Portfolios are Personal

Think about your portfolios. Your portfolio of investments. Your portfolio of art. Your portfolio of achievements at work. These portfolios are personal. Where most enterprise project management applications fail is that they do not allow for the personal nature of portfolio management.

Of course, and organization has a portfolio of initiatives. It is usually going to be managed around some strategic plan. Plans breed initiatives, initiatives breed programs, programs breed projects. This is the organization’s view of the portfolio. This portfolio bridges teams, geography, even organizational boundaries, and ties multiple, disparate teams together.

That being said, at each level of this hierarchy – organization, initiative, program, and project, there are different portfolios to manage. Making a project manager who has only one or two projects work off the organizational portfolio makes no sense. This is why individual projects are usually managed individually.

However, at the program level, individually managed projects are hard to combine, dependencies across projects are hard to manage, and version management is a hassle. Of course, this works right into software vendors’ hands, as  upgrades, additional products and higher licensing costs promise to “fix” these issues.

What is really needed is an easy way to combine and recombine projects, sub-projects, and programs to the needs of the individual who must manage his or her own portfolio. Why shouldn’t the same projects be able to be categorized, managed, updated and rolled up in many different forms to meet the personal needs of each stakeholder?

This is the social approach to portfolio management. And this is what ProjExec 6 provides.

See ProjExec 6 at IBM Connect, Booth #222.

Next Post: Strategic planning from the bottom up…

ProjExec 6 – Taking Social Project Management to the Next Level

Social Project Management is about engaging the team in collaboration around its project and project schedule. But what about disparate teams working on multiple projects on a program, or even multiple projects that are related only at a strategic-initiative level?

Program and Portfolio Management tools have attempted to address this issue but are, in general driven by top down, hierarchical planning.  So, what would a “social” approach to Program and Portfolio management look like?

Social is about getting people the tools they need to create and manage their own “reality”. Portfolios at the organization level are different than portfolios at the person level. Whereas an organization’s portfolio has a certain structure, at each level of the organization, a person’s “portfolio” has a much different structure. An individual program manager, a manager of projects, or a project team member may each have a portfolio of projects to “manage”.

In many cases, these “alternative” portfolios are not organized in the same manner as the hierarchical structure of the organization’s portfolio. So, a social approach to program or portfolio management should allow both the organization’s view and multiple, alternative views of project structures to be represented and executed – simultaneously.

Over the next week, we will  present several posts about this idea. But to get you thinking, here is a video about ProjExec 6, which attempts to bring top-down and bottom-up social program and portfolio management together in a single, social product.

IBM Connect 2014 – See ProjExec 6 in Action!

If you’re heading to Orlando for IBM Connect 2014 (http://www-01.ibm.com/software/collaboration/events/connect/), stop by pedestal 222 and see ProjExec 6, and the new SocialGantt Chart component. With ProjExec 6, social project management becomes social program management. Combine any number of project schedules into a single SocialGantt. Then, socially collaborate on as many projects as you want, all from a single schedule view.

ProjExec 6 retains its long-standing position as the only integrated social project management system for IBM Connections.

See you in Orlando!

IBM Connect 2013 – Purposeful Adoption

IBM Connect 2013 (Lotusphere) is in full swing today. It is clear that the focus this year is driving adoption of IBM Connections. At the opening general session, Alistair Rennie pitched the term “purposeful” adoption. Later in the same session, IBM announced three initiatives here to help, including a set of 10 best practices for social adoption (link to follow).

It was clear from the focus of these best practices that we’ve moved past the point of technology, and to the point of process and cultural adoption of social business. IBM Connections, as a platform, is very impressive, and the demos of Connections next were even more so. But, as IBM’s pitch discussed, the technology is simply a means to an end. If the end is to socialize your business, to turn your business into a collaboration engine, then the reality is that you need to get people engaged with the platform, and the way that you get people engaged is to give them multiple reasons to use the social business platform.

