This Digital Transformation is Not the One You’re Looking For

I was sorting through some browser tabs that had been open for a couple of weeks on my laptop and rediscovered a press release that had caught my attention earlier. After rereading it, I realized that I had left the release up in my browser because it could be the poster child for the inane manner in which technology vendors and IT consulting firms are talking about and selling what they very much want to be the next big thing – Digital Transformation.
CA Technologies’ press release was a horrific example right from the start. It’s title, “CA Technologies Study Reveals Widespread Adoption of Digital Transformation”, nearly made me spit coffee all over my laptop. Really? Is Digital Transformation (DT) something that can be adopted? Hardly. After all, DT is not a discrete technology. Rather, it’s a never-ending journey that organizations undertake to better the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations.
DT involves making changes to business objectives, strategies, models, cultures, processes and so many other elements. Many of those changes can be supported by the deployment and adoption of enabling technologies, but DT isn’t about the technology itself. It’s a mindset, a way of thinking and acting as an organization that spans across all of its planning and execution.
In that regard, DT is very much like the discipline known as Knowledge Management (KM) that was similarly a darling of technology vendors and their consulting partners nearly 20 years ago. Most large enterprises at least considered implementing KM practices and technologies. In fact, many did, although the majority of those ‘efforts’ failed to survive an initial pilot program. In the end, only a few big companies, the ones that treated KM as something more than a technology set to be adopted, whole-heartedly embraced the discipline and successfully wove it into nearly every aspect of their businesses.
We’ve seen the same phenomenon play out with Social Business. McKinsey & Company has been tracking the deployment and impact of social constructs, behaviors and tools in a cohort of roughly 1,500 enterprises for nearly 10 years now. Earlier this month, in a teaser to its complete report of annual survey results, McKinsey published these related and telling findings:

“…35 percent of the companies had adopted social technologies in response to their adoption by competitors. Copycat behavior was also responsible for their diffusion within organizations, though at a slightly lower rate: 25 percent of all employee usage. Roughly a fifth of the companies we studied will account for an estimated 50 percent of all social-technology usage in 2015.”

Most organizations and individuals tried to ‘adopt’ social technologies because they felt competitive pressure to do so (thanks, in part, to vendors and consultants), not because they had investigated and understood how ‘being social’ at work could change how well their organization actually performed relative to both its current state and its competitors. On the other hand, a minority of organizations (20% in McKinsey’s survey) have made the dedicated, all-in commitment needed to succeed with Social Business.
Today, we are beginning this cycle all over again, this time under the moniker of Digital Transformation. Consider these findings from CA’s study:

“Digital Transformation is being driven as a coordinated strategy across a majority of organizations (55 percent)…  As a result, 45 percent of respondents have already seen measurable increases in customer retention and acquisition from their digital transformation initiatives and 44 percent have seen an overall increase in revenue.”

In other words, if you aren’t “adopting” DT already, you’re toast. At least that’s what CA and other technology vendors and consultants want you to believe in a fresh state of panic. Hence these findings from CA’s study:

Digital Disrupters have two times higher revenue growth than mainstream organizations. They report two and a half times higher profit growth than the mainstream organizations.”

That may be accurate, but surely those “Digital Disrupters” did not achieve the reported results merely by adopting technology, whether it be from CA or another vendor. They’re the ones who have taken a comprehensive view of DT and, as CA itself puts it, have “…many projects underway in multiple areas of the company, including customer services, sales and marketing, and product/service development.” It’s not a coincidence that CA was only able to include 14% of the organizations surveyed in the group it labeled “Digital Disrupters”. That matches up pretty well with McKinsey’s finding of just 20% of organizations surveyed making more than a token effort at becoming a social business.
All of this is to say beware of vendors and consultants selling technology as the cornerstone of DT initiatives. Yes, technology is an invaluable piece of the puzzle, but it’s not the only or most important one. DT can’t simply be adopted; every aspect of it must be considered and actively embraced by the entire organization.

