The Five Horsemen and you

A rambling post of thoughts for you.

For a few years there has been talk of the “five horsemen” of tech – Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. The opinion of having Microsoft included has varied over time the final number doesn’t matter, these five organisations are massive – in terms of impact, revenue, employees and valuation.

In fact they are the largest in the US stock market! What a change. In 1996 (20 years ago) the five largest companies were – General Motors, Ford Motor, Exxon Mobile, Wal-Mart Stores and AT&T. Even ten years ago the list had not changed a lot – Exxon Mobile, Wal-Mart Stores, General Motors, Chevron Corporation and Ford Motor. Today the top spots are filled with technology based companies.

(It is not just US companies – Alibaab is a valuation of $210b with approximately $16b in cash.)

Today I was listening to TWIT’s episode “Headless Body in Topless Bar” where the discussion continued and what struck me was the impact these five companies are (and will in the next decade) have on our lives and the workplace.

The impact is and will be profound  – they are all shaping today’s workforce and tomorrow’s. Be it through smartphones, collaboration, social media, retail, search, machine learning, logistics and artificial intelligence. Yes Microsoft might be replaced by a Telsa/SolarCity (or another) but the fact still remains technology and the companies that create it are defining the modern era.

Some initial thoughts – What is the impact of these technologies on your workplace? Are you embracing them?

It must of been the recent earnings announcements from many of the five, as Jason Calacanis today published an interesting piece on what the five could be also doing on the M&A front. As he states it is pure speculation based on a tweet, but the results are interesting.

Jason talks about how poker players act differently depending on the size of their stack. When you have a lot of money the game you play is very different to when you don’t. Just look at the “stack size” of the “five horseman” and then their M&A activity compared to some “traditional” companies:

Tech companies that are wildly deep-stacked right now:

1. Apple $200b+ in cash/equivalents, $593B valuation
2. Google $75b+ in cash/equivalents, $551B valuation
3. Amazon $16b+ in cash/equivalents, $366B valuation
4. Facebook $23b+ in cash/equivalents, $362B valuation
5. Microsoft $105b+ in cash/equivalents, $457B valuation
6. Cisco $60b+ in cash/equivalents, $157B valuation

Those six companies have $470b+ in cash/equivalents and $2.5t in market cap.

Zuckerberg has been the master of acquisitions in the past couple of years, having the audacity to pay $22b for WhatsApp and $2b for a *pre-customer* Oculus. Think about that for a moment. Zuck paid $2b for a company without a market, and that may take a decade to have 100m users — if that ever happens!

And look what just happened. Unilever, GM and Walmart just sat down at the big game and shot the locks off their wallets:

1. Unilever bought Dollar Shave Club for $1b
2. GM bought Cruise for a rumored $1b+
3. Walmart is buying Jet.com for $3b
4. Verizon is buying Yahoo for $4.83b

Jason goes on to review a few companies who are the most desirable to deep staked players aka “five horseman” and some companies “wanting” to sell.

Interesting in both lists are two enterprise software vendors – Slack (desirable), and Zenefits (“wanting” to be sold).

Finally have a think about your workforce. Is your talent pool deep-stacked? Can you use that talent to out maneuver your competition? Can you make bets like Facebook’s $22b for WhatsApp or are your stuck with buying Jet.com for $3b?

Big Data and Management

Over the last couple of weeks I have been very interested in the growth of Big Data. A few years ago Big Data was primarily found in academic and marketing writing, ie not in the main stream. This has changed with many commentators now discussing the merits that this new frontier has to offer.

For those not up to date what is Big Data?:

big data is a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data processing applications. The challenges include capture, curation, storage, search, sharing, analysis, and visualization.

In other words think the Human Genome program or where I have seen more mainstream commentary, analyzing the status updates from services such as Twitter or Facebook. There are lots of reasons why Big Data is important and understanding how to use it and leverage it will become critical for business success. The biggest issue we face that Big Data will help solve is the vast amount of data points we are generating through social networks, trends such as cloud computing and The Internet of Things.

While much of the discussion around Big Data is consumer based there have been a number of notable discussions about the use of Big Data inside the enterprise and unsurprisingly these discussions include the impact of Big Data on HR and how we can now tie employee data to other large datasets for predictive modelling and recruitment.

