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In our previous installment, we outlined the very basics of what is an idea and how we, as humans, go about expressing our ideas. We later ended with, what we like to call, The Thinking Model. This model becomes the crux for future blogs in this series.

 

So, why is an idea exchange so important? Let's look at some of the stark realities that probably exist among many of our businesses today.

 

The Transaction Problem

 

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We each probably have some level of a customer engagement model defined. With this, most likely feedback is transactional in nature from Service Experience surveys, ratings on a product, 3rd party reviews, to direct customer interaction via user groups, escalations, and/or direct executive level engagement. What's interesting is that most of these engagements are not truly collaborative in nature. You use my product or service and I, in return, tell you how good you did. But, what about my business challenges? What about my strategy and the results I am trying to gain from this great service or product that I have purchased? What if things aren't working as I intended them to? Sure, you may collect ideas/feedback, but usually they are presented as "I need the product to do X" or "Why can't I do or see Y."  But, why? If the product is improved to do 'X' or 'Y', what problem are we solving for the customer?

 

We often measure success on how well our design is adopted versus if the design is solving a problem for the customer. Let's take a form of feedback that most companies have today. Surveys are a great way to get a pulse on how well the product or service is perceived. Typically, there is some form of rating and a series of questions that may direct the user to respond to several aspects of the product or service, and even may go beyond that specific product or service to give indication of the overall perspective on the department/division or company itself. In our experience, that rating system is usually measured on a numerical scale and from that, focus is typically spent on specific consolidated buckets that may represent a dissatisfied customer, a neutral customer, or a highly satisfied customer. Surveys are a good way to get feedback and understand the general pulse of the customer or group of customers and their feeling about the product or service. However, they don't usually give insight into the business challenges of the customer and almost always never lend themselves to being a good repository for ideas around how the specific product or service could be improved or changed.

 

A point of concern is that when we focus feedback on the transaction, we tend to look at problems and potential solutions singularly. We fail to look at suggestions collectively as potential insights into how we can truly change or improve our offerings. This can lead to poor and costly design, misuse of resources, and misdirected improvements that are received by the customer as useless or not valuable. Without a complete understanding of business challenge and application, the company could be wasting time and money on solutions that don't matter or expand the realm of influence and application.

 

The transaction problems described here then contribute in whole or in part to the problems associated with knowledge.

 

Action for you: Identify and list your transaction problems. This is a prerequisite to solving problems.

 

The Knowledge Problem

 

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That's the problem, lack of knowledge. When we don't truly understand our customer and what they are trying to accomplish using our products and services, we can't design a better product or service. Sure, we can take a stab, talk to a couple of customers and get insights, and maybe even pull a few ideas, but without the collective audience engaging in the discussion, our efforts may result in sub-par design and utter frustration for the larger customer base. When you consider that often times we are challenged with a universal application, it is truly tough to understand product change impacts when there are lots of different industry applications, special regional laws and applications, compliance requirements, and you name it!

 

By offering the ability to capture ideas in a public forum like a community, you begin to centralize feedback and details around the ideas, reduce duplication of ideas, and expand to a wider audience which allows for more complete information around the product or service. Think about it, you now have the information, at your fingertips, to complete a more effective cost analysis and better understand the perceived impacts of developing a solution to fit your customers needs. In this environment, you have your customers telling you what is important to them and what direction you may need to consider to impart product or service loyalty! The consequences of ignoring this problem, plainly stated, is RISK! You risk focusing time, resources, and brand on solutions that may only provide a partial fix or improvement and could quite simply give your competitors more leverage in the marketplace.

 

Action for you: Identify and list your knowledge problems, known or perceived. This is a prerequisite to solving problems.

 

Problem Solved

 

ProblemSolved.pngSo why not build into your customer engagement model that very layer - an idea layer - in your community. Call it what you will, but we challenge you to think about ideas being more transparent. Whether those ideas are truly public, or reside behind some firewall where only licensed or registered users can see them...EXPOSE THEM! Get the conversation started with your customers. By doing this, something magical will happen. A bubble-up effect will begin to give insight into those things that customers value as important or useful. Through comments and engagement, customers will start to expose their business challenges and begin to offer reasons into why they feel the idea warrants further consideration. But, more importantly, opinions will surface about the applicability to the universal audience and now you have insight, the insight needed for your development teams to design a better, more cost-effective solution!

 

What are the resulting benefits?

