Grown Up Digital

Don Tapscott is definitely enamored of his kids and their generation: in 1999’s Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation, he predicted how their generation would reshape society, and in his latest book, Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World, he practically deifies them.

I agree with a lot of what he’s saying, such as the ability of the 11-30 age group — the “Net Generation” — to easily consume information from multiple channels, but I think that he’s ignoring some of the research in this area in order to make his point. He quotes a study from the Oxford Future of the Mind Institute that shows that although Net Geners are better at intensive problem-solving than those 10 years their elders, interruptions such as those from text messages and IM makes the differences in ability disappear. Tapscott pooh-poohs this using the rather unscientific counterpoint of his daughter working on an assignment at the family kitchen table with people and dogs around, multiple windows and chat sessions open, and her iPod playing music. He posits that Net Geners appear to have ADD in class (apparently now a common complaint amongst teachers) because they’re bored. I’m just not sure that I buy that; there’s other factors at work here, many of which have little to do with age, and more with work styles.

From a business standpoint, the real value of Grown Up Digital is the chapter on the Net Generation in the workforce, covering how the expectations of those entering the workforce have changed, and how organizations need to change (in some cases) to accommodate this.

One of the key points is that they expect to be able to work when and where they want, and be quickly rewarded through promotion for their achievements. A year ago, when companies were wailing about how the boomers were all retiring and they didn’t have enough new recruits to replace them, this sense of entitlement may have been a realistic expectation for some people in some job markets; in today’s economy, it seems almost laughable. Reuters recently reported that young graduates are having a hard time finding work in Silicon Valley, and that just any college degree isn’t enough to land them their dream job with a gazillion stock options. Not surprisingly, engineering grads aren’t having that problem, neither are people with some amount of practical experience. Earlier this week, Tom Davenport wrote about whether millennials (another name for the Net Generation) can really change the workplace, echoing similar sentiments. Ron Alsop, in his book The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation is Shaking Up the Workplace, quotes a teenage blogger: “We don’t want to work more than 40 hours a week, and we want to wear clothes that are comfortable. We want to be able to spice up the dull workday by listening to our iPods. If corporate America doesn’t like that, too bad.” If the economy stays where it is for the next few years, it might be too bad for the Net Generation.

At some point, however, those 200.5k’s are going to turn back into 401k’s, and the boomers are going to retire, at which time the battle for talent will resume. Banning Facebook — a key networking tool for Net Geners — will no longer be acceptable practice, and companies will have to become more open to the collaborative tools and attitudes that the new workers bring. This isn’t just because that’s the only way to gain those workers, it’s because there’s some valid ideas in there for improving the enterprise by breaking the bonds with traditions of time, place and corporate boundaries. There’s also the issue of customization of tools: the Net Generation expect to be able to configure their working environment the way that they want in order to most effectively complete the tasks at hand, not be forced into someone else’s idea of what might make them productive. There is a lot to be learned from this concept in how we build the user experience for enterprise software in general.

I enjoyed Grown Up Digital, but I took it with a large grain of salt: in part, because economic times have changed dramatically in the few short months between writing and publication, and in part because I think that the average Net Gener may not be as wired as Tapscott’s kids.

Build your social network before you get laid off

I know, that’s completely obvious advice, right? Wrong.

Yesterday, I received an email from a friend who works in telecommunications sales with the subject line “Networking”, informing her list of contacts (I assume; at least she was polite enough to BCC us all) that she had been laid off and was looking for work, and listing her qualifications. I immediately emailed back to ask if she had a profile on LinkedIn or any other sort of online resume that I could look at to see if I knew of anything that might fit, and she responded “What is LinkedIn? Is it similar to Facebook?”. Needless to say, she’s not on either of those two very popular social networking sites.

That prompted me to do my quarterly LinkedIn maintenance: import the email addresses from my contact list, see who’s on LinkedIn that I’m not already connected to (LinkedIn shows you if a person has a profile if you enter their email address), and connect to them — if you just received a LinkedIn invitation from me, that’s why. What amazed me in doing that exercise was how many of my business contacts don’t have a LinkedIn profile, or at least don’t have one linked to their business email address. Do they think that they can never lose their job, or are they just not convinced of the power of online social networks? Both are dangerous opinions to hold in today’s economic climate.

