Friday, March 30, 2007

Blog Technology is Boring

Blogging is interesting as a social phenomenon, connecting people and ideas. It is also interesting for its potential to change and improve the internal and external communication for enterprises, helping to tear down internal departmental silos and opening up the corporate iron gates for the public to see the humans behind them. And it is interesting from a democratic perspective, giving citizens the possibility to connect directly with politicians and to side-step medias monopoly to select, interpret and communicate what they thing that the people want or should hear from and about the politicians.

But from a technology point of view, blogs are anything but interesting. It is much more interesting to discuss what you can do with a blog and how you can get the most out of it. I personally find that Graham Jones and Jeremy Jacobs both share interesting thoughts and tips on their blogs about these things.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Why Folksonomies Work

“A folksonomy is a user generated taxonomy used to categorize and retrieve Web pages, photographs, Web links and other web content using open ended labels called tags…//…the process of folksonomic tagging is intended to make a body of information increasingly easy to search, discover, and navigate over time. A well-developed folksonomy is ideally accessible as a shared vocabulary that is both originated by, and familiar to, its primary users” (Wikipedia)

As Voltaire wrote, the perfect is the enemy of the good. The point with metadata is not to create perfect metadata, but to create usable metadata. Hence, controlled taxonomies are not necessarily, as some IA:s argue, superior to folksonomies when it comes to supporting searching and browsing. Because to be able to create accurate and usable metadata, you need to have a very good understanding new content is to be used and how existing content is actually being used. And in many cases, the users know more about this than “experts”. So even if their metadata is not perfect in the eyes of the expert, they might serve their purpose just as good or better than the metadata that the expert can come up with. Or as Joshua Porter wrote in his article “A User-Driven Approach to Organizing Content”:

"One of the most promising features of folksonomies is that there is no disconnect between the user’s words and the words on the site: the users words are the words on the site!"

Many metadata initiatives, such as the development and implementation of controlled vocabularies, start with a high ambition but then simply fall apart with time and die a silent death. Why? Because it never gets to be a natural thing to use them. Creating and using metadata needs to be a life-style. To tag your content with the appropriate metadata should be as natural as naming and saving it. With folksonomies, tagging has become just that for many users – a natural thing to do. Not long after the concept of folksonomies was coined by Thomas Vanderwal a couple of years ago, Clay Shirky responded to a post by Louis Rosenfeld about the downside of folksonomies:

"The advantage of folksonomies isn’t that they’re better than controlled vocabularies, it’s that they’re better than nothing, because controlled vocabularies are not extensible to the majority of cases where tagging is needed…//…Any comparison of the advantages of folksonomies vs. other, more rigorous forms of categorization that doesn’t consider the cost to create, maintain, use and enforce the added rigor will miss the actual factors affecting the spread of folksonomies. Where the internet is concerned, betting against ease of use, conceptual simplicity, and maximal user participation, has always been a bad idea"

Very well said. You simply cannot beat ease of use, simplicity and user participation. On the Internet, this is basically a "law of nature". But that is not (yet) the case in most enterprises. I upcoming posts, I will write about how and where folksonomies can be used in the context of an enterprise.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Why a Business Should Blog

One might ask what a business might get out of blogging. Well, here are some benefits that I believe should be enough to motive a lot of businesses to launch a corporate blog:

  • It shows that you are passionate about your business, including your customers.
  • It forces you to think and reflect about your business, which is an absolute neccessity for continuous improvement of the business.
  • It is an easy, low-cost, relaxed and efficient way of communicating with your customers, new customers and partners. For example, you can communicate news faster and showcase achievements, skills and knowledge. Simply put - inexpensive marketing.
  • The interactive nature of a blog encourages dialogue between you and your customers, as well as customer-to-customer. It will give them a feeling of belonging to a community. Your community.
  • It can help you get in contact with new business partners, providing you with a platform for new business ideas and opportunities.
  • It can help to drive traffic to the corporate web site. Sites that are updated frequently are higher ranked by search engines. The blog will probably have more (searchable) content than the corporate web site, providing new ways to find the blog and your company via search engines.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

What Others Say About BCS

Here are some of statements about Basic Content Services and how BCS might affect the content management market.

