Even LinkedIn gets it wrong: big data & segmentation

LinkedIn

Note: Since writing this article LinkedIn have made the Contact app available in the UK.

This morning I received an email from LinkedIn suggesting there was a smarter way for me to stay in touch with my contacts by using the new LinkedIn Contacts, a yet to be seen as useful services which turns LinkedIn into your address book by allowing you to important all your contacts from Gmail and Yahoo.

Always ready to try a new service, I imported all my contacts and immediately received an email from LinkedIn with another suggestion; this time to use their LinkedIn contacts App. As I already have the LinkedIn app and CardMunch (by LinkedIn), and was now well on my way to get fully immersed in the whole LinkedIn spirit, I thought ‘why not’ and clicked to download.

To my surprise one of the largest databases in the world, which houses the most complete information on almost every business professional in the world failed to know that I was living in the UK and not the US and therefore not eligible to download the new LinkedIn app.

This is not a blog post about me being bitter about not being able to download LinkedIn’s latest app, but about the usage of big data. LinkedIn knows where I work, where I live, my age and phone number. They can socially profile me and link this to their data. Yet they still send me an email that resulted in a broken promise.

Does your organisation use data effectively? Do you have a segmentation strategy? Are you sending your customers irrelevant offers for products that are of no interest to them (at least LinkedIn got my interest right!)? Or worst of all…Are you breaking promises with your customers?

Data can be immensely powerful but also very dangerous. Too little segmentation and the irrelevance of the message loses clients and your communication becomes ‘spammy’. Too much segmentation and you risk missing out on an audience that might also be interested in your product. As much as we may want to create a one-on-one dialogue with our customers, in most cases it is simply not scalable.

With the amount of data that most organisations have available to them, it can be extremely difficult to decide how to segment effectively.

Jordan Elkind, in his blog post The Segmentation Conundrum, gives us a very simple but helpful rule of thumb: R.E.A.L.

Here is a summary:

Relevant. Is the segmentation relevant to your customers and your products?

Efficient. Are your segments broad enough to capture the maximum amount of customers, whilst still playing on specific customer behaviour or preferences?

Actionable. Can you act on the level of segmentation you want to achieve?

Lasting. Will your segmentation remain relatively stable over time? One-off’s and short term segmentation can become irrelevant very quickly.

 

I honestly don’t think LinkedIn had much of a strategy in this case, but maybe for them it was simply more efficient to ‘send to all’ and risk a few disgruntled blog posts!

Ecommerce best practice

It is not often that I am genuinely impressed with an ecommerce website and the online purchase experience. Most of the time you are left thinking “wouldn’t it be great if the site had this…” or “why haven’t they made that easier…“. However, this week I was left impressed (see first point below). It made me reflect on my best ecommerce experiences and the features and functionalities that made it so great. Below I have started a list of examples of buying experiences, functionality, UX and look and feel. Feel free to ping me other examples and I will add them to the list.

Best overall experience: Naked Wines (www.nakedwines.com)NakedWine

Most of the mainstream wine sites look and feel dated and have terrible UX. Not Naked Wines. Apart from a simple, easy on the eye look and feel, it is the user-journey that impressed me. Rather than presenting you with the traditional ecom site layout, Naked Wines chooses to break the usability rules and ask you some questions first. The fact is the questions immediately and effectively transmit their ethos and concept. After completing the questionnaire, assuming you have answered them ‘correctly’, they present you with a gift for being an ‘Angel’ – a £82 discount on a pre-prepared selection of wines. I was sold hook, line and sinker. After completing the seamless checkout process, I was surprised to find my account with a £20 credit, which they offered as a gift for placing my first order. Second order pretty much guaranteed. Nice touch!

  • Fresh look and feel
  • Compelling, yet not forceful commercial approach
  • Great user-experience
  • Interesting content
  • Personalisation throughout
  • Differentiated approach to online wine sales

Best checkout feature: Amazon (www.amazon.co.uk – as if you didn’t know!)

