SharePoint & Sharing a point in blogging

I’ll just start off by saying it’s been fun. It’s been stressful and it has been something to keep me busy during long train rides, but blogging every week has been a good thing. I feel like this ongoing assessment piece has driven me to learn new things about IT that I feel I wasn’t before. Even as I look back, and the amount I disliked blogging in other assessment pieces, I only now see the benefit of being told to “Go research this, then tell everyone what you think”.

An opinion is something that makes us unique to animals. Well, I don’t know if animals can have opinions or not since it’s more instinct for them I think. The point is, is that having an opinion, a voice is important. In high school I studied literary theory, and that is the one most important lesson I took away from it.

Opinion and perspective go hand in hand. If you think back to my last blog, I talked about this with regard to our own perception of whether facebook equates to diminished values on friendships. Opinion and perspective should never be ignored. Even logic is grounded in these concepts.

So I look back and wonder why I ever thought blogging wasn’t my cup of tea. I think I realise now it’s more to do with the fact that I did badly back in my first semester of uni, even though I thought I was doing very well.

So, onto what may be my last entry into this journal (for a while). For weeks now I’ve been hankering to do something original with my blog. That is, something not set by the lecturer. This week is pretty much what I’ve been waiting for as the request from table 346 is “Surprise me, but with a side of Enterprise 2.0”.

So, I want to look at SharePoint, because I feel like it’s something I should be looking at and as of yet haven’t. As of 25/09/2010 10:25PM AEST Wikipedia’s legion of authors have decided that Microsoft SharePoint is best described as “a software platform and a family of software products developed by Microsoft for collaboration, file sharing and web publishing.” The SharePoint website is more or less the same deal, except with some text to make it a bit more flowery.

So, it’s an example of a collaborative workspace marketed at the Enterprise setting. It’s no new concept to what I’ve spoken about before, but what is important is that it’s a real example that is being implemented by companies around the world.

Rather than bog you down with heavy jargon, here’s a youtube movie developed by Microsoft’s SharePoint team.

I am a wordy man. I like words and I like reading them. I find them easier to reference and to interpret. There’s that whole taxonomy issue with videos and images that makes things difficult and messy. However, I found that what SharePoint actually is, felt so broad that I needed to watch a video to properly understand it.

So SharePoint is like a Document Management System (DMS), but it offers more than that. It’s a fully functional collaborative workspace that not only diminishes the reliance and pitfalls of email heavy work processes, but moves work to a space that offers open channels of communication and better means of version control (By having a check out system for documents, meaning only one person can work on them at a time).

The uniqueness I alluded to before by saying it’s more than just a DMS, is described by Ken Stewart as being “presented as a website. What is unique about SharePoint is that it allows for customization of the content on that web page by enabling drag-and-drop and point-and-click editing of the content.”

In this sense, SharePoint is modular and it can be moulded to suit the needs of the business and to top it off doesn’t require the technical proficiency of an A grade programmer to do so.

Are there any disadvantages to SharePoint? Well it depends. Using SharePoint on its own is great. But it suffers from something akin to quality versus quantity – where SharePoint represents the quantity part. It’s an age old issue of off-the-shelf software versus tailored solutions/in-house development.

Ken Stewart quotes a number of advantages and disadvantages outlined by Russ Edelman’s AIIM E-DOC article ‘SharePoint In The Enterprise’ which outlines that SharePoint on its own is limited in certain functionalities, whilst implementing it to co-exist with a DMS that has the depth SharePoint doesn’t equates to higher maintenance costs, confusion and redundant data.

Just like on shopping channels, testimonials are often what people want to see. I decided to cheat once again and poke around Youtube to find something of a case study that shows the benefits of SharePoint. Monsanto is an agricultural company that has implemented Microsoft Sharepoint to great benefit:

So my verdict on SharePoint? Well with success stories like the ones Microsoft has listed on their website it’s hard to ignore as a dominant player in the DMS field and is definitely worth looking into for Enterprises of any scale.

So that’s it for this week. I may have another blog soon or I may not since I go to Melbourne soon. What do you think about SharePoint? Any other DMS’s worth looking into? How about the banner I made last night for the blog?

