Thursday, January 31, 2008

Links on collaboration and more

"Increased Investment, More Implementations Expected for Enterprise Web 2.0 Technologies" by C G Lynch in CIO:

"A Forrester report released this week predicts more enterprises will adopt Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs, wikis, RSS and social networking tools. The report attributes the increased interest to IT workers who have found uses for the technologies themselves, and the realization by executives that barring these technologies from the workplace hampers their employees' ability to collaborate."

"BT Intranet strategy" by Richard Dennison on the blog "Inside out - A view from deep inside the intestines of a global company" (read the full post to learn a learn a little about the BT Intranet strategy):

"We’ve made a big effort in the last year to ensure our intranet strategy is very closely aligned with BT’s overall business strategy. We looked at the work in this area of the Intranet Benchmarking Forum, and then crafted a set of short-term objectives (1-2 year) and a set of medium term objectives (3-5 year). "
Forrester recently published the report “Getting Real Work Done In Virtual Worlds” which according to the executive summary analyzes how virtual worlds like Second Life can be used as business tools:

"...within five years, the 3-D Internet will be as important for work as the Web is today. Information and knowledge management professionals should begin to investigate and experiment with virtual worlds. Use them to try to replicate the experience of working physically alongside others; allow people to work with and share digital 3-D models of physical or theoretical objects; and make remote training and counselling more realistic by incorporating nonverbal communication into same-time, different-place interactions."

Survey: no SOA ‘fiascos’ out there, so far” by Joe McKendrick:
“In fact, the survey, commissioned by SOA vendor AmberPoint and based on responses from 330 companies, finds more than 98% of the respondents with SOA in production rate their SOA implementations as “successful” to some degree.” “Thirty-eight percent said their projects were completely successful, and 60% described their projects as “partially” successful.”

“In fact, of those who have deployed SOA applications, only 1.5% report that their resulting systems were ‘not successful.’ None, zero, reported that their SOA effort resulted in a total ‘fiasco.’”

The greatest challenge to SOA? Lack of SOA expertise, cited by 68% of the respondents. This tells us that even if SOA-related budgets were cut and scaled back, we’re unlikely to see cuts in staffing. Only 21% were concerned about the costs of SOA, anyway”

Think People not roles when driving change” by Steve Jones:

“This is critical in SOA when you are looking at assigning people into any form of new approach to delivery or business change. Success will be driven by specific people, not by specific roles. Too often there is the perception of equivalence where none exists just because a title or role is the same…//…So plan to succeed with the people you have, and if they don't cut it this means you need different people. Don't hide behind role definitions and complain that people didn't meet them”

Collaboration's resurgence” by Shawn at Anecdote:
“Everywhere I turn recently and I hear people talking about the need to collaborate as if the idea was new. Why has collaboration become the capability organisations must have? And why now?...//…Collaboration is important more than ever because of the nature of the world we live in. The problem, however, is that we not taught collaboration in organisations. It happens through necessity and success is mostly by chance and experience. Organisations wishing to develop a collaboration capability more systematically will need to thinking clearly about the process of collaboration and how they can support that process.”

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

How Facebook is like IKEA

As kind of a follow-up on my previous post, here are some excepts from a recent article from "Slate - the undercover economist" by Tom Harford called "How Facebook Is Like Ikea - They get their customers to do the work—and to enjoy doing it":

"I'll admit that the similarities are not apparent at first sight. But a defining idea behind Wikipedia, Facebook, and blogging platforms such as WordPress is that if you give people the right tools, they'll use them to create wonderful things in collaboration with each other or with the organization that provides the catalyst."

"Ikea's success is not so very different. Ikea keeps its costs and prices low by enlisting its customers—their time, their cars, their ambitions as interior designers, and their inflated ideas of their carpentry skills."