 

  • Leads to better software design
  • Develops revenue generating potential as, hopefully, solutions become more universal in scope
  • Reduces noise from traditional tracking systems
  • Identifies what customers believe to be of value or importance
  • Exposes to the customer those ideas which the collective audience deem important, not leaving that idea living un-promised forever
  • Engaging (or better engaging) developers and product strategists
  • Connecting, re-connecting (or better connecting) with the customer
  • More productive product management and support
  • Opens up the process to new innovation

 

In turn, the results from above become the foundation for measuring your success. We will be addressing the topic of ROI and measuring success in a later blog.

 

Action for you: Now that you have identified customer transaction and knowledge problems, translate the above list into specifics for your company.

 

The Engagement Model

 

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Before outlining the model, make sure you define a process that includes development/service ownership and agreement on how everything will work.

 

Tip/best practice: This is a really huge one and you risk much by introducing ideas in your communities for which there is no process and ownership. In fact, if you don't do this you might as well not implement ideas in your communities and just let customers voice their opinion in thread discussions. Some platforms do not even have the ability to have ideas and in those cases, even if it disconnects the community from the ideas, there are open source applications such as Pligg that can be incorporated. If the community in question is a support community, it is also desirable (if not even required) to ask development to own both the management (status, etc) and moderation. Of course, you will need to sell development or service owners by showing them the benefits (and pointing them to our thoughts about ideas is a good start!).

 

At the risk of oversimplification and acknowledging that you may have specific challenges for which we have no visibility, the engagement does not have to be complex. In fact, one could argue that a simple and straightforward engagement model would help those new to the concept as well as perhaps solve any complexity currently in place. The beauty of simplification could be:

 

  1. Customers create ideas. The community votes and comments. Going back to The Thinking Model, the number of votes on an idea may not necessarily be the deciding factor. We see votes as a sentiment. A company's objectives and goals alongside how a product is designed (and can be further enhanced) in tandem with sentiment is the only rational way to make decisions. If voting is the exclusive means to making the decision, you could be both making the wrong decision as well as setting a future precedent in the community that the "popular vote" will usually or always trump other considerations.

  2. Development and/or service owners participate with probing and clarifying questions. Some ideas will naturally lend themselves to generating conversation. Often times an idea, as first presented, is not clearly stated or fully defined. So, this is where the development and service owners become important in either getting the conversation started by asking clarifying questions or as knowledgeable participants in the overall discussion. Insights into other pieces of the products features and functionality can sometimes lend themselves to plausible and temporary solutions while the customers wait for an idea to be vetted or accepted into the product's footprint.

  3. Development and/or service owners are also moderators. This does not strictly fall in to a traditional community moderation but rather one that manages the ideas. Setting idea status (also known as an idea stage) and communicating what will or what will not be are the primary activities. This is a key activity in that it is setting customer expectations. This is also important for ensuring that the users are focusing on, through voting and discussion, the actual ideas that are still active. Making sure that the ideas are clearly marked within their life-cycle gives clarity to the customer and helps in their own planning and product considerations.

  4. Implementation and release. Once it has been agreed that an idea will be implemented, the development and/or service owner transcribes the requirements and supporting documentation in to a release management system where it then follows a company's process to being developed, tested, and made available in either a minor or major release. The cycle is not really complete until it is clearly documented that the idea has been incorporated into the product or service and insight is given into how the customer obtains the new addition. So, it is important to ensure that the idea is tied in tightly with your knowledge base.

 

Action for you: Identify a pilot to implement ideas in your community using the above engagement model. Outline a proposed engagement model using the above prescription.

2015 is quickly coming to a close! Thank you to our customers who make our business so meaningful year round. From 150M content searches per month across Jive-n interactive intranets to 224M monthly activities across Jive-x communities, to 16B page views generated each year from our products, you've all brought Jive to new heights. That's why the biggest standout of this year at Jive has been you!

 

Favorite Moments

My favorite moments on the job are hearing about what Jive uniquely means to each of our customers. You have accomplished much by leveraging Jive, and we're grateful for the role we play in helping further your missions. Here are just a few highlights of 2015:

