The True Value of Social Business is Still to be Unlocked

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Realising the value of any business initiative – especially when it involves some form of transformation or change management – can take months or even years. In fact, the benefits of some changes can continue to accrue for decades. Little wonder then, that business is taking time to bring its social media / social business programs to account. After all, it’s not just about allowing Facebook access through the firewall and launching a new Fan Page.

For business to generate value from their investments in social initiatives, integrated programs need to be rolled out across five dimensions:

  • Goals – it’s essential for your program to set goals. These goals will, over time, become more refined, but even ad hoc programs should establish clear parameters
  • Commitment – understanding how your teams will use social media helps determine the level of resourcing, governance and support that will be needed. Essentially, you need to determine your organisation’s accepted level of commitment
  • Ability – how will social be deployed within your organisation and by whom? What level of training and best practice sharing will be put in place? How will you formalise this?
  • Measurement – are you achieving your goals? Are you failing? And are you even measuring the right things?
  • Scalability – who’s job is social? Thinking through this question will help you confront the challenges of scaling social within your business.

To understand the way that organisational maturity can be built over time, I created this social business maturity model. But when it was first developed back in 2011, there was a paucity of data available on the impact of social business. This is now beginning to change.

The Sloan Review/Deloitte’s findings from their 2014 global study on social business reveals that as social business matures, value begins to build across the enterprise – not just within the marketing and sales divisions. Almost 60% of B2B companies are finding that social business initiatives are “positively impacting business outcomes”. And that central to the realisation of business value is the support of the C-suite.

Those experienced in the world of change management will know the importance of “top down” support. And social business transformation is no different.

Read the full report here – and then roll up your sleeves. With only 51% of business sitting in the early stages of the maturity model, there’s plenty of opportunity to grow and create value.

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Where’s My Hoverboard? The Evolution of the Employee and the Future of Work

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I have been fascinated by the future of work for some time. Ever since I first wobbled out of the office, became “freelance” and started my first business many years ago, I felt that change was coming and that organisations as well as individuals would transform the nature of their relationship. But the amazing thing about “the future” is that it always takes so long to arrive. After all, I’m still waiting for my hoverboard – and that should have been here by now.

And while lasting change has taken some time to bed in, we have seen some remarkable changes in the landscape of work. Looking back, these changes seem small, but each contributed to a growing momentum, which when added together, provide a clear path to where we are today and where we are heading. Let’s take a look at some of these.

1. Where we work

Location has been a central part of the identity of “work” for centuries. It marked “work” out from “home”, delineated the work/life balance and created the need for commuting. But technology in many shapes and forms has transformed “where we work”. With mobile phones, connected devices, laptops and broadband access, now more than ever, our office is in our pocket. Moreover, the “spaces” where we work – especially for the “knowledge worker” – are also different. We can choose “hotdesks” over cubicals, coworking spaces over offices, cafes over desks and home over central business district. We don’t even have to live in the same country as our teams. For many years, my working rhythm skewed towards the evening and late night while collaborating with colleagues in the USA and across Europe. This impacted the “how”.

2. How we work

Gone are the days of “bundying on” – for most office workers at least. The workplace is far more aligned to outputs rather than inputs – what you produce rather than the time spent producing it. Unless, of course, you are running behind schedule or over budget! Technology is also transforming how we work – with more collaborative technologies finding their way into the office. There’s also a vast array of collaborative software to choose from – almost every office department will find dedicated software with a collaborative component (either built-in or bolted on) – and it all resides “in the cloud” which means your work is with you wherever you may be.

3. Why we work

We’ve also seen a remarkable shift in our reasons for working. Many younger people are opting out of the corporate path – or at least stepping off the ladder a few rungs up. The desire to “work with purpose” is seeing young (and now older) professionals make choices that would have been surprising even a decade ago. Creating your own ladder – entrepreneurship – or running your own startup or small business seems to be a viable and enviable option – which has a personal impact focus.

In his book, The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization, Jacob Morgan suggests that the “work that we know is dead”. He looks at a range of factors that made up the history of our working lives and then looks to the future to suggest new trends.

And while I largely agree with his observations I wonder whether we are quite as close to the future as he suggests. It always seems to me that individuals cope with change and adapt far more quickly than the culture, processes and policies of businesses and organisations. For example, I still hear of companies that prohibit access to YouTube or Facebook, despite the opportunities for collaboration and learning on offer. So perhaps the future has arrived, but it’s just not evenly distributed.

