Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A radical remedy to the information management problem by Andrew McAfee

From the post "What I Said About the Revolution" by Andrew McAfee:

Impediment or design flaw: People and Information are Deeply Mismatched in Most Organizations.

...while most organizations are drowning in many kinds of data they are simultaneously starved for vitally important information—information that comes over time from ‘wetware,’ or the minds of involved people. Lack of access to this information leads to sluggishness, redundancy, inferior decisions, and missed opportunities.

Radical Remedy: Create an Emergent, Social Enterprise Information Environment

An organization should deploy a universal digital environment that lets members contribute and modify content in a ‘freeform’ manner—with a minimum of imposed structure in the form of workflows, decision right allocations, interdependencies, and data formats specified ex ante. This environment should contain mechanisms to let structure emerge over time; such mechanisms include linking, tagging, voting, rating, and trading, as well as algorithms that generate recommendations, assess relative popularity, etc.

How about that?

I think it has all to do with empowering people and provide them with the means to allow ideas and information to flow easily. If people will just think "share" instead of "store" when they produce content, then a lot can be achieved. We are still stuck in the old mindset that we produce content to store it somewhere or in a certain format. The tools and technologies we use should instead make us aware about the user in the other end so that we actually produce content to be easy to find, access, use and share. For us IT professionals, why not just avoid drawing databases whenever we visualize an IT solution for customers? Business users should need to care about how or where the content is stored. And as more and more get used to storing their content in "the cloud", they will naturally care less about it. We should focus more on the interfaces and what they expect to be able to achieve with the solutions.

Top Challenges Information Managers Must Master In 2008

"Top Challenges Information Managers Must Master In 2008" as seen by the Editorial Staff at DM Review:

Moving content management throughout the enterprise. If you concentrate on some facet of enterprise content management (ECM), you know the challenge of getting business people to actually use the content system instead of relying on the old way of doing things. And now it’s getting more complicated as business people’s expectations continue to change through their use of new technologies that can store content in the cloud.

Evolving collaboration strategies to reflect the way people work.
If you focus on collaboration, there’s not only the constant issue of Microsoft versus IBM, but now the ante has been raised with questions like “Should I bring Google into the picture?” or “Should we use wikis instead of document management?” coming from all corners within the
enterprise.

Dealing with a changing data management landscape.
If you concentrate on data management and decision support, then recent consolidation in the BI market created more work for you. Plus, data governance issues continue to grow, driven by increasing interest in data warehousing appliances, metadata management, and master data management.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Virtual meetings are easier to facilitate than semi-virtual meetings

I personally find virtual meetings where everybody in the meeting are forced to use collaboration technologies such as desktop sharing, phone conferencing and instant messaging easier to facilitate than semi-virtual meetings. In a semi-virtual meeting, the meeting takes place at a certain location with some participants on location and some joining in remotely via for example a web conference. All participants are invited to the web conference, but since some of them can communicate directly with each other without using the web conference, the communication to participants who are not physically present might suffer. In a semi-virtual, the participants who are face-to-face will naturally communicate more and with other means than with the remote participants. The typical example is when a person who is physically present at the meeting location all of a sudden forgets that some participants only can communicate via the tools provided by the web conference tool. Here's an example that happened in a semi-virtual meeting I facilitated last week:

We are having a discussion about a certain subject and one of the participant who is physically present has an idea which he needs to articulate to the others. He automatically looks for the best tool to do so and in a meeting room the most natural thing (and easiest) to use is usually the whiteboard. So he jumps off his chair and starts to illustrate his reasoning to the other participants using the whiteboard. As some participants are in the same room, he does not only choose to communicate via a tool that the participants joining in from elsewhere via the web conference does not have access to, but he also forgets to tell the participants that he is now going to use the whiteboard to illustrate his reasoning. At this point, the meeting facilitator(me) should probably make the person aware of that some participants cannot see the drawings on the whiteboard. But since doing so can also disrupt a creative process, it is something that needs to be handled with care. My choice was either to disrupt a creative process and a communication process that worked very well for the participants physically present in the meeting room, or to leave the other participants wondering what the heck the person was talking about.

