I found this TED video, below, from Salman Kahn, the founder of the e-learning company, Kahn Academy. After watching it, I knew there was something here for the enterprise.
Is it time to replace your system workflows with social business tools?
‘Subway’ by George Tooker, 1950
When pundits assemble the unwashed to preach the Gospel of Social Business, they often warn against the antisocial forces within the enterprise. They’ll talk about diffident executives, hostile middle managers, unaligned business case, the folly of tool evangelism and weak community strategy. These are all valid roadblocks. We’ve certainly heard about them enough.
Yet there are more basic challenges to enterprise collaboration These are the ‘data processing’ assumptions still coursing in the brains of business people. They cling to the old ways. Some examples:
Workflow systems are the migraines of social business deployment. Organizations want automated workflows because they enforce a chain-of-command. If a company succumbed to Six Sigma, it may have hundreds of stillborn, FMEA-spawned, automated swimlanes.
The enterprise still wants workflows because they promise the illusion of control.
Networked collaboration is the business antipode of workflow-based systems. Individuals make their own decisions in collaboration tools. Information pathways aren’t designed; they appear in an organic fashion, from the need of humans to connect and share. A social network pulses with information in an efficient way; it’s an amalgam of publication and alerts. But the most important distinction between a designed, enforced workflow and a social business network is trust. A workflow doesn’t have it; a social network requires it. If trust is essential for good collaboration, then we can say a workflow is collaboration-free.
Reasons why workflows don’t flow or work:
Workflows impede collaboration. It’s time for the enterprise to rethink the value of automated workflow systems. There are places for automated workflows, especially when the enterprise has lazy, sneaky employees it can’t trust. But if it is blessed with hard-working, informed and smart people, perhaps it is time for the enterprise to throw those old workflows away.
Think about it. Are there inefficient workflows in your enterprise? Could they be done another way?
Imagine if this brain could focus on a problem and solve it. Imagine if the ‘nodes’ came together to design something entirely new. Imagine if this brain existed inside your company…
Last week I attended IBM’s annual Lotusphere event in Orlando, Florida. I went as a practitioner, someone who uses IBM’s products inside their company. Lotusphere is a big, global shebang for All Things Lotus. This year’s Lotusphere was special because it coincided with IBM’s centennial anniversary. Lotusphere attracts customers, the press, IBM solution partners and IBM employees. I had the opportunity to attend sessions, ‘IBM Labs’ and give a presentation of my own.
IBM demonstrated how important social business is to its product vision and internal strategy. Missing were last year’s buzzwords: ‘collaboration,’ ‘Web 2.0’ and ‘Enterprise 2.0.’ The new game is ‘social business,’ the person-to-person networking, inside and outside the firewall, with a nudge from ‘social analytics.’ I’m impressed with IBM’s long view and obvious commitment to it.
I couldn’t help noticing how the 2011 IBM is far different from the 1995 IBM when I attended my first Lotusphere. That year Microsoft was ascendant and the press (no blogosphere then) held IBM as a software dinosaur plodding on to obsolescence. How the tables have turned! Now IBM ‘gets’ social, cloud, mobile and enterprise while Microsoft, stumbles, several product cycles behind. IBM now talks ‘embedded experience’ and ‘experience anywhere.’ I’m not hearing this from the Microsofties.
I spent my week attending keynotes and sessions for Connections, Sametime and LotusLive. I didn’t attend any sessions on Domino, Portal, Quickr or any of the other IBM Lotus solutions.
The opening session exploded on stage with an energetic electronica band (does anyone remember the Dutch band Focus and ‘Hocus Pocus?’). Allusion – illusion were splendid: the drummer hit floating yellow nodes connected by strings (Connections?) and ‘Carmina Burana’ was hiding inside the melody (‘O Fortuna, velet luna’). They exited stage left so Kevin Spacey could do a few impersonations. (NOT a fan here; Spacey sneers at America.)
The opening session was very long. It was clearly aimed at the C-suite residents and writers in the bloggers’ pit. There was way too much testimony delivered from talking heads perched on stools. Most of the audience groused about this on Twitter:
Rank-and-file customers don’t like Torture By Stool. They readily turned to e-mail and Web surfing. There was a blue glow in the back of the hall. Let’s hope Lotusphere 2012 has more shiny things, fewer sport jackets and a better opening act. Last year’s Shatner SO out-rocked this year’s Spacey.
Andrew McAfee, father of ‘Enterprise 2.0’ and major god in the social media pantheon, popped in for ten minutes for another day’s keynote session. A captivating speaker, he dropped several nuggets and two bombs onto the audience:
I saw many iPads. I brought mine and left my laptop behind. The WiFi was improved over previous years, but there were dead zones during the conference. Some WiFi stats:
IBM had several sessions showcasing its latest release of Connections, version 3.0. They also highlighted some possible features of ‘Connections Next,’ due in late 2011.
Connections 3.0 appears more integrated, like a single solution. The new, shiny UI is less disjointed. Emphasis was on user experience (‘UX,’ not to be confused with ‘UNIX’), activity streams and embedded user experience: the ability to posit Connections features elsewhere (other Lotus products, even Microsoft’s SharePoint).
Microblogging is very important, and though it is in the Product Managers’ line of sight, it will be awhile before we get what companies desire most. (Can we wait?)
I’m thrilled by these 3.0 goodies:
‘Connections Next’ (YE2011) might have these features:
Sametime IM and telephony will come to mobile devices. IBM talked about this last year. This year is more of the same, but now with deeper integration into Connections, Notes and LotusLive, IBM’s cloud solution.
LotusLive is really cool. As a frequent user of Google’s cloud offerings for documents, voice and e-mail in his personal life, I see IBM has matched what Google has done and upped the game. Enterprises are reluctant to use Google; they fear Google’s mysterious back-end and its confusing (missing) integration of these important features. CIOs hesitate to even dip a toe in the Google water.
IBM’s does integrate mail, voice and document quite nicely. They also took UX far beyond the Google experience. Frankly, I was startled to see how closely the LotusLive Web version of mail, docs and voice match the two-tier versions. LotusLive makes Google look ‘Etch-A-Sketchy.’
I was delighted to attend a demo of secure enterprise-to-enterprise collaboration with LotusLive. Via partnership with third parties like Skype, Tungle and Espresso, companies can collaborate even if one of them doesn’t have LotusLive. A very nice surprise. Yes, that is ‘social business.’
Yes, there was a lot to get excited about at this year’s Lotusphere, but by their absence, I ‘noticed’ some MIAs: