Work IT: bring-you-and-your-own-everything

First published to Gigaom Research.

Cast your mind back a decade or more. Did you request specific hardware from your company’s IT team? If so, you started a trend that continues to play out to this day, and will continue to its logical and exciting conclusion.

You may or may not have been successful in your request given IT’s historic intransigence, but nowadays many of us expect to rock up to work with the laptop and tablet and smartphone of our choosing – often our own – and expect the IT team’s full accommodation.

We’re also bringing our own applications. Non-IT staff have adopted software-as-a-service without necessarily going through their IT colleagues. Yammer, Trello and Slack for example. Perhaps Google Docs crept in without organization-wide adoption of Google for Work. Meeting schedulers. Note-takers. Expense trackers. Skype. Dropbox. Instagram. The list is as long as the kind of things you need to get done.

It’s useful to think of this in terms of Enterprise IT and Work IT. The enterprise owns Enterprise IT whereas the worker owns Work IT. In simple terms, Enterprise IT is focused on the organization, Work IT on organizing. Enterprise IT is top-down with the starting position of locking everything down, whereas Work IT is bottom-up, thriving by facilitating sharing and openness.

Change management must change

Ironically, the art and science of change management hasn’t changed so much in recent times.

Earlier this year I was given 20 minutes to present relevant technology trends to a London meeting of the Change Management Institute, and this has prompted an interesting dialogue with a client in recent weeks. You might say it boils down to the maxim:

People don’t so much dislike change as being changed.

My presentation – appended here – covers the exo-brain (aka smartphone), the exo-peripheral nervous system (aka the Internet of Things), social tech, the irreversible interweaving of the analogue and digital fabric of society, the responsive and visual workplace, building information management, beacons, personal data, quantified organization, influence flows, the work graph, emergence, Web 3.0 and the hi:project.

Unsocial and social customer service

If you’re struggling to make the case for social customer service, here is an overview of the situation to spark your colleagues’ interest.

Customer service as cost-centre

Traditional management regards customer service as a cost-centre. Why? Well, a customer is only a customer when they’ve already transacted – so the revenue bit is done and dusted. Now those customers just want service, which only costs us money right?

And that’s the fundamental reason that calls-per-hour is a call centre KPI (key performance indicator).

Of course we don’t want to deliver bad service, because that might damage our reputation and future revenues. But let’s not go over the top either. What?!… you want to do “social customer service”?! No way. That sounds like it only increases costs.

However, it’s living with this traditional outlook that places one firmly on a downward spiral, and that was before the advent of social. Now the opportunity cost in the age of social just makes this spiral all the steeper.

Customer service as profit-centre

By definition, determining profit requires we attribute revenue to customer service as well as cost.

Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever

An open letter to Paul Polman, Unilever

I love Unilever’s vision. I believe it is important in our world. And I believe that the opportunities and challenges we grapple with in the e2.0 / socbiz / futureofwork / responsive org communities will be critical in its pursuit.

Earlier this month, for the Enterprise 2.0 Summit in London, I penned an open letter to Paul Polman and everyone with an interest in Unilever‘s success. The letter is embedded below and it’s also available as a PDF too: Open letter to Paul Polman, Unilever.

[Image source: Paul Polman by UK Department for International Development, CC-BY-2.0]

crab sand

Three possible explanations for strategy failure

Have you attended to strategy recently? Strategy. Strategy. Strategy. Sometimes it appears to be the most over-used word in business. From our observations, if this obsession with strategy ultimately disappoints, and perhaps that’s too frequently, then three explanations may loom large:

Planning is confused for strategy

Strategy is knowing where to play and how to win, whereas planning relates to working out how a strategy might be accomplished. If you discount all references to strategy when it’s actually planning then you might well find strategy under-represented in business discourse, and possibly alarmingly so.

Strategy ignores emergence

The deliberate strategy approach is most common, and too often exclusively so. This familiar process is constrained to a minority of select individuals in the organisation, typically of a certain seniority, who divine the way forward during some compressed timeline or event. They then instruct the rest of the organisation to make it happen.

Emergent strategy however recognises that strategy may form ‘from below’, if you want to be hierarchical about it. More accurately, it’s formed on a continuous basis from the trials and tribulations of the day-to-day business and its feel for what’s happening and about to happen in the market. Today’s fast moving, ever changing environment makes emergent strategy a requirement not a nice-to-have, and it’s a major facet of social business. Our Philip Sheldrake posted about it recently: Deliberate and emergent, by design.

Strategy isn’t executed

What good is well articulated strategy left on the shelf? When planning and execution do not do it justice? Rather, plans too often serve the status quo and / or personal agenda than strategy, and execution is frustrated by stubborn resistance to the alignment of operational capabilities with strategic demands. There are many more management texts addressing strategy (48k Amazon book results) than execution (1,100 results), more’s the pity. Why is that? Why is a job role encompassing “strategy” often valued more highly than one dedicated to execution? And how ironic given “executive” is the E in CEO.