Gartner:

"ECM Suites serve the needs of automating processes involving mission critical documents. For many organizations, however, the costs, complexity, and eventual vendor lock in of ECM suites are daunting prospects. What do you do when your needs are not that sophisticated or your budgets miniscule? How can you provide content management for information workers who don't need full-blown ECM? Basic content services tools can be a first step on the path to broader enterprise content management for some organizations. They can co-exist with full ECM suites or they can satisfy companies' more modest needs alone ."

Gartner, Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Content Management, 2006:

"By 2010, basic content services will be essential infrastructure, deployed across 60% of enterprise desktops (0.7 probability)...//…The content management market is changing rapidly, driven by the commoditization of some content management components by Microsoft, Oracle and IBM, and by the recognition by end user organizations that one size doesn't fit all when it comes to content management. These trends are causing basic content management features tobecome part of the infrastructure, shifting the vendor landscape toward the software stack vendors (such as IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP), and driving the remaining content management vendors to focus on content-enabled vertical applications (CEVAs) or heritage functionality like imaging or Web content management (WCM). The rapid change is also driving mergers and acquisitions, as shown by Open Text's acquisition of Hummingbird and IBM's of FileNet.

…as BCS offerings mature and expand their capabilities, they will present a significant challenge to wellestablished ECM technology providers. ECM suite vendors are moving quickly to differentiate themselves from BCS providers and stack players by developing horizontal and vertical solutions.

Aiim.org, " ECM Trends and Developments – an 18 Month Vision":

"We expect that the numbers of full scale ECM deployments will not increase in 2006 because the promise of cheaper and lightly capable basic content services (starting with SharePoint and extended by Oracle, IBM, then SAP) will hold spend back… By 2008, most of the G2000 companies will have desktop-focused and processfocused ECM implementations, with Basic Content Services (BCS) provisioning around 65% of casual employee content contribution and consumption. Leading ECM suites will go vertical, and BCS will serve horizontal needs."

IDC:

"Oracle's move to offer Content DB and Records DB as add-ons to its database products also changes the dynamics in the overall information infrastructure market: We can expect to see the major platform providers (such as Oracle) begin to play the central role in regard to basic content services including access control and security, library services (check-in and check-out), policy management, and workflow . Enterprises are struggling to get their documents under control. Content today is scattered across file shares and portals, and the problem is proliferating. Bringing database management services to bear on this problem is an attractive solution that lets enterprises leverage existing investments."

Thursday, March 22, 2007

You Are Not Alone - Request A Solution

Whenever a company buys a new IT solution there are a lot of activities performed that almost all companies have in common. The selection process usually contains all or a majority of the 5 granular steps listed below:

  • A pre-study (or similar) is conducted in order to define the process that the solution shall support
  • An RFI is produced and sent out to a shortlist of vendors
  • An RFP is produced and sent out to a reduced shortlist based on the RFI answers
  • Evaluation of the remaining 2 or 3 vendors through presentations and proof of concepts
  • A contract is negotiated and one vendor/solution is selected

What has struck me several times is that the first step usually takes quite a while and the end result of the pre-study is made an untouchable fact which I think is very unfortunate, especially when buying supporting systems that do not drive the core business. Recruitment and project management tools are to me perfect examples of supporting applications that very rarely qualify as core business systems.

So could this be done in a different way? In many cases I certainly like to think so. When implementing supporting tools where your process probably is very similar to every other company I would suggest another approach because in these cases the vendors probably have more knowledge about what would work best for you.

One way to go about this could be to perform a brief analysis of how you work today and what you expect from a future solution. Produce a document (RFS - Request For Solution) based on the AsIs/ToBe analysis where you ask a shortlist of vendors to suggest what they think is the best solution and how they would like to implement this. Limit the number of vendors based on the answers received and continue with presentations and proof of concept evaluations as usual.

With this approach the time to platform would be radically reduced if the first analysis could be effectively executed but also due to the fact that you do not spend months producing a detailed RFP with requirements that most of the time only is used to reduce the number of vendors. I also believe that the quality using this method will be as good or better as with the traditional approach.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Content Services Landscape

One of the main reasons that many enterprises need a strategic approach to enterprise content management is because of the diversity and proliferation of content services. Today it is relevant to talk about a landscape of content services that needs to be governed by the enterprise.

