Unified Collaboration: How Social Business and Other Forms of Digital Engagement are Intertwining

The rich history of digital collaboration in the last 30 years has been a long and winding one. Fortunately, it’s also been a highly rewarding story that has led to literally historic advances in workforce productivity and efficiency for most organizations. Along the way, many of these advances have led to and made possible entirely new and powerful types of work scenarios.

However, I find that many organizations still treat digital collaboration as 1) a largely tactical activity that doesn’t require much deliberate enablement, structure, or process 2) mostly separate from digital engagement in general and 3) a needed capability to be solved primarily through deployment of technology, rather than from the point of view of enabling activities between people. These three tendencies alone lead to much of the shortfalls I’ve seen when new collaboration efforts sometimes underperform.

The Intertwining of Unified Communications, Lightweight Collaboration, and Social Business into Unified Collaboration

The three new categories of digital collaboration

As collaboration has evolving during the rise of the social and mobile era, I’ve found that the last decade in particular has lead to some of the most significant and increasingly disruptive refinements in the practice:

  • Social Business (internal). This is the high concept rethinking of how we work together to be more community-centric, open, and participative. It consists of a varied set of practices — depending on whose model you are following — that typically consists of business processes redesigned around new social tools such as enterprise social networks, content/document management platforms, online communities, or even enterprise microblogging services. Needless to say for those of us who have been involved, a tremendous amount of energy and thought across the collaboration industry has gone into how organizations can achieve numerous benefits if they can reorganize the way teams and even entire companies can better work together using the potent model of social media. Techniques typically include Working Out Loud, the redesign of business processes to be more participative, and all the other activities involved in large-scale social business transformation.

    Organizations have seen results across the spectrum with their social business efforts, though there have been common pitfalls, especially when the notion of ‘Facebook for the Enterprise’ has been the goal, instead of solving urgent business problems (like trying to resolve poor collaboration between specific internal groups, or making certain key processes more transparent and efficient) The general consensus however is that there is a 25% enterprise-wide benefit in terms of productivity. Lately, the drum beat on social business has taken a bit more of a back seat to full-spectrum focus on digital business transformation in many organizations. Social business has continued to evolve however, and we’ve just now reached the end of the beginning in my opinion.

  • Unified Communications. Rarely considered at the same time or in conjunction with social business initiatives, unified communications has been making steady inroads into the corporate world, despite some fairly rocky evolution over the years. The unified communications industry has attempted to sort out and make consistent the various digital communications channels within the enterprise, but has often missed major developments in the industry. The most inexplicable oversight was that unified communications vendors missed the social media revolution almost entirely, though that has now been partially addressed in some of the leading platforms now, though it took years to resolve. This meant unified communications was sometimes anything but. The issue continues to persist as new and emerging enterprise collaboration channels such as mobile apps, the explosion in enterprise file sync and sharing such as Dropbox, and even legacy content/document solutions are often still left out in the cold by unified communications solutions. Despite these additions — and I think the continuing rapid rise of new collaboration channels will remain the top problem for the approach — unified communications has become increasingly capable of delivering a core set of well integrated solutions for chat, voice, video, and presence, and now finally e-mail, social, and mobile.

    Notably, unified communications has taken nearly the opposite approach of social business. Instead of a fundamental rethinking of work in digital/social terms, it’s a much more workman like approach to providing handy new digital communication toolkits to the worker that can be used for collaboration. In the final analysis, however, the unified communications approach has been slow to deal with the important strategic issues that social business aims to address: The unfortunate “evaporation” of digital knowledge in older tools, poor visibility and participation (not enough eyeballs) in legacy collaboration methods, and the still pervasive inability to find knowledge or people in most organizations, to name just a few. Despite all this, the market for unified communications, particularly in the cloud, is now poised for a major wave of growth.

  • Collaboration suites, next-gen intranets, and lightweight collaboration apps. Recently, a number of new collaboration approaches or digital methods have emerged, some full collaborative toolkits, others just filling in still-unaddressed or just emerging point needs within organizations, or both, a strategy Google is increasingly following with their cloud offerings. These are not as comprehensive or one-stop-shop solutions for collaboration or re-imagining how workers interact with each other and produce value, but organizations are broadly considering them in general as white spaces emerge, often without considering their collaborative workplace strategy as a whole.

Given these three rough buckets of new collaborative focus within the enterprise, most of which happen in isolation from one another in the average organization, it’s been interesting to see how they’ve operated either as genuine silos or as so-called ‘frenemies’, working together a little but competing for each others user bases. But, gratifyingly in my view, some organizations are increasingly no longer so accepting of these fragmented efforts, and are proactively trying to do something about it.

The emergence of unified collaboration

I’ve been spending most of 2014 looking at what large organizations have been doing to evolve their collaborative environments and I’ve noticed several distinct trends:

  1. A strong drive for meaningful integration between collaborative silos. I’ve noticed there has been a sharp drop in tolerance for collaborative processes to be stuck in one place, platform, or audience, and not searchable or visible elsewhere. For example, I’m seeing that organizations are now seeking to connect intranets, enterprise social networks, and content/document management systems in much more meaningful ways. As Alan Lepofsky has observed recently, mail and social networks are starting to merge as well. Unified comms is also getting embedded everywhere and within many applications. I now believe we will witness considerable investment in the next couple of years in creating bridges between collaborative silos and meaningful presence for collaborative tools in business applications in general.
  2. Development of a true enterprise-wide view of digital collaboration strategy. Organizations are increasingly getting their act together and making sense of their collaborative efforts well above the level of the technologies themselves, putting together more purpose-driven plans that eliminate confusion, fragmentation, and inconsistency with collaboration technology while updating worker skills and shifting company culture to take better advantage of the possibilities. This includes, as Stowe Boyd has noted, the measurement and quantification of the collaborative environment in real-time, which I’ve found has been vital in producing feedback to guide a collaboration strategy in flight towards impactful results.
  3. An advanced notion of unified collaboration. As a direct results of the first true trends, I’m seeing the organic emergence of an important concept I’ll call unified collaboration. This is the strategic knitting together of plans, the full portfolio of collaborative technologies, and business objectives enterprise-wide into more cohesive whole. It stands out from mere unified communication by being much more overarching, contextual to the business, scenario-centric, and goal-oriented. It also reflects the understanding that there is more to collaboration than just the next big thing (aka social business), and that collaboration in all its many forms must be better and more comprehensively supported, reconciled, and enabled.

I think these trends — along with important ones like enterprise-wide knowledge streams — herald great things in the enterprise when it comes to collaboration and represents a sort of maturity proof point. I’ve begun collecting industry examples of these trends and will share them soon. Please send me your stories and case examples if you’d like me to add them.

