The BroadVision Blog

HR Performance Event 2012 – BroadVision Seminar Sessions

Enterprise social network solutions, as well as changes in employee expectations regarding communication and collaboration at work, are placing additional challenges on HR Departments as the guardians of organisational culture. Both the desire for and the nature of these social business solutions is here to stay. HR need to navigate their way through the various interests in an organisation to manage both the bottom up ‘viral’ adoption that we have seen from various discussion platforms in recent years as well as the strategic initiatives for employee engagement. The key thing is that your organization’s culture and challenges are unique; blanket approaches such as: ‘Let’s get everyone on xxxxxx’, may not really solve your specific business problems or facilitate the transformation required.

The business benefits of social collaboration are real; unlocking knowledge; driving innovation; faster and more informed decision-making; and improved productivity. However, many social business projects fail to gain wide adoption, either through underuse and a perceived lack of real benefits; or through overuse and a perceived lack of productivity. Ultimately, whether the perception is positive or negative will tie closely to the quality of the interactions between employees and other participants, e.g., the value of the content they contribute. HR has a significant role to play both in the choice of an enterprise social network solution and in setting out a plan for adoption.

BroadVision is proud to be sponsoring the ‘HR Innovation and Technology’ Arena at the HR Performance 2012 event November 21st and 22nd at ExCel  in London where we will be presenting two key sessions on driving value out of your investment in an Enterprise Social Network.

The first session on Wednesday November 21st (10:15) will examine the way employees’ online behaviour may differ to real-life behaviour. This presents both opportunities and challenges in developing employee engagement strategies to unlock the knowledge of all participants in your enterprise social network.

The second session on Thursday November 22nd (14:15) will look at how to get the best out of your enterprise social network solution. Your social collaboration platform must be more than an additional discussion channel. To be truly effective your solution needs to be a place where real work gets done. To achieve that, the network needs to be the host of real business processes, whether they are new processes or existing processes migrated into the social network from elsewhere. Simply taking an existing business process and hosting it in a social network fails to take advantage of the inherent benefits of a social environment. This session will examine what is a “social business process”, and how does it differ from what we have seen before.

For HR, the opportunity to help drive superior business performance by designing and implementing strategies to increase and reward effective collaboration has never been more apparent. If you believe your organization can achieve significant competitive advantage by more effective internal communication, collaboration, and teamwork, then you as an HR practitioner will definitely benefit from both these sessions. To book please see the HR Performance 2012 event seminar sessions.

Fun with Enterprise Social Networking (Fractals Too)

I’d like to take a quick break from the Enterprise Connections series to focus a revelation I had early on in my career at BroadVision. The issue of understanding what an enterprise social network is often made more complicated then it needs to be. The fact that the same words tend to be used for different things, depending on who you talk to, certainly doesn’t help. We look at use cases and customer cases studies, reports about ROI and many other things that can be very helpful, but only if you have a basic understanding of what an ESN is and how it should function.

It didn’t take me long to “get” Clearvale because it reminded me of fractals.

Remember fractals? (If not)

You look at a fractal and see patterns:

Then you zoom in and see the exact same patterns:

You keep zooming in, but the patterns remain:

I’ve always looked at our internal Clearvale network (see video here) as being similar to a fractal. The below images are from a demo network but if you watch the video, you’ll see what our actual network looks like.

You start with the whole network, which includes everyone, has an activity stream,  houses files, blogs and wikis, all of which are relevant to the entire network:

Zoom in a little, and you see communities, which exist in the network but are organized around something specific, such as a department, project or product.  They have the same pattern; activity stream, files, blog, wiki, etc., all of which are relevant to the entire community:

Zoom in further, and you have the profile page with the same pattern, but everything is relevant to that particular profile:

It’s all very neat and tidy, and it helps (for me anyway) dictate where things go. Everything (with some exceptions) goes into the network, but only things relevant to marketing go into the marketing community. All marketing materials go into the marketing community, but only the ones that I wrote are stored in my profile.

The point is, you only need to get a handle on the pattern once.

