The Missing Link between the Social Pioneers & the Preachers – The Practitioners

There is a huge gap in social business. Doesn’t anyone else see this? There are people out there sermonizing, but who is delivering the goods?  There are plenty of glossies and white papers about how it should work, but there is a missing link between the preaching and the process.

My theory about the next stage of growth to come is pretty simple. I suggest there is also a gap in most of the current discussions between the Pioneers and the Preachers about social business that will only be filled by real practitioners. The living fossils that want to link the theoretical as the applied science of social collaboration.

As with evolution theories of any sort, sometimes it takes the rediscovery of fossils to stir up debate and new depths of practical knowledge. We’re reaching a stage in the progression of Social/Collaboration business where new findings need to be explored even if it alters dearly held beliefs. Much of value has been written about strategy and engagement from both internal and external perspectives  like the somewhat surprising observations in the post ‘The Perception Gap in Social’ by Mitch Lieberman, and definitions about what social and collaboration mean. But, there are gaps in the experiments and the experience.

The Social Species

At one end of the chain, we have the Primal Preachers. They’re often young, playful, consumed with the newness and novelty of social, yet some tend to more closely resemble older primates forming the Silverback Network. Sometimes their arms are longer than the legs they stand on. Usually lead by a singular dominant male they congregate in troops, frequently grooming each other and picking off nits and eating them alive, and will attack any young not sired by them. Challenges for supremacy and leadership are met with growls, roars and chest-thumping.  When confronted with demands for proof of concept, they may charge on all fours in a show of knuckle walking intimidation.

Researchers have discovered that 99% of their charges are bluffs; providing the rest of the troop time for retreating to a safe distance.

On the upside, Siverbacks are highly communicative creatures, with a wide range of auditory and visual cues they use to teach and extend their range. (In fact, they’re a fascinating case study in social amongst primates.) They get people thinking that Social is the next step in an evolution that will happen whether people believe in the theory, or not. Right now they’re the Kings of the low-land forests and are a very necessary link in the chain of the creationism of Social Collaboration. They appeal to the masses.

At the other end of the range, we have the Perceptive Pioneers of the Old Boys Network. They’re older, wiser, and more likely to be seen walking upright, although often with a bit of swagger. With burly firm business legs to stand on, their reach is shorter, and the stretch is longer to grab the attention away from the chest pounders and the allure of Facebook and Twitter. They form & reform the network without so many obvious battles for leadership. Rather, they are more often found in shifting pods commonly known as Analyst firms where they share forth as a mostly cohesive community, targeting most of their communications to vendors & c-suite executives.

The pioneers understand that everything new is old again.  They’re the Prophets of the high-land woods equally necessary as they point towards what will be in the future. They will lead the way in turning social collaboration into feasible business strategy.

The Implementors are the Tactical Missing Link.

Sooner or later, there will be a need for a new breed of transitional fossil. Beings that marry both the primitive traits of traditional business with the full promise of internal and external collaborative social engagement. Part dinosaur and part Jetson, these creatures are the intermediate species that span the two groups of animals above to put it all together with the systems, technology and the tools.

In a recent interview about lessons learned in Social CRM, when asked if we have the right tools yet to collect the right data for analysis Esteban Kolsky replied,

 “The right tools are there, but we don’t have the right people. Analysis doesn’t require tools. Tools need to know & be told what they’re looking for.”

I agree, in whole, although I’ll apply it in a slightly different context here. In addition to having mathematical statisticians to make sense of the data, between the strategists and social socialites, someone has to understand industries, collaboration, processes, metrics –> how businesses work day-to-day, hands on –> then make the new technologies and tools deliver the right data and the magic metrics!

Those are the Process Practitioners. Currently, many belong to the ‘largely untapped – yet’ social network. Often found skirting the edges of both the Preacher and the Pioneer posses, they’re neither young nor old, just well-seasoned from long days in the blistering trenches and longer cold nights sweating over system Go Lives.  Usually bow-legged from spanning silos, and slightly hunched over from digging in the trenches, they nit-pick, too. Poking, prodding and pressing until each need is wholly understood and plans to fulfill them are devised in minute detail. The only young they care much about are the systems they deliver after a long labor with the stretch marks to show for every contraction.

