Tag Archive for crowdsourcing

Social Business Software: Give yourself an unfair advantage

Social has been hot for a couple of years.  Now, people are trying to figure out how to apply the capabilities to business.  Often people come to the space with vague notions of social. Every conversation seems to bring up Twitter and Facebook.  It makes sense.   People are coming to the space based upon what they know as consumers.  However, when talking about CorasWorks Cim on SharePoint, I find it very effective to start the conversation a bit differently.  It goes like this…

Business is a team sport.  It is competitive.  Yes, there are rules.  But, what if you could give yourself an unfair advantage over the competition?  An advantage that would make you more powerful at the point of attack.

Think of a team sport like football.  Eleven people on each side.  But, imagine if you and only you were able to tap another 15 people, including 5 ringers with specific skills and knowledge, to turn the situation to your advantage.

Effectively, social business software is an enabler to do just this.  It gives you a multiplier effect of your workforce and enables you to bring this force to bear when and where it matters.

How?  Most of our applications/systems are designed for a purpose.  This is good because it focuses on a specific objective.  The problem (or opportunity) is that most of these applications are inward looking.  They take a constrained inward looking view towards how best to accomplish an outcome.  Part of this historically is based upon technology and design.  However, a more significant part is simply our perspective of the playing field and the rules.

Let’s take a help desk.  CorasWorks has provided help desk solutions on SharePoint for years.  They are always driven by IT Help Desk managers.  They are focused on efficiency.  But, for many items maybe you don’t need one.  With a social business application your “help desk” largely becomes the community in the middle.  People submit questions, and, others answer them.  The community becomes the source of answers (other than resetting passwords).  It is hugely scalable, tends to get it right, becomes a visible repository of correct answers and challenges, and is very convenient to use.  Along the way, you may even find that most of the questions are very, very different from IT issues.  Your employees really want to know how to do something, to find this or that, who knows this information, can I do this, how can we get something done.  For social business, think of your enterprise help desk more like a virtual concierge that brings everyone’s knowledge and experience to bear.

How about product change requests?  For most organizations, this is a very insular process of a limited number of people.  How about opening it up?  Allow users to quickly submit the requests.  Make the process visible.  Let other users outside of the normal process weigh in.  Vet your conclusions with the crowd.  Yes, actually ask them to comment on what you are thinking.  You can also just open it up to partners, customers, or even the public. It is about using your social business system to enable you to tap this broader workforce and deliver the results.

What about narrow technical solutions?  Your engineering office in Chicago has a technical challenge.  The Berlin office has addressed it 3 times already this year.  But, would the Chicago know this.  Maybe yes.  But, the key is that we usually don’t know exactly the right person to ask.  By leveraging a social business system, you are able to tap into people for things that you don’t know have the answer.  If you knew who had the answer, you’d just send an email.  Life would be easy.  The unfair opportunity is not based upon communication (that assumes that the people know one another) – it is about collaboration by people that don’t know each other.

The range of scenarios is huge. The power of the opportunity becomes clear when you change your perspective and ask yourself how you can give yourself an unfair advantage, in a particular situation, by tapping into a broader group of people.  By the way, this thinking doesn’t come easily.  We have been trained to think more narrowly, solve problems, with known resources.  You will find it easier to always think about a specific situation, and, imagine who would be the perfect “ringer” that you could bring to the game to make you successful.  Then, let your system do the work…

In this context, it is easier to see that the role of social business software like CorasWorks Cim on SharePoint is to be the enabler to make this happen.  More on this to come…


Crowd and Management Social Eddies in Cim 2.0

A couple of posts ago I talked about Social Collaboration and Business Processes being two sides of the same coin in Cim 2.0.  They are different animals but very related. In this article, I’ll drill down into an example of features in Cim 2.0 that show how and why they are different, similar and related.

We’ll look at a comparison of the experience of  the crowd users (the general community) vs. the managers of the process in terms of collaborative activity.  In Cim as in any social business process tool, activity and more specifically decisions are primarily done in a “social” context.  This is a small “s” meaning group decisions.   This promotes visibility, engagement, and ideally, better decisions.  This differs from a sequential workflow process where decisions are made sequentially and in a black box. For instance, decisions at each stage of a stage gate process in Cim may be made a group of people or a committee.

We refer to each specific context of activity as a social eddie.  So the crowd rating, commenting, and reviewing of an idea is one social eddie.  A management team doing rating, commenting, and their reviews prior to making a decision is another social eddie. social eddies

In a standard social business process the Crowd social eddie is separate, different, but, very related to the Management social eddie.  The schematic here gives you a visual of the relationship.  Again, think two sides of the same coin.

Below we will do the following: 1) look at The Crowd Social Eddie, 2) look at the Management Social Eddie, 3) sum up how they compare, and 4) and present some interesting nuances to a process with social eddies.

The Crowd Social Eddie

Let’s look first at the Crowd Social Eddie and how it feels in Cim 2.0.  Below is a screenshot of the detail for a Process Improvement submission.  Here the crowd collaborates on the idea.  As shown, they have made comments, uploaded some files, and done some peer reviews. 


A key piece is the ability for anyone in the crowd to do formal reviews of the idea.  This is a new option in Cim 2.0 – a very nice one if you want some empirical data from the crowd.  As items are reviewed the average score is shown.  The screenshot below is a completed review – the questions are radial choices for empirical results.  However, you can also have subjective questions, dates, numbers.  Thus, you can get empirical data, subjective data, and absolute data (great for getting crowdsourced projections).



Management Social Eddie

Now, let’s turn to the management side of the coin.  They can see the activity happening in the crowd as they look to make their decisions.  However, with Cim 2.0 they also have their own, private Management Activity console as shown below. 


On the left they see all of the ideas that are in the review stage. For each one, they see details on the right side.  They can also vote (!), comment, and do management reviews for each idea.  Above, we are showing the tab with the Votes.  Note that here each managers’ vote is shown for all of the other managers to see (whereas in The Crowd, the star ratings are not shown to all).

Now, lets look at the management reviews.  Below we show their questions.  They are different form the peer review form that the Crowd uses. 



Summary of Different Sides of the Coin

Let’s review some of the differences and similarities in these two social eddies:

-  in the Crowd they are working on one idea at a time, whereas, in Management they are acting on many ideas in a single Management Activity display (kind of speed reviewing)

-  both social eddies have the ability to have custom review forms to capture empirical data and score it, yet, the questions can be different to meet the objectives

- in the Crowd, you typically don’t show the individual Star Ratings, whereas, in the Management display a) they are called Votes vs. Ratings and b) they are explicitly shown for each person (ideally, the management people are voting as part of collective decision making)


In addition, there are a couple of nuances about a social business process as described above… 

As already noted, the activity and decision making is primarily done in a “social” context.  However, at any point you can kick off sequential workflows where it may be necessary to get a specific approval or specific input before the group decision can be made.  Examples are a Legal sign off, a Feasibility Assessment, or a Finance decision.

Further, it is interesting that just because the management team may have started its review process or even made the decision – this does not mean that the Crowd Social Eddie has stopped working the idea.  They will see the Status as an item progresses through the Stage Gates – and their conversation may change.  For instance, imagine the conversation after the management team decides not to implement a process, or, decides that they are actually going to fund a change and go forward.

Yes, this can seem a bit chaotic with all of those social eddies going on.  However, the key is that the role of the tool is to enable the social eddies to occur but as part of a structured process that programmatically moves things forward, with solid empirical data, towards informed and better decisions and results. 

You might say it is the best of both worlds – or, you could say that it is two sides of the same coin.