AmazonIt probably makes many of you cringe to see such a giant in this list but the reality is Amazon has the best checkout feature, bar none: 1-click. This feature makes it just too easy to buy on Amazon, whether on site, on mobile or by app. Need something? Quick search on Amazon and 1-click (literally) and the product is on its way to you. I wish they had some stiff competition. Could you imagine what they would come up with if they did…

  • 1-Click checkout
  • Prime – loyalty service for which you have to pay (happily!)
  • Recommended items
  • User and purchase friendly app

Best shopping list feature: Tesco (www.tesco.com/groceries)Tesco

I have a pet hate: buying groceries online. I can never remember what I want, the brands that I prefer and invariably forget the most important items. Not any more. Tesco’s integration of their Clubcard in the online shopping experience means I can now see what I have previously bought in-store from my Clubcard history. Such an obvious feature but missing for a long time. I also think their ‘multi-search’ functionality is brilliant. Easy to use, it allows you to search for your entire shopping list in one go.

  • Clubcard offline shopping history
  • Multisearch
  • Clean design
  • Recipe ‘add ingredients to shopping cart’ functionality

Best look and feel: Made.com (www.made.com) Madecom

This was a close run between Made.com and Fab.com, and I suppose it is down to taste. I like Made.com because I favour the clean design. It really is (apart from apple.com)one of the few ecommerce sites which is not cluttered with products and promotions. Each individual product takes centre stage, with impressive photography. There is plenty of content to allow you to make an informed choice, but somehow it is still totally minimalist. Really like the functionality that allows visitors to ask questions about a product and the staff recommendations.

  • Clean, non-cluttered design
  • Beautiful photography
  • Plenty of well organised and prioritised product info
  • Easy checkout process with guest option

Best shopping app: Mr Porter (iPhone app)

MrPorterI don’t buy there often, but it is a great experience. The app is easy to use. The home screen is intuitive and offers a minimal choice of options, however, you are only ever one click away from your product list page, which has the most comprehensive filters you will ever find on a fashion app. Plenty of product images and Editor notes for almost every item make it the best shopping app experience for me.

  • Intuitive & easy to use
  • Great content & product imagery
  • Comprehensive product filtering

Best comparison app: Google Shopper (Android and iPhone)Google

Although you can’t buy directly on Google Shopper, I wanted to include it as it has saved me a fortune over the last few months. Before I buy anything, especially at airports where you are confronted with very enticing discounts (mainly on products you don’t need!) I quickly go on Google Shopper to compare prices. Within seconds you can see whether you are getting a good deal, or whether you can get it cheaper elsewhere. The great thing about this app is that it not only compares prices from online shops and the likes of eBay, but it also compares the prices from high street shops in your local area. It also allows you to save your searched item to a ‘shopping list’ meaning that you can refer back to see which impulse buy you managed to avoid….Great money saver!

  • Easy to use and extremely quick
  • Compares online and offline prices
  • Add to shopping list feature
  • Ability to view & buy without leaving app

I hope you like the list and, as mentioned above, if you want to share your favourite ecommerce site or feature(s), use the comment box below and I will add them to the list.

How to sell effectively in the digital age

I recently read a fantastic article titled “Why Top Sales Reps Will Be Unemployed In 2 Years” (posted by Steve Loftness), in which Steve highlights that the buying environment has changed but the sales force has failed to adapt.

He uses Rick and Domina as the two distinct types of sales people around today. Rick is your traditional salesperson, whilst Domina is the evolving (or 21st century) salesperson. Rick relies on his years of experience, whilst Domina is focused on self-improvement. Rick knows what the customer wants, whilst Domina works with the customer to identify their pains and needs. Rick has a LinkedIn account, Domina works her LinkedIn account. And so on. There are quite a few more examples and it is well worth reading through some of them to check your approach and to see if you could benefit from some of Domina’s insight. I certainly did.

Here are few examples:

Symptom Rick (obsolete) Domina (evolving)
Social Network is challenged. Has a hundred or so LinkedIn contacts, but rarely spends time there. Doesn’t even check messages on Linkedin or research prospects. Does not have a twitter account. Built up a large 1000+ contact network over the years. Lately, however, has started to work her LinkedIn network better to focus on prospects.  LinkedIn is her first stop for prospect research. Recently switched her Tweets to be more valuable to prospects/clients than what she did before – tweet about her products and events.
Uses own “tried and true” sales presentations. Although Marketing has supplied multiple versions of sales presentation templates that stress the company value propositions, he insists on adding his own flair and interpretation to sales presentations. This results in reusing his tired inward-out slides that he is comfortable spinning stories around. (At least he is telling stories.) Has always leveraged presentation material from other Reps and Marketing.  In the past, was not happy with Marketing’s output, so augmented it where necessary.  Now, however, she is active in piloting and providing feedback to Marketing on the presentations that their Internal Content Marketing Agency produces.
Doesn’t understand who the competition is. He is convinced that his only competitors are the two major providers of similar products.  He has never considered that competition could come from an ancillary market.  Does not ever discuss with prospects his main competitors: the prospect doing it themselves or doing nothing. Since learning about it, she is now keenly aware of the possible competitors to an opportunity including known competitors, “doing nothing”, the client doing it themselves, and completely different markets that may actually be in need of her solutions. She makes it a point to be prepared to address all possible competitors – relying heavily on Marketing’s customer and competitor intelligence.
CRM usage is absolute minimum and not accurate as far as forecasting goes. He only uses the CRM system out of mandate – putting the minimum info out there.  He may have some well-known contacts in the CRM, but keeps most of them in his own rolodex for fear of someone poaching them.  Entries he makes in the CRM on opportunities are only ever made when he has a good level of confidence in their becoming a deal. She is a strong user in the CRM system. She loads opportunities in the CRM and tracks them through the sales process. Her entries have ample notes and she keeps all of her contacts in the CRM.  She realizes that accurate, complete records allows for easier and better forecasting as well as the chance for her SM to find and coach her on sales improvement.
Story telling, if used, is about irrelevant, dated subjects. The stories he tells are engaging stories because of his charisma. Unfortunately, the stories are about olden days in a market that no longer exists.  His stories aren’t always relevant to the industry he is selling to, either. She has not always leveraged story telling, but has resolved to be one of the best. To this end, she has been studying the art of story telling and has started to put it into practice.  She knows that storytelling must have a purpose, must be relevant to the audience, and must enable emotions.

For the full list and blog post, click here.

 

Hi, can I help you? – ecommerce bad practice

Last weekend I made the uncharacteristic decision to visit a shopping centre. In need of shirts, I quickly found a well-know chain of shirt-makers. Before I had put both feet inside the shop, I got the dreaded ‘Hi, can I help you?‘.

Now, I can accept that I probably looked lost and that the shop assistant was only trying to be friendly, but give me a chance. In fact, here is a question: is there anything more irritating than a completely irrelevant and wrongly timed ‘Hi, can I help you?‘ when you go shopping?

In fact there is. And it occurred to me about ten minutes later, when I had selected the shirt I wanted to try but couldn’t find the right size. Now ready for some help, I turned around half expecting the shop assistant to be hovering around only to find the shop completely void of shop assistants altogether. I waited for five minutes but saw no movement and decided it was time to leave…without my shirts.

It was at this stage I kicked myself for not having gone online to buy, but the reality is that most ecommerce shops are following their offline big brother’s bad example of non-existent customer service or irrelevant ‘Hi, how can I help you?‘s.

Most ecommerce shops have pretty dire customer service practices in fact. The majority don’t ask if they can help at all, forcing you to fend for yourself with only a ‘Help & FAQ‘ section to rely on. Only marginally better are those that offer a telephone number for you to to ring (in itself not very customer-friendly), which often means manically pressing numbers to get to the right help desk and then waiting, and waiting and…waiting.

And then there those that have made the jump to online chat and call back tools, but these are really the online equivalent of the badly timed and irrelevant ‘Hi, can I help you?‘. Popping-up whenever they please, they are never available when you need them.

Is it too much to ask to be treated as a customer rather just a transaction? Surely It doesn’t have to be this way.

The answer is intelligent interaction. By using real-time behavioural profiling and establishing the consumer’s ‘state of mind’, as well as their communication/channel preference, it is possible to engage with them when (and only when) they need you, and in a way that is most convenient for them. How radical!

The benefits of this approach include:

  1. Increased conversion – by engaging with them when they need you, you are more likely to complete a sale (as well as up-sell, cross-sell)
  2. Reduced abandonment – by helping them find what they need (or should be looking for) they are less likely to leave the shop
  3. Improved customer service – the right type of engagement makes the whole buying process quicker and easier
  4. Improved customer satisfaction – by being there for your customer only when they need you, reduces the uncomfortable feeling of being sold to and heightens their perception of you as a brand
  5. Reduced cost – and if the above wasn’t enough, intelligent interaction offers substantial ‘cost-to-serve’ savings, as it focuses your resources on those who need help, leaving the others to complete their purchases by themselves

The reality is that intelligent interaction is not new. In fact it was widely practised (and in some places still is!) by experienced shop keepers and assistants who knew perfectly when to engage with the customer and when to leave them alone. I suppose the high level of staff rotation, part-time staff and sheer size of the super-chains doesn’t allow for this kind of training. But there is no reason why we need to make the same mistake online!