Here’s the reasons that I typically hear for why someone (including my recently laid off friend) is not on a social network:

It’s an invasion of privacy

On any social network, you can reveal as much or as little information about yourself as you’re comfortable with — the only one invading your privacy is yourself, if you choose to do so. On a professional site like LinkedIn, it’s best to reveal everything possible about your work experience, since this acts as an online resume. On Facebook, since the focus is more on personal information, it’s easier to add things that you might regret later; keep in mind that employers, co-workers and business associates might be looking at that profile, and you should manage the content that you put there with that in mind.

Many people fear that their employer will consider their LinkedIn profile as an indication that they’re looking for work, but that’s not necessarily true: you can set your profile to say that you’re not interested in job offers, but just in business networking. Your employer may actually like the fact that you’re being proactive about networking in business, especially if you’re in an outward-facing role.

It takes too much time

The initial setup of a social network can take some time, depending on how you go about it. On LinkedIn, I initially set up my profile by copying and pasting from my resume, then imported my email contact list and checked to see who else was online. This prompted me to clean up my resume and my contact list, two badly-needed activities which took more time than what I spent on LinkedIn itself. Now, I get a weekly update email from LinkedIn with my contacts’ changed information, and I do an email sweep on a regular basis to check for new contacts. If I think of it, I also check for people online right after I meet them for the first time and make the connection then. I list my larger contracts on there as well (once completed), so I add items to my “job” listing once or twice a year. Ongoing time requirement is a couple of hours every couple of months.

Facebook can be a completely different animal, since it encourages you to spend a lot of time on the site. I don’t. I have automated feeds from my Flickr, and blog posts into my Facebook updates, and use a couple of third-party applications to link in my Slideshare presentations and other material, all without me having to visit Facebook. I go there every day or two for a few minutes to check for friends’ upcoming birthdays and scroll through recent feed items, but I miss a lot of the river of information in the feed.

I don’t believe that it will bring value to me

In the case of LinkedIn, it won’t bring value unless you commit to making it a part of your business networking. Not surprisingly, you get out of it what you put into it: if you don’t update your profile and don’t connect to people when you meet them, then your information is not going to be very interesting to anyone. On the other hand, if you keep your profile up to date and complete, recruiters can find you when you’re looking for work, and your contacts will see your change in job status (as in “working for XXX” to “looking for work”) which may prompt them to help you out. You can also send a message to your network of contacts about your job search, making it easy for them to pass it along to anyone who they might know through their network. If you’re not on there or don’t update regularly, they’ll never know.

Even though I’m not looking for a job (having worked for someone else a total of 16 months in the past 21 years, I’m probably unemployable 🙂 ), LinkedIn provides value in keeping up with my business contacts as they move around, and occasionally brings new business my way.

I typically don’t proselytize social networks to those who aren’t already on them, but as my friends start to get hit by job cuts, I feel like they should know what they’re missing. If you know someone who isn’t on LinkedIn and should be, send them a link to this post to make it easy. I’m much more of an ant than a grasshopper, and like to put safety measures in place before I need them. Building your network after you get laid off is a lot tougher than doing it now, especially if you have a mortgage payment due at the end of the month.

BPM Milan: Digital Identity

Ben Jennings of University College London presented a paper on Digital Identity and Reputation in the Context of a Bounded Social Ecosystem, co-authored by Anthony Finkelstein.

He started with a discussion about digital identity that reminded me briefly of Dick Hardt’s Identity 2.0 presentation: using himself as an example, showing how he appears in different contexts on the web, such as Flickr, Facebook and YouTube. We all have this same problem of the reconciliation of multiple digital identities: we all have to maintain multiple profiles and multiple social graphs on multiple social networks.

Within some sort of bounded social ecosystem — where we have common goals, such as within an enterprise — the digital identity concept changes: your identity is at least partially pre-created (e.g., through your local network credentials), but this isn’t enough in a large organization where everyone doesn’t know everyone personally and where there may be multiple systems that don’t share credentials. There are still issues of disambiguating and unifying identities between the systems in use within the bounded social context, especially if it’s not a closed enterprise: there must be some fairly complex pattern recognition even to match up email addresses, which can be specified in a number of different formats.