In her paper from April 2010, Privacy and Publicity in the Context of Big Data, danah boyd raises a number of pertinent points that I think deserve more thought an discussion in terms of their impact on business.

danah’s key points:

  1. Bigger Data are Not Always Better Data
  2. Not All Data are Created Equal
  3. What and Why are Different Questions
  4. Be Careful of Your Interpretations
  5. Just Because It is Accessible Doesn’t Mean Using It is Ethical

Each on of the above points have tremendous influence on how successful Big Data will be when used inside an organisation but I want to touch on two of her points that struck a chord with me. (However I would strongly suggest you go read her whole paper.)

danah’s first point of Bigger Data are Not Always Better Data, “Big Data is exciting, but quality matters more than quantity.  And to know the quality, you must know the limits of your data.” At a basic level just because you can review all of the tweets and connections of your employees or candidates does not mean you have all of the information about these people as they might have different accounts under different pseudonyms some might be protected others not. Just because you have access to millions of datapoints does not mean you have the right data points.

danah’s final point is the one that deserves the most thought. Just because data is accessible doesn’t mean that using it is ethical. Just because a candidate or an employee tweets or puts a status update on Facebook should we really use that data in our analysis? To quote danah:

To get here, we’ve perverted “public” to mean “accessible by anyone under any conditions at any time and for any purpose.”  We’ve stripped content out of context, labeled it data, and justified our actions by the fact that we had access to it in the first place.  Alarm bells should be ringing because the cavalier attitudes around accessibility and Big Data raise serious ethical issues.  What’s at stake is not whether or not something is possible, but what the unintended consequences of doing something are.

From here danah goes on to look at the concept of privacy and its many facets when it comes to information that has been placed in a public space. Recent case in point, Mark Zuckerberg’s sister and her Christmas photo. danah concludes that our obsession with Big Data has the ability to destabilise and change our social norms, I would say it already is, but this does not mean we need to remove the concept of privacy altogether.

Big Data is made of people. People producing data in a context.  People producing data for a purpose.  Just because it’s technically possible to do all sorts of things with that data doesn’t mean that it won’t have consequences for the people it’s made of.

There are great opportunities ahead for HR with adoption of “new” technologies such as Big Data and Cloud Computing however as we move towards this new world we need to be careful not to destabilise our workforce to a point where they disengage or worse still create a world that makes Orwell’s 1984 look like a kindergarten picnic.

What is next…

I have been pondering the future.

What is next? Do you know? If so please do tell.

A number of years ago I pondered what was next from blogging and podcasting, neither of these forms have really survived in the way the were circa 2005/2006. Let alone what happened to MySpace, Friendster, Orkut…

Let’s look at the user base of popular social networking sites in 2005 .(Of note the term social media was not really in our vocabulary then. In fact social media was called “new media” we knew it was new but just what was it?)

MySpace 26.7 Million
Facebook 11.1 Million
Xanga.com 7.9 Million
Bebo.com 1.5 Million
Friendster 1.5 Million
Tribe Networks 515K
LinkedIn 354K
Orkut.com 83K

So not many of the sites in the above list really play a part in Social Media 2011, so where does this leave us?

I have no idea. Yet.

Well personally I want to find the 2005/2006 version of Twitter/Facebook in 2011/2012 and see what it will do to society in five years time.

Mobile Recruiting

At the upcoming ATC Social Media conference (early bird prices until 30 September) I will be talking briefly about mobile recruiting. A topic I know is a little strange to some people, but I think effective use of mobile technology is going to become a critical part of a recruiters toolkit. Let’s face it mobile technology is not something you can ignore, as of December 2009 there were over 4.5 billion active mobile subscribers globally!

I am going to look beyond SMS, Bluetooth and email on smart phones, while they have a critical place in your mobile strategy there are other things to consider.

For example, while a traditional computer is replaced on average every 3.5 years mobile devices are averaging a replacement cycle of 18 months! This means just because something did not work last year doesn’t mean it won’t work this year!

Other topics I will look at include location based services, there is more to it than FourSquare or Facebook Places, areas like sales force automation and the impact of cloud computing on mobiles.