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Tech, Media, Telco – Trends, Predictions and Maybe Some Good Guesses

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The challenge of digital is not one of technology. It is that it is relentless.

From December through January each year, we look back over our shoulder at what has happened and then look ahead, towards the horizon, seeking to map out the future. It’s a time honoured ritual that happens on a range of scales – from the personal “New Year’s Resolution” to the enterprise level “Strategy/Planning” sessions. But predictions are notoriously difficult to make. And disruption has a way of changing the conditions of our personal and professional lives at a moment’s notice.

Think back to the beginning of 2014. What were your personal resolutions? What were your professional goals? Did you keep your resolutions? Did you see the changes in yourself or your circumstances that you were hoping for? What about your professional life? How well did your ambitions match your achievements?

Chances are the things that you predicted, wanted or expected, changed through the course of the year. After all, the one certainty we have is change.

However, business trends and predictions can be very helpful when prioritising your limited time and resources. And if you are involved or interested in the technology, media or telecommunications industry, the Deloitte TMT Predictions for 2015 make for interesting reading.

Some of my favourite predictions include:

  • The Internet of Things really is things, not people. The prediction is that 95% of the IoT devices to be purchased in 2015 will be bought by enterprises. This marks a substantial shift away from the consumerisation of IT that has driven innovation for the last few years – with technology finding a home again in the corporation. Of course, there will still be plenty of human involvement in signing the cheques for that $30 billion in contracts.
  • The re-enterprisation of IT. In a similar vein – and perhaps not quite a prediction on its own, but a substantial shift in the role of technology in the business. I have a feeling that for this to actually happen, we’ll need whole new ways of imagining not just transformation but the foundations of innovation.
  • The “generation that won’t spend” is spending a lot on media content. Rather than a generation of content pirates, Gen Y are proving that they not only value content but are willing to pay for it. This is driving growth in subscription platforms from Spotify to Netflix. It may even account for the shift away from assets like cars to use of services like Uber and GoGet. And that means – for me at least – that the shift is less about media content and more about the EXPERIENCE of consumption.

You can read the full report and predictions here. What catches your fancy? What’s next on the horizon for you and your business?

Look at Me-When Screen Time Changes Lives

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Walk tall, walk straight and look the world right in the eye
— Val Doonican

In my childhood home we listened to both kinds of music – country and western. There was none of this “modern” country – it was heavily loaded with Johnny Cash, Charlie Pride and Waylon Jennings. There was a smattering of Willie Nelson, albums of Dolly Parton before 9 to 5, and even some Elvis. Of course, there was Slim Dusty. But one of my Nan’s favourites was Val Doonican’s Walk Tall. She would say it was more than a song – it was a handbook for life.

The concept of looking the “world right in the eye” is deeply ingrained in us. Certainly in Western culture. So much so that we believe it’s hard to look someone in the eye and lie. This has been debunked as a myth, but its cultural currency remains strong. In 1997, Dr Arthur Aron published a paper that showed simply staring into the eyes of a stranger for four minutes uninterrupted can have a massive impact on the development of “closeness” or “relationships”. Recently, this was charmingly re-enacted (under more open conditions) by Mandy Len Catron and written up in the New York Times.

But what happens if a person you love – a child – your child – won’t look you in the eye? This is the case for many parents of children with autism:

People with an autism have difficulty establishing and maintaining relationships. They do not respond to many of the non-verbal forms of communication that many of us take for granted like like facial expressions, physical gestures and eye contact.

But what if that could be changed? And what if technology could help?

Samsung in Korea worked with universities to create an app that taught autistic kids to look at faces, decypher emotions and understand what is going on with the person they are “communicating” with. The Look At Me app is the result:

The Look at Me app aims to improve an individual’s ability to make eye contact. A multidisciplinary team of clinical psychologists, cognitive psychologists, and psychiatrists have dedicated their participation in developing the app curriculum. The app is currently under clinical testing to verify its effectiveness through research. The app keeps children motivated and highly concentrated by using the camera function of digital devices that often appeal to children’s interests.

And now, following the success of the app in Korea, Samsung Canada is donating 200 tablets preloaded with the Look At Me app to Autism Speaks Canada.