  • Organizations around the world are turning to Jive to help build amazing company culture. Cisco, Cristal Union, Deutsche Telekom, Devoteam, FICO, GoDaddy, Grant Thornton, Modern Times Group, Portland Trailblazers, Standard Chartered Bank, SunEdison and Wichita State University are just a sampling of companies leveraging Jive-n as their hub for digital transformation.
  • We’re proud to support the work of HeforShe, a UN initiative that promotes gender equality around the world. I want to extend a big thanks to the program sponsor, PwC, for their partnership and commitment to supporting this solidarity movement. Jive-x is being leveraged to create a global networking community that drives awareness, activation and participation in the HeforShe campaign. Organizations like Akamai, Conecteo, Ellucian, Lifesize and Pink Petro (just to name a few) have also built powerful new Jive-x communities to connect their customers, partners and other important audiences.
  • We've made great strides for Healthcare solutions this year. Innovative providers – like Aetna, Humana, Parkview Health, Spectrum Health, UnitedHealthGroup, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are all building interactive intranets to help thousands of physicians and employees better collaborate and share valuable medical knowledge that ultimately improves patient care.
  • Jive's cloud business is now growing rapidly. The majority of Jive's new customers are selecting cloud for their solution. And many of our larger customers like Aetna, Cisco, Cox Automotive, Pearson, Starwood and Thomson Reuters are taking advantage of our cloud offering at scale.

 

These examples are just the beginning when it comes to the amazing stories I’ve heard from our customers all year long - the list of new and established communities goes on and on.

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Product Innovation Driven By You!

I'm proud of how much of your feedback we've incorporated into our Jive-n and Jive-x releases, as well as our Jive 8 hosted offering in 2015. Your input came in through the Jive Community Ideas Space and meetings with our product teams. This input prompted great improvements to our news experience, mobile apps and much more. We also revamped how we deliver new features and communication around quarterly releases in direct response to your feedback. You'll continue to see plenty of customer-driven innovation from us in 2016, so keep pushing us to do even better and we'll keep listening.

 

I would also like to recognize all of our members who make the award-winning Jive Community such a great place for peer-to-peer support. I'm thrilled that we've just launched our brand-new Jive Customers space, and can't wait to see how it becomes your central communications hub for all things Jive. And a special shout out to our Jive Champions, Advocates and Executive Advisory Board who share their product input, implementation stories, answers to newcomer questions and general support for other members.

 

It’s inspiring to see all the wonderful ways your efforts are helping the world work better together. I'd love to hear any stories you want to share as comments on this blog.

 

I look forward to a great 2016 with all of you and I especially look forward to seeing many of you at JiveWorld in Las Vegas March 14-16! We have tons of surprises in store.

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#jiveon

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Your content is well-written and well-produced, engaging, even useful. But is your audience really paying attention? We all know what it’s like when someone won’t stop talking — it’s very hard to stay engaged. Have you tried listening to your audience instead?

 

Online communities are primordial (pre-web, even) discussion, content-sharing, and collaboration applications. While many brands use online communities for bottom-line-focused activities such as lead generation, others focus on listening, which helps them uncover powerful sources of customer insights, content, and industry credibility — all of which can support their marketing strategy.

 

First, let’s understand what is meant by online communities. Online communities are dedicated, brand-sponsored platforms that enable the exchange of ideas and content via a suite of interactive features, such as discussion forums, polls, content libraries, and member directories. These communities generally fall into one of the following four categories:

  • Lead generators: These communities are established by brands to bring members into conversations solely to generate sales leads. When a prospect joins the discussion, the sales team jumps in to press the sale. It’s a Trojan horse, inspiring neither trust nor engagement.
  • Marketing speakers: Long on broadcasting messages to members, short on interaction, the primary mission of “megaphone” communities is to share the brand’s new developments and latest accomplishments with prospective and current customers. Often designed and managed to optimize SEO measures, they also typically fall short on member engagement.
  • Customer huggers: Staffed by customer service employees assisting members in need, “closed tickets” is the key metric here. But in the absence of additional in-depth interactions and collaboration with members, valuable insights remain undiscovered. The community is just a “nice-to-have” cost center, rather than an outreach mechanism.
  • Innovation centers: Dedicated to achieving deep collaboration with customers and partners, these communities seek to share information, glean insights, and put community-sourced ideas into action. Through continuous engagement around the ideas, concerns, and hopes the membership has for the products and services, these communities identify areas of internal improvement and growth and provide ongoing feedback to members about their contributions. Innovation centers can have a profound impact at all levels of the organization.

 

Another is the Palladium Group XPC Community. Based on the balanced scorecard management system developed by Kaplan and Norton, this community of management consultants, strategy professionals, and operations executives pools expertise to develop best practices for use within the organizations.

A third example is HP’s IT Expert Zone, where corporate IT staff can interact directly with HP’s IT experts, asking complex questions and receiving detailed responses. By listening to this content, IT managers and directors can better understand the pitfalls and opportunities within their IT environment.

