January 2012 – Stay N Alive

The Solution to Offshore Manufacturing is Technology, Not Politics

In The Biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, it talked about a meeting Steve Jobs had with President Obama. Jobs was quoted saying, ‘“You’re headed for a one-term presidency,” Jobs told Obama at the outset. To prevent that, he said, the administration needed to be a lot more business-friendly. He described how easy it was to build a factory in China, and said that it was almost impossible to do so these days in America, largely because of regulations and unnecessary costs.’ 

It was clear in tonight’s State of the Union address that this particular conversation weighed on President Obama’s mind, as he addressed it directly. In the Address, President Obama talked about solutions to fix our current American manufacturing processes. He mentioned possibilities such as reducing taxes for companies willing to manufacture in America, and making it more expensive for companies that chose to manufacture overseas. I argue that this is not enough though, perhaps not even necessary, as in an era of technology and brilliant minds technology itself will replace the need for offshore manufacturing.

Silicon Angle has a great post about “The Era of the Physible”, a take on a new category of the file sharing website, Pirate Bay, that shares 3D designs for printers that can print objects in 3D. In it they discuss the future of 3D printing, and how we are getting near the real possibility of Star Trek-like “replicators”, which can manufacture just about anything you can imagine.

I believe the future of manufacturing is in these devices. I think we are just years away from replacing entire factory lines with simple, polymer ink-based printers not much bigger than the printer that prints on paper in your own house. Here’s the best part: each of these “factory-in-a-box” devices will be in every home in America. (They’re already on their way in simple forms – see Cubify for example)

I predict, in the not too distant future, not only will you be able to shop, buy, and order phones, devices, and gadgets online (most likely through a mobile device if current trends have their way), but you’ll also be able to print those devices out, right in your home, just like you do a piece of paper right now. That’s right – the future of manufacturing exists in the homes of every single American, and every person in the world. We won’t need those offshore factories in the future! It’s an industry that, just like the automotive industry, just like just about any mechanical, human-powered industry, is quickly being replaced by computers!

Apple’s meticulous about its manufacturing processes. Steve Jobs instilled a culture where even the factories of Apple themselves were decorated in pristine white design, beautiful, well-functioning processes that got things out quick. With Apple’s focus on end-to-end solutions and control over the entire process, Apple could very well move in this direction.

Imagine a world where Apple, like their current factories, made beautiful 3D printers that created their devices in the homes of every customer, instead of building expensive factories in China. Imagine if Apple could reduce that cost, and give complete, full control to the manufacturing process of their phones in the homes of their customers. What if they put one of these in each Apple Store for customers that couldn’t buy their own 3D printers?  And guess what? Government doesn’t have to do anything to make this happen (other than making it cheaper and easier for businesses to do this). Because it’s a cheaper, more efficient process, businesses will do this for Government.
I truly believe this is the future of manufacturing, not factories and jobs of blue-collar workers. We need to be preparing for this, rather than worrying where our manufacturing is taking place. The next President’s 4 year term will start to see this major shift in manufacturing, and if they’re not prepared it’s going to hurt the American economy.
I’m concerned that we’re focusing too much on where our factories are located, and finding ways to hire more blue collar workers, when we should instead be finding more ways to get those blue collar workers interested in more white collar jobs, giving them the education they need to do them. In the future, we won’t have a need for blue collar factory jobs, period – the trends are showing that. We’ll have a need for white collar engineers, software developers, and those that can design the devices, yes, devices, that will manufacture every product created by corporate America.
In an era of the computer, internet, and mobile device, my kids aren’t even getting simple computer classes in their schools. Many children aren’t even learning how to type. I learned how to program when I was 10, in elementary school (part of this was due to lack of laws such as COPA) – I fear we’re losing this focus in America, and that’s why we’re seeing a severe shortage in high knowledge engineering talent. Kids simply aren’t seeing the importance or value of this stuff, so they don’t want to learn it.
My hope is the next President of the United States can keep this in mind as they plan their job creation strategy. Instill a love of computers and engineering in our kids. Get rid of laws like COPA that prevent kids from looking things up on their own and take the power away from parents. Bring computer and engineering education back into our school system, from elementary school age! This is a huge wick that has been lit and is heading towards a big stick of dynamite waiting to blow up. Once it does, this whole offshore factory problem won’t be an issue any more. I’m afraid none of the current USA Presidential candidates realize this.
See the above video for an example of Cubify at CES this year

Defining Social Product Strategy Within the Organization – a New Role I Think Companies Should Pursue

Over the last several years, as we’ve seen Social Media grow and mature within organizations, I’ve been in a bit of a struggle as I’ve tried to define my role at each organization. As a software developer and entrepreneur interested in product design and growth, I’ve been forced into this world of marketing, a world where developers typically avoid. I’ve grown to enjoy it, and I think I’ve gotten quite good at it – so much that I now see myself as a sort of bridge between marketing and technology. You’ll notice that, as the tag line of this blog often changes as I try to define what I do. It’s a gap not many cover. Yet I still can’t help wonder if my struggle is because my expertise is one that is not yet properly embraced by organizations.

