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Understanding the Social Enterprise Technology

I am presenting a webinar on BRM and Social Media on June 20, Friday at 11am EDT. To get a chance to discuss this topic with me and learn more, register here.

I am an avid user of social media sites that exist out there, I blog, tweet, and I use Facebook. These social applications have been really useful to me personally. Facebook, for instance, is my way to connect with my family who live in the Philippines. Every time I post a picture of my kids on Facebook, I always have my family in the Philippines in mind. This is how I can share moments of my kids’ life with them. Through Facebook, I also keep track of my nephew and nieces. Early on, I realized the value of social networking to my personal life so I started thinking how such platforms extend to the enterprise. Even before the existence of full-strength Enterprise Network Tools available today, I wondered how such collaborative practices extend beyond personal use and find their way to become an integrated set of functional offerings that delivers business value.

Think about an “enterprise Facebook”. What’s the equivalent of posting a status or photo? If I post about a project I am working on, blog about a business problem I am trying to resolve, or share a screen of a user interface mobile application I designed – what will it take for my peers in the office to be able to access, read and see them? To usher in adoption of the tools seamlessly is a challenge for those who have blazed the trail. If you can’t convince employees that using it will make their job easier or if you can’t convince business leaders that using it will create business value, it is tough to succeed.

According to Forrester Research, organizations will increase their spending on enterprise social collaboration software at a compound annual growth rate of 61% through 2016. With the social software market now looking to be a hefty $6.4 billion part of the industry, every big player from IBM, to Oracle, to SAP are busy developing their offer. If you look at this amount of investment and demand, obviously the companies are seeing competitive advantage and value of social tools in their organization now and in the future.

The Benefits of Social Enterprise Technology

There are essentially three categories of benefits that can be derived from using social enterprise technology. So, broadly, we see that in order for social enterprise technology to create business value, it should not only provide strong content-centric features but also must extend social capabilities in execution of business processes and facilitating innovation through collaboration in the company.

Benefits of Social Enterprise Technology

Benefits of Social Enterprise Technology

Companies who have embarked in the early adoption of social tools in the enterprise have done so to capture one or more of these business benefits. CEMEX, a multi-billion building materials company, initially began in 2009 to develop an internal social network which called Shift. Shift was designed to innovate and help make the company more efficient and agile by empowering employees to implement the new best practices they learn by collaborating globally in their business units. By building a collaboration platform accessible to employees throughout the company and around the world, CEMEX is empowering employees in new and important ways that go beyond traditional titles and roles. From the SAPPHIRENOW event in Orlando this June, I learned about how Kaeser Kompressoren uses SAP’s social enterprise application SAP Jam to streamline their sales and customer service processes and build a bridge from the first client contact through to the offer improving information and communications quality. They are leveraging integration between SAP Jam with seamless integration with SAP CRM module to join social capabilities and traditional work stream.

Implementing a social tool for collaboration is just the first step. To get employees to use it collectively enough to change the way they collaborate is the much bigger challenge. Adoption of social tools in the workplace setting requires more than compliance and a management mandate. It is about culture transformation from within and for all employees, from top to bottom. I think the part of enabling the Social Enterprise application is the easy part of the process, the challenge is adoption. Benefits are realized when:

  1. You successfully change the culture, the way employees in a company collaborate, and you break geographical and political barriers.
  2. You optimize your enterprise work stream by having business processes accessible and executable through social interactions happening in the collaboration space.
  3. You bring innovation by empowering employees to organize around ideas that develop organically during social interaction.

Improving collaboration – an effective Social Media integration point for businesses

According to Forrester research, organizations will increase their spending on enterprise social collaboration software at a compound annual growth rate of 61% through 2016. Forrester estimates enterprise social software will become a $6.4 billion market in 2016. This is based on their assumption that a new generation of social enterprise apps is, and will be, delivering on business needs. If this is the trend today and more so in the near future, how do you the plan to integrate social media to your work streams?