What is also clear is that the business partner community seems to have finally realized that the future of Lotus Notes is IBM Connections, and the majority of the exciting products on the show floor are Connections based rather than Domino based. Finally, the rest of the community is understanding the vision of social business.

As we have blogged previously, the value of a social business network grows non-linearly as the number of people connected to the network grows, AND THEN is multiplied by the number of business contexts and processes that are brought into the social platform.

As we blogged then:

“Social Business Applications are the value multiplier of social business platforms.  They provide new reasons for users to engage with the platform, and they provide value above and beyond traditional versions of applications for all the reasons that social business platforms provide value – they connect the right resources (inside and outside of teams ) in order to get work done more efficiently and effectively.”

IBM is pitching “purposeful” adoption. We say that if you give people purpose on the platform, they will adopt the platform willingly. As we’ve argued previously, Project Management is an excellent “purpose” for social business, and it a natural fit for companies.

ProjExec 5.5 integrates seamlessly with IBM Connections 3 & 4, as well as the IBM SmartCloud for Social Business. Come see us at booth C20-C21, and find out how Social Project Management can multiple your investment in IBM Social Software.

IBM Connections: The Market Leading Enterprise Social Platform

The news is out. IDC has announced that IBM Connections is yet again the #1 Social Media Platform, and its advantage is growing. We here at Trilog Group congratulate our partners at IBM for this excellent achievement, and we are proud to be a leading social business application provider for the IBM Connections platform.

Read the IDC report here.

Read Luis Benitez’ blog about this here.

ProjExec is the social project management solution for the IBM Connections platform. It provides full, rigorous project management capabilities, while also providing the social collaboration features that today’s teams require. Check it out below.

The Problem of Engagement in Social Business

Constellation Research blogged earlier this month about the issues that folks are seeing with social media adoption. Of course, as constellation research says, “People” are at the heart of any technology adoption process. Let’s summarize the info that Constellation provides.

First, Constellation argues that there are five leading barriers to adoption, 1) Poorly defined incentives, 2) Increase in actual effort, 3) Lack of choice in user experience, 4) Indifference to change, and 5) Failure to communicate the urgency.  There is really nothing new here, as these barriers are not unique to social business applications, but are applicable to any software adoption cycle.

Next, Constellation argues that there are five ways to counter these barriers, 1) Adopt gamification strategies, 2) Apply design thinking to transform, 3) Deliver options based on use case, 4) Align to self –interest, and 5) Define the business model shift. There is a little more meat here, so let’s try to pull it off the bone.

First, #1 – adopting gamification strategies. This is certainly all the rage these days. However, is a gamification strategy always a good way to incentivize participation? Definitely not. If a gamification-based incentive strategy is not linked to the need to perform actual work, participation will be perceived by employees as an ‘increase in actual effort’ – one of the barriers that was mentioned above. So, gamification might have a place, but it will not stand alone.

Next, #2 – Applying design thinking to transform. This one is so full of jargon it’s hard to draw out what is meant. However, if the real argument is to recognize that the desired outcome cannot be identified without trial, error, and adjustment (the hallmark of a scenario when design thinking is necessary), then this is clearly true. But it’s also not unique to a social business application implementation.

#3 – Deliver options based on use case. This is theoretically an excellent idea. However, in practice, most software development efforts barely have the budget to create a single, well-performing, interface, let alone multiple well performing ones. However, it is a truism in the mobile age that applications can no longer be PC-centric in their delivery mode.

#4 – Align to self-interest. Now we’re getting somewhere. The best way to maximize adoption of anything, is to appeal to the “what’s in it for me” aspect of the person involved. Really, the five barriers that are mentioned above really all come out of the person’s inability to see what’s in it for them. We’ll come back to this.

Finally, #5 – define the business model shift. This is really just another way to say #4.

So, in reality, barriers to adoption ALL arise from the lack of communicating “what’s in it for me” to the users. And this is the key disconnect between adoption of social media outside the enterprise, and the adoption of social media inside the enterprise. When a person *chooses* to adopt a social media technology outside the context of work, it is just that, a choice, and it is voluntary. The person herself defines what is in it for them, and then chooses to adopt or not. She cannot be compelled, she cannot be forced. She is incentivized to participate by the value that participation brings to her.