Happy shopping!

2012 – What a year…!!!

As the last day of 2012 is only hours away, it seems appropriate to briefly reflect on the past year, which has been anything but boring.

It has been a year of exciting and diverse projects for me, ranging from Thames Water‘s online drought campaign to one of the most impactful social networking and collaboration proof of concepts for one of the world’s favourite airlines.

I have had the pleasure of working on external digital marketing projects and internal comms strategies for the likes of Experian, Deutsche Bank, Old Mutual Group, Camelot and Betfair amongst many others and would like to thank all the clients for entrusting their digital strategies in our hands.

Together with my team I hosted two hugely successful events and would like to thank the guest speakers, in particular Paul Hewitt from Deutsche Bank and Nick Crawford then from Bupa, as well as the guys from Yammer and Jive for their time and involvement. A special mention also needs to go to my colleagues Neil Clayton and Mark Smith for their support and effort in helping me make it happen.

In terms of trends, 2012 was certainly an exciting year for digital internal comms. Social networking and collaboration continued to be the main talking point, heightened by the purchase by Microsoft of Yammer. Whether this did the industry any favours will remain to be seen but it had a reflective effect on a sector that was probably getting a little bit carried away with itself, which was a good thing.

Another important talking point was mobile & mobility and whether native apps or web apps were the future (see overview here). This conversation will no doubt dominate in 2013 and in my opinion web apps will steal some market share from native apps, particularly in marketing and communications. Whichever is the ultimate winner or whether they share top spot, mobility will be key. Doing everything everywhere, on fully integrated devices, working in the clouds is in my opinion the trend for 2013 and it offers many exciting opportunities.

On a personal level, I will start 2013 with a completely new challenge which will see me back in the B2C arena, working with big data and intelligence, enabling organisations to engage and interact more effectively with their customers. It is a very exciting opportunity and I truthfully can’t wait for the start to the new year!

I wish everyone the very best for 2013 and thank you for reading my digital ramblings. I look forward to continuing in the New Year.

The four simple truths of Intranet

This month saw Investis host the first of many Intranet thought-leadership seminars. Over 45 people from 38 FTSE and multinational organisations filled the room made for 40, for what was to be an insightful if not somewhat snug gathering at the Hospital Club in Covent Garden.

In this post I summarise some of the key points discussed:

The workplace is out of date – Mike Boogaard (Investis)
I started off the event by revisiting the point I made in my last blog post about the workplace being based on a 20th century model even though we find ourselves in the 2nd decade of the 21st century. Coupled to this is the reality that consumerisation of IT is raising the user’s expectations: organisations that fail to improve both their digital workplace and access to up-to-date technology risk losing their best people to the competition.

I concluded, however, that there is a huge gap between what we as organisations are ready for and what the consultants and vendors are trying to sell. In most cases organisations are simply not ready for the utopian ‘totally mobile, social and collaborative network’ and simply need to focus on connecting people with people and people to information, achieving what I refer to as ‘networked productivity’ and ‘coordinated working practices’.

The Four Simple Truths of Intranet – Mark Smith (Investis)
Rather than focus on the big business transformation piece, Mark focused on four practical ways of ensuring your Intranet is fit for purpose.

1. Your Intranet doesn’t have to be ugly!
An ugly Intranet reflects a lack of investment and says to the user that the organisation doesn’t care (…and so why should the user?). Also, as people are working more from home and remotely, it is important that entering the Intranet gives the same sense of ‘brand feeling’ as walking into the physical office itself.

2. Make things simpler
A key win for an Intranet is if it is simple to use, easy to navigate and fast at finding information. The focus should therefore be on what you can take out rather than adding things in. Intranet managers should focus on eliminating complexity.

Mark gave the example of the mobile Intranet site of the UK parliament. Developed by Sharon O’Dea (then at the UK parliament), it is focused solely on what MPs really needed when on the move. Namely, alerts telling them when they needed to go into the house to vote , maps of the parliamentary estate and of course a list of bars and restaurants. A great example of making things really simple.

