External social platforms replace the company intranet

The power of social platforms, hijacking the shopping experience and two-speed IT: The Data Mill reports.

Social platforms have become an important workplace tool -- and here's the data point that might actually convince you of that: "One-third of the searches on LinkedIn are by people looking for an expert on something within their own company," Peter Coffee, vice president of strategic research at Salesforce.com, said during his presentation at the Fusion 2014 CEO-CIO Symposium in Madison, Wis.

That's right, internal platforms or handy-dandy tools like the intranet are so dysfunctional, employees are turning to external social platforms they use out of the office to find out basic facts about their own company. "How freaky is that?" Coffee asked.

The Data Mill

Freaky maybe, but not surprising. As Coffee noted, 757 million people log onto Facebook every day. Or just look up the world map created by an intern for Facebook back in 2010. He used 10 million Facebook friend pairs to connect pretty much every major city on earth, Coffee said. The image isn't a perfect depiction of the globe, but you don't have to squint to understand what you're looking at. And although China is hard to discern, it's not invisible. "So, even the exceptions have interesting exceptions," Coffee said.

Coffee's advice to the CEOs and CIOs in the audience: If you can't beat them, join them. "The people you want as customers or as partners or as suppliers or as innovators -- they are finding each other in these systems," he said. "And your customers expect you to be findable in these networks."

The Meat Pack hijack

Meat Pack is a well-known shoe store in Guatemala, but it also carved out a place in marketing history with its mobile application Hijack. The novelty of Meat Pack's app? Once downloaded, it uses the smartphone's global positioning system to detect when a shopper walks into a competitor's store and immediately pushes a 99% off coupon to the customer.

"And then the countdown begins, 99, 98, 97 …," J Schwan, founder and CEO of Solstice Mobile, said at Fusion. With each passing second, the discount diminishes, encouraging customers to quickly abandon the competitor's shoe store in order to cash in on the promotion. The faster customers get to a Meat Pack store, which officially stops the countdown, the bigger the discount.

Shapes, not faces

Here's a bit of useful advice from Mark McDonald, managing director and business strategy lead at Accenture. Before investing in technology to optimize your business, make sure you understand the business goals. When Royal Caribbean decided to reduce wait times for the restaurants on one of its cruise ships, it installed shape-detecting cameras in the onboard eateries. The cameras count heads and shoulders, which reveal how empty or full a restaurant is at any given time. The information is displayed to passengers at points throughout the cruise ship, and it has, in fact, staved off lines, said McDonald, a keynote speaker at Fusion.

The decision to invest in shape-detecting cameras rather than facial recognition technology was deliberate. Royal Caribbean decided it didn't need to know who was eating with whom or where, because "it doesn't affect experience or change operational dynamics," McDonald said.

IT terms to know

The Streisand effect: When Barbara Streisand learned Google Earth had a satellite image of her backyard, she complained about a breach of privacy. Doing so didn't have the effect she was hoping for. "Viewings of the satellite photo of her backyard went up by many orders of magnitude," Salesforce's Coffee said. "This is called the Streisand effect, where the effort to remedy a breach of trust actually makes it worse."

Previously on The Data Mill

Is contextual computing the love child of big data, IoT and mobility?

Integration woes make it hard for users to embrace new apps

CIOs have a lot to learn from NSA data collection

Wizard of Oz prototyping: A test cycle where the levers and switches on the back end of a computer program or application have not been automated yet. Fasal, a startup that provides farmers in India with daily price alerts for local markets via text messages, used Wizard of Oz prototyping before building out its application. Initial text messages were sent by one person to a group of volunteer farmers, who in turn used that information to figure out where they could sell their crops at the highest price. "[The experiment] proved out the business model," Solstice Mobile's Schwan said. "They started building it out, and now they have 10% of farmers in less than 18 months signed up on this new platform."

Two-speed IT: An increasingly popular term, two-speed IT embraces the growing duality of IT organizations: The first speed refers to keeping the lights on; the second, to building products quickly as a way to support the business operating at an accelerated pace.

Data science: the haystack is the needle?

What's the difference between a data query and data science? "Querying is subtractive," Salesforce's Coffee said. "It's walking up to a haystack and systematically removing everything that's not a needle."

Data science, on the other hand, is discovery, Coffee said. It's about walking up to the haystack, grouping all of the needles together in one pile and all of the hay together in another, and looking for relationships between the two. In other words, in data science, the data leads us to the question, as opposed to letting our leading questions sort the data in search of a needle.

Welcome to The Data Mill, a weekly column devoted to all things data. Heard something newsy (or gossipy)? Email me or find me on Twitter @TT_Nicole.

This was first published in March 2014

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