McKinsey’s social technology survey

McKinsey Quarterly has just published its fifth annual survey on the ways in which organisations are using social tools and technologies.  There were over 4,200 executive level respondents to the global survey representing a wide range of business sectors and organisational size.

The report suggests that social tools (social networking; blogs; video sharing; RSS feeds; wikis; podcasts; microblogging) have now reached a critical mass.  72% of respondents reported that at least one social technology had been deployed in their organisations.  Although the rates of adoption vary between sectors, 62% of respondents in the lowest performing sector (energy) reported that they were deploying at least one social technology tool.

A small group of respondents reported high levels of benefit, whether they were using the tools for internal communication or for external communication with stakeholders.  For some organisations, the use of social technologies in customer and partner outreach was so sophisticated that the boundaries of the organisation itself were becoming blurred.  McKinsey calls these ‘extended enterprises’.  However, the survey also suggests that it is hard for organisations to ‘move upwards’ on levels of adoption and it is quite easy to ‘slide backwards’.

The tools are being used to support a range of business processes, including scanning the external environment; project management; finding new ideas and allocating resources.  When it comes to the predicting the ways in which the tools could be used in the future, the respondents thought that, with fewer constraints on social technologies, boundaries between employees, vendors, customers and other stakeholders would blur.  Other predicted changes included the flattening of organisational hierarchies, improved financial transparency and an increase in self organised teams.

McKinsey concludes that organisations need to be prepared for further technological disruption and be prepared to create change rather than being led by it.

Making better decisions – in search of the seven ‘x’ factors

What are the best models for good decision making processes at the top levels of business and government?  A research report aims to provide practical guidance on how both business and government can increase their chances of making better business decisions.

The report is a result of a collaborative project between Ashridge Business School’s Public Leadership Centre and the Whitehall Industry Group.  The researchers interviewed about 60 senior level decision makers in both sectors to explore key decision making processes. They also conducted extensive literature reviews.  The final report, overseen by a high-powered editorial panel, includes some interesting mini-case studies and identifies the critical success (or ‘x’) factors for successful decision making.

These seven ‘x’ factors are:

  • clarity of objectives and goals combined with a well articulated communication strategy
  • early interaction and good communication with trusted stakeholders
  • relentless focus on priority issues
  • good team working with the right mix of expertise, experience and trust
  • providing opportunities for exploration of risks and frank challenge
  • clear, practical implementation with accountability
  • effective evaluation and review

Terminal 5 at Heathrow

One of the case studies included in the report looks decisions made that led to the well publicised problems that befell the 2008 opening of Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5.  The opening experienced a combination of ‘decision-making traps’ including over optimism about IT; a reduction in staff training time and insufficiently expressed dissent.

A further case study looks at changes made in the training of junior hospital doctors (again ‘over optimism’ emerges as a key factor).

The report is fascinating reading and is free to download here.

Word of mouth really matters

When it comes to ‘mission critical marketing’, there are a number of tools and techniques that libraries can use to retain and gain customers.  Beatrice Pulliam and Jenifer Bond wrote about strategic marketing for us last month and shared their experiences and ideas for ‘spreading the word’ at ILI2011.

Meanwhile, some interesting research was released this week by Keller Fay – a consultancy and research company that focuses on the power of ‘word of mouth’ marketing.

They have been conducting tracking studies in the UK and have just announced some of their latest findings at a conference in London, along with a list of the ‘most talked about brands’.

The study suggests that ‘the average UK adult’ talks about brands 78 times per week, and that 94% of these ‘mentions’ happen in face-to-face situations.

Positive word of mouth is extremely powerful.  Recipients attribute credibility to personal recommendations.  According to Keller Fay, organisations and marketers must learn what actually triggers the conversations (advertising/social media campaigns for example).

Happy consumers of your products and services really are a wonderful asset!

Libraries – it’s all about reading, not books

Reading has the power to connect people and to transform lives.  The UK charity the Reading Agency exists to help people feel confident and inspired about reading.  Speaking at Axiell’s Rethinking Libraries event, Miranda McKeaney (the Reading Agency’s Chief Executive) spoke about some of the Agency’s successes and challenges and shared some transferable ideas and lessons learned.


It is vital that you have a crystal clear and significant sense of purpose.   You must identify and be able to articulate exactly what it is that makes you/your service unique.  Do you have a ‘noble sense of purpose’?  Why do you exist?  With public libraries, a shared articulation can be difficult and it is important not to cling to the past.  Libraries exist to support reading, not books.


