Tag Archives: consumer tech

BYOT: Treat your employees like consumers

More and more companies are asking employees to “Bring Your Own Tools” (i.e., laptops and PCs) or “Telecom” (mobile and smartphones). Consumer tech is advancing so quickly, and is now so interconnected that this should be the norm—not the exception—if companies want happy, productive employees.

People are frustrated with their office tech

There are only two kinds of technology in the world. The first kind is the technology that you choose to use; the second is technology you are forced to use. At home, we have a tremendous amount of choice between desktops, laptops, tablets, mobile phones, etc. At work, we have little choice.

We have all heard the jokes (often daily) about how bad office tech is. It is usually less productive to use than the tech we buy with our own money. It is frequently out-of-date. It is often not suited to how we individually work: some people go from meeting to meeting, needing something that boots instantly, some want big screens, others extreme portability.

The is a by-product of centralized enterprise management

The frustration we see with our technology at work is not intended. It is the result of the inherent delays of centralized enterprise management.

At home, if you want a new smartphone you go to the store, try it out, and buy it if you like it. However, if you are an enterprise IT manager you need to wait for enterprise service providers to ramp up and support it… then wait until your prior purchase contracts are ending… then get bids and budget approval… then on-board the new provider, setting up support structures… all in-time to be a whole technology generation behind. This cannot compete with the consumer tech model. (Have you ever seen a centrally planned model beat a purely competitive one?)

For basic employee tech this is no longer needed

I know, at this point you enterprise IT managers are raising the need for standardization to guarantee compatibility, support Service Level Agreements (SLAs), etc. However, this is an argument for the technology world of the past.

In the old days (I am old enough to have done what I am about to bash), we had lots and lots of desktop software to install and support. In those days, you could not: provide rich interactive experiences with standard browsers; deliver software via SaaS; run applications anywhere in reliable, easy-to-install VMs; plug your smartphone into your enterprise exchange server at the Verizon or Apple store; etc. All of this required tailored systems engineering and strict configuration management. However, times have changed. These services are all consumer-ready, integrated “out of the box” and proven at very high consumer adoption rates.

Its time to let treat employees like consumers

happy_tech_140pxwWhile it is important to maintain enterprise standards and controls for the back office—be they on-premise servers or managed service agreements with external partners—it is time to treat the front office like a storefront.

Publish a list of operating systems, browsers, wireless cards, and mobile platforms that are compatible with your back office systems and let your employees consumers bring their own tech. Provide an annual stipend they can be reimbursed for. Let them pick from this what works best for their daily work. They will be happier and more productive. (You may even attract new creative, productive employees.)

This is not as hard or scary as some think

Yes, you will have to provide online document storage and mandate anti-virus and backup services. Yes, you will have an “uncontrolled” variety of tech people will be using (and asking for your help with). However, this is not a scary as you think.

Business-to-consumer (B2C) tech companies have been doing this successfully for years. As they cannot perfectly control their customer’s behavior, they do not try to do so. Instead they build enough flexibility into their tech, ensuring it will it work for 99.XX% of customers who follow their published “minimum system requirements” guidelines.

Not only does this model work; it works better. I have looked at end user cost of support numbers for small and large companies, for support of external and internal users. In all cases the command-and-control-styled internal computing numbers were worse. Giving employees choice doesn’t just make them happy; it will also make your CFO happy.

It is also flexible and “future-proof”

Once you let go of the centrally controlled enterprise management model (for basic employee tech), you get a whole set of new benefits. You are no longer held hostage by remove a lot of dependencies on specific vendors, platforms and service providers. You no longer have multi-year delays planning and negotiating adoption of technologies (that usually evolve in leaps and bounds every 12 months). Your employees will pick the leading products in the market, as they prove themselves appealing. Those who do not want change will protect themselves from it. Those who are early adopters will champion innovation in your organization.

BYOT lets the fast-moving innovation of the consumer tech market work for you, not against you.

Social Networks for Business Tip #9: Create a SAFE Environment

I have found ten common tips that apply irrespective of what your enterprise does, your market is or what technology platform you are using. This is my ninth tip in this series. There will be 10 total posts; each with a particular theme. These intended to be read in the order presented, as they will build upon each other…


Too Many Communities are Not Safe

I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but too many enterprise (i.e., mission-focused) communities are simply not safe. I routinely look at newly launched Enterprise 2.0 and Government 2.0 communities and immediate spot holes that I could easily compromise to do any of the following, within minutes or hours:

  • Hijack the community’s core mission and message with distracting, embarrassing or even detrimental content
  • Shifting the community’s focus or value though manipulated rating and voting
  • Disincentive or even harass contributing members from continuing to engage with the community
  • Capture personal information for use from anything from masquerading or stealing members’ identities to using private information for personal gain or exploitation

Of course, I would never do this to. However, I am always happy to evaluate communities and share my insights on their invulnerabilities to make them safer (as this ultimately helps the entire movement to use of social media to foster engagement, collaboration and outreach).