3. Use technology intelligently
Technology should never be the driver of a project, but the enabler. My approach is always to take a step back from technology as this allows me to focus on the needs of the business rather than be restricted from the outset on functionality. Technology needs to be used smartly to deliver content and tools that are relevant to users. Define your objectives and needs first, then select the technology to do it.

4. Put people at the centre of the Intranet
Lastly, Mark focused on the most important part of any Intranet: the users. He made it clear that content is not king, people are. This means focusing on the activities and requirements of the user rather than publishing pages. He concluded that by focusing on the users you will allow them to become more efficient, and efficient employees lead to efficient organisations.

Integrating social collaboration within your business – Bruce McKay (Jive)
Bruce focused on the benefits of integrating social collaboration for the organisation and gave 3 practical examples: Toshiba which achieved faster sales cycle, SAP which reduced product release cycles and News Corporation which reduced multiple Intranets to one.

They achieved this by improved access to information, easy scalibility, ideation and innovation, and improved general awareness.

But the best way to get a feel for what Jive can do is to watch this great video (put your headphones on!).

Simplifying the Intranet – Paul Hewitt (Deutsche Bank)
We are incredibly grateful to Paul who gave us some of his precious time to talk about DB’s initiative to simplify their Intranet and give a practical example of how they went about integrating their social collaboration platform into the workplace.

Below I have outlined the key points that I noted down:

1. Deutsche Bank has the same challenges as many of our clients: multiple intranets, several disparate and diverse systems, out-of-date content and a desire to make use of social collaboration.

2. Clearly defined roadmap – DB had a clearly defined roadmap, divided into four phases with well-defined activities and benefits per phase.

3. Solid social collaboration business case – DB launched their social collaboration platform to a select number within the organisation and let it go viral, but prior to launch they developed a clear strategy and solid business case for the implementation of the relevant platform, and were able to measure performance against these objectives. Their key objectives (each stream split into several activities) included reduction of service costs, consolidation of the Intranet, a focus on eliminating waste/duplication of work and decommissions the total number of tools used.

Paul concluded by highlighting some of the key opportunities that he believes DB’s social collaboration platform has to offer, which included: improved findability, visibility beyond your own division, a great way of driving traffic to the Intranet, and helping people connect to management.

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I would like to thank Mark, Bruce and Paul for their time and all the attendees for making it very interactive and insightful morning.

If you are interested in receiving a more detailed presentation of the event, please get in touch.

The Intranet and beyond…

As I will soon be hosting an event with the same title, I thought it might be interesting to give everyone a little taster of what I hope to cover with (a lot of) help from my colleague Mark Smith and some very interesting guest speakers.

By now, everyone has pretty much accepted that Intranets are important and a great way to help bring people closer to people and closer to information. Most businesses have some sort of Intranet and some of us are discussing the importance of ‘socialising’  Intranets and making them more collaborative.

But to understand where Intranets are headed, we have to understand the underlying trends and directions that are influencing our working lives.

Our lives have changed
Consider how the way we live our personal lives has changed over the past two decades: we socialise and make friends online (Facebook), everyone knows where we are (Foursquare), we are available any time (mobile), we buy anything anywhere (ecommerce), we only watch what we want to see (TV on-demand), we share our interest and knowledge (Twitter), we have total mobility (iPads, Smartphones) and we expect all of this at breakneck speed (4G and broadband).

I could go on and on about how our personal lives have been unrecognisably changed by technology…but that is only because I am old enough to remember what our lives were like 20 years ago. Most of the 20-something youngster joining the workforce today don’t know any different.

Our workplace needs to catch up
And yet, if we look at the way we work, very little has changed over the last two decades. In fact, if anything, the speed of organisations’ advancement has slowed down.

What does our office look like today? Pretty much the same as it did in the 1990’s. Back then we had open offices, coffee corners, networks and document drives. Some of us had PCs and others had laptops (ok, a bit bulkier and more expensive). We had email and mobile phones. Sure there have been some changes, but the sad truth is that back then our workplace offered us better infrastructures, connectivity and equipment , whilst today we now have better equipment and connectivity at home.

Fundamental change
It is not just about technology but about the way we structure our organisations. As people are becoming smarter, there is less need for traditional business hierarchies. As people start to collaborate, we need to adjust the way we approach targets and job remits. As people begin to share, authority will shift from those with fancy job titles to those with knowledge.