What I did? I let him continue a short while until there was an opportunity to remind him about the participants joining in remotely. I also quickly made a simple sketch in PowerPoint of what he was writing on the whiteboard that I shared via the web conferencing tool. After having stopped him, I asked the remote participants if they had followed his reasoning (they answered "so and so") and then I made a short summary of it myself using the illustration in PowerPoint which they all could see. We could then continue the discussion using the PowerPoint sketch that I shared via the web conference.

Another more practical thing which is complicating the communication in a semi-virtual meeting is that the participants who are physically present won’t call in individually to the web conference. Instead they will all call in using one person’s identity and then put the speaker on. It wouldn’t work if all of them would call from their own phone or computer. But, when they share one person's identity it becomes harder for participants who are joining in remote to know who’s saying what in the other end.

To sum up; having semi-virtual meetings requires structure and discipline to follow that structure for all participants. Participants who meet face-to-face must always remind themselves that some participants are joining in remote and seek to use the communication tools which they also can use. This can in turn be a constraint to creative processes. So, to support creative processes it is even more efficient to have virtual meetings than semi-remote. Meetings where creativity is a key necessity to produce an outcome, it is probably better for all participants to meet face-to-face.

Friday, May 23, 2008

This week in links - week 21, 2008

"EMC's Documentum and eRoom gets a 2.0 make over with 'Magellan'" by James Dellow:

EMC's Documentum and eRoom are already widely deployed enterprise content and
collaboration tools and their new proposed client platform, Magellan, could provide an alternative to Microsoft SharePoint (for collaboration) and IBM's Connections/Quickr. From the end-user perspective, Magellan will provide Web 2.0 collaboration features, such as Wikis, blogs, RSS, and tagging.

"It's Not The Data, It's The Flow" by Fred Wilson:

Social web services need not fear data portability. They need to fear others providing a better experience. Because when others do that, the flow of data moves and they aren't in the middle anymore. They might still have your data but they won't have you. And that's where the value is.

"Why change management is critical to Web 2.0 success" by Neil Davey:

A survey of 1,800 executives worldwide by McKinsey last year, for instance, revealed that a fifth of them were already using blogs to improve customer service or solicit customer feedback. It’s a sure bet that 2008 will see firms not only exploring blogs, but also peer to peer networking, social networks and podcasts.

But rolling out social software in an organisation isn’t akin to buying another version of Oracle. There is a certain degree of organisational readiness that needs to be achieved in order to successfully deploy and absorb the changes associated with implementing social software. And the change management necessary to precede such a Web 2.0 strategy has caught many businesses unaware

Web 2.0 practitioner and author of 'Winning by Sharing' Leon Benjamin is in agreement with the findings. "To participate in a network, a company must itself be network-centric," he explains. "Unfortunately this means taking a conscious decision to dismantle hierarchical organisation. Democratising decision making (crowd sourcing), creating openness and transparency is a big step for large organisations in particular. For most of them, this is still a step too far. That is where you get the major resistance. People suddenly worry about being more transparent, anybody can talk to anybody. And that is a really big problem for some people high up in some organisations."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Google Sites finally open to everyone

Google have now made Google Sites available to anyone, which is very exciting. From the Official Google Blog:

A few months ago we launched Google Sites exclusively as part of Google Apps for companies and organizations that wanted to use the service on their own domains. Now we've made it easy for anyone to set up a website to share all types of information -- team projects, company intranets, community groups, classrooms, clubs, family updates, you name it -- in one place, for a few people, a group or the world. You can securely host your own website at http://sites.google.com/[your-website] and add as many pages as you like for free:

I've already set up my first site and invited my fellow bloggers so we can evaluate how it performs as collaboration tool. It is certainly easy to set up a site.