Four MUST HAVE Tools for Safe a Community

Any community should be created with four “tools” (really four key design and administration attributes) to be safe. While these are “nice-to-have’s” for recreational communities, they are absolutely essential for mission-focused ones.

1. Authentication-based Attribution

6a00d83451586c69e201156fb4ed1a970c-400wiAuthentication is the process of verifying the identities of members of your community are when they visit. Attribution is the process of matching every contribution (from rating and voting to content creation and comment) to a member. When you combine these to together, you know which members are contributing what (and they know this as well). This simple action drives whole changes in behavior:

  • Members are more likely to contribute valuable content. (They are also far less likely to create damaging content.)
  • Members will be more polite to each other (as their interactions are no longer hidden by anonymity). This will foster a much more constructive dialog (ultimately creating more value for all).
  • You community manager is now able to recognize and reward constructive members—and penalize the opposite (see some of the other tools below to do this).

You do not necessarily have to publicize attribution to all members (this is critical when you want to encourage comments without fear of being ostracized by others—critical in many Government 2.0 communities). Simply attributing members’ contributions will result in the above behavioral benefits.

2. Privacy Controls

People will not join your community (or contribute) if they are afraid that their privacy will be violated (by you or other members). As such, you should follow the Golden Rule of Social Networking Privacy:

Keep all profile-related information private for any given person unless the member tells you otherwise.

When you do this, you build trust with your members by enabling them to maintain control of their identities. While this is highly valuable in any network, it is often a requirement for statutory compliance in communities that support regulated industries (see my prior post for more details on this).

privacy_SettingsIf you don’t believe this, look at how its use has affected the growth of consumer social communities. For all the complaints about the arcane nature of Facebook’s privacy controls, they are still some of the strongest out there. In addition, Facebook (at least initially) followed the Golden Rule of Social Networking Policy for its members. As a result, it was a safe environment for people to join. This is reflected in Facebook’s dominance (when compared to other recreational communities) not only in total membership size, but also in participation by people 25 and older (i.e., people with a higher interest in maintaining privacy).

3. Member-based Content Flagging

One of the key purposes in creating a business-focused social community in the first place is to tap the input and creative thought of your customers, employees and partners. You should not limit this engagement to simply getting input and insight from your members; you should extend to enable them to police the community themselves. This requires you to put several items in place:

  1. Hooks on every piece of member-generated content that enable members to “flag” and report content of concern for review by your community manager
  2. View rules that automatically hide content that has been deemed of concern by a sufficient number of distinct members (here is where attribution again comes to play) in a given period of time
  3. Automated workflows and administration tools to enable community managers to review and act upon reported content (see Tool #4 below)
Example of a Member Reporting
Example of a Member Reporting Copyrighted Material

You can optionally decide to hide any content that a member has deemed offensive from that given members (preventing further offensive as the member engages you community). The first company I saw do this was AOL, who enabled their members to effectively “stop listening to” offensive chat room members without infringing on their freedom of speech.

Letting members police themselves provides many benefits:

  • You empower your members, strengthening their trust and engagement
  • You get free 24×7 support for moderation: if a 14-year-old publishes offensive content at 2 a.m. other members may detect and force its suspension before your community manager even comes in the next morning
  • You tap the “collective intelligence” of your members to steer your community in a direction that is more welcoming to all.

4. Moderation Console

This is the tool that pulls everything together. The moderation console is where your community leaders will actually manage your community. The enable them to provide members a safe community it must provide them the following functionality:

  1. Promotion of members and their content. This is intrinsic to rewarding good members and featuring them as examples to others.
  2. Removal of bad or offensive content. Without, this you cannot project the message and mission of your community
  3. Management of which members can publish content immediately and which must have their content reviewed by a community leader before publication
  4. Banning or blocking of members who violate your terms of service. This is a key tool for protecting your community from being hijacked. (However, banning provides no safety if you do not require members to authenticate and attribute themselves before adding content.)
  5. Automated review of content reported as offensive (so you can respond to actions members have taken to police the community)
  6. Full editorial privileges to correct content that contains inaccuracies, false claims or simple typos and remove offensive or copy right-infringing media. (Depending on your terms of service, your community leaders may directly publish these changes or send them back to authoring members for review.)

The moderation console builds upon the three other tools to enable you to provide an environment that is safe for your enterprise, its mission and the members of your business community.

Is Your Social Network Safe?

Does your community have all the tools to make it safe? If not, it is simply a manner of time as to when something will happen (and degree as to how extensive this will be.)