Essentially, the workspace should no longer be a place you go to but a thing you do. The office environment should become an extension of our digital workplace. People will not work 9-to-5 but whenever they are connected. We need to recognise achievements instead of just offering attractive compensation. Mobility (not mobile), collaboration and sharing need to become the focus, and we need to put in place solutions that will allow us to do all this effectively (hint: that is not by email!).

All of this will not be achieved immediately, and we will certainly not have all the answers at the event, but I do hope we will demonstrate ways in which you can start working towards this organisational revolution, and how to ensure your approach is flexible and future-proof enough to meet the challenges of the second decade of the 21st century.

The free breakfast seminar will be hosted at the Hospital Club, Covent Garden from 8.30am-10.30am on 10th October 2012. To register please visit: http://linkd.in/PtE38h (limited availability).

See you there!

How to avoid social collaboration failure: focus on people

I am aware that the title of this post makes a pretty big commitment to the reader, and I don’t blame you for thinking I am about to reveal the holy grail of social collaboration or Enterprise 2.0. I am sorry to disappoint you.

Unfortunately there is no definitive roadmap for success or perfect case study we can all replicate. The very nature of Enterprise 2.0 is that the solution needs to be adapted to the one thing that makes every company different: its people.

Typical,”, I hear you say, “another wishy-washy blog post that only adds to the conundrums we already face!”. Hopefully, not!

The reality is that although the solution is almost certainly unique, the approach to uncovering the solution is relatively standard. It just needs to be focused on the people. So here are a couple of key steps that should form part of your passage into the world of social collaboration, and help ensure a successful outcome:

1)  Don’t let the technology define you, you define the technology – “we want to implement platform x because our CEO went to a conference where it was presented, and he loves it” does not make a good business case! Before you select the right platform, make sure you do your homework (see #2, #3 and #4 below). Certainly do not start by selecting the platform. Take a step back from technology and resist the temptation to jump on a particular bandwagon. Most responsible vendors actually advocate this approach themselves, as failure is not in their interest either.

2) Understand the users’ requirements and needs – this is not about getting the users buy-in but about making sure that the solution actually meets the needs of the people who will be expected to use it. Sounds like a no-brainer,  right? Believe me, so many organisations still see this step as a waste of time or simply treat it as a box ticking exercise. Gain an understanding of what is lacking from the current system(s),  find out how the users are currently working (tools, devices, locations), find out what the users require to work more efficiently and effectively, and what would make their day more productive (and enjoyable!).

3) Ensure the drivers are in place – if your business doesn’t not have a collaborative culture, there is no technical solution or platform that will magically create a social collaborative environment. You need to make sure the business is ready, and that the relevant drivers are in place. These drivers are personal to the organisation and will include essential factors such as culture, leadership and technology.

4) Build a strong foundation (business case) – define the business objectives and the relevant KPIs to measure success. You need to be able to measure your solution, not just to prove you are on the right track, but more importantly to know if you are on the wrong one. The benefits of E2.0 are often intangible (i.e. more engaged employees), making them harder to measure but not impossible. Also focus on the wider business metrics. Define the end-goal or outcome  (e.g. innovation, growth, profitability, customer retention), which are measurable.

5) Pilot – the saying that ‘you only have one chance to make a first impression’ is also true within the organisation. This makes pilots so important.  They allow you to launch in a controlled environment, steer the project, make observations and adjustments, and perfect your approach before you roll-out to the wider audience.

6) Planning – “a goal without a plan is just a wish” (Antoine de Saint-Exupery). A medium and long term plan is essential. It gives everyone confidence that it is not just a whim. You need to include in your plan governance, community management, communication strategies (for senior stakeholders) and adoptions strategies (for users) if you are to succeed beyond the initial pilot or launch.

6) Identify champions – I have mentioned this various times in previous posts, but it is often under-rated or ignored completely. The whole concept behind E2.0 is that the users own the platform, provide the content and drive adoption. To make this happen you need the ‘innovators’ and ‘early adopters’ (Rogers’ bell curve) in place. So make sure you have identify, motivated and brought on-board the key influencers, gatekeepers and leaders.

7) Clear communication – if your organisation is anything like 99.9% of the other organisations out there, your foray into launching ‘a new solution’ will not be the first the employees will have experienced. By now they probably have a multitude of tools, platforms, apps, and software systems that were, at the time, equally ground breaking as your initiative. Make people understand why you are introducing this new system, why it will be beneficial to them and set aside enough time and budget to train them and provide support.

