Skip navigation

Visibility - Step 2

Posted by tbrouill Feb 27, 2013

In my last entry I discussed the first step in instituting a visibility initiative.  I believe beginning with a thorough evaluation and focus on the business objectives and business benefits will allow you to build a robust and flexible foundation to support your ever changing visibility needs in the most efficient and flexible manner.  As I mentioned I also believe it is critical to the success of your initiative to include your key extended supply chain partners in this stage of the initiative.  As I mentioned, there are two reasons to include your partners; more thorough development of the objectives and an opportunity to share the costs of the initiative across your extended supply chain community.  So now that you have a direction and a commitment from your external partners, its time to explore the key points in defining your visibility initiative mission and initial objectives.

Don’t overlook the opportunity to continue to develop your extended supply chain collaborative community with this visibility initiative.  Afterall collaboration and visibility go hand in hand and I would say that you can’t hope to develop one without the other.  This is a great opportunity to build a strong foundation with your key external partners as stakeholders in this shared visibility initiative.  My advice is to use this initiative to build a robust and flexible foundation that will support your community needs well into the future.

It would be easy to gloss over the definition of visibility and the mission but I think for this initiative the mission definition is critical to the success of this initiative.  Don’t get me wrong, the mission statement is important for every initiative, in this case though and because of the nebulous nature and potentially vague understanding of visibility I think it is critical to develop a common understanding.  I think this is probably one of the most important aspects of your visibility initiative because I believe there are so many definitions of visibility that without a common understanding the risk to your success increases dramatically.  I’ve come to this belief because everyone I’ve spoken to over the last three or four months seems to have a different definition or understanding of visibility.  Developing a clear and common definition will not only provide a guiding principle for this initiative but it will also provide the first opportunity to build a consensus of your understanding and basis for what will make up the initial delivery of your objectives.  Its critical for all stakeholders to have the same starting point basis for a definition to eliminate confusion and misdirection.   Nothing will doom an initiative faster than to start it with all the stakeholders going in different or opposite directions.

OK so you’ve come to an agreement and common definition of visibility that all of your stakeholders accept and can get behind, so now its time to define your initial objectives and the timeframe for delivering these objectives.  This will provide the guide for your first release and the foundation that you will continue to develop and build out your capabilities.  Again you should take advantage of this opportunity to build consensus and a shared commitment to deliver the objectives among your key stakeholders.

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

Have you thought about the types of business benefits you can achieve with this initiative? 

What do you see as your current visibility needs and how are you meeting these needs?  Does this provide the ability to grow and the flexibility to change as your needs grow and change? 


Visibility - Step 1

Posted by tbrouill Feb 24, 2013

In my last entry I promised to discuss some of what I consider to be the key steps in your visibility initiative for my follow-up discussions, so I will start today with the initial step and a key to the continued success.  I think it is very important to consider this first step carefully and not try to bite off more than you can chew immediately.  In order to enable the success of your initiative you should carefully select and identify your menu first, just to continue with the eating metaphors.  Just like any other business initiative you undertake it is important to focus on the business objectives.  There are many tools that you can select to support your objectives and the most important first step is to clearly define your objectives before getting involved in any type of tool evaluation.

So first things first, as they say, it is important to start with a solid foundation so that you have a basis for future features, functionality, expansion and what I think can be the most important is flexibility.  Start your initiative with a strong mission that focuses on a robust and flexible framework, then you can identify your objectives based on value and the delivery time frame you would like.  An additional concern that you must account for is your partners in your extended supply chain, you must understand and build into your foundation the fact that your partner network in your extended supply chain is equally as important as many of the internal business objectives you desire. 

I would argue that your external partners in your extended supply chain will bring to your initiative an incredible amount of benefits to both your internal business but just as important the collaboration and visibility that can be achieved through this initiative can be the greatest asset in the long term.  Including your external partners in this initiative to develop a highly collaborative and highly visible planning, forecasting and historical capabilities will provide the foundation for a robust and highly flexible collaborative network that will deliver long term savings and benefits to all your partners in this network.  An additional benefit, and probably one of the most compelling reasons, to include your external partners in this initiative is the opportunity to share the costs of developing this foundation across your key partners.  After all, you will be able to make a very strong argument with your key partners that participating in developing this collaborative foundation will bring compelling benefits to every partner participating in the network.  The sum of the value of this extended collaborative network will truly be greater than the sum of the parts, this network will continue to bring additional value long into the future as the functionality and partner network grows.