"Management experts Rafael Ramirez and Richard Normann pointed this out in the Harvard Business Review back in 1993. Ikea, they argued, was a success because it enabled "value co-production." This infelicitous term partly refers to offering consumers a discount to build their own furniture. But it means much more: Ikea recruited its customers to the idea that they could not only put up shelves, but also design their own stylish living spaces"

"Facebook, like Ikea—and like Microsoft—has mobilized an army of independent suppliers. In Facebook's case, they are developers who produce applications that can be plugged into the Facebook platform. In all these cases, the idea is the same: If Facebook (or Ikea) can woo the customers, independent suppliers will be queuing up to help, and if the independent suppliers are queuing up, Facebook (or Ikea) should be able to woo the customers"

Personally I believe this comparison is interesting as such. But, comparing Facebook with IKEA when it comes to business success is a sign of "dotcom-blindness". I get the same vibes as I got when venture capitalists expected Boo.com to sell more fashion wear via the Internet than the entire fashion industry in the "old economy". I just couldn't understand how that wasa going to happen, even if there was a "new economy". And I don't really understand the business model of Facebook and how that is going to deliver sustainable value over time. IKEA:s business model is much more reliable since people will always need and pay themselves for beds and other things to furnish their homes, especially those who offer the best balance between price and quality. But what happens when advertising revenues drop for Facebook, which might happen as we now most likely are heading into a recession as companies need to cut their marketing expenses? Will Facebook try to charge their customers for their services, a business model that has already proved to be unsuccessful? Maybe there's a "new economy" business model that I just don't know about and that will come to rescue.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Knowledge exchange key to IKEA's success

A recently presented doctoral thesis at Lund University School of Economics and Management in Sweden, "Knowledge across borders - a study in the IKEA world" by Anna Jonsson, concludes that employees willingness to exchange knowledge is the main success factor behind IKEA's global expansion (for Swedes, here's an article in Dagens Nyheter).

Anna Jonsson says that she got access to the world of IKEA to study the knowledge exchange when IKEA establishes themselves in new markets. Her main conclusion is that knowledge exchange within IKEA is the single most important factor behind their global expansion, and that the participation of the employees is crucial to their success.

To make the knowledge exchange work, the employees must be willing to share their experiences with each other. Anna Jonsson points out that many companies have a hard time getting their employees to share what they know since it is often not benefiting them to do so: “Within IKEA you learn that it is necessary to share knowledge and to be willing to learn new things – it can give you good career possibilities.”

Anna Jonsson has noted how important it is for information to flow easily throughout the IKEA organization and says that there are open channels between different organizational levels and units within IKEA.

I have worked at IKEA as a consultant and I believe I can sign to this. The clear IKEA vision and values which are communicated everywhere - even in the toilets! - and the open atmosphere with open-minded people certainly makes you more willing to share what you know with others. You are always sure that you will get something back when giving away what you have. Furthermore, at IKEA there is a reverse dress code – you dont see corporate suits, especially not accompanied by a tie. This way, management does not distinguish themselves from other employees. And everybody at IKEA, even the top management, have to work in one of the IKEA stores for a few days every year.

It don't think it is that hard to copy the IKEA business concept. In fact, they talk openly about it in their marketing communication. But, what would be really hard to copy is their culture. Then, why try to copy? If other companies would just allow themselves to get inspired by the IKEA culture, they would probably get much better at collaborating and exchanging knowledge.

Speaking of knowledge, a recent Swedish study concluded that the most commonly used phrase in Sweden is "I don't know", followed by "Where are you?" and "What's for dinner?". I am not all that surprised. At work, most of us are struggling with trying to find information or people that can help us do things we don't know how to do. That's how my day looks like before and after lunch. At lunch time, the big questions pop up; "Lunch anybody?", "Where shall we go?" and "What shall I eat?". My own standard answer to all of these questions is "I don't know" (or "I'm just goint to...").

I assume that if we all get better at answering these questions faster, productivity will explode.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Everybody wants an enterprise-wide information model - so where is it?