The State of Salesforce Community Cloud

It’s the eve of’s annual Dreamforce event, and I have the company and its customers on my mind. I’ll be attending Dreamforce again (Disclaimer: Salesforce is covering my registration, travel and hotel expenses). As always, I’ll be taking in all the announcements at Dreamforce, but paying the most attention to the Community Cloud, individual applications and platform components that make up the Salesforce collaboration and content management ecosystem.
Before Dreamforce begins, it’s useful to think about the actual state of collaboration amongst Salesforce’s customer base. There will be marquee customers on stage this week talking enthusiastically about their cutting-edge use of Salesforce’s latest offering versions, including those that are not yet generally available. But what about the mainstream Salesforce customer and how they’re using the company’s products to collaborate?
To get a sense of that, I digested The State of Salesforce survey report that was recently published by Bluewolf, a global consultancy that designs customer-facing, digital experiences using third-party, cloud-based software. This year’s report is the 4th annual edition published by Bluewolf, who surveyed more that 1,500 Salesforce customer organizations, of varied organizational size and located around the world.
Bluewolf’s report does not investigate every bit of Salesforce’s collaboration and content management functionality in detail. Instead, it focuses on the assembled collection of those that is the Community Cloud. In two pages of The State of Salesforce, Bluewolf reports on Salesforce customers’ adoption of Community Cloud, its most common use cases and the high-level business benefits that customers attribute to its use.

Community Cloud Adoption

Of the Salesforce customer companies that have purchased Service Cloud, Sales Cloud, and Marketing Cloud, 36% have also purchased Community Cloud. That represents decent adoption by Salesforce’s best customers, especially for an offering that has only been in-market for a year. Even better, 21% of respondents that already license those other Salesforce clouds said that they plan on purchasing Community Cloud in the coming year. If that pans out, then over half of Salesforce’s most dedicated customers will be on Community Cloud within two years of its launch.
What the report doesn’t illuminate, and I’ll try to investigate at Dreamforce this week, is Community Cloud adoption by the rest of the existing Salesforce customer base. It’s likely that the bar is set much lower there and that Salesforce will need to refocus its marketing and sales of Community Cloud for the next wave of potential adopters. Selling Community Cloud as an enhancement of the other Salesforce clouds is very different than convincing organizations of its utility as an independent collaboration and content management solution.

Community Cloud Use Cases

As for Community Cloud use cases, Bluewolf’s survey found that the top three were Customer Service (25% of respondents), Partner Enablement (21%) and Internal Collaboration (17%). Given Salesforce’s current positioning as “The Customer Success Platform”, and the amount of resources it has spent to launch and grow the Service Cloud, it isn’t entirely surprising to see that so many customers are focusing their use of the Community Cloud on post-sales customer service.
What I did not expect is that a larger number of Community Cloud customers are using it for partner enablement than they are for internal collaboration. Given Chatter’s roots as an internal-only communication tool, I would have expected to see more internally-focused usage of Community Cloud than what was reported. Of course, Chatter isn’t the only component of Community Cloud, but it is the oldest and most established among Salesforce customers. It will be interesting to learn more this week about why external community support is out in front of internal use of Community Cloud.

Community Cloud Business Benefits

The final area of interest here that The State of Salesforce report provides data on is business benefits associated with Community Cloud. Bluewolf compares productivity gains and cost reductions reported by two Salesforce customer segments, those who are using Community Cloud versus those who aren’t.
Community Cloud Biz Benefits
Clearly, Salesforce customers who are using Community Cloud in tandem with one or more of the company’s other offerings are realizing higher productivity and lower operating costs than customers who have not adopted Community Cloud. No surprises here. As noted above, Community Cloud is an enhancement and enabler to the other Salesforce clouds. This data is proof of that notion’s validity.