– Anthony Smith

Perceiving the value of Online Social Networks

So this week’s INB346’s theme is social networks. Seems like it should be the epitome of all the platforms enterprises are attempting to leverage in their respective races to social media success but hey, better late than never (Or maybe we’ve done this before and are doing it again for good measure?). If you’re reading this, I’ll assume you know what the definition of a social network is. So let me tell you about my personal experience with them.

Facebook, Twitter and MySpace are probably the biggest and I’ve had varying levels of experience with all three myself for different purposes. MySpace is probably the one I used least. Back in its heyday every kid had one. Being the IT orientated person I am, my page was all ‘pimped out’, with all kinds of unique html running through it to give it unique backgrounds and such. But I didn’t like it. Nope. MySpace was far too cluttered. I was sick of opening people’s profiles to see more than nine thousand good web design principles broken. Scrolling animated gifs, flashing text, auto-loading youtube videos and music. I distinctly remember a conversation I had with a colleague of mine and he said ‘MySpace seems more for kids, Facebook is more grown-up’ and I didn’t disagree.

I eventually made the migration to Facebook, everybody did apparently – to the biggest slice of the social media pie – and I haven’t looked back. Many names are synonymous with ‘social media’, but none more so than Zuckerberg’s college experiment.

Facebook was good for a long time. It still is, but the thing I liked about it most at first was how clean it was. No silly HTML, no automatically loading music. But then I experienced a similar feeling I felt with MySpace when I was receiving twenty-thousand updates a day asking me to play ‘Mafia Wars’ (A facebook game I played briefly) on Facebook because a friend had been conned by a game into clicking my name and sending me a message in the first place.

At the very least, I figured out I could block messages from specific applications. Hey presto! No more recruitment requests to my friend’s mafias. No more unwanted sheep from my friend’s Farmville accounts.

This being said, I do enjoy the side of Facebook we’re all more familiar with – keeping up with friends. It’s been good to reconnect with friends from high school, and keep them all updated with my day to day things. It keeps me in touch with people that I normally wouldn’t talk to for months at a time. It’s also been a useful tool for managing groups of gamers that I organise events for.

I guess the downside for me is the feeling that some of my friendships are diminished somewhat. But that can be a matter of perspective as well. Does keeping up with friends only through Facebook mean I place less value on those friendships? It’s like asking if Facebook is a lazy means of keeping up with friends. It depends on the value you personally and others you are connected with derive from social media.

Twitter I’ve been using of course, and you can read about my foray into that here: https://anthonyvysesmith.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/web-2-0-in-various-parts-of-my-life/

I still don’t see myself using it a great deal anytime soon though. It’s more public and accessible and handy for micro updates, I’ll grant it that. But I guess the issue is that neither I, nor any of my friends really use it. So personally speaking, it’s not useful to me, since I already have Facebook to funnel all of my updates through, but I understand that it can be a handy tool. Updates on current happenings, events, the lives of the rich and famous, businesses. These are the organisations and people who benefit the most.

On that note, it’s important to realise that when weighing the benefits of social media, it’s important to first consider the perspective that you’re viewing these Web 2.0 platforms from. You’ve read what I think personally about three different platforms, but they aren’t necessarily true or even accurate for the perspective of big business.

For example, calling social media an emerging marketing platform for today’s enterprise may also be inaccurate. The fact is, is that enterprises of all shapes and sizes are jumping on the bandwagon and have been on it for a long time. It’s now very much a staple part of the operation of an enterprise.

A notable instance is Joie De Vivre, a large Hotel company operating in California. This company has been leveraging a number of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook in its efforts to promote its business and drive for increased sales figures.  According to techcrunch, the company will ‘tweet’ exclusive deals on Tuesdays for discounted rates on rooms and update its status on Friday’s to offer similar deals for its Facebook followers.

Social media can be leveraged for more than just marketing purposes as well. Best Buy’s Twitter account ‘Twelpforce’ is employed to manage hundreds of employees that are using Twitter to provide customer support to its potential customers. This is one amongst a sea of examples as to how companies are attempting to cut costs or find better ways to do business through social media.