There are many integration points and it all depends on the needs of the business. Those needs can be classified into two types: (1) mass engagements: involvement of wider audience with open-ended boundaries; and (2) internal and external collaboration: engagement of specific audience, with defined boundaries.

In this article, we will focus on improving collaboration as integration points.

Collaboration through social tools usually entails the implementation of a collaborative decision management solution that encourages change in the way businesses collaborate to facilitate innovations. Saying that, two critical factors emerge:

(1) change in culture, ie, the way employees in a company collaborate, and

(2) the need to select and adopt an effective, collaborative-type tool

Companies that use collaboration as an integration point to adopting social tools face the following challenges:

(a) How do we get beyond e-mail, traditional meetings, conference calling, etc, to these new social platforms that include an industrial-strength social network?

(b) How do we change the way we work?

(c) How do we integrate social tools in our enterprise work stream?

(d) How do we become more innovative as a company because of it?

The answer is not Facebook nor Twitter – not for this type of business need. There are, however, applications for these purposes available in the market. They are referred to as collaborative decision management applications that provide functionalities like wikis, blogs, project management, community building, idea creation, etc.

Implementing a social tool for collaboration is just the first step, or I should say, the easy step. To get employees to use it collectively enough to change the way they collaborate is the much bigger challenge. Adoption of social tools in the workplace setting requires more than compliance and a management mandate. It is about culture transformation from within and for all employees, from top to bottom.

So, what’s the point?

Today, if an employee has an idea, he or she goes to their boss to discuss it, or goes to the board to present it as a proposal, or sends an idea narrative by email. Consider the alternative of posting ideas as wikis, and letting everyone else read, comment and even change them.An effective approach is a grassroots adoption through structured learning experiences, involving adoption champions from different levels of the organization. The communication and implementation of the grassroots approach must be focused on the benefits to the users first, and promotion of the value creation for the company next.

It’s easier to convince employees to change the way they work if they understand that this will make their job easier.

SSON Social Media

Utilizing the Connection Power of Social Media for Your Business

Social media allows you and your business to participate in an open dialogue with your target audience.

The use of social media channels for business can be much cheaper than the traditional approach. You can use existing platforms to minimize spending on tools, developers and consultants. Depending on the need you are addressing, you can utilize existing resources and teams. For example, for customer interaction, you can use your customer service team who already knows your products and services. They are trained in customer relationship management so they have an advantage in engaging customers. How big is the social network? The answer to this determines the potential you have in reaching your target audience.

Social Media Usage and User Stats

Last month, Facebook announced that it has reached the milestone of one billion monthly active members. Twitter has reached half a billion users last June 2012, according to the analyst group Semiocast. LinkedIn reported 175 million registered users last July 2012. YouTube streams 4 billion online videos each day. This is more than one for every other person on Earth and a 25% jump over eight months ago, according to Gartner research. WordPress, the leading blog platform, powers 56.4 million sites (including mine) worldwide and has over 367 million people view more than 2.5 billion pages each month.

All of these usage and user statistics make a strong indication of the massive connection power of social media. If you are a company whose vital need is to connect to your customers, you cannot discount social media as just an alternative channel of communication.

The key is to be in the world of social media, to be there right now and establish a presence— even if you think that social media is still considered a “future initiative” for your company.  Starting early through staged implementation may overcome a learning curve before adopting a company-wide social media strategy.

Selecting the right Social Media Platforms

When selecting which social media platform is right for your business, it is important to understand who your target audience is. You should aim your efforts towards the channels they use. Based on my experience, the most effective approach is to use a combination of two or more of the existing platforms that has a strong active user base. Social media platforms can serve various purposes.  The main thing is to find the right mix that takes advantage of the respective benefits that each one brings.

Benefits of Using Social Media Channel for Business

For example, you can make WordPress and/or YouTube as platforms to create and house your contents. Tap internal resources to develop articles, pictures, video and blogs about your business, products and services. Then you can deploy Facebook, (and/or) Twitter and/or LinkedIn as a means to push those contents to your target audience (push strategy). Facebook and Twitter work well for consumer brand companies while LinkedIn work better for a more targeted audience based on field and industry. LinkedIn and Facebook can serve as an effective platform to engage your audience (current or prospective customers, etc.) around the topics or ideas you want to talk about in a community type approach.

