April 2010

Can we all agree that Social Media has lost its novelty? 

Maybe it’s me, but i find myself cutting back on Social Media in my personal life.  But in my corporate world, Social Media is her to stay, the conversation about your business is getting louder and louder every day and like it or not, you can’t do a thing to control it.  So then, how do we control it?

One of the most recent changes I have noted is that there are more and more voices talking, kind of like being at a party.  Historically, there were a few strong voices, but most of us just listened.  Today there are multiple conversations amongst the multiple visitors, some focused, some not.

Another trend I am noticing is that the companies or consumers are driving the topics to be more narrow.  In some of my most recent work, I think we caught onto this trend early and launched specialized FaceBook and MySpace sites for “Red Dress Paper Doll” or “Recessa Annie” rather than for “Go Red For Women” or “CPR”.  I liken this to fansites for DQ Blizzard rather than the Dairy Queen corporation as a whole.  Segmenting the fan base by their taste seems to be a great idea, but there will be a time when the firm will need to leverage each of the different groups and today, seeing how to do that is the challenges.

So if we have the “fans” talking to each other, the corporation just gets to sit back and listen, right?  Well mostly…..yes.  At the highest level, the firm has to setting he strategy and be aware of what outlets the brand is being discussed in.  We have to do our best to set the tone and establish “walls” so that we set the focus and lastly we need to be there to correct and misinformation that may be put out there or reach out to individuals who feel wronged (privately if you can) to save that relationship.

Another challenge I see is that not all companies are centralized, many are franchisors with local entrepeneurs who also want to deliver messages about their store(s) or talk about their product(s).  In my current situation, we have a very similar structure where we have Regional Affiliate offices and beneath them State and Local affiliates.  How can HQ keep the message on point in this structure? 

When we launched our corporate Social Media strategy a few years back, we considered this and released a guidelines document outlining some of the rules we all would play by.  We also formed a cross corporate task team made up of all lines of business and representatives in the affiliate structure that meets monthly to discuss what is working and what is not.  But I will say that having a central vs local social media strategy remains to be a very big hurdle for a lot of organizations and will only get more complex in the future.

Now if you will excuse me, I think I am going to tweet this whole post 🙂

Did you know that the Internet was designed in part to provide a communications network that would work even if some of the sites were destroyed by nuclear attack. If the most direct route was not available, routers would direct traffic around the network via alternate routes.

Back in 1993 I had the pleasure of working with one of the first ISP’s in Colorado called Internet Express.  We were connected to Colorado Supernet which was one of the first Internet service providers anywhere, receiving state funding to promote the use of the Internet within Colorado for research, education, and– for the first time– business and consumers.

Internet Express was headquartered in Colorado Springs and eventually was the precipice for USA.net.  USA.net was formed when John Street had the idea that people would want a national portable email address instead of changing every time they switched ISPs.  “Founded” in 1996, USA.NET is now a recognized leader in hosted messaging and collaboration.

Anyway, back then Klaus Dimmler came to John with an idea, he wanted to expand his company “Community News Service” which was selling access to the internet as an ISP  using the first  friendly interface, called gopher along with a GUI he developed , to access the information on the Internet.  This was an important advancement as it took no knowledge of Unix or computer architecture to use a gopher system, you type or click on a number to select the menu selection you want.  John owned Telephone Express, a regional Long Distance company (where I also worked at the time), offering LD service in and outside of Colorado and became convinced that “this Internet thing” was worth an investment.

Ah the memories of installing  9600 bps internal modems in switch rooms and other points of presence and how quickly we got to 56K modems instead (we were an X2 shop 🙂 and celebrated when V90 came along)

I think about this because I really enjoyed bringing a new “cutting edge” service to the folks in Colorado prior to the World Wide Web. By the mid 90s, Gopher had largely ceased expanding and was quickly being replaced by browsers, such as Mosiac and later Netscape Navigator (ie the World Wide Web). But, I have them memories of being there in those early days, heck, think about it, in 1993 AOL 1.0 for Microsoft Windows 3.x just launched!

Check out this news report from 1995.

Looking at what the Internet is today from where I started, I wonder what it can become over the next twenty years?

When I was the CIO/CTO of a company providing security solutions to state and national corrections institutions we owned a biometric company called SpeakEZ, which provided voice authentication.  We used this technology both in our core calling platform as well as in a parolee product.

The benefits to our security company were clear, verify who that who is calling is the correct person or verify who is being called is the right person.  I never really found a good (commercial) use for Biometrics past some of the then marketable applications (building security/laptop security).

I am currently reading about deploying Biometric technology as a compliment or replacement to “timecards’ and the natural integration to POS systems and I have to say…”Love it”.