In the business social context, the market dynamic is distorted by the fact that participation in enterprise apps can be made mandatory – without the value of the participation being real to the user. This is the source of the barriers identified above, and the force that is attempted to be mitigated by the actions that Constellation recommends. However, the five actions that constellation recommends will simply not work, if actual value is not provided for participation. For instance, gamification strategies do not provide real value for the person involved unless, as Constellation argues, you create tangible and intangible benefits for participating. But is the goal of a social business implementation simple participation? Or is the goal participation with the intention of getting business done more effectively and efficiently? Should I implement software for which I must create new incentives for participation, or should I implement software that is inherently congruent with existing incentives? Should I incentivize people for playing the “game”, or for getting things “done”?

The reality is that social business platform and application adoption strategies like those argued for by Constellation put the cart before the horse. If a technology helps people complete their actual jobs better, and is easy to understand and use, almost every person will see the value to participation and will choose to participate, rather than having to be forced to participate, or cajoled into participation with weak incentives like gift cards, etc.

Social business platforms and applications will no longer have an adoption problem if 1) they integrate real business processes into the platform, so that the platform is the way the process is done, and 2) the new “social” way to do the process is better than the old way of doing things.

How do companies work toward making this the case? First, they create a social platform, and integrate apps into it, so that islands of “social” software do not create impediments to easy enterprise collaboration. Second, they integrate social business applications into the platform to multiply the value of the platform. Finally, they apply social when necessary, and don’t just hit everything with the “social” hammer. Not all processes are best managed using social business applications.

When an organization provides a social business platform and ecosystem that provides value to their employees, participation will not be something that has to be enforced, but will be something that is natural and organic. The kinds of prescriptions in the blog listed above are indicative of organizations that still must “convince” their users that there is value for them in participation – which probably means that there is not.

The Collapsing Universe of Social Business

Dion Hinchcliffe over at the Enterprise 2.0 blog asks “Will Social Software Startups ‘Collapse into the orbit’ of the big vendors?“. He shows just a small subset of the mergers and acquisitions in the space in the past few years, and the picture painted is one of significant consolidation in the social media playing field.

This is a predictable shift, based upon our view of social business software, and the symbiotic relationships between social business platforms and social business applications. Because siloed social business applications make little sense (see here), it is a natural progression for social business application vendors to become closely bound to particular vendors’ platforms. Once the integration between the systems becomes close enough, and enough customers exist for the social business application, it is rather likely that many of the social business applications will be consolidated into platform vendors like IBM, Jive, Salesforce.com, and, Microsoft. Because the number of integrated business processes multiplies the value of the platform itself, it is a natural progression to see these platform vendors expanding the natural value of the platforms through acquisition.

When Are Social Business Applications Necessary?

Social business seems like it’s everywhere. There are the platforms, like IBM Connections, Jive SBS, and others, and there are the apps, like ProjExec, SugarCRM, etc. It is clear that in order to execute a social business, you need the enabling platform. You cannot start a social business with just a social business application and expect to get the entire organization involved. People need to have a reason to participate in the social platform, and there is simply no single business process that involves everyone in the organization on a day to day basis. As we’ve argued before, for most users, there is little reason to use a social business platform unless real business processes are integrated into it. But once you do integrate those processes, the value of the social platform is multiplied.

But which business processes should be integrated first? Which ones will multiply the value the most? And which ones should be put off until last? We jokingly promote (Trilog Group CEO Alex) Homsi’s Extension of Metcalfe’s Law: “The value of the social business network grows exponentially with the number of people included in the network, and is multiplied by the number of processes that those people perform in the network.” This “law” gives some guidance as to how to build a social business.

Of course, a social business should include as many people in the corporate social network as is feasible. But a social business also needs to incorporate business processes that most benefit from social enablement. The remainder of this post deals with identifying the best candidate processes for social enablement.