The pitfalls however are the usual suspects with any enterprise 2.0 venture. As I covered in this blog post, productivity, information leakages and damaging a company’s image sit amongst the potentially disastrous consequences of not employing a social media strategy. Furniture Store ‘Habitat’ experienced that last one I mentioned, a damaged reputation, when they began a thoughtless Twitter campaign consisting of spam via the use of inappropriate, yet popular hash tags in order to maximise its exposure. This backfired, as it tastelessly advertised with hash tags such as ‘#iPhone’, ‘#apple’, even Australian masterchef contestant ‘#Poh’. Readers not only picked up on it, but began complaining about it and the company as well. Whilst the company took immediate action to remove the tweets and began anew with a strategy non-spammy in nature, the damage was done and the viral nature of news about the deed was spreading far quicker than they could contain it. They eventually made a public apology when they realised that social media wasn’t as easy to control as they thought.

Something I reiterate often is that inaction is worse than action with social media. Learning from your mistakes is important, just Habitat did. Not adopting it will put you behind in terms of competitive advantage. Heck, even my social life would be behind if I didn’t use social media myself.

It’s almost like not owning a mobile phone.

Internal Blogging – Crowdsourcing ‘within’ the enterprise?

So we know what a blog is and why we do it. At its core, a blog is a log (A web log) which is a diary of sorts. People use them for all kinds of things, perhaps if only to help them remember the things, the thoughts and feelings they don’t want to forget. Blogs however are different. They can serve that aforementioned purpose, but they also serve a variety of different agendas, themes and goals. Unlike diaries, blogs can be maintained by multiple people, and can represent the thoughts and opinions of more than just an individual.

In the business world, blogs can represent entire corporations and companies. Like a blog belonging to an individual, a corporate blog of this nature can be used to express corporate opinions, stances and most importantly, create a personal brand or in this case, a company brand. It creates a channel of communication, a wide channel of dialogue between the company and its readers and it informalises the positions of both, creating a sense of familiarity and even loyalty amongst its readers.

However it’s a topic I’ve touched on before. Blogging is a form of Web 2.0 and if you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you’ll probably be sick to death of it by now, that is, how business’ can harness Web 2.0 to generate and conduct business.

Generally speaking, these social media platforms are harnessed in two different ways – internally, and externally. It can almost be likened to the way in which businesses used to be able to differentiate between what the customer could see and what they couldn’t when they looked at a business. It’s not a foreign concept even without that analogy, since in all organised groups we have different levels of visibility.

I make these points because I want to explore blogging as a tool within an organisation. It is as you might expect – a blog maintained by an organisation targeted at and for the benefit of the organisation itself.

For example, the US navy has begun to maintain a blog entitled ‘The Pulse’ for the purpose of informing Navy personnel about the direction of IT in the navy, what proposals are being put forward, and what its staff can expect to see happen. They also maintain it in order to garner feedback and opinions from its staff. This kind of blogging creates a channel of internal communication, giving members of the navy a means of keeping up to date with updates as well information on projects currently in progress.

Another interesting entity is wal-mart. I’ve studied how they conduct their business, their business model, information systems and distribution logistics, but never anything about their social media forays until last night when I read about their internal blogging.initiatives. Wal-mart’s blog exists to ask their one million employees to help them innovate as a business. Their first open question to employees asked through the blog was a request for ideas on saving energy. Five thousand employees responded, with one employee suggesting that they simply remove light bulbs from vending machines. The idea spread across wal-mart stores across the world and saved the company one million dollars. This outreach from the executive level to the operational level and everywhere in between encourages a type of informality that helps to remove the air of stigma between the two levels of the business. It also presents a form of expertise sharing and competitive intelligence since it is the collective expertise and intelligence of the crowd that is being sourced and shared amongst the company.

Great! So let’s jump on word press, set up a blog and mass email everyone to board the blog train!

No. Well yes, but not yet.

As I’ve already covered not too long ago, forging your way into the social media spectrum can be a perilous journey. A few careful considerations need to be taken into account before leaping into it:

–          Aims!