Every project that aims to improve how information is used and managed within an enterprise (be it related to ECM, BI, SOA, or whatever) needs to do the following:

  1. Ensure that key concepts have the same meaning and are represented by the same terms everywhere they exist and are to be used. This is to avoid basic misunderstandings that might put the project in the wrong direction.
  2. Ensure that the information resources that are to be used and/or managed are identified, defined and values (so that key assets can be identified), that their relationships to each other are known, and that every instance of these information resources has the same - or at least a similar - structure and attributes. This is to be able to focus the improvements where they give something back (ROI) and to simplify integration and exchange of information resources between people, activities and applications.

After having realized that there are no updated conceptual and logical information models readily available, most projects start to develop their own. Thet start developing their models from their own perspective, covering only their areas of interests. And if they succeed in developing such models and making them usable for the purpose of their specific projects, they soon falls into after the projects have ended.

Now, imagine if the project would have access to an information model describing all information and content resources - structured as well as unstructured - that exist within the enterprise. First of all, it would mean that each project would not need to spend energy, time and resources on developing their own model. Each project would be able to make a jump-start and focus on identifying areas improvements and developing efficient solutions instead of being occupied with trying to describe how the world looks like. And even if they would still look at the world from their own specific view points, they would be starting from the same foundation as every other initiative. They would speak the same language and see the world in a similar way as other initiatives taking place elsewhere in the enterprise, and it would be less likely that they would misunderstand each other.

An enterprise-wide information model is the dream of most Information Architects. The challenge is to develop an information model describing how all information resources within the entire enterprise are related instead of only doing it for a specific domain or application. The information model could then be made available to all initiatives within the enterprise, as a shared service.

Since developing and maintaining an enterprise-wide information model must be a never-ending task and requires a holistic approach and lifecycle perspective on all information and content resources, it cannot be accomplished by a project. The only reasonable approach would be to set up a team that is dedicated to define and maintain representations of the enterprise information architecture. This team would also be assigned the responsibility to continuously refine and assure the quality of the information and content resources and the relationships they have to each other (the architecture). The team must consist of skilled information analysts, information architects and information stewards. However, to be successful the team must be operating throughout the enterprise, helping out different initiatives. Otherwise it will end up doing like most enterprise-wide initiatives – developing something that is neither usable nor based on an understanding of how things really are in the different corners of enterprise.

Friday, January 25, 2008

SOAaaaaah!

"SOA + Web 2.0 = higher business IQ" by Joe McKendrick:
"Don Tapscott, who broke new ground in 1996 with his book, The Digital Economy: The Promise and Peril of Network Intelligence, and recently co-authored Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, said that -Web 2.0 and service oriented architecture are really becoming a new mode of production.' He elaborated that these new approaches are -changing the ways that we innovate, the ways that we make decisions, the ways that we collaborate, and the ways that companies engage with the rest of the world.'"

"Molson’s Katrina Coyle also credits SOA with reshaping her company’s ability to compete in a fast-changing and often fickle market. 'One of the terrific things that we’ve had in the last year is service oriented architecture,” she explained. “We can now deliver information to our business in any way they want…. we can drive information through emails, text, BlackBerries, and widgets. If we have issues anywhere in the supply chain, we can get that information out in real time to supply chain managers.'"

"IBM bolsters SOA with AptSoft buy" by Shaun Nichols in Information World Review:

"IBM has purchased AptSoft Corporation in an effort to boost its presence in the service oriented architecture (SOA) market AptSoft enables customers to capture events as they happen with an intuitive user interface designed for business analysts," said Tom Rosamilia, general manager of IBM WebSphere software.

The software allows businesses to respond to market trends or possible risks more quickly and accurately.

IBM plans to insert the AptSoft technology into a number of different products, including WebSphere, Tivoli and Information Management offerings. The company also plans to develop RFID and web service products with AptSoft's software"

Finally, how you might feel when someone tells you to "SOA" your product and you take a closer look at what you have in front of you:

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Information Management in the age of Web 2.0

Few would disagree that easy and efficient communication, collaboration and sharing of (the right) information (in the right time) across organizational, cultural and geographical barriers within an enterprise will be crucial to the success of the enterprise in the future.