I am also trying to think of a good demonstration for the session so if you have any ideas, leave me a comment.

Who owns your employer brand?

BPLast week while I was at ATC Sydney there was lots and lots of talk about employer brands and who really controls them in today’s social media world. For example Steve Fogarty, Recruiting Captain, from adidas in North America covered the topic highlighting that recruiters need to think more like marketers to attract top talent, not to mention that everything that happens online create meta-data about your brand. Kevin Wheeler touched on the topic during his closing keynote saying the personal brands are taking over from corporate brands.

So what does this mean?

Like consumer brands your employer brand is not longer “owned” by you the employer, candidates, employees, ex-employees, analysts, everyone can now shape how your brand is viewed by the world. From a consumer perspective just look at the fake BP Public Relations Twitter account, who has many thousands more followers than the real BP PR team, and their comedic look at what is shaping up to the worlds largest environmental disaster. Every tweet has a hashtag #bpcares creating a creative and funny stream of tweets however I doubt the BP PR team is very happy.

About 3 weeks ago Facebook released a new feature, Community Pages (read the official blog post) where they are aggregating Wikipedia content, along with user generated post from across the web to create a “profile” of brands, places, organisation etc. The difference between these pages and corporate sponsored pages is that right now no one controls the content on the Community Page! Now Facebook has said they are looking for passionate people to help curate the pages content. But for now your brand is at the mercy of automated collection of content. To make matters worse Facebook profile pages have been changed and now there are links attached to employers, likes and interests, favorite books, music and movies!

You do not own what Facebook is displaying on these new Community Pages, and you may never own the content.

Still think you own your employer brand?

10 things to do in 2010

While we are still in the first few weeks of the new year I through it would be good to look at come of the things you should focus on during 2010 to.

In no particular order here is my list of 10 things to do in 2010:

  1. Have an HR/Talent Management/Recruiting application blueprint
  2. The IT environment in many organisations is complex and needs constant management, even in the smallest of organisations. To help with managing the complexity ensure you have a strategy/roadmap/blueprint to follow.

  3. Learn about Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  4. It seems finally organisations are starting to take note of the value that can be achieved from a decent career’s web site. While content and design are critical understanding a bit about SEO can help your jobs appear in the elusive number 1 spot of search results. Even if you do not have a career’s web site having your personal brand appear in search results can be a great thing.

  5. Implement a workforce planning program, with a foundation around competencies
  6. The recent CedarCrestone HR Technology survey found that organisations who were using workforce planning and competency management tools had significantly higher sales growth than those that did not. While they say they are not suggesting causality but over the last few years there has been stronger linkage between sales growth and these areas.

  7. Think beyond Facebook and Twitter when looking at social media
  8. With so much talk about Facebook and Twitter I feel people have forgotten that social media is more than just these two sites. Remember social media is about user generated content, including blogs, images, video, audio, ratings, reviews etc.

  9. Focus on high quality hires, never settle for less
  10. This should always be the best line of your hiring decisions. Period.

  11. Ensure your HR/Recruiting function is metrics driven
  12. Related to workforce planning is being metrics driven and I am not talking just about lists of headcount either. Gaining a deep understanding of your business and it’s drivers is critical to success. Do you know the best performing source of talent? What about the performance of your succession plans? But do not create an environment where you have an over reliance on benchmark based data as this basically turns the measures in to commodities by assuming what works for one organisation will work for yours.

  13. Don’t be afraid to experiment
  14. This one is for the Australian’s out there, experiment and fail!! As a population we tend to be afraid of failure. Do not be afraid. Organisations that experiment and fail regularly then to succeed.

  15. Learn about Web Squared
  16. You might be asking web what? Web Squared is the next evolution of the whole Web 2.0 idea. Web Squared builds on the idea that everything and everyone in the world cast “information shadows” or data. This data when leveraged provides extraordinary opportunities to organisations.

  17. Begin to think how you can bring real time into your operations
  18. The first part of web squared that you can bring into your organisation today is leveraging real time data. Look at real time data as key signals that form part of your business processes.