  • This is always a good goal to shoot for. In the previous examples, they provided the base and reasoning for the blogged content (Navy IT direction and wal-mart collaborative innovation)

–          The Bloggers!

  • Afterall, these people will be responsible for the face that the blog reading employees will be entering into a dialogue with. They should be good communicators and sensitive to particular issues. Consistency is good too.

–          Training and Policies

  • Even in my own experience as an IT professional, throwing rules and policy at an employee won’t ensure that they’ll do the right thing by the company. Professional development is necessary to ensure that policies and guidelines developed for posting blogs and comments is abided by.
  • Blogging guidelines must be clear to ensure that employees understand what they can and can’t do and why.
  • A good example is Intel’s social media policy that not only sets out guidelines to follow, it also encourages users to become social media representatives, rather than to scare them with threats of employment termination

As with any social media endeavour in the Enterprise, it will take time for the idea of blogs as a form of business-wide communication to take place. The theory is always that people should want to adopt it on their own accord once they recognise its value.

– – –

That’s it for this week. This blog was meant for last week, but I’ve been super busy with other assignments. I got stuck on public transport today, the trains went out because of a police incident, so I had some time to squeeze this blog out.

Along with this week’s activity for our Enterprise 2.0 class, are there any QUT INN/INB346 students out there with some suggestions on what kinds of social media platforms I should write about? I was thinking a straight up blog on Sharepoint.

UPDATE:

This blog post has been shared with the Social Media in Organisations Community (http://www.sminorgs.net/communityies-of-practice/)

Check it out!

Exploring Motivation for Web 2.0

Even though it’s the interim between finishing a submission for Enterprise 2.0 and starting another one, I’m still compelled to write a blog. To continue the theme of previous blogs exploring Enterprise 2.0 adoption, I’d like to explore why contributors do what they do.

Being a long time member of www.smashboards.com, I’ve seen people collate and research ludicrous amounts of data about the video game the forum is based around. Data that requires sophisticated recording software and techniques, as well as community developed tools, all just for credit. Even I’ve put in to help manage and maintain resources for the sake of being helpful to the community.

People seem to have an incessant desire to make a mark. People have knowledge, useful knowledge, and they wish to be recognised as being the person who contributes that knowledge, disseminates it amongst the masses. It’s not unlike the scientific community, where research papers are published and scientists are granted credit, which in turn leads to greater roles and better resources.

This is where Web 2.0 can begin to differ. Web 2.0 grants us the knowledge of the crowd, multiple users coming together and creating a resource. Wikipedia is a prime example. Buckman writes that ‘Like scientific communities, contributors to Wikipedia seek to collaboratively identify and publish true facts about the world’. However, Wikipedia articles don’t finish with any creditation to its writers.

Instead, contributions to Wikipedia are linked to you. You’re able to prove your worth merely by contributing to what is already available. Wikipedia contains a system allowing authors to talk and discuss different articles, leading them to being to recognise community leaders and top contributors. These people can even go on to become administrators given enough community support.

Similarly, www.smashboards.com has a post count displayed under your name and avatar next to every post you make. As well as this, custom user titles and user groups are assigned to users as their participation is recognised. This, along with a public view of your contributions helps sustain a sense of achievement as users contribute to the forum.

Humans, with their inherent desire to achieve some level of greatness or accomplishment, will contribute as a user of Web 2.0 without much more incentive than mere recognition. The issue with Enterprise 2.0, is finding a way to translate that desire into something people are willing to integrate with their work.

I’ll admit that some of my blogs lately have been more abstract, and this is probably one of them. In the coming week I plan on blogging about some Enterprise 2.0 platforms in addition to the weekly activity for INB346. Any suggestions?

Thanks,

Anthony Smith

Implementing Enterprise 2.0 – Integration and Assimilation

A follow up on one of my latest blogs; a perplexing dilemma with Enterprise 2.0 exists when you consider many common problems with implementing new processes into an organisation. The big one is simple resistance to change.

Schmaltz sums it up quite nicely, pointing the finger at barriers including:

1) applications not part of user’s workflow
2) time effort > personal value
3) complex applications

To elaborate, the biggest reasons why a user may not take to an Enterprise 2.0 tool is that the application does not fit in with the traditional way of doing their job. That the effort they put in using the 2.0 tool does not equally reward them with value towards completing the work they do, or that the applications are simply too complex to use.