So just to recap:

  • Include your key partners in your extended supply chain network to both share the costs and provide objectives for mutually beneficial capabilities.
  • Define your mission just as you would for any business improvement initiative.
  • Define the business objectives; this includes a longer term view to help you define the foundation and near term to provide the business benefits to justify the initial delivery.
  • Remember to focus on business objectives and business benefits prior to evaluating tools; don’t let a tool cloud your objectives.

Next I’ll focus on the important points you should focus on when defining your mission and initial objectives.

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

Have you thought about the types of business benefits you can achieve with this initiative? 

What do you see as your current visibility needs and how are you meeting these needs?  Does this provide the ability to grow and the flexibility to change as your needs grow and change? 

I see and hear more and more discussions on visibility in the supply chain especially, how it is critically important to achieve the mythical ‘visibility’ while no one discusses the definition of visibility in the supply chain.  So to me the key question we should be trying to answer is ‘what does visibility mean?’ 

I don’t think that the definition of visibility should be like some kind of search for a unicorn or the pot of gold and I don’t think that the definition of visibility is something that changes dramatically across your  extended supply chain or in the industry for that matter.  I do think though that the visibility of some objects are more important to the different partners in your extended supply chain.  In fact, the simple response is that visibility in the extended supply chain is in fact another ‘big data’ discussion, by that I mean that there are many data points and action or event points throughout the extended supply chain and each of these points are assigned different levels of interest and importance by each of your partners in your extended supply chain.  The critical aspect is that in order to achieve the greatest levels of value, you must be able to connect the points and evaluation and elevate the importance and ability to take action based on these points in a highly flexible and robust framework. 

Now the challenge is ‘What do you start with?’ and ‘Where do you start?’  Of course as you would expect I have a suggestion, I think that you should look at starting this in the same manner you would start any initiative and that is start with your mission and objectives.  This initiative is a little different however because you have a much stronger argument in this initiative that you will never be done.  Your needs will always be changing because your extended supply chain and business objectives are in a state of discontinuous change.   While I must admit that I also believe in the case of many, if not most, other initiatives that will be a continuing and ongoing initiative for continuous improvement, I believe that in the case of visibility in your extended supply chain it is critical that you understand the there is a requirement for a continuous high level of involvement from across both the internal and external members of your extended supply chain.

This initiative requires a large, and long-term, commitment in order to first achieve initial success and meet your initial business objectives, and then you must continue with this living initiative through continuous commitment of not only resources (time and money) but also commitment and focus of your senior management in order to maintain the momentum and continue to deliver on the changing requirements.  What this implies is that you must continuously focus on both the current and future objectives of this initiative.  In order for you to be successful in maintaining the internal, external and leadership focus you must maintain your focus on beneficial objectives that are meeting business objectives and bringing business value.  I am focusing on the business side of the objectives and value because I believe that this type of initiative is extremely susceptible to falling into the ‘shiny object syndrome’ as I call it, meaning you must be vigilant to not fall into a technology focus because if you do, this initiative will more than likely collapse with a whimper.

In my next few entries I will discuss the steps that I believe are necessary to tie together the visibility and collaboration initiatives to bring dramatic value to the business.

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

Have you thought about the types of business benefits you can achieve with this initiative? 

What do you see as your current visibility needs and how are you meeting these needs?  Does this provide the ability to grow and the flexibility to change as your needs grow and change? 


Visibility Framework 

Posted by tbrouill Feb 19, 2013

In my last entry I began a discussion on the visibility requirements of the extended supply chain and how these capabilities cannot be achieved without a robust and flexible framework.  I feel that visibility is the icing on the cake of collaboration - it is a natural result of a robust collaborative framework and one of the key reasons for developing a collaborative network.  In addition,  it is critical to base this on a flexible and robust framework base such as the Internet.  I also feel that your extended supply chain can achieve a great deal of benefits and extend the visibility by adding to this the flexible and robust capabilities of the Google ecosystem to provide a compelling foundation to base your current and future expectations and needs.

I believe that in order for this initiative to be successful you must focus on two things;

  • Defining a mission that will guide your objectives and strategy to deliver improved visibility through your collaborative extended supply chain network.  It is critical to evaluate and define clear and achievable objectives that will bring value to your extended supply chain network.  This will help to prioritize and maintain a focus on the initiative.  I’ve written previously about defining objectives and benefits and I feel its important to refocus attention on this point.  Without clear, achievable objectives that benefit both your organization and your extended supply chain this initiative will fall by the wayside.
  • Identify partners that are committed to achieving a the same objectives and will share in the benefits.  This will help to achieve momentum both internally and externally with your extended supply chain partners while generating the interest to help prioritize this internally.  In addition, when you add additional participants you increase the strength in your solutions!

