Time to Get Pragmatic about Enterprise 2.0

Social media consultants seem to be sprouting from every direction these days -- self-professed experts with supposedly deep knowledge of the social Web. According to Michael Krigsman, however, when dealing with large traditional enterprises, knowledge alone won't cut it. "What many of these people don't have experience with is the way large traditional enterprises buy and relate to products and services," says Krigsman, who blogs for ZDNet about information technology failures when he's not performing his duties as chief executive officer of Asuret, a company that aids organizations in avoiding project risk.

As of this week, Krigsman -- alongside partners Hinchcliffe & Co. and collaboration vendor Socialtext -- has taken on a new endeavor, announcing the availability of a strategy and implementation service the three companies are calling Pragmatic Enterprise 2.0, designed to help organizations deploy cutting-edge technology projects. Each member of the triad brings unique specialties to the partnership:

  • Krigsman's Asuret has expertise in strategic measurement, project intelligence, and risk navigation.
  • Hinchcliffe & Co. -- and its founder Dion Hinchcliffe (also a ZDNet blogger) -- has years of experience and thought leadership in the Enterprise 2.0 space.
  • Socialtext, a vendor of social platforms, provides the offering's technological tools. 

"Because of our backgrounds, we have so much experience with the traditional enterprise that we're able to speak both languages," Krigsman says of his Pragmatic Enterprise 2.0's partners. "We speak the language of social computing on one side, and -- equally so -- we speak the language of the enterprise on the other." 

The team positions its service as "The Power of Social Business -- Minus the Downsides." The premise is that social computing is an effective new model for enterprise collaboration, enhancing productivity, driving innovation, and even cutting costs. According to Pragmatic Enterprise 2.0's founders, however, social computing remains an enigmatic discipline for most enterprises, combining free-form strategic business activity with technology solutions. Most organizations today, Hinchcliffe says, have only low-level capability in this new discipline. Ultimately, he adds, enterprises have three challenges when it comes to social computing: risk, trust, and control. 

[Editors' Note: Pragmatic Enterprise 2.0's Slideshare.net "overview" presentation can be found here; the press release for the launch can be found here.]

"Many view Enterprise 2.0 and social CRM as, 'Oh, this easy thing? We'll give them Twitter,' " Krigsman says. In reality, he says, the effort requires far more depth. Integrating enterprise 2.0 means addressing all of the issues familiar from traditional enterprise software implementations, including: agile project management, change management, technology tools, security, delivery models, customer outreach, business intelligence, knowledge management, and content management. "You can't just slap a tool on top of a portal," Krigsman says.

The first step for any Pragmatic Enterprise 2.0 client, according to the founders, will involve strategy and assessment. Utilizing any of Hinchcliffe & Co.'s 70 benchmarking models, the team will help the client establish a cohesive strategy before evaluating common Enterprise 2.0 use cases, such as:

  • internal social collaboration;
  • intranet and portal redesigns;
  • customer communities;
  • government 2.0;
  • social CRM; and
  • business and industry social networks.

Pragmatic Enterprise 2.0 also includes Asuret tools that depict visually why projects fail, with mapping techniques that allow organizations to drill down to department-level detail. Different organizational units often hold completely different views of a project, Krigsman points out. The Asuret tools help identify these sentiments, enabling the analysis of those differing project views among stakeholders across the organization. That, in turn, can help management target areas in need of further communication, training, and support.

To indicate sentiment, stakeholders throughout the organization rank and rate different components of the implementation according to a sliding spectrum -- rather than, say, on a 10-point scale. The tools let users or management teams interact with bubble maps showing consensus on various topic or implementation points. The goal is to indicate directional trends or gaps in perception. "When it comes to [information technology] projects," Krigsman says, "at various points, things get bogged down, and there are differences of opinion. We're replacing that opinion with real data." 

"It's about time somebody marketed a service like this, and these three companies lend it a good pedigree," says Marshall Lager, founder and principal of social CRM consultancy Third Idea Consulting. "While I'm not in love with the idea of social CRM being an [information technology] project -- CRM driven by tech has never been optimal -- I understand the need here, and as long as Pragmatic Enterprise 2.0 can deliver the results it claims while remembering the customer's central position in social CRM, then I predict success."

[Editors' Note: Lager's blogpost about the subject can be found here.]

Esteban Kolsky, a prolific CRM blogger and customer strategies research analyst and consultant, says that the service seems ideal for a particular kind of organization: one committed to Enterprise 2.0 but leery of implementation risk. "Pragmatic Enterprise is great idea and a great approach, but I want to see how enterprises embrace it and what they do with it," Kolsky says. "I hope users embrace it, because it will really help."