  • Process improvement and operational efficiency case studies: SPS Commerce, a supply chain solutions provider, created a public community for customers to collaborate on solving all manner of supply change management issues. Thomson-Reuters operates a global online community (intranet) for employees to improve collaboration and speed up innovation across offices in over 100 countries.
  • Case studies from member stories about products, services, or solutions: These are especially helpful for B2C or B2B firms where it may not be easy to identify engaged end users. For example, Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) maintains close relationships with its large corporate customers, but may not know the specific details of an end user’s implementation. The HDS Innovation Center Community provides a forum for end-user innovators within large organizations to share their forward-thinking approaches, and offers a way to develop case study content HDS might never learn about otherwise.
  • Problem-solving testimonials through collaboration with customers: Analog Devices’ (ADI) EngineerZone online community was cited by 76 percent of customers as a reason to purchase from ADI in a recent customer survey.
  • Customer-generated endorsements and recommendations: Wireless networking firm Aerohive leveraged positive user-created content to build brand equity and customer acquisition. Mindjet’s collaboration tools saw a 5 percent increase in referral traffic after opening its online community.

 

Marketers considering a listening approach must beware of the impulse to focus too much on quantity metrics (e.g., number of conversations, articles, or members). A community with a seemingly high number of likes, for example, may not generate the kind of thoughtful exchanges that support a brand’s content marketing strategy. Instead, examine whether your community provides deeper insights, such as a case study worth sharing, an insight worth pursuing in a long-format report, or an idea around which to build a new product.

 

5 tips for building a successful listening community

Online communities are social entities. Even the most focused and defined membership will display a remarkable range of behaviors and contribution styles. Community managers should foster a diversity of opinions and avoid closing down fruitful, if sometimes intense, discussions. Attentive listening by community managers — signaling they are actively observing your community’s conversations — will confirm to members that your organization is paying attention to what they are saying.

Caveat: Don’t stifle disagreements, disputes, or complaints. Online communities are an early warning system for product and service issues — and, sometimes, the next big thing that could transform your firm. Redirect or resolve problematic discussions through engagement rather than censorship.

 

Tip 2: Encourage conversations through engagement

Community members can supply clues — and contributors — for great user stories, case studies, and thought leadership. Encourage in-depth discussions, especially among subject matter experts, and highlight their contributions. Internal communities can be a rich source of insights and ideas for improving operational efficiency, product/service enhancements, and innovations — if members have an incentive to contribute. Be sure to ask good questions, solicit feedback, and invite others into the conversation.

Caveat: Sustaining the flow of ideas and insights from the community is a marathon, not a sprint. A long-term marketing strategy for member engagement should attract new members and reward long-time contributors.

 

Tip 3: Empower members

Reward active participants with opportunities to guide discussions and share their expertise. When a community attracts or develops its own subject matter experts from within the membership, their contributions add to their own reputation and to the unique value of your branded community.

Celebrate this homegrown thought leadership by rewarding those star contributors with offline and online appreciation.

Caveat: Empowering members may mean respecting their privacy and sheltering their discussions from public view — especially for executives, established experts, and others with confidentiality concerns. Creating private peer-to-peer networks can encourage more candid conversations.

 

Tip 4: Respect and reward contributions

While the terms and conditions governing your online community contributions may allow you to use your members’ contributions however you wish, common sense and courtesy dictate that you request permission before doing so. Acknowledgement and an honorarium for the most valuable contributions are usually all that’s needed.

Caveat: Don’t overtip. Your community members will be highly attuned and aware of the most valuable individual contributors and contributions. Make sure the rewards match the community’s sense of value, not just your organization’s agenda.

 

Tip 5: Build trust

Online communities quickly develop a keen sensitivity to what is authentic and what is not. Organizations that remain authentic, maintaining trust with their online community members, will see that reflected in external perceptions of the firm across all its activities. Building and maintaining trust is an essential component of a successful online community.

Caveat: Authenticity takes work, strong governance, constant attention and vigilance. Internal teams working with community members need clear guidance on handling issues where evasion or inauthenticity may appear to be the best option. Keep it real.

Here at Jive, we have our own Jive-n Instance called Brewspace, where all Jivers collaborate daily. On the HR Team, on our main use cases of  Brewspace is to ramp up new employees globally. In the first 3 quarters of 2015 alone, we onboarded 251 new employees in 5 countries and 14 states. Not bad for a small but mighty HR team. Over the year, it became increasingly apparent that we had a great opportunity to streamline our company onboarding process and provide a clear source of official content. Through the process I learned four key things (along with lots of other nuggets of wisdom) that kept us on track and marching toward our goals.