Christoph Schmaltz systematically highlights a number of barriers between an organisation and the successful implementation of Enterprise 2.0 technologies, discusses possible solutions to these ‘problems’ and suggests a solution to nurturing the adoption of these tools.

Put simply, Schmaltz explains that Email needs to be viewed and implemented as an important part of implenting 2.0 – citing that interactivity needs to exist between the two because companies are already heavily email oriented, as are their employees. Schmaltz also analyses a number of common Web 2.0 tools and suggests means of integrating Email.

I’ve found this mode of combing 1.0 and 2.0 technology to be quite effective. For at least a year now I’ve been used to receiving automatically emailed notifications from google groups to say that somebody has made  a new post or a new thread on our google group space.

Maximising what can be done from the email is important too. Facebook’s capability to ‘reply to a comment in an email with a reply should be expected in other 2.0 tools such as wiki’s as well. It simply quickens the process and simplifies that situation. I enjoy this situation for both google groups and Facebook.

The idea here is that we’re resistant to change. but it can be swayed with this careful assimilation of technology that ideally, should be embraced by everyone. I must admit, I’m a little skeptical – this can’t be the only technique employed to encourage adoption – however, integrating email services has definitely worked for me.

Intel Inside (Social Media that is)

So this week’s lecture was from an industry expert in IT Corporate Law named Malcom Burrows. It’s a shame really because I was only able to catch the 2nd half of the lecture (the first half clashing with my Business Process Modelling lecture). Still, I managed to catch up quickly with the slides and readings and now here I am buzzing about with thoughts that I need to be more careful in my job as far as social media goes. I’m a civil servant as well as an IT professional, so it’s something to always be weary of.

Intel employees are no exception it seems. A social media strategist by the name of Ekaterina Walter was recently interviewed by socialmediaexaminer.com’s Michael Stelzner and had some pretty interesting insight into what Intel does in terms of its social media strategy. It seems like they’re really enthusiastic about it. Their employees really reach out to the community through channels such as their facebook page, and try to connect, entering into dialogue with people asking them questions, and making them feel heard.

So it also sets Intel up as a nice case to study as far as social media risks are concerned. As one would imagine they have plenty to worry about with their professional image, industry secrets and all the things kept in between that would cause a headache for a lot of people if things went awry.

Walter played a large role in developing Intel’s Social Media Guidelines. And it seems to address a lot of the concerns organisations face in terms of Social Media Sites.

The policy addresses Intel employee engagement with the community, recommended positions and guidelines for which Intel’s employees and social media practitioners must abide by when making comment on organisational relationships and endorsements and finally guidelines relating to moderation.

I’ll address some of the bigger issues of social media and how they might affect Intel:

Confidentiality, privacy, whoops, did I just let slip that product release date? Intel strives for transparency in their policy, but they also want employees to be judicious – Don’t violate our ‘privacy, confidentiality and legal guidelines for external commercial speech’. Intel’s efforts could easily be undone by an employee’s extended network putting two and two together through facebook comments and result in a loss of confidentiality and a breach of privacy.

Being judicious in what to say and not to say also relates to issues of ‘Misleading and deceptive conduct’, wherein an employee might make a claim about a product in the social media realm, only for that claim to be false, resulting in Intel coming under scrutiny both legally and in their reputation. This is also true of negligent statements, even defamation – It is a difficult situation where Intel employees are encouraged to reach out with social media, but must also be so careful.

Discrimination is also an interesting issue to consider with their policy, specifically their policy on moderation and approving comments. They work to ensure that negative comments towards them are let through just as positive comments are, as long as they are not “ugly, offensive, denigrating and completely out of context”. Of course, the more common definition of discrimination also applies to Intel – they run the risk of damage to their reputation and legal fallout if they are made the center of a discrimination case because Intel employees make a comment on a social media platform that could be considered discriminatory.

I feel that these risks are going to exist one way or another in most enterprises. However, a company such as Intel, one that is a leader in the IT industry is well equipped with people who are of an IT background already, and understand the implications of social media even with formal training.