The State of Salesforce Community Cloud

Bluewolf’s The State of Salesforce report raises as many, if not more, questions than it answers about collaboration and content management among’s customers. As a result, it’s hard to derive much insight from the survey data reported other than that Community Cloud is enjoying respectable adoption among Salesforce’s best customers, and they are seeing greater benefits by using it with the other Salesforce clouds, especially for external-facing use cases. While I can gather some anecdotal stories and learn more at Dreamforce this week, another survey would be needed to get the data necessary to understand how successful Salesforce’s collaboration and content management offerings have been with, and for, the rest of its customers.

The New Visionaries: An Interview With Susan Scrupski

I’ve known Susan Scrupski since we served on the Enterprise 2.0 conference program committee, and followed her creation of the 2.0 Adoption Council. Over the years we’ve become friends, and I thought it was high time to interview her for this series.

About Susan Scrupski

Susan is, her tells us,

tirelessly working to foster new thinking and behaviors in global enterprises.
Susan Scrupski founded the The 2.0 Adoption Council and is currently growing Change Agents Worldwide.

The Interview

Stowe Boyd: I’ve watched your work since the mid ‘00s, when we served together on the Enterprise 2.0 conference program committee. And I was very intrigued when you formed The 2.0 Adoption Council. What led to the formation of the Council? You merged that into Dachis Group where it became the Social Business Council, which seems to have gone dark since September (see Juxtaposition: Dachis Group is acquired by Sprinklr, PostShift opens for business). Is it dead now?

The same way Airbnb is in the hospitality business without hotels, we are in the consulting business without employees. – Susan Scrupski

Susan Scrupski: I’d been blogging and tracking the developments of what we originally called, “Web 2.0 in the Enterprise” from 2006 on my ITSinsider blog. You and I served together as board members on the first Enterprise 2.0 Conference held in Boston in 2007. Back in those days, it was a small cadre of passionate people who were writing about the so-called movement around more open and collaborative ways of connecting and working in the large enterprise.
As a board member of the E20 conference, I noticed something distinctly different at the 2009 conference – customers were actually showing up. At that time, there was no real expertise on how to “do” E20, as most of the early adopters were just experimenting themselves. There were no consulting firms who had more knowledge than the customers themselves; not even the platform vendors were able to help these early adopters in many cases. So, The 2.0 Adoption Council was the solution to that problem in a classic startup sense. It was wildly successful and grew to many hundreds of members in a few short months. As we rolled into 2010, I started looking for ways to grow the Council beyond my ability to support it as a sole proprietor. Altimeter made me an offer; I spoke to Emergence Capital about possible funding, but it wasn’t until I had a conversation with Jeff Dachis that I felt I was ready to take the Council to the next level.
Dachis Group acquired the Council in 2010, and ultimately rebranded it to become the Social Business Council. Considering the exit Dachis Group just made, it’s clear to see why the Council was not really a fit as the focus of the company turned more toward building software for marketers. Dachis Group pulled the plug on the Council in the fall of 2013.
SB: You’ve now started Change Agents Worldwide. What’s the vision for that group?
SS: My vision has remained constant since I started tracking this space. I’ve always advocated for advancing the liberating, evolved freedoms that come along with the adoption of more human-based technologies and processes for the large enterprise. I learned a lot about networks and how people behave and what they can achieve together in networks via my experience with the Council. More importantly, I learned that there are a lot of people around the world who share my beliefs, and that there is a certain DNA required to do this sort of work.
Change Agents Worldwide is the next evolution of the work I’ve been doing since 2006. The group’s vision is squarely centered on helping large companies transition from old world models established in the industrial era to modern network-based, agile models that improve not only the work experience for the workforce, but lead to top-line gains in innovation and growth. We are a small cadre of professionals from various disciplines (HR/learning, IT, Marketing, R&D, OD, KM, Innovation) who share the same vision and values, and we run our company in the way we’re advocating by putting these principles in practice.

