Blogging Goes Mainstream

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When I wrote Living Networks in 2002, opening with a description of how Macromedia was using blogs to disseminate information, blogging was to many a curiosity. Today almost everyone has heard of it, and it truly has become mainstream. Business Development Institute is running a Blogging Goes Mainstream conference in New York on May 3, featuring Microsoft star blogger Robert Scoble as keynote. I’ll be running a session at the conference on blogging and knowledge management.

The next phase of Social Network Analysis

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Rob Cross of University of Virginia, author of The Hidden Power of Social Networks, has formed the Network Roundtable, a consortium of at last count 40 leading organizations that are applying network approaches in areas including leadership, innovation, and client relationships. The kick-off meeting will be on April 27 in Boston. I will be presenting on our research project on enhancing client relationship teams. Applying network analysis promises to be one of the most powerful approaches to improving cross-selling capabilities and driving deeper, broader, more profitable client relationships. I am also beginning to delve into other applications of social networks, including industry associations, professional networks, and global industry networks. A lot more on this anon.

Wall Street’s view of collaboration

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The BDI Collaboration in Financial Services conference in New York went extremely well, so much so that we intend to run it in London in late spring next year as well as in New York again exactly one year later on September 29, 2005. The conference review describes what happened on the day. Taking a few quick top-of-mind reflections from the event…

The success of the event shows that collaboration and collaboration technologies are recognized as critical issues across financial services. In an industry driven by information flows and deep expertise, allowing professionals in financial institutions and their clients to integrate their work and thinking is clearly the way things are heading. We began to touch on some of the implications for bank strategy and value-creation in the industry in the event; this theme will play a bigger role in our future conferences. However a dominant issue on the day was the regulatory compliance framework as blocking collaboration efforts. For many reasons this is the context within which financial institutions are currently working. In addition to regulators ensuring they are not blocking innovation in financial markets, banks must not allow the regime to put them off implementing approaches that will differentiate them in the eyes of their clients.

I was delighted that we had Steve Wallman as our lunch keynote speaker. I have long admired Steve’s work since when he was SEC Commissioner in 1994-97. This article in Forbes magazine from 1997 shows some of his deeply insightful thinking on intellectual capital, which is still integral to my perspectives on the future of intellectual capital reporting. At lunch the day before the conference someone told me Steve was the best speaker he’d ever seen. I used that anecdote when I introduced him, setting high expectations from the audience, but ones that he definitely met. See the conference review for a few more details on what he covered.

Collaboration in Financial Services conference in NYC

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Collaboration – technological and otherwise – is central to the future of the financial services. In order to address these issues, in conjunction with Business Development Institute and Michael Ross Associates, I am designing and co-organizing a one-day conference in New York on September 29 on Collaboration in Financial Services. Full details are at https://www.bdionline.com/cfs.

We have got a tremendous response to the event. The current key sponsors are Intralinks, I-Deal, Microsoft, Interactive Data Corp, Vignette, Broadvision, and FaceTime, together covering the key technologies that support collaboration in institutional financial services, including real-time collaboration such as IM in a trading environment, document collaboration in deal-making including M&A and syndication, and internal collaboration systems. Many of the leading investment banks, including Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank, CSFB, Bank of America etc. etc. are involved. Banks now see collaboration as a key driver both internally, and externally with clients. While there are significant compliance and security issues in the short-term especially, the core issues are first technological, and then process, organizational, cultural, and strategic. Banks are recognizing these will be major shifts, and there is lots to do in gearing themselves up to address these issues.

The reality is that we are far from achieving the potential of collaboration technologies in the financial services industry. Much of the reason is standards battles have at times dramatically slowed progress. A classic example is instant messaging, which is already at the core of communication in many of the financial markets such as bond trading, but the reluctance of AOL, Yahoo, and MSN to enable interoperability between their instant messaging systems has placed severe constraints on how banks can implement these technologies. Many similar issues remain in other domains, including establishing collaborative workspaces for M&A and other complex deal-making.

Part of my vision for the conference is to contribute to the industry – comprising both banks and vendors – acknowledging and beginning to address some of these standards issues. The last high-level panel session of the day will focus specifically on creating an industry roadmap to enable greater benefit from collaborative technologies in the near future. This conference will be run annually, and we may also establish some kind of working committees to help further these agendas on an ongoing basis.