This is a smart move by Google, to let the users drive the adoption of Google Sites as collaboration tool and eventually bring it to their workplaces if they like it. But maybe that is just the way I would think if I was in the driving seat at Google.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Getting more out of RSS and Google Reader

Since I started using Google Reader and reading RSS feeds on a daily basis, I don't go to visit my favorite websites in order to learn what is new. I don't need to since they come to me instead. I have plugged their information flow into my own flow of information by subscribing to their RSS feed(s). It helps me feel very up-to-date about what is happening. I am less likely to miss out on content that might be of value just because I forget to visit the web site for a while.

Overall I am very satisfied with this way of finding and digesting information. I am also satisfied with my reader, which has been Google Reader since the start. But being satisfied does not mean that I do not want to get more out of both RSS as a technology and from Google Reader. In fact, it works the opposite way. Being satisfied makes me want to get more and I'll share some of the things that I want with you in this post. It has mostly got to do with Google Reader.

Accessing information
Google Reader is really easy to access since I can read the RSS feeds I subscribe to via Google Reader both from any computer and from my smartphone. The mobile version of Google Reader is really neat and makes it almost easier to digest the feeds than the regular version. Reading RSS is a perfect thing to do while waiting sitting on the train, being in-between meetings or just going somewhere on foot.

What I am still missing is the ability to read RSS feeds which require authentication. I would like to be able to access internal information from my company via RSS using the same reader as I use for all my external feeds. Right now I need to use Outlook 2007 for the internal feeds from SharePoint, but since Google Reader is where I read most of my feeds I simply forget to read the internal feeds (besides, I need to be logged on to the domain to retrieve new items from the internal feeds). It would be great if there was a way to use Google Reader for internal feeds as well, although I know that it is not something that the Google Reader team can solve for me on their own.

Organizing information
Being able to categorize feeds into different folders in Google Reader helps me manage a large number of feeds (I group them by subject). However, since a lot of the feeds contain information on different subjects I would like to be able to tag individual items in the feeds as well. Currently I can add a star to an item which I find valuable and would like to keep for later, but the number of "starred items" soon grows very large. Thus I would like to have the possibility to tag items that I add a star to and to be able to browse or search starred items by my own tags.

Sharing information
I really like the new feature of Google Reader that allows me to share items with friends (other Reader users that I know and trust). Since this sharing works both ways, I also get access to items that my friends share with me. Supposing that they know what I am interested in and vice versa, we help each other to get hold of interesting information. Reading the same things and knowing that we do so make it easier to discuss certain topics or collaborate on a common task. I can also add a note to an item which I want to share, which is really good since I can tell others why I like to share the item.

Although I know this feature is quire new and in trial stage, I would already like a lot more from it. First of all, I would like to be able to share items with specific friend instead of all of them. I want to be able to share items that I know a specific friend is interested in and which other friends might not be. I also would like my friends to have the possibility to share items with me that they believe I would be interested in . Right now, this feature is a little egocentric. It is more "I find this information interesting so I'll share it with all my friends" than "I believe my friend X could interested in this information so I'll share it with him".

I am pretty sure that the feature to share items with friends is just the first step in Google Reader becoming a social RSS reader, more like FriendFeed. If you're interested in knowing more about this feature, you can read more about sharing on the Official Google Reader Blog.

Other things…
Then there are some other things that I am not really satisfied with and where Google Reader can't help me out. First of all, since I use RSS as my main way to obtain information, I get annoyed when I find a new web site with good content but which do not offer it to me via RSS. Secondly, I would like all my friends and people which I would like to share and exchange information with to obtain information in the same way as I do, using the same reader. This way I could easily share interesting items in my feeds with them and they could share interesting items in their feeds with me.

Well that's about it. I’ll continue persuading friends and colleagues to start using RSS and Google Reader so that we can all share new and interesting information with each other.

Lethal face-to-face meetings

Jessica Lipnack has written an interesting article for The Industry Standard called "When face time is a matter of life and death" where she among other things provides a mindopening example of when face-to-face meeting can actually be leathal.

In the article, Jessica also mentions the blog-to-blog collaboration between her, us and Michael Sampson on a checklist before traveling to face-to-face meetings. Thanks for mentioning The Content Economy, Jessica!

You can find our "beta version" of the checklist here on our blog.