We’ve moved beyond the adoption of new technologies to the core tenets of what it will take to evolve the organization and the nature of work itself for the future. At Change Agents Worldwide, we believe that embracing the principles of social (transparency, authenticity, trust, and a culture of sharing/collaboration) are the foundation for the future of work. – Susan Scrupski

SB: CAWW is a loose network of cooperators? The Agents are not employees drawing a salary, right? How does an engagement with an organization work?
SS: Engagement happens within our private client pods. The network is not really that loose. We see ourselves more as a coalition and engagement within our network is fairly high. When we’re talking about project work, we like to describe our network as a “collaborative sharing economy model for consulting.” We don’t have employees; we have network members who consult. So, the same way Airbnb is in the hospitality business without hotels, we are in the consulting business without employees.
SB: What’s your take on the ‘social business is dead’ meme? My position is that it’s not dead, but it’s not enough, either: there are a number of critical trends and tech impacting the modern business, and social is just one among a short list of major forces.
SS: I was against co-opting the social business label for this sector from the beginning because it was essentially “taken” already by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, who just so happened to be trying to solve world poverty. I couldn’t convince anyone it was a bad idea back in ‘08 or so when it cropped up, so I capitulated. That editorial footnote aside, in theory, the macro conversation around what our industry’s version of social business stood for is still as relevant today as ever, in many ways, even more so. It’s problematic, however, that social pundits oftentimes use “social business” to describe two completely different phenomena, namely social inside the enterprise vs. external social media marketing and customer relations. These two worlds share a common vocabulary, but oftentimes confuse and conflate issues, further damaging a busy executive’s ability to fully grok what the import of these trends are and how they can help (and hurt) the company. Add to that the internationally well-understood concepts behind Social Enterprise (businesses with a social or environmental mission) and Yunus’ Social Business, and it just gets needlessly more complicated.

Stowe Boyd: What do you think is the single greatest barrier to company’s adopting those organization changes?
Susan Scrupski: Ironically? Success.

To your second point, could not agree more. We’ve moved beyond the adoption of new technologies to the core tenets of what it will take to evolve the organization and the nature of work itself for the future. At Change Agents Worldwide, we believe that embracing the principles of social (transparency, authenticity, trust, and a culture of sharing/collaboration) are the foundation for the future of work. Upon that foundation, organizations must retool to embrace the ubiquity of mobility, sensors, robotics, and whatever is coming next that stand to upend businesses and whole industries. And that’s just the technology thrust. The organizational changes required to compete in the 21st century are even more complex and more difficult for prevailing socially stratified leadership to accept. That’s the greater challenge, and where real expertise is in short supply.
SB: What do you think is the single greatest barrier to company’s adopting those organization changes?
SS: Ironically? Success. Successful companies have no intrinsic motivation to change, but dating back to a piece I like to refer to by the founder of BCG written in 1968, “Why Change is so Difficult,” there are predominantly three dependent reasons why companies fail to change and ultimately fail altogether: executive management doesn’t recognize or believe there is a fundamental shift underway important enough to affect the business, leadership doesn’t champion the change, and by the time they figure it out, it’s too late. This has never been more true than it is today.
SB: Thanks for your time, Susan.
SS: My pleasure Stowe! Thanks for having me.

This is, perhaps, the end of the beginning

Winston Churchill was searching for a phrase to capture the sense of a turning tide in the war with Nazi Germany after the defeat of Rommel in North Africa, and came up with ‘the end of the beginning’.

In the past week a number of events and observations combined to give me the sense that we are, perhaps, at the end of the beginning with regard to social business.

Several of those stimuli came at last week’s Social Media Week. At one session, I was impressed at the transition that the various panelists recounted going on in businesses large and small, as they adopt social media tools for customer support, and the changes that this is causing:

Stowe Boyd, We’re at the customer support stage of social business

The big take away for me was that social customer support is happening, and it is growing fast. More importantly, tools that people use for social media marketing are likely to be a mismatch with the needs of customer support staff. However, in a lot of companies, marketing ‘owned’ the social channel to the business. They were the first out there, using Twitter and Facebook, analyzing sentiment about the company’s products and services, and trying to influence influencers to advocate.