Additional Reading:

How to Deliver on a Modern Enterprise Collaboration Strategy

Realizing Effective Digital Collaboration in the Enterprise

Rethinking Work in the Collaborative Era

Finally, I’ll be talking about this topic and others later this month at my afternoon keynote at the Enterprise 2.0 SUMMIT 2014 in London. It would be great to meet you there.
Dion Hinchcliffe will give the afternoon keynote at theEnterprise 2.0 SUMMIT in London

Dreamforce 14: Live Blogging the Benioff Keynote #df14

The Benioff Keynote at Dreamforce 14: The scene before it starts

The enormous crowd here is streaming into the main keynote with Marc Benioff here at Moscone Center on Tuesday. it’s nearly 1pm PT and the main hall is filing up quickly. I’ll live blog the event here as much as possible given that the Ethernet for industry analysts isn’t working, but the private Wifi is, so hopefully we’ll get most of what goes on here.

The biggest announcement so far, out of many, has been Salesforce’s entry into the analytics and big data space, with their new Wave product. You can get a overview of the details on Wave from Larry Dignan on ZDNet and I’m sure we’ll hear about it much more during the next few hours.

I’m also expecting the following during the keynote today: 1) A roundup and year-over-year update on Salesforce1 and its ecosystem, with lots of customer examples, 2) an overview of Wave (or its “Analytics Cloud“) and the many 3rd party relationships they’ve already established, and 3) an even clearer and bigger vision for the Salesforce cloud. And plenty of philanthropy, maybe some politics, and of course, perhaps some colorful Christian Louboutin shoes.

Additional Reading: My analysis of Salesforce’s announcements and strategic direction this week.

Wave: The new Salesforce analytics cloud #df14

1:11pm: The main hall doesn’t look full yet, but there’s definitely a lot of people vying for the desks in the analyst press area.

1:13pm: Now the always-excellent Peter Coffee is up doing a preamble on the keynote. Talking the usual bit about “amazing customers doing amazing things and bringing you in the next generation of technologies.” Introducing the CIO of Telstra, who is talking about “creating a brilliantly connected future for everyone.”

Peter Coffee onstage at Dreamforce 14

1:18pm: Just introduced the CIO of Eli Lilly talking with how Deloitte Digital is “helping them architect faster and faster.” Talking about helping in compliance, manufacturing, inventory, and HR processes and gets the ROI faster using the Force platform. Coffee now talking about health and life sciences, where customer experiences for pharma apps are going right to the doctors.

1:22pm: Now have the a Hawaiian band on stage conducting a musical interlude. Didn’t catch the band name.Hawaiian band and performers at Dreamforce 2014 #df14

1:26pm: Coffee: “One of the great things about Dreamforce is that you run into amazing people in the hallways.” He says he just ran into George Zimmer in the halls (the famous voice and founder formerly of the Men’s Wearhouse), who is now talking about his new business. The new business will be “high touch and high tech. Just like Salesforce with 1-1-1, and we’ll make sure we value our customers, shareholders, and communities just like Salesforce.” Coffee asks when we’re going to hear about it. Sometime in the next few months, he says watch his Twitter account.

1:29pm: Now the Group CIO of Caterpillar is up, along with his Accenture sponsor. “Have been using Salesforce for many years, but has been fragmented across many operating groups.” Accenture is providing the frameworks and processes to sort out a more consistent CRM implementation. Coffee: “New ways of things for a company doing what’s it been doing for a long time.” Says, “people want new ways to re-engineer what they’re doing”. Paul Daugherty, CTO, Group Chief Executive of Technology at Accenture is now talking “taking things to the next level, and industry solutions they bake onto the Salesforce platform. Connected products and connected dealers that they’re helping Caterpillar ‘bringing to life’ using the Force.com platform. A good management consulting quote from Coffee: “Turning from a products focus to an outcome focus.”

1:36pm: Now the chief strategist (I think) of Salesforce is talking with Coffee about how the Salesforce platform is evolving into many new disciplines, including supply chain. Coffee asking about what areas to focus on and follow up on later, including a Mystery X product that keeps being referenced. Says to be sure to watch what’s going on with the marketing cloud, Internet of Connected Customers, analytics products (Wave I assume). Now welcoming the Ambassadors of Aloha from the island of Hawaii.

The Benioff Keynote at Dreamforce 14: The scene before it starts  The enormous crowd here is streaming into the main keynote with Marc Benioff here at Moscone Center on Tuesday. it's nearly 1pm PT and the main hall is filing up quickly. I'll live blog the event here as much as possible given that the Ethernet for industry analysts isn't working, but the private Wifi is, so hopefully we'll get most of what goes on here.  The biggest announcement so far, out of many, has been Salesforce's entry into the analytics and big data space, with their new Wave product. You can get a overview of the details on Wave from Larry Dignan on ZDNet and I'm sure we'll hear about it much more during the next few hours.  I'm also expecting the following during the keynote today: 1) A roundup and year-over-year update on Salesforce1 and its ecosystem, with lots of customer examples, 2) an overview of Wave (or its "Analytics Cloud") and the many 3rd party relationships they've already established, and 3) an even clearer and bigger vision for the Salesforce cloud. And plenty of philanthropy, maybe some politics, and of course, colorful Christian Louboutin shoes.  Wave: The new Salesforce analytics cloud #df14  1:11pm: The main hall doesn't look full yet, but there's definitely a lot of people vying for the desks in the analyst press area.  1:13pm: Now the always-excellent Peter Coffee is up doing a pre-amble on the keynote. Talking the usual bit about "amazing customers doing amazing things and bringing you in the next generation of technologies." Introducing the CIO of Telstra, who is talking about "creating a brilliantly connected future for everyone."  Peter Coffee onstage at Dreamforce 14  1:18pm: Just introduced the CIO of Ely Lilly talking with how Deloitte Digital is "helping them architect faster and faster." Talking about helping in compliance, manufacturing, inventory, and HR processes and gets the ROI faster using the Force platform. Coffee now talking about health and life sciences, where customer experiences for pharma apps are going right to the doctors.  1:22pm: Now have the a Hawaiian band on stage conducting a musical interlude. Didn't catch the band name.Hawaiian band and performers at Dreamforce 2014 #df14  1:26pm: Coffee: "One of the great things about Dreamforce is that you run into amazing people in the hallways." He says he just ran into George Zimmer in the halls (the famous voice and founder formerly of the Men's Wearhouse), who is now talking about his new business. The new business will be "high touch and high tech. Just like Salesforce with 1-1-1, and we'll make sure we value our customers, shareholders, and communities just like Salesforce." Coffee asks when we're going to hear about it. Sometime in the next few months, he says watch his Twitter account.  1:29pm: Now the Group CIO of Caterpillar is up, along with his Accenture sponsor. "Have been using Salesforce for many years, but has been fragmented across many operating groups." Accenture is providing the frameworks and processes to sort out a more consistent CRM implementation. Coffee: "New ways of things for a company doing what's it been doing for a long time." Says, "people want new ways to re-engineer what they're doing". Paul Daugherty, CTO, Group Chief Executive of Technology at Accenture is now talking "taking things to the next level, and industry solutions they bake onto the Salesforce platform. Connected products and connected dealers that they're helping Caterpillar 'bringing to life' using the Force.com platform. A good management consulting quote from Coffee: "Turning from a products focus to an outcome focus."  1:36pm: Now the chief strategist (I think) of Salesforce is talking with Coffee about how the Salesforce platform is evolving into many new disciplines, including supply chain. Coffee asking about what areas to focus on and follow up on later, including a Mystery X product that keeps being references. Says to be sure to watch what's going on with the marketing cloud, Internet of Connected Customers, analytics products (Wave I assume). Now welcoming the Ambassadors of Aloha from the island of Hawaii.

