big chunk of change on this stuff, and there will be a clear need to formalize metrics around the paybacks we're getting from a multi-headed investment.
But, I'm not quite sure what we'll measure, or how we'll measure it. Some real work will need to be done around an "E2.0" balanced scorecard, and how well we're doing against it. And, I don't think anyone has really done this yet, as far as I know.
Sure, we're poking around with "buzz measurement" tools, and anyone can capture page views, but I keep thinking we're missing the real value of having people meaningfully engage with each other.
Sometimes, I think we're trying to measure a great conversation, or a wonderful party. The qualitiative aspects seem to outweigh the quantitative ones. Sure, we could construct a quantitative case, but that'd miss the point of what's turning out to really matter.
Maybe we'll hire an analyst group and let them go think about it on our behalf ... ;-)
Note What's Missing
I think it's also interesting to note what I don't think we need.
For example, I don't think I need people / budget / management resources to drive internal awareness and engagement. We're past the tipping point -- it wouldn't be a good investment.
And, since we only have 2-3 core members of the "enablement team", I don't think we'll need much more there. Community effects (people helping people to be proficient) are starting to kick in.
We also don't need a management review and governance process for problems that crop up -- mostly, because there haven't been that many, IMHO.
And, of course, since we've elected to stay on "standard product" at all costs, we don't have developers, etc. for our environment.
All good, I'd offer.
The Team's Done Great -- So Far
Our success so far has largely derived from two major components: a great (virtual) team that's passionate about this stuff, and -- of course -- significant help from our vendor, Jive.
But, as we get to the next phase of this, the dynamics are going to change. There will be more people involved, perhaps more vendors involved -- everyone will have to take on a slightly different role than they did in the past.
I just hope we don't lose the "fun" in all of this ...