Jessica took the checklist to another level and Michael Sampson visualized her version with a flowchart.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Fixed broken links

I've now fixed the two broken links in the post "If you have missed out on these reports...".

This week in links - week 20, 2008

"Does ‘SOA lifecycle management’ say it better than ‘SOA governance’?" by Joe McKendrick

These and many other issues were explored at Software AG’s SOA Governance Summit held this week in New York. I had the chance to stop by, and one current
that ran through the event was the thinking that perhaps the industry needs to shift away from the term “SOA governance” — which evokes images of nasty things like control and restrictions — and start referring to it as “SOA lifecycle management.” Will that stick? SOA lifecycle management could be acronymized as SLIM — which evokes images of unwieldy, sprawling service creation and management being streamlined into a nice, manageable process.

Forrester analyst Mike Gilpin planted the seeds for the terminology change, a theme echoed by other speakers throughout the day. However, the bottom line, Gilpin observes, is the fact that “business is still frozen in a mess of technology silos.”

"SOA and the Emperor’s New Clothes" by Loraine Lawson:

For some time now, I’ve been biting my tongue to keep from asking SOA experts one question. A few weeks ago, I couldn’t stand it anymore. Right in the middle of an interview with Miko Matsumura, the vice president and deputy CTO at Software AG, I broke down and blurted out:

'It’s starting to feel like SOA is the famous emperor who thought he was wearing fine threads and in fact he really had no clothes. What would you say to the CIO who is starting to wonder, SOA or any of these three-letter acronyms, are they really wearing any clothes?'

Part of the problem, according to Matsumura, is that we actually have two working versions of SOA. There’s what he calls “Legoland SOA” or Little SOA – which is focused on components – and Big SOA, which is what you get when you add in business process and Web-oriented technologies. Big SOA can be a strategic tool. But, human nature being what it is, people are loathe to give up their little fiefdoms and so, in practice, we wind up with “Little SOA” - pieces and silos, rather than a new strategic architecture. In this climate, SOA becomes “just” something that’s done within IT and never realizes its transformative potential.

"Relating Master Data Management to SOA" by Chris Madrid:

Service-orientation has quickly been adopted for the purpose of abstracting backend complexity from actionable interfaces, LOB applications, and business partners. Once the Service FaƧade pattern has been applied, backend optimization for performance and maintenance becomes possible. MDM is one technique to assist in that optimization. Existing services are easier to maintain and will perform better. New services will be easier to develop and will become trustworthy to the business without the need for time-consuming data mapping activities.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

If you have missed out on these reports...

...then you find them here:

The Diverse and Exploding Digital Universe
"In this EMC-sponsored white paper, IDC calibrates the size (bigger than first thought) and the growth (faster than expected) of the digital universe through 2011."

AIIM Market IQ on Enterprise 2.0: Agile, Emergent, and Integrated
"This study of 441 end users (performed in January 2008) found that a majority of organizations recognize Enterprise 2.0 as critical to the success of their business goals and objectives, but that most do not have a clear understanding of what Enterprise 2.0 is. This 80+ page report, which contains over 70 figures, covers Enterprise 2.0 from all perspectives including technology, business drivers and market dynamics."

Lost & Found: A Smart-Practice Guide to Managing Organizational Memory
Found via Bill Ives, who describes it as follows: "...the Canada School of the Public Service has crafted a good overview of knowledge management (in the context of organizational demographic changes) and has some useful examples of common approaches/techniques...//...The focus is on public but the report provides a good introduction for fairly broad consumption."

Future of Media Report 2007
This report describes the evolving convergence media landscape. Michael Pick and Robin Good provides you with a short overview.

