Working from home…

Since starting at Juniper I have been traveling nearly every week up to the Bay Area. However, over time, I’ll be spending more of my time here at my home office in Huntington Beach. As I posted on Twitter yesterday, I have realized that working from home has some advantages. And some disadvantages. And sometimes those are the same…


A new job, a new opportunity

I might as well get to the point. Today is my last day at IBM. I can’t express how strange it feels to write that. I’ll share more about all of this in future blog posts, but to be brief, I have decided to accept an offer from Juniper Networks in Silicon Valley.

Despite the risk of sounding like a cliché, I have to state that working for IBM has been an absolute privilege. I have a genuine affection for all the IBMers with whom I’ve worked over the last seven-and-a-half years, and I have a deep belief in the purpose and mission for which IBM stands. Last, and certainly not least, it has been a real privilege over the past few years to be responsible for the global social media strategy for the most socially connected company on earth. What more could I ask for? It has been a great experience all around and IBM has been incredibly good to me, for which I’m grateful. To the IBMers reading this, thank you so very much.

So why am I leaving? This has been the hardest decision I’ve ever made. Despite all of these great things at IBM, my wife and I ultimately felt this specific opportunity at Juniper was the right move for the long-term benefit of my family and my career. The hardest decisions in life and business are between two equally attractive choices, and this was no exception.

At Juniper, I’ll be leading their social and digital strategy across communications and marketing worldwide. It is an exciting opportunity to start anew and build from a clean slate. I’ll have more to share when I actually get on board in a few weeks, but the people I’ve met so far make me very excited for the opportunity to broaden my networks and learn from yet another group of highly innovative colleagues.

But before I set foot for my first day in Sunnyvale, I’m already faced with a big challenge: How do I now establish a new professional identity that isn’t intrinsically connected to IBM’s? No longer being an IBMer means a new chapter not only in my career, but also in my professional identity. Over the past few years I’ve spoken at dozens of conferences, given dozens of media interviews, and spoken to countless IBM clients about IBM’s social business efforts. How do I separate my domain expertise from the context of my work at IBM?

Although my social experience has been filtered through IBM’s efforts, I know that in the process I’ve acquired a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience from which to draw. So my task will be to build a professional persona that is appropriately balanced between my personal expertise and skills and my professional contexts – new and old. Both matter; it is finding the right balance that is the difficulty.

It’s going to be a lot of fun.


Changes

Huntington Beach: my new hometown


Forgive me in advance for what is, in effect, a navel gazing post. A lot has happened here in the past few months. From a work perspective, I’ve taken on new responsibilities at IBM, some of which I’ll discuss here on the blog in the coming weeks. In general though, my mission is still to lead the social business strategy at corporate. Pretty great if you ask me.

More importantly though, I also moved my family across the country, back to California. It has been a tougher transition than I would have thought – despite all my complaining during the winters, the fact is I absolutely love the Northeast, Connecticut and New York City. That said, the 50 degree disparity in warmth right now is validating our decision to move back to where we grew up.

So, for the time being we’ve settled in Huntington Beach and I’m working out of the IBM Costa Mesa office. What this all really means is that my access to fantastic ethnic food for lunch has increased exponentially.

Which leads me to my last point in this largely housekeeping blog post. In the past, I’ve only blogged periodically about food. Most of the time, I share all my food notes on Chowhound. And while I continue to do that, I have felt a need for more organization in the public expression of my field notes. So I’ve decided on two courses. First, I’ve spent a lot of time building a fairly detailed Google Map of places I’ve been to, or been tipped off to in Orange County (embedded below). And secondly, I have decided to forgo any attempt at lengthy, flowery, superfluous restaurant reviews (of which I generally have no tolerance) in lieu of short missives that communicate just the basic, actionable impressions I capture on my trusty blackberry while eating around Orange County and beyond.

So expect to see here on this blog a much higher frequency of abrupt field notes of taco joints, ramen haunts and banh mi bakeries. In the meantime, here’s my work-in-progress map of Orange County food notes:


Introducing the IBM Expert Network on Slideshare

It should come as no surprise to anybody that IBMers are active in social media. In fact, we have, I believe, the single largest community of employees active in social media anywhere on earth. However, to the casual observer, it can be difficult to really grasp in a meaningful way our unique approach due to our employee-led, intentionally decentralized model for participation. (oh, if only I had a dollar for every time I was asked why we don’t have a single corporate blog or an @IBM twitter account…)

Over the past few years we’ve been looking for ways to raise the visibility of our employees’ individual contributions to the social Web and bring it all together into ways that represent the brand more holistically.

Which brings us to the newly launched IBM Expert Network on Slideshare. Beginning today, you now have a small window into the thinking of many IBMers who are now part of the Slideshare network.

This is a unique program for both Slideshare and IBM. Working with Rashmi Sinha and her great team at Slideshare, we spent the last few months constructing this program to create visibility not for IBM as an entity, but rather for the IBMers that shape our our brand.

