Welcome to an on-going series of interviews with the people behind the technologies in Social Business. The interviews provide insightful points of view from a customer, industry, and vendor perspective. A full list of interviewees can be found here.
Daniel Debow, Co-CEO, Rypple Software
Daniel is co-founder and co-CEO of Rypple, a social performance management platform that helps Facebook, Gilt Groupe, and other innovative companies recognize great work, run fast, efficient feedback loops, and coach employees to achieve their goals. A sought after speaker on how social media is changing the workplace, Daniel is a regular contributor to Fortune.com and the Huffington Post. He’s been widely quoted in Wired, the Financial Times, the Economist and Bloomberg Businessweek. He holds a JD/MBA from the University of Toronto and an LLM in Law, Science and Technology from Stanford University.
1. Tell me in 2 minutes or less why Social Computing is changing the world for your customers.
Daniel Debow (DB): Ray, Social Performance Management (what we do) is changing the world for our customers because it takes a dreaded and ineffective process—the performance review—and makes it relevant again.
Over the last decade, the review process has become disconnected from real business performance. By delivering key feedback and information in real-time, rather than in six-month batches, we are helping managers and their teams work more effectively, efficiently, and collaboratively. At the end of the day, this is the core promise of any type of business software: improved business results.
More generally, social computing is effective because in many cases, it is more efficient. While it may seem like an oversimplification, large corporations have succeeded by standardizing the delivery of products and services as they scale. These large-scale standardizations of “process” work incredibly well when it comes to managing supply chains or product pipelines. But when it comes to the management of people, standardization of process has translated into enterprise applications that suck. They remove the “human” from the workplace, and are major contributors to the alienation of people from their work.
In order to get people to the next level, we have to bring the “human” back into the work place. A huge amount of value-creating work gets done outside standard process—through social interaction. Today’s enterprise applications don’t model the corporation this way. But social computing does.
Social computing is about taking the metaphor, modelling the reality, and moving faster. It recognizes that when it comes to people, companies are not simply processes moving mechanistically. Instead, the social computing metaphor reflects more accurately what companies actually are: groups of people talking—and coordinating—with each other to deliver productive goods and services in a highly non-standard world. By recognizing this more accurate representation of the corporation, social computing has the potential to make companies more efficient by optimizing the faster, more natural flow of information between people.
In our case, we’ve found that the interactions related to human performance and getting the most out of people are absolutely social. They involve helping people talk to each other in a more collaborative and real-time way: How do we recognize people in real-time? How do we help managers and teams collaborate on people performance. How do we recognize and account for the reality that managers aren’t omniscient about team performance? How do we get one-on-one’s with the boss to be high impact and frequent? How do we create agile goals that reflect changing business reality rather than reality as it existed six months ago? The answer is social computing, which views a company not as a static org chart and a number of interconnected process flows—but rather as a social network with ad-hoc and ever changing relationships and interactions.
This is the essence of social computing.
2. What makes social computing disruptive?
DB: As with all disruptive technologies it meets three key criteria:
- It attacks a problem in an orthogonal way. Almost all social technology appears at first to be a toy. Customers don’t asking for them, yet they spread into companies like wild fire. Users say, “I’d never do this in the enterprise.”
- It breaks the price-performance curve on a different scale. In many cases, Rypple included, we make it cheaper to deploy than existing technology.
- It appears as an incomplete solution from the perspective of incumbents. Incumbents will state you don’t have the 1000 features they have.
The telegraph, the phone, and email all changed the number of nodes of communication and improved the flow of information between people. Social technologies take communication to the next level. This isn’t just a technological shift; it’s a societal one. We are taking the same metaphors of openness and transparency that have been used to describe the web and applying them to organizations.
When you value results above internal politics and velocity over caution, you create a more innovative, less hierarchical—and ultimately disruptive—organization.
3. What is the next big thing in Social Business software?
DB: Recently I was on a panel on the future of the workforce, where I talked about two huge developments on the horizon. The first is the shift from an economy of companies to an economy of individuals, as everyone’s reputation and personal brand moves to the cloud. It will be interesting to see what this means for consumer brands like Nike and Pepsi, and how people interact with them.
The second big shift is the ability of social media to create more meritocratic systems for rating true influence and power within organizations. Cloud-based social applications are asking people to rate one another and provide opinions based on far more objective data than the vague subjective impressions that often determine influence.
As that data migrates to the cloud and becomes portable, it will have profound changes on the labor market. It will transform how we look for talent, where the power resides, and potentially the very nature of the corporation.
As reputation becomes a more objective measure, it will force companies to become more fluid in their hiring practices and their operations.
4. What are you doing that’s disruptive for Social Computing?
DB: Rypple is trying to live by the values we’ve been talking about—the values that our service provides to customers: transparency and visibility. We sell and market the product in a disrupitve way. You can try our product for free and decide on your own whether it has value. Our approach to marketing is to be as human and authentic as we can. We are helpful to people instead of being shills. Without faking, we want you to buy our product. We work hard to pull in all the key data people need to complete their jobs.
Just as important, we want to make the way people communicate at work more seamless and efficient—to surface all the data currently living in CRM, support, and product development and bring it into people’s daily work flow. This will lead to improved communication, collaboration, and ultimately business performance.
We are reinventing the way people manage their performance at work. The world has changed in the past 50 years,taking advantage of new technologies to bring a more efficient, just-in-time philosophy to so many parts of the organization. Yet performance management remains the same. For the most part, it is conducted on pieces of paper—forms that may or may not have been automated for the desktop. We want to help companies deliver that feedback immediately, when it can impact performance, rather than six months from now, when it’s too late. And we are changing the paradigm to consider how to make this process more social, more natural, and more relevant to business leaders, HR professionals, managers, and individual employees.
We don’t pretend to be creating Utopia. Organizations still need to implement and follow the best practices of engaging, coaching, and motivating their employees. We’ve just made that process far more efficient, intuitive, and fun.
You’ll see more announcements in the next few months.
5. Where do you see technology convergence with Social?
DB: Today, we have many outside repositories such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter that work in concert with inside repositories. You no longer have to own the platform to create value. In our case, we’ll follow the Zynga strategy. Find the platform people are using to interact at work—and build on top of it where there’s value.
We expect to move further in that direction with the information and knowledge contained in workforce process flows, such as support tickets and supply chain management. Beyond a simple automation of existing processes, we see a real opportunity to incorporate these sources of information into performance.
6. If you weren’t focused on Social Computing what other disruptive technology would you have pursued?
DB: Personally, it’d be music. I’m passionate about music. Can we find a way for students to learn faster, better, and share? We need new learning mechanisms to help people accomplish this. Can we create the right feedback loops? Part of what makes social software better is that it makes social feedback loops more effective.
Transparent decision making ties back to learning. Take how John Boyd changed the effectiveness of fighter jets and military strategy through decision loops. The team with the fastest decision making loops wins.
7. What’s your favorite science fiction gadget of all time?
DB: If I had to pick one gadget, it would be the time machine. The classic HG Wells type. I’ll need one that works and I’d just want to ensure I could get back to our time.
What do you think? Got a question for Daniel? Add your comments to the blog or reach me via email: R (at) ConstellationRG (dot) com or R (at) SoftwareInsider (dot) com.
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