This is technology that really has the potential to change lives. It brings technology, creativity, health and psychology together in an ingenious way. And at least in some households, it will be perfectly acceptable to have plenty of “screen time”. It would be great to see the same kind of program here in Australia.

HT: Digital Buzz Blog

Improve your Business and Your Mind with Slideshare

Point of no return

The idea of continuously learning seems like a “no brainer” to me. Being naturally curious, I have always sought out knowledge – and have been lucky to find it in abundance. But my efforts have never been idle – they have never been for the sake of knowledge alone. For while I love acquiring knowledge, I love – even more – the thought of turning that knowledge into action. Doing. Making.

And now with an abundance of learning opportunities via the web, everywhere I look I see opportunity. There are blogs written by whip smart innovators, thinkers and doers. There are YouTube channels teaming with tips, insights and edutainment. There are the moocs, open learning platforms and iTunesU.

There is so much content to learn that it’s literally impossible to consume it all. So that means being selective.

So if you are looking for some great, simple and effective ways to improve your business and your mind, take a look at Slideshare’s Must-Read Decks from 2014. There are dozens of recommendations that you can dip in and out of, bookmark and revisit. What are you waiting for? Just get started below!

Imagens Evangélicas via CompfightPoint of no return Bada Bing via Compfight

Three Newsletters for Digital Leaders

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As much as we write about the end of this or the end of that, one consistent form of communication that refuses to die, is email. Love it or hate it, newsletters and the like continue to go from strength to strength.

And there is nothing more telling about the role of email than when some of the most innovative digital thinkers start their own newsletters. Over the last few months, newsletters, not blogs or podcasts, have been started by at least three digital leaders that should be on your must-read list (or at least in your “Primary” Gmail tab). These are:

  • Rosie & Faris’ Strands of Genius: Part business diary, part link collection, this newsletter by Rosie Yakob and Faris Yakob has a particular advertising and innovation focus that is hard to find. It is peppered with the dynamic duos’ personal sayings, interesting perspectives, and content that favours insight over statistics (though there are plenty of both).
  • Kris Hoet’s Warped: A weekly curated email featuring the best ideas, trends and awesomeness from the previous seven days. Kris keeps an eye on innovation and trends emanating from Europe.
  • Dave Phillip’s Work Study Dad: Short and sharp – Dave’s Five Things newsletter focuses on social media marketing and culture and contains only five links to items worth reading.
  • Natural Disruption: The newsletter from our Disruptor’s Handbook team keeping you up-tod-ate with disruptive trends, technology and ideas.

And yes, I know that makes four. Make some room in your inbox for all of them 😉

#Digitalks: Digital Disruption – how to thrive through change

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Each quarter, Firebrand host a lunch time seminar for the Sydney marketing community. This quarter, hosted by Adobe, I presented on the topic of digital disruption – and how marketers and innovators can apply the principles of the lean startup to transform their businesses.

We covered the three things you’ll need to pay attention to in order to build your business:

  • Marketing innovation: How to think and act like a marketing-led startup to innovate your way to profitability
  • Metrics: The key metrics that give you insight, focus, and control
  • Momentum: How focused action yields data and drives outcomes

You can:

 

The Amazing Case of the Disappearing Technology

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Technology is stuff that doesn’t work yet.

— Bran Ferren

Bran Ferren’s words echo across the wifi to us like a premonition. The former President of R&D at Walt Disney Imagineering’s deep understanding of the way people use and engage with technology is only starting to play out in the devices that we so readily take for granted. The fact that we can call a piece of technology, a “device” at all shows how far we have come; after all, a device is something personal, knowable, intimate. And it was only twenty-odd years ago that carrying a “mobile phone” could put your back out. Personal technology is shrinking at a considerable rate.

Big Machines, Small Data

For decades, technology has driven business innovation, resulting in the rise of professional services firms, technology companies and most recently, software platforms. Until the early 90s, we designed systems around single business functions – like purchasing or order management. While this was a huge improvement on previous systems, it entrenched departmental silos and required duplication of work – put simply, the same information had to be entered into completely separate systems. Occasionally, the IT teams were able to integrate systems – connecting some pieces of data together, but this also required governance, standards and compliance – which added cost and complexity to already complex systems.