My expertise – a mix of product management and design, marketing, understanding of software development and what it’s capable of, and a user experience centered around social interactions between people – is one that a typical marketer just won’t be very good at. At the same time, other roles I fill and I think I’ve gotten good at – Facebook Page and Social Media Account management, social advertising, social media campaign management, are roles the typical product manager or software developer will understand. I’ve come to think that there is a need for a new executive-level role at organizations where a focus on social within the product can be fully embraced. I’m going to call this role the Social Product Strategist, and it should be at the same level as Social Marketing Strategist (formerly called just, “Social Strategist”).

The Problem with our Current State of Enterprise Social Media

One of my favorite bloggers around the role of social media in enterprise is Jeremiah Owyang, a partner at Altimeter Group, who specializes in research in the way large corporations embrace social media. In his writings he discusses the role of Social Strategist within organizations, and the structure an organization should build around social media. They suggest a Hub and Spoke model, where a hub around social media, lead by the corporate social strategist, helps lead individual “spokes” within departments of an organization. This role of Social Media strategist is also likely to fade back into the organization, likely into a marketing department. I love their focus on this effort – I’ve embraced it in many of my efforts.

That statement around Social Media fading into a marketing department has always bugged me about the role of social media strategist though. I’ve always seen a strong importance around product and social media in the organizations I work with, and the need to integrate social deeply into the products I work with. Things like finding ways to embrace Facebook and Twitter to bring a user’s friends into the experiences that are being built. I think social media is much more than just adding “like” and “share” buttons on a site, and should have an even more important focus around determining what your existing “social network” is, and embracing that for each user using your product. This needs someone that understands social design. It needs someone who understands product design, social APIs, and what can be done with them. I don’t think this is a marketing role. It fits more in the product, or technology arm of an organization, if even that.

Defining the Role of Social Product Strategist

I think there’s now a need for a parallel focus in organizations around the focus of Social Media. Yes, there should be a social marketing strategist role as is already being implemented in many organizations, with a focus on the marketing elements surrounding Social Strategy. These are the types of roles that will fade back into the marketing arms of organizations. However, there needs to be an equivalent level, parallel role around social Product strategy. This should be a VP or Director-level role around the development and deep integration of social experiences into every product the company develops.
I see this role as figuring out where the current relationships of your customers exist, and determining how to bring out those relationships into the experiences of every product built. The role should seek to build new experiences that are social, as well as embrace existing experiences, and make it easier for your customers to stay on the site, feeling comfortable that their friends and family are there with them.
Google as the Example

Google has done this well as they’ve tried to embrace social media. Many know Google for taking a developer-centric focus around the products they build. I think they’ve embraced this philosophy well by hiring Vic Gondutra to figure out their challenge around social product design within Google’s organization. Notice that Vic doesn’t focus on Facebook ad strategy or Page management or anything else like that – Google’s Marketing and PR departments handle those types of investments.
Instead, Vic decided he needed to create a new network, Google+, to get the entire organization on board with bringing out the real relationships their users have, and he made that available to the entire organization to use within their products. He figured out the already existing “social network” that existed in Google products, and found a way to build technology around embracing that social network. It’s a pure product design strategy. Other companies should also be considering this approach in their organization, and it goes way beyond the corporate social strategist.

I propose that more organizations start considering this role of Social Product Strategist into their organizations social media strategy. The typical “social strategist” won’t handle this as well as a product person can. Organizations should seek out product-focused managers within an organization that have strong experience building social user experiences into the products they work with. Someone who has managed Facebook apps and experiences would fit well into this position. Someone who understands the benefit of social design into products should be considered.
I think its time organizations start taking this role seriously as a new role within the organization. This is something that I think we’ll start to see develop more and more in the coming year or two as organizations look back to see how they can embrace their own existing “social networks” that exist within their products, and find ways to embrace technology to bring out the relationships that already exist between their customers and users.

There’s Plenty of Room to Grow for Enterprise Social

On Thursday Altimeter Group released a report, titled “A Strategy for Managing Social Media Proliferation”, on the state of social media strategy in global corporations with over 1,000 employees. The report is quite telling, suggesting that most organizations in this category simply aren’t properly aligning business values with social media strategy and lack the proper tools to manage their social presence online. As one of the Domain Experts considered in the report, I thought I’d chime in.