… So, have you attended to strategy recently?

Image source.

New York

Social business and the future of organization

Our Philip Sheldrake has created a new presentation on the future of organization to help stimulate debate amongst the Future of Work and Responsive Org communities and further afield. This future is made possible by social media and related technologies, but the technologies are by no means sufficient.

Perhaps most fundamentally, the new competitiveness is facilitated by addressing the compromises we all know riddle typical hierarchical command-and-control organization structures. New forms of organization need not be superior in many significant ways; rather, they only have to be slightly better at adapting to inevitable change in order to out-perform the 20th Century laggard.

Here’s the Slideshare, with clickable hyperlinks, and the video is available on both Vimeo and YouTube.

Image source.

stowe boyd

Stowe Boyd talks about making social business happen with Philip Sheldrake

According to his profile at Gigaom Research, “Stowe describes himself as a web anthropologist, futurist, and analyst. His focus is the future of work, and the tectonic forces pushing business into an unclear and accelerating future.”

Stowe publishes an IBM sponsored series of interviews he calls Socialogy. The latest is with our Philip Sheldrake, available on Stowe’s website and reproduced here in full for your convenience.

Stowe Boyd: In a recent post (see Our goal is to become a social business but how do we get the revolution started?) you back away from a contact’s question about needing a revolution to get his company to become more social. First, you looked at the conclusion that the answer to his business’ circumstance was to become social, and instead suggested an examination of shared values. But aren’t many businesses considering a digital/social transformation in the pursuit of another round of productivity, rather than soul searching about meaning and purpose?

Philip Sheldrake: My first point emphasizes that social business is a means not an ends of itself. A delightful means. A rewarding means. A welcome means. But a means nonetheless. You may well argue that the corresponding values and principles could represent an endgame for how you’d like society to be, but from the perspective of the business man I was talking to, and indeed all of my clients, the success of that business is foremost in his mind.

And what a loaded word that is – success. It seems, particularly in the light of recent calamitous events, that more than a few people are searching for a post-capitalist reality, one that at least recognizes and attempts to make up for some of the serious flaws in free-wheeling market economies. Articulating what success looks like exactly in terms of a country or an organization or other community has exercised greater minds than mine, but I simply talk to creating value for all stakeholders faster than otherwise, and value in its fullest meaning. In words a card-carrying capitalist might recognize, we’re talking about shareholders benefiting greatly because other stakeholders benefit greatly too; a win-win rather than a win-lose.

Sandy Pentland

How big data can transform society for the better

Scientific American cover Oct 2013Alex ‘Sandy’ Pentland directs MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory and the MIT Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program, and co-leads the World Economic Forum Big Data and Personal Data initiatives. We’ve just found his October 2013 article published in Scientific American, How Big Data Can Transform Society for the Better.

It’s a fascinating read, and the following four quotes leapt out at us given our focus here at Euler on the Six Influence Flows and the Influence Scorecard as a way to redesign organizations for social business.

patterns of idea flow … are directly related to productivity growth and creative output

… The relationship between engagement and productivity is simple: high levels of engagement predict high group productivity, almost no matter what that group is working on or what kinds of personalities its members have.

… exploration – a mathematical measure of the extent to which the members of a group bring in new ideas from outside. Exploration is a good predictor of both innovation and creative output.

… Increasing engagement is not a magic bullet. … we found that at a certain point people become so interconnected that the flow of ideas is dominated by feedback loops. Sure, everyone is trading ideas—but they are the same ideas over and over.

Image source.

Philip Sheldrake

What is social business?

3M Think Tank

3M invited our Philip Sheldrake to provide the closing keynote at its recent ThinkTANK conference in Minneapolis St. Paul on the topic of social business.

As you may know, Euler Partners’ vision for social business extends a little beyond the prefixing of the word “social” to the departments and functions of the 20th Century organisation. We won’t say any more in this post, but leave you with the video of the half hour presentation, and the slidestack itself. We hope you like it.

Philip Sheldrake, Euler Partners, 3M ThinkTANK conference, Minneapolis St. Paul, 26th September 2013

Social Business slidestack, 3M ThinkTANK conference, Minneapolis St. Paul, 26th September 2013


In association with Social Media Today

Attenzi - a social business storyOur social business fiction, Attenzi – a social business story, has gently made its way to a small and select audience across nearly every continent (no news yet from Antartica). It’s been used, as we hoped, to help educate, energise and focus teams in large organizations, assisted by the fact that it’s open and free to share in all digital formats.

And we hope now that it might go even further as the 2nd edition is published today in association with Social Media Today in advance of The Social Shake-up conference in Atlanta this week. Robin Carey, Founder and CEO of Social Media Today, has written a new foreword to join the one by Adam Pisoni, co-founder and CTO, Microsoft Yammer.

We’re at the conference, and we hope we have the opportunity to meet if you are too. In the meantime, head over to We hope you enjoy the read.