Solve Critical Business Problems with Social Software

dollar sign $ For most sophisticated companies, the issue of social software is not a new one. If you’ve read my reports from the Enterprise 2.0 conference, you’ll see summaries of some interesting and innovative deployments of social software within the enterprise. But for every success story, there are far too many organizations that have “tried social and don’t understand what the fuss is about.”  In other words, their internal deployment of social media tools has not moved the needle in terms of their business performance.

What’s Gone Wrong?

Here are just a few of the many examples of things gone wrong: For some, their social software experiment was initiated by a few enthusiastic individuals or teams at the grassroots level who were unable to obtain the requisite management support for their efforts. For others, there was a top-level edict that “we should do social,” but that edict was not supported by significant participation by key leaders within the organization. Another dead end is the social platform that is launched with much fanfare but does not integrate smoothly with the systems of record, with the systems in which the core of the business takes place.

As a result of these and other missteps and miscalculations, we haven’t seen the wholesale adoption that one might expect from a set of tools and capabilities that have swept the consumer web.

How To Make it Better

John Hagel, co-chairman of Deloitte’s Center for the Edge, has some excellent pragmatic advice for organizations: Use social software to solve problems that matter to your business. In a CIO Insights video interview (see below), he recommends the following steps:

  1.  The senior executives of your organization are typically measured by financial metrics, so start with the financial metrics that are the most challenging or present the greatest business opportunity.
  2. Then drill down to the operating metrics that drive those financial metrics. For example, are the financial metrics on revenue growth impaired by operating metrics that indicate a high level of customer churn?
  3. Then drill down further to the frontline metrics. In the example of customer churn, do the frontline metrics indicate poor customer service or inadequate responses to customer requests?
  4. Ask what you can do with social software to help the customer support function reduce customer churn. This is a real problem worth solving that can have a meaningful impact on business performance.
  5. Develop a social software plan that reduces customer churn and generates meaningful metrics.
  6. Collect metrics that demonstrate your success at the operating level and in terms of the positive impact on revenue.



In a similar vein Alan Lepofsky, VP & Principal Analyst at Constellation Research, recently provided a step-by-step approach to implementing social software for what he calls “purposeful collaboration” in which employees use social software hand-in-glove with the business processes and tools that help them get their work done (see video below):

  1. Investigate a key business process inside your organization that currently presents challenges (e.g., is new product development too slow?). Identify what part of the process needs improvement.
  2. Determine how you need to improve that process. What are the relevant milestones and goals you would like to set?
  3. Identify appropriate social software that can help you improve that process. Look for social software that integrates neatly with your existing key business tools; be cautious about purchasing a standalone platform. And be sure to confirm that the social software can be deployed in a manner that meets your business needs (e.g., via the cloud, mobile-friendly, etc.).



Now take a look at your organization. Is there a business challenge that really matters to your organization or its constituents? If standard approaches have failed to yield the desired results, is there an opportunity here to use social software to make a meaningful improvement in your business results? If so, is it clear what metrics you can track to actually demonstrate this impact? If your answers to these questions are positive, you may have a terrific opening to show your organization how social software is more than a trendy sop for the millenials and actually can be a useful tool for professionals of all ages within your organization.

The best way to make your social software deployment a real success is to tie it to a demonstrable improvement in business results.

That’s the path to success. The rest is up to you.

[Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds]


JAG Connect:Army Lawyers go Social #ILTA12

Col. Scott Reid is the Chief Knowledge Officer of the US Army JAG Corps. The JAG has about 2,500 lawyers, plus almost an equal number of support staff, plus the same number again in the reserves. Their offices are in 21 countries.