1:44pm: Now welcoming the (for real) Beach Boys, who are playing live, on the musical stage.

1:47pm: The band is a wrap, and they’re getting a big hand from the crowd. And the whole center goes dark, ominous music playing.

1:48pm:  Voice in the dark with lasers coming out: “In the beginning it was simple. Few things were connected. Individual voices were silenced. And you could buy yourself to a leadership position with traditional ads. Then it all changed. Every industry is being disrupted, and everyone and everything is being connected. It’s the single most powerful, innovative time in the history of technology. Worlds of opportunity are begin created daily. billions of products and devices are being created. Everyone has a super computer in their pocket.”

The dark intro to Dreamforce 14

1:49pm: “Introducing the customer success platform.” Clearly some optimistic new product branding. Talking about creating custom scaled 1-to-1 customer experiences, team empowerment, build mobile apps for every aspect of your business, and deploy “instantly” across “every single” device. Talking about watches, kiosks, and other new devices. Sales, service, marketing, community, analytics, and apps. “The New Salesforce”, again mentioning it as the customer success platform.

Marc Benioff comes onto the main stage at Dreamforce 14. #df14

1:52pm: Marc Benioff just walked onstage and said “Aloha” to the whole crowd. “We’re here to excite you, educate you, entertain you, inspire you.” Thanking everyone at the conference, especially customers. Walking around the crowd, saying 1,450 sessions and 145,000 people registered. 400+ companies, and 5 million people joining the event online. Mentioning that Tony Robbins and Hillary Clinton having spoken yesterday. Notes that Grammy winning music star, Wil.i.am, will launch his company here tomorrow.

2:05pm: Just did an extensive video  about Salesforce’s philanthropic activities. Now has the Superintendent of San Francisco Schools, and the Mayor Lee of San Francisco. Lee is thanking Marc for starting Salesforce in San Francisco, and setting the gold standard for philanthropy, and setting the bar for business and government working together. A pretty good inspirational overview of how the public schools, city government, and the Salesforce Foundation.

Marc Benioff talks to Will.i.am about public education, philanthropy, and his new wearable device that will be announced at Dreamforce 14 tomorrow. #df14

2:14pm: Just welcomed Will.i.am onstage. Marc is asking him what his insights into public education. Will.i.am says how he was disadvantaged, says his schooling was critical to understand his situation in life. Says that after he “made” it, he realized there was a challenge with magnet schools in California and wanted to help. Talking about meeting the Waiting for Superman maker, and asking about robotics programs, students using ESRI, about kids going to China with the State Department and learning Mandarin, and other commendable outcomes. Now talking about paying in forward, and his new company, which apparently has an API and SDK. Appears to be an app on a new wearable device. Says it will be credible and will present it here tomorrow, though media predictions are mixed. He says he funded it, founded it, and surrounded himself with engineers. Says it’s critical that we aren’t hypocritical when we ask others to do something hard, that he is learning science, mathematics, and engineering for the product, and ‘I’m from the projects’, saying anyone can do it too.

The famous Beach Boys playing 'Good Vibrations' at Dreamforce 14. #df14

2:20pm: Beach Boys playing Good Vibrations.

2:25pm: Marc talking about his first mainframe terminal. How the work of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates turned into millions of PCs around the world. Now those millions are turning into billions of computers. 5 billion mobile devices already exist. Talking about cards connected, toothbrushes connected, wearables. “Everything is getting hooked up.” And that is turning into “trillions of customer interactions.” There is now an imperative of engagement, to connect. Our vision is to build that platform for our customers to connect. “If you connect deeply, build a 1-on-1 relationship with your customers” in scale, then that leads to success. Talking about bringing all of customer information together.

2:30pm: Talking about the Berluti store when Marc moved to Europe recently. Salesperson comes up to him with an iPhone. Salesperson figures out who he is by using an app, which was Salesforce1. Asks him “does he have a suit for Dreamforce?” Which Marc is currently wearing onstage. “It wasn’t just a suit he sold me, but it was a whole relationship.” Talking about going to visit Philips and their new ultrasound machine. Screen over the stage says there will be 75 billion connected products by 2015. Talking about how services and partners are so deeply integrated. Now saying how much he likes hit Fitbit, and his community rankings.  Talking about a community of users for Home Depot at community.homedepot.com that is “inspiring us on what we can all do to bring together our customers, partners, and employees.”

2:35pm: Now talking about Neil Young’s Pono high resolution music player and service. It will apparently be launched here at Dreamforce on Thursday. And Neil built community as an integrated part of the product. Now talking about going to Berlin and Coca-Cola, and talking about being out with the customers. Said to Marc “everything in my company is mobile, all my employees, customers, and consumers on mobile.” And did this with Salesforce1. And it struck Marc that Coca-Cola has become a software company, a cloud company. “Everyone is in our business now. Its great.” Saying the 90% of the world’s data was created in the last two years. Saying there is a “data divide.” Data products of the past, mentioning companies like IBM, SAP, and Oracle, and it’s “no surprise they are turning over all their CEOs.” Says, “what we need is a ‘Wave.” (Marc is walking amongst the crowd as he says all this.)

Marc Benioff talks about the new Wave Analytics Cloud at Dreamforce 14. #df14

2:40pm: Talking about Wave, as an analytics service that is “for everyone.” Note: That big data services must be enabled for everyone is something I’ve emphasized for years. And it’s a mobile-first app. And for the developers they work with, “we want to build a platform where we have all these analytics apps.” Says its “analytics for the rest of us.” Going to profile a company that they’ve worked with for 10 years, who was a partner. The partner is General Electric. Now showing a video about what they did. Voiceover: “We don’t have a luxury of weeks to months to create a new products. To try new things in the marketplace. That’s where innovation comes from. Being a builder, not just a banker.” Taking about shortening cycle times from months to seconds using Analytics Cloud. “Analytics is not longer just the domain of experts, but is now in the hands of everyone.” Very simple, very fast. “This is the platform that lets the business start to use information that matters for them and their customers.” Made a very careful statement about how it’s all secure as well. “Mobile right out of the box.” Wherever you may be, you can pull up the analytics that you need. You can mark it up and comments, and everyone can see it immediately. Beyond banking, financial serfices, “should be key for every company in the world.” “Operating at the speed of thought.”

