Monday, 31 January 2011

LIKE21 Event - Detect, prevent and reverse information blackholes

Thursday evening saw me arriving at the Crown Tavern in Clerkenwell withouth any cash on me, retracing my steps back to Farringdon to find a cash machine, and finally arriving as Hannah Kazerani was in full flow describing her experiences as a consultant advising organisations on their information management.

The long walk was well worth the effort, as Hannah is an engaging speaker and the situations she described had everyone in the room nodding in recognition.  She told how one utility company where she did an information audit turned out to have 32million documents stored which were duplicates!  It seemed common practice for computer outsourcing companies to routinely tell their clients they needed to increase their document storage by 40% year on year - whereas Hannah's experience was that this varied from 20 to 45%.

We weren't allowed to escape with simply listening to Hannah's entertaining anecdotes, however.  She got us all to put our thinking caps on and to work in groups to consider several questions (apologies to Hannah for paraphrasing her carefully thought out questions):

  • What eight topic headings would you have for an Information Governance project?
  • How would you engage successfully with IT colleagues?
  • How would you go about a Sharepoint implementation?
Unsurprisingly beer and cake were mentioned as techniques to engage with IT, while topics for Information Governance included information audits, taxonomies, retention/disposal plans and training. 

By this time the food was arriving, and a hot meal and wine accompanied by a load buzz of conversation was certainly a very welcome end to an altogether enjoyable evening.

- Nicola Franklin

Innovative Monetisation – the future of Facebook?

The UK version  of Facebook Deals launches today. 

Whilst many of Facebooks attempts’ at change and innovation are met with online protests and increased requests for a dislike button, Facebooks latest offering in localised marketing may be the exception to the rule.  Big name advertisers are already signed up with a broad range of offers – Starbucks will be offering 30,000 free coffees today, Debenhams will give away 1000 beauty products, whilst Mazda will be giving away 5 cars.

How it works:  Facebook users are able to check on their Smartphone for places nearby via the Facebook Places feature – this will then show which venues have a deal.  Think of it as a cross between Groupon, a Tom Tom satnav and a cut out coupon.  Typically, users will then simply have to show their phone to serving staff.

What I like about this offering is that it really is marketing at its most relevant.  Not only is it localised but there are also different  types of deals – charity deals, loyalty deals, individual deals and friends deals.  In addition, it develops the role of Facebook even further, with many likely to use the site to save money, as well as connecting with friends/games etc.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to try and get my hands on a Mazda....
- Tom Lakin

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Twitter comes of age....?

 Twitter is unarguably one of digitals’ more complex beasts.  No other site manages to divide opinion in quite the same way.  To many of its 175 million users (and adding 370,000 per day), Twitter is the freshest, most interactive way to communicate whilst to others, it is simply a faintly egotistical platform to loudly announce which sandwich you ate for lunch...

Whichever camp you may sit in, it is now achieving what sceptics doubted may happen – it is now starting to make money.  Twitter booked around $45 million in ad revenue in 2010, (generated by Promoted Trends, Sponsored Tweets and Promoted Accounts) . This year, eMarketer expects strong growth from the small base to reach $150 million.  In 2012, this is expected to increase to $250 million.

This may sound like pocket change compared to Facebooks’ $4 billion 2011 revenue, but it does suggest that Twitter may be finding its feet.  One concern is that revenue forecasts are based on continued surges in growth, which will be near impossible to maintain.  The real question lies in how Twitter can develop creative, user friendly ways in which to engage users.  With the entire premise of Twitter being it’s usability and simplicity, it is unlikely to be able to match the (arguably) targeted nature of Facebooks ads nor the creativity of virtual community sites such as Habbo.

Twitter may be finding its feet, but it will need a combination of creativity and continued user growth in order to truly fly...

- Tom Lakin

Monday, 24 January 2011

PRJS is changing to Fabric today!

It’s with great pleasure that I can announce our official launch of Fabric today and our three new services for clients.

Clients and candidates of PRJS, you know us well as specialist PR and communications recruiters – which we very much still are!  However you may not be aware of our specialist recruitment teams in digital, marketing, information and sales.  To reflect this wider offer we are today taking the exciting step of changing our name to Fabric.

