Monthly Archives: November 2010

Social tools – a people issue or not?

At a recent symposium I attended in London, one of the discussion points was – why should Learning & Development have anything to do with Social Media/Collaboration tools? I found myself in somewhat of a minority on this one as I firmly believe that they should! So, today’s blog post will explain why that is the case!.

The session abstract for my recent session at the Saba People 2010 Conference is a good starting point:..

  “Most organizations already have social tools- but they don’t connect people inside the firewall on issues of import to the company or the people that work there. Companies will need to change behaviour and reward knowledge sharing to maximize the value of enterprise social networking. It’s a people challenge, not an IT or communications problem and HCM is the key to success for knowledge sharing and collaboration projects. This session looks at why HCM applications are the natural home for collaboration and social technologies”.

For any initiative to succeed, there has to be a business case – the introduction of new social media tools is no different! Having had a strong background in studying Knowledge Management over the last 10 years, I looked at the business case in a slightly different way to many of my peers. In a nutshell, I can’t put it better than this:.

  “an organisation’s knowledge walks out of the door every night – and it might never come back.”

SOURCE: Kevin Abley (Cap Gemini) in OR Society Conference on Knowledge Management, London, Nov 1998.

To put that into perspective, we know both what our current staff attrition rates are and when people are due to retire. The worse case scenario could be that up to 50% of the people in your organisation today, may not be there in 5 years time – and of course, their tacit knowledge will literally “walk out fo the door and not come back”.  That to me is a not only a strong case for action but also and indication that this is indeed a people issue! We have to provide our people with tools and a new culture where knowledge sharing is actively encouraged.


But it’s not just about KM thinking – let’s also consider this definition of Social Networking from Wikipaedia:

  “A social network is a social structure made of nodes (which are generally individuals or organisations) that are tied by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as values, visions, ideas, financial exchange. friendship, kinship, dislike, conflict or trade.”


Where the HCM space has a role to play in this is for me, quite clear! If we are to promote knowledge sharing in an on-line environment, we also need to create the context for people to want to be part of  a collaboration community. With the knowledge we alreay have of our people in our HRMS /HCM systems, we have the ability to build these communities and connect people by bringing the community to them instead of them having to seek it out – some examples of this are:.

  • People with the same job
  • People with the same competency or skill requirement
  • People in the same location
  • People attending the same training event. 

Another part of this is also to enable us to find experts we have never met – from the data we hold about the competence/performance/skills of our people, we should be able to identify subject matter experts and make them available to help other community members. Even if you are not a Saba customer, the messages in their promotional video “The Ask” bring this aspect to life.


Here’s another view on Collaboration – this time from Elliott Masie:.

Collaboration requires several key components:.

  • Trust
  • Need/Motivation
  • Shared Aspirations
  • Traditions
  • Listening
  • Courage
  • Critical Thinking
  • Time
  • Tolerance of Diversity
  • A Shared Language .

I don’t see much in that list that tells me that IT are the right people to be defining how we deal with Collaboration!.

But it’s not just me saying this! At an event earlier this year, Thomas Otter from Gartner suggested ”  Work on your strategy for social software in HCM and Learning now!”. And of course, we are starting to see the Learning vendors including social tools – I guess they agree with me too!.

Wherever you stand on this, Social Media isn’t going to go away and whilst we in the HCM space have an opportunity to influence how it is deployed in our organisations, then we should step up and do it!

Saba People 2010 Trip Report – Part 3

Thursday 4th November

They may well have saved the best til last – today’s keynote speaker was Jason Averbrook from Knoweldge Infusion. There was so much good stuff in this keynote that I didn’t get to make enough notes so thankfully, will be able to watch this on “catch up” in the Saba Customer Community.

One item that interested me was the Social Technographics Ladder from Forrester: (where do YOU fit on this?)


Forrester Social Technographics



Some key Soundbites from this session:

  • Be Brave!
  • HR must own the HR System Strategy
  • Think “Workforce Technology” and not “HR Technology”
  • If your organisation blocks Facebook or Twitter, they are blocking Collaboration
  • There are more social networking accounts than there are email accounts!
  • The future of HR technology products is a perpetual beta


He also used a great interactive tool within his slide deck to take instant feedback via sms text messages. Neat!

Well worth following on twitter – @jasonaverbrook


Final session of the day for me was Jim Lundy’s wrap up. Once again, loads of useful content in his session – the wisdom of the crowd, “Crowdsourcing“, spotting the high potential people through social network analysis, idea generation.

To summarise where I think Saba are today, their own promotional video does a pretty good job:

This was a highly energising event – thanks to the organisers for the invite to present.

Saba People 2010 Trip Report – Part 2

Wednesday 3rd November

Well, what a way to start the day – a highly entertaining keynote from Gary Whitney from the Intercontinental Hotel Group.

  • “To have customers live your brand have to engage your people”
  • “A brand is delivered by the people at the front line.”
  • “if you want people to love your brand, you had better love your people!”
  • “It’s the first follower who makes the leader”

The last point was very amusingly demonstrated by the use of the video below – this came back to haunt us later that day during dinner when Jeff Carr started the dance in the restaurant!


