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

From the blog

Barriers of Social Software Adoption within the Enterprise: It Will Cost You More than You Think!

Tenerife - The RoseIn my last blog post I hinted I will be putting together another entry where I would reflect on something that has been in my mind for a good number of months, if not years altogether. Something that, to me, comes pretty close home as the main problem, issue, bottleneck, challenge (whatever other term you would want to use) on the full adoption of Social Computing within the enterprise by knowledge workers.

Funny enough, it hasn’t got to do anything with a good number of the various different challenges that plenty of people have been talking about all around for a long while now. Yes, this is a blog post where I would not talk about cultural barriers, nor the various technology challenges (Social software tools being too complex to use, as the main one, for instance, as well as the plethora of them available coming as a close second one), nor the difficulties in letting command-and-control let go by organisations as well as some of the management layers, nor the reluctance to change and so on and so forth.

No, this is not going to be a blog post about any of those. I’m actually going back to basics. Back to what I consider the root of the problem as to why we are probably not as effective and efficient as we could be with our own adoption of social software within the enterprise. And I will use myself as an sample providing you guys with a bit of context and background of where I am coming from with such statement.

So let’s get things going with that context. In the current corporate environment one of the growing trends that you would have to agree with me it’s becoming more and more prominent by the day is how global, distributed and virtual it’s become over the last decade for all of us knowledge workers.

Right now it is almost impossible to find a business that may have all of its employees working in the same building, the same city, or perhaps, in plenty of cases, the same country. Yes, we all becoming more global, more virtual, which means that we are no longer being "restricted" to working in a traditional office (That same office building where 10 years ago perhaps we would’ve spent plenty of time at the water cooler, or coffee corner, in our early mornings and afternoons catching up with our team and other fellow colleagues enjoying a cup of coffee, or some tea).

Instead, we have all been getting used to the idea of working remotely, whether it is at our own home offices, while we are on the road, while visiting customers or business partners, while at the airport, and the nearest Starbucks "office", etc. etc. You get my drift. We are all basically taking the office with us.

And that’s where the problem starts. Right at the root of the cause as to why perhaps we may not have adopted social software as much as we probably should have in the first place. I guess by now you know where I am heading at this point in time, but, just in case you may not have, here it goes: to me, the biggest challenge for a successful social software adoption for remote knowledge workers within the enterprise is no other than the appalling quality of broadband connections we have got in our virtual offices.

There! I said it! I let it all out! The main problem that no one wants to talk about. The complete rip-off that us, knowledge workers, have been suffering from for a good number of years. But let’s see that with a bit more context and provide an example. In this case, an easy one: myself.

I have been a remote employee, working from my home office, for over six years now and I absolutely love the experience. I probably wouldn’t even change it for anything else. And I suppose that would apply as well to the over 50% of IBM remote employees who work away from a traditional office. And I bet that would apply to most of you folks out there as well who have been working remotely for a while now.

So that basically means that if we want to become heavy users of social software, we need to rely, now more than ever, on faster remote network connections, not just the clunky ones that would allow us to just replicate our mail and go off-line again. I mean, we are having access to hundreds of information resources (News Web sites, blogs, podcasts, videocasts, screencasts, social networking sites, micro-sharing services, etc. etc. You name it!), where plenty of them are rich media based, which means they are rather heavy. So you would expect that we would have an opportunity to enjoy faster speeds, right?

Well, we are not. Quite the opposite! How many times have you been to a conference event where on the first keynote session the connection offered goes down? How many times have you been stuck in a hotel room with Internet access where you are paying up to €22 per day for very poor quality of service? How many times have you been at the airport, waiting for that flight, connected to the WiFi, paying €6-€10 "just to be connected"? How many times have you wished that your 3G smartphone would have decent network coverage to allow you to use the tethering service, so you could continue to work online? How many times have you thought you are paying too much, every month, for an Internet connection that is way less than desirable? How many times have you wished that things would be different, perhaps much more accommodating to our own needs as a paying recurring customer than the Internet Service Provider that keeps letting you down time and time again?