Once you’ve established digital identity, then you can start on the larger issue of trust and reputation; so far, the research has only reached the stage of automating the recognition of digital identity, but will be expanded to (for example) selecting the most appropriate person for a specific task in a process, based on their reputation as derived from their contributions to many other systems.

BPM Milan: Workshop on BPM and Social Software

It’s a holiday weekend back home, and my birthday tomorrow, so some may consider it a bit weird that I’m spending this week away from my family in Milan at a BPM conference. However, I’ve been excited about attending this conference for months since it’s focused on the research that’s happening in the field of BPM, rather than the usual vendor and analyst conferences that I attend. As a prelude to the conference, today is a day of full-day workshops on various BPM topics, and I’m attending the session on BPM and Social Software. I’m still a bit jet-lagged so may not make it through the entire day, but I’ll do my best.

The workshop is chaired by Selmin Nurcan of the University of Paris and Rainer Schmidt of Aalen University, and will consist of discussion of the various research papers contributed by the attendees — in fact, I seem to be one of the few people in the (small) audience who has not contributed a paper.

Before we got into the individual papers, Rainer Schmidt gave an overview of the issues in BPM and social software. I gave a presentation two years ago at the BPMG conference in London on BPM and Web 2.0 (the terms Enterprise 2.0 and social software were just starting to be used back then) that covers some of the same subject matter.

One main concern in BPM today — which I definitely see in practical applications — is the divide between the abstract process models and lifecycles, and the actual executed processes and procedures: in many cases, the process participants ignore some or all of the process model and best practices, and do things as they have in the past. Another concern is that of process improvements not bubbling up from the process participants to the process designers, since there’s a barrier between those who do the work and those who design the work.

Many BPM implementations have been based on strong ties within the enterprise — command-and-control structures with pre-defined methods and channels of communication — and it is these that are hindering the communication between the abstract and the execution in BPM implementations. Weak ties, greatly supported by social software, create alternative methods and channels for these communications, allowing people to more easily exchange ideas; this promotes the “wisdom of the crowd” wherein ideas can come from anywhere in the organization, and small contributions from many people can provide significant value. The concepts of weak ties and the wisdom of the crowd are those upon which social software are built: in the consumer space, think of the weak ties created with your social graph on LinkedIn or Facebook, and the wisdom of the crowd that contributes to efforts such as Wikipedia.

Lots of Tapscott and McAfee references flying around; this is a bit of an intro to social software that’s likely not required for this particular audience, but serves to provide a standard set of definitions of social software. He covered the basic principles, which will be important for seeing how BPM and social software interact: egalitarian; bottom-up; self-organizing; the value of context via tags and links as well as content; continual information improvement and publication for review; the importance of output and practice over abstract models; and transparency regarding the relationship of the participants.

He then moved into how social software supports (or could support) BPM: first, collaboration in the design, implement, evaluation and improvement phases; and second, the extension of functionality for the operational BPM system. Collaboration in the non-operational phases could be through wikis for capturing requirements, planning projects, and so on; in my opinion, this can also be through the use of more collaborative process modeling tools that allow non-experts to be involved in process discovery, modeling and design. During the operational phase, this could be a wiki to capture new requirements and potential process innovation, as well as collaborative tools for managing and documenting the project. Personally, I think that there’s other potential applications: in my presentation two years ago, I suggested the concept of process tagging and folksonomies to allow process participants to tag instances of processes; user-created process-based mashups (although there’s some argument as to whether mashups are considered part of social software) also deserve some discussion here, which are now much more possible since many of the vendors have introduced end-user RSS feeds to their products.

A great introduction to the day, and I’m looking forward to the research papers and discussions.

Architecture & Process: Pat Cappelaere

For my last session — I have to leave for the airport around the time that the roundtables start — I sat in on Pat Cappelaere of Vightel discussing workflows, Identity 2.0 and delegated authority using REST.

He showed how lightweight protocols like ATOM — rather than SOAP — can be used to allow the quick mashup of information in near real time. He spent quite a bit of time on the advantages of a RESTful approach (summary: it’s easier), and the nature of the basic commands (post, get, put, delete) for managing web-based resources.