For IBM, the value is clear. We are a knowledge-based B2B company that differentiates itself through the expertise of its employees. This program allows us to turn the most common activity of our thought leaders – creating and delivering presentations – into social objects with reach across the Web.

Now, a few notes on the Slideshare network. To be sure, this is a small start. We’ve capped this network today at only 50 experts. Compared to the entire IBM audience, this represents .01 percent of our employee base. It is also a bit too U.S. centric today (with a few exceptions). And finally, many, many more IBMers are already active on Slideshare who aren’t in this program. Over time, we plan to work with Slideshare to evolve the network to be more global, expansive and representative of our work, reach and employees’ expertise. For now, this is a nice start.

So, please take a look through the network, reach out to our experts and let us know any feedback you may have.

And for those interested in a little more context around IBM’s employee-led approach to social media, below is the presentation I am delivering today at the 2010 WOMMA Summit in Las Vegas. Fittingly, I’ve posted it to Slideshare.


Underscoring the complete uselessness of social media rankings

Click to enlargeApparently, everyone loves lists and rankings. From where I sit at IBM looking out over the world of social media, I’ve come across a million of these rankings. What companies are the best at social media? What brands are the most active on Twitter? What company has the prettiest avatars on Twitter? And so on.

And every single one I’ve seen – even when IBM scores very high – seems superfluous and shallow. Even rankings from respectable analysts, like Charlene Li, are usually far off the mark (that’s for a future post if anyone is interested). It’s impossible to effectively look behind the scenes and evaluate how a company is performing in social media without understanding their unique approach and what they are trying to accomplish.

So, if you are going to rank anything, you better be damn well sure that your methodology is rock solid and you are absolutely thorough in your research. Otherwise, you end up looking far more foolish than when you began.

So what got in my craw today?

A company called NetProspex claims to have created the “first comprehensive look at social media activity among employees of the nation’s largest corporations.” (I originally stated this was Flowtown’s report, thus making the correction). Yet another ranking. It only caught my eye when colleagues on Twitter pointed out the Mashable post on it. So, after enduring far too many of these rankings, I’m finally speaking out: Rankings are worthless and do everyone (except the report publisher) a complete disservice. I’ll talk more about the disservice later. But first a bit on Flowtown’s “rankings.” (Click on the image above for an enlarged view).

See IBM there? Way down at the bottom. Tied for 48th. With GE. A company that doesn’t yet allow all employees access to Facebook in the first place (no disrespect meant for my GE friends, of which I have many, but the perspective is valid). Such venerable brands like NCR, Pactiv and BMC Software apparently have more employees active in social media than IBM. Really? Or even take Dell, who by all accounts (including my own) has done a fabulous and innovative job in managing social media. But it’s been a top-down effort, with controlled access and clearly defined accounts. But this is measuring the usage by employees. Dell still doesn’t have a policy for all employees to blog (Richard/Lionel, correct me if this has changed).

Again, I want to point out that NetProspex isn’t measuring effectiveness. Many of these on the brands on this list very well may be more effective that we at IBM are (though I think we have a compelling argument). But this list measured volume. So, on that point, consider the following:

  • 200,000: current IBMers on LinkedIn, according to their own data… (By the way, it’s the LARGEST single community of corporate employees on any social network platform anywhere)
  • >1,000: current IBMers actively blogging externally. (some on ibm.com, but most off domain).
  • >3,000: current IBMers active on Twitter (my own estimate… but consider that Eric Andersen almost immediately quickly reached the 500 limit when he put together this list of IBMers. If no limit, it would be 6x larger).
  • 75,000: current IBMers on Facebook.
  • 100,000: current and former IBMers on IBM’s Alumni Social Network on ibm.com and LinkedIn.

I can’t see any possible way to justify the facts above with NetProspex’ rankings. Silly.

OK, enough with this report. I’ve given it enough press.

Finally, I want to get back to my point earlier about how these endless rankings are, ultimately, doing us all a massive disservice. Why do I think that? Well, primarily because it turns all of this into a race. And as companies try and keep up with each other, they start to apply the tactics that helped company “A” get to the top of the list without realizing they have a completely different business model and culture. It always ends awkwardly. I talked a lot about the impact of corporate culture on social media previously here on this blog. It’s worth revising that in the context of these lists to ask whether we should put a final nail in the coffin of endless rankings. If only.

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I made some updates above to clarify that this report was apparently conducted/published by NetProspex, not Flowtown.


Look Ma, I’m on TV! (no, not the YouTube TV, I mean the real one)

CNBC video

Go figure (sorry for just a link… CNBC’s embed is having trouble with WordPress)

Now, I do have to say a few things about this. First, I was really disappointed that CNBC’s Power Lunch doesn’t offer lunch (kidding, kidding). Seriously though, I haven’t yet and probably won’t ever actually watch this clip because I feel completely squeamish watching myself on TV. All of my annoying quirks are far too exposed. So apologies if it stinks – I’m going solely on memory of how it went. Anyhow, the one thing I do remember is that I didn’t get to nearly any of the things I was hoping to talk about.

So to capture some of that mental prep I’d done, below I’ve crafted what my dream CNBC interview would have been:

How is IBM taking advantage of social networking?