 

1. List out goals before the process -

Our goal was to create an environment within Jive to help new employees find the resources, information and assistance they need to become engaged, connected and productive. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how beautiful or well thought out the new hire space is if it doesn't meet the goals of the organization. We partnered with our Professional Services Practice Manager, Dorothy Toppercer, and our Community Manager, Kosheno Moore, who guided our HR implementation team through the process and identified the following goals:

  • Onboarding employees more quickly, so that they can be productive and provide value as quickly as possible;
    • Increase ease of access to information and increase HR efficiency by reducing the amount of time spent responding to queries or FAQs;
    • Increase Employees efficiency by sharing important documents, procedures and links with new employees;
  • Ensure new employees are well versed in the company strategy, goals and structure;
  • Integration and awareness into company culture; and
  • Simplifying the new employee experience (cleaning up the existing content and processes).

 

2. Break it down -

We have employees onboarding in several countries, each with their own unique requirements. Historically, we used a single new hire checklist for all employees and denoted which locations each task was applicable for. Through the process of preparing a detailed activity inventory (identifying each activity a new hire would be involved in) and breaking it down by location (country, in office vs. remote, etc.), we found that it made more sense to have separate checklists for the Americas, EMEA/APJ, and Israel. Beyond that, we were able to detail applicable information unique to the employee using that particular checklist. No longer were Israeli employees trying to decide if they need to provide an I-9 form, instead that item only showed up in the checklist for employees in the United States. Below is a sample of our Americas checklist. You'll see the large pink buttons at the top of the page allow the employee to make a copy of the checklist, customize it and save it for frequent use.

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3. Keep it simple -

Once we built out our checklist, we developed "wrapper content" explaining each item on the list and provided a talk track to go with it. While we meet with new hires on their first day to talk through all the items, there are many details they can't just absorb all at once. These wrappers allow us to provide the correct information in our Jive-style: conversational, helpful and friendly. By marking the content as official, new hires can be positive they found the HR-sanctioned information that is up to date and accurate. This helps to help cut down on the amount of questions our HR representatives were answering on a weekly basis.  You'll also notice that we formated the content to provide a consistent visual that these are all a part of the same onboarding. Jive pictures up the fun factor and break up the large blocks of text.

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4. - It's not just what we do, but how we do it -

Culture is critical to Jive's continued success. We talk about it openly and often. We knew when building out the new onboarding that it would be crucial for us to impart that on new Jivers and give them a way to practice this early on. One of the key pieces of being a Jiver is working in Brewspace (our version of Jive-n). We used the new checklist as an opportunity to get our Brewspace Onboarding program front and center, complete with all the reasons getting ramped on Brewspace is so important. By linking all our resources, including Brewspace Onboarding, into the checklist we ensure we are keeping employees in the product to do the training, learning and exploring. We also give them the opportunity to start DOING. They are encouraged to join a group, post a status, follow the executive team, write a "first week" blog introducing themselves to Jive, and more. All these activities let them put into action the things they are learning and  practice working out loud.

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Two months post-launch, I am happy to report that we have accomplished our goal. We have a beautiful new group that, more importantly, has allowed us to create an environment within Jive to help new employees find the resources, information and assistance they need to become engaged, connected and productive. Check out the final product:

 

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Now tell me this, what things do you do to onboard your employees quicker and more efficiently? Have you found anything critical to your success in ramping up new employees? Share your tips in the comments below.

 

 

Hackday.jpegDid you know that you can run innovation programs on Jive? At Yahoo we host a variety of internal innovation programs including a CEO Challenge for new product ideas, a CFO challenge for money saving ideas, Hackovation for innovative IT ideas, and our marquee internal developer program, Hackday, which brings hundreds of Yahoo employees from offices across the globe together to participate in a day of hacking.  

 

After running innovation programs at Yahoo for over a decade, we started using Jive last year to support our main Hackday program. Here’s a look at the transition from our custom solution to Jive.

 

Anatomy of a Hackday

We begin our Hackday process by setting up a website with all event information. We then invite our engineers to submit hack ideas to the website for review and voting. Collecting the hack ideas on the site builds momentum and helps recruit people to join teams. Once Hackday begins, teams add their project code and a short video showing what they worked on. Voting continues both online and in person until we select semi-finalists and the final winners. When all is done, the collection of ideas represents an archive of all the good work produced in the hackday. Some hacks then get selected for implementation.

 

The Old Process

With a company full of web developers, nearly every problem gets solved using a website. We created a custom hackday website to allow teams to upload their ideas, get votes, share their code and videos, and track their paths to glory (or archival, as the case may be). Like most custom tools, it worked great, but was disconnected from everything else.