Organizations have struggled with trying to manage their information resources for decades by establishing and enforcing central control and ownership of the information resources. But, enabling easy and efficient communication, collaboration and information sharing between people has never been the focus of that kind of approach. Creating well structured information resources and storing them in secure, optimized and managed repositories (databases) is a waste of money if the information resources are not easy to access, find, use and exchange.

Lately, organizations have started to realize that information that is not used and exchanged is worthless (duh!). It needs to be accessible, findable, usable and exchangeable besides being accurate, complete, and so on. Consequently, their main challenge is no longer to automate business processes and make humans redundant in processes that lend themselves to automation, but rather to leverage their knowledge assets (employees, partners, customers) in order to compete in the marketplace with new innovations and unique services.

The Web 2.0 people-centric philosophy and technologies such as social software, RSS, blogs and wikis has given a direction a new direction for organizations and the way they approach their information management challenges. The reasoning is simple; why shouldn't it be possible to enable successful collaboration and sharing of information between people within an enterprise context when is has already been achieved on the web?

Here are a few voices on how the web 2.0 technologies can leverage communication, collaboration and sharing of information within enterprises, starting with Forrester's "The Seven Tenets of the Information Workplace":
"...enterprise Web 2.0 is rapidly advancing, bringing even greater "Design for People" concepts into the IW. For example, through the power of social networking and mashups, which allow people to have it their way, the IW can go beyond role-based to even become individualized. With enterprise Web 2.0, the IW also gains two new facets: "social" and "quick." With all these characteristics, the IW will better support a "Design for People" world and allow people to work in a much more natural way."

Mark Lewis, chief development officer of EMC, doesn't hold back when praising the impact of web 2.0 technologies on information management:
"Web 2.0 flips the information delivery model upside down--it's now about global access, and information at your fingertips, aggregated from sources that you don't even necessarily know about, or care where they exist. Based on a set of search criteria, information in all its rich forms--media, video, audio, images, documents, text--all will be assembled together in context and delivered to users and applications for real-time experience."
IBM has a suite of components that offer "Information on Demand through Web 2.0 technologies and patterns". "Info 2.0" is a trendy but also boring name on the marriage of Information Management and Web 2.0. They try to spice it up with the slogan "Mashup and remix your enterprise information assets". Here's how they promote Info 2.0:
"...leading companies in many industries and new breeds of user-driven, Web-based, not-for-profit user communities have already...created business approaches using a set of philosophies and technologies, known as Web 2.0, to foster innovation and responsiveness to customer and marketplace trends and to simplify communication and collaboration among members of the extended value chain. Web 2.0 approaches can enable organizations to create community value by tapping the collective knowledge of extended teams."

But let's not get too focused on technologies. Web 2.0 technologies alone will not radically improve internal communication, collaboration and information exchange within enterprises. The main obstacles to doing this has never been technological, but rather cultural and related to such things as attitudes and values, organization, management style and how people are rewarded.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The impact of Web 2.0 and social software on KM

Here's a presentation from a series of workshops that David Gurteen held for IBM in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok the last month. The reason for these workshops was "to help IBM's customers better understand Social Tools and their impact on traditional KM and the enterprise". The presentation illustrates what kind of impact web 2.0 and social software has had on knowledge management, a key point being that KM has changed from being techno-centric to people-centric. I personally think that summarizes the whole "2.0" thing quite well.

Friday, January 18, 2008

More on corporate blogging

Here's a few linkes to blog posts on corporate blogging:

Enterprises Begin To Embrace Web 2.0 by Ron Condon, CIO Today
"According to Jorge Lopez, industry research chief at Gartner, the focus of I.T. has been to cut costs by automating tasks that can be broken down into discrete processes. But it has achieved all it can in that respect and any further improvements would be marginal. The next frontier for I.T. is the non-routine work that lends itself less readily to automation -- and here the talk is of augmentation: helping people come to decisions more quickly, and helping support any consequent action. "

"'With knowledge workers, such as managers, who deal with non-routine kinds of work, the idea of productivity is different. As [management guru Peter] Drucker pointed out, you don't pay them by the hour but by results," says Lopez. "The question is: how do you help that class of worker become productive?'"