I have just one more piece of advice, and this I believe is critical, focus on business benefits!  Your business objectives will be achieved by the technology but you must focus on the business and not the technology.  Don’t be drawn to the ‘shiny objects’ lure of the tools and overlook the business objectives to taking on this initiative.  If you focus on the technology you will never achieve the senior leadership support and you will never gain the trust of your organization.  Think about the last time you purchased a car, while i’m sure that the options like GPS, XM radio, mileage and reliability were important I don’t think that in most of these options you were focused on the technology employed to improve the car’s mileage, or the technology employed to improve the car’s reliability, no you focused on the fact that the car you selected had the best gas mileage and the best reliability.

Take this into account when you are discussing the objectives and benefits for this initiative and don’t fall into the ‘shiny object’ trap and focus on the technology toys, focus on the business benefits you will achieve for your organization and your extended supply chain, even if it does give you the opportunity to use some pretty cool new toys.

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

Have you thought about the types of business benefits you can achieve with this initiative? 

What do you see as your current visibility needs and how are you meeting these needs?  Does this provide the ability to grow and the flexibility to change as your needs grow and change? 

I’ve been thinking, and recently written about the pervasive nature of the Internet and the impact of this on our everyday lives.  I’ve discussed in some detail the impact of Google and a great deal of that impact can be directly related to the pervasive nature of the Internet.  I’ve written about the impact of the Google ecosystem on everyday life and the ability to cross seamlessly between platforms using the Google ecosystem is a direct result of the combination of the pervasiveness of the Internet combined with a set of robust and flexible tools that take advantage the pervasiveness.  Google provides a great ecosystem for collaboration ‘out of the box’ and in addition a great ecosystem for visibility.  Both of these capabilities provide the basis for a game changing impact on the supply chain.

Today I will begin to cover the opportunities that pervasive visibility can provide to your extended supply chain network and the market place.  Visibility in combination with collaboration capabilities will provide the framework for your extended supply chain network to grow and provide the differentiating factor for you success.  These capabilities obviously go hand-in-hand and you should definitely build your capabilities to grow and expand as you grow and expand your network relationships.  Currently the focus is on the visibility requirements of the individual, or customer, and I’m sure you already know that these capabilities cannot be achieved without a robust and flexible framework.  Visibility is the icing on the cake of collaboration - it is a natural result of a robust collaborative framework and one of the key reasons for developing a collaborative network.

You must focus on first building a flexible framework that provides a solid foundation for your current and future needs, even though you can’t possible know all of your future needs and it could be argued that there is a strong likelihood that your current expectations for the future needs are way off the mark of your actual future needs.  Because of this, it is critical to develop a flexible framework that you can change based on your evolving needs.  This is the key reason why it is so important to base your framework on a flexible and robust framework base, and what could be a more flexible and robust for this framework than the Internet?  Now add to this the flexible and robust capabilities of the Google ecosystem and you have a very compelling foundation to base your current and future expectations and needs.

There is no need for you to develop a communications and collaboration framework when there are already tools with such capabilities available for the taking.  Our direction should be understanding the tools available from the Internet and Google in order to build a foundation for the collaborative framework to provide the visibility requirements as they are defined and evolve.  So my next series of discussions will be on what I see as the steps necessary to understand the current needs and develop the framework. 

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

Have you begun to think about taking advantage of the Google ecosystem to support your collaboration and visibility needs? 

What do you see as your current visibility needs and how are you meeting these needs?  Does this provide the ability to grow and the flexibility to change as your needs grow and change? 

I’ve received a few very positive comments recently regarding my discussion topics and also responses to some of the discussion boards agreeing with my discussions and comments, especially my discussion series on the importance of developing a training improvement program with current employees and I do appreciate these encouraging responses!  I must say that it pumps me up and provides support when people agree with my proposals and topics.  I also find it very encouraging that the vast majority of comments are positive, which in these days of contentious discussions on the Internet is also very encouraging.  So thank you everyone that responded, whether it was positive or constructive, I appreciate your participation and have taken your comments into account and in many cases the comments have produced additional discussions.

