December 2007


Like Dennis, I wish that we weren’t stuck with the 2.0 suffix, but at least that did remind me to head over and re-read Andrew McAfee’s blog,  He recently spent some time talking with HR Executives about Enterprise 2.0. 

HR executives see all the bad things people can do, so I was expecting them to have a similarly cautious reaction to E2.0 (which is a concept at the intersection of people and computers). Instead, I found the group to be truly excited about the possibilities offered by emergent social software platforms. I got the strong impression that for these people phrases like ‘engaging the workforce’ and ‘our people are our most valuable asset’ are not corporate boilerplate; they are instead words that guide the work of HR leaders.

Indeed, Andrew, you are right. He also picks up on another important phenomenon, which he labelled lateralization. (I wonder if Andrew is suffering from a mild form of the German grammatical disease of nominalisation.)

Lateralization here means letting parties interact, communicate, and share information directly with each other without a lot of built-in filtering or moderation.

When I studied organisational design at university, A lot of it was top-down theory.

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I left university with the image that the board members and the HR “gurus” would shape the organisation and its culture from above. It turned out in most organizations the HR folks just get to hold the poles, but anyway…

The informal networks that are the real life blood of the organisation have basically laid hidden, until now.

Nick Carr explored this relatively recently.

If you scratch the surface of any business, you’ll find two very different organizations. There’s the formal organization – the one that can be represented by the boxes of an org chart. And then there’s the informal organization, the one shaped by the day-to-day interactions of employees – conversations in hallways or in airport lounges, exchanges of messages through email and voicemail, glances and whispers in meetings.

This is exactly why HR should be very interested in social networking, both in the workplace and beyond.

Nick goes on.

Because they seem so natural to use, the social networks end up being incredibly sensitive mechanisms for recording the real life of a human organization. They serve not only as a flexible communications medium but as a means for identifying, refining, and recording valuable information. They do what corporate systems so often fail to do: they make the codification and sharing of valuable information easy.

He must have been in a really good mood when he wrote that, it has a breathless, almost teenage excitement missing from his normal rather acerbic style, but he is spot on.

Much as Facebook’s lofty valuation is based on their assumed ability to provide remarkably targeted advertising, HR departments that are able to effectively mine the corporate social graph will be tremendously valuable. Yes, there are challenges with privacy, adoption, and so on, but a strong online social network analytics within a corporation would enable HR to do some seriously deep study of the organisation’s strengths and weaknesses.

I had a chat the other day with Charles Armstrong of trampoline systems, and despite a few Vista challenges, I got a glimpse into a toolset that would enable HR folks to really grasp the information flows within the organisation. If you could start to mash this stuff up with some formal organisation modeling tools…gosh.

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 I wrote a bit about Trampoline and organisational network analysis  last year

The mind boggles. It may be time to dust off the sociology and  statisticsOrganisational Network Analysis may just be the next big thing. (well, okay it started in 1934).

If we assume a workplace with more intense levels of informal collaboration and then some lateralization is inevitable. The HR professional that is able to actually analyse this, and the impacts on the business will be key.

The sad reality though, is that too few HR organisations have a good grasp on the relatively simple challenge of the formal organisation structure. Formal organisation structures have largely spun out of control, job titles in many organisations today have become almost meaningless.

It seems that HR today needs to do two things here.

1. Get better discipline and control of the formal organisation structures. There are some great new tools to help visualise this. Check out these.

2. Start to focus on the informal, tacit flows. Lateralization is coming, faster than we think.

A very dear friend of mine, a Designer here at SAP, kindly gave my kids Christmas presents. All the presents were very thoughtful, perfect for each child’s personality, but the present that his family gave my boy is simply gorgeous.  Automoblox.  This stuff should be on metacool. 

The design of the toy car makes me want to enlarge it and drive it very fast around a track.

They are easy to dismantle, and then reassemble into a truck, van, or a saloon car. A profoundly beautiful combination of classic materials, simplicity, aesthetic, design and purpose. I will let you know what my boy thinks of them once I stop playing with them myself.

 

The automoblix website is well worth a visit, the picture gallery is super.

I could make all sorts of metaphors here with SOA or the enterprise isn’t sexy debate, but that wouldn’t be in the yule spirit. But next time, when someone says that design doesn’t matter, I’ll show them these. Congratulations to Calellodesign.