Then, as people online saw that GoDaddy was on Twitter, they naturally assumed they could use that medium for customer support issues: How do I do this? Why doesn’t that work? Why did I get charged for a domain registration? And, at first, those messages were received by marketing folks. Marketing folks who are not necessarily trained in technical issues. So they were being passed along to customer support, and so, we enter a new stage of social business: the customer support stage.

Another major indicator of an inflection point — perhaps of a different kind — is coming from (see Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff backing off on social?). Apparently the acquisitions of Buddy Media and Radian6 have not turned out too well, and as a result it seems the company is moving away from — or dropping altogether — its former focus on social. The company even tried — and failed — to trademark the expression. I am attending a Salesforce event in NYC tomorrow, where CEO Marc Benioff is giving a keynote, so I’ll have more to report then. I am betting that even if Benioff opts to rally around new marketing based on ‘customer-centric computing’ it will turn out to be social at the core, anyway.

Also on the corporate knife-fighting side of things, Cisco attacked Microsoft the night before its first Lync User Conference for being too PC-focused in a post-PC world (see  Cisco goes after Microsoft Lync on breadth of collaboration). This demonstrate only that the competition is heating up in the social software marketplace, and the stake are getting serious.

My bet is that other indications of us moving into a new phase, where social business moves from experimental and used exclusively by innovators and early adopters into mainstream early majority adoption, to use the Ev Rogers’ terminology.

Everett Roger's Diffusion of Innovations curve source Wikipedia

Everett Roger’s Diffusion of Innovations curve
source Wikipedia

Adam Pisoni, the CTO of Yammer, made the case for the kind of adoption going on in the earlier stage being driven by a desire to have the same sort of communication they were using on the open web  but in the business context:

Yammer exists because companies weren’t offering these [many-to-many] communication tools to their employees, and employees really wanted efficient communication that lets them connect to each other, wherever they are, whenever they need to.

I think we’ll continue to see rogue adoption, but also increasingly, companies moving more deliberately to roll out social tools and practices across the company as a means to get the next stage of productivity and innovation.

What our social tools don’t do. Yet.

A casual investigation of social technologies in the workplace reveals a disconcerting truth: there is a great deal going on that social business tools don’t support. Now, on one hand, that might be unsurprising, since people operate at many levels and in some we may not even be aware of what we are up to, like unconscious flirtation, or the ways that our pupils dilate and contract based on what is being seen. But on the other hand, some of the missing use cases suggest that our social tools just are too primitive to usher in the social millennium just yet.

Take just one example: negotiation. We have many tools organized around projects and tasks, where others invite us to participate, but there is almost no way provided to negotiate about the proposed participation. For example, imagine that we are coworkers and I want to assign a task to you. In all my exploration into task management tools, I haven’t found a single tool that would allow you the opportunity to say, ‘Maybe, but let’s make a deal’. Now the deal might be purely financial if you are a freelancer or consultant working with me on a time and materials basis, for example (a sector of the workforce that is growing rapidly). Or the discussion could be about other deadlines shifting, or ‘timeframing’ the new task for a later date. Or a dozen other reasons to negotiate the terms of the work involved.

I’ve been told by tool vendors that their tools do allow such negotiation. Users can exploit direct messaging, or comment threads, or attach documents to the tasks, and so on. But this is often problematic, since the tasks and projects may be shared with others, and the negotiators may want the discussion to be private. And in some cases, it’s just not possible: if you invite me to join a project supported in Yammer or Podio, and I want to negotiate first, where do we negotiate? I haven’t joined the project yet, after all.

The implicit answer is that social tool makers — at least of the tools we have today — have opted to a very narrowly defined subset of work-related use cases. And then they define ‘success’ as making those use cases work. I bet they actually don’t even ‘see’ the negotiation going on, because people opt to use other means to get it done, like email, phone, or face-to-face talking. But this is a mistake, because a reasonable implementation that would support negotiation would add a rich social dimension currently lacking, and it would be managed in an integrated way.

