Social Silliness: Search, Collaboration, Fear

July 5, 2014

I am not able to recall which conference featured a speaker who said, “Social search is the future of search.” At this same event, social was the solution to cost control, competitive intelligence, and silos of information. I napped through the first day’s events, delivered a keynote on the second day, and disappeared as quickly as my fat, flat feet could carry me. That was in 2005 or 2006.

Between World Cup games, I read a classic IDG “real” news story with the fetching headline “Many Employees Won’t Mingle with Enterprise Social Software.” My immediate reaction was, “Is this reporter just figuring this out?”

The write up wends its way across four pages of page view goodness. Here are the diamond like insights that I noted. But you need to read the article yourself. You may have a different view because you are unaware of the value of tracking and processing each and every social network click, mouse movement, and dwell time, among dozens and dozens of useful user activities.

Wow, Real Value

Here’s the quote:

Implemented properly, ESN [employee social networks] can be beneficial, analysts say. “It’s great for breaking down geographical barriers and harnessing collective action,” said Rob Koplowitz, a Forrester Research analyst. “Their value can be astronomical.” The siren song of ESN is hard to resist. Spending on this type of software is expected to grow from US$4.77 billion this year to $8.14 billion in 2019, according to MarketsandMarkets.

I wonder how those social networks at the azure chip (lower tier) consulting firms are working. Well, no word on that. And the market size estimate? Just about any crazy number is okay. The notion of accurate market forecasts are essentially irrelevant in the world of a publishing company which puts its employees’ names on other people’s information.

Oh, Oh, Advisory Firms See Problems Ahead

Another quote from the article. (I wonder if I am reading an Onion parody.)

Gartner predicts that through 2015, 80 percent of social business efforts will not achieve their intended benefits due to inadequate leadership and an overemphasis on technology, she [another expert] said. Charlene Li, an Altimeter Group analyst, shares a similar view. “It’s not a situation where if you build it, they will come. That’s not how it works at all,” she said. “Adoption definitely continues to be a problem.”

Yep, fear does that I assume.

Training to the Rescue

Here’s a roasted chestnut:

It’s also important to provide proper training to show employees how they can switch some — or many — email and IM interactions over to the ESN software, and be more productive and efficient. It’s also key for managers and top company executives to endorse the use of the ESN software and lead by example through their own participation. Experts also say it helps when the ESN software is integrated at a technology level with the other tools employees use on a daily basis to do their jobs, whether its their email and calendaring client, their CRM and ERP suites or their office productivity applications.

Yep, let’s train workers to use the company’s social network. No problemo.

GE Is So Well Managed

When I worked at Booz, Allen & Hamilton, I had the experience of meeting Neutron Jack. Well, the management slickness was not evident that day. I recall he threw papers at my boss who was trying to get Neutron Jack to pay an invoice. Let’s say the meeting was a bit like the 4th of July. Here’s the IDG take:

All that can be done in a way that works as intended. GE, which has made use of many of these best practices when rolling out ESN software in recent years, achieved success where other companies have stumbled. GE has a primary ESN suite that’s available to all 300,000 employees globally and that’s known internally as GE Colab, and it has other ESN tools in place for specific teams and departments.

That sounds a lot like GE public relations. Why interview any GE users? Why ask if the social network activity is part of the employee review process? Why ask about the intersection of info on the network and GE security? Too much hassle I suppose. Hey, a case is needed and GE is a gold mine of just so special business cases.

Ah, Deep Integration

I found this quote fascinating:

For Alan Lepofsky, a Constellation Research analyst, the meshing of ESNs with business processes is essential. “If an ESN is not integrated with tools like file-sharing, CRM, marketing automation, support tracking or project management, then it becomes just another tool, and that is where adoption issues begin,” he said via email. Organizations need to ensure that ESNs are woven deeply in to their core business processes in areas such as sales, marketing and engineering, according to Lepofsky.

I have a headache.

Net Net

I am not sure about every US company, but the one with which I am familiar are not particularly well organized. The notion that electronic systems can create a cohesive work force does not match my experience. What makes employees do stuff is the employee’s executive compensation plan tied to specific actions. What creates organization is informed management, experienced middle managers who know their jobs and the customers, and consistency.

Most companies today are looking for silver bullets. Search vendors promise customer relationship management miracles and business intelligence magic. Senior managers are desperate, often fearful, sometimes clueless, and looking for a bigger payday. One crazy software or technical trend follows on another. As companies struggle to make sales and control costs, problems like ignition switches to shaving funds from investors are characteristics of many businesses.

Let’s not confuse cost control and the shift to contract workers with technology that delivers management miracles.

More to the point, let’s have “real” news sources present information that is not blather, glittering generalities, and MBA baloney.

Does IDG need a Neutron Jack? Pat McGovern left quite a legacy. Is fear an under rated management technique?

Stephen E Arnold, July 5, 2014


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