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photo from ThijsFr’s brilliant flickrstream

At the end of January,  I’ll be leaving SAP.

It hasn’t been an easy decision, but I’ve been offered an opportunity that I simply can’t ignore.

I’m grateful to SAP for the opportunities it has provided for me for more than a decade. I’ve made many friends, and working at SAP has shaped much of my working experience. Through SAP I’ve met and worked with some of the leading companies in the world. I’ve had the pleasure of getting smarter through the osmosis effect of hanging out with clever and open people. Without SAP, we would have not learnt German, nor felt as at home in this formerly strange land as we now do.   It has been far more than just an employer to me and my family.

My valedictory sentiments echo Jeff Nolan’s, especially with regards to blogging.  I could write of many incidents and memories, some happy, some sad, but that would fill a book, not just a blog post. I’ve much to thank SAP for.

Stepping through the door.

I’m joining Gartner, where I’ll be researching and covering the HCM-HR space.  I’ll be working closely with Jim Holincheck.  There is a world of innovation beyond SAP, and I’m determined to learn more about it.  Feel it is time for me  to view the software world through a different lens.  Gartner will be ideal  for me to do just that. During the epic interview process I’ve met many of my new colleagues, and it is a place where curiosity thrives.  Curiosity is my oxygen.

This blog, the conversations I’ve had in the blogosphere, and enterprise irregulars board made me realise that I enjoy writing and thinking about the industry a lot.   When Gartner called, it just seemed to be a great fit.  In making the decision to leave SAP and join Gartner,  I’ve relied on the advice of several friends, some of whom I met via the blog.  My wife  has been a rock of rationality.

We plan to stay in Germany, and I’ll have a broad European and global focus. There is a lot of innovative HR technology in Europe and beyond that I’d like to pick up on, and enterprise 2.0 / social media hold huge potential to impact HR.  I should also be able to expand my PhD work in compliance / CSR  and data protection law.

I’m excited about the change, I’m nervous but somehow confident.  I’m bringing experience and an open mind. It will be a blast.

Robert Frost said it best.`

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that, the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I marked the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 

From  photobunny.

 

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This is especially for those of you in marketing that want to control and command your brands and messaging.  You don’t want any corporate stuff on YouTube because you are afraid of the loss of control that this creates for your precious brands and campaigns. You want the material on your own website so that you can track who is watching.   You believe that YouTube is a wild and dangerous place. It would sully the brand to seen there.

Perhaps you should heed the words of this person in the pink dress and white gloves.

(from lizsmith)

Dear command and control marketing person,

As protector of the realm, defender of the faith,Head of the Commonwealth, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Duke of Normandy, Lord of Mann, and Paramount Chief of Fiji,  We thought it appropriate to inform that youtube is an entirely advisable way to communicate and converse with one’s subjects. 

If one choses to bury one’s content in the depths of one’s website, and use proprietary video formats, then one has only oneself to blame when one’s message isn’t heard. Get with the programme, as our American friends would be wont say.  

We are amused by this medium.

Regards

Elizabeth II

 

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So head over to the Royal Channel and see what the Queen and the gang are up to.  She did her first TV message in 1957. According to the Register,

The Queen made her Christmas Day broadcasting debut 50 years ago in which she hyped the possibilities of television.

Back then she said: “I very much hope that this new medium will make my Christmas message more personal and direct.

“That it is possible for you to see me today is just another example of the speed at which things are changing all around us.”

More here.

Seriously, the next time some marketing person says we need to keep our stuff on the corporate website so that we have control, I’m going to suggest they contact the Queen.

The Queen is a social object. 

And Oliver, Geek and Poke cartoonist, has this to say.

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There is a fresh zephyr of openness wafting through the corridors here in Starship Enterprisey.

Two years ago, if you had said to me that an SAP solution manager would go on video to talk about a product that is not yet in general release, and that this video would be just stuck out on the Internet for anyone to watch, I would have called for the people in white coats and a jacket with straps on the outside, pronto.

In this video, Jeremiah Stone discusses the solution manager role in the Business ByDesign team. He also explains how SAP is working with ADP to build out the HCM and Payroll offering. He provides insight into the SAP-ADP relationship, the design process, and the challenges involved in getting all the bits working together. He has glugged the customer centric cool-aid, and he gets the HR space.