Social business applications are most impactful when 1) the process involves novel or unpredictable situations, and 2) when the knowledge and understanding about how to respond to these situations is distributed across multiple people.

The theory of dynamic capabilities proposes that novel or unpredictable situations require businesses to build the skill of adaptation. Adaptation means that a business can 1) receive cues from the environment, 2) understand which cues from the environment are important, 3) understand if the business is in alignment with those cues, and 4) respond to those cues as necessary. This applies equally well to businesses as a whole, or teams working on a particular process.

When situations are routine, there is little information that the environment provides that is relevant to the team’s work. However, when the situation is novel and unexpected, the team must be able to process information more quickly an efficiently. This is where social business applications shine. Social business applications allow for real-time communication and processing of information from the environment.

When a team is collocated in the same room, this communication happens easily. However, when a team is separated by time and distance, a business process-centric activity stream is the next best thing. The activity stream provides the capability to quickly disseminate information about what is going on (environmental cues). More importantly, the distribution of those cues allows many eyes to quickly process the cues, and identify the potentially important ones. So, rather than waiting for a weekly (or even less frequent) status report, the activity stream provides the environmental cues to the team and stakeholders as soon as they are identified. Because novel situations require the identification, communication, and processing, those processes that are uncertain are those that are most likely to benefit from being integrated into the social business platform.

Beyond the delivery of environmental cues to the team, social business applications make use of the social business platform’s capability to publish cues beyond the team. Novel situations generate cues that often require multiple members of the team to generate a response. Often however, that response cannot be identified with only the members of the team. Instead, teams must find new expertise outside of the team boundary. At this, social business platforms excel. The warehouse of information about the expertise of the organization, and the capability to “crowdsource” issues that is contained within social business platforms is amplified by the social business application making use of it to solve real business execution problems.

So, in summary, the business process that is most likely to benefit from being integrated into the social business platform of the organization is the business process that is 1) uncertain, and 2) requires the skills of multiple people to manage the uncertainty.

There are obvious processes for which this pertains, but probably none as much as project management. Projects, by definition, are novel undertakings. Projects, are specifically not business as usual, but are uncertain processes that are meant to generate yet-unrealized business value. For this reason, project management is the obvious choice as an entry point for social business.

ProjExec is the only social project management application that integrates with every IBM Social Collaboration Platform. If your organization deals with uncertainty in its projects, leverage the power of the collaborative platform and implement social project management today.

(This post was written by John Tripp, Social Project Management Evangelist at Trilog Group. Trilog Group is the maker of ProjExec, the social project management solution for the IBM Collaboration Platform environments. ProjExec is available for IBM Connections, IBM SmartCloud, IBM Lotus Quickr, and IBM Websphere Portal.)

Social Business Software and Business Performance

McKinsey has published a report that illustrates the relationship between social technology use and organizational performance, with some interesting results. McKinsey looks at organizations as achieving different levels of social networking: developing, internally networked, externally networked, and fully networked. The names are pretty self explanatory.

McKinsey found significant, positive correlations between the presence of social business technologies and business performance. Specifically, they found significantly better performance in companies that are increasing their level of integration of social technologies into day-to-day work year over year.

Even so, of the 3000+ companies surveyed, more than 2400 are still in what is called the “developing” category, and only 110 have reached the state of “fully networked”. Most likely many companies choose to focus on internal or external networking, rather than both, so the small number isn’t that surprising. What is more troubling is the finding that companies are not maintaining positive trajectories in their social business implementations.

McKinsey found that, of the companies that had previously reached some level of networking benefits, over half had lost the previously achieved gains and had slid back to the “developing” category.  While many of the statistics that are in the report are similar across categories, one that is extremely different is the level of integration of the social technology into the every day work of the company. In companies that have reached a level of networking value, at least 45% of the companies reported very high levels of integration into the daily work of the company. In developing companies, that number is only 18%.