I’m sure that if you go through those questions you will feel identified with a good number of them. You may be even nodding, as I put down these few words, that it is just far too close to reality. Yet we don’t seem to be doing much about it. And that starting with myself having experienced that lack of service, but still paying through the nose for it. If you have been following my blog, or my tweets, for a while now, you could probably identify the kind of fun that I have been enjoying all along. Latest example, being stuck in a five-star hotel in Tenerife, paying the heavy charges per day for an Internet connection that was just as slow, if not worse!, than my 3G smartphone’s. Ouch!!

And like that one, I’m sure there will be hundreds, if not thousands, of different examples that you could go ahead and share away in the comments along the lines of "Yes, been there, done that, got the T-shirt and the souvenirs". Yet we don’t seem to do anything about it. It’s like we enjoy being abused by those who charge us huge amounts of money for very poor quality service.

And this bugs me. A lot! I mean, I have got tons of rich media and web resources that I would love to share out there with the rest of my social networks, yet it is all been religiously stored in my Mac, because I cannot be bothered any longer waiting for hours to upload a video of 30 to 50 MB (And that talking on the low file size of things…). I gave up a long while ago. And I feel very sorry about it, because it clearly reminds me of plenty of the issues that Knowledge Management has been having over the last few years: i.e. lack of knowledge sharing or, even, hoarding one’s own knowledge. Yikes!!

I know that you may be wondering that I may well be over exaggerating this, but quite the opposite, to be honest. If you would like to see some proof of what I’m talking about I would strongly encourage to take a look into Speedtest World’s Results and statistics. Unless you live in one of those lucky countries you’re off to witness a very nasty experience. Another example? Here it comes…

I live in Spain, in Gran Canaria, to be more precise. And, according to Speedtest World’s Results, my country currently ranks at the 46th position worldwide as far as download speed is concerned and an incredibly depressing 98th position worldwide as far as I upload speed is concerned. 46th and 98th!!! Just unbelievable! But, not to worry, because it gets better; well, actually, much worse!

For those rankings that I have just mentioned above, I am paying a whopping 90€ bill for my home home ADSL connection (50€ per month with Telefónica) and my 3G smartphone Internet connection (40€ per month with the wonderful service provided by Movistar… NOT!!!). Plus you would have to add the hundreds of euros that I have been spending to pay for WiFi at hotels, airports, Internet cafés, etc. You would agree with me that it makes for a really nice yearly bill altogether, don’t you think? Yes, I thought so, but what did we get back in return…?

Well, I’m getting tired. I’m getting tired of it all. I’m finding it more and more challenging by the day to come to terms with the fact that in order to continue making heavy use of social software tools where rich media sharing is a rule (Not a nice thing to have, as most Internet Service Providers seem to think… since, to them, the less you use social networking tools the better for them because they will be charging you the same amount of money for hardly any quality service or probably not the one you think you would be entitled to for that amount of money, in the first place, anyway), I would need to pay a nice monthly bill to allow me to stay connected.

Not sure what you would think, but certainly I can think of better things to do with that money, specially when thinking what I get in return. I know, you may be thinking that I am over-exaggerating  again, right? Hummm, I don’t think so. Check the following screen shot with the charts for the top countries and judge for yourself whether I am on a unique situation or not. I am sure I am not… Here’s the snapshot:

I’m not sure what we could do about it, since, like I said before, no one seems to be bringing up this as an issue. Actually, most people think that broadband penetration is good enough. Well, maybe it is not. Maybe it could actually be way better. But, to be honest, unless we all say it is an issue, or a challenge, towards the successful adoption of social software within the enterprise, nothing much will happen. And that would be a real pity. All our evangelising efforts and hard work being shattered with a snap of a finger, just because we keep tolerating such poor quality of service for something that, to us, Web workers, should be our right. Like it is in some places already… Maybe I should move countries once again…

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  1. Those rankings make me feel OK about my download speed (15 mbps) but not so great about my upload speed (1 mbps) which is capped. In Canada, the telecommunications companies are squeezing every dollar out of every mbps because they are an oligopoly.

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