No surprise to me, the report suggests that from their sample of 144 Enterprise-class corporations, organizations of this caliber typically manage an average of 178 total social media accounts online. Managing such a presence, it is quite a challenge in such a large organization to gain a hold, properly inventory, set proper education, and provide all the right tools to manage so many social presences.

From my perspective, there are 2 ways to solve this problem:

  1. Simplify your presence online and instead facilitate, and outsource to community that is passionate about your brand and can help spread further knowledge about your product or message.
  2. Improve the tools for members of your organization, simplifying the process of Social Media Management and educate employees on the proper use of these tools.
Facilitating Community

Oddly, I don’t see many organizations, or social media tools vendors working towards this potential solution to the problem. I’m a big fan of using those already passionate about your brand, and empowering them to spread a message. Wal-mart’s “Walmart Moms” accomplishes this well, empowering Mommy bloggers to talk about, and share passion for their brand. I’d love to see tools that allow companies like this to empower community to manage Facebook Pages, Twitter Accounts, and other similar presences, as a transparent community member, to talk about passion for the brand. Other tools could provide ways for brands to leverage proven community members in moderation of comments on Facebook Pages and similar presences.
The Altimeter report doesn’t fully address the community aspect I mention above, but it does talk about simplifying, by suggesting businesses audit their current social media accounts and only keep those they are capable of supporting. They also recommend establishing business goals for social media – aligning your social media accounts to these goals will help determine which to keep and which to get rid of. This is something not enough companies are focusing at the moment. I know this will be a big focus for many in 2012. As Altimeter Group says, “the party’s over”.
Social Media Management System (SMMS) Tools

The Altimeter Group report covers this well. In the report, they suggest companies do an internal audit and determine what areas they fall short, and categorize themselves into a series of needs: Intense customer response, social broadcasting, platform campaign marketing, distributed brand presence, and tailored service and support. Identifying how your company fits into these categories can help you pick a vendor that fits your needs – the Altimeter Group report covers which Vendors fit into which categories.
As also mentioned in the report, establishing a proper workflow for your messaging is also vital. This has been one of my big frustrations – while there are solutions that fix this problem, finding one that can fully integrate with internal authorization systems is a difficult process. Individuals in the organization should only have access to your social media accounts that they need – if they only need moderation access, they should only be able to moderate. If they only need to be able to respond on behalf of the company, that should be the only thing they can do. There is big risk right now out there as companies are fragmented in their social media efforts. I fear if this continues someone could easily create a worm or virus that compromises and targets accounts of those that manage large corporate presences, and posts on their behalf. Proper permissions and access control through SMMS tools will fix this.
Yet, I’m still seeing the need for more customized integrations and better ways to integrate with internal systems.
There is Still Plenty of Opportunity

Altimeter Group suggests there are about 30 or so SMMS vendors in the field at the time. As I personally interview these I’m still seeing plenty of opportunity for better integration. For instance, as companies such as Microsoft get in the game you’ll see more integrated systems into Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM tool and other systems. Facebook itself is rumored to be improving its Pages product, as well as providing domain-specific groups for better communication within the organization. Better authentication and authorization integration and standards are still needed among the various vendors. More platform integration opportunities, and capabilities for developers to build tools on top of SMMS platforms, in a similar manner to what SalesForce has done, will need to be developed. At the same time there is a huge opportunity to simplify and make barrier to entry with these tools even easier, and education amongst the workforce an easier thing to do.
I’m embedding Altimeter Group’s report below. I suggest, whether you’re a small or large business Social Media Strategist, that you take a look at it, and evaluate where your business stands. Where do you have to improve within your own organization?
A Strategy for Managing Social Media Proliferation [slideshare id=10806343?rel=0&w=477&h=510&sc=no]

View more documents from Jeremiah Owyang

Disclosure: I am currently a Social Media Strategist for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The opinions mentioned in this document do not reflect the opinions or doctrine of the organization I work for.

Top 10 Rides of Disneyland 2011 (Stay N Abroad)

Disneyland (and Disney California Adventure) cannot be experienced in a single day. The industry standard is at least 3 days, 3 long days. Between rides, shows, parades, and shopping, it is hard to know where to begin and what to skip when time starts running short. Choosing a top 10 list was almost impossible. After three fun-filled but long days at Disneyland and Disney California Adventures, I had each member of our family name their favorite two rides (with no repeats). Here is our list of the best of the best: