As the 2013 conference circuit continues on, allow me share some my thoughts and highlights from SPTechCon in San Francisco. This was my second time attending the event, and while this year seemed a bit “lower key” than last year’s, it was still very successful. Having lived in the Bay Area and worked in “the city” for a time back in the 90s, I always have fond memories of returning.
This year I only had one speaking slot, a co-keynote on Wednesday, March 6 with my friend and colleague Jeremy Thake, AvePoint’s Chief Architect on the product team. The session we did was called “The Future of Social Collaboration in the Enterprise”. The origin of this session is a fun story, so allow me to share it.
Last year when submitting speaking session for SharePoint Fest in Chicago, Jeremy had submitted this session as an idea. I hadn’t planned on speaking at that particular event, and when Jeremy couldn’t make it, I told him I would be happy to cover for him (what a good guy I am…J). I must admit I did have an ulterior motive because I liked his session concept as it allowed me to really explore a couple of questions I myself had pondered: How will the seemingly insatiable appetite for social collaboration today affect collaboration behaviors in organizations of the future? Can concepts behind “consumer-oriented” social systems such as Facebook, Intragram, Yelp, etc. improve the state of corporate knowledge management (KM)?
With these questions in mind, I spent quite a bit of time researching and asked many others in the SharePoint community what they thought as well. In particular, Dan Holme shared with me a keen insight around the belief that enterprise social collaboration can even be self-policing in a way. The end result was about 15 or so tight-knit slides that shared what I had learned and what conclusions I had drawn.
What were the conclusions? I have three to share. First off, I do believe that enterprise social collaboration will absolutely have an effect on collaboration habits in the future. I believe this for several reasons: For one, sharing tacit knowledge is a very real problem for disconnected, global organizations. Tacit knowledge is tribal knowledge or “know how” that lives within a company – it’s the kind of knowledge that is very difficult to describe in a Microsoft Word document or by any other electronic means. For example, if you know how to swim or ride a bike, you cannot realistically teach someone how to do this by writing a manual. You might also call this a form of OJT – on the job training. With enterprise social solutions, you are able to identify and create new social networks in new and fun ways. And with these new connections, you are able to locate experts and establish relationships where knowledge transfer can be done. If you need to learn how to ride a bike, you can find someone who is a bike enthusiast, and he or she can then teach you.
The second reason why I believe social collaboration will cause a fundamental change in how we exchange knowledge is by looking at the young generation – what we call the “Internet Generation” in our talk. This generation has grown up connected to social networks during their teenage years – formative years of their growth. They understand these social solutions innately, and they have developed habits where they share information freely and in real time. They seem to constantly do this despite location (texting across the library or across the globe) or other activities. In other words, I don’t think they are as distracted by these social channels, meaning they seem to multi-task in ways that older generations struggle. They still do their school work, talk on the phone, eat, play, commute between locations – effectively do all of the same things adults try to do.
Why does this matter? It matters for two reasons, I think. The first is that this is the new generation that has already started to join our workforce. And with impending baby boomer retirements, this infusion of fresh young minds will absolutely change the status-quo culture of today’s organizations. Secondly, I think this generation will expect, and even demand, solutions of this type from their employers. This is how they stay connected and how they share knowledge.
The third and final conclusion is that baby boomers, generation X, and generation Y employees already know how to use social tools. They have social profiles and many use them daily in their personal lives. In fact, according to Pingdom, 70% of the social profiles across a number of popular sites were owned by users between the ages of 25 and 54 (http://bit.ly/dDmkeB). So, the challenge isn’t to educate them on the concept, but instead help them understand how social exchange applies in a corporate-oriented way. And this last point is very critical for enterprise social success. Users need guidance to know when and how to use these solutions, so be sure you define what is considered appropriate for your business culture.
Okay – so now that you have the key points Jeremy and I wanted to get across, let me share that we had a lot of fun doing this session at the event. We modified my original deck, and Jeremy had a brilliant idea of taking photos of many popular faces in the SharePoint community and have them pose in a fun way to illustrate a key point. Here are just a couple of them:
We also had a few jokes lined up. One was a running joke of my age compared to Jeremy’s, and at one point, Jeremy pulled out a Kenny Loggins LP album cover that he wanted to give back to me, illustrating the vast difference between technologies from our respective generations. We got a huge laugh and applause at that one, and this album will now live in infamy. Here is a picture we later took with the album at the AvePoint booth.
So, overall, it was another great talk, although we did have a power outage during the first part of our talk. It didn’t affect us much, and it gave us a chance to make a reference to the Super Bowl power fiasco and make a joke how that power outage almost helped the San Francisco 49ers pull out a win over the Baltimore Ravens.
Aside from the keynote, the rest of the event went smoothly, other than the odd fact that one of my boxes of books had disappeared somehow during setup. I was still able to do a book signing, but unfortunately, we had fewer books to give away. For those that didn’t get a signed copy, I sincerely apologize for that. Here are a few more shots from the event.