[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2012 Conference 2012. Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Their Strategy for Enterprise Social Networking. They aimed to create the largest network possible, keeping in mind costs, intuitive usage, respect for the Department of Defense firewall. They had very senior support from the start. Their key knowledge management presence is on milBook, which is part of milSuite. It is built in Jive. They also have a blog function (using WordPress) and are working on Eureka, an idea generation/evaluation tool. The JAG presence on milBook is called JAG Connect.
  • Support/Administration. Each group in milBook is is hosted by a lawyer who is given specific responsibility for the role and community. They have over 15,000 individuals participating in 2660 communities. Approximately 20% of the members are contributors. (This is far better than the 90-9-1 participation rule.)
  • Gamification in milBook. They award points to contributors. You can win extra points for providing an answer that someone else finds helpful. This gamification has proven to be a very helpful way to motivate and reward participation.
  • More Like This. MilBook uses tags to find similar content and serves it up to the reader automatically.
  • Lessons Learned. (1) Have a strategic plan. (2) Have communities that reflect functions rather than just the organizational map. (3) Marketing is key to encourage participation. (4) Include a pilot to test bugs and to win senior support. (5) When considering how to motivate participation, consider Daniel Pink’s observations regarding autonomy, mastery and meaning. These are key intrinsic motivators. The gamification also helps, but it provides extrinsic motivation.

[Scott, please review and let me know if my rapid transcription contains any errors. You and your colleagues have a terrific story. I want to be sure I reported it accurately. Thanks!]


It is Time to Get Serious About Social [McKinsey]

Social Media ROI What would you say if someone offered you the opportunity to free up as much as 25% of the work week for more productive purposes? Would you be willing to explore this further or would you discount it out of hand as wishful thinking? What if the source of this claim was the McKinsey Global Institute, the management consulting firm’s research organization?

The McKinsey Global Institute has just released a new study, The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies, that examines the potential impact of social technologies in four sectors: consumer packaged goods, retail financial services, advanced manufacturing, and professional services. This report makes the sit-up-and-take-notice claim that these technologies “could potentially contribute $900 billion to $1.3 trillion in annual value across the four sectors.”

That’s a lot of zeroes worth of added value. In fact, the study estimates that “by fully implementing social technologies, companies have an opportunity to raise the productivity of interaction workers—high-skill knowledge workers, including managers and professionals—by 20 to 25 percent.

For those of you tend to skip over claims like this, I’d encourage you to back up and take another look since one of the sectors examined in the study is the professional services sector. That includes your law firm. If you were to read the report from the perspective of a legal professional services firm, what might you learn? Here are some money quotes from the study’s abstract:

Two-thirds of this potential value lies in improving collaboration and communication within and across enterprises. The average interaction worker spends an estimated 28 percent of the workweek managing e-mail and nearly 20 percent looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks. But when companies use social media internally, messages become content; a searchable record of knowledge can reduce, by as much as 35 percent, the time employees spend searching for company information. Additional value can be realized through faster, more efficient, more effective collaboration, both within and between enterprises.

The amount of value individual companies can capture from social technologies varies widely by industry, as do the sources of value. Companies that have a high proportion of interaction workers can realize tremendous productivity improvements through faster internal communication and smoother collaboration.

To reap the full benefit of social technologies, organizations must transform their structures, processes, and cultures: they will need to become more open and nonhierarchical and to create a culture of trust. Ultimately, the power of social technologies hinges on the full and enthusiastic participation of employees who are not afraid to share their thoughts and trust that their contributions will be respected. Creating these conditions will be far more challenging than implementing the technologies themselves.

I’m betting that the law firm that masters social technologies would be a very attractive place to work. I’m also betting it could attract the high-performing knowledge workers it needs to be hugely successful. McKinsey calls the potential impact of social technologies in the enterprise “transformative.” Have you considered what these technologies could do for your firm?

[Photo Credit: Mark Smiciklas]



Enterprise 2.0 at the State Department

It’s wise to creep out of our law firm silos from time to time to see how people in other walks of life approach knowledge management. Each time I venture out I inevitably discover that some of the challenges facing law firm knowledge management personnel are shared by our colleagues in other industries. Better still, when I make the effort to find out about KM in other spheres, I almost always learn something worthwhile.

Here’s a case in point. A recent report entitled “Revolution @State: The Spread of eDiplomacy” by Fergus Hanson provides a panoramic view of the US State Department’s eDiplomacy program:

The US State Department has become the world’s leading user of ediplomacy. Ediplomacy now employs over 150 full-time personnel working in 25 different ediplomacy nodes at Headquarters. More than 900 people use it at US missions abroad.

