Carol Rozwell

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Carol Rozwell
VP Distinguished Analyst
11 years at Gartner
21 years IT industry

Carol Rozwell is a vice president and distinguished analyst on Gartner's Content, Collaboration and Social team. Ms. Rozwell explores strategies that support the digital workplace. She is researching social networks, social analytics and socially centered leadership.Read Full Bio

Don’t Make Sweet Potatoes If No One Likes Them

by Carol Rozwell  |  January 7, 2015  |  1 Comment

Like many of you, I spent some very enjoyable time during the holidays getting together with family and friends. Also like many of you, our tradition is to distribute the effort of cooking by asking everyone to bring something for the meal.

This year my assignment was to bring sweet potatoes. No offense to sweet potatoes with marshmallows fans, but my family much prefers savory dishes to sweet so I was at a loss as to how to prepare them. Usually we just bake them, split them open when done and add butter. This didn’t seem fancy enough for a party. I looked through a few recipes. Nothing excited my imagination so I called the planning ringleader and asked if she had any ideas of what to prepare.

A few days later she came back to me and suggested I bring something else. She’d checked with the family and most admitted they really didn’t like sweet potatoes so no point in making them.

I’ve been reminded of the wisdom of this approach – don’t do what people won’t value – as I’ve been researching successful Digital Workplace implementations. We seem to be crossing over into a new approach to technology deployment. This one is focused on giving employees what they want: the opportunity to be more effective. Previous generations of ‘technology for technology’s sake’ deployments got quagmired. They seldom reached critical mass because the value to the target audience was not readily apparent. Oftentimes there were other critical success factors that were overlooked – things like behavior change and the impact of social network influencers on uptake – but in so many cases the technology only improved a peripheral part of the employee’s job. It didn’t help them do a better job of the work they felt was most important, the work that gave them the most satisfaction when they could do it well.

Numerous studies point to the positive impact engaged employees have on corporate performance, as well as the negative impact of disengaged employees. Many well-known writers cite the importance of giving employees valuable work that they can be proud of. Our Gartner brain model research also delves into this issue. Therefore, it’s critical that you understand what employees like and want before you develop your Digital Workplace plan.

If you need help doing that, join us in Orlando May 18-20 for the Digital Workplace Summit. 

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Where has all the Social gone?

by Carol Rozwell  |  August 7, 2014  |  2 Comments

Do you wonder where all the interest in social went? Once the hottest trend since sliced bread, interest in social definitely dissipated. Based on my client conversations and research, I surmise that because enterprise social networking tools could be used for so many purposes, their value seemed nebulous and elusive.


Advocates of social initiatives who wanted to ‘open up’ their organizations to a new style of working had trouble convincing the decision makers who held the purse strings that such investments would prove valuable. Senior managers got hung up on asking for ROI or specifics on what savings they would realize if something that could be counted like phone calls, emails, or meetings were reduced.

This line of questioning misses two key points about social:

  • Social is a style of working, not the endgame
  • You can’t ROI the future

First, let’s look at social as a style of working. Workers don’t ‘hang out’ in enterprise social networks because they have nothing better to do. They use the tools if they see an improvement in how they get their work done. All of the successful social initiatives we studied were developed for very specific, compelling purposes and make it easier for people to have the interactions necessary to complete their work better, faster, more easily, with less effort and the like. All of the ‘it’s social so people will use it’ initiatives deployed with no specific purpose in mind became ghost towns or dating sites.

Second, trying to do ROI calculations on social initiatives is generally a waste of time. Yes, we need to be fiscally responsible and try to determine the business outcome or value from our investments. But the reality is that you can’t ROI the future. By definition, if you are trying something that’s never been done before, you have no baseline to use for measuring ROI. And that’s the point. You should be trying something new and different when what you are doing now needs more than an incremental tweak – it needs a radical do over (or at least a do over). The experiment – because that’s what it is – should be carefully planned and executed so that even if the results are less fruitful than you hoped, you can salvage the learnings to improve the odds of being more successful next time. This is what people in the innovation business call ‘the freedom to fail.’