This highlights and confirms a point we have made in the past. Social networking platform investments are only the first step. What multiplies the value and usefulness of a social platform is the integration of business processes into the social platform – via technologies like ProjExec.

So, while companies may begin to become networked using platforms, continued and consistent integration of the processes of the business into the social platform of the organization is needed to continue the trajectory of social adoption and value generation.

Social project management is an excellent entry point for social business, and ProjExec is that entry point if you’re on the the IBM Social Business platforms – IBM Connections and the IBM SmartCloud.

ProjExec. Projects. Made Social.

Social Project Management – Narrating the project as it happens.

A new term is emerging to describe the paradigm of social business interaction – narration. I really like this term, as it gives a little bit better mental picture of what goes on when using an enterprise social platform, or a social business application like ProjExec.

What happens in a consumer social environment like Facebook is that people “narrate” their lives. So,  in a social business environment, workers can learn to “narrate” their work. In a previous post, we argued that social business applications help to make work “observable”, and more recently we’ve argued that a key benefit of social project management (and other social applications) is to “make the invisible, visible”.

For a moment, think about going through life with one of your senses missing. In these cases, humans’ other senses are heightened, either naturally via adaptation and increased development, or via utilizing additional, external tools (cane, hearing aid, etc.) to provide additional environmental feedback that is not provided due to the loss or reduction of a sense. More specifically, a person who is blind can be assisted by a “narrator” who can give them information about a new or modified environment. This is not to say that the blind person could not find information about the environment herself, but this information is greatly enriched by the presence of the narration.

In the same way, business processes, particularly knowledge workers’ processes are black boxes. From a certain point of view, businesses are “blind” to the current state of many of their processes. Knowledge processes are notoriously difficult to observe – so much so that identifying the current state of a knowledge process is almost impossible. In addition, distribute teams lose significant observability that comes from being collocated. However, social business changes both of these issues – IF the people executing the process “narrate” it as it happens.

In a project execution process, narration typically happens during status reporting meetings, by project managers chasing down people for updates, in daily stand up meetings, etc. In a social project management environment, this can happen via narration by individuals (and by the software itself) on the project activity stream. Instead of the team only having visibility at the point of a status meeting, instead of the business not being able to see the actual work that is happening “right now”, a narrated project provides the business with awareness of the project, in real time, as it happens.

Recently, I have had the opportunity to see several friends and acquaintances that I haven’t seen “in person” for a very long time (think more than 10 years).  Some of these friends were also “Facebook friends” and some were not. While I was very excited to see each one of them, our “reunions” exhibited very different dynamics.  For the friends who were NOT my Facebook friends, we shared stories about what had happened since the last time we’d seen each other, what our current jobs and lives were like, our pets, our kids’ achievements, etc. – basically what has been discussed at class or family reunions since the dawn of reunions. However, when speaking with the friends who are connected to me via Facebook, these conversations and discussions were interrupted repeatedly by “Yeah, I saw that on Facebook.” or “Yeah, I know.” Instead of recapping our lives, we talked about our future plans, and did so in a great deal more depth than in those encounters when we spent a lot of time discussing the past.

In a real sense, reunions are our opportunity to give status reports on our lives to those people who cannot observe it themselves. These status reports become much less necessary when we are providing a regular narration of our lives to our social network.

The same dynamic applies when our project teams narrate the work of a project. We need far fewer status reporting sessions, because everyone is being made aware of things as they happen. We develop a sense of “knowing” amongst the project team, and we can focus more of our time on getting the work done, and less time performing work about work.

So, give Social Project Management a try. Narrate your business processes. Become social every day, so that you can focus on the future, rather than the past.

As always, let us know what you think in the comments.

(This post was written by John Tripp, Social Project Management Evangelist at Trilog Group. Trilog Group is the maker of ProjExec, the social project management solution for the IBM Collaboration Platform environments. ProjExec is available for IBM Connections, IBM SmartCloud, IBM Lotus Quickr, and IBM Websphere Portal.)