Social media allows you and your business to participate in an open dialogue with your target audience. It permits you to respond almost instantly to industry developments and have an effective push strategy for information you want to disseminate. The connections your business make with customers and other entities outside is vital. The use of social media can improve your business in a number of key areas: marketing, corporate communication, brand visibility, customer engagement, locating strategic commercial partners, recruitment, and business intelligence.

It Is All About Culture Change

Social media adoption in the workplace is harder than your traditional ERP implementation, here is why

Just about everyone is very familiar with social media nowadays. People using it are increasing by the millions. It was the same with books and television decades ago. Today, in a very short time, social media has become an intrinsic part of our daily life.

With that thought, will adopting social tools (that we are familiar with) in the workplace— be easier considering the people’s familiarity with social media?

The answer is no. Enterprise application of social media has been a serious challenge for those who have tried. Many companies have tried and failed. It is nothing like implementing (for example) an ERP system where you define the roles, processes, guidelines and then ask employees to follow. In this ERP system scenario, your focus is actions, compliance and results. If you have strong executive support, you will make it happen.

Adoption of social tools in the workplace setting requires more than compliance and a management mandate. It is about culture transformation from within and for everyone– nothing less. For example, today if an employee has an idea, he goes to his boss to discuss an idea or goes to the board to present it as a proposal, or send an idea narrative by email. Now, consider the alternative of posting ideas as wiki and letting everyone else read, comment and even change them.

The point is, social media adoption or enterprise 2.0 implementation is not easy because it is about changing how people interact, collaborate and work. It is about changing the organizational culture. It is nothing that can be mandated (otherwise, all you get is shallow compliance). For you to have a meaningful transformation that is sustainable you have to work at the level of people’s experiences to influence their beliefs and behaviors. Only then can you have them change how they act and work. Experiences foster beliefs, and if you have enough of those to change the mindset of your employees you will slowly see adoption happen.

My advice is grassroots adoption through structured learning experiences. The communication and implementation of the grassroots approach must be focused on the benefits to the users first and then promotion of the value creation for the company next. It is easier to convince employees to change the way they work if they understand that this will make their job easier.  This approach is important. It will fuel slow but self-reinforcing transformation.

Photo courtesy of Ponsuwan

Past, Present and Inevitable Future of the Internet

We have “known” for decades that telephones would eventually become portable, wireless and small enough to carry around just like a wallet. Do you recall the Communicator device in Star Trek? It resembles the current flip mobile phones. They were used for voice communication connecting individuals between Star Ships. Dr. Martin Cooper, inventor of the modern mobile phone, credits the TOS communicator as being his inspiration for the technology. Although the first “brick” mobile phones were much larger, modern flip phones strongly resemble the original series communicator. 

Early on… 

For me, the development of mobile phone technology is kind of the same thing as the development of the Internet. Our generation has been fortunate to witness its exponential advancement. I remember the first time I used the Internet in the early 1990s. It was through the old Vax mainframe computers at the De La Salle University in Manila and later on, with the more user-friendly Netscape browser in Personal Computers (PCs). Computers at that time were exclusively housed in laboratories where they kept the temperature low to protect the equipment. Despite the tropical heat of the Philippines, we would wear sweaters if we planned to stay longer in the lab to survive the low temperature. I remember the web pages were simple, text-based, had limited contents and features. We were glad to just send emails and read static content that we found online. De La Salle University was one of the first Philippine schools to be connected to the Internet. By the time I graduated in 1997, the Internet had already gone through a series of major developments. 