Open Source Web Content Management in Java
"...provides an in depth analysis of seven of the leading open source Java web content management platforms. Written for technical decision makers, the report breaks down the open source marketplace and describes various categories of open source software and where they are most effectively used. The report also provides a framework for understanding the cost and risk implications of selecting an open source platform over commercial software"

...and here are some online readings:

IBM Social Computing Guidelines
"In the spring of 2005, IBMers used a wiki to create a set of guidelines for all IBMers who wanted to blog. These guidelines aimed to provide helpful, practical advice—and also to protect both IBM bloggers and IBM itself, as the company sought to embrace the blogosphere. Since then, many new forms of social media have emerged. So we turned to IBMers again to re-examine our guidelines and determine what needed to be modified. The effort has broadened the scope of the existing guidelines to include all forms of social computing."

Sun Guidelines on Public Discourse
"Many of us at Sun are doing work that could change the world. Contributing to online communities by blogging, wiki posting, participating in forums, etc., is a good way to do this. You are encouraged to tell the world about your work, without asking permission first, but we expect you to read and follow the advice in this note."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Experiences from using SharePoint for collaboration (file sharing)

From the comments to my post "SharePoint 2007 - Dream or Nightmare", I could tell that I need to give a little more detail about my experiences from using SharePoint as a collaboration platform. I will try to do that in this post, but I must first say that it is hard for me to tell if the issues that I am experiencing are the specific to the installation I am using or not. Although I have in-depth experience from developing and implementing ECMS, intranets, portals and web-based collaboration tools, I am just one end-user among others when it comes to SharePoint. I have no deeper insight into either the architecture or what features come out of the box of SharePoint and what needs to be added or customized by custom development as I do not work with SharePoint from an implementation perspective.

However, one of my main points in my critique against SharePoint is that SharePoint – as Microsoft claims SharePoint to be a collaboration platform - should provide better capabilities for a smooth collaboration experience out of the box. As end-user I am not interested in investing time and effort to know the architecture of SharePoint in order to use it. I also suppose that most businesses are not happy about having to invest a lot of time and money in customization and custom development to get the basic capabilities for collaboration when they purchase a product that claims to be a collaboration platform (such as SharePoint).

I would like to utilize the collective intelligence of the readers of this blog to help me identify the root causes of my problems and suggest solutions to them, as I know there are many of you who are skilled and experiences in relevant areas (such as SharePoint 2007) and since I might just having problems with symptoms of something else than actual flaws in SharePoint. To get you started I will try to describe my usage context:

As IT management consultant, I often team up with colleagues for team deliveries. As we might work from different locations and have other assignments in parallel, we have to do much of the work on distance. So we need some collaboration tools besides phone and e-mail to support us. Our basic need - which I believe can be addressed by SharePoint - is to be able to share and collaborate on files, primarily MS Office documents, together. We simply need to be able to store the files somewhere we all can access, find and update them in a controlled manner. More specifically, this is what I personally expect from a collaboration tool that supports file sharing:
  • Easy access to the files so that we can access the files from any computer or device equipped with a web browser
  • A user interface is simple to use so that occasional users can find their way around and perform their tasks without the need for education
  • The possibility to organize and tag the files so that users can find them easily by browsing and / or searching
  • The possibility to share the documents with anyone we want to share them with, includes notifying them how and where to access the files

Now back to SharePoint. I have trouble doing the following in SharePoint:

  • Accessing my files in an easy way - I can access SharePoint from a web browser via a secure gateway, but it is a process that navigation wise takes a lot of time. I would like my SharePoint sites to appear as virtual drives on my computer even though I am not logged on to the domain with the computer.
  • Finding my way around – I have had to invest a great deal of time in getting to know the SharePoint environment to be able to find my way around in SharePoint. Options that are likely to be used frequently are hidden with a lot of other options in cascading menus.
  • I have found no possibility to tag files with my own tags and to organize the files in folders is anything but a smooth experience. To move a file from the web interface, I first need to know the URL of the destination folder! In addition, instead of copying a document which is already located somewhere else in SharePoint (or even outside of SharePoint), I would like to link to the document from a folder but I have found no easy way to do this.
  • It is not possible to share documents with users outside our domain. I would like to be able to send an e-mail with a link to the document and that the receiver of the document can download. Or, I should be able to select a document from within SharePoint and send it as an attachment via e-mail.