In the post "Measuring Social Media And Corporate Blogging", John Cass lists a number of potential goals for corporate blogs, including a list of possible measures for quantifying if you are successful or not.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Are meetings in Second Life carbon free?

An article in Environmentalt Leader refers to a study saing that office culture is hindering remote working and green practices:

"UK employees name office culture as the main culprit for the slow adoption of remote working and green practices, research from Interwise, a company that sells remote working tools, finds."

"'Companies which do not embrace remote working will find it difficult to recruit and retain staff,' Gartner vice-president and fellow Diane Morello said. 'Corporates should respond to user pressure for presence-aware applications, social networking tools and wikis to support flexible working. IT organizations that attempt to shut down those tools for security and policy reasons alone will do so at the expense of their relevance and value.'"

Mindy S. Lubber, president of Ceres WorldChanging, writes about the need to "Fly Less, Videoconference More" WorldChanging, using her own traveling as an example of (to me) meaningless travel:

"Just this week, three of us flew back and forth to New York for a 90 minute meeting with a company and a key investor. The meeting was important, but it also ate up 20 hours of precious staff time. The flights themselves accounted for 238 pounds of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere."

"We could buy carbon credits, of course, but why not cut to the chase and replace unnecessary flying with conference calls or, better yet, videoconferences -- which would allow us to meet face to face without being fact to face?"

Another article at Environmental Leader asks if companies can cut emissions with virtual job fairs in Second Life:

"It’s cheaper than holding an actual job fair, where companies have to pay travel costs for recruiters. Hewlett-Packard, for example, says the cost of participating in the job fair - which includes buying “land” in Second Life - was less than the price of paying a third-party recruiter to hire one experienced candidate."

"It also seems that interviewing in Second Life could reduce emissions, using the same arguments video conferencing companies have started using to tout their greenness".

OneClimate Island in Second Life is promoted as a virtual meeting place that "you can travel to carbon free to meet other people working on solutions to climate change."

But there is another side to the story as well, which makes it clear that a meeting in Second Life life is not carbon free. Nick Carr has calculated that a second life avatar consume as much electricity as the average brazilian during a year. In a comment to the post, Seth Finkelstein's continues the calculation:

"looking at CO2 production, 1,752 kWH/year per avatar is about 1.17 tons of CO2. That's the equivalent of driving an SUV around 2,300 miles (or a Prius around 4,000)."

Still, let's not forget that meeting in Second Life would be much better than taking the plane to a meeting. A few flights will produce more CO2 than the average Brazilian produces in a year. We must try to put things in the proper perspective. In a way, it is about choosing the least bad alternative among the bad ones. There is no such thing as a carbon free lunch.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Interesting readings from this week

Here are a few interesting readings from this week.

To start with, Bill Ives lists the best Enterprise 2.0 success stories he has collected during 2007. Read and get inspired.

In Information World Review, Phil Muncaster writes about research that show a trend of "increasing resources for council IT departments and greater influence for chief information officers". He refers to the Forrester vice president Alex Cullen and writes:
"IT leaders will seek to more closely integrate their departments with the wider business by sending smaller groups into different business areas to act as specialist technology advisers...//...There is also a great opportunity for so-called “change agent” IT chiefs to take advantage of their insight into line-of-business and functional silos in order to become trusted advisers to the board, argued Cullen."

There has, of course, been much buzz this week following Microsofts aquisition of FAST, the Norwegian enterprise search firm. As SharePoint user, I personally welcome this aquisition (yes, I am not too happy about the current SharePoint Search). Guy Creese at Burton Group splits the search market into three sectors:

"(1) cheap and OK, (2) relatively inexpensive and an 80% solution, and (3) expensive and sophisticated, Microsoft is targeting tier two with SharePoint Search".
He concludes that the list of competitors in enterprise search is getting smaller and smaller (Autonomy, Oracle, IBM and Google besides Microsoft).

