Survival of the Social Webinar Q&A

Recently, Daniel Kraft, NewsGator CEO, gave a webinar on how businesses must adapt to a new way of working if they want to survive. They must be able to embrace the value of social and use it to their best advantage to surpass their competitors, achieve sustainable growth, and reap the rewards that go with it. Following are some questions that came up in the webinar that we hope will help you on your path to creating a successful social workplace.

Q:Daniel - where do you think we are overall in the lifecycle of internal social? What % of companies truly get it vs. those that still have a long way to go? Does this tend to vary by industry?

A: We are still early. We are in the stage where it is accepted that we need to do something and everybody has started to experiment with that. We are not in the early adopter phase. We’re going into this early majority phase. Everyone is trying to find a personal way of gaining from social. There are still a few years before we have full integration into our day-to-day operations. The decision that has to be made by you right now is: do you want to start easy and gain some quick wins or do you really want to investigate and go deep? All strategies are fine. Learn more about how we define enterprise social maturity.

Are there different spaces depending on the vertical market? Absolutely. If your workforce is the only thing you have, like in professional services, they’re usually a bit faster because their investment cycles are shorter and the people demand it more aggressively. If you work in a more conservative environment, then you have a wide range of employees. It could be that you have people who want to move really fast and those who want to keep it slow. It’s not just the industry; it’s the leadership. We should not mistake conservatism with age. It stretches across all age groups and demographics.

Q: These statistics in your webinar are compelling - are there details on how they were derived?

A: Most of the statistics that I use in this webinar are quoted or derived from McKinsey & Company’s report, The Social Economy: Unlocking Value and Productivity through Social Technologies. It’s a great report and I highly recommend that you take a look at it. But make sure you really read more than the executive summary; those folks have done a great job digging deep.

Q: SharePoint 2013 makes a big deal about social - what are the differentiators between NewsGator and SP 2013?

A: SharePoint is a great foundation to unify your content and people information. As you know, we love SharePoint for that. Given that we do 100% social, we take this great foundation and build a truly social workplace. Think of it like a car; every Volkswagen gets you from A to B, but you make a statement to drive a performance car like a BMW or Mercedes. We are the premium standard when it comes to social business in the Microsoft ecosystem — not for everybody but for those that think beyond the basics.

Q: I work with 1500 engineers (average age is over 40) spread across the globe. They are not all social creatures. How can we get them going in social? Is an incentive system needed? Have you seen incentive systems work?

A: What we see on the consumer market with adoption is that it started with the younger population and then over time everyone got excited about it. Today, the fastest growing groups are middle age and older who now see this as a real value. I would absolutely encourage you to put aside age. The knowledge is sitting with someone with experience, so you don’t want to focus just on age; you want to focus on the groups. If you have an organization that is fairly conservative, boil it down to business value, pick one use case at a time, and start from the top. You would be very surprised to see if the CEO is building it, what the rest of the organization will do. The moment the leadership does it, everybody follows. Engineers are open to logic and to good value being returned. If you can build a use case that adds value to their lives, they will not hesitate.

Q: Social is a very rapidly evolving approach and set of tools – and there is a lot of learning that is taking place. What are the most important things that you have learned in the last 6-12-18 months? What do you know today and what do you differently today that you did not know 6-12-18 months ago? What are the biggest surprises that you have encountered?

A: The two things that I learned and that were surprises in a very positive way are:

1. The whole conversation about social moved away from Facebook ideas towards collaborative, interactive ideas. In most conversations I’ve had with executives, (I’ve had ~40 conversations just in the last 9 months with leaders on a world tour to our customers) what surprised me is how willing and open the leaders are to listen and to adopt social as a way of thinking. We need to have this conversation continue and it needs to trickle down into the organization.

2. The second part that was interesting for me is how quickly the market is moving from, “I want social for the sake of social because I was told I should have this.” to tying it to business results. You would be surprised about how many conversations we have about tying social into the processes of the organization that are either loosely defined or sitting in SAP or Oracle. Almost every second conversation is about how we can integrate social into the processes of this organization. In this process world, we have documented how we operate. We know merging processes and the chaotic world of social into one consistent value-adding environment is necessary. I was not surprised that it’s happening because I really believe in that, but I was surprised at how quickly leaders picked this up.