This discussion is also the result of these comments and one that I just received in response to another group discussion.  I’ve been more focused lately in programs and strategies that focus on collaboration and improving relationships.  After my recent topic on McDonald’s long history of collaboration I started to think about what makes their practice different.  I think the key differentiating factor for McDonald’s and many of my recent discussion topics is the concept of ‘doing the right thing’.  In my opinion, ‘doing the right thing’ means that your actions and efforts should support activities and strategies that move your organization, career and community forward while supporting the efforts of your partners.  The underlying lesson that I take from the McDonald’s example is that a strategy to develop a mutually beneficial and collaborative supply chain ecosystem is a great ingredient to the recipe for long term success. 

Another point that is important to make is that ‘doing the right thing’ means that before making a decision you will make the effort to understand the long term implications to your organization, your extended supply chain partners and the impact on your future flexibility and capabilities.  To me ‘doing the right thing’ means that you do not jump at the low-cost, fastest solution first; it means that you take a moment to step back and evaluate the long term implications for both your external and internal partner community.  I also firmly believe that ‘doing the right thing’ is an investment in your future;  and by this I mean not only the future of your business but the future of your partners and your market opportunities.  Again, I believe that you will realize greater long term benefits by focusing on long term results than the short term, or easy path; I’ve found that a short term gain can greatly impact the long term benefits. 

One bit of advice that i received from an mentor early in my career I always remember and think is pertinent in this discussion.  In order to ensure success you should surround yourself with people that are smarter than you are.  I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this; this piece of advice is directly relatable to your extended supply chain collaborative partner relationships.  In closing I will leave with these thoughts; always be open to suggestions, both encouraging and constructive, always be open to others’ ideas, always be open to new concepts and procedures because this is how you grow and this is how you improve.  The worst possible way to succeed is to live in a bubble believing that you have all the answers and you never need to change your methods!

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

Have you implemented a practice of requesting and then implementing advice and suggestions from your partners?  When was the last time that you implemented a suggestion from one of your partners?

What other success stories have you found that highlight the adage ‘do the right thing’  for your mutually beneficial collaborative supply chain community?

I was catching up on my industry magazines recently and came across a very interesting article on the success of the McDonald’s supply chain.  Sometimes its easy to take for granted and overlook the level of detail and complication involved in a supply chain operation that supports the largest fast food enterprise in the world and fortunately for my interest level and short attention span this article did not get into any of these details or complications. No the focus of this article was on the success that McDonald’s achieved through a focus on mutually beneficial collaboration in the supply chain.  McDonald’s is not concerned with saving a few pennies by continuously switching suppliers, or squeezing their suppliers for the ‘privilege’  of selling to McDonald’s, they are focused on developing a long term relationship with their suppliers to develop mutually beneficial collaboration opportunities.  I would say that they have proven the value of this model, they have been wildly successful and have managed to maintain low prices for their menu while developing long term and mutually beneficial relationships with their suppliers.  Its not too many companies that can proclaim these achievements.  

Probably the key nugget of wisdom that I took away from this article is that this model of a collaborative extended supply chain community that focuses on delivering mutually beneficial results is truly a sustaining and long term model for success that should be emulated across industries.  I took this as a validation of my theories regarding the benefits of developing the collaborative extended supply chain community.  I found it very reassuring that McDonald’s has developed a highly collaborative and robust extended supply chain community that is focused on long term mutually beneficial relationships from the first day simply based on the guiding belief by Ray Kroc that it was the right thing to do.  They’ve proven that you can be focused on developing a collaborative network focused on mutually beneficial objectives and be extremely successful.

So what I’ve learned is that we should go ‘old school’ and be encouraged to commit to this concept. 

Here’s the lesson I take from this article -don’t be discouraged by others’ short term benefits that come from cut throat and selfish practices that provide them their gains from the loss of their partners.  Take the lesson from McDonald’s to heart and focus on the long term benefits that you will achieve by doing the right thing and focusing on building a mutually beneficial relationship.  Remember the most important factor to your success in developing a robust collaborative supply chain community is the personal relationships that you develop between your partners.  After all while it may not be the reason why McDonald’s is such a huge success, but it was one of their recognized contributing factors.  

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

What steps have you taken to develop your extended supply chain community?  Will you be investigating the opportunity in the near future?  Have any of your supply chain partners approached you about developing a collaborative community?

What other success stories have you found that highlight the mutually beneficial collaborative supply chain community?

