Thursday, April 29, 2010

Top CIOs talk Social Networking Usage and Policy

Last week I moderated a panel on Social Networking and Media to a group of approximately 50 CIOs at the Global CIO Forum sponsored by Telwares. We covered social networking from a number of perspectives:
  • Integrating social networking functionality into products (example, Twitter, LinkedIn like Business Exchange has done or Facebook integration as others have done successfullt)
  • Social media/networking used in Marketing and Sales functions - Harrah's reps tweet star findings in their Vegas hotels. Blood Systems uses tweet when blood donors are needed during a crisis. I saw a nice demo of SalesForce Chatter.
  • Enterprise 2.0 capabilities - Several examples including a Sharepoint site used to coordinate social media messaging.
  • A long discussion on the CIO role in developing social media policies - With some good insight from @MarkSilver.
It turned out to be a lively discussion which I find surprising since there were relatively few consumer oriented company CIOs in the mix. Virtually all the CIOs are on LinkedIn and Facebook, but relatively few participate on Twitter. Nonetheless, the majority of themselves see themselves playing a role enabling this technology if used in constructive ways rather than inhibiting it. 

I'm going to generalize a bit. These CIOs recognize that the current generation of workforce come in with expectations of openness and are well versed in collaboration tools. Although enterprise 2.0 tools may not be high on their project lists, they're not ignoring it either and taking steps opportunistically. When it comes to social media policy, many were in agreement that the real concern is code of conduct issues recognizing that social networking tools just increase the transparency of people's activity. They see HR and Legal taking on the roles of inhibitor and see their participation aiming to explain the technology and to insure an open dialogue. Afterall, all YouTube did is make it easy for someone to post video of 'bad' behavior; the behavior was probably there already just no one saw it. All acknowledged that social platforms were a feeding ground for scavenging legal dirt, so there is a general leadership need in making employees aware of the issues.

All in all, it was a very healthy discussion and a promising sign for those of us who promote proper usage of these tools in the enterprise. 
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Monday, April 05, 2010

In my CIO Toolkit: Quickbase

One of the things I look for when introducing new tools and processes is what I term "easy on-ramps". Basically, that means that a small group of "believers" (to steal a term from McAfee's Enterprise 2.0 book) can start leveraging the tool quickly and easily. It also means that as the Believers benefit from the tool and build up its use cases, these same on-ramps make it just as easy for the next group of adopters to use and see benefits.

Earlier today, Intuit QuickBase published a post, Taking QuickBase With You on how I've used this tool at BusinessWeek, McGraw-Hill, and some of my other previous CIO/CTO positions. If you've never used this tool, I suggest giving it a trial. If you've ever built a web application or a light-weight workflow, you'll see its potential very quickly. The Intuit post talks about how I've used QB to kill spreadsheets and build light weight work flows, but for my technical audience, let me share some technical basics:
  • Basic web applications start with entities and tables, then forms (for data management) followed by reports. Quickbase makes this easy; create a table, and it will create some of the basic forms and reports for you. Also, your basic tables can be created directly, by uploading spreadsheets, importing MS project files, and other options. 
  • Quickbase has some advanced field types beyond just your typical text, numeric, and date types. Predecessor fields can be used to create project plans with dependencies. Url fields link. File attachments let you include and version files.
  • Quickbase also acts like a spreadsheet; calculated fields operate on fields within the same row  -  something that can be quite cumbersome to implement in an RDBMS.
  • For basic use cases, relationships between tables simplify DB Joins by allowing you to aggregate information from child tables into the parent table and also look up information from the parent table and utilize in the child table.
  • The APIs are mature, so if you need to extend the application you have many options.
So for those of us IT execs with a hands-on background in application development, QB allows us to build, test, and try quick tools. But even better - building and maintaining apps can be done by a relatively large group of techno-savy individuals in the organization. Finally, the UI is intuitive enough for most users to pick up fairly easily. Easy on-ramps.
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