 

Moving Away From a Custom Solution to Jive

Out of the box, Jive provides most of what we need for a Hackday submission process via its “Idea” feature. We knew our online savvy employees could easily navigate through the new software, so we decided to no longer direct them to a separate hackday website. We found that using Jive had a lower barrier to entry for non-technical folks. As a side benefit, new Jive users quickly became familiar with it once hackday was over, further supporting our Jive adoption efforts.

 

Moving hackdays to Jive was not trivial. Any process change requires testing and clear communication. It was also important to migrate old hack ideas from the custom website to Jive so our hackers could continue to build them. Thus, we leveraged the “import” feature and moved our content over.

 

New Hackday Site on Jive

 

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While moving to a new system allowed us to rethink the hack submission process, there were some required workarounds to make Jive’s ideation module suitable for our program.

 

Jive’s ideation module does not support extensive customization. There are some flexible settings in the Admin Console such as custom fields, stages, and point values, but these are global settings affecting all groups, spaces, and projects using Ideas. This can be quite disruptive to users if you are running multiple ideation campaigns.

 

On the other hand, the Ideas module has some great features we didn’t have using the old system. Not only can employees comment on hacks, but anyone can use Jive’s @mention feature to call-out content and people on Jive to add to the discussion. Product teams can now search and discover ideas much easier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One feature we rely on is custom fields to build a form for hackday submissions. We need more information than just title and description from Hackday participants. Along with communications prior to Hackday about upcoming changes to Ideas, we add the prefix “For Hackday Only” to custom fields to address any confusion, e.g. “For Hackday Only - Team Member #2 First and Last Name.” You can easily export all ideas from a space to a spreadsheet. We use that information for our judging process and to keep for archival purposes.

 

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From announcements, to processes and policy, submissions, and voting, all aspects of Hackday are now in Jive. Our Jive adoption and engagement has greatly improved because of innovation programs leveraging the Idea module, and largely due to Hackday.

 

If you haven’t already started using the Idea module in Jive, I urge you to do so now. From internal feedback, discussions, ideas, and innovation programs, the Idea module is a great collaboration tool!

 

Now off to prepare for the next Hackday.

 

Cheers!

Ashley

 

Ashley Wolf is the Technical Community Manager at Yahoo Inc., where she focuses on engineering collaboration, technical knowledge management, and information architecture. She is responsible for managing and curating Yahoo’s internal developer portal ensuring content is accurate and up-to-date. Prior to joining Yahoo, Ashley worked in project management, leveraging the understanding of the customer's business requirement to implement and deploy various CRM, content management and collaboration solutions. Ashley has a background in systems administration, community management, and product management from experience in information technology.

I met Nikhil Nulkar many years ago at JiveWorld13. This was also the JiveWorld where he was mentioned on Mainstage as the attendee that traveled in from the farthest away! He was incredibly friendly, very encouraging and very into the gamification at the conference. It is always a pleasure to talk with Nikhil and I jump at any chance I get to do so. Enjoy getting to know how Nikhil Nulkar works:

 

Leigh: Where do you work?

Nikhil: I work in the Social Media & Workplace Reimagination team at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). We bring in a combination of Social Interaction Design, Gamification & Human Cloud Analytics to re-imagine how organizations co-create with customers and how employees collaborate in a hyper connected workplace.

 

Leigh: How would you describe your current job?

Nikhil: I would like to call myself a Consultant. Keeping it simple and generic gives me the ability to work across a breadth of opportunities to help clients understand the changing workplace. In my role as a consultant, I strategize and guide customers to re-imagine their workplace providing them with advice to improve their internal & external collaboration ecosystems. Unlike my previous role, which was internally focused, here I get a chance to work daily with a new customer and a new challenge.

Nikhil with industry analysts.pngNikhil with Alan Lepofsky and Gil Yehuda at JiveWorld13

 

Leigh: Are you familiar with the Jive WorkTypes? If so, what was your WorkType?

Nikhil: Yes. I’m an Explorer and Planner.

 

Leigh: What was your favorite part of attending JiveWorld last year?

Nikhil: People. Meeting people, sharing experiences and building relationship with other customers, partners and Jivers is an enriching experience. It was my third JiveWorld and I always look forward to meeting old and new friends in person. IMHO there’s tremendous learning opportunity at JiveWorld, not only about Jive as a company or platform, but about the larger social business community network.

 

JiveWorld13 was a turning point in many ways, and I would like to point to my experience report from that year - a good time to reflect and know that we’ve come a long way.

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This is where I first met Nikhil. Hasn't the Social Command Center come a long way?!

 

Leigh: So how do you use Jive at work (internal community, external community, etc.)?

Nikhil: I have used Jive as an internal community for the past 5 years and now in my current role, I use it in every possible way, depending on the client’s ecosystem.

 

Leigh: What's your computer situation... Do you use a Mac or PC (or something else)?

Nikhil: Macbook Air. I love Apple (not a crazy fanboy though) and I am mostly working remotely or traveling, so it works best for me.

 

Leigh: Tell us what you use for your mobile device?

Nikhil: Mostly an iPhone. But occasionally an iPad too. Earlier this year I happened to work completely out of my mobile devices for almost a couple of months. It was quite an experience.

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Nikhil's favorite devices

 

Leigh: Pick one word that best describes how you work.

Nikhil: Wannabe-futuristic

 

Leigh: Besides Jive, what apps/software/tools can't you live without?

Nikhil: Browser. Tweetdeck on Mac and Tweetbot on iPhone.

 

Leigh: Do you have a favorite non-computer gadget?

Nikhil: Camera

 

Leigh: What you surround yourself with is important, what's your work space like?

Nikhil: It’s strange, but I’ve never been one of those who deck-up their workspace tables. A large part of my last few work years have been remote working - so one would typically find household and travel related items around my workspace.

Nikhil on tires.pngNikhil hard at work!

 

Leigh: What do you listen to while you work?

Nikhil: I love electronic music. It being a wide spectrum in itself helps me change the tempo based on my work-mood. Try give a listen to artists like Above & Beyond or Eric Prydz.

 

Leigh: How do you balance work and life?

Nikhil: In today’s era and with the kind of role I am in, work and life are very fluid and interlinked. When you travel and mostly work remotely, you end up having work and life overflow into each others territories. Having said that, loving what you do, helps in ensuring there’s never a dull day. Also, it’s important to prioritize and give your 100% when involved to ensure you do justice to the task.

 

Leigh: What's your sleep routine like?

Nikhil: I love my sleep. I usually love to have my eight hours of sleep. Though I end up sleeping quite late in the night.

 

Leigh: Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

Nikhil: Extrovert.

 

Leigh: What's the best advice you've ever received (and from whom)?

Nikhil: “You can never connect the dots looking forward” and the entire Steve Jobs speech at Stanford University. It’s the most inspiring thing I know of and I always go back and listen to it, every now and then.

Leigh: Thanks for reminding us of this amazing speech. I'm watching it again, right now!

 

Leigh: Thank you so much, Nikhil, for taking the time to share how you work with the Jive Community. I love how well you're set up to work remotely and 'on-the-go'. Thanks also for being an amazing advocate for Jive's internal and external communities as you help organizations re-imagine how they co-create.

 

Does anyone have any questions for Nikhil?

Brandy Robert, Senior Manager, Proactive Service Delivery, Oracle Corporation and Rob Shapiro, Senior Director, Customer Service Experience, Oracle Corporation, have teamed up to implement ideas in My Oracle Support Community. The Your Idea Counts! series of blogs (tagged with ideas, your idea counts and product ideas) was co-authored by them and will deep-dive in to topics such as why idea generation is important today; ways to capture ideas; user and business impact; changing company culture to rally around ideas; and, of course, measuring idea ROI's, KPI's and other intangibles. Below is Part 1 of the blog series.

 

Everyday we are consumers of numerous products and services. The simple redundancy of, what may be considered, ordinary experiences can lend themselves to the generation of ideas. So, here you are, a user, with an idea around what you believe to be the answer to a perceived problem. It's something you have spent some time thinking about and just when you want to articulate it, share it or otherwise communicate it you pause.

 

What is the process to have your voice heard? It can leave you a little lost. Well, you are not alone. In fact, you are the majority! Now, why is that? Certainly many companies have a Suggestion Box or some type of feedback mechanism? Uh, yeah, and it's highly likely that it is nothing more than a BIG BLACK HOLE. Does my idea count? DOES MY IDEA COUNT?

 

Your_Idea_Counts.pngAnswer: It absolutely does!

 

Your Idea Counts!

 

But how do you make this happen?

 

Ah, the $1 Million question and one we will address in this series about using ideation (a.k.a. ideas). But before we begin, we have to take several steps back and explain a few things.