2:46pm: Marc is back on now that the video is over. Going over Service Cloud and business objects. The visionary behind Wave: “Please welcome Alex Dayon, President, Products.” About to unveil Wave, to “bring all your data together in one central place.” GE Capital is the case study they will examine. Starting the demo. Going over the features of Wave, saying “analytics has to be fun to use.” They built Wave on tops of Salesforce1. Lots of detailed demos of Wave, including building dashboards and sharing analytics.

2:45pm: The Wave demo continues. Now doing a scenario with Brunswick, and there is an actual powerboat with the CEO of Brunswick, and they are playing out a scenario, projecting Wave data using Airplay on a TV to make a mock case for why they need to make more boats. “Wave has been designed for everyone. Every sales person, every services person, every executive.” Has the whole Wave team stand up. Has been working for two years on this project.” Alex wraps up the Wave section by jumping on a surfboard. Now the Beach Boys are back up singing “Catch a Wave.”

3:01pm: Marc has returned. Says “everything is going mobile. Everyone knows that. I run my whole business on mobile. Everyone knows that too.” Says, however, it’s not enough. “We need to build mobile apps faster. Build more apps.” “The story of Coca-Cola inspired me that it could be done.” And now giving us a video tour of Coca-Cola Germany, and how they accelerated their mobile app creation process. Talking about connectivity, scalability, and collaboration. “Everyone has to know everything about the customer. This is only possible with a fully connected platform.” Says, “we can see everything at the same time, using Salesforce.com.” “If a shipment goes wrong, the customer will see it, the salesperson will see it, and I will see it.” Theme: We are only limited by our ideas now, not the technology.

3:07pm: Marc now talking about stats on Salesforce1: 10X APIs, 4M+ apps built, 84K companies using the Salesforce 1app. “But it’s crystal clear, from talking with many of you: We have to move faster.” New devices coming next year, like the Apple Watch, will further drive demand. “Wave was the first product we announced.” “The second major product we announced is Lightning.” “Please welcome, my co-founder, Parker Harris.” Parker is coming out in a Lightning super hero costume.

Parker Harris gets on stage to talk about the new Lightning platform from Salesforce. #df14

3:10pm: Parker Harris is now up and talking about Lightning. Platform services like Force.com, Heroku, and Wave are the bottom of the Lightning model. Lighting is three things: Tools to build mobile apps “lightning vast.” Includes visual builder. Don’t have to figure out iOS and Android. And includes an all new type of user interface, including the tablet in November, and the desktop next year. Will support watches, including Will.i.am’s new watch, which we’ll see here at Dreamforce tomorrow. Giving developers Lightning Components, Lightning Framework, and Lightning Builder. Using the creaky old “lego bricks” analogy for building applications. The new Lightning UI allows you to write and deploy applications once on any device, apparently with a responsive user interface that is suitable for the device’s form factor. Giving a product demo that shows situated business analytics using a fictional company called Westlane Cafe and managing its Coca-Cola supplies with a “red score” from the application. They are showing how fast you can develop apps, by editing it and add a virtual reality component to the application on the fly (for identifying where  the merchandise cooler should be physically placed in the store.) If it all works, it’s really pretty impressive.

3:21pm: Now Parker is going to actually build a Lightning application right with the audience live. Using the Lightning Builder, which has a palette of Lightning components. Says they are going to continue developing many new components, and developers can create their own. Making mention of AppExchange, such as pulling in a DocuSign component, which you can drag to your application, and “add document signing without writing a single line of code.” No app store review. A soon as the app is saved, everyone with Salesforce1 automatically has access to the application. The app is now built. Have shipping options, an navigable map, and interfaces for phone and tablet. Now says they are going to confirm a drone delivery of Coca-Cola right in the convention center directly in the newly built app. Sure enough, an actual drone comes into the convention center and delivers the coke directly to Parker (pic now below.)

A drone delivers an order of Coca-Cola Parker Harris, triggered using a new Lightning app that was just built live on stage at Dreamforce 14. #df14

3:31pm: Marc is back onstage and introduces a video about Honeywell and their connected devices. Discussing home monitoring, appliance control, real-time monitoring, dashboards of data for contractors. “Not as much about as connecting the home, as connecting the person.” We’re able to provide a much higher level of accurate diagnostics and customer service. It changes the whole relationship.” Every connected device puts together a contractor and a customer.” “Now we’re on a journey, we can create new software and services that we sell as subscription to contractors. Now we don’t just get revenue from hardware, but also software.” All supported with Salesforce platforms and apps.

3:36pm: Introducing Linda Crawford, EP & GM, Sales Cloud. Going to talk about the “customer success platform.” Lines between sales and marketing are clearly blurring. Key for these applications to work together on the customer success platform.” About to show us the Journey Builder, where you can map out your end-to-end engagement process with your customers. Showing us an onboarding journey. “As a customer, what we want when we do business with a new company?” Showing the welcome message from Honeywell. Invites you to download a customer app. Showing upsells. Continuing to do a detailed tour of Sales Cloud.

3:47pm: The detailed demos are proceeding. Linda now introduces us to Service Cloud1. Has personalization, any device, any time, anywhere. Now also introducing the Community Cloud. Optimized for search engines, personalized community content 1-to-1 to every member of a community, moderated feeds in a new console, and has visual design tools to “spin up communities faster than ever before.”

3:54pm: Now Honeywell is up talking about their connected home products strategy, with thermostats. Marc says we’re at the keynote. Talks about Bruno Mars tonight and the Will.i.am keynote tomorrow. “Thanks everybody.” It’s a wrap.

Additional reading:

Is the Internet of Things strategic to the enterprise? | ZDNet

My Dreamforce 14 presentation on the strategic use of Internet of Connected Products | Slideshare

Salesforce.com realigns Sales, Service clouds for connected apps | ZDNet

My previous Dreamforce live blogs:

Dreamforce 12: Live Blogging the Benioff Keynote

Dreamforce 11: Live Blogging the Benioff Keynote

Let The Network Do The Work

One of the most striking things I see when watching organizations make the transition from legacy industrial models of working to new network-based models, is that we keep trying to employ the new tools and ideas in the same old ways. Certainly, it’s quite hard to unlearn the old methods, so deeply instilled are they by prior experience, history, and momentum. But as businesses, even today, we largely still try to create all the ideas, try to control everything, and focus on doing all the work to produce outcomes within the organization, team, or enterprise, with a little help of perhaps a few closely held suppliers and business partners.

In short, most organizations still have an out-dated and overly centralized model for working, and it’s turned out to be a very difficult habit to break. Unfortunately, these old models are also inefficient, highly resource intensive, low in innovation, short-sighted, and ultimately counterproductive, when we have such better — and increasingly proven — models that greatly outperform the old ones.