Enterprise social networking sites design to serve specific purposes like:

  • improve knowledge reuse among call center workers so more calls get resolve with the first customer interaction, or
  • speed up the sale reps’ ability to get an RFP response to a prospect so they can close more deals

help people get their work done. No engaged employee has the time or desire to waste time on social systems that are pointless distractions. Unfortunately, few organizations realize exactly how much work employees carry out where interaction with colleagues is not just desirable, it is critical to completing the work. This has to change. Otherwise, we’ll build digital workplaces that are just as ineffectual as the social media initiatives that preceded them.

Good luck. And call us if you need help.


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Thanks for all the fish but I’m still hungry and I didn’t learn anything

by Carol Rozwell  |  July 29, 2014  |  1 Comment

I’m constantly amazed at how enamored people are with numbers. Every time I give a presentation, I see people scribble down statistics about anything even if the validity or actionability of the number is questionable. I’m not arguing against the use of data for informed decision making, I’m just amused at how people glom onto statistics for their own sake. (If you want to explore the lure of statistics further, I’d recommend reading Charles Wheelan’s book Naked Statistics.)


There’s another kind of number that is bothersome – those metrics that organizations often collect about performance. Most often they are the ‘easy to collect’ types of numbers that really don’t tell us much. They can report activity but don’t contain much insight on what the activity means. Say, for example, that you have a community of practice with 100 members. Is that better than a community with only 10 members? We can’t really tell unless we explore how well the community is servicing its members. If the 10-person CoP is giving the membership what they want, then the value of the community can’t really be measured just by looking a headcount.

Where activity measures do come in handy is for determining progress. So let’s say our goal is to create a new CoP for software engineers so they can share best practices. As we market the new community to engineers, tracking which activities let to the greatest increase in membership will help us understand which approaches work best. In this case, tracking the percentage growth in membership over time is useful as is watching for a drop off in membership which could indicate waning interest or relevance of the community.

What I’m really anxious to see, though, are numbers that help me improve my work performance. I’m hoping that before long there will be a digital workplace Fitbit that will give me analytics that I can use to make meaningful adjustments to how I work. It’s not hard to imagine an app that would give me feedback on things like the time of day when I’m most productive. In fact, there are companies that provide this type of measurement analysis today. But going further, it would be so nice to be able to track the progress I’m making in pattern recognition of key trends, my success in collaborating with colleagues, my improvement in communication and presentation skills.

The numbers that will be most useful are those that help me understand why something happened the way it did and what to do differently to change it. Instead of a flat number – “your research report received this score from readers” – personal analytics that are actionable will tell me what readers liked about it that made them give it a high score and what they would like to see improved.

Those are the numbers I can appreciate!

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Carrying “Customer Care” a Little Too Far

by Carol Rozwell  |  July 16, 2014  |  Submit a Comment

The Comcast brouhaha that made today’s news struck a chord. I’m all for taking customer care seriously. One of my jobs in a previous life was as a customer service manager. It helped me understand simple ways to truly improve the customer experience. So it’s difficult for me to watch as many organizations put processes in place that give the appearance of caring about customers but that are poorly designed or badly executed, or both. These actions scream a message that says “we only care how you feel if you remain a customer and continue to pay us money.” There is little doubt that money is the issue and any significant customer dissatisfaction issues will be ignored.

Here are a few examples of practices that appear to be customer oriented but really aren’t:

  • The company that makes offers to attract new customers that they do not allow existing customers to take advantage of, but then makes those same offers to ex-customers – but only after they cancel their subscription.
  • The company that ignores customer complaints, but then calls the customer to tell them how much they “value their business” when the contract is up for renewal.
  • The company that, in an effort to stay in touch with customer sentiment, makes contact via multiple channels but not in an integrated way i.e. company agent calls and talks with the customer but the customer still gets pinged via email by someone who is not aware the phone call took place.
  • The customer satisfaction survey sent out to every single customer for every single interaction regardless of how trivial it was.
  • The greeter in the store who can’t answer even one of your questions.