I’ve been discussing the strengths of certification programs for your company and the importance of a blend of certifications for your company and the individuals to enhance your services and your company’s image in the market.  You can achieve very strong gains simply through obtaining the certifications because of the improved image and confidence you will be able to deliver on your services.  This is especially important to a services company, and as I mentioned earlier, the ‘product’ of a services company is the service and certification is simply one means to validate your company’s abilities in the eyes of your customers.

The better programs coordinate and relate personal certifications in support of the organizational certifications.  This provides a means to support and ensure that your company’s delivery framework is supported by informed employees.  This is where the certification strategy can get interesting and you learn the symbiotic relationships between your company and the employees and how they all work and coordinate activities in support of the new culture you are trying to cultivate.  I believe that in order to achieve the greatest value from your certification that you must take into account all facets of your organization that must work together to develop a robust and flexible framework to deliver services that can support your clients’ needs.

In order to have the best chance for success you should spend the same level of effort in developing a strategy for coordinating your personal and organization certifications as you will in your due diligence exercise to identify and select the most advantageous certifications for your company.  In addition, in order to be successful you must blend and coordinate the practices and methods between the company and personal certifications in a manner that provides the greatest level of support for your organizational objectives.  There are some things that you should also take into account when developing your strategy and that is how will you encourage your staff to obtain the most advantageous  certifications and how will you encourage your staff to not only maintain the required level of continuing education to maintain their certification but also how will you encourage your staff to obtain additional certifications.

In order to encourage your staff to obtain the certifications that you have identified as the most appropriate for your company strategy you must first identify a curriculum and then identify how this curriculum will bring value to your employees’ career.  Don’t take shortcuts in developing your certification strategy because this strategy can have serious positive or negative consequences to your company mission and objectives.  My advice is to take this as an opportunity to weave this certification strategy into your long term employee retention strategy.  I believe that if you develop this strategy to cross over and support the career goals of your employees while supporting your company mission and objectives you will realize the greatest long term value from this strategy.  I think that two of the greatest benefits that you can achieve is to provide an environment that delivers benefits your your clients while supporting the long term career goals of your employees.  This will provide multiplying benefits by doing the right thing for both your clients and your employees.

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

Have you developed a mission for your certification program?  What types of industry certification programs are available to you?  What types of personal certification programs are available that will support your organizational certification programs?

What certificates do you feel are the most valuable in your industry and why?

In may last entry I discussed the justifications and benefits of obtaining personal certifications in your chosen practice area and industry.  As I mentioned, a recognized certification from a recognized authority can provide continuing benefits to your career and is also almost a requirement to maintain the skills necessary to stay abreast of your industry experience and requirements.  Organizational certifications are just as important in the service industry and will provide the same level of benefits to the organization as personal certifications provide to the individual. 

The other day I was discussing certifications with a colleague and he made what I think is a very pertinent observation regarding organizational certifications; service organizations must obtain organizational certifications in order to ‘prove’ to their clients the value of and capabilities of their organization and the services they offer.  He continued to explain that manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers ‘prove’ their value by the product they offer but service organizations must have a method to ‘prove’ the value and consistency of their services.  Certifications from recognized regulation organizations can provide the ‘proof’ of an organization's capabilities and services.  That explanation resonated with me and really hit home as reasonable causing me to rethink my beliefs and preconceptions of organization certifications. 

As I mentioned, certifications do not provide a guarantee of service value or organization capabilities, however certifications do provide a recognition that an organization maintains and follows measurable processes and procedures that increase the likelihood of success and service value to their clients.  For these reasons you must be careful in selecting the appropriate certification and probably more importantly in selecting a recognized and respected regulating authority that will provide the respect and influence that you wish to achieve through the certification of your organization. 

Let me take a moment here to say something about the importance of the certification and regulation authority.  In this age where it seems that there are new ‘industry recognized’ certifications popping up every time you turn around it is critical to the value that the certification can provide to your organization that you select a recognized and respected certification and certification authority.  The certifications that you select will say a lot about your organization, so focus on tried and true industry standard certifications.  Another piece of advice; choose your certifications carefully and focus on certifications that support each other.  You will gain the maximum value from your certifications if you focus on certification programs that testify to your ability to deliver a quality service and then certificates that testify to the industry knowledge and skills your organization possesses.

One last point to consider in your certification strategy is the intertwining of the personal certification of your staff and the professional certifications of your organization.  This is where you must carefully think about the options and requirements for the different certification programs in order to build the certification program that provides value to both your organization and the members of your team.  There are many personal certifications that will enhance your organization's capabilities and even the certifications your organization obtains so you must first understand all the options and then develop a strategy the builds the value.  This can provide a great opportunity to develop your staff while building the capabilities of your organization.