Enterprise Connections Part 3: The World Outside

Parts of 1 and 2 of Enterprise Connections focused on the benefits of a company intranet. However those benefits are not limited to internal use; brands also have much to gain by engaging with their customers via an enterprise social network. Of course, this is nothing new, brands have always found creative and unorthodox ways of learning about their customers and using this new information improve its interactions with them. A good example is Pabst Blue Ribbon Brewing Company, which learned that without them ever being marketed to by the company, its beer had become favorite of the younger, hipster crowd. In turn, it saw significant success by altering its marketing efforts to better reach that audience. (Though those marketing efforts were not what most people would have expected. Read this piece in Fast Company to see how they did it)

A public facing customer network is an excellent way to help facilitate the interaction between brand and customers, as well as the brand’s response to those interactions. A great example of this would be WeBank’s WePad project, which used a public facing Clearvale network to help get customers involved in the creation of a WeBank iPad app. www.wepadproject.it

For 6 weeks, 6 experts in fields such as social media, design and technology brainstormed every week for 4 hours, with the aim of producing an iPad application to make the interactions between WeBank and its customers social and collaborative, and to save their customers’ money. Each brainstorming session was broadcast live via a webcam and participants were encouraged to contribute by uploading comments, videos and feedback. An exciting, interactive and thought-leading initiative, the WePad Project successfully bridged the gap between company and customer. The entire project took place on a Clearvale network created and maintained by WeBank.

The WePad Project is a great example of how an enterprise social network can be used as platform for managing one-off campaigns and special events. The next part of Enterprise Connections will focus on the ongoing, day-to-day benefits of a customer network.

Off The Rails

BroadVision are proud to provide the software which powers the main Indian Railways website, www.irctc.co.in, and we were particularly interested to read a recent, candid interview with Ramesh Kumar Tandon, the managing director of IRCTC.

The capacity issue discussed in this interview is something we are very aware of, as it sometimes results in complaints from people trying to book tickets coming direct to BroadVision via Twitter. We do actively monitor these, and try to reply where appropriate. Maybe it is through one of these replies that you have reached this article. In this article we’d like to add our perspective to what Mr Tandon said.

Readers outside India may not be aware that IRCTC is the biggest eCommerce site in India, recording an average of 400,000 transactions a day. This average traffic is no problem at all for the server infrastructure, but of course, like all web sites, there are peaks when traffic is many times higher than this. In IRCTC’s case, these peaks are very high indeed, particularly in advance of major holidays with up to nearly 1 million users trying to access the site at the same time. And the servers powering the site are not always able to cope with this volume.

It is worth clarifying exactly what services BroadVision provide to IRCTC. We provide the eCommerce software upon which the IRCTC booking application is built, and we provide consulting services to advise on the best way to use this software. We don’t own, or host the servers on which the application runs. The complete infrastructure is owned by IRCTC and they solely determine the deployed capacity of servers.

Some of the messages we get on Twitter are intelligent and constructive; some are funny; some are downright offensive. And yes, those do hurt our feelings a little. Let’s have a look at a selection of the recent messages:

Why doesn’t BroadVision think of moving #irctc to the cloud?

It’s a good idea, but not something under our control. As mentioned above, BroadVision provides the underlying software on which the site is based, but we don’t own, host or operate the servers on which it runs – IRCTC does this.

BroadVision do actually operate significant cloud-based infrastructures across the world to support our Clearvale product. But very specific, customized solutions such as IRCTC’s booking application don’t get the full benefits of cloud computing where many customers share the same infrastructure. So whether in the cloud or not, the capacity problem would remain unless the server infrastructure is expanded.

@BroadVision your irctc website is a real nightmare for the general public in India. It is incompatible with the load it has to bear @8am

Yes, it is the 8am peak that is the problem. It is at this time each day that “taktal” tickets are made available for booking and as everyone wants to be first to book a ticket, we see the number of users increase up to 20 times the normal load with everyone trying to book tickets at exactly 8am. Shortly before big public holidays, the peak gets close to a million simultaneous users, and that’s when we see the most complaints.