For example, imagine that you could respond to my task invitation by clicking one of three buttons on the task — yes, no, maybe — and in each case the task tool would allow a private but contextually-linked discussion thread. Perhaps you would click on maybe, and add ‘I have some tight deadlines this week, but could get to it by middle of next week’. Perhaps that’s good for me, and I would reply ‘That works’ and change the deadline on the task accordingly. Or if you are a freelancer, you might say, ‘I can do that webinar for $1500’, and the task tool would allow me to accept the fee, decline it, or counteroffer.

Ok, a longwinded example. But one that supports my core point. No task management tool does this, but people do. We are constantly negotiating, and we wind up doing it in email, or by other means, but outside of our immature social tools. And this stands as a confirmation of why we are seeing serious adoption reluctance for social business tools: 57% of companies in a Dachis Group study suggests 20% or less or less engagement in social tools when available. Who wants to use a work media application if you constantly have to step back into email every time a task gets assigned?

But I have hopes that things can change. For example, in the research for a report on team task management tools (now in production), I reviewed the Action Method tool from Behance, and it supports task rejection — with comment — although not an extended negotiation:

The value of keeping users in the social tools and not wandering back to email in order to get things done is significant, but it will take a real analysis of communication pathways in work for tool makers to build more compelling and comprehensive tools.

Consider the investigation into basketball dynamics led by researchers at Arizona State University, Jenifer Fewell and Dieter Armbruster, looking into the results of the 2010 NBA playoffs.

Brian Mossop, Basketball Isn’t A Sport. It’s A Statistical Network.

To analyze basketball plays, Fewell and Armbruster used a technique called network analysis, which turns teammates into nodes and exchanges — passes — into paths. From there, they created a flowchart of sorts that showed ball movement, mapping game progression pass by pass: Every time one player sent the ball to another, the flowchart lines accumulated, creating larger and larger and arrows.

Using data from the 2010 playoffs, Fewell and Armbruster’s team mapped the ball movement of every play. Using the most frequent transactions — the inbound pass to shot-on-basket — they analyzed the typical paths the ball took around the court.

Network analysis of the Chicago Bulls, showing the majority of ball interaction remained with the point guard. Image: Jennifer Fewell and Dieter Armbruster

Network analysis of the Los Angeles Lakers shows the team is far more likely to distribute the ball among more players, using the “triangle offense.” Image: Jennifer Fewell and Dieter Armbruster

As you may recall, the Laker’s ‘triangle offense’ led to more variability in passing, which made defense harder and — voilá — the Lakers did better. Or as Armbruster told Mossop, ‘Entropy wins games.’

My point is not basketball, though. My point is that this sort of network analysis is revolutionizing sports, just like the statistical analysis of Moneyball led to a break with old school approaches to evaluating players’ value.

And a similar breakthrough is possible in the workforce, if the large software companies now trying to dominate social business would expend some research money there. I’m sure that a deep social network analysis of the work going on today’s world of work would quickly yield insights into how much time is spent negotiating around work requests, for example. And a hundred other commonplace social interactions that fall outside the lines painted in today’s social tools. And then we would see a new generation of more capable social tools, designed to support our connections at a much deeper level.

America! Stop whining and get online!

Almost a third of U.S. households don’t subscribe to broadband, and it’s driving the government nuts. According to an report out today 71 percent of Americans are online, and the rest don’t want it or find it too expensive. And yes, 3 percent can’t get it.

iPad’s enterprise growth bested only by iPhone

The iPad is leading the tablet charge in small and medium-sized businesses (SMB), resulting in a growth spurt that puts the Apple device out in front of nearly all other comers. I say nearly, because there’s still one device that sees even more activations: the iPhone.

In business, the iPad is for bigwigs and shot-callers

The iPad’s assault on the enterprise definitely appears to be a top-down phenomenon, according to a new report, with most users of one popular business app holding management positions. The report also suggests the iPad may be a means to extend the work week

Report: iPad Is an Enterprise IT Triple-Threat

The enterprise is all over the iPad. RIM can’t put the genie back in the bottle, no matter how hard it tries. But what is it about the iPad that appeals to IT departments and employees alike? Why the sudden shocking proliferation?