8) There is no ‘one size fits all’ – as mentioned in my introduction, E2.0 is world where ‘one size does not fit all’. It is perfectly possible that even within your organisation you might need to consider different solutions or approaches for different departments or business units. I am certainly not suggesting implementing a myriad of platforms within one organisation. That would almost certainly end in disaster, but make sure that you introduce your new solution only to those users who will benefit, rather than forcing it on everybody.

Conclusion:

When speaking to organisations, I am glad that the conversation is no longer about ‘why’ they need to implement an E2.0 strategy. They get it now. They realise that the workforce is changing, that technology is speeding up conversations, and that social networks have altered the way we communicate and collaborate forever. The question now is no longer about ‘why?’ but ‘how?’.

Unfortunately, it is now in the ‘How?’ phase where organisations are losing their faith and where the money is squandered. In 9 out of 10 cases it is because the initiative did not have the users (the people) at the centre. Focus on the people and their needs, and you will be on your way to success. If you don’t have the resource for this ‘discovery’ exercise, get outside help. It will save you lots of money, pain and resistance in the long run.

Lonely at the top: how a CEO drives employee engagement

Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s Continental Airlines was ranked bottom of nearly every category used to measure airline performance. The company went through 10 CEOs in a decade, had to ask for bankruptcy protection twice and, at it’s lowest point, made losses of over $600m per year.

When Gordon Bethune took over as CEO in 1994, the situation looked hopeless. But he quickly realised that the origin of the problem was (mainly) down to one major failing: a complete and fundamental lack of employee engagement. In fact, employees were mistreated and mistrusted. The employees themselves were embarrassed to work at Continental. There was no pride and certainly no pleasure in going to work.

This lack of pride and enjoyment inevitably led to slow turnarounds at airports, lack of cleanliness of the planes, delays and most importantly of all total customer dissatisfaction. People didn’t fly Continental for their pleasure. The result: a hugely unprofitable airline.

Bethune, implemented the basics of employee engagement. He instilled pride, explained that the cleanliness of the planes wasn’t just important for the customer, but for the staff themselves. They had to work in the planes. He started giving the staff bonuses every month the business made a profit (sending a separate cheque at the end of the month to make sure they knew it!). And he got stuck in. He could often be found loading luggage with ground staff or getting feedback directly from cabin crew.

The result? The year Bethune took over the company made $250m profit. It was soon at the top of all the rankings and the stock price rose from $2 per share to $50 per share, it was voted ‘best place to work’ for 6 consecutive years and in his last year (2004), Fortune magazine voted Continental Airlines No. 1 Most Admired Global Airline (which it has won many times since then).

So, what can we learn from Bethune’s activities? How can we translate these into a digital comms language? Here are some ideas on how you as a CEO can use your digital channels to cultivate employee engagement, instil pride and get your team behind you:

CEO Participation – the biggest lesson we can surely take from this success story is the importance for the CEO to ‘get stuck in’. It is not just about getting senior management and/or CEO ‘buy-in’ for the Intranet (or social collaboration platform). It is all about actual participation. You need to be using the same systems that your staff are using. If you use it, the rest of the organisation will follow suit (and you will gain a better understanding of any limitations and/or benefits).

CEO blog – a great way of getting the team behind you is by communicating to them. And one of the most effective ways (time/cost) of doing that is through a blog. Although slightly more time consuming than participation, CEO blogs are hugely powerful instruments that enable you to address potentially sensitive issues, cultivate enthusiasm for new projects, and communicate the management’s vision and the company’s performance.

CEO Q&A – another very effective idea, and very easy to implement for the more social platforms, is the creation of a version of ‘prime minister question time’ or internal CEO Q&A session. Run as regularly as it suits the business, this will allow staff from all levels of the organisation to ask questions and for you to address them. Yes, this means you will sometimes face difficult issues, but the reality is they are better addressed than left to fester.

Video & webcasting – it doesn’t replace the importance of face-to-face presentations, but in organisations that are geographically dispersed or simply too large to get everyone in one room, video and webcasting is the perfect way for employees to get a closer to the CEO. Webcasting, in particular, is a great way to draw people to the Intranet at the same time, with a common sense of purpose and allow you to address the whole organisation as one. Rich content is also becoming more and more important to Intranets, so consider a quarterly corporate update video, and a video for new starters welcoming them on-board (simple but extremely effective).