For both clients and candidates, the benefits to you are immediate:
  • For our candidates we now offer a far wider choice of career opportunities across the whole digital and marketing spectrum.  
  • For our clients, we’re now talking to and engaging with a much wider pool of talent boasting a whole variety of skill sets.  It is access to these new skills that our PR agency and in-house team clients have been asking for as it allows them to find the right talent for every clients needs.
Looking ahead to 2011, we’re particularly keen to support clients further by advising and helping improve their overall recruitment strategies and we have three new consultancy services to deliver this.  The services are:
  • Competency based interview training for line managers
  • Retention strategies
  • Internal recruitment consultancy
Each of these services is designed to deliver significant savings and truly enhance how a company attracts new talent and then keeps it.

Here’s to a great 2011; I hope it is a good one for you.

- Justin Kent

Friday, 21 January 2011

NetIKX event - Using social media to achieve organisational goals

Wednesday saw me heading off after lunch to the BDA offices in Wimpole Street, London, to attend my first NetIKX event, full of curiosity to see what this group is all about.  One or two familiar faces in the group when I arrived made me feel at home, and as the room filled up the atmosphere became positively buzzy.
The format was to have two speakers, then a coffee break, then syndicate sessions with roundtable discussions of several key themes drawn out of the presentations. 
Our first speaker was Hazel Hall from Edinburgh Napier University and the key point that sang out from her presentation, and really struck a chord with me, was that it is vital to have a purpose and an understanding of which services you want to deliver - and only then consider which social media tool(s) would best suit.  In line with this idea, Hazel’s presentation focused on the various services social media could be useful for, rather than running through the usual ‘this is a blog, this is a wiki, etc’.
Some of the services Hazel mentioned where social media tools could help included:
·         Broadcasting information  -  blog, Twitter, Facebook
·         Collaborative project work   -  wiki, instant messaging, online tweetups
·         Staff development, training & teaching  - amplified events, YouTube, podcasts, webcasts
·         Information discovery & access  - blogs, online guides
·         PR & marketing  - blogs, Twitter
·         Personal profile  - LinkedIn, Facebook, blog, Twitter
·         Invite peer review of ideas  - Slideshare, blog
·         Crowd source ideas  - twitter, Facebook
The second speaker was Nicky Whitsed, Director of Library Services at the Open University.  Nicky showcased a range of practical uses that social media tools have been put by the OU to support their 250,000 students.  These ranged from YouTube (the OU is their largest provider of educational content), to iTunes U (they’ve had 20 million downloads from this service, mainly from non-UK based students) and OpenLearn, which is a free service open to all and allows collaborative working and learning on the site.
After some welcome coffee and networking, the syndicate group I joined got down to the serious business of discussing the current and potential uses of social media in our various organisations.  These covered a range of sectors included the NHS, insurance, accountancy, university, membership body, independent consultant and recruitment. 
A common theme was that almost everyone still felt they were quite novice at the whole social media thing, and were still feeling their way in terms of how to use these tools, or in some cases how to persuade their organisations to allow their use at all.  Some successes were also described, including the use of Yammer (similar to Twitter) within a large accountancy firm to share knowledge and have conversations across silo boundaries, and using the wiki functionality of Sharepoint to develop and share instruction manuals at the insurance firm.
An interesting point that came out of the wrap up discussion was that in the past disruptive technologies (such as the Internet itself) have taken up to 10 years to be developed and adopted, and more conservative organisations could ‘opt-in’ later on once they were comfortable with the new.  Today, however, is the era of ‘perpetual beta’ where new applications and tools become available and are adopted within months, and can disappear again just as quickly, and it is the flexibility and adaptability to use what works and be prepared to switch and change that is key to success. 
A salutary warning was also made, that conversations among customers and clients are happening within social media, whether organisations engage with them or shut their ears, and that ignoring your customers is a dangerous tactic to take.  See also Val Skelton’s report in Information Today.

- Nicola Franklin

Digital - UX Scarcity

Focusing on the recruitment of staff falling under the Digital banner here at Fabric it has quickly become clear that there is a huge demand for skilled and creative people.  UX designers are particularly sought after as all kinds of organisations are battling to ensure their web offering gives customers the very best user experience.  Many of these requirements are for project work on a freelance or contract basis, however finding sufficient good quality applicants to meet the demand is a challenge.  Why the scarcity of UX designers?

Traditionally UX people gain their training from a Human Computer Interface (HCI) qualification, but in the fast changing world of web2.0 and social media these courses cannot always keep up and  the real learning takes place ‘on the job’.  This requires an understanding of business logic, psychology (and social psychology for social media), user research, analytics, creative (or ‘left brain’) thinking and technical details.  An aptitude in all of these varied areas is not necessarily commonly found in one person.  Consequently some UX designers are better suited to the empirical analysis and synthesis of data, while others lean towards the creative implementation of the concept, to define the task for the graphic designer.