It is important to create a big picture – to think about the future and to begin to shape the future you want.  Part if this is identifying what trends are active and working to best thrive in the future  these trends are pointing to.

Some UK trends to pay attention to

  • The number of bookshops in the UK has halved in the past six years
  • Opportunities in combining ‘live’ experiences with digital
  • Offering live and social experiences
  • Digital book sales and loans
  • Take a lead in social issues  – e.g. articulate the social costs of low literacy levels; demonstrate the links between reading and good health


It is critical to ensure that partnerships are balanced.  You must give your partners and supporters what they need – without compromising your own mission.  For example, when the Reading Agency began to develop partnerships with publishers, the outcome would be beneficial to both parties.  Public libraries gained access to the type of author events that were previously only available in bookstores.  Publishers were gaining access to new audiences and markets.

Finally, tough times should create a spirit of innovation.  We should not be afraid to dream or experiment.

Rethinking libraries – a success story

Pam Sandlian-Smith, the Library Director of Anythink [Public] Libraries in Colorado, promised a tale of hope and inspiration when she closed Axiell’s Rethinking Libraries Symposium.

When she first joined the library service she encountered ‘every possible mess’.  It was the worst funded in the region and had been in decline for years.  However, with some new funding she and her team set about transforming the service.   She told the audience exactly how they did it.

New spaces

The existing spaces were refurbished and new library buildings created.  The libraries – rebranded Anythink – were re-designed to become spaces for creativity and community connections.  The design of the spaces was informed by retail philosophy.  The buildings have lots of natural light and there are other features, including fireplaces, ‘tree-houses’, wood shelving, sculptures, verandas, and outside spaces.  The collections are grouped by subject – just like in a bookshop.  They are easy to navigate.  The new branding is used at every touch-point.

Community benefit

Adams County, Colorado (in which Anythink is situated) is a young community – 75% of the population is under 50.  The team wanted to plan for sustainability by building family programmes and services.  Initially inspired by the ‘floor walker’ model of Tower Hamlet’s Idea Store, the team sets out to provide services that ‘help people become their best selves’.  There is a focus on inter-generational programming and other creative initiatives – including community gardening.  They seek to go beyond customer service, and instead to provide ‘hospitality’ – a mindset that helps eliminates barriers between people.

The people

Anythink wants passionate staff.  Job descriptions and competency frameworks were completely revised, using Apple job descriptions as an inspiration.  Staff job titles include ‘guides’, ‘concierges’ and ‘wranglers’.  They need to be part wizard, part genius, part explorer.  They must be able to motivate people to explore and discover.  They are continuous learners and have the capacity to lead others.  And they must be emotionally mature.  Staff are evaluated against these competencies.

The results and some key lessons

What really worked in Colorado was the focus on building emotional connections with its community.  People ‘love’ the library.

  • Circulation figures have quadrupled, as has public access computing usage
  • The library received the National Medal for Museum and Library Services
  • The library is having a dramatic impact on its local community
  • Be disruptive (they dumped Dewey!)
  • Be bold and dramatic!

You can watch an inspirational video about Anythink – and see the results – on YouTube.


Open up your library data and unlock its power

Libraries, museums and archives have a wealth of information about their collections that is too often locked away in isolated silos, according to open data expert Owen Stephens who was speaking at Internet Librarian International.

Opening up access to library data can enable others to innovate in unforeseen ways, adding value to the originating organisation as well as to the wider community.

Passing a box of chocolates round the audience, Stephens described a continuum of openness, rather than a binary ‘open/closed’ scenario. In an ideal world, data would be openly licensed, open accessible, openly discoverable and openly connected.

Stephens described the Discovery initiative, which aims to improve resource discovery by establishing a clear set of principles and practices for the publication and aggregation of open, reusable metadata.

A likely outcome of openness is that external users will find valuable new ways of engaging with the data. For example, Cambridge University documented the APIs available for their data and a student then built an iPhone app which enables users to find out whether a book is available in the library nearest to their current location.

To quote Rufus Pollock, co-founder of the Open Knowledge Foundation, “the coolest thing to do with your data will be thought of by someone else“.

Librarians as agents of social change

Speaking at ILI2011 about the role of libraries in a post conflict society, Fedja Kulenovic told his audience that “war is the opposite of libraries”.