 

First, we will go on the journey with you. That's why this is a blog series. We want you to be able to isolate any aspect of ideas, focus on it, study it, twist it and bend it so that you will walk away with something(s) that can be implemented. Of course, we could wait a few more years and just write a book, but that's not productive for the here-and-now, thus we will write short blogs that build on each other. When we are finally done, we hope to have given you enough content to have a guide for whatever path you choose to explore. We won't pretend to have all the answers, but we will bring to the discussion some successfully demonstrated business practices and a story that is currently going through several stages of evolution.

 

Let's start from the beginning.....

 

What is an idea?

 

According to Merriam-Webster, the first definition of an idea is:

 

  • a :  a transcendent entity that is a real pattern of which existing things are imperfect representations
  • b :  a standard of perfection :  ideal
  • c :  a plan for action :  design

 

We prefer this definition for business ideas:


A pattern of which existing things are imperfect representations of solutions.

 

Breaking this down is important. Ideas are generated to solve a perceived problem. Whether the problem exists in the usability of the product or service, a process, a business requirement, or simply in gaining efficiency, they often result in solutions that need to have some level of significance. Otherwise, why spend the resourcing in developing that solution? By vetting ideas in an open environment like a community, we try to draw out what is universally applicable to that product or service. If you ponder what we are trying to describe and break it down, it really makes a ton of sense.

 

How do we express an idea?

 

Where were you when you thought about a great idea? It's likely you were not in a place where you could easily transcribe what you were thinking about. Thanks to both low technology and high technology you can still capture what you are thinking about so you at least don't forget. While there are many forms of expression, the preponderance of expression comes from:

 

  • Written form. Have you ever jotted a word, sentence or more on something like a match cover? Napkin? Even the old pen-to-hand trick? This is probably the majority case.
  • Visual and/or audio form. You could use the same low technology as the written form, but thanks to cell phones and tablets (largely), you can use a camera or an application to create something that will represent your thoughts or at least remind you what it is you visualize.

 

It's quite unusual for an idea to be fully baked at its inception. We often see mental images or think about abstract concepts that represent bits and pieces of the problem solving that will ultimately lead us to the promised land of an actual end result. This is the lead to innovation, which is the act or process of introduction of something new. Even a change or removal fits the category of something new - n'est ce pas (is it not)? Real innovation is taking something that is known and making it better in whatever way necessitates the change (i.e. introduce efficiency, becoming more simplistic, complete a process or flow more easily) and it is through this that we find ways to get "better" results, often with less work.

 

From a product point of view (and the orientation of our writing), the desired business outcomes of ideas include:

 

  • Yielding more profit to the business
  • Up-sell / cross-sell opportunities
  • Leveraging or expanding the business value
  • Affect change (causes, non-profit, etc.)

 

Capturing ideas in a community provides a setting for brainstorming that historically was only achieved in person-to-person meetings. The community is now the virtual business meeting to allow users, developers, business analysts, and implementors to vet out ideas for their desirability, relevance, universal applicability across business and industry, and alignment to compliance or international requirements.

 

Action for you: Think about the variety of ways for expressing ideas; how can they lead to desired business results for your company?

 

The Thinking Model

 

A company's roadmap for a product or service is the intersection of 3 major forces:

 

  • Customers.
    Businesses are born to service customers. The voice of the customer, while not the sole input, is the likely biggest influence. In order to capture organic growth and/or market share, you would ideally offer products and/or services where there exists a higher perceived value than that of your competitors.

  • Company.
    The company creates product and/or service. There is a vision, roadmap, strategy to market and practicality of delivery to name a few. Companies are a collection of individuals with different talents and ideas that produce products and/or services that solve a real world problem with a desirable solution, and does it competitively or specific to a particular segment of the market.

 

  • Design.
    The product and/or service was intended to serve a purpose. Consideration in the area of design must be recognized. Factors such as support, documentation, constraints (i.e. design limitations) and expertise can govern what can or can't be done without having to create something altogether new and consequently a new product and/or service. Aspects such as product or service usability, simplicity, reliability, efficiency, speed and scale become the focal point in original or modified design.

 

Consider this model: Engagement models are used to take in to account the customer, company and design attributes to drive innovation through ideas.

Ideas Model.png

 

Action for you: What does this tell you about your own specific ideas? How would you use this guidance?

 

In the next blog installment, we will expand on this concept of ideas and their importance in today's highly competitive and quickly changing marketplace. We will talk about the value extended to both the customer and the company when they engage with collaborative ideas, and expand on the premise that this is a strategy that can no longer go ignored, or lost among the darkness in the proverbial black hole!

 

Another Action for you: Make sure you come back to absorb the next blog on "Why Idea generation is important today and the engagement model."

 

Please let us know what you think about this topic in the comments below. What are your challenges related to ideas?

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