What is included in such a landscape? A high-level representation may consist of:

  • Interaction services: Creation, delivery and access services and also business specific content solutions
  • Collaboration services: Includes ad-hoc teaming to structured workflow and process orchestration
  • Management services: Core services for managing webs, documents, records, digital assets, e-mail etc
  • Integration services: Support for different back-end applications, repositories, archives etc

A high-level picture of the landscape and its services can be used as a communication tool to:

  • Clarify the purpose of the services and their relationships
  • Present service management responsibilities
  • Portray the flow and processing of content
  • Illustrate how the services support business processes
  • Highlight strategic choices and the evolution of the landscape
  • Position providers and platforms
  • Etc etc

The landscape as described above does not claim to be the final view of enterprise content management services but has in many cases proven to be a good starting point. It should always be adjusted and detailed to suit different needs and situations.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

More About Basic Content Services

For many organizations, buying an expensive and complex ECM suite will be overkill. Their content management problems are more basic and they simply don’t need even half of the features - and definitely not the complexity and cost - of large ECM suits to address and solve their fundamental content management problems. It is no news that one size does not fit all.

Basic Content Services address the fundamental content management problems that all or most of the information workers within an organization are struggling with on a daily basis. BCS are to provide each and everyone within an organization with unified access and tools for managing their content. By providing a productive and efficient content management environment for each information worker, the organization can free time and energy to increase the overall productivity of the organization.

The core services of BCS are library services such as versioning and check-in / check-out functionality. In addition to that, BCS should include security services such as access control and rights management, metadata services for classification of content and metadata management, and search services. BCS can almost - and probably also should - be seen as a part of the IT infrastructure.

In addition to BCS, many organizations will problably need more advanced ECM services as well, such as workflow and collaboration services. Some common more advanced ECM services are shown in the illustration below.

Please note that the richness and complexity of each type of service in the illustration above is not considered here. For example, two organizations can have greatly different requirements on search services (just as the search services from two vendors might differ considerably in capability and features). But even if they have, both need some kind of search services to address the need of easily and quickly finding content.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

What About Basic Content Services?

Basic Content Services have been announced by Gartner as the next big thing within the content management arena. BSC addresses the need to help individuals and teams to manage their own and shared content, content that is not mission critical and would not quality to be managed in an enterprise repository.

The emergence of BCS is just another evidence of the need to provide different content management solutions for different levels within an organization, from the personal level to the enterprise level. BSC and ECMS are simply responding to different content management needs and will need to co-exist and leverage each other in an organization. The basic need that most of us have is to get simple tools to organize, manage and share our content, tools that are easy to access and use, and that can be used independently of what device that is used to access the content and what application the content is created and manipulated with. BSC addresses just that, providing us with tools for metadata management and content classification together with some basic library services such as versioning and check in/check out.

I will follow up on this post with a more in-depth analysis of Basic Content Services. Are there really any realistic offers on the market now? What do they offer? And, wouldn't basic content services be an natural extension of an operating system, as services just above the file system (or repository) that can be used by any application?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A portfolio of content assets

In the financial field a portfolio is a set of investments and resources held by a person or party. Applied in the content management field a portfolio can be seen as a set of content investments and resources, together with information about them.

Using a portfolio perspective on content assets makes it possible to discuss the amount of spending on these assets in relation to its corporate value.

I claim that the value of content is created at the point of experience i.e. when it is consumed. This means that investing in producing content assets that nobody or few experiences is most often a waste of resources. It also means that if we have invested in producing a content asset we should make an effort to re-use it in different products and channels for maximizing consumption and generation of value. Digitized goods like content are unique because it is relatively easy to re-produce them for re-use.

In this context the portfolio can list our content assets and information about them making it clear how each investment generate value. Used intelligently the portfolio can guide decisions about prioritizing investments, allocating resources, setting targets, evaluating performance etc.

The portfolio can be realized as a simple excel sheet listing the content assets and information such as:

  • Provider information and purchasing costs
  • Digital rights and responsibilities
  • Production costs and value adds
  • Re-use opportunities and consumption channels
  • Life cycles and service levels

Portfolio management is a good example of utilizing established practises in the comparatively new field of content management. I will reveal other examples in upcoming postings.

Using Blogs For Efficient Meetings

Have you ever left a meeting with one or several of the following questions bouncing in your head?

  • What was actually the result of the meeting?
  • What needs to be done now? And who should do it?
  • Haven’t I had this meeting before?
  • Why was I even in the meeting?