So what to do? The simple summary advice is to look at customer feedback as a way to not only improve existing processes, but to solicit ideas on what will become key differentiators. This means that responsible people need to collect and act on what they learn. Rather than being a source of irritation, negative feedback presents and opportunity. While this sounds like a cliché, it is in fact a proven innovation technique. The contention is that “lead users’ or “extreme customers” are already adapting products in ways that will eventually become mainstream. The faster an organization can pick up on these “long tail” customers, the easier it will be for them to remain competitive.

There is little disagreement that social media and the ubiquity of information potential buyers have at their disposal make it difficult for any organization to convert customer touch points into exceptional branded moments that drive loyalty and advocacy. But this is what every organization needs to do. And this is not just the responsibility of the customer service organization, it’s everybody’s job.

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Starting Culture Change

by Carol Rozwell  |  June 12, 2014  |  1 Comment

There is a saying I heard many years ago about how to have the greatest impact when delivering a presentation. The advice is “tell them what you will tell them” “tell them” then “tell them what you told them.”

This advice applies to creating change as well as delivering a great presentation.

Quite often my client inquiry strays into the realm of culture change. Clients want to know how they create an environment where employees share knowledge, collaborate with teammates and think beyond just their own work practices to support activities that benefit the organization as a whole. They are usually starting from a belief that knowledge hoarding is more advantageous that sharing since knowledge is power.

Culture change is hard and it takes time. I don’t want to minimize the power of grassroots efforts, but to make culture change stick leaders and managers must model the behavior they want front line employees to mirror. This means that in order to establish the knowledge give-and-take of “I need to know something, can you help me out?” leaders must open themselves up to ask for input of issues they face. The issues can range from corporate dilemmas to personal effectiveness.

This brings us back to the presentation advice. Paraphrased for asking for input, “tell them what ideas you will ask for, ask for ideas, tell them what ideas you got and what you did with them.” This last part is particularly critical. It’s not enough to simply “open up” a dialogue and crowdsource ideas, reporting back on what was done with the ideas is essential for sustaining the openness.

Let me give you an example of how this can work on a less grand scale than wrestling an intractable enterprise problem to the ground. A colleague of mine works in an organizations that is putting a significant number of “middle managers” through a leadership development program. The goal is to help these people develop a more socially centered leadership style. My colleague’s been telling me about the progress of the program.

What I find exciting about the program is the “bookend” approach. It is similar to the presentation advice I mentioned earlier. Find out what each manager needs to improve based on crowdsourced input from direct reports, provide training to the managers so they can make some improvements, then have the managers report back to their direct reports what they learned and what addition changes they will work on making.

Here we have the cycle of openness that builds trust and, eventually, leads to even greater openness. This is the stuff that makes high performance teams out of good, but maybe not totally engaged, teams.

The broader lesson should be clear. To begin to change culture, pick a change leadership will work on and tell employees what that is. Take action. Expect a few stumbles along the way, but don’t let that discourage you. Then make sure to advertise the outcomes the changes produced and what yet needs to be done to get even better.

This sounds simple – it’s not. It takes courage. But since we know the hierarchical approach to management cannot support a dynamic digital business as well a socially centered leadership style can s, it’s best to begin the change now.

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The delicate balance between knowledge sharing and rules

by Carol Rozwell  |  May 1, 2014  |  Submit a Comment

One of the tenets of KM initiatives that rings true based on my experience is that knowledge sharing is a voluntary activity. In contrast to previous deployments of enterprise wide systems like ERP or CRM, creating a vibrant environment that fosters knowledge sharing using social software or collaboration tools depends on people freely contributing their intellectual capital. Remember, in my world KM stands for “knowledge movement” not “knowledge management.”


This is not to say that there can’t be rules around the knowledge sharing, but demanding that people contribute X number of documents to the knowledge repository does not produce the desired result. Instead of surfacing a large quantity of reusable information, a more likely result is a repository filled with marginally useful information.

