E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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Enterprise 2.0 Conference Highlights – Day Three

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las NievesAs I am coming close to the end of the series of highlights blog posts from the Enterprise 2.0 conference event in Boston, held a few weeks ago, here is the entry that contains the major key learnings for myself for Day Three; last day of the conference and a much shorter day, since it only went through till just about lunchtime. There are still a couple of other articles I would want to put together on the subject, but this is probably the last one that will detail what happened during that week as such.

I am sure that over the next few weeks I will have the opportunity to touch base on some of the various topics that were discussed during some of the sessions as well as some of the conversations held during the networking events that took place. So without much further ado, here are my highlights for Day Three of Enterprise 2.0 in Boston:

The Outlook for Enterprise 2.0 Abroad

With Oliver Marks moderating the panel and with Richard Collin, Soren Stamer, Thomas Vander Wal and Luis Suarez as the speakers; quite an interesting experience participating in this panel myself right after the party, the previous night, at Andy McAfee’s house, and first panel session in the morning after an intense week of sleep deprived events! But overall I think it went all right! Phew!

It was rather interesting to see how for a conference event that relied on Twitter so much for sharing across live throughout the event, it was only the panels that Oliver moderated that had a screen showing all of the tweets going by and that small detail added tremendously further up into the conversation; helped us all stay focused and very much involved in the conversations. Excellent moderating done by Oliver overall!

So what did we discuss during the panel? Well, to start with, it was nice to see a panel where Europeans were outnumbering North Americans (hehe). It was really interesting to bring forward the European side of things with Enterprise 2.0 and social software adoption; items like language and cultural barriers, privacy issues and the broadband penetration in several countries topped most of the discussion and it surely brought some rather intense debate.

I really enjoyed Richard Collin‘s quote when talking about the language and cultural barriers as perhaps very descriptive of where we are and where we have been all of these years: "English is the Latin of the modern world". And that’s probably a fact we should not deny, nor neglect, specially in the business world of today.

With regards to the privacy issues it was very enlightening to see how most European businesses are very aware of the implications of privacy, and the lack of, not only with external social networking sites, but, mainly, internally, where we have got the biggest issues at the moment. Businesses need to realise, just like I mentioned in a previous post, that no matter how hard their efforts will be in promoting the adoption of social software behind the firewall, if they don’t take into account the various privacy laws / constraints all of their hard work can vanish in a matter of seconds. It’s a touchy issue, I know, but one that we would need to "comply with", if we would want Enterprise 2.0 to succeed. Specially in Europe…

And about the broadband penetration in most countries, what can I say other than DIA?

Twitter-like Tools for the Enterprise

With Gil Yehuda as the moderator of the panel and David Schwartz, Mark Dowds, Ross Mayfield, Tim Young and Yoshi Maisami as the speakers; excellent and superb moderating done by Gil and slightly disappointed by the speakers, must admit. Gil himself put together a very compelling and thought-provoking blog post a little while ago on the subject that clearly permeates what was missing from the panel and which still remains my main key learning not just from this session, but from the overall conference.

If Enterprise 2.0 social software is to succeed within the corporate world, it’s got to stop putting together plenty of copycats all over the place from social interactions that do very very similar things and which hardly any of them are eventually integrated into business processes. The challenge from Enterprise 2.0 is not entering the enterprise space per se, but more how to adapt, evolve and improve the already existing business processes in place. It’s that integration that will help businesses adopt social software successfully, because it will not mean another set of tools and processes to do the very same thing on top of what we already have!

That’s what knowledge workers want to do; they don’t want to adopt a new set of social tools that replace everything they have been doing; they eventually want to keep improving their own productivity on what they are already doing in their day to day work flow. What they are asking for is a set of social tools that help them become more social with the already existing processes they have been involved with; they want to humanise the enterprise once again with that nurturing of personal business relationships, but without having to start from scratch with a new set of unrelated social tools that they don’t have the physical time to dive into to figure them all out in the first place!

And that’s what I gained from this specific panel; we are not there yet; we are not thinking about integrating with business processes; we are not thinking about working smater, not necessarily harder; we are not sure yet whether Enterprise micro-sharing can merge with already existing business process. Well, it surely can! We just need to make it happen!

Strategies for Building Sustainable Online Communities

With Oliver Marks as moderator and Andy Fox, David Wormald and Ted Hopton as the speakers; perhaps one of my favourite panels from the entire conference event, although I wish we wouldn’t have stopped so much around the world of technology for communities, specially email!, because we lost a great opportunity to focus more on community building techniques, hints and tips, than just tools. Once again! (sigh)

I know most companies out there are waking up to the whole concept of communities for business (Yes, communities are hot!), but we need to realise they are nothing new; we have been working in communities since the very beginning of the human race; and, as such, we are not discovering anything new, to be honest; tools for communities, whether social or not, should always take into consideration they need to be enablers, not the final goal of the community; they should help spark interactions through conversations and dialogue, so that community members have got an opportunity to share their knowledge and learn from one another. But always within a specific context, i.e. their own affinity.

Yet, throughout the panel it looked like as if a community will stagnate if the tools in place don’t thrive. Well, this is where we need to realise that communities and community building is all about but technology; there are all sorts of group dynamics, social interactions, healthy controversy, debate, common affinity, etc. etc. that needs to be taking into account, because, more than anything else, it’s those interactions that keep communities thriving, not technology.

It was also interesting to see how the speakers were sharing their insights on how they themselves have been involved with communities; starting small (i.e. Kicking things off and, slowly, but steadily, build up from there! Community building takes plenty of time, effort and lots of energy, by the way, in case you may not have noticed!), involve both grassroots and top-down efforts so that knowledge workers feel comfortable of working in a group collaborative environment where they feel they can contribute and their efforts can be appreciated.

Oliver summarised the entire conversation with a single quote I thought was worth while noting over here, as it kind of adds up further on what I have been saying all along our focus should well be: "People, Process & Technology. In that order!". Does it ring a bell?

On the front of community building techniques, it was interesting to note how the speakers identified two different issues that keep haunting the corporate world for many years now!: reduce unnecessary tooling (When was the last time your company sunset a tool knowledge workers have been using while trying to adopt a new one? I bet a long time ago!); and, secondly, training and plenty of hand-holding: interesting to see how education and training was considered key, yet very very few businesses eventually spend time and resources in investing in knowledge workers’ education.

In most cases it’s all down to the knowledge workers themselves spending time to get self-educated at their own costs, effort and energy, which surely is a deterrent in helping people adopt social software tools while they interact with communities. Businesses need to understand that if they are serious about Enterprise 2.0 social software, as well as communities and community building programmes, there needs to be a specific education / facilitation plan for each and every single employee! Why? Because you can’t expect they would know how to use these social tools, and, most importantly, how to interact in a large group, if they haven’t done it before. Collaboration doesn’t happen out of nowhere! We need to start at some point.

That good old saying, build it and they will come, won’t work in here! Your knowledge workforce needs to be trained on not only how to make use of these social software tools that try to integrate with already existing business purposes, but also how they should interact in larger groups, how they can contribute to the overall well being of the community, and how they can, in short, collaborate with people who may not be identified as strong ties, but rather quite the opposite: show them how they need to interact with the weak ties, because that’s where your competitive advantage would be; that’s where your business revenue will thrive!

That’s, in short, the very same reason as to why communities are hot nowadays and why the job description of a community manager – facilitator will become an essential key success factor for those communities to last forever. Now, how many companies have got a full time job description for our next generation of community leaders? … Exactly! There is still plenty of work to do in this area. You bet!

And that would be it! From there onwards, we got through the wrap-up of another superb Enterprise 2.0 conference event with its quirks, its lack of network coverage throughout the event itself that only allowed us to capture here and there fractions of what we witnessed; but tremendous value in the networking events, the conversations with people I already have been following for a while (And new ones, too!!) and some pretty impressive panel and speaker sessions I had the great pleasure of attending and learning plenty from!

Like I said, this will be the last blog post from the series of Enterprise 2.0 conference event highlights. There will be the odd article here and there on some of the subjects I thought were most interesting, but you can now go and have a rest, enjoying that cup of coffee, because I surely plan to come back to the my usual shorter blog posts detailing some of the really cool stuff that has been happening ever since the conference. And, believe me, there are lots to share!

Hope you enjoyed reading through this series of blog posts, just as much as I did putting them together. I surely look forward to the next one! Whenever that would be …

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2 comments

    1. Hi Samuel! Many thanks for dropping by and appreciated the kind comments. Yes, this year was one of the most solid conference events to date that I have attended. You can see that Enterprise 2.0 as a concept is maturing at a nice pace, although there is still a lot more to cover!

      I do hope you would be able to make it to the next one later this year in San Francisco or perhaps the one next year. Either way, I am sure we would be able to meet up at some point.

      Again, appreciated the kind feedback and thanks for all the comments!

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