We will have to unlearn what we have learned over the past 33 (!) years. The biggest disaster for Enterprise Social Collaboration happened 33 years ago: in August 1981 exactly. At that moment IBM launched the Personal Computer, aka PC. (Please pay special attention to the word ‘personal’ in PC.)
Personal, as in: “Don’t touch”
By introducing personal computers in the Enterprise management basically told employees: “Here is your personal little corner in the organization. Use it as you like.”. And look how well we did exactly that. We created our personal kingdom that became stronger and stronger over the years resulting in a fortified fortress that we are not willing to give up. After 33 years we are still holding on strongly to our personal computing power and, more importantly, our personal computer storage. Even with the implementation of networks and shared network drives (yes there was a time when PCs worked stand-alone, without being interconnected in any way), even with shared network drives, files were mostly copied to a central location, after being created locally on the PC, to allow others to use them too. Copied, not moved, meaning that the ‘original’ copy remains on the personal computer of the creator.
You’re always member of a Group
Why on earth have we ever given a personal computer to employees when every organization is all about ‘working together’.
Every document in an organization belongs to a group, not to the individual who happened to create it.(1) ‘Group’ as in ‘people working together in the context of’: a business process, a department, a project team, a working group, a committee, a community’. There are more examples of documents that have to be shared with others, than there are examples of documents that are really personal:
- A Request For Proposal (RFP) is part of the Procurement Process
- An Offer is part of the Sales Process
- A Sales Presentation is part of the Sales Process
- An Employee Evaluation Form is part of the Employee Satisfaction Process
- A Expense Note is part of the Expense Process
So here’s the challenge: how can I allow the user to continue his ‘reflex’ of creating a new document on his PC and saving to a folder on his PC, while at the same time obtaining the benefits of saving documents centrally where they can be shared with others?
Microsoft recently announced that the capacity of OneDrive for Business is extended to 1 TB! So here again, the message is: “Dear user, this is all yours, use it as you please.”
Of course people can share documents on their OneDrive with others. But what will be the first thing that these others will do: exactly, they will COPY the file to their own private space. Bye, Bye Sharing!
And so, once again, 33 years after date, Social Collaboration is left in the cold.(2)
(1) Yes of course, I don’t want to publish the draft version of my presentation or Word document before it is sufficiently finished, but that doesn’t mean that it is ok to store ALL files in personal spaces.
(2) Don’t get me wrong: I’m a big fan and intensive user of OneDrive for Business, but it is a killer for Enterprise Social Collaboration…
– firstname.lastname@example.org / @mceev11
(*) Not to be mixed up with one of the previous blog post ‘Social Communication without Social Collaboration’
Every employee in an organization is an individual who works in one or more teams or groups: project team(s), workgroup(s), committee(s) and/or business process(es). The common denominator of all these groups is that the members of the group have a collective objective to deliver something.
Part of the ‘working together’ in these groups is the sharing of information and working on that information together:
- Tasks / to do’s
- Other sources of information.
Not very long ago, this information was exchanged by mailing it around to the group members (note that the wording is different: ‘exchanging information’ in stead of ‘sharing information’). Nowadays the information is shared: this means that it is stored centrally in one location where all team members can find and update it. By doing so, everyone knows where to find the latest version of the information, and works on the same information That is certainly already true for documents, but not always the case for task lists, to do’s, calendars, etc. – there’s still some work to do on these.
The key words are: centralized and shared.
However, one piece of information that is missing from the list above is: internal communication. Team members still communicate with each other using e-mail. But e-mail is stored in local, personal mail folders. E-mails are still ‘exchanged’, not ‘shared’. This means e.g. that the communication about the project is invisible for team members that might join the group later on, and that the communication is lost when people leave the group (or when the group is ended, as is the case for project teams). So although communication very often contains useful information, it is not part of the shared information pool of the group.
This is where Social Communication steps in. Social Communication is ‘Facebook-like’ communication where a conversation is initiated by one person in a central location, and other people react and respond to it publicly . All people ‘following’ or ‘be-friending’ the person who initiated the conversation can participate in the communication. In other words: those conversations are centralized and shared!
Many people will argue that Facebook conversations are meaningless and futile, but that doesn’t mean that the mechanism isn’t very powerful. First of all: imagine that you cannot only follow people, but also ‘’groups” (like in ‘Project Team’). Imagine that you can subscribe to the conversations of the project(s) your are working on, the workgroup(s) you are participating in, etc. This would mean that you can follow the conversations that are held in these groups, and participate in them, openly. All the communication in a group can now be centralized and shared, and become part of the collective memory of the group.
But there are more advantages: by openly communicating in a group, answers to questions are often received more quickly, have a higher quality, and/or are more innovative. The whole team would benefit from this.
Another ‘reactive’ reason to start working with Social Communication is the fact that a new generation of knowledge workers is entering the job market for which this type of communication is the only natural way to communicate in a network.
REMARK: once you get the hang of it, you will learn that all this is not only true for ‘internal communication , but that you can also invite customers, suppliers or other external parties to these conversations (as long as they subscribe to the collective objectives of the group).
The tooling is there: SharePoint and Yammer
|How can you achieve this? Probably the best tools to use are Yammer (www.yammer.com) for the conversations, and SharePoint for all the other group content. The trick is to create a team site in SharePoint for each project team, work group, etc. to store the shared documents, shared tasks, calendars, and to create a corresponding group in Yammer to hold the social conversations. Then you embed the Yammer conversation on the home page of your team site, and voilà, you have a shared and centralized environment that comprises documents and conversations.|
Comments? Questions? Reactions?