Q: Can you speak to NewsGator and SharePoint 2013 and how they interact/intersect? Do you see social as an adjunct to collaboration, or as the center/focus of collaboration?

A: Social is people interacting. When you’re looking at collaboration, collaboration is working together, which could be working together in a room, working together on a project, working together on a document. Social is putting this really high-end people part to it. I see social to be the top of the pyramid when it comes to collaboration. Collaboration, if it happens between people, by definition is a social thing, but if you’re looking at the document part of it or you’re working on a construction site or a contract…that part of collaboration can also be asynchronous.

That helps with understanding my view on SharePoint. I think it’s a wonderful environment and that’s why we choose to integrate with it so tightly. For us, SharePoint 2013 has wonderful improvements from the version before because it improves the collaboration aspect and it gives you some core social capabilities. This is what we love because we can build on top of that. It’s exciting to see how it is adopted. It’s exciting to see the direction Microsoft is taking by really embracing social. It makes our lives easier because they are opening the market so that we can continue to have wonderful conversations. (We did some thinking on this and maybe this analysis gives you a better understanding.) As you all know, we are the number one social provider on Microsoft. Therefore, we love everything that is trending towards the social economy and social enterprises. It’s not something that we just believe in; it’s something that’s really going to happen.

Q: Do you have any specific examples of how social increases productivity or profit?

A: What might be interesting is to share that, for example, we had a lot of our customers coming to the Collective. We had State Street, Kellogg, Turkcell, JPMorgan, and Unisys. We had conversations around, “Is this making us a better company? Where does it help?” The feedback we got is: right now, most of the companies gaining the most productivity from collaboration were people getting to work together better. The barriers of friction are lower. There are no barriers anymore. The second part is the awareness; people are having an almost in-the-room experience. We have people (like 2000 loan officers) virtually in the same room...working together, sharing information, and getting a job done better. The number one case where the most gain is right now is horizontal social; everybody is much closer. We see signs that innovation is picking up, especially in markets where innovation is crucial like finance and manufacturing. We also see that communication is happening much faster, especially if you want your vision and your mission to be distributed into your organization and be talked about. ING Direct in Canada is a very public example where the CEO is actively pushing the information that he gains every day from customers into the organization and says, “Hey! Give me feedback. I don’t care if I made a mistake. I want to be better.” He calls the community “The Right to Bitch.

Q: What are things you have seen that seemed like good ideas for using social, but turned out not to work as well as expected? What are common misconceptions that smart people have about social? What wrong turns have you seen organizations make – and what are good ways to avoid those wrong turns?

A: This comes back to people thinking social is one tool or one site. It’s not. There are a lot of smart people out there who are simply afraid. They see their kids using Facebook and Twitter and they think enterprise social is the same thing. They’re worried that their employees will just be chatting all day long. I’ve seen companies pin all their hopes on social without having a specific end goal. But if you don’t have an end goal, what are you looking to accomplish? How can you declare success if you don’t know what you’re measuring? Companies need to look at how their businesses are really operating and how they want them to operate. What improvements do they want to make? It’s not to say that mistakes won’t be made, but you need to start with a goal and then work to get there.

Q: Provide your vision for what global enterprise social looks like in 3-5 years? How does it evolve from what we view it as today?

A: I see a couple of major trends that will impact the way we work in the future. The blurring lines between work and life will continue. (Take a look at my TEDx talk on the Evolution of Work.) We will take work home, but we will also have life happening during the day. We will continue to see mobile be a major part of that. When you’re looking at our own investment strategy, mobile is a cornerstone of that. Everything going forward needs to be mobile. Social will be integrated everywhere – your applications, your email environment, your phones. Everywhere you will have the ability to interact socially. It won’t depend on a certain app. Right now, a small group of people drive social, but this will become the standard way of working. Social is not a technology; it is a state of mind. When we look back in 10 years, we will have a similar view on the social revolution as we have today on the digital revolution and the industrial revolution. We will say, “Of course, that’s the way it works.” The pessimists, the people who don’t like this, will diminish and those who don’t participate might not be there anymore. That’s a good thing because innovation is breaking into markets. It turns them upside down.

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