Ediplomacy is now used across eight different program areas at State: Knowledge Management, Public Diplomacy and Internet Freedom dominate in terms of staffing and resources. However, it is also being used for Information Management, Consular, Disaster Response, harnessing External Resources and Policy Planning.

In some areas ediplomacy is changing the way State does business. In Public Diplomacy, State now operates what is effectively a global media empire, reaching a larger direct audience than the paid circulation of the ten largest US dailies and employing an army of diplomat-journalists to feed its 600-plus platforms.

The external social media aspects of this are fascinating, but I’ll leave that for another day. Today I’d like to focus on knowledge management at the State Department. In reading the description of the KM challenges faced by the State Department, I realized that with a few small wording changes, the report could be discussing any major law firm.  For example, here are some of the challenges noted:

  • the Department’s principal asset is the knowledge held by individual employees
  • paper records are relatively easy to store, but hard to retrieve, share or pool
  • email is prevalent, but presents challenges regarding storage, retention, sharing and pooling beyond silos

The solution to these problems was a concerted effort to improve knowledge sharing.  In 2003, the Department approved a Knowledge Leadership Strategy that set the following goals:

  • use of online communities to share knowledge across organizational and geographic boundaries
  • better ways to find and contribute knowledge
  • better ways to find and share experience and expertise with colleagues
  • use of technology that made knowledge-sharing simple to do, so that it became part of the everyday workflow

To accomplish these goals, they developed four specific tools that are supported by the Knowledge Leadership Unit of the Office of eDiplomacy:

  • Corridor — an internal professional networking site designed to have the look and feel of FaceBook.  Built in 2011 using free software (BuddyPress), it now has nearly 7000 members and over 440 groups. Information contributed to member pages allows rapid searches for members with specific skills (e.g, language skills). Over time, those pages may well have more current biographical information, thereby allowing HR to augment its databases. Groups may be formed within Corridor for business/professional reasons or for reasons of personal interest. Corridor allows rapid messaging among members (often resulting in faster response times). Members can also share knowledge by sharing links to internal documents and materials on the Internet.
  • Communities@State — this program provides issue-specific blogs to over 70 active communities within the State Department. Since the start of the program in 2005, these communities have contributed “46,500 entries and over 5,600 comments that cover a broad range of areas from policy and management, to language and social interests” (e.g., leadership best practices, visa issues, and resources for people who bike to work). The discussions permit communication and collaboration across agencies and departments. Unlike Corridor Groups, the discussions within Communities tend to be detailed and are viewed as a more permanent resource (they are archived and searchable).
  • Diplopedia — the State Department’s internal wiki is designed to look like Wikipedia and is built using the same software (MediaWiki).  Created in 2006, Diplopedia has become “the central repository of State Department information.” It is a key “knowledge exchange and dissemination tool.” Its usage statistics as of October 2011 are impressive: “it had 14,519 articles, 4,698 registered users, 42,217 weekly page views and over 196,356 cumulative page edits.”
  • Search — the State Department implemented enterprise search in 2004. The search engine has since handled 65,792 search queries (as of the beginning of October 2011).

Moving from the world of diplomacy to the world of legal practice, what are some takeaways to consider?

  • Find Comes First.  If you look at the chronology, the Knowledge Leadership Unit started with Search (2004) and then create communities of practice (2005), a wiki (2006) and then, finally, a networking site (2011). This makes a lot of sense.  First make sure that people can find the information that exists. Then give them user-friendly platforms that make it easier to share information.
  • E2.0 Tools are Key. Enterprise search, blogs, wikis and social networking are all part of the Enterprise 2.0 suite of tools. The rapid adoption of these tools behind the State Department firewall is a testament to their usefulness. What’s interesting to me is that no mention was made of email strategy or document management systems. Email and documents are the mainstay of legal information management.  I’d like to know more about the role they play in the State Department and how the E2.0 tools they adopted augment or replace email and traditional document management.
  • Better KM Through E2.0. Based on this report, knowledge management activities at the State Department are primarily focused on using social media tools behind the firewall. While law firms have been using portals and intranets for some time, I wonder how robust their internal wiki, blogging and networking functions are?  Besides Freshfields’ impressive use of wiki technology, are there other firms that have adopted a knowledge sharing strategy heavily based on the use of social media tools?
  • Colleagues are People Too. In establishing the communities of practice and the networking site, the Knowledge Leadership Unit has enabled knowledge sharing for both business/professional purposes as well as personal purposes.  I’m not sure how many law firms have permitted this type of blending of the personal and professional outside of email.  Allowing people within the organization to know their colleagues as people with many interests and dimensions (as opposed to merely functional cogs on an org chart) helps build a sense of community within the organization. Why don’t more US law firms do this?