The ability to stop employees’ friends from punching them in/out is brilliant.  Add to that integration into POS systems where we can eliminate supervisor codes or cards at the local Walmart where they have to approve I am indeed over 21 when buying a nice bottle of wine or at the corner bistro for servers who can now prove that each ticket (ie tip) belongs to them and I think the industry may be getting closer to market acceptance.

Now let’s prove out the ROI.

Man, it is amazing to me at where wireless mobile phones are today compared to where they were when I entered the business.  One thing that has definitely remained stable is the “coolness” factor.  It was as cool to have a phone back in 1987/1988 when I started my career as it is today to have an iPhone.

Back then I worked for a company called “Detroit Cellular Telephone Company” which was the “other” company in a duopoly system to provide cellular service in Detroit, MI. (DCTC as it was abbreviated then had other holdings in Lansing, Grand Rapids and Ohio at the time, but Detroit was the largest). And speaking of large, all those movies out today that show bag or brick phones to make us laugh…yep, that is what we sold.  That, or installed phones in your car, usually between the two front seats, with a wired handset and an antennae on the outside of the car.

I could be wrong on my history, but I also believe that in 1987 three important events happened in cellular:

  1. National subscribers exceeded 1 million
  2. CTIA was launched
  3. The FCC declared that cellular licensees could employ alternative cellular technologies in the 800 MHz band

In 1988 the analog networking cellular standard IS-41 was published. This Interim Standard sought to integrate seamlessly how various cellular switches and databases communicate with each other and the PSTN. This integration could allow “roamers” to travel cellular system to cellular system through handoffs and could also be validated for fraud or subscriber features.   

In 1990/1991 we at DCTC (now known as PacTel Mobile Services a holding of Pacific Telesis, one of the seven Regional Bell Operating Companies, created after the 1984 breakup of AT&T) were busy installing fiber from the cellular switch to the Cell Sites (fiber…it’s not just for backhaul anymore).  Ameritech (another RBOC) was our competitor in the MI and OH cellular marketplace, was experiencing competition in their local market from CLEC’s and decided to sell us fiber T-1 lines to the cell sites before we went with a competitor!

About that same time, IS-54 (Digital wireless technology (well dual mode really)) came out.  Think of this period in time as 2G digital wireless.

I bring this up because back in the early 1990’s cellular carries were using this digital network to sell services like SMS  (Short Message Service) and CDPD (Cellular Digital Packet Data).  SMS was created in 1995 for the hearing impared but subscribers were reluctant to use the service due to the cost.

Compare both of these technologies with today where over 2.5 billion text messages, are sent on a daily basis and data usage is expected to increase 600% over 2G busy hour traffic.

With all this usage, something had to change and today’s 4G systems are based on an entirely new packet-based architecture, which includes the use of Ethernet physical interfaces for interconnection between functional elements.    The higher bandwidth required by 4G cell sites, as well as the use of native Ethernet as the physical interface for connection and transport of these services back to the switch is driving this change. 

Reminds me of when we moved from copper to fiber back in the early 1990’s!

Check out this oldie!

Let’s keep this one short, because let’s face it, when it is ugly, it is blatantly ugly.

There was another occasion from my past where I was brought in to a company by the CEO  to “turn around” an IT department in disarray.  This department was way out of step with the company, you know the kind, they are the IT folks you read about in Dilbert cartoons.  As a matter of fact, think of the then current CIO as Dilbert’s PHB (pointy hair boss).

Since I am blogging about concept of Micro Technology Stewardship, I will refrain from telling you about  ALL of the details and just get on  to my story.

It all began then this then current CIO had the idea that the company needed a portal for all of their senior medical professionals (Medical Professionals employed by this company aka employees :)) to log into for medical and corporate information and maybe exchange ideas with each other or the company leaders back at HQ, sort of an early social network for medical professionals.

Not a bad idea you say?  I agree, not a bad idea at all, EXCEPT, he never ran this idea past the CEO, any business leader or, to make it worse, any medical professionals in the field that this company engaged with!

The result?  Very much the same as “The Bad” post; out of control spending, IT out of alignment with the corporation, other projects missing deadlines, resources misdirected, frustrated senior leaders …yep pretty much a mess at this company too.

On the surface it seems so simple, but so many technology folks do not do it… just follow good micro technology stewardship – use the people with enough experience of the workings of a business or department to understand its technology needs, and enough experience with technology to take leadership in addressing those needs instead of doing it all “yourself” or doing it all within IT “cause we know best” and I guarantee you will have a better run IT department, and more importantly, a pleased CEO.

I have heard that So You Want to Be a Poker Star has been picked up by NBC…Can’t wait to see if this is true.