Who is Delivering this Social Stuff in a Meaningful Way for the Vendor’s Customers?

The preachers will tell us that the tools and the technologies don’t matter, but ultimately organizations will select platforms on which to begin their engagement efforts. This is the tactical part of the process, and it’s being sadly neglected.

Looking at the positions posted on three ‘top’ social platform vendor sites doesn’t bode well for the clients. While we’re all searching for success stories, I forecast many dismal failures ahead if the right people aren’t being used in the right ways. Of 55 jobs posted by those vendors offering social collaboration solutions for businesses, only 4 of the jobs listed have any sort of business analysis consulting or software implementation experience as a requirement. That’s nothing short of scary.

In between ‘Let’s get socialized and collaborate’ and ‘Let’s achieve some new goals for your organization’ smart companies will be pausing to ask, “Who is going to put in the work to make these tools and systems live up to the strategy devised?”

The vendors better be ready to offer up the Missing Link:
The Practitioners.

I’ll tell you more about the Practitioners in a later post. Time for a new spurt of evolution, don’t you think?

 

Previous comments on this post here.
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The Missing Link between the Social Pioneers & the Preachers – The Practitioners

There is a huge gap in social business. Doesn’t anyone else see this? There are people out there sermonizing, but who is delivering the goods?  There are plenty of glossies and white papers about how it should work, but there is a missing link between the preaching and the process.

My theory about the next stage of growth to come is pretty simple. I suggest there is also a gap in most of the current discussions between the Pioneers and the Preachers about social business that will only be filled by real practitioners. The living fossils that want to link the theoretical as the applied science of social collaboration.

As with evolution theories of any sort, sometimes it takes the rediscovery of fossils to stir up debate and new depths of practical knowledge. We’re reaching a stage in the progression of Social/Collaboration business where new findings need to be explored even if it alters dearly held beliefs. Much of value has been written about strategy and engagement from both internal and external perspectives  like the somewhat surprising observations in the post ‘The Perception Gap in Social’ by Mitch Lieberman, and definitions about what social and collaboration mean. But, there are gaps in the experiments and the experience.

The Social Species

At one end of the chain, we have the Primal Preachers. They’re often young, playful, consumed with the newness and novelty of social, yet some tend to more closely resemble older primates forming the Silverback Network. Sometimes their arms are longer than the legs they stand on. Usually lead by a singular dominant male they congregate in troops, frequently grooming each other and picking off nits and eating them alive, and will attack any young not sired by them. Challenges for supremacy and leadership are met with growls, roars and chest-thumping.  When confronted with demands for proof of concept, they may charge on all fours in a show of knuckle walking intimidation.

Researchers have discovered that 99% of their charges are bluffs; providing the rest of the troop time for retreating to a safe distance.

On the upside, Siverbacks are highly communicative creatures, with a wide range of auditory and visual cues they use to teach and extend their range. (In fact, they’re a fascinating case study in social amongst primates.) They get people thinking that Social is the next step in an evolution that will happen whether people believe in the theory, or not. Right now they’re the Kings of the low-land forests and are a very necessary link in the chain of the creationism of Social Collaboration. They appeal to the masses.

At the other end of the range, we have the Perceptive Pioneers of the Old Boys Network. They’re older, wiser, and more likely to be seen walking upright, although often with a bit of swagger. With burly firm business legs to stand on, their reach is shorter, and the stretch is longer to grab the attention away from the chest pounders and the allure of Facebook and Twitter. They form & reform the network without so many obvious battles for leadership. Rather, they are more often found in shifting pods commonly known as Analyst firms where they share forth as a mostly cohesive community, targeting most of their communications to vendors & c-suite executives.

The pioneers understand that everything new is old again.  They’re the Prophets of the high-land woods equally necessary as they point towards what will be in the future. They will lead the way in turning social collaboration into feasible business strategy.

The Implementors are the Tactical Missing Link.