A great question… (wink, wink) IBM has the largest community anywhere on earth of employees engaged in social networking! (can’t speak for extraplanetary entities) That translates into almost 200,000 on LinkedIn, well over 50,000 on Facebook, thousands of external bloggers, thousands on Twitter, 17,000 internal blogs, etc., etc. By virtue of our size and technically savvy employee base, there’s no other organization out there with the scale, size and potential influence. We still have work to do to make our efforts more connected and intentional, but the value is there now and the future opportunities are immense.

What are you all doing on these sites?

Work!!! We are doing our jobs – the same jobs we were doing before social media. But hopefully now with better access to colleagues, peers and expertise than we had before. These platforms remove all of the artificial and geographical boundaries you find in organizations that lock up knowledge and information. Instead of relying on your office neighbors or reporting line as the sole source of information, you can reach anywhere into the organization – or out of the organization – to collaborate, learn, listen and influence.In other words, we are on these platforms because we can do our jobs better using them. Sure, we like t0 share pictures of our kids on Facebook too, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Connections, or whatever to learn from the brightest minds out there.

Won’t employees just waste time if we give them access to these sites? [My favorite question, btw]

Not at all. Blocking access to these sites is a self defeating policy for two reasons:

  1. This is a reflection of poor performance measurement practices. If you want to restrict access to Facebook in an attempt to push employees toward productivity, then you aren’t focused on results; you are focused on process. And we all know that process doesn’t mean anything. If an employee is spending 50 percent of his/her time on LinkedIn and Twitter, but performs better than peers who don’t, perhaps that’s a lesson in itself? And if they are wasting their time, that too will come out when it’s time to measure results and performance.
  2. Think of the message this sends employees. “WE DON’T TRUST YOU.” I can’t think of many things that undermines any sense of trust between the institution and the employee than micromanaging how they spend their time. This has particular consequences when it comes to morale and recruitment.

Any parting advice for other companies looking to dip their toes in this water?

Another great question… First, I’d say be pragmatic about how you approach this. Don’t be afraid of the blurring lines between professional and private conversations of employees. That blurring already happens with phones and email. That it happens in social networks doesn’t really change much. Instead, focus on getting great guidelines in place and make sure everyone understands them. Based on our experience at IBM, the guidelines can’t be a top-down mandate. Employees should be part of the process in creating them. Our employees actually wrote the Social Computing Guidelines, resulting in self-regulating, very large, very well behaved community of active participants.

Do you have any advice for where to get a great taco?

Why yes, in fact, I do

So that’s my dream CNBC Q&A. To quote someone far more interesting than myself, “At the end of the day… I think the questions went… wonderfully well.


Some perspectives on ESPN’s new "social" media guidelines

This will be brief, but I did want to offer some of my own, personal perspectives on the issue of ESPN’s new guidelines for employee use of social media. I’m basing this on my own experiences here at IBM in helping maintain the IBM Social Computing Guidelines, which we’ve had now for over four years. The IBM guidelines were created, literally, by the IBM employees who were participating in these social spaces. I won’t go into too much detail here about it – but I’ve written up our experiences in a prior post for your reading pleasure.

Now, to ESPN’s guidelines. Overall, they seem fairly reasonable. ESPN has a business to run and they need to protect their reputation and revenue streams. I understand and appreciate that. Guidelines are absolutely essential for corporations to protect both the company and the employee. But, I did have two main reactions:

  1. They come across too heavy handed.
  2. They seem to have been created and communicated in a completely old-school, top-down manner without input from employees.

If my experiences at IBM have taught me anything, it’s the following:

  • Don’t create social media guidelines for employees without including employees in the process.

Why? As far as I see it, there are a few reasons:

  1. Corporate-only mandates instill a sense of distrust between employee and employer. Nothing says we don’t trust you like management saying out of the blue that you aren’t allowed to do “X” or “Y.” If employees are part of the process, then this becomes a moot point. But by mandating behavior on employees you turn off those who are most likely your most valuable assets in the social media space. After all, nothing is more powerful for a brand than to have its employees out there talking to clients, customers, partners and – in this case – fans.
  2. Missed value. The suits in CHQ (yes, I’m one) can never know all the ways that employees are finding value through social media. And much of that is bringing value to the corporation. So to dictate rules without the perspective of the employees means a lot of potential value can get lost.
  3. Employee “ownership” of the guidelines results in a wonderful phenomenon: better behavior and a self-regulating community. We do no policing of employees in social spaces at IBM. One of the reasons for this is because the other IBMers – the ones who helped write the guidelines – keep everyone else in line. Positive peer-pressure if you like. And if you were trusted to help create guidelines, naturally, you are more predisposed to understand them and to follow them.

Social media in sports is still in its nascent stages. Heck, I even have my own little story about it. I’m very interested in seeing how professional sports leagues, organizations and media outlets ultimately find the balance for all of this. But one thing is for sure, they should all listen to employees and fans as their starting point.

Update: looks like someone else picked up on the IBM example too.