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Trends from Enterprise 2.0: The Move to Social Business

November 11, 2010

Introduction

I attended Enterprise 2.0 in Santa Clara, CA this week.  I predict that in 2011, “business as usual” will move to social business.  As usual. Meaning, social tools will be enabled across the enterprise and they’ll quickly be ingrained as the “new way to do business”.  Here are specific trends and observations from Enterprise 2.0.

Start-ups on Equal Footing with the Technology Giants

Social business, by way of its “newness”, evens the playing field.  In fact, it actually provides an advantage to the start-ups, who built their business (from the ground up) on a foundation of social features.

The established giants, meanwhile (e.g. IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, etc.), need to retrofit existing offerings – adding social into (or on top of) what already exists.  Or in some cases, the giants are developing new social platforms that live in parallel with their legacy systems.

Commenting on a T-shirt that poked fun at “jive talking”, Christopher Morace (@thinkoutloud) said it well when he tweeted, “How in a space with IBM, MSFT, & SFDC did Jive become ‘the man’? I’m still in my 30’s!”

Social Business UI – New Models Needed

During the event, I tweeted that if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Facebook should be quite flattered.  In other words, everyone’s social business UI looks and feels like Facebook.

Conference attendee Robert Lavigne (@RLavigne42) agreed and tweeted back, “good from a cross training point of view, bad from a breaking that mindset in the sales cycle though. Need innovation not UX copy”.  Robert continued, “Time for something innovative in terms of UX”.

If we do not see UI/UX innovation and differentiation, then the market will face commoditization, where everyone’s platform looks the same.  And that’s not good for the market.  Expect to see fresh, new looks in 2011, especially as some of these platforms evolve to version 2.0.

The Intranet (As We Know It) Is Dead


The Intranet, as a self-standing web site, is now dead.  In its place will be social business platforms.  Do you really use your company’s intranet?  It’s good for routine activities (e.g. look up phone numbers, find the expense report template, etc.), but it doesn’t significantly improve employee productivity.

The typical intranet doesn’t get much activity and it’s hard to find what you need.  Now consider the likes of the Socialtext, Yammer, Salesforce Chatter and others. Common features they provide are:

  1. Follow and be followed – people, documents, sales opportunities, etc.  Need to track an important document?  Follow it, and be alerted to all updates on it.
  2. Crowdsourced answers – need to find a nugget of information or an obscure document?  Ask your followers via a status update and you’ll likely receive an answer within minutes.
  3. Polls – want to know how Marketing is doing with sales collateral?  Create a poll and invite employees to participate.  Publish the results via a status update.
  4. Collaboration via 140 characters – OK, most social platforms don’t impose Twitter-like character limits, but you get the idea: status updates are the new water cooler conversation.
  5. Mobile – access to social business is enabled on your smartphone, via apps provided by the social platforms.  How often did you access your intranet from mobile?

What This Means for Virtual Event Platforms

In my 2011 predictions for virtual events, I wrote about “Market Expansion”.  Guess what? Social business platforms do, in fact, look a lot like virtual event platforms.  Some striking similarities:

  1. A move from point features to a “platform”
  2. Presence
  3. Private and group chat
  4. Collaboration

Some social platforms provide capabilities not found in virtual event platforms today, such as wikis and real-time collaborative document editing.

Virtual event platforms will continue to have the upper hand in supporting live/scheduled (online) events, but will face expanded competition in the area of “virtual communities”.

Conclusion

(A tag cloud generated from the session descriptions at Enterprise 2.0 – using wordle.net)

It’s an interesting time.  2011 could be a year of battles, shifts and migrations.  With the move to social business, along with the larger shift to cloud computing, expect 2011 to be  The Year of the Shakeout.

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Improving The Virtual Event User Experience

January 20, 2010

Source: flickr (User: kamomebird)

The Airport Experience

To get to your flight, one embarks on a journey through the airport.  First, you park your car (or arrive via mass transportation).  Then you take an elevator, walkway or escalator and arrive at your terminal.  From there, you use a self service kiosk to check in to your flight and receive your boarding pass.  Perhaps you check in an item of luggage or two.  Then, you enter the security checkpoint line and have your carry-on items (and yourself) screened.