All too often I still encounter enterprise collaboration efforts, customer communities, and CRM projects that make the same essential mistake: They literally transplant how they do things today into emerging digital environments such as social networks, online forums, and collaboration suites, instead of tapping into the new ways of working that these new digital environments enable. This misses the whole point of adopting innovative new ideas and technologies that can unlock deeper opportunities that just weren’t possible before.

If I have a single key lesson that every organization seeking to digitally transform must learn it’s this: You must let the network do the work. It has the bulk of the ideas, it self-organizes at scale, it needs only a little control and guidance, and it has all the productive capacity, no matter how large your organization.

Let The Network Do the Work: Using Online Community and Social Business to Scale Cost Effectively

This was driven home yet again over the weekend when I came across the story of CrowdMed, a service that aims to diagnose some of the trickiest unsolved medical problems of patients with maladies that have resisted all previous attempts. Jared Hayman, founder of CrowdMed, which uses an external community of several thousands doctors and nurses, currently claims a 50% success rate at solving this difficult cases, just by letting the network do the work.

This is just one of thousands of similar stories of network-based peer produced solutions that work far better than their traditional, centralized counterparts from another era.

Of course, the challenge is to retain essential control. I find that the list of reasons companies give to why they can’t plug networks directly into the way they work, into their products and services, into their business models, even into the own personal workstreams is nearly endless: “We can’t trust it”, “We can’t rely on it”, “Our culture isn’t ready for it”, “That’s not how we’ve traditionally worked.” The list goes on.

In the end, unfortunately, these arguments don’t really matter, other than identifying and articulating one’s obstacles to change. That’s because the competitive implications are increasingly clear to anyone who does a cursory examination: Network models are far more cost-effective, richer, and higher scale than old models of working. So we simply must find ways to adapt in order to survive.

At the highest level, the future of the enterprise is inextricably entwined with social business, crowdsourcing, the collaborative economy, etc. These are the network models that are creating the next generation of fast-growing businesses, many, such as Airbnb and countless others.

The fundamental principle then, which we put as fundamental principle #1 about getting value from the network in Social Business By Design, to tap into the most value is really quite simple: Anyone can participate.

When you prevent this from happening, intentionally or otherwise, you sharply limit the value created and opportunity accessed. But most businesses today still let very few participate: They try to do it all themselves. For most types of work, this results in outcomes that are simply uncompetitive and unsustainable in terms of the cost, quality, and effort of the outcome.

So, why aren’t more companies doing making the transition then? I’d argue they are. Most companies are slowly moving towards network models. But far too slowly, given the growing digital competition.

Thus we are still in the midst of a global transition to network models that will likely take many us a decade longer. But the writing is clearly on the wall: Most industries are filling with new digital competitors who understand the fundamental rule of creating value using networks, and unless industrial age organizations can adapt, the upstart will win (and largely have been re: open source, social media, digital ecosystems like Amazon, Google.)

Fortunately, effective transformation is still accessible to most organizations if they are willing to change their mindset and think like digital natives.

Additional Reading:

Shifting the Meaning of Hierarchy to Community

The Role of the Leadership in Digital and Social Business Transformation

Designing the New Enterprise: Issues and Strategies

The emerging case for open business methods | ZDNet

What Is the Future of Work?

Going Beyond ‘Bolt-On’ Digital Transformation

Much has been made recently of the imperative to fully transition our businesses into the modern digital world. It now hardly needs to be said at this point. There is even some encouraging news for traditional enterprises: The latest data from Forrester shows that companies are indeed at long last making digital transformation a top priority, with 74% of executives saying that they currently have a strategy to get there.

Yet “having a digital strategy” can also mean just about anything, depending upon who you ask. At this point however, there are basically two main forks in the road to digital for most organizations:

There is the ‘bolt-on’ strategy, which typically means adding a few new digital channels to existing touchpoints — typically social and mobile — and maybe creating an associated but minor sideline business with some digital revenue.

Then there is the ‘digital transformation’ approach to digital. It’s a full-on, meaningful reconception of the business, often using a startup or incubator model, with the intent to re-imagine a digital native organization with all that it entails, from new business models, culture shifts, remodeling of the structure and processes of the business, and rethinking of the very foundations of the enterprise across the full spectrum of digital possibility.

Enterprise Digital Business Transformation

Unfortunately, the latter approach also has many of the characteristics that corporate leadership tends to avoid: a) The big bang initiative which has a high likelihood of failure, b) cross-silo involvement, meaning it will encounter numerous bureaucratic and political obstacles, and b) the likelihood of of success being dependent on securing rarefied talent with scarce expertise that crosses the domain of the business, the world of strategic emerging technology, and next-generation IT.

The reality is that both forks have real risks: The bolt-on approach is too little and too incremental to have the requisite strategic impact, though it’s certainly a valid interim approach (as long as it’s not the only one.) On the other hand, the full digital transformation model entails a major investment and commitment across the organization with a seemingly all-to-uncertain outcome.

Yet, the latest data tells us unequivocally that the act of doing nothing — or just too little — is also sure to fail. The march of technology is wiping out traditional companies faster than ever before, and the pace is only accelerating.

Another way of putting it is that the CEOs, CIOs, COOs, and CMOs — the four roles most directly responsible for guiding this transformation — will secure rewards for their organizations that are directly commensurate with their commitment to drive broad digital adaptation and change. For the data is unambiguous: Those that don’t fully align with the state of the marketplace will be absorbed by those that do.

Forrester Digital Business Strategy Not Yet Business Strategy
Many industries even today are resistant to digital. Source: Forrester

Thinking Like a Digital Business

What can organizations do if they are serious about their responsibilities to lead the business into the future? Several clear options are emerging:

  • Seek out digital change. Avoid having it imposed. Successful next-generation enterprises — see the start of my 2014 NGE target here — won’t wait until adopting new digital channels, tech, and business models are unavoidable. They will pro-actively seek them out, learn them early on, experiment, and be ready to grow when they mature. Even fast-followers will be at risk if they don’t avidly seek out new opportunities. Dave Gray has previously pointed out research from Shell showing that the longest-lived companies are pro-active seekers and explorers of new markets. What’s more, digital change is now nearly continuous, and the organizations must establish long-term processes that tap into and pull these changes into a new “digital metabolism” that makes incorporating strategic innovation both routine and sustainable. Organizations that only respond to change will always be several steps behind those that are change-seekers. Finally, be bold it seeking out these changes. As the latest McKinsey report on digital transition notes, the winners will “be unreasonably aspirational.”
  • Cultivate capabilities to support multiple operating models. As John Kotter pointed out this week, there is now “an inseparable partnership between hierarchy and network.” We will have two and probably more major operating models in our organizations going forward, at least the legacy and the digital. We must operate and exploit each of these systems to their fullest — and together — to produce competitive and effective results today. To get there, successful leaders will strategically enable the shift of hierarchy into much more network-centric models, while cultivating the strengths of both simultaneously. Since most organizations currently have significantly underdeveloped networked operating models, this will require special investment and integration into the digital transformation process.
  • Understand and absorb the new competencies of digital across the organization. If one thing stands out clearly when I look at digital transformation efforts, is that they are often led by those who are experts in the existing business, who often don’t have the competencies in the digital space. It’s not that it can’t be learned, but it is a fast-growing and already enormous field. The profound difficulties that many transformation efforts have encountered, despite the vast on-hand resources including thousands of workers and millions of customers, has been to the distinct boundary of and very different rules for success between legacy business and digital business. I recently summarized what many business leaders don’t quite get right in their mindset and assumptions when it comes to digital transformation, but it boils down to deeply understanding and emulating what those successful in digital have done to get there. Understand the power laws of digital business, deeply absorb the concept of engaging with and co-creating new products and services with digital ecosystems, and wielding powerful new ways to scale innovation.