Broadvision, the company that maintains the irctc website, claims a 99.8% uptime. I think they’re just bluffing!

Actually, this is true (the uptime, that is, not the bluffing!). The site goes down very, very rarely, but as explained earlier, it simply doesn’t have the capacity to handle the extreme peaks.

Hmm, the guys at BroadVision, IRCTC’s solution provider, are at least nice enough to respond to my complaints!

Yes, we do try to. Although…

IRCTC Sucks! N when its done sucking it sucks even more – May the developers rot in hell and with them you too @BroadVision

Ha! Well, how do you respond to that? Honestly, we do understand this frustration, but hopefully what we’ve said earlier explains why sending our developers to rot in hell really wouldn’t solve the problem. Seriously though, we don’t reply to this sort of message. We’re always willing to discuss the problems people are seeing, but we see little benefit for anyone in getting involved in an argument like this.

So, what’s the solution? “More servers” would appear to be the obvious answer. But that is a decision for IRCTC, and not something BroadVision can control. Rest assured that we have made this recommendation. However, as the traffic outside peak hours is significantly lower, we do understand that IRCTC perhaps find it hard to justify the cost of commissioning additional infrastructure to handle occasional overloads. As Mr Tandon notes, the capacity has already increased significantly, but has been matched by equal rises in demand.

We hope that this helps you understand the cause of the occasional problems. We do understand it is frustrating, and we continue to be available to IRCTC to offer our assistance in resolving the problem.

Enterprise Connections Part 2: Being prepared

“There was a chemist, Kekule, who worked for decades trying to figure out the structure of the benzene ring. One night he went to sleep and he had a dream of a snake swallowing its tale, and he woke up and said, That’s it! That’s the structure of the benzene ring!

So his student said, Not bad, you go to sleep, wake up, and you’ve got the structure of the benzene ring.

And Kekule said, Visions come to prepared spirits.
David Milch, speaking at the Paley Center for Media, 10/4/2004

In the world of enterprise social networking, and the tech world in general, we sometimes play Buzzword Bingo. Everyone has at least one buzzword that makes them cringe, either because the way the word sounds, how often it is used or because the word is not appropriate for the situation. At the moment, the word that is being used to describe the positive consequences that often arise in a “pull society” (see Learning to Pull by Richard Hughes for more info.) is serendipity, or a “happy accident”. I’m not a fan of this word, because I think it undermines what is really happening.

For the record, I know that several factors of the above scenario are disputed (it was actually a day-dream, Kekule was kidding, etc.) but I think the way Milch tells the story does a great job of illustrating what happens in a “pull society”.

We have been extensively using our own ESN, Clearvale, for some time here at BroadVision, and I have seen many projects, queries and general thoughts written as blog posts. While responses come from expected places, such as within the community the blog was posted, or from a team member from the author’s same department, many discussions occur company wide, with ideas and answers coming from every department. When this happens, it’s not serendipity but the result of preparedness. The more people that are “pulling”, the greater the pool that is being drawn from, the more intelligent and creative the answers. Likewise, people begin to respond to other responses; with the whole process allowing for far greater opportunities then might be produced in a series of emails or chatting by the coffee pot.

The above image illustrates our new SET program, which will help companies go beyond the step of simply creating a Clearvale network. Participants of the 90 day SET program will learn how to transition into a social enterprise, one that is in a constant state of preparedness, getting the most of its talent and resources. For more info about the Clearvale SET program, please visit: http://www.clearvale.com/mkt/en/set.php.

Enterprise Connections

“Let’s begin to tap the astronomical, incomprehensible amount of talent in the brains of the 6 billion people on this planet, compared with which Newton is a match in the dark at 100 miles.” James Burke – Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, Episode 18 “A Fly on James Burke’s Wall”

How many moves does it take to get from the philosopher Goethe’s obsession with a friend of Beethoven to the invention of margarine? According to James Burke’s Knowledge Web, only 8 (visit http://www.k-web.org/public_html/Mystery-tours/Goethe_to_Margarine.html for the full story).