This seemingly extraordinary statement makes absolute sense when you consider that times of conflict bring disinformation, loss of trust, cessation of conversations and, sometimes, destruction of physical resources (two million titles were lost in the conflict in Bosnia and Herzogovina and the national library was destroyed).

There is so much potential for librarians to make a real difference in ‘turbulent times’.  Feda outlined the role of librarians in providing inspiration, creative spaces, and creating opportunities for healthy and positive dialogues between different populations.   They can rebuild the information landscape too, helping society move away from misinformation to clarity and balance.  There is scope to educate people in the information skills that can contribute to economic growth and prosperity.

This theme of supporting the development of information and media literacy skills, (in this case against the background of the Arab Spring), was also discussed by Kayo Chang.  In such circumstances, students need to understand a range of information issues, including maintaining online reputations, analysing information and working within the law.

Speaking at the same session, Maria Cotera reminded the audience that there are many people in the world who are information poor.  Maria volunteers for a charity that seeks to bring library services, and literacy support, to prisoners in Africa.  Such services can be completely transformational to disenfranchised populations.

Key lesson – librarians really can contribute to transformation – of individuals and society.

Maria Cotera, Kayo Chang and Fedja Kulenovic were speaking at Internet Librarian International 2011.


How to dissect a website – and keep it healthy

When it comes to sharing ideas for analysing library websites, Jennifer Phillips-Bacher of the Wellcome Library has some helpful analogies.  She likens the first stage of content auditing to dissection.  This is where you look inside to see what’s working – and what’s wrong.  Jennifer’s content audit was a detailed and tedious task.  Starting with the site map, every link must be clicked and each webpage analysed.  Content type, URL, author, metadata, when the page was created/updated and other information was captured.  In particular Jennifer recommends you keep an eye out for ROT – content that is redundant, outdated or trivial. The output of this type of content audit is an enormous spreadsheet.

The second phase is diagnosis.  You can use the information you have gathered, as well as other tools such as Google analytics to understand exactly how people are using your site.  You can see what content is never used and which are your most visited pages.   Diagnosis helps you validate exactly what you are going to include, and omit, from your website.  You can begin to identify your underserved audiences.

The next phase focuses on strategy. For the team at Wellcome, processes are being built in to ensure that the website is kept healthy and happy.  Governance of the new website is critical.  Accountability will be built into the website and an editorial strategy and content lifecycle will be developed.  The team is consulting with a branding agency and all staff will be trained in writing for the web.

Even if you are not embarking on a full redesign of your website, brief content audit can reveal all kinds of interesting information.  Start to explore your site’s analytics and see if you can find unmet needs and other opportunities.  Audit and analysis can help make you stronger!

Jennifer was speaking at Internet Librarian International


Digital inheritance

What happens to your digital identity when you die?  According to a survey quoted in the Daily Telegraph, one in ten people in the UK are now leaving their passwords in their will.  They want their families to have access to photographs, digital assets and their social media accounts.  They also want their digital identities managed and protected after they are gone.

(The research was carried out by the Centre for Creative and Social Technology at Goldsmiths College, University of London.)

Marketing Week also picks up the story.  Brands should make post-death processes a ‘default part of their service’.  You should be able to nominate a next of kin when you sign up for an email account for example.

What is clear is that consumers need more advice in this area.  And 90% of us need to be thinking more seriously about our digital legacy.

Challenges faced by marketing sound familiar

IBM has just published its 2011 Global Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) 2011 report (called From Stretched to Strengthened).  Over 1700 senior marketing staff in 64 countries were interviewed about the transformations and challenges they and their businesses are currently facing.

The CMOs identified four big ‘game changers’

  • data explosion
  • social media
  • proliferation of devices and channels
  • consumer demographics

They also identified key areas for focus and development, including understanding customers and delivering value to them; creating lasting relationships; and the necessity for measuring ROI.  This focus on ROI reflects a move from marketing being seen as a ‘cost centre’ to focusing on customer centric initiatives.   In fact, it’s all sounding rather familiar.

The report synthesises the wisdom of the respondents to suggest nine strategic imperatives.  These too are relevant to information professionals.  These include:

  • focus on creating value to customers as individuals
  • capitalise on new digital channels to stimulate customer conversations
  • use advanced analytics and compelling metrics to improve decision making and demonstrate accountability

It seems there are opportunities for information professionals to help senior marketing colleagues understand the potential impact and deliver the benefits of social media and to support them as they attempt to meet the challenges of data explosion and analysis.