KPIs – the lack of importance given to communicating company performance internally always amazes me. Companies are quite willing to spend fortunes on end of year reports and IR sections (which are clearly also important), but don’t seem to understand the importance of communicating this information internally. A company performance section should be a standard for your Intranet if you want to gain real employee engagement. Simple: to cultivate pride, tell them how you are doing when you are doing well. If the company is doing badly, discussing performance figures can help rally the troops.

Conclusion:

Essentially, all the above are digital examples of how you can achieve two things: ‘getting stuck in’ and open communication. Open communication builds trust and pride. Getting stuck in shows awareness, interest and understanding.

These are the pillars on which employee engagement is built.

The workplace is becoming an ‘i’-mocracy

Recently I posted a question on LinkedIn asking people: what they thought the workplace would look like in 5 to 10 years time. My reason was extremely selfish, as it is a question that I have to ask myself quite a lot in my line of work, and thought I would make my life easier by getting other people to answer it for me. For 2 days I waited and waited. Nothing!

Then slowly but surely people started to respond and a week or so later there are 20 comments from people all over the world giving their personal vision of the future of their workplaces. And as I don’t want to be selfish any longer, I want to share some main points raised, and my conclusion with you.

Mobility & flexibility

Almost all the comments to some degree or other touched on mobility being a major influencing factor in the future. Organisations need to embrace mobility and provide their staff with the tools not only to access data but to interact with it wherever they may be (and across multiple devices!).

Collaboration

I was fully expecting this, as it is the single most talked about topic in my conversations with clients. How can we become more collaborative? How can we crowd-source more effectively? Ideation and gamifaction are of course always darting in and out of this conversation, but the reality is that organisations need to stop pretending they are collaborating and really provide substantial tools (and culture!) that enable effective and meaningful collaboration.

Fluid workspace

I loved this expression, as it immediately conjures up visions of what that would look like. The conversation around this went well beyond hot-desking or open spaced offices. As Joyce put it: imagine a big open space with clusters around projects and the ability to join in the various clusters that are relevant to you. Picture leaders walking around this big space and almost indistinguishable for the other participants.

A bit too far out? No!… That is what social intranets or ESN are all about! The technology is real and it is here accessible to all.

Bringing order to chaos

Another point made was around environments that have less noise, and are less chaotic. I interpret this to mean that information is easy to find. Relevant conversations and content are easily identifiable. Relevant people stand out from the crowd.  The mad rush to find content is over. The confusion about who reports to who and who is involved in what are things from the past. Bliss.

BYOD (Bring your own device)

Not longer than ten years ago, we used to go to work because that is where we had access to (fast) internet connections,  the latest computer and some of us were given mobile phones we didn’t need to pay for. Those were perks. Fast forward to today, and the reality is totally inverse. Our personal mobile phone is the latest smartphone on an ‘all you can eat’ data and call package. It is sync’ed with our iPad (or tablet), giving us access to all our songs, photos and other content in a totally seamless way. We have a stylish thin laptop or a top of the range, faster than lighting PC. At work? We are lucky if we get a Dell Latitude laptop and a poxy 3G iPhone.

What does that mean? It means that there is a massive disconnect between our expectations of user-experience and tools that we are expected to work with. Companies will have to focus on improving the user-experience and move away from “they should be happy they are getting a phone” to providing the employees with tools that at least match what they have in their personal lives. Or they will have to accept “bring our own”, and iron out any security issues that may imply.

© Hollywood Pictures

Conclusion:

Reading the above and the response on the Linkedin page, one thing becomes clear to me: we are shaping our own workplace. The balance of power is shifting and employers are having to play catch up to our demands.We share our private lives (FB, Twitter, etc.) – so businesses have to provide platforms that allow us to share (collaborate) our working lives.

We have cool toys – businesses will have to provide us with cool toys or accept that we will bring our own to work.

We value our time – businesses are going to have to provide more flexibility and the ability to work any time anywhere, or we will look for other places to work.

The workplace is no longer feudal (dedicated top down), nor is it a democracy (lets all work it out together).

The workplace is an i-mocracy – I decide!

Thank you the all the participants of the LinkedIn discussion: Stephen RussellSumit RoyLinda BjorkBala SubraStephen RussellPiyush MangalIvan IsaacsMatthew AikenMikko MalmivaaraRandy HerbertsonCatherine Zang, MBAJoyce Wilson-Sanford