So demanding people share their knowledge doesn’t work – but that doesn’t mean that setting rules or guidelines isn’t permissible. Encouraging people to achieve a specific level of sharing, particularly when it’s accompanied by mechanisms that allow others to comment on the value of the content, can be create a virtuous cycle. There is often a correlation between seniority and expertise that can be reused by new members of a community, people changing roles who want to learn something, and other similar scenarios. Setting an expectation of how and what knowledge should be made accessible and shared with others makes sense, especially when there is a baseline of how much content is typically produced. Providing the contributor with feedback on how useful the information is feeds intrinsic motivators of reputation and mastery.

It’s also permissible to provide guidelines on how information should be formatted as long as there is an explanation of why following the format makes sense. Anyone who has attended a Gartner event knows that our presentations follow a well-established format. In the recent past we’ve introduced some new formats. Why do analysts follow them? One reason is that some people just naturally follow the rules. But a more compelling reason that taps intrinsic motivation is that when an analyst knows that customers prefer a certain format, they will follow that format. If I care about making customers as satisfied as possible with a session, then I will strive to produce material in a way that is most useful to them.

In the future I’d expect to see tools that simplify the knowledge contribution process. It may even be possible to automate the contribution process. Of course, a high level of trust and transparency must exist for this approach to work. In the meantime, it’s fine for leaders of KM initiatives to set expectations. When people are told about the impact their knowledge had on the organization meeting its performance objectives, it makes the sharing that much sweeter.

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Congratulations to the MIX Digital Freedom Challenge Winners

by Carol Rozwell  |  April 9, 2014  |  1 Comment

Over the past year I’ve had the pleasure of working with the dedicated folks at the Management Innovation eXchange (MIX) on the Digital Freedom Challenge.


‘The challenge kicked off in August, 2013. It posed a simple but disruptive challenge: how to give people the autonomy at work they crave without spinning the organization out of control. We challenged innovators to tell us how they would cultivate five freedoms in their workplace:

  • The freedom to connect with anyone anywhere in the world.
  • The freedom to contribute and to make a real impact on the basis of merit rather than position.
  • The freedom to create, to use one’s skills to improve and experiment without a fear of failure.
  • The freedom to choose where to work, when to work, how to work, with whom to work, and what to work on.
  • The freedom to challenge by speaking up, pushing back and taking an active role in decision making.

It was exciting to be part of the challenge. The participants’ submissions show that the idea of a digital workplace that gives workers autonomy is not some vague, futuristic vision but a reality today.

The five winners were announced last week. They cover a wide range of forward-thinking approaches that enable workers’ creativity and enthusiasm. Check out the stories on ideas such as::

  • Using social media to do work “in plain view”
  • Self-building job roles
  • Collaborative decision making
  • Creating time for reflection into work processes
  • Building the liquid organization

We at Gartner think that espousing the five digital freedoms is a leading indicator of business performance. Today, companies that capitalize on them are in the minority but before long, the freedoms will be commonplace in the workplace. And those organizations that ignore them will be at a disadvantage when it comes to maintaining an engaged workforce and attracting new talent.

My advice: be a catalyst for change. Kick off an exploration of how to exploit the five freedoms in your in your organization. Gartner clients who would like help setting up a workshop can contact me.

Think about how much fun it will be to go to work when your creativity is put to work!

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Data Is Like a Dead Chicken

by Carol Rozwell  |  March 4, 2014  |  2 Comments

With all the hype around big data, there is a misconception developing that more data is a good thing. This is wrong. Wise leaders of business intelligence and analytics initiatives understand that data is like a dead chicken. Once data is collected, it becomes a problem. It must be organized, reviewed, managed, updated and eventually discarded – all of which requires a thoughtfully designed plan. It requires effort and work. The energy required to administrate information of dubious value is just not worth it.