ADP isn’t a big noise marketing company, they just get on with it. You could say they have been doing software as a service since 1949, depending how you define SaaS.

SAP and ADP have been partnering in the large global account space for several of years now.The GlobalView offering is going really well, with huge growth in Europe and China. The partnership recently won a significant BPO award.

The joint offering for Business ByDesign takes this a step further, working very closely on the solution from its fundamental design upwards, as well as the service offering and the go to market. SAP-ADP relationship is strong at the executive level, but it is with Jeremiah and his colleagues where vision becomes a viable solution. These guys and gals are living the Rumplestilkin 2.0 test. Piece of mind as a development goal. Sweet.

Thanks to the KPS team for putting this video together. They are doing some cool stuff here at SAP with podcasting, pushing the boundaries of traditional learning. Goodness.

There are many niche HCM-HR consulting companies with between 20-200 employees out there, but there is one that I’ve come across recently that is punching way above its weight, and that is Knowledge Infusion.  Yes, they have a smart management team, but that isn’t the magic juice that keeps them in the front of my mind when I think about HCM strategy.

I’ve only met Jason Corsello twice, but I’d have no hesitation in recommending US based customers who are trying to figure out a talent management strategy to call him up. No amount of glossy brochures or invites to partner days  would have induced me to do that.  The two Jasons  (and the rest of the team) have built up a recognisable and powerful brand, at least for me, through a combination of solid research and very readable blogging and a growing  community. Once or twice a week they pop up in my feedreader, with something interesting, topical and insightful. 

Take a look at this recent post. from Jason Averbook, the CEO.(apologies for the cut and paste)

Knowledge Infusion during 2007 has worked with over 100 organizations helping them set their overall HR and HR technology strategy. During this period, it has become more apparent then ever that the role of HR has changed and will continue to change into the future. What are the changes?

  1. HR is being looked to more than ever from the business to understand the impact that people have on business results. Most HR organizations are not equipped at all to provide this information and in 2007, began to realize that the manual, data heroics probably won’t work going forward.
  2. HR leaders today are split into two camps; those that have been in HR forever and new entrants into HR. Lets call them HR Natives vs. HR Immigrants. The HR Natives are struggling to get out of old school, transactional HR while the HR Immigrants don’t want anything to do with that. This caused quite a chasm in HR organizations in 2007 and we expect this to continue in 2008.
  3. Continued entrance of “The Quants”. HR leaders are either equipped or hiring individuals with quantitative backgrounds to focus on measurement. This is changing the demands on the rest of HR as far as the type and style of information that they need to have at their fingertips.
  4. HR is focusing on marketing internally more than ever. Creation of employment brand is important, but more HR organizations are marketing themselves to the press to prove they are creating value in their workplace. The Knowledge Infusion Deployment Excellence practice actually does this for clients and in 2007, the demand was greater then ever.
  5. HR is no longer an administrative, back office function. HR is at the executive table in most organizations today – a big change from 5 years ago – and now the question they are asking is “How can we prove value?”. This is a ticking time bomb because if they can’t prove value, they will be replaced with someone that has more of a view into the business.
  6. Alignment between HR and the business is at an alltime high. HR leaders are getting more than ever that they need to be the business, not support the business. Another big change from five years ago and will continue to be a major factor for HR going forward.
  7. HR leadership should be considered the most exciting job in an organization. They have their finger not only on the largest expense bucket, the people; but they have the opportunity to have the biggest business impact by driving workforce results from those people. HR HAS to look at it this way, or once again, look for a replacement for your role.
  8. HR will continue in 2008 to feel the pinch of the talent crunch. This MUST be a major focus of HR and not handled in silos such as Recruiting, Performance Management and Compensation, but a holistic strategy with a single leader as to how the organization will attract and retain talent now and into the future.
  9. HR has continued to learn from supply chain theory and will be forced into this even more as the economy changes. The right people in the right place at the right time will continue to be a major theme as it was in 2007. What does this require: KNOWING WHAT YOU HAVE – i.e… Talent Management.
  10. HR has stopped thinking of itself as a department and is thinking of itself as an extension of business. This has occurred extensively in 2007 and will continue to grow in popularity in 2008. If HR is not directly part of the business, YOU MUST do this first in 2008. This will change the role of HR forever in your organization and make it much easier to drive value.

