With more than 1,600 in attendance at the Boston Enterprise 2.0 conference, execs heard from the top intellects driving Enterprise 2.0 and Social Business strategy yesterday. Here's a look at four of the industry’s thought leaders and their messages from Boston.

Frame Metrics in a Way that’s Relevant

In rapid-fire style, John Hagel III kicked off a 15-minute keynote address that boasted the importance of measurable metrics in social software. Hagel, the co-author of The Power of Pull and co-chairman at the Center for the Edge for Deloitte & Touche, talked about performance, passion and creating new connections.

So, does social software really matter, Hagel queried? “The way it’s framed,” he says, "defines the magnitude of the impact and the pace of the adoption of which social software is received in the enterprise.”

The metrics that matter depend on the users’ role within the enterprise. The enterprise’s goal should be to find a way to frame the metrics in way that matters at each level of the organization, which will, in turn, determine where to deploy the social software.

Hagel also discussed the notion of how to deploy, indicating the ones that are the most successful follow a common pathway. He suggests beginning with a specific problem or barrier in the workplace that is relevant to the job that needs improvement. Once the solutions formulate, build forward based on those reputations and draw people toward the problem solver. Relationships start to form in a significant way and people come together around a more sustained collaboration, which provide workspaces and platforms that work for their constituent group.

However, the race to stay ahead will soon fail if the proper steps aren’t taken. Executives are feeling as if they’re sprinting to keep up with the pace. He says, however, that executives are more likely falling behind, which is why catalyzing a passion within employees is necessary to gain a performance improvement at a sustainable rate.

Examine Social Insights

Mike Rhodin, Senior Vice President for IBM Software Solutions Group, discussed the notion of collecting insight from the collected data. So why does social software matter to the enterprise right now? Rhodin says it’s because social networks should be a means to build brand advocacy. 

Rhodin compared the social media craze to the initial Internet boom. He encourages the enterprise to be proactive rather than reactive. “Now we are starting to think about how social businesses are going to evolve by infusing intelligence by the way people interact in the companies,” said Rhodin. “The enterprise should start to detect the will of the crowds and find intelligence to make better decision-making. Use social networks to build social advocacy in a way that is more of a conversation, more than a lecture, and they will become the people that do your advertising for you.”

Although several challenges are emerging, the problems don’t outweigh the opportunities, he believes. The knowledge within the business is cultivated from an everlasting medium that hosts an employee’s ideas through social software, even if the employee walks away. 

“As we think about the evolving platform itself, we have to think about how this platform is going to fundamentally change business processes,” said Rhodin. Internal processes must change to adapt to the evolving platform, which should contain a social media platform, a content management system that understands the rules of business and an analytic system to understand how changes will occur.           

Change Your Hierarchy to Match Your Approach

Jim Grubb, the VP of Corporate Communications Architecture and Chief Demonstration Officer of Cisco Systems, discussed how a virtual, non-linear structure in the enterprise can effectively manage employees and empower employees to perform at a higher level. Cisco has been striving to eliminate the barriers in both time and space, but Grubb says it hasn’t happened without challenges. The enterprise must encourage and set up rewards, or the virtual processes won’t be successful. 

Through Cisco’s new integrated hierarchy, the system has fostered a stronger accountability for its employees and its products. In the enterprise, a team comes together to work on a problem in a virtual fashion. When needed, the enterprise can bring together the right group of people to focus on a specific problem.

Importantly, however, companies should be looking for means to document the intellectual property they are gaining through these social platforms.

“The real-time components of collaboration are just as important as the asynchronous components,” said Grubb. “Companies should capture the virtual intellectual capital, and regenerate it to be shared asynchronously.” 

Create a Platform for Creative Genius

Christian Finn, Director of SharePoint Product Management for Microsoft, talked about how the power of an open idea forum can lead to more enthusiastically engaged employees. The idea platform increased innovation, agility and competitive advantage within Microsoft and could do the same for many enterprises.

Finn attributed the scalable process of ideation to effective thoughtful leadership, proper process management and a change in culture. He believes that ThinkWeek is successful because of the right software and the notion of crowdsourcing.

During Microsoft’s ThinkWeek, more than 400 authors and 200 papers are generated for review. Authors from 13 countries submitted ideas, and more than 3,000 participants are active in the ThinkWeek process. In result, they created an advisor process and an application process to help maintain the rigor of debate from the most influential people in the business. The arena provides a platform for employees to be heard and inspired to change the world or influence the company. 

ThinkWeek creates a sense of reach and value, which is applicable to any enterprise system, large or small:

  • Generates more and better ideas
o   More and better perspectives critiquing those ideas
  • Fosters an arena for professional development and networking
o   Helps articulate thought
o   Connects employees with like-mind colleagues
  • Identifies people and insights
o   Through the social platform, creates an avenue to be seen
o   Visualizes common trends
o   Articulates important data
  • Creates a treasure trove of thoughts and thinkers
o   Identifies the idea generators with certain types of thinking
o   Archives a backlog of past ideas for future development
  • Examples of Business value
o   Ideas such as the Connector Bus transpired from ThinkWeek
o   Generates employee satisfaction and productivity during commute