Well, then (if you were not sleeping) you have just participated in one of those inefficient, and possibly totally unnecessary, meetings. Why do these meetings happen? I don't have a short and simple answer to that, but as a meeting facilitator I know there are some well-known and pretty simple rules for avoiding these kinds of questions to pop up after a meeting:

  • Prepare the meeting well
  • Make sure to have and communicate an agenda before the meeting. And stick to it during the meeting
  • Only call a meeting when it is necessary
  • Only invite the person who need to be in the meeting
  • Respect the time frame
  • Take notes on what is said and achieved during the meeting
  • Identify action points that should be taken and by whom after the meeting ends
  • Make sure to follow up the meeting, ensuring that all actions are carried out as planned

Personally, I think that a key to making meetings efficient is to make them more public, to let others within the organization than just the participants access the agenda, discussions, results and actions carried out afterwards. According to my experience, many meetings are arranged by “meeting-aholics” who arrange (or request get invited to) a meeting, often in an ad hoc manner, whenever they get a chance. The same people seldom do much productive work in between the meetings, often due to "lack of time" as they say. No wonder, since they are in meetings all of the time.

My point is that making meetings more public will put pressure on anyone arranging a meeting, forcing the meeting to be well-prepared, structured and result-oriented. Otherwise, people that are not participating in the meeting will start questioning what the meeting actually achieved and why it took place at all.

A blog can be a great tool for making a meeting more public. If everything about the meeting from the agenda to the followup was published on a blog, anyone within the company can read and follow the results of the meeting by visiting the blog or subscribing to the RSS feed. In addition, by using a blog for meetings you can avoid all the e-mailing of agendas, results and follow-ups. When posting this information on a blog, it won’t be lost in e-mails, or in documents stored somewhere on a file server. It will be easily accessible and searchable. Furthermore, any discussions that did not end during the meeting can be continued on the blog after the meeting. This is a good way to keep a meeting from exceeding its time frame. You simply refer to the blog for any continued discussions. Finally, you now definitely only need to invite those people who actually contribute to the meeting. If the others have something to contribute with, they can post it on the blog. It is my experience that this is the single most important factor to achieve efficient meetings - to have the right people there.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Wanted - Content Management At My Fingertips

One might think that the content management problems within an organization do not directly concern each and every individual within it. But one couldn’t be more wrong. A key to resolve the content management problems and increase the productivity of an organization is to help the individuals to organize and manage their personal content so they can find, use and share it when they need to.

Most people have lots of problems, or at least spend a lot of time, with keeping their content organized, correct, complete and up-to-date. If this work is neglected or not done properly, it will be hard to find the right content you need just the moment you need it. Just think about yourself and how much time you spend every day on searching for content such as contacts, e-mails, images, music and documents on your computer or other devices. I can easily think of several problems that I myself am struggling with on an almost daily basis:

  • Contacts are located in multiple places (Outlook, webmail, mobile phone) with redundant, missing and outdated information
  • Large amounts of documents received via e-mail and downloaded from the web that have not yet been organized, thus making it hard to find them
  • Documents on my hard drive are organized in a folder structure, making it hard to organize documents that are logically belonging to more than one subject
  • Drafts and final versions of my own documents are sometimes mixed up, making it hard to find what version is the latest and thus correct one

To attack the content management problem at its root, an enterprise content management initiative should include providing each and everyone within the organization with the proper methodology, tools and training to help them manage their personal content. Once we get organized and in control of our content on a personal level, communicating and collaborating with others will be much easier and more efficient. We will allocate more time and energy that can be spent on improving processes and products.

A key question is if there is a single Personal CMS that which can help me solve my personal content management problems? I don’t believe there is. Yet. I myself use a lot of different tools for different purposes, all with different advantages and disadvantages. This, in turn, is also one of the reasons why I have problems managing my personal content from the start. The content I create and manage is often not easily moved from one location to another, from one tool to another. I also use different computers, which complicates things even more.

In an ideal world, I believe that the operating system on each device should provide me with all the tools I need to organize and manage my content, regardless of which applications I use to create, manipulate and distribute the content with. It should let me organize the content in different ways by the use of metadata, but not tie it to the physical computer or a specific application. Instead, I should be able to take my repository with all the content and metadata with me to plug it in to another computer or mobile device. Or access it remotely. The question is, is this too much to ask for?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The User Experience Onion

The value of a rich and high quality user experience cannot be overestimated. In the content economy, the user experience is a key differentiatior between content products and ultimately what will make it a success or a failure. But, what exactly is contained within the concept “user experience”? Which are the key questions to ask when developing a content product – anything from a simple newsletter or whitepaper to an entire web site or e-learning application – in order to create rich and high quality user experiences?

