Monday, June 30, 2008

Information is like water - Part II

I completed the second presentation in my "Information is like water" presentation series yesterday. Just as the first presentation, "Information is like water", it is now a featured presentation at slideshare.net.

I'm glad to see that the first presentation has (as I write this) been viewed 1591 times, downloaded 229 times and embedded 15 times after just five days. I haven't done any benchmarking against other presentations, but I am happy for these figures.

From the mobile office to the paperless office

It is striking how seldom I print anything nowadays. I don’t even have a printer at home. (Well, that is not entirely true. I have one in a closet, but it is only used a few times per year for printing photos so it does not really count).

I don’t print at the office either. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe that I have printed more than a few pages for several months. The only things I have printed are speaker notes for seminars and presentations that I have held.

Why is that so? Why don’t I print so much anymore? It was not long ago since I felt the need to print every article that I downloaded.

Without having done a thorough analysis of why I do not print anymore, I can conclude that I seem to have changed my own behavior. It must have happened gradually since I haven’t thought about it before. I no longer print out of habit, but only when I really need to.

I believe that the key to this change is that I now can bring my content with me digitally in a more convenient way. The following might have made me change my behavior:

  • Time, as it takes time to change behavior
  • My USB stick that I use for shuffling files between computers
  • The fact that most locations I work at have internet access for guests so that I can access my content in the cloud using my own computer
  • My smartphone that allows me to search for info on the go instead of printing before I leave the office and also provides me mobile access to e-mail, my calendar, all my contacts and the RSS feeds that I subscribe to
  • Google Docs and other online tools that allow me to access my content regardless of computer
  • My blog and my RSS reader - I write a lot of things to be read online and also read a lot of things in RSS format, a format which is optimized for reading online, so it makes no sense to print what I read via RSS.
  • Finally, as I am more mobile and less at the office nowadays, I don’t have as easy access to printers as I had before.

Am I right in my observation that the emergence of the mobile office is driving us towards the paperless office?

Friday, June 27, 2008

This week in links - week 26, 2008

From an article in AdvertisingAge called "Social Networking Will Go Mainstream" by David Armano:

I like to think of my multiple networks as my "social system" (see diagram). The ones that add long-term value are the ones I maintain.

As social networks become mainstream, it will be business as usual. We'll log onto our network of choice, just as we log onto e-mail and sift through the spam. And we'll be making up our minds about brands and people along the way. Those who spam us will become a nuisance, something to tolerate. And those who make it worth our time will be rewarded with our trust and maybe even loyalty. As marketers and individuals, the choice to add value or generate more noise is ours to make.

"Can Cloud Computing Actually Save the Internet?" by Ron Miller:

Given that all the transactions are actually crossing the internet, however, it would make sense that it would simply add to the increasingly clogged byways of the internet. But when I spoke to representatives from Google and Salesforce.com at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston last week and asked them about this (in separate conversations, I might add), I was surprised to hear them argue the opposite—that Cloud computing could actually *reduce* traffic.

Both argued in separate conversations that it would actually reduce traffic because instead of moving large files around many times, you are actually moving around references to the files sitting on their back-end servers and most of the heavy lifting would not be on the internet itself, but on the company server infrastructure.

If you buy this argument, you could see where increasing use of the cloud actually reduces the pressure on the internet pipes as people stop moving large documents around using email and instead point to a file on cloud vendor’s servers.

"How Web 2.0 creates value" by Ross Dawson:

Web 2.0 for business
The many applications of Web 2.0 in business include increasing employee productivity with collaboration tools and better access to information, gaining insights into consumer attitudes and behaviours, engaging customers in personal relationships and providing personalised customer service.

Web 2.0 for consumers
Some consumer uses of Web 2.0 tools are to communicate with their friends and family, find out what products and services others have liked and manage their lives more effectively.

Web 2.0 for creators
Creators of art, video, photos, music, writing and more can share their creations, collaborate with others in developing them and get rewarded for their creativity.

Web 2.0 for investors
Through Web 2.0 start-ups, investors can access the fastest growing sector of the economy, establish low-cost trial ventures and reach global markets.