I have already invested time and effort in trying to understand the SharePoint environment. My key concern however is to get the people I need to collaborate with to use the SharePoint for collaboration. The main obstacle is, besides the usability of MOSS 2007, that it is hard to access files and resources in SharePoint when we are outside of our domain or using computers provided to us by our clients.

Please enlighten me on how to make the collaboration experience smoother.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Facebook becoming less social and thus less innovative?

"Throughout the primate world, social networks provide a fast conduit for innovation and information-sharing that help the group as a whole to adapt to its environment."

The quote above is from the book "Glut - Mastering Information Through The Ages" by Alex Wright that I am currently reading. Wright provides many examples on how innovations happen in social networks and that the density of the network (how close the individuals are to each other) is correlated to the probability of innovations to happen. In the book, Alex Wright also reasons about how networks and hieararchies "not only coexist, they are continually giving rise to each other". Definately interesting reading.

As I am apparently influenced by what I am reading, an item from the WebWare.com RSS feed caught my interest. In "Facebook to discontinue Network Pages", Harrison Hoffman ponders on the news that Facebook will soon discontinue Network Pages:

"In a warning message to users, Facebook has said that they will soon be discontinuing Network Pages. Network Pages is a feature which allows members of a particular network to view and interact with a variety of data, such as Wall postings, marketplace listings, statistics on the most popular things in their network, and popular groups. In the same message, Facebook then goes on to suggest that you should use Groups in order to connect with people around you."

"This is a pretty interesting move and I'm not really sure why Facebook is going in this direction. Groups are a fine method of communication between people who share specific interests, but Network Pages, on the ther hand, are great for seeing what's popular in your network, which probably includes people that you would not otherwise be in a group with. It is a good consolidated view of things that are of direct concern and interest to people in that network."

My reflection on the news article above is that Facebook might be fundamentally misunderstanding the power of social networks and their own reason for success if they see groups and networks as interchangeable.

Friday, May 9, 2008

This week in links - week 19, 2008

"Alfresco's Social Computing Slant Shows ECM's Evolution" by George Dearing:

"I had an interesting discussion with John Newton, the co-founder of Alfresco, recently...//...Newton makes everything sound so damn easy when he talks about enterprise content management. And when's the last time you heard the words 'easy' and 'ECM' in the same sentence?"

"If you take into account the way information increasingly lives inside and outside the firewall, ECM becomes even more complex. Companies now have to figure out how to consume and create content in both environments, something Newton says Alfresco accomplishes by adopting a 'content-as-service' approach. He argues that most enterprises lay out their palette of required services based on the need to create content. The focal point shouldn't be centered so much on the ECM suite, he argues. It has more to do with looking at 'how the Web browser can help knowledge workers do their jobs.'"

[Newton:]"'Content services should just be accessible wherever knowledge workers are. We shouldn't be forcing workers to go into these ECM suites. In our view, collaboration spans far more than ECM.' "

Hear, hear.

"E2.0 Fundamentals" by Jeremy Thomas:

"As Dion Hinchliffe says (and as I have written before), 'Discoverability isn’t an after thought , it’s the core'...//...Organizations need to embrace the fact that their data will be federated. Sure, workers will put their documents in “wiki X”, but they’ll also put them on the file share, in content management systems, and on email servers. Data that cannot be found is useless. Enterprise search will unlock data and increase the propensity for information (and the knowledge workers who create it) to be discovered. Discoverability leads to recognition, and recognition leads to increased participation. Enterprise 2.0 must be approached holistically."


Hear, hear. Again.

"Report says enterprise mashups on the rise" By C.G. Lynch, CIO.com:
"A new Forrester report says that enterprise mashups, while not yet a panacea for connecting all the dots of corporate data, will help companies (and their employees) mix and match information to help them do their jobs better. According to the researchers, vendors will provide tools for business users to build a mashup on their own with no programming experience."

"'Mashups are trying to solve a long-standing business problem, which is combining disparate data sources,' says Oliver Young, the Forrester analyst who wrote the report. 'We think mashups are doing it in a unique way that's more user-oriented.'...//... "It absolutely starts to look like BI,' Young says. 'Mashups will eat into that market.' Forrester defined a mashup in the enterprise as "custom applications that combine multiple, disparate data sources into something new and unique."