Jesse James Garrett defines user experience as “how the product behaves and is used in the real world”.

In other words, creating rich and high quality user experience is about getting to know and understand the users and identify the qualities that a content product must possess to create superior user experiences for them. After that, it becomes a matter of realization, requiring a certain amount of skills, resources and luck.

I like to look at user experience as an onion with many layers where each layer needs to be there and be of a certain thickness to create a positive user experience. And the thicker each layer, the greater the total user experience will be. Here are the main layers and the key questions to ask to determine the existence and thickness of each layer:

The Content Layer - Does the content product deliver the actual benefits or value that the user is looking for and expecting? Is the content purposeful, relevant, correct, up to date and complete?

The Functionality Layer - Does the content product provide the necessary capabilities so that the user can interact with the content as desired? What can the user do with it?

The Presentation Layer - Is the product presented visually so that it communicates the content and functionality in an efficient and appealing way, encouraging interaction?

The Usability Layer - Is it easy for the user to use the content product for the intended purpose? Is it easy to understand and use it?

The Accessibility Layer - Can users with disabilities, from visual problems to cognitive impairments, use the content product? Can a user that should have the right to access the content product access it? Can it be accessed where and when the user desires to? (the last two questions are not within the scope of the traditional definition of accessibility)

The Findability Layer - Can the user easily discover, locate and retrieve the content product?

The Brand Layer – Is the brand known to the user and how strong is it? What kind of expectations does the user associate with the brand? What emotions does it trigger? What previous user experiences are connected to the brand?

The Content Layer is of course the heart of the content product user experience. Each layer above the Content Layer is there to enable and enrich the usage of it.

The Brand Layer is to me in a way the most interesting layer. A thick Brand Layer, a stong brand, can in some cases – at least in the short run – compensate for very thin layers underneath it. And the other way around, a content product with superior content, functionality, presentation and so on can create superior user experiences and become successful basically overnight even though the brand is totally unknown.

I will explain the dynamics of this User Experience Onion model further with a real world example in a coming post. And possibly even provide an illustration of the onion.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Power Of The Enterprise Taxonomy - Part II

With an enterprise taxonomy, the organization gets a tool for increasing the findability of its content through unified access and improved searching and browsing. It also simplifies integration, maintenance, reuse, translation, exchange and syndication of content. So, the business benefits of an enterprise taxonomy should be pretty clear. But how do you actually develop and implement it?

The main challenge in development and implementation of an enterprise taxonomy is of course political. The different units within the organization will need to cooperate and agree upon a common taxonomy and vocabulary. This is by far the trickiest part of the taxonomy development and implementation process, and it should not be underestimated. Otherwise, the process is pretty straightforward. I have made a try to sketch it out below:

1. Define & Research

Developing an enterprise taxonomy should of course start with determining the objectives, scope and requirements for the enterprise taxonomy. The scope should be easy to define, since it should be an enterprise taxonomy. But for what is it needed? How will it be used? How will it be maintained, by whom, how often and with what resources? How will it need to scale? And so on.

You should also perform a content inventory – produce a complete list of all the content that currently exists in the content landscape. To be able to do that you need to go to those who are developing and maintaining the content. What content do they develop or maintain? What is it about? Where is it located? Who needs it? What do they need it for? Once you have the list of all content with questions like these answered, you can start analyzing the content and design the taxonomy.

2. Analyze & Design

Analysis means trying to understand the semantic relationships and patterns between existing content. As in software development, analysis and design are two intertwined activities, two sides of the same coin. You really cannot do one without the other. So, when you start analyzing you will also start designing the taxonomy.

However, it is important to select an architecture that is suited to its purpose and that is scalable, i.e. can accommodate new content. As in software development, establishing the type of architecture should be done as early as possible. Otherwise, there will be problems later. A taxonomy is often envisioned as a hierarchic tree structure, but it doesn't need to be. A taxonomy could also have a flat, network, or faceted architecture. It can also be a mix of two or more of these architectural types.

3. Validate

Now it is time to test and evaluate the taxonomy with the appropriate validation techniques. You can use qualitative validation, quantitative validation, or a combination. In any case, by this stage you should have a first version of the taxonomy so that you can test it on users and stakeholders.