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The essence of an information strategy

Majid Abai has captured the essence of what an information strategy is about and provides a very illustrative analogy to explain why every organization needs an information strategy.

"As it stands, within the past few years, a number of organizations have started to implement an organizational information strategy. These companies recognize that information is an organizational asset and should be maintained as such. They also recognize the lack of a central strategy has created major problems across the organization."

"All information in an organization should meet a certain standard for quality. It should be delivered consistently across the organization, i.e., asking for the same information in different divisions should yield the same result, and users and applications shouldn’t have to wait long to get their requested information. "

"As an analogy, one could compare information in an organization to water in a typical metropolis. In the old days, as people built a house, they’d also dig a well in their backyard to reach water needed for drinking, cooking or cleaning. This water was hardly shared and was not necessarily clean...//...as people matured in the art of city planning, we learned to think of water as a common utility and to integrate, clean, and distribute it from a central organization in the metropolis."

"You might say that we, as the residents of a metropolis, have an unsigned contract with our metropolitan water department to provide us with clean, consistent, and timely water. Basically, regardless of where you are in the metropolis, you can trust that the water is consistent, has met certain level of quality, and if you open the faucet, it will flow."

"The same applies to information in the organization. By implementing the same principles as our city planners, we’d be able to capture, integrate, and cleanse the information in a central repository, and to deliver it to our internal and external users in a clean, consistent, and timely manner."

Monday, January 7, 2008

Put ease of use in focus - please!

I have been writing in previous posts about IT Departments that do not understand the importance of ease of use and listening to user needs. David Gurteen linked to a post by Lee Bryant and I found it so funny that I had share it.

"The same IT folks who rail about the "risks" of sharing and online social networking are also responsible for creating systems so unusable and inflexible that they lead users to dump entire databases onto CD and lose them. I think it is fair to argue that IT systems that do no nderstand people are a bigger risk than human-scale web computing that treats people as adults."

(on how UK Customs and Excise could lose two CDs containing 25 million highly confidential Child Benefit records and the bank details of 7.25 million individual recipients)

Here are a few of my own posts on (almost) the same the subject:

Key issues to solve to get corporate blogging going

As an active blogger and reader of blogs via RSS, I see a number of pre-requisities for corporate blogging to boost. Here are a few of them:

#1 Easy access. The blogs and the blog administration tool must be easy to access and so must the RSS reader used to read RSS feed items with. They must be accessible from any computer or mobile device with web browsing capabilities. Cumbersome autentication procedures must be avoided.

#2 Ease of use. The administration user interface must be really simple to use. Even simple usability issues will eventually discourage users from blogging unless they are really dedicated bloggers. There should be big buttons for creating, editing and publishing posts and simple editing tools.

#3 Single point of administration. The administration must be user-centric, meaning that employees must be able to administer all the blogs they own or contribute to from one point, using one single administration tool that allows users to easily toggle between blogs (as a comparison, in MOSS 2007 you have to navigate to each blog to create and edit posts, which is really cumbersome).

#4 Freedom of choice. Employees must be able to use their RSS reader of choice. If employees cannot use the same reader for internal feeds as they use for external feeds, it will cause frustration and they simply won't read internal RSS feeds often enough or at all. If an internal RSS reader is available as one of the choices, it must allow subscription to external RSS feeds (besides being easy to access).

#5 Mobility. Employees must be able to blog and read blogs and RSS on the go, using mobile devices. Preferably, it should be possible to create and publish post via e-mail, MSS and SMS in addition to via a web interface.

#6 Tagging. It must be able to tag and categorize posts so that employees both can manage their blog posts and allow users to navigate posts by subject or interest area. Preferably social tagging that suggest commonly used tags should be supported.