This August, the International Legal Technology Association’s annual conference will include a session on what we can learn from the US military and intelligence services about social media and knowledge management. After the foregoing glimpse of what’s happening in KM at the State Department, I’m eager to attend that ILTA2012 session to see what else I can learn from government about effective KM.


The E2.0 Challenge: Be Disruptive

Albert on a bikeYour organization’s social media effort needs you to be a mad scientist..on wheels!


Forget the long production cycles, forget the boring committee meetings, forget the five-year plan.  Your Enterprise 2.0 project needs creativity and momentum.  The way to get it is to be an agent provocateur, an iconoclast. Someone willing to think outside the box.  Someone who will listen to your more creative customers — no matter how cranky, kooky or off-the-wall.  Someone who has the ability to find the golden nugget buried in a customer suggestion.  Above all, you need to connect the dots quickly and act with dispatch.  (Hence the wheels.)  Now is not the time to analyze an opportunity to death.  Now is the time to seize good ideas and run with them.

Why do speed and creativity matter? Because they give competitive advantage to disruptive businesses and, at the end of the day, Enterprise 2.0 initiatives are great examples of disruptive business ventures. Consider the core challenges of these businesses:

How do you build a business in an unproven market? How do you figure out what customers need when you’re delivering an experience they’ve never seen before? You begin where service and software companies have begun, by conducting fast, cheap experiments that help you understand your customers. You build on what you learn. In short, you prototype.

With ever-increasing competition, innovative businesses are finding that in order to stay competitive their offerings need to constantly evolve. …To understand the next big thing, companies have to engage with customers and react to their needs.

And if you want to succeed at this game, you would do well to pay attention to Ideo’s Axioms for Starting Disruptive New Businesses:

  • Go early, go often — build experimentation into your process
  • Learning by doing — be sure to salvage something from each experiment
  • Inspiration through constraints — don’t waste time wishing for more — after all, necessity is the mother of invention
  • Open to opportunity — don’t assume your way is the only way — see how your customers use your tools in unexpected ways

Thankfully, good Enterprise 2.0 tools are so easy to shape and use that you should be able to pull together a prototype quickly, test it, and then move on without missing a beat.  This may not be how veterans in your IT department like to work, but it’s how disruptive businesses thrive.

So tell me what are you going to do?  Write a 20-page requirements analysis document that may well fail to address the problem, or quickly build a prototype that engages your customer in a creative collaborative problem-solving exercise?

Time’s a wasting.  Get moving.

If you don’t believe me, listen to someone who has made a great deal more money than I have in business — Rupert Murdoch:

The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.

[Hat tip to Marcia Conner for the Murdoch quote.]

[Photo Credit: Stilakes]


Trust No One

“Trust No One.”

Those were the ominous words I saw recently on a poster promoting the new Harry Potter movie.  In the context of the life and death struggle between the forces of good and evil portrayed in the movie, the warning may well be justified.  However, when that approach migrates from Hollywood fantasy to the workplace, we have a problem.  This is particularly so when your workplace is engaged in an Enterprise 2.0 initiative.  If there is no trust, it’s hard to have community.  Without community, social media tools will struggle to realize their potential behind the firewall.

In a recent post on the importance of trust in community formation, Charles H. Green points to Francis Fukuyama’s book, Trust, which discusses the importance of “social trust.” In that book, Fukuyama defines trust as:

The expectation that arises within a community of regular, honest, and cooperative behavior, based on commonly shared norms, on the part of other members of that community.

He then goes on to explain the great value of trust and community:

The greatest economic efficiency was not necessarily achieved by rational self-interested individuals but rather by groups of individuals who, because of a pre-existing moral community, are able to work together effectively.

It all begins with trust.