[Editors' Note: Kolsky's blogpost about the subject can be found here.]

As for the third leg -- the partnership with Socialtext -- Krigsman and Hinchcliffe both say that there wasn't much debate about which vendor to work with. Calling Socialtext "the recommended solution," Hinchcliffe says the vendor "reflect[s] the large visibility around social tools." He adds, however, that Pragmatic Enterprise 2.0 will work with whatever tools clients have in place, noting in particular the popularity of Microsoft SharePoint among existing deployments.

The selection of Socialtext as a partner in Pragmatic Enterprise 2.0, according to Ross Mayfield, the vendor's chairman, president, and cofounder, speaks to the completeness of its social platform. What's more, Mayfield says, Socialtext's contribution complements those of its two partners "[Hinchcliffe] is known as a big thought leader in Web 2.0," he says. "He has tremendous experience as an architect, [chief technology officer], and leading consultant on Enterprise 2.0 strategy. And then you have Asuret -- Krigsman is a well-known blogger but his company and the tools for managing [information technology] project risk is significant. What they're bringing is the ability to develop and to implement Enterprise 2.0 while managing the potential risk of those implementations."

Mayfield -- recently named one of CRM's 2009 Influential Leaders -- says Pragmatic Enterprise 2.0's services have the potential to leave a big imprint in the industry. "Pragmatic Enterprise represents an opportunity for a very conservative organization to partner with the leaders in a new and evolving space and gain strategic value while managing risk proactively," he says. 

Paul Greenberg, president of consultancy The 56 Group and a CRM columnist, also touted the new endeavor's promise, writing in his ZDnet blog that "[w]hat makes it important is that this is [as] close to a practical package of strategies and tools as I have ever seen in the world of co-creation and collaboration."

[Editors' Note: Both Greenberg and Kolsky refer to a related blogpost by consultant Sameer Patel. You can find that post here.]


In other Socialtext news this week, the company officially unveiled SocialCalc, targeting what Mayfield says has been a void in the industry. The company is calling SocialCalc a "social" spreadsheet -- one offering more complexity than even a collaborative Google Spreadsheet and one that plays nicely with Socialtext's existing portfolio of products. 

In particular, Mayfield says, SocialCalc provides all the things people love about wikis:

  • easy access to editing,
  • revision history down to a cell,
  • link-structured tags,
  • profiles about the people working on the spreadsheet, and
  • all the workflow tracked through an activity stream.

Socialtext describes the application as an alternative to playing "email volleyball" with different versions of spreadsheets that need to be consolidated. SocialCalc not only allows multiple people to contribute to a sheet at one time, but it allows multiple -- and separate -- spreadsheets to be rolled together. The SocialCalc sheets can contain values from other sheets -- when data is changed in one sheet, it can be changed in all others. In other words, marketing staffers and salespeople can continue to work in separate workspaces, but when they update calculations, the fields can be all rolled up into one major spreadsheet. Socialtext's open platform allows for integration of content, enabling users to incorporate employee profiles into SocialCalc spreadsheets, or embed those spreadsheets into wiki pages.

[Editors' Note: A three-minute demonstration can be viewed here.]

In beta-stage release until this week, SocialCalc was developed by Dan Bricklin, the developer of VisiCalc, the original spreadsheet and "killer app" launched during the PC revolution. (In a stroke of publicity genius, SocialCalc's emergence from beta was timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of VisiCalc's introduction.) Socialtext and Bricklin joined forces after a suggestion by renowned Internet thought leader David Weinberger.

Beta customers have already found great success with SocialCalc, according to Mayfield. Magazine publisher Meredith Corp., for example, has seen substantial time-savings from the roll-up reporting enabled by SocialCalc. In the past, according to information provided by Socialtext, marketing teams among Meredith's 20 magazines would often input subscriber-campaign information into disparate spreadsheets, emailing those separate reports to the consumer-marketing department where the information was laboriously unified into one cohesive sheet. With SocialCalc, the work is done online, and the campaign information rolls together seamlessly. 

Mayfield says what's interesting is that the varying use cases for spreadsheets and SocialCalc go beyond financials. "The consistent [Socialtext] experience is people keep finding use cases we didn't think of," he says. SocialCalc is priced at an additional $3 per user per month on top of the monthly price for the whole platform (currently $6 per user). Current customers get SocialCalc for free until the end of the current quarter; new Socialtext platform customers will get SocialCalc at no additional charge for one year. 

[Editors' Note: A related blogpost by Eugene Lee, Socialtext's chief executive officer, can be found here. A 10-minute introductory video to SocialCalc can be found on Socialtext's blog here.]

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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