Here are some of my thoughts and takeaways from an enjoyable few days in Santa Clara at E2innovate.

The conference opened with Ben Fried from Google. He talked about the rise of the internet savvy workforce. In a typical keynote full of product plugs one interesting nugget came out.

At Google they have self-service stationary – scan your badge and take what you need to get your job done. This same concept was repeated across the business and each ‘Googler’ had an IT footprint that was shared with them. They choose everything from technology (inc. MS office!) to pens. By allowing them to see this, they can choose what to keep and this massively reduce the IT cost across the business. This element of trust is a very important part of social intranets and collaboration – trust in your workforce and the rewards can be massive.

In another thought provoking keynote, Micheal Fauscetter from IDC talked about how historically businesses were built not to change but on rigorous processes. Knowledge was power.

Business now is about new behaviours – it’s flexible and adaptable. There is a shift of influence, trust and relevance and the power of connectivity. This lead to a statement that knowledge sharing is now power, something that would be great if believed by all generations of employees.

Micheal also said that knowledge workers now spend 80% of their time working outside the system/process. I believe that this is more reason for transactions and business process to be integrated into the social layer. This message of a blend of social and transactional tools to get work done is a message that has come out very strongly from by JBoye and E2Innovate.

Micheal went on to say that data should come to you when you need it. I can echo that view and it is the foundation of everything we do at Interact with intelligent social intranets.

Kevin Cavanaugh from IBM collaboration services spoke wisely about mobile solutions and said that we should be careful not to just focus on solutions for executives at airports but also create simple interfaces for workers in other roles that may include dangerous and hostile environments. I think this is really important – the mobile is just one of many interfaces to get work done on an intranet. We need to think about job functions and how to ensure the technology helps them and doesn’t become another task.

The conference then took a slight turn with Fritz Nelson from InformationWeek and David Berlind from UBM TechWeb talking about the new ‘walled gardens.’ They talked about the similarities between Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon and how they are all trying to create a wall garden of ‘big data’ so they have a powerful signal of what consumers want. A key driver of marketing is getting a message to somebody just before they take the decision. More about this later.

Probably one of the most fascinating presentations was KlickHealth’s Jay Goldman’s session on the Corporate Genome experiment.

Jay spoke about how we all leave digital footprints – take Google, Facebook, Amazon and Twitter (ambient data based on your behaviour). This drives a multi-billion dollar advertising industry. Jay took this concept to inside the corporate enterprise.

He spoke about some of the many ways KlickHealth monitor data in their company of 200+ consultants, including when they log in/out of computers, when they use the phone, how many times people email each other and who they email. Although to many of us this may sound a little too ‘Big Brother’, it is helping KlickHealth improve productivity and ultimately profit. It gives them measures, such as the sci-fi titled anxiety-boredom continuum and the compound weekly learning rate (they are committed to 1% increase per week across the business.)

As well as monitoring behaviour and intelligently pushing information based on this, they also looked at feedback loops and included innovative tools like their meeting promoter score, that encourages attendees to rate meetings and ultimately push feedback to organisers. This increases efficiency of meetings which is a major inefficiency in most organisations.

They have a positive feedback ratio (similar to Interact Rewards) that measures the ratio of positive/negative feedback at KlickHealth, giving them a real-time sense of how morale is in the company. Some of the social analytics we have built into 5.2 aim to provide a similar global view on company mood. Something that we will be developing further in future releases.

Jay also explained how they vary content, based on individual’s needs. They change a process based on the level of the person following that process or procedure. A newbie would be paired with a buddy, have online training session and more documents to read and online checks. But somebody coming back for the 2nd time would see less checks and the content would adapt. This saves time and improves efficiency. A great idea!

Another take away from Jay’s presentation was their HR team– which isn’t actually HR but a concierge service to help all employees as they would expect in a 5 star hotel. On their intranet they have click-space – which is video FAQs. The amazing thing is that, if somebody asks a question on the intranet and they don’t have a video answer, then a concierge will grab a camera, find an expert and post the video response in less than 2 hours. They now have several hundred videos in the system.