This is good solid stuff, it helps start a conversation. It shows a great grasp of the industry and the issues, and it makes me want to know more. I used number 2 the other day in a meeting with a customer, with the proper attribution, of course.

If you are trying to build a brand in the HCM space, and you want to reach folks like me, then really you ought to have a blog, or at least content that I’ll actually want to read via an RSS feed. I won’t read a brochure or remember much about a static website with pretty fonts, but if you are consistently posting good stuff on HCM technology it is quite likely that one of the HCM long tail will notice and before long you’ll slip past the marketing din and into my regular reads.  Donald in the UK knows his mustard on Competencies, but would I have known this without his blog? No way.

It takes me a second or two to forward an interesting post to a colleague or customer, and I can come back six months later and find the post again if I need it. The shotgun splatter of the newsletter is feeble from the range that most firms fire it from. I want to read your stuff when I feel like it, not when you decide to send it.

To the SAP partners out there, take a leaf out of Knowledge Infusion’s book and get your voice heard. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Give away a bit, and you get a whole lot back.

Metacool (who shares my view on the best book of the year) spoke recently at a Harvard Conference on Innovation. Wish I’d attended.

A prof involved the event posted this description.

One highly successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur will ask whether management is a net positive or negative in fostering creativity and invention. He will cite a growing body of evidence that suggests that bottom-up “discovery” has a superior record in comparison with “top down ‘deliberate’ strategies from headquarters.” He asks whether companies should call a halt to managing the innovation process, “intentionally abandoning control of their scarcest resources.”

He goes on….

All ask whether management, as it is currently practiced, has much to contribute to innovation and creativity. If the answer is little, one might ask what kinds of changes will be necessary to allow managers, particularly in larger organizations, to add value to the creative process? Or is it more productive to explore ways of providing incentives to the innovators of the world, largely outside large organizations, possibly by facilitating the market that mediates resources between investors and innovators? What do you think?

Figuring out innovation isn’t easy. I also wish it had been a bigger part of my business school studies in the the early 1990’s, but it wasn’t big in the curriculum back then.

Thanks to the innovationzen blog, I’ve just come across Utterback and Abernathy’s paper, A Dynamic Model of Product and Process innovation, published in 1975. (Better late than never)

I like how they see innovation as a  dynamic cycle, and expose different innovation forms.  It could have been written yesterday. Today, academic investigation into innovation is on the rise. I’ve blogged before on the ur-innovation guy, Schumpeter,  and  Von Hippel’s democratizing innovation stuff,  but there is lots more to dig into. 

Innovation is being taught and researched today more than ever before. This is goodness. Readers of this blog will know that I believe that some elements of innovation can be taught. Design led thinking,for instance, can help build an environment that allows innovative thinking to flourish. Indeed, I reckon integrating design school with business education is the best business school innovation in years.

James Governor is on top form at the moment. His  random acts of traction post  is strong on the power of serendipity, but I sense there is a lot more Gary Player in successful innovation than we realise.  The more I practice, the luckier I get, he once said when asked how he managed to hole out from bunkers so often.

(Photo- thanks Flickrstream gomattolson from the 2006 masters, sweet).

In the same vein, we shouldn’t forget  Edison’s homage to  sweaty stuff .  Fleming was lucky with the mold in the lab, but it was only because of his brilliant brain and experience that he was able to grasp the enormity of what he’d stumbled upon.

Archimedes thought long and hard, and tried many options before he had his bath moment. Without that, it would be been just an overly deep bath. After all, lots of people had bathed before him, and not figured density out.

(From Diva Bex)

There are several different forms of invention and innovation, blindly lumping them all together is not very useful. Actually, it is dumb. It is a bit like the weather forecaster saying  “there is weather all over the country”

From the awesome stream of azrainman.

Managing and encouraging, invention, co-innovation, disruptive innovation, product innovation, service innovation (Tip James and Vinnie), process innovation, continuous innovation and so on, require different approaches.

The term innovation has become so subjective that is it is beginning to loose meaning. Some innovation forms require careful management, others wilt if managed. It is all well and good us bloggers passing judgement on what is innovative in business and what is not – it makes great reading;  but the ultimate arbiter of innovation in business isn’t opinion or even Businessweek. It is the market.

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