This leads us to two best practices:

  • never collect data you don’t plan to use
  • when you do decide to collect data, use it quickly before it gets stinky

For those who believe that more is better, this advice may not be well received. We’re conditioned to think that having more information, more ideas will give us a wider range of options to chose from. The leader of an analytics initiative thinks that the more parameters they measure, the better the decisions they will make. The leader of an innovation challenge thinks that the more ideas the campaign generates, the more successful it will be. Both are harboring a false assumption. Collecting data from multiple social media sources and tracks a myriad of metrics costs money, both in terms of a vendor’s product offering and the effort required to analyze it. Unless you a absolutely clear about the decisions you want to make and the input required to make them, the investment will be wasted. Experience tells us that the most successful innovation campaigns are those that are narrowly scoped and thereby produce fewer – but more actionable – ideas.

Using data before it gets stale and stinky is also important. This means there needs to be attention to both the collection of (theoretically) useful insight and its disposal. Many organizations make the mistake of keeping everything, forever. A wiser approach is plan to discard information at the time it is collected and stick to the plan.

Data is like a dead chicken. And unless it is used, it quickly becomes an albatross.


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Do you see what I mean?

by Carol Rozwell  |  January 30, 2014  |  1 Comment

So often we use this expression as punctuation to a statement we’ve made.

“This is how I see it. (Insert declarative statements here) Do you see what I mean?”

It’s interesting that we use the word “see” when we ask whether the listener understands what we’re talking about, especially considering that quite often we are only using verbal statements or written text to express our point of view. Rooted in the use of the word “see” is an important notion. People really do need to see – meaning they must be able to visualize – what we are talking about in order to understand it. Real engagement and commitment – “buy-in” in corporate buzzword speak – requires comprehension on both an intellectual and emotional level.

This intense involvement is not always necessary, of course. In our professional lives there are plenty of situations where a worker simply needs to understand on an intellectual level what needs to be done. If I need to meet a client, the facts about where and when will suffice. However, if I’m meeting with a client to help them plan how to make their social networking initiative successful, then another level of understanding is necessary. They must be able to see, feel and internalize what I am suggesting, to visualize the concepts and interact with them on an emotional level. Without this additional cognizance, the understanding of the intentions behind a statement is reduced.


As we learned in the Socially Centered Leadership maverick research, communication that conveys intent is critical for employee engagement. A number of renowned business writers such as Gary Hamel, Daniel Pink and Jim Collins also cite the need for goals to resonate with employees, particularly during times of organizational change. This means that the language used to describe the change must help people visualize the change and how it will impact them. It must be powerful enough to engage them in the higher purpose the change aspires to achieve.

So watch your language! Draw a picture and create a connection.

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Let Me Show You What I Mean

by Carol Rozwell  |  December 16, 2013  |  Submit a Comment

Last week while I was out visiting clients, I had the chance to meet with a newly-appointed CIO. We met in his office which was adorned with two huge white boards on which he openly displayed the team’s priority projects and his musings. We chatted a bit about the importance of open communication and buy-in to successful outcomes.

I asked him whether he was getting any feedback from the team on the projects. He said that from time to time when people walked into his office they might comment on a thing or two. So I suggested that perhaps we might want to take his communication “show on the road” to get more input. By moving the whiteboard outside his office, any random passerby could provide input on the topic at hand. He could crowdsource ideas.

Today, he let me know he’d moved the whiteboard outside his office on Friday, posed a challenge and by Monday he’d started to receive comments. Even if this test doesn’t produce a “silver bullet” solution to the challenge he posed, it’s still a winner. He showed his team that when he asked for ideas and suggestions, it was not an idle request. He removed a potential barrier to contributing – the fear of walking into the boss’s office. And he showed them he has the courage to listen to any and all ideas.

This is a great story that dovetails well as we approach the end of the first round of the Digital Freedoms Challenge. As you may recall, Gartner helped architect the challenge, an exploration into how the five freedoms – the freedom to connect, collaborate, contribute, create and choose – are changing our workplace.

Please make sure to get your suggestions in by the end of this week, December 20. Just click on the link and submit your story or your hack.

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