 This is different from communities, which don’t have an objective to produce something collectively other than ‘helping each other’
How important is mobile computing for your organization? Why should you care? The question may not seem relevant to you unless you consider this from the perspective of your organization’s objectives. In generic terms every organization has the following challenges:
So the real question you have to ask yourself is:
How can mobile computing help me to achieve the objectives of my organization?
We’ll come back on that question in the last chapter. But let’s first define the 5 shades of Mobile Computing.
Shade 1: Mobile e-mail and contacts
|In level 1 of the mobile adoption scale you have opened up your mail server to allow your employees to consult their e-mail and contact data on mobile devices (both Smartphones and Tablets). Almost every organization currently is in this level, at least for a selected group of employees.|
Many organizations running their mail server on-premise hesitate to do this because of the security implications it has. Security will be a main concern in every shade of Mobile Computing. How you can deal with that is indicated in the last chapter. The fact remains that your work force is increasingly expecting to have access to their professional mailbox and contacts from their own mobile device (meaning that in the objective of having satisfied, motivated employees, this shade of grey scores quite high).
Shade 2: Mobile access to files and documents
|In the next level of mobility you allow users to access documents, pictures, etc. from their own mobile devices. Achieving this level might be a bit more challenging depending on where these files and documents are stored when you start.|
If the documents are stored on file shares on the company’s network, you will need a VPN (Virtual Private Network) or VPN-like connection to access the files from outside the company walls.
In a similar case your files may be stored in an on-premise SharePoint. In this case you would also first have to install a mechanism to access your SharePoint from the outside.
In both cases you have to solve the scary problem of opening up your network in a secure way. There are various solutions. The last chapter will tell you more about this.
One of the possibilities is to make sure first that your files are stored on file servers in the cloud. There is a fair chance that if your organization fails to organize mobile access to files and documents, your users will do it themselves by setting up a personal Dropbox, iCloud or OneDrive account. Is that what you want?
Shade 3: Mobile virtual desktop
.It is clear that the user experience may not be the same on the various mobile devices that you have, but at least you can be sure to have access any time, any place with any device and still find the familiar experience you have at your desk.
Shade 4: Mobile generic apps
These new ways are available because the mobile devices have capabilities that your standard laptop or desktop PC doesn’t have: taking photos, knowing the geo-location, handwriting on a touch screen, etc. (see blog post “Business Processes on the Road: Why you need Mobile Apps”).
So Shade 4 is about mobile apps that were designed specifically for the mobile users. The easiest and fastest way to getting started with mobile apps is by using Generic Apps. Generic Apps are generally available on the market to fill in a specific (generic) business functions. Examples are: Track My Mileage (to keep track of your mileage expenses), BulldozAIR (for field reporting in Construction Projects), Timesheet .Net (to fill out time sheets on mobile devices) etc.
They are great because you can start using them almost immediately. However, their biggest disadvantage is that they are not integrated into your existing enterprise applications: e.g. the Timesheet app mentioned above cannot use the existing cost codes of your project management system.
Shade 5: Mobile enterprise apps
|This is the level you really want to achieve. The main difference between Enterprise apps and Generic apps is that the former bring your existing enterprise data straight to your mobile employees and customers.|
This type of apps is the darkest shade of mobile because by opening up your back-end data to front-end apps you create the highest possible business value.
|Enterprise apps change the way you do business, because they give you possibilities you never had before.||Imagine that your customers can place orders directly into your order system by using a mobile app that you make available to them. This App is branded with your organisation’s logo and colours and uses up-to-date information about your products (availability, price, actions, etc.)|
Or imagine an App with which your Field Engineers can do a job at the customer’s site, fill out the job report on his tablet, and have the customer sign it on that tablet whereby this information is fed directly into your ERP-system. No paper involved, no writing and copying, no errors.
By looking a bit closer at the possibilities of this type of Mobile Apps you will discover a world of opportunities to really make the difference for your customers and employees. This type of app allows you to consider the specific context different steps in your business processes, and decide in which processes a mobile app can bring the highest value.
It is clear that from a business perspective not all shades of mobile apps contribute in the same way to your business objectives. Here is an interesting exercise that every decision taker should make: rate the different shades of Mobile Apps for their contribution to the organization’s objectives. Such an assessment may result in a table that look like this one:
This is a good basis to choose your first mobile candidates.
It may seem like a big and risky leap to introduce mobile applications in your existing IT environment. However Microsoft has a comprehensive set of tools and platforms to help you achieve this in a controlled way, and Spikes has the people and skills to help you implement all that: check EMS or Enterprise Mobility Suite. Based on the Windows 8.1 platform and using its cloud infrastructure, Microsoft offers a product for every part of solution that you want to implement:
- Cloud infrastructure so that you don’t have to invest in new servers and other hardware
- Cloud solutions to run your e-mail, contacts, files, etc. from the cloud
- Identity management to make sure only authorized users get access
- Encryption mechanisms to make sure that data remains confidential all the time
- Communication mechanisms with which users can connect to the office from any place and on any device
- Monitoring and Management Tools to control and manage the whole environment, even in a hybrid cloud-and-on-premise architecture
- And many more
In other words:
Microsoft has the technology to let you run every shade of mobile grey.
Footnote : OneDrive is the new name for the Microsoft service that was previously called Skydrive. OneDrive is a consumer tool to store files in the cloud. OneDrive for Business is the business equivalent of OneDrive. OneDrive for Business is part of SharePoint Online which itself is part of Office 365
Footnote : Read more about Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) on http://www.spikes.be/oplossingen/EMS-microsoft-BYOD-beleid (in Dutch).
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