Web 2.0 for innovation
Web 2.0 tools help innovators to collaborate across boundaries and connect their ideas to the global marketplace.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Are bloggers polluting cyberspace?

From a report by The Committee on Culture and Education in the European Parliament:

The emergence of new media has brought more dynamic and diversity into the media landscape; the report encourages responsible use of new channels. In this context the report points out that the undetermined and unindicated status of authors and publishers of weblogs causes uncertainties regarding impartiality, reliability, source protection, applicability of ethical codes and the assignment of liability in the event of lawsuits. It recommends clarification of the legal status of different categories of weblog authors and publishers as well as disclosure of interests and voluntary labelling of weblogs."

Yet another sign that politicians are not in sync with the times, or with the people for that sake? I wonder how they are to make it happen...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Content Reuse - The Heart of Content Management

I started working with content management in the late nineties. After having been involved as Usability Architect and Business Analyst in a couple of document management projects (we developed workflow solutions with web-based GUI on top of Eastman Software for a Swedish insurance company), I headed my first (web) content management project. The project designed, implemented and rolled out web sites for country distributors for a leading manufacturer of heavy trucks and buses. The distributor web sites where based on a common site blueprint and based on an early version of DialogServer (version 3) from Tridion. It was a successful project with many benefits for the customer.

The content management project demonstrated the value of content reuse and how it was made possible by content modularization and separation of content and format (using XML). Not only was the content (primarily text and images) to be reused in different locations on each web site, but it was also to be used on all web sites and translated to a large number of languages. Being able to reuse content (as well as code thanks to the templates) meant a quick a return of investment and made it possible to deal with all the inconsistent web sites of various quality that the country distributors had developed on their own.

As I had just left the world of document management and saw many similarities between document management and content management, I also came to realize that there is a fundamental difference between document management and content management. That difference is spelled R-E-U-S-E. Document management technologies and content management technologies might be similar, but the approach to content management is completely different from document management. While document management is often focusing on automating and routing documents in workflows and not really dealing with the actual content in the documents, content management is focusing on how to produce, structure, describe and organize content modules in order to assemble it into content products that can be made available to users in different formats and channels (web, e-mail, mobile, print and so on).

The idea with content reuse is to produce once and reuse many times. The same piece of content can be published to multiple formats and made available via different channels. For example, the individual components of a news article (title, abstract, body) can be presented in formats such as HTML, PDF or XML and be made available to the users via a web site, mobile portal, RSS feed or e-mail newsletter.

There are of course many advantages in being able to use the same piece of content in multiple content products and make it available to users in different formats and contexts. The most obvious is that you save time and money by not having to produce the same piece of content more than one time - you avoid or at least reduce duplicate work. Another advantage is that you achieve consistent communication in multiple channels. By designing content to be reused, you also increase quality and usability of the content.

To sum up, the idea of content reuse is what fundamentally separates content management from document management. To be able to reuse content, you need to be able to modularize it and keep the format and content separated. This can be done with a content management system but not with document management system.

However, achieving content reuse is more about methodology than technology. Content reuse might sound easy in theory, but is hard in practice. It is nothing you can achieve by buying and implementing a content management system. Many organizations have eventually come to realize this. To achieve content reuse a different way of thinking and working is required. Content management is primarily an approach and methodology for how to produce, manage and deliver content. With reuse as one of the primary goals.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

This week in links - week 25, 2008

Midsummer is coming up (this Friday) which means that I will stay away from the Internet and this blog for a few days to celebrate Swedish midsummer in Kivik, so here are already my links for this week:

"Telco 2.0: The Future Of Telecoms" by Gerd Leonhard from Robin Good's MasterNewMedia, an inspiring read:

Telecoms: Will they be the owners of all future content distribution channels?

In a networked ecosystem that wants to serve and empower those pesky ‘always-on’ digital natives, telcos and operators have no choice but to branch out into adjacent or even completely alien sectors - if they don’t, other players such as device & handset manufacturers, web portals, social networks and search engines will feel compelled to fill the gaps and push the pipe & network guys further and further down to the bottom of a digital ecosystem that has only just now begun to flourish...//...Imagine a Facebook Mobile Network, a Samsung Mobile Video Platform, and (of course) a Google eBook Reader?