Advancements today… 

Today, we are in the midst of continuing development of the web fueled by advancements in the Internet and technology. The most notable application is “Social Media” which led to the  inevitable creation of a vast content and knowledge base. There is an abundance of information and the size of social interaction has reached a colossal scale. We are in the age were ordinary people break the news. Just recently, CNN reported that “some of the first public accounts of the military operation that killed the terrorist leader (Osama bin Laden) came in the form of tweets from Sohaib Athar, an IT consultant in Abbottabad — the city where bin Laden was found.” This breaking news spread fast and made ecstatic fans at a game in Philadelphia hold up their mobile phones to show the news of Bin Laden’s death as they received messages from friends. Later on, President Obama announced the news to the world on mainstream TV. This shows that within a span of just one generation, the availability of information, capabilities to create and share, and our access to them has changed dramatically. 

Family interaction platform… 

It was not until a couple of years ago that my parents in the Philippines have started using the Internet, or a computer for that matter. I was determined to help them catch up with new trends and I knew introducing them to the use of computers and the Internet was something that could create value for them, personally and as well as in their retail business. On the other hand, my hidden agenda was to utilize another communication channel with my family that is effective and cheaper as compared to international calls. The last time that I visited home was December 2009 and one of my objectives then was to convince my father to invest in a laptop. To sweeten the deal, I would pay half of the cost and would stay a little longer so I could teach them how to use it. Teach them I did, starting with the basics of switching the computer on and off, use of the keyboard (comparing it with typewriters used during my parents’ time). Soon, we ventured off to the more fun stuff– the Internet. The first thing that we accomplished was to create an email account, then Windows Live for chat, Skype for video conferencing and then Facebook for social networking. Eventually, we ventured into Excel so that my father can use it to upgrade their process of recording daily sales (he usually just used paper notepads!). After I returned to the United States, in less than two months, they were adept in using their new-found tool. My parents processed their US visa application online, bought plane tickets (even helped friends buy tickets online) and they were also everywhere in social media. I could chat with them, video call using Skype with them, and send them blogs that I have written. A month ago, I was even able to share with them photos and videos of when my twins were born through Youtube and Facebook. The social media and the web have become our platform for family interaction. 

Inevitable Future and Questions… 

The Internet has enabled humans to develop new technologies and social structure that allow us to participate in content creation and dissemination (such as blogs and social networking sites). The advancement and innovation that has catapulted the Internet to ubiquity also reveal enormous use in business. Nowadays, users participate in solutions building through collaborative platforms. Internet has developed social structures that allow interaction without boundaries– thus making our small world even smaller. 

In 10 years, humans and computers will join forces to create “collective intelligence”. Technology will evolve as such that the Internet (and information within it) will be accessible and available to everyone— this will exponentially increase the already massive data we exchange today. How we (and machines) will make sense of as well as analyze and synthesize this collective information, is what will bring us to Web 3.0 and beyond. 

In closing, I leave you with some questions:

  • How do you see the Internet impacting the world, business and human interaction in 10 years?
  • Does the Internet in its generative form need new kinds of control to avoid problems in society and loss of opportunity?
  • Are we looking at a prospect of a better world for our children with seemingly exponential cycle of innovation and growth of the Internet?

Photos courtesy of jscreationzs and Idea go.

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Blogging, Learning, Profexor.com and Social Responsibility

February 27, 2011 1 comment

Read this article in Spanish

“One attribute of true learning is a sense of curiosity and wonder. A second is an experience of openness to new possibilities. A third is that the process of searching for an answer is more important that having an answer. Finally, it is necessary to have an approach to one’s environment characterized by experimentation: accessing information, analyzing that information, and looking for connection and relationships.”- John W. Thompson

Blogging and Online Learning

Why do you maintain a blog? You seem to spend so much time making sure that there is a continuous flow of relevant contents- what do you get from it? These are common questions friends and colleagues ask me.  For me, writing is all about sharing knowledge (even the little that I know in my profession) and learning in the process by interacting with my readers. We learn in all kinds of ways, whether through conversation, reading books, attending formal training, and even writing. By doing those things we are taking in and processing new ideas. If you are an Internet user who is accessing websites for your regular news, using social media to interact with friends, reading Wikipedia, doing routine searches– you are bombarded with tons of information. Whether you like it or not, you are already absorbing a lot of information online. You are learning in one way or another.  Come to think of it, the jump to more formal learning – using online teaching platform with the latest computer applications – is not such a big leap. We are already familiar with finding, sharing and processing information online. 