In the movie, people were asked to prove their bona fides time and time again before another was willing to trust them. How to do you establish  trustworthiness in a physical or virtual community? Fukuyama tells us that it’s through “regular, honest and cooperative behavior,” resting on a bedrock of shared norms. According to Jeffrey Phillips, trust is earned within the context of realistic expectations and a willingness to work together to achieve a common goal:

Trust has to be earned.  I want to know if we are in error, and I want to fix any mistake we made, any expectation we failed to meet, as quickly and effectively as possible.  Trust should not be predicated on the expectation that your partner will never fail, only that they will do their absolute best to avoid failure, and will admit any mistake and fix the problem as quickly as possible.  Over time, a partner that consistently demonstrates their willingness to work in this manner will gain anyone’s trust.  It is hard to gain trust when there are unrealistic expectations or when there is a blame first mentality.

Overcoming paranoia to create a sense of trust and shared purpose may be one of the biggest challenges for a community manager.  The good news is that most of us long for community, trust and shared purpose.  We just need a little encouragement to achieve it.

[Photo Credit: The Angry Robot]


Enterprise 2.0 at #ILTA10

If you’ve been curious about social media and how to use these tools in your law firm or law department, the ILTA 2010 Conference has several sessions that will help you. In particular, ILTA is offering a full day of sessions on Wednesday, August 25,that will lead you through some inspirational and intensely pragmatic aspects of Enterprise 2.0 deployments (i.e., deployments of social media tools behind the firewall).  We begin the day by introducing you to Freshfields and the Intel law department.  Both of these organizations are on their way to achieving information transparency through the use of traditional knowledge management and new E2.0 tools.  They’ll provide a road map for what they’ve done and, hopefully, inspire you to develop a road map of your own.

Next,  representatives from Bryan Cave, the US Army’s JAG Corps and WilmerHale will lead a session on the critical importance of experiment and failure in E2.0 deployments.  Lawyers hate to think about (or be involved with failure).  This denies the basic truth that much of what we learn in life is through trial and error.  Further, failure is an inevitable part of experimentation, which in turn is the best way to achieve any innovation, including a  successful E2.0 deployment.  Come to this session to learn more about how to present and organize your work so as to use failure for good.

The next session of the day focuses on re-imaging law firm life:  What could we do if we were starting a new firm from scratch?  Earlier this year I challenged colleagues from Integreon, Mallesons and O”Melveny with this question.  Rather than developing the expected laundry list of tools and business practices, we soon discovered that we needed to spend time thinking about the nature of our hypothetical firm’s practices and what flowed naturally from that.  This led us to the kind of intensely strategic discussion that every firm and law department should engage in when thinking about how to organize itself rationally using the best of what we know about technology and efficient business practices.

The last session of the day is on the very practical question of Metrics.  This is something of a dirty topic in knowledge management and E2.0 circles, but that needs to change.  Carefully selected and honestly reported metrics can be enormously useful in understanding what your KM or E2.0 program is achieving and where it needs additional attention.  Further, as long as the decision makers in your organization need metrics to make funding decisions that affect your programs, you owe it to yourself and your colleagues to do the best job possible of gathering and reporting metrics about the things that matter.  Come to this session led by representatives of Orrick and the US Army JAG Corps to get a fresh and practical perspective on doing metrics right.

In addition to this day focused on Enterprise 2.0 and law firm life, we’re offering two other sessions that involve social media.  The first is on Monday, August 23, when experts from Arent Fox and the Practical Law Company will lead us through the best of current thinking on how to craft a pragmatic social media policy for your firm and for your company.  We’ll discuss the main hot button issues and help you identify the areas that you and your colleagues need to focus on.  Come prepared to participate in a discussion, rather than to listen to a lecture.

Finally, some social media experts from Bricker & Eckler and Vinson & Elkins will be offering a session of interest to everyone who has ever experienced information overload.  In a hands on “ILTA U” learning session, attendance will sit at computer terminals and be able to actually work along with the instructors to create a more efficient (and hopefully less painful) system for themselves for gathering, understanding and sharing what’s useful in the flood of information we receive daily.