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The value of Enterprise RSS

I personally often argue for the potential that Enterprise RSS has for the purpose of improving decision making within an organization. The reasoning is as follows: By encouraging conversations between people in different initiatives and making them explicit as RSS feeds and by making it possible for anyone within the enterprise to tap into (subscribe to) these conversations and passively observe them, managers as well as any stakeholder can get valuable information to make better informed decisions, as well as getting signals about things starting to happen and react on them before it is to late.

When I manage a project, I usually ask each member in my project to write a diary (either as text stored stored in a document or send via an e-mail) about what they have been doing, what they are currently doing and what issues and risks they see. This way I have been able to stay on top of things and resolve issues before they become real problems. I also get information telling me if we are on schedule or not. The problem has been that these diaries have been hard to access and that anyone who wanted to read them had to actively look for them on a file share or in their inboxes. As a result, the only one who have read them has been me. Occasionally. I have also had to remind and motivate each and everyone to write their diaries, which is hard to do when they know that the only one who is reading their diaries is me. Hopefully.

But things are changing as technologies such as blogs and RSS are becoming more common even for enterprise use. With a project blog which every project member can contribute to and an RSS-feed that all stakeholders can subscribe to, the whole process of informing each other within a project as well as informing externa stakeholders becomes so much more simple and powerful. When the effort to inform yourself is small enough, then you find it worthwile. The value is simply so much higher than the cost. When that happens, then you also see a value of sharing information with others. If you know that someone reads what you are writing, then you get the motivation needed to continute writing. And then it becomes a positive spiral.

In the post "How Corporate RSS Supports Collaboration and Innovation", Dennis McDonald advises his readers to read the post "RSS: Underappreciated Web 2.0 in the Enterprise" by corporate IT manager Jim MacLennan. So I did and here is an excerpt:


"We added RSS capabilities to our internal PMO systems this past month, and traffic & content is already building up to become a valuable resource. Some have [correctly] noted that this increased visibility puts a bit more pressure on project managers and team members, to keep updating project blogs with pertinent information. This "time shifting" of communication should develop into the most effective way to let the rest of IT know what is happening in all areas"

"These spontaneous, organic, and very impactful "conversations", between people still experimenting with a new technology, show me real potential for spontaneous innovation and idea sharing. More evidence of the value of [judicious] experimentation with new technology - no silver bullet, but just enough spark to start a few fires."

Dennis McDonald makes a summary of Jim MacLennans findings:

  • "RSS feeds make it easier for people to kee up with what a lot of different projects are up to.
  • This has led to better communication as well as innovation.
  • Email is still the most ingrained communication platform.
  • Upper management still expects PowerPoints for reporting purposes."
  • He then continues by addressing the problem to quantify the costs and benefits of Enterprise RSS:

    "Simply put, a generally available RSS feed creation and subscription capability can increase the number of projects any one person can remain abreast of for the expenditure of a given unit of time — just as it can increase the total amount of time a person devotes overall to managing — and responding to — the monitored RSS feeds."

    "Granted, taking such a quantitative view does not tell the whole story about what might be gained by making RSS subscription features generally available across projects and the people they interact with. There’s no way to predict, for example, when an innovation or improvement will occur as a result of a communication that might not have otherwise taken place."

    "That’s a disadvantage of taking a “beancounter” approach to implementing social media within an organization. While you might be able to quantify the time, effort, and technology associated with impacted processes, you can’t necessarily predict when and where the benefits (such as innovations or new ideas) will occur."

    If you want to know more about Enterprise RSS, the ChiefTech blog by James Dellow is a good starting point.

    Monday, May 5, 2008

    Information Management Principle #1: Information cannot be managed

    This is the first in a series of posts where I will address a number of important principles for information management. If you let your information management strategy rest on these principles, it is much more likely that you will identify the real information management challenges that your organization is facing and to address them in the right wat. In short, it will make sure that you focus on the information needs of people and avoid getting lost in the technology swamp.