At the centre of this data frontier were the CIOs – vital drivers of innovation and productivity in almost every business. And held tightly in their grasp was information.

We realised that the faster we could crunch business information, the faster we could make decisions. Accordingly we built electronic supply chains, implemented ERP systems and automated what we could. We brought disparate systems together with a single package providing a reliable flow of data from one department to another. We had massive computers pumping relatively small amounts of data through relatively small, connected pipes. In some cases, remote controllers would be hooked up to servers via dial-up connections – and these ran multinational businesses!

The focus for all this innovation was the “back office” – far away from the prying eyes of the customer.

The Rise of the Front of House

While ERP innovation was driving efficiencies within the hardened arteries of businesses, the sales and marketing folks were still working from the same trusty rolodex and dog-eared business cards they had used since the Great Depression. But Tom Siebel had other ideas. His company was to do to customer relationships what SAP had done to finance and enterprise resource planning. The vision was – as it remains today – a single view of the customer. Like many grand visions, the reality remains tantalisingly out of reach.

But this focus on customer facing business functions, brought sales and marketing into the connected enterprise. Customer billing systems, processing, pipeline and opportunity management and a range of other functions were all digitised – and the field of business re-engineering flourished. Consultants had learned through the ERP years that return on investment lies in business users actually using these systems – and that meant customisation, training and change management. In large enterprises, this task was enormous – but was largely contained by the limits of the business. The focus was on engineering the business not extending beyond the safety of the firewall.

After all, even the top of the range, slimline laptops were clunky, heavy and slow in performance. And the business systems were ugly, hard to use and the data networks were notoriously unreliable. It appeared that innovation was always going to stop at the dizzy limit of a thin blue ethernet chord. And everything from the design of the software and hardware through to the challenges of remote access served to remind us that we were always operating out of our comfort zones – that we were dealing with technology that could both help and hinder us.

Outside-In Innovation and the Crowd

While most businesses were licking their wounds after the dotcom bomb, a new generation of tech entrepreneurs flew below the radar to create a whole new way of connecting the dots around businesses. These emerging social networks skipped the B2B market and launched direct to consumers, corralling vast swathes of the population into tightly bunched, loosely connected groups.

Similar to the way that dolphins collaborate to feast on an abundance of school fish, fast moving digital platforms like Google, Facebook and Yahoo skirted around our flanks and drove us together. Overwhelmed by the speed but excited by the possibilities, we willingly handed over our privacy, location and even identity in order to join with others who were “just like me”.

These platforms, working at warp speed, innovated at the speed of customer experience. They were unencumbered by years of process, archaic business systems and entrenched ways of working. They pushed out new features to the delight or disgust of their members, changed as necessary and moved on.

Sensing a fickleness in the consumer landscape, these fast growing startup enterprises blitzed past the “sense-and-respond” mantra proffered by management consultants the world over and created “lean” businesses that responded to changing conditions through automation, strategic outsourcing and peer-oriented customer service. The suggestions of the crowd – the paying customer – drove changes in business models, product features and even business strategy.

And all this outside-in innovation was happening from the comfort of our homes, with the convenience of technology we could hold in our hands.

The Internet of Things Gives Way to the Internet of Me

The real revolution in all this is three-fold:

  1. Consumers have built their own ecosystems around the experience that they want to create and curate for themselves
  2. “Technology” is disappearing from our lives, shrinking to a size that can be incorporated into our daily fashions
  3. Data is proliferating and permeating devices, systems and everywhere in-between

At the moment we are seeing the Internet of Things gaining traction in our homes, workplaces and public spaces. Connected by low bandwidth protocols like bluetooth, devices like Withings weight scales function like an analogue machine, displaying your weight – but add an additional dimension powered by the web and big data. Not only is your weight captured, your profile is queried in real time, and your height details are returned. Then your BMI is displayed while your latest reading is transmitted back to the cloud.

In some retail stores, sensors like iBeacons track your movement and signal your identity based on the apps running on your phone. Store assistants are proactively updated on your current status, interests and so on, and are ready to more readily assist you. Sound creepy? It’s already happening.

This is no longer the internet of things, but the internet of me. We are creating personal versions of the same kind of ERP networks that were developed in the 90s – linking our payment systems (banks) to our supply chains (shops) through sensors, apps, profiles and devices that we carry or wear at all times. And all of this is happening largely out of our view. It’s invisible. And once it becomes invisible it becomes “the way of life”.

