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Social Business in Silicon Valley #1


I arrived in San Francisco a few weeks ago. Some conferences and meetings helped me understand better some business trends and behaviours I would like to share.

An impressive level of knowledge about “social”

Of course mostly everyone here has heard about Yammer’s acquisition by Microsoft or knows what “Chatter” is (Salesforce.com is one of the main employers in Downtown San Francisco). When you ask someone who do not work on that field what a “social business” or an “enterprise 2.0” is, the definition they give is really quite correct (You may have asked this question in France : these words don’t really make sense for most of the people, so you need to spend at least 30 seconds before your interlocutor understands what you mean). Thereby, I would say the level of knowledge about the use of social tools for business is really higher than in Europe.


Some social collaboration softwares are famous because their headquarters are based a few miles away. However, many people admit that “these tools don’t work”. Concretely, people from large organizations as CBS or RSC Pharma told me that maximum 5% of the employees from the entire company daily use this kind of tools.

Even in big companies which sell “collaborative solutions”, some employees who do not work on these projets say they still mainly use emails to communicate (and chat when they need a quick answer). They told me there is not any group or forum related to their projects. They have to find solutions within their own team (about this topic, I advise you to read this post from Jacob Morgan)

The future of work

As you know, some start-ups from Silicon Valley grow really fast and have a big impact on some markets. “Social Business” could become the normal way of doing business thanks to these start-ups, as collaboration exists since the day the company was created. Indeed, I think collaborative dynamics are easier to implement in a small and brand new organization than in a large corporation.

Naval Ravikant is a famous entrepreneur and angel investor. He was the main speaker at an event organized by Pandodaily last week. (He invested in companies such as Twitter, Foursquare, PlanCast, Stack Overflow, Disqus...)

He shared his vision about the future of work. According to him, in the next few years, more and more startups will have a 1 billion dollar valuation. These companies will be only focused on their core business. Peripheral issues as HR, Accounting or even Sales would be outsourced to other start-ups specialised in this activity. Thanks to APIs, all the information sharing would be made easily. Instead of having large organizations made of many departments with low value added and disengaged workers, business will be made by networks of start-ups having customer-supplier partnerships, full of passionate employees. For many tasks, organizations would not need to waste time recruiting people, there would be “an app” able to make the required tasks. Thus, suppliers and customers would be everywhere on Earth.

Coworking spaces and communities

Coworking spaces are popular in The Valley. Whereas often described as a place to share a desk with other individuals, they are always presented here as a community that you could join, which gives you access to several services according to the price you monthly pay. It could include a desk or not. At least, you would have access to the online community platform, where you can ask question to other members about an expertise you would need to achieve your project, find and add events to a “social calendar”... The coworkers’ profiles really matters, as they could add value to the community for you or not, according to your business activities. Here, community and business go hand in hand.


That is it for this first note form the US. If you have already been to The Valley, what astonished you the most?

I will try to share notes frequently about the trends and behaviour I could observe here. For any particular question, feel free to ask!


G+Hangout : Success Factor for Employee Engagement


Wednesday, 31th, Bjoern was organizing a G+ HangOut with Luis Suarez, Anthony Poncier, Susan Scrupski and Greg Lowe about how to engage employees. Here is my summary.

1) A win-win relationship

Engagement is eroding. 7 out of 10 employees are disengaged in their job. Typically, there are people who do what they have to do, even if they may think it is not logical. They earn the money they deserve, that is the most important. If their company ask them to collaborate, be more transparent, share knowledge,... they may do, but only if they see how it is going to impact their wage and career.

One of the main problem is that HR is too far of these social business issues, which make the “2.0 ideal world” and everyday reality hard to connect. We have to go through that path if we want to make the big transformation we wish. It is not about engaging a small group who is going to be more happy when they wake up in the morning. This is not enough. The implication of HR is too weak at the moment. However, they have a fantastic opportunity to become a strategic unit in companies.

I am sure HR can help in switching from traditional business to social business. To succeed, one solution is to change the way employees are evaluated. Anthony said we have inherited organisation models from the Taylorism age. Most of the employees are evaluated for their individual performances more than the collective performances. This does not help people to help each others, or at least to know and care about what the other teammates do, as Luis said.

2) What is the business issue you want to solve?

We always remain to this basic question. If your 2.0 project doesn’t have any goal and purpose, you could still ask employees to use social tools, most of them won’t understand why. Vision, sens,... are key words according to Anthony.

Luis recommended to start step by step, looking at what are the tasks employees find hard to perform. Then try to find how you could make it easier using social tools. If you solve business problems with social technologies, it is a good way to make employees adopt them. Then it could be gamified or use whatever other trends, I does not really matter. What is important is how these tools help employees get their work done. Many companies want to see all their employees to use the ESN as soon as possible. But you have to go step by step, solving business issues after business issues.

3) UX matters

Anthony said “it’s not about having this and that feature”. It is more about “does these features help me in my job ?”. If the answer is yes, then it means you have the right tool. It is a non-sense to tell people to use tools full of features which are not really usefull when you look carefully at the needs.

UX is a key issue. In 5 seconds maximum, people have to be able find what they are looking for : an information or a button to make an action. Social softwares have to be user friendly. Do you still think you can be attractive to the young generation of workforce if you give them to work an email address and an old intranet ?

To conclude, and stay optimistic, I would quote Luis who said whereas Enterprise 2.0 has not reached all its promise, we have now the opportunity to learn from failures. It was not true 3 years ago. We had less cases to study, and by the way less convictions about what foster 2.0 project.


And you, what have you thought about this session ?



Integrate the Community Manager's tasks better within the enterprise


In addition to the daily tasks: engaging, moderating, analyzing, reporting,... it is "offline" that the Community Manager's role keeps growing. Taking care of an online community which is not the realization of a truly global business projet is a strong limit to the value that could be gained from the information shared on social media. However, being ready to cast doubt and develop ways to make according to the trends detected in the conversations, it is the opportunity for an organization to enter in a new dimension.

What does that mean? Despite he is often linked to one department in the company only, as the marketing division for example, the Community Manager has often the opportunity to make its activity go further and connect it to the other services, such as the one in charge of customer support or product development for example ... Thereby, the success of the community project depends a lot on the Community Manager's abilities to impact his analysis of the online conversations throughout all the business value chain.

It is essential that companies measure the importance of "investing" in a Community Manager who has a sufficient maturity to be able to warn some decision makers in the company if needed, to make them become aware of possible divergences between their approaches and the public expectations. In that sense, his ability to understand the overall functioning of the company and its processes is a key to success. It is not the only key factor. A Community Management project is more likely to succeed if it operates in a context where it is supported by a corporate strategy, internally as well as externally.

In short, a successful Community Management project is often the realization of a well thought business strategy, from the hiring of the Community Manager up to the business process development.


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