    Principle #1: Information cannot be managed

    The discipline of Information Management is often confused with the disciplines of Content Management and Data Management. I believe this happens because key concepts such as knowledge, information, content and data have not been properly defined or used in a consistent manner. The terms representing these concepts are often used as if they are synonyms and thus interchangeable. The result can be that important questions are not addressed, at least not in the right way. Here are definitions of the concepts mentioned above:
    • Data is content that has been structured so hard (in order to be stored and accessed in an efficient way) that it does not provide enough of context to be usable on its own. It needs to be aggregated, formatted and described to be usable.
    • Content is something that is indented to communicate a message (information, something about something) from a sender to one or several receivers e.g. a diagram, document, picture or movie. The purpose of the message (e.g. the communication process) can be to inform the receiver about something and/or to create an experience. Digital content is formatted and described in a way that it can easily be managed and delivered to the receiver by means of information technology – over time and space.
    • When perceiving and interpreting content which is intended to inform the receiver about something, the receiver will hopefully “get the message”. In other words, the content is transformed into meaningful information by cognitive processes in the receiver's head.
    • When the receiver reflects and applies the information, it can be transformed into knowledge.

    What these definitions tell us is that data and content can be managed with the means of (information) technology, but that we cannot manage information and knowledge with technology. This is because information and knowledge exist only in our own heads. What we can do however is to try to conceptualize what we know and encoded it into content - text, images, sound and video. We can also try to identify the intended receivers and make the content available to them. But we cannot guarantee that they will understand what we are trying to say to them or that they will act as we want them to even if they do understand. We can only hope that they get our message and that it is persuasive enough and that they have the motivation required to act as we want them to.

    Acknowledging that information and knowledge cannot be managed with technology is important if we want to support people so that they share their information and knowledge with each other. First of all, it allows us to focus on what we actually can manage by means of technology; how to manage various forms of content and how that content is then made accessible to the right user in an efficient way. Secodly, it tells us that we must focus more on creating an environment which encourages people to share information and knowledge with each other and help them develop their communication skills.

    Saturday, May 3, 2008

    This week in links - week 18, 2008

    "Of shoes and money …. and information" by JP Rangaswami:

    "...mysteriously, we somehow manage to create an environment where we jealously guard information; where we seek to create and extend power as a result of this jealous guarding; where we then exploit this power in all kinds of ways, some less abhorrent than others (but all abhorrent, at least to me)...//...Once we impute value to information, we create a reason for people to have secrets. To hide things.And then it’s a downward spiral."

    "The costs of reproduction and transmission and storage have dropped remarkably, and that changes many things...//...But there is a bigger change. A change brought about by the digital world. Now we can archive and retrieve information, search and find it. This has never happened before. And it is huge...//...Information is changing. And it is becoming more valuable to us all by becoming less valuable to any one of us."

    "We should concentrate on providing good service and good product, concentrate on providing that service honestly and diligently. And the money will flow. Not by hoarding information, but by freeing it up. Collaborating with each other, within the firm, with our customers, with our partners, with our markets. Even with our competitors"

    "Why IT Might Be in Big Trouble — Again" by Mark Smith:

    " My assessment might be a little harsh, but my experience in the last six years analyzing organizations across all industries and company sizes provides insight to a serious problem. IT has lost touch with reality as they have been disconnected from the situation in business and do not seem to be concerned about it. My last blog pointed to the state of business being mad as hell. IT is apparently responding by shifting focus to the management of an organization's data assets rather than worrying or focused about the capabilities needed by business."

    "How do you know if you are on a good path in IT and ensuring you are delivering value to business and your IT organization? Make sure you have well-defined objectives that can link to business and, just as importantly, to the information and interaction with it across the enterprise. Remember that good management of data assets in a cost-effective manner is one small component of the BI and information management issues in the enterprise."

    Finally, in the post"What Type of Meeting is This?" Michael Sampson reviews four types of meetings where it can be better to meet in other ways than in-person.