4. Deploy & Implement

Deploying and implementing the taxonomy can be expressed with simpler words - making it ready to use and putting it into use. Deploying the taxonomy means that it is available and can be used by content management systems, search engines, and so on. Implementing a taxonomy means actually attaching its attributes to the existing and new content. The taxonomy attributes can be terms from a controlled vocabulary, a list of standardized terms that describe concepts within the domain. Using a controlled vocabulary with agreed upon and carefully defined terms ensures consistency in content metadata and also sets a common language for the organization that reduces the potential for misinterpretation. So, using a controlled vocabulary for the taxonomy has its clear benefits.

Again, as in software development, there is no such thing as a big bang approach to implementation. Instead, start with a pilot and then start implementing the taxonomy throughout the organization according to a realistic roadmap.

5. Evaluate & Revise

Once the enterprise taxonomy is deployed, you need to maintain it. Two important activities in the maintenance are to evaluate how the taxonomy is performing and revise it when needed.

But how to govern and maintain an enterprise taxonomy is basically a subject of its own, which might also be the subject for a post or two later on.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

What makes an E-Learning system?

There are a lot of vendors out there claiming that they have the best educational platform and it is of course suitable and configurable for almost any organization. In the hype 2.0 era there seem to be even more players arguing that they now can provide an e-learning platform just by offering the new collaborative techniques. Social networks, wikis and blogs are great tools and should be features or integrated modules in a learning environment but to me they are not enough to make a proper e-learning solution.

Google for Educators is probably the biggest and most obvious example of tools packaged under one umbrella but contrary to many others they are very careful in the description of what they offer and are more accurate when talking about helpful tools. To me this is really a set of collaborative tools suitable for communication and for sharing course material but hardly anything else. DIGI[Cation] and Elgg are other examples offering almost the same kind of functionality and for a huge list of other similar products targeted schools with a rather soft categorization I recommend taking a look at the posts given by Brian Benzinger on Solution Watch.

Having said this, what would make a decent e-learning system according to my humble opinion? Without getting into any details about the major features I would expect at least the following:

  • Collaboration tools on different levels
  • Course structure and Learning objects management (the actual content should preferably be integrated and/or imported)
  • Course assignment capabilities
  • Tracking facilities
  • Classroom management (Physical and Virtual)
  • An open API for integrating course content and course statistic modules
  • Access control and user management

Unfortunately finding a solution satisfying all above is not that easy and the major LMS/VLE vendors stating that they can fulfil these requirements offer platforms with poor usability that usually are complex, expensive and hard to adapt to the needs of your organization. I hope that we in the near future will see hosted quality e-learning systems with open interfaces possibly as a further development in some of the more basic collaborative tools referenced above.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Power Of The Enterprise Taxonomy - Part I

Large organizations are always grouped into smaller units, sub organizations which inevitably develop their own vocabularies and their own conceptual model of the enterprise. This creates barriers to communication, collaboration and knowledge exchange. Each unit sooner or later creates its own content silo.

An enterprise taxonomy – a system for naming and organizing the content into groups that share similar characteristics – can help to tear down these barriers. It can facilitate access, exploration and understanding of the digital content that exists within an organization. The taxonomy can make it possible to understand the organization at-a-glance by providing a high-level view of the organization as a whole.

As previously argued by Henrik, one must make a distinction between content architecture and information architecture, between the enterprise taxonomy and navigation taxonomies.

In Information Architecture, taxonomies are developed to facilitate search, navigation and presentation. Search engines look for keywords or words in content sources that match a search query, but people actually look for and explore concepts. This is where taxonomies come into the picture in Information Architecture. Every navigation scheme is based on one or several taxonomies. The dilemma is that there is not one single taxonomy that will organize content the way as all users expects it to be organized. So a single taxonomy will in most cases not be sufficient for creating a successful Information Architecture.

However, to develop a single enterprise taxonomy is fundamental in Content Architecture. Managing content begins with organizing it, and the enterprise taxonomy is a key organization tool. Once the content is organized in a consistent manner, any type of content from any content source can (theoretically) be integrated and made accessible throughout the organization. To be usable, the enterprise taxonomy can not be invented. Instead, it must be derived from the content that exists already in the organization. So before it can be developed, a content inventory has to be performed. Such an inventory will also create a better overview and understanding of the organization and each unit’s content.