However, it is with this knowledge that Intel can embrace the benefits that Social Media platforms can offer. It is an openness that they push repeatedly in their policy as they ask for ‘Transparency’ in their employees. They ask their employees to make very clear who they are, who they represent and what vested interests they may have when they make comment so that it is difficult for readers to misconstrue what is being said.

These risks are definitely important to consider, but a quote Ekaterina recalled from a Toyota national marketing manager sums it up best I think:

The price of inactivity is greater than the risks of anything we’d be doing in social media,”

Web 2.0 – The Organic Virus

Organic, viral, all of these buzz words seem to pop out of nowhere and lead you to think that Web 2.0 is some living organism with a mind of its own. In a way, it is I guess. Web 2.0 is like an animal – you can’t specifically tell it what to do, but it can be domesticated, and people are figuring it out the best ways to do it.

‘Viral Marketing’ – Admittedly, I’d only heard the term a few times before this, and even without specifically looking up the term, I had a fair idea of what it was. Justin Kirby, managing director of ‘Digital Media Communications ltd’, explained that “viral campaigns ‘work’ the Internet to deliver exposure via peer-to-peerendorsement. The focus is on campaigns with material that consumers want to spend timeinteracting with and spreading proactively. So in this way online viral marketing provides the missing link between the word-of-mouth approach and the top-down, advertainmentapproach to brand marketing.”

As I understand it, something that ‘goes viral’ is anything on the web that gets people’s attention, and is linked to through the net (typically through Web 2.0 platforms), which results in more people seeing it and relinking it and before you know it, you’re getting asked by people next to the water cooler whether you’ve seen the ‘Old Spice’ commercials or not.

There are a number of ways in which to harness this phenomenon to supplement the overall marketing strategy for a product. Being able to ‘Re-tweet’ something on Twitter, posting youtube videos to facebook, even good old fashioned email forwarding.

The point of my leading this discussion to this point, is to demonstrate the idea that word of mouth, and letting the user decide for themselves the value of something is a good thing to strive for. Justin Kirby sees this, word of mouth (as opposed to business to consumer) advertising to be the answer to the problem of ‘too much advertising’ wherein the consumer learns to tune it out instead.

More to the point though, I think it’s relevant to the promotion of Web 2.0 in the workplace. I noted on this at the end of my last blog post, and is the inspiration for this one. The idea of planting a seed and letting it take root (Reminds me of Nolan’s recent movie, Inception actually).

The overarching problem I want to bring to light is the age old issue of resistance to change. You can do all the business process management tasks and other research to say that Enterprise 2.0 technologies are the way to go in your organisation, but none of it will matter if the employees won’t take to the new technology.

One would think the problem is quickly solved by the boss ordering them to use it, however therein lies a dilemma that Carpenter chooses to address. There are a number of differing view points, some stemming from a ‘push’ philosophy that says management should drive adoption, and some stemming from a ‘pull’ philosophy that encourages the viral, organic adoption of these technologies – the idea being that if executed correctly, you won’t be able to stop adoption even if you wanted to.

The question really is whether it’s better to push or pull. Carpenter explains the decision simply enough with the following framework diagram.

The biggest contributing factors include the value the organisation places on large scale adoption of the Enterprise 2.0 tools and whether the users involved in the proposed adoption find their current method of working ‘good enough’.

As you can see, the less each of these things is valued, the more the company should be inclined to simply let these tools loose on their workforce and leave them as an option. If the company does value the tools (and it is likely that they will in a lot of cases) then it is likely that the business will also need to take some initiative in ‘pushing’ the technology, or at least nudging its employees to be inclined to do as much. Finally, Carpenter believes if the company does not place huge value in the tools and finds its current strategy optimal, there isn’t a need to change what isn’t broken.

Given the benefits of Enterprise 2.0 tools I outlined in my previous blog post, all organisations will need to consider an Enterprise 2.0 implementation strategy at some point. I do believe this is something to consider, since it’s not a precise art – it’s more like trying to domesticate an animal, you’ll hit and you’ll miss, but you’ll get there if you have a clever strategy or two.