Hope to see you there!

The Future of Knowledge Management

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I recently wrote an article on The Future of Knowledge Management for the Australian Financial Review which has attracted substantial attention. It also been slightly adapted to be published in the current edition of the leading knowledge management journal, KM Review, as “The Five Key Frames for the Future of KM”, and once I get a moment free (!) will also adapt it for some other publications that have requested it.

The basic theme is that “knowledge management” is no longer the most useful name to apply to much of the work that has flourished in this broad domain. It’s always been too unwieldy a term and concept, and today we have a number of emerging frames that are more relevant and practical to today’s business challenges. The term “knowledge management” still has a long, solid future, however several of the more focused disciplines it has spawned offer more traction for business. One leading practitioner said that he is finding that companies are referring less and less to KM, with one of the terms succeeding it being “organizational effectiveness”. Indeed, that’s a central objective, and more focused thinking is more likely to get us there.

In October I’ll be speaking at KMWorld in Silicon Valley and ActKM – a leading government KM community and conference – in Canberra. During the late 1990s I was strongly associated with KM, and it’s around five years now that I’ve been endeavoring to move beyond that. It’s interesting that I’m being drawn back a little into that domain. Despite my misgivings on the terminology, there is much in KM that will continue to be immensely valuable in what absolutely is a knowledge-based economy.

The Future of Customer Relationships

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I’ve just posted a new article on Creating the Future of Customer Relationships on my Advanced Human Technologies company website. The article supports the keynote speech I delivered recently at Customer Contact World 2004.

The article examines how to integrate the entire spectrum of relationship channels available in order to build true “knowledge-based” customer relationships. This is founded on understanding – and accentuating – the difference between what technology can do and people can do. Fast Company magazine’s blog wrote about and linked to the article, which has resulted in lots of attention and traffic for this.

The Metaweb

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Nova Spivack, the grandson of Peter Drucker, has a vision of the connected future that aligns very strongly with mine. He describes the emerging “Metaweb” as the result of the rapid increase in both information connectivity and social connectivity, leading to the emergence of the global brain. A diagram and overview is provided on his website – well worth a look. I agree wholeheartedly this is the way we’re going.

Living Networks Forum debrief

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The Living Networks Forum in New York the other day was great fun and went extremely well. Both anecdotal and formal feedback was excellent. The official commentary on the event is here. When you’re trying something new, you never know quite how it will work until it happens, but the reality was a very good match with my original vision. The core concept was creating connections between people and ideas at the event, and that’s exactly what happened in a very rich fashion. In the end the way in which we created serendipitous connections at this event was more based on innovative facilitation processes than technology, however in future events the technology will gradually be integrated to take this “enhanced serendipity” to the next levels.

The major sectors respresented at the Forum—because of the location and the representation of both my and Business Development Institute’s core communities—were professional services, financial services, and technology. All these sectors are grappling with similar issues in the event’s core themes of developing client relationships, enhancing collaboration, and creating partnerships, so the cross-pollination was invaluable for participants. We began the session with a space-based facilitation process, in which people position themselves in a room according to their relative interests in key themes, enabling immediate connections with people with similar profiles. For each of the themes we had a brief presentation of core material, and then demonstrations, syndicate group discussions, and break-out exercises. All of the groups for both syndicate discussions and exploring potential partnerships were carefully designed around participants’ profiles. In this way the connections were not “engineered,” but facilitated. Before lunch we played a game between teams based on game theory, which was used to explore some of the dynamics of trust development over time. Much hilarity and some confusion here—it went well but perhaps a little redesign required for next time.

The overriding theme of how technology can enhance personal and organizational networks drove much of the very tangible excitement at the event. While by this time most attendees had come across the concept of social software and some of its implications, being able to see and experience the technologies helped to bring to life how these can be applied in business. Earlier in the week I’d been to the Christmas party of SDForum—the leading Silicon Valley technology networking organization—where the interest in social software was immense.

The social software space is hot, Hot, HOT! I frame what is currently happening as phase two. Phase one began with the now defunct sixdegrees.com and a couple of similar initiatives. After a lull and some nascent initiatives last year, this year has seen the space take off big time. Living Networks Forum gold sponsor Spoke Software has recently secured another $11.7 million in funding. Business is waking up to the fact that not only is this a new technology sector with strong promise—because of its ability to create value—but also that these technologies could transform how businesspeople communicate, form relationships, and develop trust. I’ll be writing a lot more about this later—this is a seriously important topic.

Perhaps not surprisingly, both Business Development Institute and myself have had numerous enquiries since the Forum about designing and running innovative events. There is an increasing recognition that it really is possible to create conferences and events that are far more valuable to participants than what we usually experience, by carefully designing for rich sharing of knowledge and ideas and forming connections in valuable ways, fully integrated with novel and useful content. We’ll probably run at least one other public Living Networks Forum somewhere in the US next year, however it seems as if more of the demand will be for creating similar events for professional associations, user groups, vendors, and inside organizations that need to create richer connections and exchanges between divisions and locations.

Experience the Living Networks in New York!

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Since I wrote Living Networks, I’ve dreamed of creating an event that would literally bring the book to life, to allow people to experience personally the power of the networks and the implications for business. The first of what I hope will be a whole series of events – the BDI Living Networks Forum – will be held in New York City on December 4th, 2003. I have the perfect partner for this – the Business Development Institute, which combines a fantastic network of network-minded individuals and organizations with innovative business development services.

In the agenda you’ll see that the event is focused on creating interaction and what I call “enhanced serendipity” between participants. Using Spoke Software we will show participants their “relationship path strength” with all other attendees, and with any other individual, who they know in common. Litéra collaboration software will be used as a platform for showing participants how to implement collaboration effectively in and across organizations.

We have some great supporters, and there’ll be some awesome people along. Nothing like this has been done before, so I’ll let you know some of what we learn at the event. Or of course would be fantastic to meet you there!

I believe that events that use emerging social network technologies and effective design of participant interaction will over time become the norm. Hopefully “talking-head” conferences will die a natural death very soon. Events that apply living networks ideas will create immense value in bringing the right people together to create and share knowlege, ideas, and relationships. Be there at the birth of something big!

Creating the infrastructure for the trusted networks

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I had lunch earlier this week with Stuart Henshall in San Francisco, and we had a delightful wide-ranging discussion on topics of common interest. We’ve known each other for a good few years through scenario planning, and have a similar vision for the future of personal online networks. Stuart focuses on—among many other very interesting issues including consumer rights—trust in building networks. His vision is of a world in which everyone has their profile online, and shares both their profile and their personal connections selectively with trusted contacts. Sixdegrees.com was the first major online player in this space. I intended to write about it in Living Networks, but it went the way of all things in January 2001. The current top players in this space are Ryze.com and ecademy. However effective trust systems are essential for these public online networks to work. In the first instance we need to be able to create layers around how much of the information about our personal contacts we want to share. Intermediating software can help, for example by identifying in a secure system the contacts we share. For example, Stuart and I estimated we would share 20-30 people in our email address books, but we don’t know who all of those people are. On the next level, if we can create software that enables people to draw on their personal contacts’ perception of others’ trustworthiness, this will enable us to more readily expand our own personal networks in useful ways. These kinds of systems can be implemented either in a global context, or inside or across organisations.

One of the key issues which comes up for me is how we are going to get there. Creating a highly functional system that enables us to see and expand our global personal networks is a fabulous vision, which I dearly hope will come to fruition, but it is likely to take a long time and there is a risk it will never happen. In the first instance, as I write in Living Networks, people need to build evolutionary business models, that can make money in creating the first steps of this vision, and easily morph into new models as the context moves on. The other key issue is standards. As in many domains, whoever “controls” this extraordinarly valuable space of personal connections can create—and extract—enormous value, and thus there will be plenty of competition to be the winner. If there are standard information definitions and interfaces between competing systems, this fragmentation can be avoided. Ultimately, if the vision is realized, it will most likely be driven by an open source initiative, which means there is usually less commercial value to be extracted. There’s a long way to go yet in creating a system that will allow everyone to see exactly how they are connected in the global networks. I’ll try keep you posted along the way.