I’ve posted before on how I think micro-blogging is a low threshold to participation as it merges the concept of reading, blogging, sharing links, chatting, connecting; into the same window…kind of like we do all sorts of communications through the email window. But more accurately the low threshold to participation refers to the level of effort it requires to contribute. Basically, my dad uses status updates in Facebook, but I ain’t gonna see him using a blog or wiki in a hurry.
In Michael Idinopulos’s post, Launch E2.0 broad, then go deep, he talks about how different tools require a different type of participation effort on the micro level. For example micro-blogging requires great participation (network effects) to take off at the macro level, but at the micro level it doesn’t ask much of the user.
Here’s how Michael says it:
"Some modes of collaboration have a really low threshold of participation: It’s very easy to get started on them because individuals don’t need a ton of engagement to find them useful. Other modes of collaboration have a really high threshold: Users don’t see the point unless they invest a lot of time learning and using the tools.
Historically, Enterprise 2.0 implementations have focused on collaborative tools fairly high participation thresholds: blogs and wikis. That’s not by design, it’s by default. Until recently, those were the only Enterprise 2.0 tools that showed potential for high-value business use. Since these activities required a lot of engagement, we smothered our pilot participants with training and encouragement–which forced us to keep the pilots small.
Today, Enterprise 2.0 participation is a whole different game. At the "low threshold" end of the curve, we have low-engagement tools like social messaging (internal "Twitter"), social bookmarking. By leading your implementation with these low-threshold tools, you lower the risk of implementation while still launching at the scale required for success."
This got me thinking about the recent use of Yammer by a few of us at work…I was thinking about Buy-in vs Just do it (Proof of Concept)
At work, like anything, to buy a new product and implement it requires you to get buy-in and all that goes with it…most often something like micro-blogging won’t be seen as important. It’s a hard sell…but once you use it you can’t do without it…people have to "feel" it to understand.
Here’s another approach.
Start using Yammer as a Proof of Concept. It’s free, they host a secure network for you based on your email domain. Then invite someone, and they will invite someone else, and it goes on.
If it takes off and people become hooked, it’s hard for management to point the finger as no one person is responsible for it’s use, and rather than taking it away, they will see that it must obviously have value, and they can offer an installed version.
NOTE: This assumption is based on people actually using it to sense-make at work, and not for personal chatting.
And get this, you can continue to use Yammer or another product like Socialcast, Socialtext Signals, etc. as micro-blogging is different than other content platforms in that there is no need for migration. As it’s more about the moment, once posts are a couple of weeks old they don’t really matter that much (I’m generalising here, but it’s more true than not). This means you can jump to another system without a worry.
When you use free tools as your Proof of Concept, and get people to "feel" a product, and hopefully hooked on it, there is more chance of fulfilling your vision, rather than the big and slow approach of getting hierarchy buy-in, strategy documents, charters, implementation and training requirements.
Grassroots DIY Proof of Concept is how you can creep something into the organisation without being faced by a wall.
Participants in such an informal program are called IT Rogues, but they are just trying to do their job better, and this should be noticed. Something like a rogue wiki is easier to be shut down and point the finger at as it will have an owner and a group using it…whereas if micro-blogging takes off, who do you point the finger at…and how can hundreds/thousands of people be wrong.
The only way I see my advice as a problem is if people use Yammer for non-business use…and if the business will have the problem of not trusting Yammer with their data being leaked.
But if they can see beyond this and want to penetrate the hierarchy, then this experimentation and failure approach is how to cleverly penetrate the hierarchy.
This approach doesn’t have to be done without consent, part of the strategy with the powers that be may be the use of Yammer as a Proof of Concept as a first step, and if this shows signs of success and value, then a second step will be taken
You don’t have to use a free hosted approach, there are many free download and open source micro-blogging products. This addresses the security issue, but then the finger can be pointed at the person who installed it. In this case hopefully instead of getting buy-in, mention that it’s free, and you will get an approval to test it out…little do they know this test may go viral, and become a tool people can’t do without. The power of hosted freemium.
But, what’s for sure is that the problem is not investment. Like Euan Semple says, "if you make the ‘i’ small enough, no-one will care about the R”…as long as the concept is understood.
Why spend time and money on the usual buy-in, strategy, implementation, etc…when you can just get a product download for free and experiment right now….cut to the chase.
The point of this post is that requests for a new product will be slow, may be disapproved, may be implemented the wrong way…instead now we are empowered to demonstrate proof that this is a really good idea buy using a free-hosted service…this wasn’t possible a few years ago
At a meeting 6 months later you may mention to your manager that micro-blogging is a good idea. They may agree or disagree, but either way not have any leadership or time in harnessing the value and passion of your suggestion. That’s when you can say, you want value in seeing how it supports knowledge workers to sense-make, check this out, we are already doing it
In a way, we now have the tools and type of service available that allows knowledge workers to disintermediate management as we have access to the resources we need and make the decision to use them…again this wasn’t possible a few years ago
The goal isn’t disintermediation…humans are self-organising, we do what it takes to create conditions for better sense-making, to be more productive, to be more aware
Yammer seems to have a great business model, as they allow people to get hooked for free, and then offer a premium version if organisations want their own secure version…it’s win win for both Yammer, and organisations.
List of "free enterprise" micro-blogging platforms (either secure hosted or install)
- status.net (formerly Laconica)
- Rev.Ou.com (install only…oops not free)
- co-op (hosted only)
- twingr (not sure if secure hosted)
- CubeTree (hosted only)
- ididwork (hosted only)
- communote (hosted only)
- OpenMicroBlogger (install only)
- Engage (free and hosted for 200 users)
- Open Source Microblogging
- Twitter on your intranet: 17 microblogging tools for business
- Enterprise Microsharing Tools Comparison
- List of Enterprise Microblogging Tools: Twitter for the Intranet
[ADDED 10/06/10 - Another idea is to join the vendor community. Our document management vendor has a new microblogging/activity feed module. They drink their own champagne by using this module on their customer community. If it’s a selling strategy, it’s only by accident, as we “the customers” find it very useful that we can connect with lots of the vendor staff and other customers like ourselves…good from an engagement, help, and co-creation point-of-view.
Now if I want my work to buy this module, “show and tell” is the most effective way…you have to “feel” micro-blogging. So I could simply show my boss how we work on the customer community using microblogging (getting things done, sense-making, engaging with people, building relationships, sharing)…my boss could even give it a go to get a real taste.
There’s nothing that says “Yes” to buy-in like “seeing and playing” what you want in action, it makes it less a prediction of success for your boss and more a certainty (given cultural constraints of your organisation)]