In addition to these issues UX designers, whether analytically or creatively focused, may not have the training or background in the technical &/or the business sides of the project, which are equally vital for them to understand. 

The challenge remains to find those people with the breadth required, while retaining sufficient depth in the key areas, to enable them to build viable conceptual models by bridging the gap between customer needs, technical feasibility and business objectives.

- Jay Scott

Thursday, 20 January 2011

NGLIS Event - E-Copyright, the Digital Economy Act & Cloud Computing

Copyright doesn’t sound like the most entertaining of topics, but at the NGLIS event on Tuesday evening Charles Oppenheim managed to raise several gales of laughter with his very amusing anecdotes.  Apparently getting it wrong can be very funny – to others hearing about it afterwards, if not to the people involved at the time!
After an introduction for those of us in the audience with only the sketchiest understanding of the Copyright Act, Charles highlighted some key effects that the internet and social media are creating in the copyright arena.  One example is regarding multiple authorship, which basically states that if more than one person has contributed to a work but you can’t distinguish who has authored which parts, then permission must be gained from all the contributors in order to copy the work.  On the internet, of course, instead of two or three authors, contributors to a wiki or blog could be numbered in the dozens or even more.  Being unable to track down even just one of these would mean it would be illegal to copy or reuse the material.
Digital Economy Act
Charles described some worrying implications of the Digital Economy Act.  This stipulates that ISP’s can turn off or restrict internet access after an IP address has been found to be up or down-loading copyright material three times.  This was aimed at film, music or software piracy and illegal peer-to-peer filesharing by people at home.  However, hotels, airports, universities, public libraries and anywhere else offering wi-fi services to their patrons and customers could also be caught out by the Act.  Charles reported that some councils have already stated that they may withdraw public access to the internet at their public libraries if this Act is implemented in its current form.
Cloud Computing
Charles focused on the Data Protection implications of cloud computing, namely that it is the original data collector who remains responsible for the security of the data, not any subcontractor (eg a SAAS or cloud computing provider such as Google Docs or Rackspace).  Since many of these providers’ Terms of Business explicitly state they accept no responsibility for data security, and are often reluctant to negotiate contract terms, use of these services can be in breach of the DP Act.  Another aspect to consider is the location of the provider’s servers, and also of their partner organisations’ servers, since much personal data cannot be exported to countries without suitable DP legislation (such as the USA).  Using cloud providers with servers there to store personal data would also be illegal.
Overall it was a very instructive and also entertaining evening, at the function room of the very pleasant (if hard to find) Iron Duke pub close to New Bond Street.
- Nicola Franklin 

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

10 Principals for Communities of Practice

The other day I spotted Bill Ives blog reporting on Stan Garfield‘s talk at KM World conference, which I thought was very interesting.
Stan is Community Evangelist, Consulting - Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited and Author,  Implementing a Successful KM Programme.
Here are Stan’s ten principles for managing a Community of Practice:
1)    Communities should be independent of organizational structure. They should be based on the content.
2)    Communities are different from organizations and teams.  People are assigned to a team. Communities are better with self–selection for joining and remaining.
3)    Communities are people and not tools. You should not start with tech features. A platform is not a community. Readers of the same blog are not a community but that might be a byproduct
4)    Communities should be voluntary. The passion of members should be what drives a community.  You should make the community appealing to get members and not assign them to it.
5)    Communities should span boundaries. They should not be for a particular group likes Sales or IT. There is a lot of cross-functional or cross-geography learning that would be missed then. Diverse views help communities.
6)    You should minimize redundancy in communities. Consolidation helps to avoid confusion by potential members. It also reduces the possibility of not getting a critical mass. Reducing redundancy also enables more cross-boundary sharing.
7)    Communities need a critical amass. You need at least 50 and likely 100. Usually ten percent are very active so you can get sufficient level of activity with 100 people.
8)    Avoid having too narrow of scope for the community. Too much focus can lead to not enough members. Stan advises people to start broad and narrow if necessary.  Or start as part of broader community and spin off if needed.
9)    Communities need to be active. Community leaders need to do work, often in the “spare time” at their regular work. This means that the leader needs a passion for the topics so he or she will spend this extra time. There needs to be energy to get things going.
10)  Use TARGETs to manage communities. TARGET includes: Types, activities, requirements, goals, expectations, and tools. Each of these issues needs to addressed and explained to prospective members.  Tools are necessary, but the least important component, so they are placed last.