This is not to say that businesses have not already extensively digitized. They have, but as Sameer Patel recently pointed out, they generally have not transformed. The single biggest obstacle to successful digital transformation is a broad shift to a ‘native digital’ mindset that will consistently inform broad action. I’ve come to believe that traditional companies can make this transition, but only if they decentralize tech innovation that is coupled with a supportive new network operating model, while carefully controlling downside (typically security, data control, etc.).

So, while bolting-on a digital mindset may lead to some short-term successes, it will certainly stunt the future of your organization. Instead, employ internal and external networks to create a naturally-supportive environment where digital change is far more scalable, emergent, adaptive, and continuous.

Additional Reading:

The New Top Level Operating Models of Business

Digital diaspora in the enterprise: Arrival of the Chief Digital Officer

Defining the Next Generation Enterprise for 2014

Many of you know that over the last several years I’ve tried to make the case that most organizations are currently falling behind the advancing pace of technological change. That business is so centered around technology today is the reason why addressing this has become a top competitive issue. Becoming better adapted to tech change is even tied to the medium-term survival of many organization as I recently explored in my look at digital transformation.

But to say that technology alone is what is disrupting traditional businesses would be inaccurate. We ourselves have changed — have co-evolved — along with technology. Our mindsets have become expanded by the new possibilities of super-connectedness, new models of working, and pervasive data-based insight that today’s networked revolution has wrought.

That’s not to say there aren’t important pros and cons to these advances as well. Along this journey of global, open, and social digital networks, we’ve also encountered enormous challenges in grappling with issues such as individual privacy and equal access, as well as the inherently large inequalities that emerge from the gaps between the digital haves and have-nots. This is precisely because technology is a profound force multiplier of just about everything it touches. There are other potential worries as well.

As The Economist fretted over recently, most technology revolutions have created more employment, not less. We hope that this is true for the next generation, but we’ll see, given how current models show that producer power is generally moving outside of traditional organizations to external networks that have less well-defined employment models:

Everyone should be able to benefit from productivity gains—in that, Keynes was united with his successors. His worry about technological unemployment was mainly a worry about a “temporary phase of maladjustment” as society and the economy adjusted to ever greater levels of productivity. So it could well prove.

Yet to most of us, it’s quite clear that digital channels combined with engagement at scale within them amongst all our stakeholders is at the core of the future of business. But what does this actually mean? What does it look like to most organizations? How can we articulate the changes to structure, process, and management of our organizations in a deeply digital age? It’s my belief we need a comprehensive yet eminently understandable model of how all this reshapes our organizations.

Ecosystem View of the Next Generation Enterprise for 2014: Workforce Community, Customer Community, Partner Community, Market, Social Business

I’ve come to realize we’re trying to hit a fast-moving target with poorly aging models for service delivery and IT governance when it comes to digital transformation. The reality is that it usually takes several years for a large organization to achieve large scale change. By this I mean three to five years, and often more, and that’s just for an individual enterprise-wide initiative.

In today’s operating environment of yearly — sometimes quarterly — waves of highly disruptive enterprise technologies and products, that’s just too long. We need a clearer and more updated sense of where we need to take our organizations, and it must also show us how to increase our technology metabolism as well. This model should include the broad strategic outlines as well as specific adaptations to the latest powerful new digital capabilities such as big data analytics, omnichannel customer engagement, the Internet of Things, social business, and so on. These subjects are all highly strategic to the future of our organizations at the moment, yet they are also interrelated and must fit together relatively well in this model somehow.

Related: Digital Business Ecologies: How Social Networks and Communities Are Upending Our Organizations

Motivation for an Infinitely Renewing Model of Tech & Business

Over the last few years, I’ve adopted a term known as the next generation enterprise or NGE for short. It’s the idea that we can maintain an up-to-date strategic model when it comes to digital transformation. The vision for the next generation enterprise is different from one year to the next and has specific technological phases as well as overall strategic themes at any given time. This vision has its own management theories as well, such as shifting from organizational hierarchy to networked community or reorganizing how we operate to the three new top-level modes, to name just two examples.

In other words, the idea of the next generation enterprise is a relatively complete view — including both business and technology — of the target that typical organizations should be aiming for in their objectives for digital adaptation and growth. For the moment, let’s put aside whether there even is a typical organization, since many of the most important technology innovations are usually agnostic to your particular industry or unique company attributes. In other words, most major technology advances will derail your boat if you ignore them long enough, no matter what business you’re in.

To give us a shared roadmap and a point of reference, I’d like to start putting a clearer definition behind what we think is meant by a next-generation enterprise. Early this year, I mapped out the most important strategic new enterprise technologies, but it was a purely technology view and included a good many tactical elements that aren’t that important when it comes the big picture.

Instead, I’d like to have a more enterprise-centric view that includes the most important advances in business that technology has directly enabled. Some would say that the advent of being digital connected to every human being on the planet at all times (at least in the developed world) is one of those advances, and I agree. This realization is that communities are moving increasingly to the center of our businesses. But it’s more than that. The enclosing strategic conception is really one of ecosystem, whether that’s inside a segment of the enterprise with a single networked team, an external customer community, or a full-on developer network of thousands of application development partners who have welded your digital supply chain to their apps. All of these are ecosystems that must be created (or identified), grown, cultivated, managed, secured, and governed.

In fact, one of the largest issues we have in digital transformation today is that we look at business in a far too simplistic traditional model. In this legacy view, there are functional silos with workers combined with management hierarchies that together actually make decisions and operate our organizations. Then there are suppliers, business partners, and customers, and that’s about it for the big moving parts.

Baseline for Next Generation Enterprise 2014: Networks, Communities, and Support Programs (Social Media Center of Excellence)Today’s next generation enterprise plays on a much larger and more complex chessboard. There are thousands of relevant ecosystems that now exist for most businesses, most informal, and across thousands more channels, all with a long tail structure.