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

Have you developed a mission for your certification program?  What types of industry certification programs are available to you?

What certificates do you feel are the most valuable in your industry and why?

Recently i touched on certifications and how they can bring a variety of benefits to you personally and your organization.  I thought it would be interesting to explore this topic a little more because of the current focus on education that runs the gamut from the primary and secondary education to the continuing education that is probably more important because of the impact to your continuing career.  Education is an interesting topic because in its purest sense education (as a noun) can be obtained from every aspect of your life and experiences, while education (as a verb) identifies and brings to light the delivery methods of education.  I think you must discuss both aspects of education and to be fair you must also discuss organizational education, or how your organization can learn and grow in knowledge, capabilities and experience.

Certification comes into play from a personal aspect from two perspectives;

  • To provide a means to show and display a level of proficiency in a specific practice or capability that is recognized within the industry.  In this case the certification shows that you have completed and proven expertise in a practice.  This provides you with the proof from a recognized authority that you have attained a level of proficiency in a practice or skill.  It allows you to publish this as proof of your skills on your resume and provides a level of comfort for your prospective clients or employers that you have the skills professed.
  • It also provides a level of proof that you take your career seriously and are willing to invest in your career from a skills perspective.  This says that you recognize that your industry is continuously growing and changing and that you recognize the importance of maintaining your level of expertise as the industry grows and changes.  In my opinion this aspect of certification is the most important and will provide the greatest long term value to your career.  This shows that you recognize the need and are willing to put in the extra effort to gain new skills.  I will be the first to call out the fact that certification does not replace experience.  On the other hand continuing education and certification again provides that level of comfort for your prospective clients or employers that you have the skills you claim on your resume, and also that you will continue to maintain this level of proficiency.

This process is certainly not a ‘once and done’ exercise, it is a continuing maintenance exercise that requires a plan and investment in effort and especially time to maintain.  I believe that its safe to say that every certification that provides a benefit to your career will require a level of regular maintenance and commitment.  In many cases your employer will recognize the importance of achieving and maintaining this certification and will provide support both from a financial and a time aspect.

So now the trick is to identify and obtain the certification that will provide the greatest value to your career in your particular industry!  This will require some investigation and also networking to understand the potential value, and pitfalls.  This research is critical because not only is the certification important, the certifying authority is also important and must be recognized in the industry to provide you with the greatest value.

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

What certification have you achieved in your industry?  How much effort is required to maintain the certification?

What certificates do you feel are the most valuable in your industry and why?

I’ve been discussing Google for what seems to be quite some time so I thought it would be good to discuss another tool that I find has a lot of potential to be quite valuable, Yammer.  The name is interesting and a bit misleading, the definition of yammer is a loud and sustained or repetitive noise: "the yammer of enemy fire".  Based on the name I thought it would be a rather annoying social network distraction but I must say that I was surprised at the capabilities and how valuable the tool could be to many different types of groups or communities.  My introduction to Yammer came about by a suggestion from one of the readers of my blog, so I’m also excited at the prospect of turning this into a two way conversation, as least periodically.

So let me get back to Yammer.  After the recommendation from one of my readers I went and registered with Yammer to see just what it was all about.  Yammer is a very interesting tool that allows you to link email accounts across companies based on the domain name.  Yammer provides an email inbox format that provides a view into your contacts and then ties your email discussions with members of your group into conversational threads so that you can easily follow the thread from the very beginning of the discussion and it will include all members in your group that participate in the discussion thread.  This can be an extremely powerful tool supporting collaboration across your entire community and allowing everyone in the conversation to remain involved in the discussion easily.  For all intents and purposes this tool eliminates the lose of train of thought in the conversation which can so easily happen when you maintain the discussion manually. 

One of the coolest features of the tool is the ability to identify and group all email addresses from a domain into a ‘company’ and then you can easily reach out to connect with members from the same ‘company’.  Yammer allows you to create you own contact list in the same way as LinkedIn, where you can reach out to connect with members from your own company.  You can then create groups that segment your contact list into work teams, or collaboration teams in order to share discussions, perform research and track activities and projects.  This tool will become more powerful as the registered membership expands and you have the opportunity to grow your collaboration community.  In fact you must grow your community in order to achieve any benefits from the community.