As you may be able to tell from my enthusiasm, I’ve very much enjoyed getting to know and work with the panelists in all these sessions.  In the process, I’ve received what feels like a graduate education in social media and law firm life.  Please join us for these sessions to learn from their experiences.  To help you, here’s a list of the sessions:


E2.0 Stag Party

An Enterprise 2.0 project is sufficiently different from a traditional knowledge management or IT project that it can be a little disconcerting at first. Some experts recommend what seems like a 1960s free love approach — anything goes and, by the way, I’m ok and you’re ok. At the other extreme are the traditionalists who believe that introducing any innovation within an organization requires lots of constraints to ensure safety.

If you’re starting a new E2.0 project, which approach do you take?   Neither.

I’d like to commend to you the “stag party” approach described by Ron Donaldson in his post Lines in the Sand.  He starts with the following statement:

A complex system requires boundary conditions, not too tight that they constrain and not too loose as they allow unacceptable behaviours.

He then goes on to list the rules his son’s friends agreed on to govern their stag weekend.  You should read these rules.  They are both funny and intensely pragmatic. Ron Donaldson called them “[b]rilliant, self organising, self regulating and in everyone’s best interests.”

Coming back to your E2.0 deployment, can you reduce your concerns  to a small handful of rules? What minimums does Mum (or, as is most likely in your case, senior management) require?  Do these rules protect the most vulnerable and valuable while still permitting sufficient flexibility for learning, growth and enjoyment?

From his postmortem of the stag weekend, it’s clear that the rules worked.  Everyone behaved appropriately for the context and, while there were some perfectly predictably after-effects, everyone survived and even enjoyed the experience.

It seems to me that if we can ensure that with our E2.0 deployments, we’ll have done pretty well.  What do you think?

[Photo Credit: Jack Spellingbacon]


Mash-Up Magic

As Enterprise 2.0 tools gain acceptance within organizations around the world, we are finding new ways to unearth and connect useful information. For some organizations, a key to this has been to create mash-ups between existing collections of data. The magic of mash-ups is quite wonderful — by joining two known things you can create a splendid something new.

I haven’t thought hard enough about what the equivalent within the enterprise might be, but I wanted to share with you a new mash-up I discovered courtesy of Curt Hopkins at ReadWriteWeb. In his post, Mash Letter to the Past, he reports on several terrific mash-ups that marry mapping, photos, street views, video and documentary photographs from different times.  The results are marvelous.  For example,  take a look at this excerpt from There and Then, which shows New York City’s famous Flatiron building in 2010 and 1903.

Now, here’s my manual mash-up starting with a brief clip of “What Happened on 23rd Street” in 1901:

And here’s Google’s 2010 street view of 23rd street.

As you probably can tell, I’ve had lots of fun playing with these before and after views of New York City.  Admittedly, I haven’t yet found a knowledge management angle on this, but give me time!  The most important thing I’m learning is that marrying information from different sources can provide an appreciation and more nuanced understanding of our present day reality.  Perhaps that, in and of itself, makes the mash-up effort worthwhile.


Where’s the E2.0 Beef?

You’ve got to help me out folks! Sometimes it feels like I’ve been a voice crying in the wilderness, telling the good news of Enterprise 2.0 to anyone in the law firm world that will listen. The problem is that we’re not seeing a whole lot of law firm adoption success stories.

Why? Are law firms keeping quiet about their progress in order to protect their competitive edge? Or are they quiet because there isn’t much to talk about. If it’s the former, just send me a message on the QT letting me know that good things are happening. Then I’ll just wait patiently for your official press release before blogging about it. If it’s the latter, can someone please tell me why?

In fairness, lawyers may not be all that different than people in other industries. A vendor recently observed that while there is a lot of E2.0 hype generally, success (in his view) seems to be sporadic, localized and shallow rather than persistent, widespread and deep. Again I ask, why?

I’m spending this week at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston. While I’m sure the vendor announcements will be interesting, I’m primarily interested in learning why adoption seems to be slow and what we can do about it. Stay tuned.


For those of you who love contests, PBworks is sponsoring the The Enterprise 2.0 Players Deck.  I was pleasantly surprised to find my name among the E2.0 bloggers.  If you’d like to help out (and you have a Twitter account), please vote.

[Photo Credit: David Gallagher]