My former boss, mentor and friend Tony Molares – who recently joined Profexor.com, an online learning platform, as their CEO – talks passionately about his amazing opportunity, to lead a company that leverages technology to provide knowledge through web platforms.  He explained to me that online learning tools, because they are so accessible and affordable now, eliminate barriers to learning. They improve the knowledge and competitiveness of people who use them. In the long run they contribute to a better learning society. Providing learning opportunities is the most important mission of Profexor.com — a company providing online training programs. The website caters to the Spanish-speaking market. Profexor.com brings together the knowledge of many professionals worldwide, including experts in computer media applications, process engineers, editors, web designers, marketers, and researchers. Profexor.com is current developing learning contents related to self improvements, leadership, and other competencies that will enable professionals to be competitive in the business environment. It is the company’s goal to offer via this alternative online educational platform an ongoing, rewarding personal experience that fosters growth, self improvement and innovation.

Social Responsibility by Providing Learning Platform

What’s so noteworthy about Profexor.com is its target audience—the Spanish-speaking market. I know most, if not all of the courses in Profexor.com are delivered in Spanish. I remember when Tony showed me the website; the first thing I asked him was, why not offer the courses in English as well? I thought that for sure they will have a wider reach and much larger customer segment. When Tony explained to me that one of the company’s purposes is to bring more learning opportunities to Spanish-speaking people and provide them access to information and more contents (otherwise available only in English), I understood right there that the company has a deeper mission. The individual’s ability to learn and innovate is a direct driver of his capability to compete and succeed. Tony is right, there are countless websites offering online courses in English but only handful that provide the same level of quality of content in Spanish and competitiveness in pricing as Profexor.com. I think it is very inspiring and remarkable for a start-up company to have that sense of social responsibility from the beginning. 

Just as the world has changed, so too has the platform for learning. I am not saying online learning tools like Profexor.com replaces the traditional and formal education provided in schools and universities. Also, I am not saying that blogs and other forms of online clutter should replace the traditional forms of knowledge media like journals, magazines and books. Both platforms: old and new, traditional and modern, are applicable to the learning process of today’s world. The great parallelism that I see between Profexor.com’s mission (be it the platform of learning for Spanish speakers) and my personal purpose for blogging (sharing knowledge) are the acts that benefit society at large—call it “Social Responsibility“.

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See Youtube video about Profexor.com.

Los Blogs, el Aprendizaje, Profexor.com y la Responsabilidad Social

February 27, 2011 2 comments

Traducido al español por Alicia Palmero

“Una de las cualidades de un verdadero aprendizaje es provocar curiosidad y propiciar asombro; otra cualidad es abrir la puerta a nuevas posibilidades y una tercera es mostrar que el proceso para encontrar una respuesta es más importante que la respuesta en sí. Finalmente, se requiere disponer de un enfoque hacia el propio ambiente caracterizado por la experimentación y que conlleve a tener acceso a la información, analizarla y buscar posibles conexiones y relaciones.”- John W. Thompson

 

Los blogs y el aprendizaje en línea 

¿Para qué mantener un blog? Parece que se dedicara demasiado tiempo en asegurar un flujo constante de contenido adecuado pero, ¿qué se obtiene a cambio? Son preguntas que con frecuencia me hacen amigos y colegas. Para mí, escribir es compartir conocimiento (incluso lo poco que conozco en mi profesión) y aprender en el proceso mientras interactúo con mis lectores. Nosotros aprendemos de muchas maneras: conversando, leyendo libros, participando en cursos formales de capacitación e, incluso, escribiendo. A través de todas esas actividades, tomamos y procesamos nuevas ideas. Un usuario de Internet, que entra en una página para enterarse de las noticias, interactuar con sus amigos en las redes sociales, leer Wikipedia o hacer búsquedas de rutina, es bombardeado con toneladas de información. Le guste o no, está absorbiendo ya una enorme cantidad de información en línea, y aprendiendo de una u otra forma. Si nos ponemos a pensar, de ahí a un aprendizaje más formal –por la vía de una plataforma de enseñanza en línea que haga uso de las más recientes aplicaciones tecnológicas– no hablamos de un salto muy grande. Por otra parte, ya estamos familiarizados buscando, compartiendo y procesando información en línea. 

Mi ex jefe, mentor y amigo, Tony Molares, quien desde fecha reciente ocupa el puesto de CEO de Profexor.com, una plataforma de aprendizaje en línea, habla con genuino entusiasmo sobre la increíble oportunidad que tiene de dirigir esta compañía, la cual utiliza la tecnología para ofrecer conocimiento a través de plataformas en la red. Él me explicó que estas herramientas en línea han eliminado muchas barreras en el aprendizaje por el fácil acceso y bajo costo que tienen ahora; dichas herramientas incrementan, además, el conocimiento y la competitividad de la gente que hace uso de ellas, contribuyendo en el largo plazo a una sociedad con un nivel mucho más elevado de educación. La misión más importante de Profexor.com es brindar nuevas oportunidades de aprendizaje, para lo cual ofrece programas de capacitación en línea.  Profexor.com sirve al público hispanoparlante y reúne el conocimiento de un gran número de profesionales de todo el mundo, incluyendo expertos en aplicaciones de computación, ingenieros en procesos, editores, diseñadores de sitios de Internet, especialistas en mercadeo e investigadores. Hoy en día, Profexor.com está desarrollando contenidos de aprendizaje relacionados con mejoramiento personal, liderazgo y otras destrezas que capacitan a los profesionales para ser competitivos en el ambiente de negocios. El objetivo de la compañía es ofrecer, a través de esta plataforma alternativa de educación en línea, una experiencia continua y gratificante que fomente el crecimiento, el mejoramiento personal y la innovación. 

La responsabilidad social a través de una plataforma de aprendizaje

Lo que cabe destacar respecto a Profexor.com es la audiencia en la que se ha enfocado: el mercado hispanoparlante. Tengo entendido que la mayoría, si no la totalidad, de los cursos disponibles en Profexor.com están en español. Recuerdo que cuando Tony me enseñó la página en Internet, lo primero que pregunté fue por qué no ofrecían también los cursos en inglés; pensé que así seguramente tendrían un mayor alcance y un segmento de mercado más amplio. Cuando me explicó que uno de los propósitos de la compañía es ofrecer más oportunidades de aprendizaje al público hispanoparlante, dando acceso a mayores contenidos de información –que, de otro modo, sólo estarían disponibles en inglés–, de inmediato entendí que la compañía tenía una misión más profunda. La capacidad individual para aprender e innovar es un impulsor directo de la capacidad para competir y ser exitoso. Tony tiene razón en afirmar que hay innumerables sitios en Internet que ofrecen cursos en línea en inglés pero sólo unos pocos que brinden el nivel de calidad en contenidos en español y los precios competitivos de Profexor.com. Es especialmente inspirador y digno de mencionar que una compañía tenga desde sus inicios tal sentido de responsabilidad social. 

Igual que el mundo ha cambiado, así ha cambiado la plataforma para aprender. No estoy diciendo que las herramientas de aprendizaje en línea como Profexor.com puedan reemplazar la educación tradicional y formal impartida en escuelas y universidades. Tampoco estoy afirmando que los blogs y otras fuentes de información en línea deberían sustituir las formas tradicionales de difusión del conocimiento, como son las revistas y los libros. Ambas plataformas, las antiguas y  las nuevas, las tradicionales y las modernas, pueden ser utilizadas hoy en día en el proceso de aprendizaje. El gran paralelismo que veo entre la misión de Profexor.com –ser la plataforma de aprendizaje para el público hispanoparlante– y el propósito que personalmente me motiva a mantener mi blog –que es compartir conocimiento– es que ambas son acciones que benefician a la sociedad  en general; en otras palabras, hablamos de “Responsabilidad Social”.  

Lea el artículo en Inglés.  

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