Yammer presents an interesting challenge in the world of the social network and that is that in order to gain the greatest return this should be championed by the most senior management team in order to gain the greatest share of members as quickly as possible!  The general methods, or practice, in developing a social network capability is to start small with a pilot and then grow with success.  The concept behind Yammer, however, requires the largest base possible in order to show benefits.  I am excited though by the potential offered by Yammer and want to thank the reader for suggesting that I investigate. 

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

Do you currently utilize a tool, or tools, to help you track and coordinate discussions in your collaboration network?  Can you provide the tool, or tools, and how you utilize them?

Is your organization open to utilizing free tools and untested tools in supporting your collaborative discussions?


Google+ Circles 

Posted by tbrouill Feb 5, 2013

The key to the Google+ social strengths and capabilities is the Circles feature.  I did not cover this in my earlier entries because I feel it deserves the space and time to focus exclusively.  This, in my opinion, is the single greatest strength of the Google+ social network and I also think it is one of the key reasons that Google+ is now the number two social network.  Its because of the importance that I place on this feature that I wanted to spend a little more time discussing the potential. 

I must admit that when I first registered with Google+ and was presented with the circles I thought it was a silly idea and for that reason I didn’t put any thought into my circles configuration.  I see now that was a big mistake.  However, the good news is that as your network relationships grow and evolve, your configuration of circles will naturally grow and evolve.

I want to share my experience so that you can use it to improve and expand your utilization of circles.  As I mentioned, I think the circles feature is the single greatest feature available in Google+ and I think you will see why based on my examples.  Using the circles you can configure your cyber social network in a similar manner as your real life social network.  I’ve come to define my circles to be concentric and the members of my circles now cross over and mix and match in various circles based on the members I’ve identified across the many circles with an interest that I’ve identified that the members of the circle share, or a particular professional practice, or a particular geographic location, or a particular sports interest or a particular hobby.  The circles allow me to share interests in a pinpointed manner that fits the circle member interests and then I can tie and relate my personal circles to professional circles. 

I've come to realize that the capabilities and utilization of circles is only limited by my imagination and the needs and interests that have caused me to define the groups.  Obviously you have to be careful with your definitions of the circles; the capabilities are so flexible that you have to be very careful that you don’t fragment and dilute your circles to a level that make them unmanageable.  This is clearly a differentiating factor and gives Google+ a great and powerful capability that is currently not matched by Facebook.

Based on my experimentation with circles relating to my personal social network I can also see a great opportunity to utilize circles and groups in developing the extended supply chain community.  This tool will allow you to create methods to coordinate the communication and event management to various members of your extended supply chain community based on the relationships in the community, the types of messages and events and the importance of the message.  I hope you can see that the manner in which you define your extended supply chain community and the flexibility of the tools and capabilities available in Google+ allow you to create a robust and flexible extended supply chain community network that can grow and evolve as your community grows and evolves.  This is one of the most exciting aspects that Google+ presents and one that I look forward to leveraging and exploiting to develop new capabilities and opportunities especially in the extended supply chain community and also in my own professional network.  This can allow and encourage building and combining network members and capabilities that can evolve with the growth of the needs. 

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

Have you experimented with the Google tools?  Most people have tried gmail and have registered however its easy to simply use the email capabilities and not experiment.  How many tools have you actually tried at least from a personal perspective?

How do you use circles to define your social network?

As a follow-up to my last discussion, I thought it would be interesting to discuss the tools in the Google ecosystem that I like the most.  Google has brought together a suite of tools that you can use to support your social, business and personal needs into a customizable package that can be automatically synchronized across your social network and tools to provide a cohesive ecosystem that is basically self healing.  The Google tools allow you to segregate and modify your social network, your tools and your data usage and sharing across your social and business network as your needs change and grow.  You can easily separate your business social network from your personal social network through the robust circles capabilities.

What I like about Google applications:

Gmail - This tools provide both individual email accounts along with the ability to consolidate email addresses from other sources into one inbox, this is pretty standard and a cost of admission for any email tool.  My favorite feature is the way gmail consolidates all threads of a conversation into one entry and then collapses the thread down to the latest response.  This makes managing conversation threads so much easier that its disconcerting after years of Microsoft Outlook!

Drive - This is the upgrade to Google Docs and I must say that since I’ve fully embraced the Google ecosystem this tool has been especially important.  My favorite features is the automated backup and recovery; I’m finally comfortable that all of my data is backed up in a location and that I can recover up-to-the-minute updates.  The second feature that I am most impressed with is the ability to share and collaborate on documents from anywhere and maintain the updates across all platforms.