Where identity comes into all this is that some resources that might contribute to a mashup could be behind some type of access control, and the source system can’t manage the identities of all of the people who might want to access the end product. Identity 2.0 allows for the delegation of authentication to a trusted provider, i.e., using your OpenID (from Yahoo or other providers) on other sites instead of creating a user account on that site directly. That looks after basic authentication, but there also needs to be some authorization or pre-approval of transactions, which is what OAuth has been created for.

He’s using the term workflow to mean (I believe) the steps to assemble and process various resources and services into a web application: a service orchestration of various resources on the web using lightweight protocols. To implement this, they’ve created a RESTful version of the workflow bindings defined by WfMC as WfXML.

This was interesting, but I’m not at all clear what it was doing at this conference.

IT360: Web 2.0 – Now and its future for business

Mike Fox of Brightlights, a recruiter serving small and medium-sized software companies, is giving a talk on Web 2.0 and business; I started out unsure of why a recruiter is talking to us about Web 2.0, and ended up pretty much of the same mind.

He started with some very basic concepts, like the original Web 2.0 meme map and the themes it contains, and discussed some well-known (and well-worn) Web 2.0 case studies, such as Proctor&Gamble’s crowdsourcing of research, and Barack Obama’s online campaign presence. He asked questions like "has anyone heard of the $100 laptop?", "have you ever seen Slideshare?" and "has anyone heard of the ‘long tail’?", which I think you’d have to have been living under a rock not to know about, but maybe I’ve been drinking too much of the Koolaid.

He moved on to talk about Web 2.0 in the recruiting world, including the use of information aggregation tools such as ZoomInfo. He spent some time talking about using LinkedIn as both a recruiting tool and a job search tool, although I tend to think that this audience is probably pretty aware of what LinkedIn does. He mentioned some other recruitment-focused search sites like Jigsaw, and then stepped us through how to use Google Advanced Search for finding more information about companies and individuals — again, a bit basic, particularly (I think) for this audience.

He went through how to apply Web 2.0 thinking to business, based on the different goals and expectations for different generations of workers. He’s definitely been reading too much Tapscott. He did look at how to apply Web 2.0 to some fundamentals of adding value to a business, such as SaaS as both a cost reduction technique and a channel for offering products to customers.

He considers sending a monthly PDF newsletter by email and using Skype for long distance to be part of how he incorporates Web 2.0 into his business, which is a bit sad, although he does use a SaaS recruitment management system. There’s so much more that could be done with Web 2.0 in recruitment for a small recruiter like him: collaboration on resumes and job postings via Google Docs; blogging to show thought leadership in recruitment and engage the audience instead of a static monthly newsletter in PDF; publishing job postings listed on his site via RSS; hosting a discussion forum for job applicants.

That’s it for my coverage of IT360; I have to get back to some real work for the rest of the day. The Google talk was definitely the highlight for me, although I did really enjoy making the Director General of Industry Canada squirm yesterday, too.

IT360: Social Networking for Business

I’m dropping in on a few sessions at the IT360 conference being held in Toronto this week — nice to be able to walk a conference for a change — and attended John Reid of CATA Alliance talking about the value of social networking for business. He’s a stand-in-the-audience sort of guy, and is standing about 4 feet from me, so I’m here for the duration. 🙂

He started with some pretty mainstream stats and information about social networks, such as a new blog being created every 2 seconds, then moved on to discuss the degree of risk that comes from publication and dissemination of information, starting with a bit of an obscure story about being threatened with a lawsuit for some information that he distributed in a spammy sort of fax operation several years ago up to how some companies are starting to ban Facebook access from inside the firewall.

He’s doing the presentation almost completely with audience participation; having first done an audience poll on whether we fell that social networks had high, medium or low value for business, he’s selecting people from each of the respondent categories to say why they feel the way that they do about social networking. We’re hearing about how social networks can be used to get closer to your customer, although this is dependent on the industry, the target audience and the company’s corporate culture. There’s a lot of old-school types in the audience, those who raised their hand for "low/no value"; more than one person said that they use no social networks at all, and these were people who appear to be considerably younger than me. One of them even referred to "this blogging thing" in a somewhat derisive tone. This is not, as Don Tapscott proposes, an issue of age; it’s an issue of culture and position. In fact, the most vocal supporter of social networking from the audience declared himself to be 59. There are a lot of self-declared skeptics in the audience who say that they’re going to wait and see what the value is; one person said that he could spend the 8-10 hours per week that he believes is necessary to maintain a Facebook presence; he has 70 contacts on LinkedIn but it’s never really come to anything; and he wonders what happens to all those blogs that have a lot of effort put into them but no one reads them. Get real: if you put effort into blogging about something that’s of interest to someone and put some effort into being a good citizen in the blogosphere, people will read it. This blog is proof.