Once through, you walk towards your assigned gate, while stopping (if needed) to use the restroom, purchase a snack or pick up some reading material for the flight.  Once that’s all done, you may sit at the gate and relax for a bit before your flight takes off.  All in all, quite a complex journey – and, you’re no closer to your destination!  Believe it or not, however, the airport has provided subtle “tools” to make this journey a bit more efficient.

In the midst of one such journey (on a recent business trip), I drew comparisons between the airport experience and the virtual event experience.  Here are some tactics used at the airport that may improve the user experience for virtual events:

Navigation

Bookmarks for frequently visited locations in the virtual event – after I park my car in the airport parking garage, there are a stack of reminder cards by the elevator.  The cards list the garage that I’m in (e.g. Domestic Flights) and allow me to make a small tear mark (on the card itself) to indicate what floor and section I’ve parked in (e.g. 7th Floor, Section F).

Virtual event platforms should support a bookmarking capability to allow me to flag preferred areas of the event – and get me directly there.  Exhibitors could use this capability to find their way back to their booth in one click.  Attendees could leverage this to get them back to the Lounge or Auditorium – or whatever area of the event they frequent the most.

Source: flickr (User: trektheusa)

Auto-generated bookmarks for quicker navigation – at the airport, I use the “moving walkway”.  And I’m not one to stand there for the ride – I like to walk on the moving walkway to double my speed (like most people).  The basic idea is, “get me where I need to go – and fast”.  In a virtual event, the attendee wants to get where they need to go – and they don’t want to “figure it out”, nor are they interested in multiple clicks to get there.

Expanding upon the bookmarking concept, a virtual event platform could use data from the current session and past sessions (for that attendee), to auto-generate a set of recommended bookmarks.  If presented in an unobtrusive manner to the attendee (and, if the recommendations are on the mark), users would perform the one click and be taken directly where they want to go.  And, they’ll be much happier about their experience.

Notifications

When I pass through the security line at the airport, I usually view the monitors to confirm the Gate Number for my flight.  On my recent trip, I noticed prominently placed display monitors in the walk-way that had visual paging notifications (e.g. “John Doe, please meet your party at Gate 4”).  These notifications are typically communicated via audio announcements on the airport loud speakers – but for me, I’ve been trained to tune out those announcements.  The visual cue was much more effective.

At a virtual event, wouldn’t it be neat to have the show host leave notifications for attendees – and, for attendees to leave notifications to others.  If you’re expecting a colleague to attend the live event but don’t see her online, you can leave her a notification – then, when she logs in, she sees notification pop-ups from the show host – along with your’s.

Affinity Programs

Once through the security checkpoint, passengers are free to roam as they wish in the (secure) boarding area.  Passengers who belong to an airline affinity program, however, can show their credentials (e.g. frequent flyer membership card) to gain entrance into a Frequent Flyer Lounge.  I wrote about this previously – the notion of a virtual event affinity program to increase audience, engagement and “event loyalty”.

Source: flickr (User: tombihninc)

Convenience

The airport experience can introduce a lot of inconvenience, which means that any little thing (to create convenience for travelers) helps. Even though I had already packed properly, it was nice to see a pile of clear Ziploc bags available in the security check line – travelers who forgot to place their toiletries in a clear bag could grab one to become compliant.

In a virtual event, there are a number of system requirements (or plug-ins) that are needed for an optimal experience.  For convenience, perhaps the platform performs a check during the registration.  While the registration is being processed, the user is informed that a silent background check is being performed.  Then, upon successful completion of registration, the registration confirmation page provides the outcome of the system check, including links to install required software/plug-ins that were not found.  This way, the registrant has the opportunity to “get what she needs” prior to her arrival on the live event date.

Conclusion

With virtual events now beyond the “infancy” stage, I think a key for 2010 will be improving and enhancing the user experience.

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