Sooner or later, there will be a need for a new breed of transitional fossil. Beings that marry both the primitive traits of traditional business with the full promise of internal and external collaborative social engagement. Part dinosaur and part Jetson, these creatures are the intermediate species that span the two groups of animals above to put it all together with the systems, technology and the tools. 

In a recent interview about lessons learned in Social CRM, when asked if we have the right tools yet to collect the right data for analysis Esteban Kolsky replied,

 “The right tools are there, but we don’t have the right people. Analysis doesn’t require tools. Tools need to know & be told what they’re looking for.”

I agree, in whole, although I’ll apply it in a slightly different context here. In addition to having mathematical statisticians to make sense of the data, between the strategists and social socialites, someone has to understand industries, collaboration, processes, metrics –> how businesses work day-to-day, hands on –> then make the new technologies and tools deliver the right data and the magic metrics!

Those are the Process Practitioners. Currently, many belong to the ‘largely untapped – yet’ social network. Often found skirting the edges of both the Preacher and the Pioneer posses, they’re neither young nor old, just well-seasoned from long days in the blistering trenches and longer cold nights sweating over system Go Lives.  Usually bow-legged from spanning silos, and slightly hunched over from digging in the trenches, they nit-pick, too. Poking, prodding and pressing until each need is wholly understood and plans to fulfill them are devised in minute detail. The only young they care much about are the systems they deliver after a long labor with the stretch marks to show for every contraction.

Who is Delivering this Social Stuff in a Meaningful Way for the Vendor’s Customers?

The preachers will tell us that the tools and the technologies don’t matter, but ultimately organizations will select platforms on which to begin their engagement efforts. This is the tactical part of the process, and it’s being sadly neglected.

Looking at the positions posted on three ‘top’ social platform vendor sites doesn’t bode well for the clients. While we’re all searching for success stories, I forecast many dismal failures ahead if the right people aren’t being used in the right ways. Of 55 jobs posted by those vendors offering social collaboration solutions for businesses, only 4 of the jobs listed have any sort of business analysis consulting or software implementation experience as a requirement. That’s nothing short of scary.

In between ‘Let’s get socialized and collaborate’ and ‘Let’s achieve some new goals for your organization’ smart companies will be pausing to ask, “Who is going to put in the work to make these tools and systems live up to the strategy devised?”

The vendors better be ready to offer up the Missing Link:  
The Practitioners.

I’ll tell you more about the Practitioners in a later post. Time for a new spurt of evolution, don’t you think?

Professer, Professional or Playuh?

Determining whether someone is a Professor, Professional or just another Playuh is a tough task. Countless books, blogs and articles have been written about the topic in regards to Social Media, with a plethora of consultants professing expertise in the new social sciences. Yet, trained professionals in other fields are becoming increasingly skeptical of these ‘gurus’ easy answers and questionable value. The same doubt permeates other fields as well, like the ongoing debate about what makes a good analyst. So my question is this: what constitutes an expert from a practitioner in any field and how do you tell the posers from the real playuhs?

Recently, I attended a Social Media Breakfast event with 50-60 other people, many of whom list Marketing as their profession, and include social media as part of their job role. The speaker, Dave Fleet, VP of Edelman Digital, provided an insightful presentation on 20 Social Media Trends for 2011, and demonstrated his expertise well during the Q & A portion of the session. His knowledge value was not in question, but I was stunned to note how many of these professionals in the room scrambled to quickly write or type away when Dave defined ‘taxonomy’. Give me a break! How can these folks be successful in Social Media?

I immediately, (and unfairly), dumped the lot of them in the poser pile. But given a few days to percolate, it became clear that there is a big difference between a person’s profession, their occupation and perhaps even their vocation. While these folks may be accredited as marketing professionals, they may have to do social media as a new part of their growing job role, and it might not even be something they want to do.

As a successful PR and marketing professional, Dave Fleet rose to the status of Professor able to teach Social Media because he’d ‘lived to learn’, expanding his knowledge and skills in the new social sciences because communication is his passion. By contrast, some of the attendees are stuck in their fixed traditional marketing box, and have just ‘learned to live’ with the new tasks foisted upon them, but don’t study to up their a-game, as it isn’t where their true interests lie.