The business owners who are speaking up really seem to be in command-and-control mode: one stated that they’re blocking Facebook because they’re concerned that employees will put confidential information on it; doesn’t he know that if he hires untrustworthy people, they’ll do that from their home computer, so that blocking Facebook at work doesn’t solve that problem? He also said that people will spend too much time on sites like this if they’re allowed to do so, but you have to consider that people do have to take breaks sometimes, and allowing them to read their personal email or check Facebook while they’re on a break is no different than allowing them to make a personal phone call on their break. If you have sufficient technology to block specific sites, then you likely have the ability to monitor the usage and raise flags if people appear to be abusing the privilege rather than just blocking things outright.

Keith Parsonage from Industry Canada (who is speaking later today) popped up and admitted that he can’t access Facebook or a personal email service like Gmail from his office, but that the federal government is on a campaign to hire young people. This is definitely going to come back and bite them, since people who expect to be able to access sites like Facebook and Gmail while on their break at work aren’t going to be happy in an old-school corporate environment where they’re treated like irresponsible and unprofessional children.

Reid is really trying to get to the key points of how to incorporate social networking into business in terms of outward-facing communications, such as blogs; it’s unfortunate that this turned into too much of a discussion of who does and doesn’t use Facebook, and whether they’re allowed to do so at work.

Unfortunately, there’s no free wifi at the convention centre; in fact, the only available wifi is that geared for exhibitors and priced at an extortionate $395 for access for a single computer. I grabbed a couple of 30-minutes online passes in the press room, but I’m tempted to boycott it just so that MTCC doesn’t get the conference organizer’s money for this.

Webinar: Applying Web 2.0 to your business challenges

A bit late notice: today at 1pm Eastern, there’s a webinar on applying Web 2.0 to your business challenges, featuring Don Tapscott, Jeremiah Owyang and Robert Scoble.

This is sponsored by Cisco, and will include a demo of their new WebEx Connect collaboration workspace. From the event description:

Traditional models for management and problem solving are changing. Thanks to the advent of wikis, blogs, social networks, and other Web 2.0 tools, the ways organizations foster collaboration and promote innovation are undergoing profound change.

This 60-minute video Webcast explores the new paradigm created by the Web 2.0 phenomenon and shows you how this model can be applied to virtually any business process. Learn how you can use Web 2.0 applications to solve technical challenges, promote business innovation, uncover new product or market opportunities, and make employees much more productive.

There will be interactive Q&A with the participants during the webinar.

Should connecting on a social network = signing up for marketing blasts?

When I connect to someone on a social network such as LinkedIn or Facebook, I expect to be connected to them personally, not to their company’s marketing machine. Yes, I know, it’s common to farm our online contact lists for potential customers, but I found this recent email to be a bit over the top:

As a Linked In connection to Dion Hinchcliffe, you are probably aware of Dion’s internationally acknowledged thought leadership on Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), Web-Oriented Architecture (WOA) , and Web Services.  Given the growing demand for his subject matter expertise, Dion felt it important that Hinchcliffe & Company’s expand its capabilities to include world class consulting on these subjects.  To that end, Dion has assembled a team of highly skilled technical architects, personally educating them on his own strategic and operational methods for successful delivery of SOA/WOA and Web Services Solutions.

On behalf of Dion, I am writing to announce the formal launch of Hinchcliffe & Company’s SOA/WOA and Web Services Practice.  I will be following up with you by phone . . . but in the meantime, if you have an immediate need for this type of expertise, feel free to contact me directly.  We have talented, fully trained people ready to go.

I have never heard of the person who wrote this letter (although apparently she works for Dion), and although when I connected to Dion I assumed that I would likely be put on some of his mailing lists, but I never expected one of his people to explicitly admit that she breached the privacy of one of his social networks in order to feed the marketing machine.