  19. Never ever forget about change management
  20. One of the biggest reasons for projects, of any sort, to fail is a lack of acceptance in the final outcomes being sort by the project. This can be alleviated through an effective change management program.

Unique job seeking method

I was forwarded an interesting Facebook event invitation today, someone seeking a job!

Paul Wants to be an Engineer

Here is the deal, our hero today is Paul a recent uni graduate in Engineering majoring in Robotics and Mechatronics and minoring in Mechanical Design Engineering with 18 months professional experience. Paul is having issues getting a job, so he put a call out to his Facebook friends to see who might be able to help him get a job. I like the idea.

I have posted his text below, but also see the Paul wants to be an Engineer!!! event on Facebook:

Hi there Facebook friends!

So, here’s the story;

I have just graduated from university with a Bachelors Degree in Engineering majoring in Robotics and Mechatronics and minoring in Mechanical Design Engineering. Along with this, I earned Class 2 Div A (Distinction) Honours.
I have also had over 18 months professional engineering experience with 14 months of that being employed at Bosch Australia.

The only problem is that I am finding it EXTREMELY difficult to find a job in this current global financial climate.

As you are all aware, in any industry it’s all about WHO you know and not WHAT you know.
So, I’m appealing to you to see if ANYONE has any contacts in the engineering world that could help me in getting my engineering career started!

I’m not too fussy with what position I’m looking for but I would prefer it to be in a capital city with a medium to large sized company with good career prospects in the automation/robotics/mechanical/engineering consultation areas.

There will also be prizes for the person who helps me land my first job 🙂

I have cover letters and resumes available upon demand.

Thanks heaps guys, any help will be greatly appreciated!

Paul.

Oh and if you happen to know someone looking for a graduate engineer you might want to drop him a line.

Some unrelated thoughts

The famous Web 2.0 Summit wrapped up late last week with lots and lots of product announcements and more news stories than I could ever hope to digest. (Not helped by the fact that I have been sick for about 4 days now.)

Anyway here are a few summary items:

“Many people use it for professional purposes — keeping connected with industry contacts and following news,” said Evan Williams, Twitter’s co-founder and chief executive. “Because it’s a one-to-many network and most of the content is public, it works for this better than a social network that’s optimized for friend communication.”


Yes all of these announcements and trends are great except the most interesting thing for me happened before the conference even started.

Web Squared.

With both Read Write Web and ZD Net providing some good coverage. Basically Web Squared is about the intersection of social web technologies with the emerging trend of real world objects connected to the Internet in some fashion, aka Internet of Things and with “Shadow Information“.

To quote Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle:

Collective intelligence applications are no longer being driven solely by humans typing on keyboards but, increasingly, by sensors. Our phones and cameras are being turned into eyes and ears for applications; motion and location sensors tell where we are, what we’re looking at, and how fast we’re moving. Data is being collected, presented, and acted upon in real time. The scale of participation has increased by orders of magnitude.

So to pull this rambling post to an end I ask this simple question.

Given corporations missed Web 2.0, will they miss Web Squared (or what ever it is called)?

I suspect there will be more on this topic.

54 Percent of Companies Have Bad Management

These types of articles really really get me going.

54% of Companies Ban …

I’m sorry but I am not surprised that 77% of employees who had access to Facebook used it during the work day! Ok how many logged onto personal email accounts, made a personal phone call, used their personal mobile phone, had some non-work related discussion in the kitchen while getting a coffee.

Given that 63% of Australian employees are not full engaged at work it is not surprising that they are looking for a distraction. Close down Facebook, Twitter, MySpace whatever you will not see an increase in productivity.

We know from academic research that companies that engage their workforce perform better. Research from Alex Edmans, a business professor from Whartons School, has shown that engaged employees do in fact drive company performance. He looked at Fortune magazine’s list of “100 Best Companies to Work for in America”and found that an annually rebalanced portfolio returned 14% between 1998 – 2005 compared to the market in general of only 6%.

So let’s ignore the research found that employees who “surf the Internet at work” are 9% more productive than those that don’t. Or the productivity benefits of engaged employees? Or the real life statements from employees of Australia’s largest employers.

If your employees are spending too much time using social media I would question do you have a management problem or a technical problem?