Just like any profession, you have those who live and breathe their work, others who are equally great and devoted to their craft but treat it like a job, and everything in between.

To understand how some people become high value professors and real players, we must first examine the classifications of profession, occupation and vocation. Simply put – your profession is what you know, your occupation is what you do as your job, and vocation is what you are meant to do – your calling.

  • A profession is usually designated by some sort of accreditation or certification that legitimizes one’s knowledge after extensive study. A professional is paid to share this domain knowledge and are expected to do so within a framework of standards, guidelines, statutes and ethics.
  • Persons engaged in an occupation are not paid for their knowledge, but what they produce as tangible outputs. Occupations may or may not require specialized knowledge and accreditation. Often, it is what you do to pay the bills, while you dream of doing what you’d really like to.
  • A vocation suggests a grand calling. Some driving passion or purpose that acts as a summons to perform with enthusiasm.

Perhaps the easiest way to distinguish the experts from the plodders and players is by studying how they apply their professional knowledge within an occupation, and maybe even as a vocation?  Let’s use Dr. Sanjay Gupta as an example.

Dr. Gupta’s profession is medicine, his occupations are neurosurgery and he holds down another job as the Senior Medical Correspondent for CNN, but what makes him a bit more unique than some of his colleagues is his calling to communicate and educate a broader audience. He’s leveraged his learned skills, using his voice to influence public support for the Haiti crisis, or adding practical insight to Health Care Reform studies. This makes Dr. Sanjay both a professor and a real player.

Pros and Playuhs follow a path of continual study with highly qualified teachers. It is through eliminating as many technical issues as possible, having unbiased critiques of your skills and values via debates and publications, as well as putting in an enormous amount of time and effort that elevates a certain few people with the requisite inherent ability to reach the heights of their profession.

When trying to discern the true professional advisors from rogues, scoundrels and plodders, beware these gotchas:

  1. Part Time Experts – they might have a vocation for whatever they’re pitching, but if their day job is in another field entirely, run for the hills.
  2. The Emporer Has No Clothes – if they can’t ‘show you’ versus ‘tell you’ what they’re trying to sell you, then they haven’t applied their professional knowledge in any tangible way deserving of your money. Leave them buck nekkid out in the cold while you look for professionals with current client references and frequent activity in their peer groups.
  3. Boardroom Table Chasers – most professionals at the top of their game haven’t done a cold call in years. If the professional is racing after you aggressively in desperation like dogs on a hunt, then they’re probably hungry for a reason.
  4. Bargain Basement Sales – you get what you pay for. True expertise doesn’t come cheaply.  Better to pay a higher rate for a 30 minute consultation for a professional who can provide solutions and answers than to pay $50 an hour for someone who will fake it until you realize they can’t make it.

There are some extremely talented individuals who offer quality professional services. Just vet them carefully with an understanding of their profession, their occupation and their vocation as described above and you should have a very good chance of avoiding the pain and costs associated with having an incompetent cut their teeth on your on your time with your dime.

Secret Sources

If you’re like me and are more of a tech #e20 news aggregator than a true voice, it is important to make an extra effort to find fresh, relevant content for your feed.  In being a good follower, you can also be a link leader. These are a few secret sources often overlooked in favour of easily retweeting other’s finds or work:

  • As you read an interesting blog post, take the time to click through and read the linked articles.  This is one of the simplest ways to find topical research, stats & stories.
  • This often leads to adding content-rich additions to your RSS feeds, resulting in fresh material for future discussion and sharing.
  • If you enjoy a slide presentation, subscribe to the author and traipse through their old presentations.  You’ll often find nuggets of gold.
  • Set up Google News alerts on your area of ability or interest.
  • If you enjoy a particular new follower, read through at least three of their blog articles.
  • Do an image search on ‘infographics’. When you find a graphic that really speaks to the topic, click to the host source and read the articles that go along with it.
  • Start a discussion with the source or retweeter of a an interesting read.  Often, this will lead to a further exchange of ideas and content.
  • If an article posted six months ago still resonates, don’t be afraid to recycle it for fresh followers.