This means that while the head of the distribution consists of big channels you’ve heard of — from major social networks and call centers to traditional media and Amazon’s cloud — there are thousands you haven’t heard of and will never be able to deliberately consider and plan for. Business architecture has thus moved from simple planned models to complex and highly dynamic emergent networks across every business function we have. We’ve gone from a few dozen groups of stakeholders to ultimately tens of thousands that we must still manage to somehow. Ultimately, our org structures must adapt to reflect this.

I’ve previously proposed a set of enterprise strategies which have a good chance at addressing many of this issues, which were originally brought forth by the channel fragmentation, scale, and decentralization that we saw greatly exacerbated by IT consumerization a couple of years ago. But I now see that bring-your-own-device was just the forefront of a wave of grassroots led network-enabled change, including bring-your-own-application, bring-your-own-community, and soon, even bring-your-own-workforce.

Related: Designing the New Enterprise: Issues and Strategies

The Element of The Next Generation Enterprise for 2014

So I’d like to put a stake in the ground and define what I think the next generation enterprise for 2014 should look like. There are several views here, but I’ll start with the more business-centric view of ecosystem and expand to other views as I’m able. In this ecosystem view we have the following components:

  • A more network-centric enterprise. Less hierarchical and consisting much more of online communities for achieving cost-effective outcomes at scale. This will happen within and amongst the workforce (network/social collaboration), business partners, customers, and the marketplace. Management and leadership through networks will become an essential skills and will require knowledge of the concepts and operation of digital and social businesses.
  • Workforce communities. While we’ve had a primitive model of team in the legacy workplace, it becomes much more fluid, dynamic, and high scale in the networked world, often directly supported by powerful new collaboration capabilities. Teams-based, project-centric, and — still evolving — process-based work conducted by communities will increasingly become the norm. Why? Because the data has consistently supported that the network/community model provides better business results.
  • Business partner communities. One of the least developed models of networked communities, there are however good examples that can be pointed to. Strategic partners, affiliates, and suppliers can be engaged together in operations, in particular — as John Hagel famously pointed out — with exception handling scenarios.
  • Customer communities. This is one of the strongest and most easily started models for strategic community. The evidence for business value is strong enough that I’ve wondered if the window is already closing on customer communities in certain industries. Certainly in my research I’ve found that customer care communities can reduce costs by 30% in the first year alone over traditional approaches. Social support also at the very top of Ray Wang’s social business use cases.
  • Marketplace. The single most scalable asset that businesses have is networked access to their customers and the broader marketplace. While this constituency also includes regulators and influencers, two groups that can be hard to manage, it also includes online advocates, crowdsourcing participants, software developers, and other interested parties. If you’re surprised to see developers in this list, then don’t be: Developers have become one of the single most important new constituencies as their innovations can drive primary growth and network effects. This is a very different view of business than before, where companies directly engaged their stakeholders.
  • New channels. The next generation enterprise will still have some legacy aspects including physical offices/stores — just smaller and more virtual — it will be the Web and especially on mobile devices that value is primarily created and captured, both. Social business environments (communities of all functional types and audiences) and the application as the new CRM will be key channels here as well. Ultimately, however, APIs — which I define as open digital supply chains — will be the most strategic channel for many industries because it scales faster and creates far more robust outcomes for very little investment.

Using this model, we can also baseline the various states of maturity of each part of the modern enterprise ecosystem for comparison, as in how far along are we? The essential point here with this view of the next-generation enterprise is that it’s the current target model, not what you should look like today. It’s what you should be aiming for, although you should certainly have some elements of it in place today (see figure 2.)

What do you see as other essential views of the next generation enterprise? What else needs to be added?

Related: The Second Wave of the Contemporary Workforce

Shifting the Meaning of Hierarchy to Community

Over the last year or so, a fascinating bow wave of interest has been converging on a growing cadre of companies who appear to be doing something quite novel and seemingly new. Specifically, these organizations have apparently thrown off many of the traditional structures and processes of corporate management. Interestingly, all of these organizations are focusing on change through people first, technology second, if at all.

Though sometimes employing the language of social business, these innovative organizations aren’t just centering their efforts at rethinking their business around digital/social. Instead, they are focused primarily on fundamentally changing their thinking and behavior around work itself. This is something Hugh MacLeod noted last week that is likely to literally become one of the next big industries, albeit in a virtual sense, as we seek en masse to adapt our organizations to much faster rates of change and innovation.

Ironically, as the changes being made aren’t primarily technological but cultural, it’s the organizations which don’t have a strong or healthy culture that are finding that technology revolutions like social media are greatly amplifying their shortcomings in this regard.

Management Hierarchy versus Online Community

Some of the notable exemplars that have been held up as poster children for this trend include Southwest Airlines, W.L. Gore, Valve, Zappos, and Morning Star. All of these firms have realized in some form a contemporary new and self-organizing way of working that pushes action, responsibility, and change directly to the edge of the organization, where workers are essentially free from unnecessary bureaucratic and political constraints to take initiative, make decisions, and act on their insight.

It’s not fully clear yet if we’re seeing the emergence of a broader trend or if these are isolated examples, but the overall success of these organizations is well-established, as most of them are leaders in their industry. Side note: By isolated examples, I mean in the traditional enterprise space. There are countless successful examples in the digital space.

So, as we try to understand these examples, I’ve wondered what is really happening in this new wave of how we manage and structure the traditional organization. Fortunately, I do believe we’ve started to get a good sense of this and it helps us understand how these ideas could possibly work. An important discussion recently of these changes by Steve Denning makes a rather convincing case that hierarchy is not exactly what’s being eliminated in these new models. Instead, hierarchies themselves are shifting from org charts, fixed responsibilities, and formal titles to a more fluid and competency-based model:

Thus I often hear it said, and see it written, that firms […] have done exactly that, i.e. “gotten rid of managers” and “abolished hierarchy.”

This is a misunderstanding. This is not what these organizations are doing or what the ongoing paradigm shift in management is about at all.

In networked organizations, where work is self-managed, there are still managers. The managers have become enablers of self-managing teams and networks rather than controllers of individuals. In those organizations, someone has to sign checks. Someone has to sign legal documents on behalf of the organization. Someone is legally responsible for what is done by the organization. That someone is a manager. A manager after all is simply someone who is responsible for getting things done. If anything is to get done, an organization has to have managers.

There are still hierarchies in a network, but the hierarchies tend to be competence-based hierarchies, relying more on peer accountability than on authority-based accountability, that is, accountability to someone who knows something rather than to someone simply because they occupy a position, regardless of competence. It is a change in the role of the manager, not an abolition of the function.

Based on my work, I think Steve’s analysis is very close, yet not the entire picture. The part that is missing is that indeed there is a broader move in many organizations towards a networked structure, one based on earned, peer recognized competency and manifesting itself in loosely-coupled, dynamically formed, and freely participative teams (pods in Dave Gray’s language.)