Jay has done amazing things at KlickHealth and engagement is created though positive reinforcement such as getting to drive the company Porsche for Klick Story (blogs of useful stories where people vote) and Klick it forward – rewarding people for earning more points based on helping others.

Day 2

The panel on day 2 titled ‘Tomorrow’s challenges for today’s CIO’ had a great line up of CIOs from some top companies including Michael Staff from LesConcierges, a company that provides a service similar to that deployed at KlickHealth. They echoed what I see in the shift in responsibility from CIO to line of business (such as HR and Internal Communications) for enterprise tools such as the social intranet. In fact Marina Levinson said it should be Chief Innovation Officer.

Shel Waggener spoke about the need create solutions that make people successful not organisations successful. That will just be the outcome.

Richard Hughes had some valid points on the benefits of structure of social adoption in the enterprise. He summed up the benefits of enterprise social networks into 3 areas:

  1. Immediacy – quick access
  2. Serendipity – stumble on things you didn’t know exist
  3. Transparency – honest and ethical

He then talked about 3 ways that social tools can be adopted:

  1. Unstructured – i.e. Has anyone got the answer to this? I have an idea
  2. Semi-structured – i.e. Please review this document / provide feedback on X
  3. Structured – i.e. Everyone sees and can comment on expenses, holidays, forms

Richard Hughes – Clearvale

Richard thinks the sweet spot of any collaborative or social tool is the semi-structured. In most part I agree but at Interact we have seen great results with the structured part of social intranets – the blend of traditional intranet tools such as forms and collaboration. Yammer is in the unstructured space – but will the alliance with SharePoint now see that shifting towards the structured space as people strive to have one place to get work done?

Richard also recommend a book which I would encourage people to read – Where social meets business – real work gets done

At Interact the retail sector is a very strong vertical sector for us with 5 customers in the sector and more than 10,000 employees. So the last session I attended at E2innovate by BrainYard’s Social Business Technology Leader of the year, Chris Laping of Red Robin restaurants, was of real interest. Chris had loads of great takeaways – something that is always missing from social enterprise presentations. But the best one was around their new ‘pig out burger.’

Red Robin rolled out this burger and expected to get loads of feedback on social channels like Facebook and Twitter but were shocked when nobody said anything. It turned out that they actually spoke to real people! They told the team members, who told the managers who then took to their social platform to share. This sharing, commenting and collaborating through online tools allowed them to improve the recipe for ‘pig-out’ burgers in 4 days. Something that would usually take months.

It is difficult to predict the exact direction of enterprise software but there are a few things emerging, that are really clear.

Social should be an embedded experience – not a place or ‘end goal’. If it is a ‘place/end goal’ it can be limiting. It is unnatural to switch between two things (i.e. process and social). Collaboration should be part of actually getting work done. Imagine if you were working on a task with 3 colleagues and every time you had to talk about something you had to move into another room. That would be inefficient. If your intranet is only half your digital workplace (which it often is) then you only ‘socialise’ on half of it. A common collaborative element must be carried through to all digital touch points such as documents, forms, processes, tasks and transactions.

Formal and informal communities are necessary on a social intranet. This is very different to consumer tools such as Facebook. There are no formal communities within Facebook where as there can be/is within the enterprise. Social within formal communities can sometimes be forced and artificial. However when within an intranet, this is valuable and meaningful collaboration around content (process/document/transaction). There does need to be a direct relation between a thriving virtual community and a healthily physical community, to support the more formal communities.

A lot was talked about ‘big data’ and this is another buzz word that is used incorrectly and far too often. Intranets don’t have big data but they have some of the problems associated with lots of data. How do you get relevant content to the correct person at the correct time? As mentioned by Fritz and David in their talk on walled gardens, a massive battle is being fought by organisations such as Google, Apple and Amazon to have the data that will allow them to get in front of people who are about to make a purchasing decision by intelligently analysing the ‘big data’.

At Interact we have been doing exactly the same with intranets for the last 6 years and are passionate about the ability for content to find people. The only difference between commerce and business is that the currency isn’t dollars and pounds but knowledge and efficiency.