- Nicola Franklin

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Product Placement

 Product placement will be allowed on UK TV from 28th February 2011, OFCOM has confirmed.

Well, whilst this is hardly a surprise to all in the industry, it certainly does raise some interesting questions.

Firstly, will it make commercial TV unwatchable?  First guesses are that the product placement advertising will be just about acceptable – OFCOM restrictions require the products to have relevance and context to the programme.  This is likely to remove the most jarring and obtrusive product placements, however, those familiar with US TV may fear the worst.    To see quite how not to do product placement, check out Mac & Me, an ET rip-off involving an alien that needs Coca-Cola to survive and seeks refuge in McDonalds.... 

Secondly, and possibly more importantly for marketers, will product placement generate new ad revenue or simply cannibalise other channels?  Well, on this one, the jury’s out.  Whilst it is unlikely to affect PPC budgets, it is highly likely that TV ad budgets may simply be moved to product placement – ie. not generating additional revenue but potentially annoying customers.  Product placement currently generates 5% US ad revenue – I am highly sceptical that the UK will see anyway near such take-up...

- Tom Lakin

Monday, 10 January 2011

No objections?

The UAE government made, by local standards, a seismic shift in labour law on January 1st 2011.  From January 1st, foreign workers switching jobs will no longer need a no objection certificate (NOC) from former employers.  Humaid Bin Deemas, acting Director-General at the Ministry of Labour, announced that “Workers, skilled and unskilled, who end their job contracts legally and complete at least two years of service, will get a labour permit outright.”.  Previously all foreign workers were required to get a letter from their former employer that gave them ‘permission’ to go ahead and  take up another job.  If the employer chose not to issue the letter then the individual was banned from working for six months and would have to return to their country of origin. 

Flexible labour markets allow for the fluid movement of talent within an economy; providing flexibility for business and the freedom for individuals to build careers.  It demonstrates confidence in those that govern.  It is a wise decision to make in the middle of a global recession and the UAE government should be applauded.  It will make life much easier for residents choosing to move jobs and it will provide more certainty for employers when recruiting. 

- George Stothard  

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Records Management or Information Governance?

Twitter came into its own again yesterday when I spotted a re-tweet from FoIManUK of a post from Peter Kurilecz (RAINbyte), with a link to an excellent report of the ARMA International conference in San Francisco in November 2010. 
“It’s not your parents’ records management anymore. Old-fashioned library services, full of retention schedules and version control, recede into the wallpaper. Now new media, hosted solutions, e-discovery, contextual analytics, cloud computing and more converge, transforming records management into information governance.”

Among the many questions being discussed at the conference, the report highlights:
  • How can we build alliances with IT?
  • How can we harmonize record retention schedules across many continents?
  • How can we manage records in the cloud?
  • How can we produce Facebook correspondence for e-discovery?
  • How can we control derelict collaboration sites?
And there is also mention of “the threatening issue that almost no one mentions: long-term preservation of digital records”.

Overall the report’s conclusion is that traditional records management challenges aren’t getting any easier, while technology’s challenges are adding to the mix and have the potential to transform a records manager’s role.

- Nicola Franklin

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Digital Marketing Recruitment

If I were a betting man (which, incidentally, I am not – I have many vices but betting is not one of them....), I would put my money on a few shake ups in digital recruitment this year.
Here are my predictions for 2011:

PPC & SEO  - Think there are still a lot of opportunities for intelligent search marketing in the UK.  Candidates with SEO or PPC will continue to have the pick of jobs with near endless agency or client side vacancies.

Ad Operations – Campaign management is key and the role Ad Ops/trafficking specialists play in this has long been underestimated.   Expect lots of opportunities for hands-on trafficking gurus in 2011.

Insight – Digital marketing is getting more and more targeted to reduce wastage and insight specialists will find their knowledge in much demand over the coming 12 months...

Mobile Marketers – With even my great aunt doing the weekly M&S shop on her iPad, this is officially no longer a niche channel.  Those with the experience, knowledge and passion will be snapped up.

Social media – I think we may begin saying goodbye to social media as a separate specific marketing tool and it will become an extension of digital marketing channels such as search.  Expect social media agencies to be snapped up by Media or PR agencies...

- Tom Lakin