It’s a Community, It’s a Networked Hierarchy

However, it’s also becoming increasingly clear to me that the part of this story that is left out here is the very notion of the enterprise itself. Our increasingly antiquated view of companies as self-contained entities with leaders and workers working within rigid and slow-to-change functional silos that are also supposed to provide all the ideas and all the motive force is no longer effective or accurate. In fact, the single most disruptive force shifting hierarchy is the same force that is also expanding the meaning of hierarchy beyond the boundaries of the organization.

This force is community, and by that I generally mean online communities, although their incarnation in the digital is not always required, as we clearly see from the examples above. I’ve long believed that communities are moving to the very center of our organizations — this means operations, structure, and yes, even business model — and it’s really the community model that is being replicated in today’s new corporate hierarchies.

What does this shift mean to businesses, specifically? Functioning organizations will soon rely on, as they already do to hundreds of organizations today, communities that will deliver essential capabilities to the enterprise that used to be intrinsic to self-contained organizations: Marketing, advocacy, pre-sales support, product development, customer care, operations, and other functions. There are excellent examples of community-centric versions of all of these functions happening at scale in traditional enterprises.

So while I do find it quite interesting when we look at new models for recasting the classical notion of the workforce — and look at the classical workforce only — it’s essential that we don’t merely regard the subject through the myopic lens of the old org chart. Instead, we must use the deeper understanding that networked organizations are hybrids that fully merge traditional workforce and online community. Again, the more transformative examples seem to focus on the people more than the technology, though the latter — especially social technologies — does seem vital, as long as it’s not put first.

Implications of Networked Work Hierarchies

The move to networked models of work therefore appears to imply the following:

  • A network of self-interested people organizing dynamically around what needs to be done is more efficient and effective. Forcing work down only through traditional hierarchies produces poorer and much more costly outcomes. This assumes of course, that there are tools, education, and organizational structures to enable the former. Again the evidence is clear that peer production is a richer — if sometimes less predictable — and far more scalable and agile way of working. Therefore:
  • Greater business value is created with least overhead or friction by self-interested and engaged communities. Organizations that try to “do it all” with their own workforce simply cannot compete.
  • The individual/organizational bond is steadily becoming the individual/community/organizational bond. Community is a new emerging construct between our institutions and individuals. Like most major changes to the world, this is neither a complete nor total shift, but a gradual change in the center of gravity. Thanks to Harold Jarche, for a summary of his ideas that helped crystallize this particular insight for me.

Consequently, the enterprises that don’t fully appreciate they are now part of a much larger and richer system-of-systems of people — and redesign themselves around this new reality — will increasingly be at risk. To survive, our organizations must pro-actively seek to efficiently ramp up participation in the richer, shared outcomes that only the productive entanglement with communities — internal and external — can produce.

Finally, if you’re not sure this is a big part of our business future, we have only to look at the mass dislocation that the collaborative economy is producing in so many industries, where communities are at the very center of the business model, to see that this is actually happening today and widely.

Related: Rethinking How We Transform Our Organizations for the Future

Designing the New Enterprise: Issues and Strategies

I’m looking forward to traveling to Paris, France the week after next to provide the opening keynote to the Intersection Conference. Intersection is an intriguing new multi-disciplinary event organized by Milan Guenther that’s intended to explore how we should design our organizations for the future. Milan also wrote a terrific book by the same name, which I urge you to read as well. The write-up for the conference itself says it best:

The role of design in economy and society is shifting. We see disciplines such as Service and Interaction Design moving beyond individual services and their digital components, to tackle experiences between enterprises and their audiences.

Enterprises and entrepreneurship are everywhere, playing a vital role in our lives. They are ubiquitous in the mass of organisations of all sizes we are in touch with as consumers, employees, investors, or in other roles.

This event is about designing the new enterprise, making it less awkward and more humane. We will explore how to design enterprise-wide brand experiences, social organisations, and digital businesses. To do this, design practitioners, consultants and architects combine methods and models from Service and Experience Design, Information and Enterprise Architecture, Systems and Design Thinking, to drive innovation and transform complex enterprise ecosystems.

Those who’ve followed my most recent musings on how our organizations are trying to change to adapt to a rapidly transforming world, and being changed even more by external forces outside their control know this has been a prime focus of mine. Technology in particular is the author of so much of what is reshaping markets, communities, corporations, and even our cultures. The growing question is whether our organizations will break under the loads of so much change, or are there paths we can navigate and steps we can take to transition more gracefully?

Additional Reading: What is the Future of Work?

Business Architecture: Change and Designing for the Future Enterprise

It’s very clear that most companies feel an imperative to update how they operate to match the current state of the marketplace. But as I pointed out in ZDNet recently, the data shows that the average lifespan of the enterprise continues to drop steadily, due to poor adaptation to the latest marketplace conditions.

In addition, to make matters worse, due to misalignment between our constituents’ respective goals, we also see that most workers in the typical enterprise are generally are poorly engaged. Only 40% of workers are ‘well-engaged’ according to recent analyses. This is a unacceptable state of affairs, but we’ve really only ourselves to blame. I believe we can do better.

How do we adapt sustainably to constant change?

The big question is there an intersection between change, the role and function of businesses, and the future of work that will allow us to adapt more readily? Can we still do this while creating an environment that enables far better and more satisfying work and outcomes for everyone, including employees, customers, and yes, even shareholders? What skills must be brought to bear to realize a fundamental restructuring — in the face of the many major new modes of work — for how we absorb, adopt, and manage the external march of change facing us — and therefore frequently imposing serious business challenges — that we are encountering at an ever accelerating pace?

Personally, I believe getting to equilibrium between our organizations and external change will require a specific set of modifications to the core of most of our organizations. First, achieving this will require a much-more pragmatic and decentralized view of business and enterprise architecture. It will also require that we honestly look at technology and how we metabolize and assimilate it into the way we work and then seek ways to reconcile with it. We’ll also need to cultivate workers that have effective skills in design thinking, which they can use within and across the organization to locally redesign it for current realities. And finally, we need to update how we collaborate in a fundamental and more focused way, and by that, I mean all modes of collaboration between all stakeholders.

These then are the issues I’d like to explore in Paris in just over a week. I hope you will join me. Milan has assembled an all-star cast for this discussion, including corporate strategist, author, and futurist Chris Potts, branding, innovation, and design expert Erik Roscam Abbing, and the lead designer for Dassault, Anne Asensio, to name just a few of the leading thinkers who will be speaking and collaborating there. Either way, I encourage you to join this vital conversation.

You can view the deck for my keynote talk at Intersection 2014 here.

For more background, you can also view my Slideshare profile with sampling of my latest keynote decks on this topic.

For More Information:

Intersection Conference - Paris, France - April 16-17, 2014


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