Forrester Day 1: Rob Koplowitz

Lots of choice in the breakout sessions, but I’ve decided on Rob Koplowitz (who works with Connie Moore) on Web 2.0 and Social Computing in the Enterprise. The official statement:

Enterprise Web 2.0 can drive new efficiencies, but it needs to be approached like any new technology coming into the enterprise.

He had a good slide on how Web 2.0 changes group dynamics, from reviewed repository (predefined contributors and reviewers with a central point of communication) to facilitated community (clusters of communications with a facilitator in each cluster) to social networks (unstructured peer-to-peer communications).

He made a distinction of four types of social networking technologies: “listen to me” (blogs), “listen to us” (wikis), “find people like me” (tagging, profiles, social networks, virtual worlds) and “find stuff I need” (tagging, RSS feeds). He then went on to discuss which of these adds the most value within an enterprise based on research that they’ve done; after instant messaging, which was really just added in as a benchmark, RSS feeds came in as next most useful, which doesn’t really surprise me give what I’ve been seeing in the past months in the Enterprise 2.0 space. What happens, then, is a combined environment of a corporate information workplace with external sources of information, mashed up using various tools to provide value to users.

He referred to RSS as a lightweight integration fabric within organizations, which is a great characterization, and showed it on a spectrum of enablers that also included mashups, SOA and BPM.

Koplowitz then looked at the risks of Web 2.0 technologies within the enterprise, such as privacy and security; note that he’s talking about using consumer Web 2.0 technologies that are available via SaaS on the public internet, whereas there’s a ton of new Enterprise 2.0 solutions that are sold as on-premise, inside-the-firewall solutions rather than risk an improperly-hosted solution. There’s also many reputable Web 2.0 vendors who don’t do risky things with your data, or not any more risky than your own data center does now. He gave a scary-sounding example using Quechup, a recently social networking disaster that decided to spam your entire address book without permission and was quickly outed and shamed on the internet; this information came out with a few short days of this starting, and if the person involved had just been a bit more careful about watching the internet buzz on Quechup rather than jumping right in with their corporate address book exposed, then this would have been a non-story.

His recommendation is not to stop people from using social networking site, but to be cautious and appropriate about what they put out there, and to audit their behavior to ensure that they’re not violating corporate confidentiality. As he points out, Gen Y’s (18-26 years old) are the target hiring market for many companies these days, and they’re using these tools as creators of content as well as participants. However, the higher-level management in most companies, smack in the middle of the boomer years, are much less likely to participate and hence less likely to fund any related efforts.

Forrester will be publishing some research very shortly about vendors in the Enterprise Web 2.0 space, although he didn’t give us much of a sneak preview except to name a few vendors both in the Web 2.0 space and the enterprise space (BEA, Microsoft, SAP, IBM, Oracle), and predicting a collision. Traditional vendors are following the old-style release and adoption cycles, which may not play very well with the faster iterations that will come from the SaaS offerings from the Web 2.0 space; however, those traditional vendors are also in the position to just start bundling their Enterprise 2.0 offerings into their standard offerings (WebSphere Portal as a mashup platform, anyone?) to encourage adoption with their existing customers. There’s a new breed of vendors, however, that have deep enterprise roots and the agility of the hair-on-fire Web 2.0 vendors, that are likely to give the big guys a run for their money. Most likely, any organization is going to use a combination of vendors, both traditional enterprise vendors (who will be favored in the long run, based on history) and the new vendors (who are likely to be acquired by the big vendors). You’ll also see a combination of technologies, for example, ad hoc processes in a wiki with more structured processes in a BPM system linked to that.

His summary:

  • Enterprise Web 2.0 is part of the Information Workplace fabric
  • Corporations are getting value today from Enterprise Web 2.0
  • Users are getting social without appropriate guidance
  • Process and content need to be managed
  • The investment decision includes change management.
  • The vendors are colliding in this space.

There was an interesting discussion during the Q&A on the place of Google in the environment (Koplowitz thinks they have to solve their security issues first, such as not transmitting data to and from Google spreadsheets in clear text).

He points out that for many organizations that have a significant portion of younger workers, especially in technology-heavy industries, there is no way to put this genie back in the bottle; organizations have to deal with this, and “just say no” isn’t an alternative.