James Burke is a science historian and author, and anyone who has seen his “Connections” series is probably familiar with this line of thinking: progress is not the outcome of individuals or groups working in isolation, but the product of multiple individuals and groups, interacting and connecting, seeking to fulfill their own interests, and rarely having any concept of the ultimate innovation that comes about as a result.

Many innovations are the result of coincidences. But it’s not the coincidences themselves that lead to the innovation, but rather the creativity and ingenuity that were set free on a path paved by coincidence. Coincidence has led to two strangers coming into contact with one another, or someone recommending a book to a friend, or someone remembering a colleague’s previous failure. That last one is a reference to the Post-It note, which was born from Spencer Silver’s failed attempt at creating a strong adhesive. His colleague, Arthur Fry finding the need for a weak adhesive remembered Silver’s failure, which led to the Post-It note (full story here: wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-it_note)

But that never had to happen. Fry didn’t have to remember Silver’s failure. It’s not like there was some cloud-based, easy to navigate repository for this kind of thing. The point is, it’s not really the coincidence that is important to innovation, so we might be able to take that out of the equation.

In fact, if we take the opposite approach, I think we can speed up and multiply opportunities for innovation within the enterprise. This is most easily evident via the activity stream, and some theoretical examples can include:

  • I learn of a coworker’s project that does not involve me, though I might have some previous experience, and can easily offer some ideas
  • Sales informs the company of a new prospect, which turns out to be the former employer of someone from engineering, who can now offer some insight into the company
  • Marketing posts about working on a video, and someone from finance has experience with video editing and volunteers to help

Of course, the above examples would only represent one “move”. Think about the potential for multiple connections, all working in harmony.

Event 2.0 – Digital London 2012

It’s all happening in London in 2012. Not only is London hosting the Olympic Games (July) and the Paralympic Games (August), but the Queen celebrates her Diamond jubilee (June) as well! And kicking it all off is Digital London, one of the year’s most significant events to be hosted at ExCel, the international exhibition and convention centre, in Docklands on March 13th – 14th.

This 2-day conference and supporting exhibition aims to establish London as the Digital capital of Europe, putting London’s tech City ‘on the map’ as well as helping to develop the local and national economy. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has actively championed the event and he will open the conference with a keynote presentation on 13th March.

“Digital London is a fantastic showcase for the city,” said Johnson. “London’s position as a centre for technology, innovation and creativity underpins its growing position as the digital capital of Europe.”

BroadVision is one of the 5 founding sponsors and has been working closely with their partner and Digital London event organisers, Maven Cast, to deliver a new approach to event engagement through BroadVision’s enterprise social network solution, Clearvale. Clearvale has been configured and branded as Maven Connect to connect delegates, speakers, exhibitors, and sponsors associated with Digital London in a single collaborative platform. Maven Cast are the pioneers of hybrid events and Digital London is no exception; the event is designed to mix the immediacy and intimacy of a live conference and exhibition with the versatility and broad reach of digital.

The event brings together industry innovators, entrepreneurs, solution providers, business leaders, and executives to discuss digital innovations & enabling technologies, and to explore opportunities in the digital economy.  The conference has 4 key themes: digital solutions, content and services; innovation, creativity and technology; digital cities and smart infrastructure; investment, skills and resources. It has been developed with everyone from solution buyers in business, public and consumer sectors to CTOs at technology companies and service providers in mind. Sessions will showcase the latest innovations and advances, and consider how the latest digital devices, solutions and services are being harnessed to sustain and vitalise private enterprise and the public sector.

Adam Malik, founder and CEO, Maven Cast, said:  “We will be inviting visionaries, policy makers and technology leaders from around the world to share their experiences on delivering digital services for both public and private sectors and creating an environment for innovation. At Digital London, event delegates will benefit from increased value by having a single platform of engagement prior to, during, and after the event so relationships can build and continue post event.”

Maven Connect has been designed to foster engagement not only for Digital London but also for other future events. It will provide a forum for discussion and guidance to compliment event topics, and deliver a legacy after each event to unite all parties: continuing conversations, collaboration activities and helping to shape future agendas, providing added value for everybody involved in Digital London and beyond.