Even if you aren’t a visionary voice, you can still be a valuable resource for knowledge in your field.  Just be an active participant in creative engagement -> it was often said that ‘timing is everything’. In these days of fast and furious feeds, the new cry is ‘content is everything’.

What sources do you use daily beyond your own feed?

Some People are Just People and Some People Are Resources

I took an unexpected trip down memory lane today that lead to several insights about ideas and people I take for granted too often. One of which is the title of this article:  Some people are just people; some people are resources.

The catalyst for this thought was a tweet I received earlier today from a past-coworker at Exact Software. @Ronald_Voets shared:

“TERMS00012 is now called People. Bye bye Resource, we had a lot of fun.”

That probably sounds like cryptic mumbo-jumbo to you, but for me it felt a bit like the end of an era.  I remember when I started with Exact Software in 2000, I was confused initially to find that ‘people’ were refered to as ‘resources’ throughout all of the software products.  I remember thinking to myself, “Why don’t they just call them people?”

It wasn’t long before I got it.  The people of Exact’s own organization, and those of our partners & clients were indeed the most valuable resources each company could count on for their growth and success.  This was  demonstrated each day as we worked in, alongside of, and with other resources in Synergy, which was my first exposure to a web-based collaboration tool.  Synergy does much more than simply enable collaboration, but for me the longest-lasting impact has been a passion for and strong belief in the benefits of enterprise-wide communication and participation at all levels of an organization. 

Nine years ago, as a fledgling implementation consultant for Exact Canada, I had so much to learn.  Occasionally overwhelmed with the quantity and quality of information available to me, I quickly developed a system that I now realize set the stage for the way I approach Social Media on a daily basis.  I learned to search out and follow key ‘resources’ like Ronald.  Not just any old person who authored a help file I read, or who posted a similar question to one that I had.  I’d stalk the people who answered the questions, were innovative with technologies and designed the functionality. The efforts to surface right resources to help me excel were much easier and more succesful because of the shared information created by Synergy ‘resources’ all around the world who collaborated on ideas, issues, documents, planning, workflow – all of which was readily available and well-organized. It was an amazing career experience. 

If I had a question about an integration tool idea, not only would the Director of Innovation, Aad ‘t Hart, (a Big Kahuna way over in the Netherlands,) assess it critically and instruct on better options for functional design, he’d make a point of going over it again in person on his next visit to Canada. Then there is my very prized friend, Robert Klein, a excellent Sales Solution Architect for Exact.  Rob and I passed a demo database back and forth across the North American continent many times over a span of years, enriching it, enhancing it, then sharing it with our other co-workers and partners for their benefit, too.  We’d pull many late-nighters trouble-shooting issues, role-playing for sales demos, reviewing RFP’s and collaborating our little hearts out on all things Synergy. I’ve only actually been with Rob in the same physical place a hand-full of times in the many years we’ve worked together, yet I would recommend him as a great team-player with creative ideas. We’ll likely keep in touch for life, helping each other through brain-storming anything and everything we may encounter professionally.

These are but a few examples of Exact’s excellence in practicing what they preach, I can’t possibly name them all though I wish I could.  But each ‘resource’ shared one thing in common: A belief that enterprise-wide communication, collaboration and accessibility to the right resources does improve products, increase productivity, and build strong, enduring internal & external communities.

I didn’t really realize until tonight how much I took that for granted. Those experiences are the key influential drivers of my behaviors and actions as I traverse the web and social media communities now – almost 10 years later.  There are many millions of people who have a lot to say and put a great deal of information out there in the web-sphere.  The ones I consistently follow, communicate with, link to and read regularly are in fact carefully selected ‘resources’ that mentor, teach, create and reinforce ideas in a collaborative way, every day. These are resources who are passionate about Enterprise 2.0, Knowledge Management, growth, change and innovation.  The big brains mapping out further technologies that will enhance our future.

I’m excited and understand the need for this change in term for Exact’s Synergy application (there’s no denying that customers will like it), but I am also very grateful indeed that I was part of that by-gone era, the one that helped me define the difference between ‘people’ – and real resources working passionately for an organization or idea.