My coming posts will tell you more about how to perform a content inventory and develop an enterprise taxonomy.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Hype 2.0

Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, Collaboration 2.0…the list goes on and on. There seems to have gone inflation in “2.0”.

It is interesting to note the trend of putting a version number after basically anything in order to launch it as something new and improved. Because this happens in a time when every major software vendor tries to avoid putting version numbers on their new major versions. XP, Vista, Creative Studio, Leopard, Tiger. They know from experience that a new major version number also promises major flaws, and that its release will be followed by numerous patches and service packs.

One can also be entirely sure that the marketing campaigns following the release of the new major version will be overloaded with new and exciting buzzwords that only make sense on a slide in a PowerPoint presentation but has no bearing to real world businesses. Just take a look at this definition of Enterprise 2.0 I found on The Enterprise 2.0 Conference web site:

"Enterprise 2.0 is the term for the technologies and business practices that liberate the workforce from the constraints of legacy communication and productivity tools like email. It provides business managers with access to the right information at the right time through a web of inter-connected applications, services and devices. Enterprise 2.0 makes accessible the collective intelligence of many, translating to a huge competitive advantage in the form of increased innovation, productivity and agility."

Wait a minute. Has anybody proved that these technologies and business practices actually lead to "increased innovation, productivity and agility"? Or where is the business case that proves it? And what technologies and business practices is this definition referring to? Blogs, wikis and group messenging software? Give me a break. Here’s a more humble and usable definition provided by Andrew McAfee, associate professor at Harvard Business School:

"Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers."

This definition does not promise you the world. It tells you in clear and simple words what Enterprise 2.0 is about and leaves it to you to make something good out of it.

It is easy to get carried away and think that these new hyped technologies and buzzwords automatically will solve all problems for an enterprise. In most (if not all) organisations there are still lots of quite basic communication problems that have not been resolved, communication processes that are missing or not working properly. How do Enterprise 2.0 technologies help to solve these? Well, they don't. It is still up to humans to identify the problems, establish human-to-human communication processes to resolve them, and then, possibly, employ a certain choice of technology that can help to make the communication processes more efficient.

By the way, I expect to see Web .Biz, Enterprise .Net and Collaboration Whatever buzzing around on the web soon. If they aren’t already…

If you are looking for Web 2.0 sites, why not try the Hype 2.0 search engine?

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Web 2.0 And The Content Management Problem

"Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform. Chief among those rules is this: Build applications that harness network effects to get better the more people use them. (This is what I've elsewhere called "harnessing collective intelligence.)"

- O'Reilly Radar

There are many definitions (opinions) about what Web 2.0 really is about, ranging from simply a set of new technologies such as AJAX, to a IT-driven business revolution. To me, Web 2.0 is all about the ability to make more interactive and easy to use web applications, which is made easier by new technologies such as AJAX. Traditional desktop applications can now be developed for the Internet platform with almost as rich interactivity as their desktop collegues. And, traditional web applications can now be made more interactive and easy to use than ever before. Inbetween, some new applications made possible by the marriage of the Internet platform and new emerging technologies will see the dawn of day.

The charachteristics of the Internet platform makes it natural that more interactive applications are being used to facilitate communication, sharing of content and collaboration between users. Social software applications enable us to connect, meet and collaborate with eachother. No wonder why they are so popular.

For an enterprise, Web 2.0 technologies and applications such as wikis and blogs (sometimes referred to as Enterprise 2.0) can help to reduce the communication and collaboration problems within an enterprise, aswell as encouraging creativity and innovation. Web 2.0 applications such as wikis and blogs encourage freeform and open communication and thereby facilitate information and knowledge exchange. But, they will also lead to an organic growth of content with an – more or less - ad hoc organization. For some (probably most) of the content produced within an enterprise, this might be acceptable, if not desirable. But for other, more business critical content, it just absolutely isn’t.

Necessarily, enterprise blogs and wikis also need to be managed - with a unified approach - if the content management problems are not to escalate for an enterprise. If they are not being consolidated or integrated so they all can be managed "under one roof", enterprises will end up with lots of "content islands", isolated from each other, creating new content silos within the enterprise. Although access to the content sources might be unified via a common search engine, the management of them is not unified. The life cycle of a blog or wiki needs to be managed, from creation to phase-out, just aswell as other content sources in an organization.