Next up, the Saba Customer Excellence Awards – I am delighted to report that Legal & General were awarded the Collaboration & Social Media Power Award for our use of the Saba Collaboration tools within Saba Learning. This is another well deserved tribute for the team – well done team!


The next session was led by Saba founder, Bobby Yazdani and featured 6 young  entrepreneurs – I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but this turned out to be a great session! Here’s some brief notes and links from this session:


  • Qwiki – this is a really cool way of delivering content – go visit the site to get the true experience of this. Pure genius!
  • Meet Seymour, the AI Concierge courtesy of Cleversense
  • Get your customers to add themselves to a web based CRM system – from the people who bought you, this is
  • We saw him last night with Fitz and the Tantrums, this  morning he shared his work in creating music for advertising .
  • A moving story which led to the creation of 1000, a place to remember loved ones.


Next session up was my own session – I’ll be devoting a separate post to cover my material for that shortly.


The next couple of sessions I attended were product related – firstly, as we are just about to upgrade to 5.5, a session on product improvements which included:

  • More support for blended learning
  • Informal learning can now be used to close competency gaps
  • Tasks can be assigned to all types of learning
  • Ad Hoc reporting
  • Mentors can be assigned in your profile

The next session was on the mashup portlet – as we have already deployed something similar from our friends at Comenius, I was interested to see the difference. The only addition is the ability to use Javascript as well as XHTML.


Final session was on Content – a few new things to consider apart from the social aspects which have already been mentioned:

  • Saba Publisher 10 is now GA
  • Detect and fix – regress SCORM to find errors.
  • Export Centra to flv, mp4, mp3
  • Saba “Webster” – a new free tool to tag informal content on your intranet

David Koehn of Saba was predicting that there will be less formal learning but it will become higher value.

To finish the day, another great summary from Peter Olguin.

Saba People 2010 Conference trip report – Part 1

It’s always a re-energising experience attending a conference and this one was no exception!

Monday 1st November

The event started off on Monday with a “Town Hall” meeting of the global Saba user group – most of this discussion was around support related areas and was a good first opportunity to meet other customers. This was followed by 2 separate special interest groups – I went to the Collaboration group which was well attended and resulted in a decision to keep the group active using Saba Live. If you haven’t yet seen Saba Live, perhaps this video might give you a clue as to what the fuss is all about!



The day ended with a networking event and a session with the EMEA team and fellow EMEA customers – we already have a good informal network in the UK so this was another opportunity to catch up!

Tuesday 2nd November

Jeff Carr from Saba opened the event with a highly entertaining look at the birth of the American Revolution and how that might have looked had Web 2.0 tools been around! First major keynote of the conference was delivered by Gary Hamel – he had some great content – here are some key soundbites from his session:

  • “We are not limited by our resources, we are limited by our aspirations”
  • “passion, creativity, initiative- new skills for the knowledge economy”
  • “it’s not so much work sucks, it’s more management blows”
  • “most important invention of human time in last century is management . It is the technology of humankind”
  • “The flows of knowhow are becoming more important than the stock of knowhow”
  • “Be Bold”! (a recurring theme during the conference!)

Gary’s presentation will be available on the Saba Live Customer Community along with all the others from the event – recorded using Saba Centra. More about Gary’s thinking can be found on his blog:


My next session was also about collaboration – Saba made a great hire in poaching Jim Lundy away from Gartner where he led the Social Software & Collaboration team. Much of this session focussed on an area that I have been talking about for a number of years – the power of community conversations to power innovation. This aligns very closely to my own thinking on where Knowledge Management meets Learning and was a good omen for my own panel session with Jim later in the day.

The next sessions were mainly about product enhancements plus a few items I gleaned from the solutions centre:

  • 3 functions now JSR286 – include Search, In progress learning & Approvals in any JSR286 compliant portal.
  • Saba Anywhere – off-line player which doesn’t need a special off-line version of the course to be created.
  • Centra 7.7 pm iPad.
  • They have hired some former Google staff to improve the search function.


Next up was a customer presentation from Hitachi Data Systems – some good examples of how they have used Web Services to “Make Saba their own”. One example is how they use this to extract data into an interim database which then feeds into a Business objects Universe or similar.


The day finished with a panel discussion on “Collaborating in your Enterprise: Managing Change”. I really enjoyed this panel working with Janice Watrous-McCabe from Allina Hospitals, Nick Howe from Hitachi Data Systems, Alice Harkin from Saba and facilitation from  Jim Lundy.  A great question at the end got these responses from the panel:


Q: What is the business case for collaboration?

1) 50% of your people will be gone in 5 years time
2) novice2expert
3) power of connectivity

The evening ended with a customer appreciation event at the Museum of Science featuring a live performance by Fitz and the Tantrums. (They have a free mp3 download on the site!). One highlight of the evening for me was the opportunity to meet again with Mike Fitzgerald, formerly Global Head of Learning for RSA, who was responsible for recruiting me into a role in the eLearning space – I remain in his debt for introducing me to the best jobs I have had in my career!


Another old friend, Peter Olguin, from Deloitte was making a video diary of the event – his day 2 summary will give you a flavour of the event!