As a matter of fact, all of these pre-requisites are in some way related to easy of use.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Taking the challenge

I’m taking the challenge to write a checklist for situations when I need to get together face-to-face and when other alternatives such as web conferencing might be just as suitable or at least possible. A post by Jessica Lipnack about “carbon-neutral teams” gave me the idea and being quoted on her blog provided some extra motivation. I am involving my fellow bloggers Henrik and Anders (Anders wrote a peace called “Are we finally ready for eco-meetings?” a while ago). Anyway, we are compiling a list of candidate items for the checklist and I hope to present it in some time.

By the way, do you know that you can calculate how much emission of carbon dioxide you cause by flying? The CarbonNeutral Company offers calculators and the airline SAS actually allows you to compensate for the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) that you cause when you travel with them. Good initiative. But what we need is to do is also to compary flying to other transportation alternatives.

Let’s take my flight next week from Malmö to Stockholm and back again as an example. By taking the plane, I would have caused an emission of 0.1644 tonnes of CO2. By taking the train instead, I will cause an emission of only 0.0012 tonnes of CO2. Do I need to say more? I guess not. I will take the train from now on. It really makes a difference.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

What others predict for 2008

Here are a couple of predictions of what might become the big thing during 2008. Jeff Nolan, VP Corp Dev for NewsGator Technologies argues (surprisingly?) that 2008 will become "The Year of RSS":

"Portal Plumbing. Using RSS / Atom as a way for backend systems to funnel information (both publishing and retrieving) into a single access points that are easy to use and easy to manage. Users won't need to know why all the information they find important is on one page. This is a no-brainer in many ways, and it reflects what is happening on the consumer side of the business. A large segment of users are taking advantage of start pages like iGoogle and Netvibes to be their own aggregator, and are using RSS to accomplish this, there is no reason why this should not also happen behind the firewall."


Bill Ives ponders if "carbon neutral teams" will become the big thing in 2008 and refers to a post by Jessica Lipnack at Endless Knots where she introduces the idea:

"Thus, let me introduce the idea of "carbon neutral teams." When we talk about "individual" efforts to reduce emissions, perhaps we can also consider "team" efforts. OK, we already have such teams--in our beloved city of Newton, Massachusetts, anyway--that "team up" every spring to remove detritus from the banks of the storied Charles River. Thousands of other communities are doing the same.”

“But what about making our at-work teams carbon neutral? Instead of that next in-person meeting, whether a few miles away or a few thousand, how about meeting online? How about developing a checklist for why you need to get together face-to-face, then rating each upcoming event? Unless you exceed a certain threshold, you stay put."

Bill comments:

"...the energy savings part is a good idea and Jessica has some good suggestions the next time your plan to travel to a team meeting. There are times like interviews where I find virtual meetings to work better because I can focus on what is being said and taking notes, as well as looking at my key questions while talking. In the days of in personal meetings, I would often have to bring an extra person to take the notes. Another trend is the blogging of conferences so that only one team representative needs to go and the others can have real time conversations on the event in time to provide feedback."

As a comment to that, I actually (encouraged by my wife) decided to go by train instead of flying from Malmö to Stockholm next week (600 kilometers). Not only am I saving the environment by not going by air, but I also save money for my company (or actually, the customer) since it will be cheaper than flying - despite the fact that I have to pay for one extra hotel night. The only thing I won't be saving is time. But that depends on how I look at it. On the train, I will be able to work for almost four hours and access the Internet via the wireless network on the train. Maybe I will take some time to sketch on a checklist for situations when I need to get together face-to-face and when other alternatives such as web conferencing might be just as suitable or at least possible. In addition to that, I also need a checklist for deciding what means of transportation I should be using in situations when a face-to-face meeting is absolutely necessary – should I go by train, air, car or bike? Then I will publish these as post on my team’s internal blog so they can read it via RSS – wherever they happen to be. Well, as long as they are inside the corporate firewalls.

Global survey on how businesses are using Web 2.0

Here's the abstract of an article from McKinsey on "How businesses are using Web 2.0" that you can download for free (requires registration):

More than three-fourths of executives who responded to a McKinsey survey say they plan to maintain or increase their investments in technology trends that encourage user collaboration, such as peer-to-peer networking, social networks, and Web services.