Fresh Ideas-Woolworths launches innovation program for startups

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One of the greatest challenges any startup faces is distribution. How do you get your new product or service into the hot little hands of your customers? How do you do it quickly and with a high conversion rate? Gone are the days when you could drop your new app into the Apple App Store and start seeing download traction.

At Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in July 2014, it was revealed that there are now over 1.2 million apps on the iOS App Store (Google Play, by comparison, is estimated to hold around 1.2 million apps on their store). This literally means that the chance of someone stumbling upon your prized and well-loved app is way less than one in a million – and when you add in algorithms, rankings, reputation and efforts to game the process, the average app developer is at a distinct disadvantage.

Rather than placing all your bets as a startup founder on “going viral” and creating the “next Facebook”, many are turning to some form of collaboration with corporates. And just as the startups turn to corporates, so too do the corporates turn to the startups.

Over the last few months there has been increasing interest in curating engagement with the startup community – not just sponsorship of events which is a light touch, but more substantial programs. While these may start out as “hackathons” where teams of developers come together over a weekend to collaborate on often random projects, when successful, the programs evolve into more substantial efforts. Firms like PwC host Open Innovation events that bring together entrepreneurs, small business owners, clients and researchers to solve challenging problems; NRMA and Slingshot recently launched their JumpStart program; and Telstra has progressed even further, establishing their Muru-D accelerator which has just accepted its second intake.

In an unexpected – but welcome move – Woolworths too are stepping into this space. It is still unclear what the benefits would be for a participating startup – the Wstart program website explains:

This is an opportunity to be heard by key Woolworths executives and discuss your business idea that could drive new thinking within Woolworths. We provide a collaborative environment to learn, share and network with others.

The format of the first event is Speed Dating where you can showcase your idea, collaborate with like-minded individuals, network, and receive mentoring from industry experts.

But the Wstart website is sparse – and to be honest – collaborative environments are popping up faster than I can blink. Or write. And while mentoring is great, access to potential customers, users and communities are far more important for startups.

After the speed dating event there is the opportunity to continue discussions with Woolworths.

If you are interested in participating, you need to submit your startup idea for consideration by 17 November 2014. You can do this on the Wstart website.

 

Marketing Led Sales – a new era for Hubspot and CRM

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Back in the beginning of 2013, I released a research report into the field of marketing automation. It investigated the challenges faced by marketers – from the explosion in digital and social channels to the newly emerging connected consumer and sought to map out the strengths of the various marketing technology vendors and their software offerings. In this report, I had identified that:

HubSpot looks to upset the apple cart.

With the focus on inbound marketing I predicted that HubSpot was well placed to become a future category leader.

At the recent INBOUND2014 conference, HubSpot announced a bold new offering – HubSpot CRM. Now, HubSpot, along with many other marketing automation platforms have long provided a simple CRM-style database – or tight integration to dedicated customer relationship management platforms such as Salesforce. But this feels different. It is different. It is FREE – as part of your HubSpot subscription.

But it’s not the pricing (or lack thereof) that feels revolutionary. It’s the fact that the HubSpot CRM reverses the priority of CRM – from sales first to marketing first. So now, rather than CRM and sales leading the customer process, HubSpot reaches out through its marketing platform to engage customers and then automatically connects them through to the sales teams seamlessly. The CRM platform works almost behind the scenes, logging your sales emails, phone calls and leads as they are made, not after the fact. And because it is part of the one platform, the marketing data that has been accumulated through various touch points, from web, to download, to webinar and so on, is also immediately available to the sales team as the relationship moves closer to conversion.

This new extension to an already powerful mid-market solution will strengthen what is already an attractive software platform. More importantly, it presents small and medium businesses with a compelling proposition – all in one, integrated sales and marketing automation.

And while this is a welcome mid-market addition, I am most excited about what this means for those organisations actively engaged in strategic digital marketing. Sure, most companies are shifting to digital, but those organisations with a mature approach to digital will be able to quickly deploy this kind of solution to create a competitive advantage. With HubSpot CRM, customers – and the customer experience – is more tightly connected to the sales process. It’s marketing led sales, not sales driven marketing. And this is a revolution that has been waiting in the wings.

Now I can’t wait to see what the next act brings.