Google Apps - While it definitely is not as robust as the workstation Office Suite tools, the capabilities are more than able to support any need that I have thrown at it and when combined with the Drive storage and sharing capabilities it becomes a very compelling and almost unbeatable tool.  Drive provides ability to download access tools to your Windows or Apple workstations allowing you to treat Drive as a networked drive, my favorite method though is the direct access through the web.  The collaboration capabilities are almost scary good, you can see and react to changes that are being made in a real time manner and across any platform with web access.  I’ve changed and viewed documents from my Android smartphone while accessing on two different workstations and my Chrome Book simultaneously with zero noticeable latency and the documents are stored and backed up in the Google cloud.

Google Hangouts - This is a great tool and you’ve probably seen the example on the Google commercial with the father and college-age daughter staying connected through-out the daughter’s college years by using Hangouts.  That is great to show the ease and the connectivity that you can maintain between Google+ Hangouts and Google mail and messaging.  I does not, however, show the total capabilities of supporting group video conferencing for up to 8 and providing the recording and future distribution after the call is completed.  A cool feature of Hangouts it the ability to use the tool on your Android to provide a ‘Facetime’ type capability.  This robust and free tool, in my opinion, blows away the capabilities of Skype especially with the group calling capabilities that Skype charges for.

On top of the many robust features and functionality provided by the Google tools, the key strength lies in the collaborative and social capabilities that are available out of the box, so to speak.  The only requirement is that you must register for an account with Google, a small price to pay for the capabilities. 

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

Have you experimented with the Google tools?  Most people have tried gmail and have registered however its easy to simply use the email capabilities and not experiment. 

How many tools have you actually tried at least from a personal perspective?

I just saw a news article that is definitely good news for Google and their social network Google+ reporting that Google+ has increased its reach and popularity to make it the number two social network.  This is quite a long way to have come over a few years and I’m surprised that Google+ has come so far. I think this is a testament to Google’s ‘Field of Dreams’ approach to developing their eco-system; ‘If you build it, they will come’.  I think that Google has expanded that approach to include two very important foundational pillars and that is build it right, and do the right thing.   In addition to the foundational pillars I also believe that Google ‘envisioned the end’ and has been moving towards that end to deliver the solution.

In its beginning the common response to Google+ was - ‘why?’, after all Google was already moving aggressively into office suite applications, shared data storage and expanding and refining its search capabilities along with the other newer feature ‘Google Earth’.  The question from the market, and also my belief  was ‘why?’  After all Facebook already had a huge lead as a social and sharing network and then here comes Google with this silly copy of Facebook with this strange feature called ‘circles’.  Google+ also, of course, includes all of the ‘sharing’, ‘liking’ and groups.  At first blush this just seemed like another also ran that would fail and fall by the wayside   

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to failure and ‘the wayside’, the features of Google+ started to catch on.  This is where the foundational pillars - build it right and do the right thing came into play, along with a healthy dose of patience.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am a believer in the Google eco-system and I also am a convert to the Google+ network.  I must say though that my approach to Google+ to date has been to focus on my professional image for Google+ and isolate my personal image and relationships to Facebook.  There’s a place for Facebook but I’m moving more and more into the Google+ network because I have the capability to segment and group my interactions in Google+ into ‘compartments’ based on interest and relationships.  In fact I can see an opportunity for Google+ to take over the professional network from LinkedIn and see that happening in the near future because of the foundation, reputation and tools that Google has delivered through Google+.

I think there are two or three key reasons why Google+ is making this type of broad headway in the social world. 

  • First and foremost is what I have called the foundational pillars of build it right and do the right thing.  These pillars are the reason that Google has been successful in the first place, along with one other thing; the patience and conviction to wait for the success to come.  I think there is only one other company that exhibits these principles and that is Amazon.
  • Second is the ‘circles’ feature that allows you to segment your social network connections.  This I believe is possibly the most important feature and provides the greatest capabilities to truly build your personal social network in a flexible and personal manner to support your needs.  The strength in this feature is the flexibility to adjust and flex your social network as your network and needs grow and change. 
  • Third is the Google eco-system that allows you to connect and share across platforms and maintains your components, connections and data in real time across all platforms.

I want to wrap with my reinforcement of the strength and capabilities of the ‘circles’ feature.  I believe that this feature is the single greatest differentiating feature of Google+ and the key reason for its acceptance and growth.  So my hat’s off to Google and their ‘envisioned end’.

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

Have you experimented with Google+?  What is your most, or least, favorite feature?