More than half say they are pleased with their past Internet investments, though some regret not boosting their own capabilities to exploit technology. More executives said they should have acted faster than slower.

Retailers, who consider their companies cautious investors in the past, are stepping up their pace today. Similarly, many executives in emerging markets such as India and Latin America intend to move more quickly to capture the perceived benefits of these technologies.

In a follow-up discussion, respondents describe how these innovations are creating a new way of bringing technology into businesses, one that is easier to implement and more flexible than traditional top-down approaches. They also offered insights into how and why their companies are using Web 2.0 and where these technologies may offer a sustained competitive edge.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Why EIM is needed for SOA - and vice versa

I’m starting off 2008 with a post that is touching the two most strategic challenges for enterprises the years to come - how to manage the lifeblood information of an enterprise and how to make it available in a more efficient and flexible manner to the intended users. Or in other words; Enterprise Information Management (EIM) and Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA).

A basic question is how the concepts of EIM and SOA relate to each other. Gartner has clearly stated that EIM is needed for SOA, and vice versa. In an article at destinationCRM.com, David Newman, a research vice president at Gartner stated the following:

"SOA requires EIM, and EIM requires SOA. Both get to the heart of being able to break down those information silos and making information the number-one asset of the enterprise."
SOA requires EIM because EIM enables SOA. You cannot succeed with SOA without addressing the issues of EIM. But, EIM does not require SOA in the same way, even if it probably will make things easier. You can deal with EIM without transforming the IT landscape. But you will not get the flexibility and cost-efficiency that SOA promises.

The main reason why SOA requires EIM more than vice versa is that EIM primarly deals with the “what” while SOA primarily deals with the “how”. Before you can determine the best way to do things (how), you need to determine what to do. The same goes for EIM and SOA; you first need to know what the consumers need (the information) and what you decide on providing to them before you find out how to provide it (the services).

Brian Wood at SAP Labs seem to share a similar view on the relationship between EIM and SOA that he shares in his post "Enterprise Information Management Is Key to Optimizing Your Enterprise SOA Efforts":

You can't quantify the value of enterprise SOA unless you first know what your strongest value drivers are…//…you still need to develop your EIM capabilities to provide a single, consistent view of all relevant information assets and metrics…//…EIM must be able to provide robust and adaptable access to all relevant, quality-related information in the context of your business processes on one day, and then seamlessly switch to a cost optimization or a customer experience view on the next.
Even without SOA, most decision makers would likely agree on that the issues which are addressed within EIM represent critical challenges for their organizations. Nonetheless, very few take action on them in a holistic and enterprise-wide manner. Dr. Jamshid A. Vayghan at IBM highlights some of the information management issues that need to be addressed from an EIM angle:
A few weeks ago, I spoke at RSM Erasmus university in Rotterdam on enterprise information management and its challenges. To describe the enterprise information challenges, I used the elephant metaphor of reality. I used that metaphore to imply that large enterprises usually do not look at the enterprise information challenges holistically. Some groups within the enterprise act like those blind men and believe that the enterprise information challenges are solved when their local problems are fixed:-). In the talk, I mentioned a number of those local problems. A few of them are:

1. finding the relevant information is difficult. Making things worse, the same group is not usually responsible for structured and unstructured data.
2. lack of clarity on data ownership.
3. each group within the enterprise has its own set of tools and technology.
4. tight coupling between applications and data sources.
5. database issues including lack of standards, data redundancy, and data myopia.
6. lack of common vocabularies for the same subject area
7. disconnect between technical architecture, business processes, and corporate policies
8. existence of information silos, silo mentality, and silo organizations within the enterprise
9. lack of data skills. I believe that our universities do not train the types of skills we need in this area. I will discuss this later separately.

My point was solving these issues in isolation will not solve the enterprise information issues. We need to consider all of them in a holistic manner.
The popularity of SOA makes it an important driver for addressing and dealing with EIM within enterprises. So in this sense, EIM really requires SOA.