For telcos, it’s about time to get into a new game, and it’s called Media2.0...//... Deutsche Telekom, Orange or Telefonica should have bought Last.fm, not CBS!
"Enterprise 2.0: Three Thoughts on the State of Social Software in Business" by C.G. Lynch at CIO.com:

IBM enjoyed good media reviews for the look and feel of Lotus Connections, while Microsoft had many of its customers display the use of SharePoint's social software features in the enterprise. In addition, Microsoft announced a series of partnerships that allows Enterprise 2.0 vendors (including smaller start-ups) to hook their "best of breed"products, such as a wiki or blog, into SharePoint more easily.

Forrester Research has predicted that these two vendors, armed with deep pockets, will dominate the Enterprise 2.0 and collaboration market. In addition, because both Microsoft and IBM have built their products to integrate with existing systems they built (such as Exchange and Lotus Notes), customers with those products might find their social software more attractive than offerings from start-up vendors.
"Is SharePoint the end of (portal) history?" by Shawn Shell, Contributing Analyst at CMSWatch:

SharePoint has clearly caused a disruption in portal conversations in many organizations. The real question is whether SharePoint deserves this kind of attention. I think it does. Just exercise suitable caution: all portals, regardless of vendor, raise tricky issues of data integration, identity management, and application usability. (Some conversations, it seems, never go away.) In the end, you must truly understand SharePoint and your needs before dismissing other solutions in the portal space.
"Harbors in the Ocean of E-mail" by Andrew McAfee, Associate Professor at Harvard Business School:

The problem with using e-mail for all communications is that it gets used for, well, all communications, even those that aren’t time-critical, personal, private, or salient. It also gets used to coordinate the multi-person creation of documents, presentations, and spreadsheets, a task at which it’s abysmal. I often ask audiences how many people execute multi-person collaborations by attaching the (hopefully) most recent version of a file to a group e-mail again and again. Most hands go up. I then ask how many people are happy with this mode of collaboration; very few hands remain in the air.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Stop selling SOA and start selling REUSE!

Everybody knows that it is stupid to reinvent the wheel. Still, we do it. Over and over again. Why? Because we do not think and breathe reuse. We do not create environments that encourage reuse. We do not make reuse an explicit goal and reward people who reuse things, or who design things so that they can be reused by others.

I think most of the SOA evangelists can agree upon that the main goal of Service Oriented Architecture is to achieve reuse. By reusing things we already have produced once, we can get new products and services faster to the market. We can reduce the costs of producing them since we do not have to spend time and money on developing the same thing over and over again. We can increase the quality of the products and services we provide since they build on proven components. And so on.

To be able to reuse different parts of a system, we must identify the parts which are potentially reusable. We must identify stable and discrete capabilities and isolate them as components. We must describe their interfaces in a way so that we can take the system apart into individual components and put the components together again into the same or a new system. This way we have the freedom of modularity. We can take one component out of a system and put it in another. We can replace a component with another component as long as it provides the same capability and has the same interface. It does not matter how the component looks inside.

If reuse is the goal of SOA the key to all the benefits that SOA promises, then why don't we put more energy in selling the idea of reuse and SOA as a means to achieve reuse? If the idea of sharing and reuse does not stick to our minds and affect how we behave, then reuse will not happen. It does not matter if we design the systems according to the design principles of SOA or not.

Besides, reuse is a much better word to use than SOA. Everybody understands what reuse is about. It is not a something that can be dismissed as a hype, as a buzzword that will eventually be replaced by another buzzwords as the industry gets tired of it. The concept of reuse, of not having to recreate things that already exist, has always been one of the key design principles when we have designed IT systems.

So stop selling SOA with SOA. Sell it with the promise that it can help a business to achieve reuse. Sell it with the promise that it can help t leverage existing assets and make the most out of new assets which need to be produced - as long it is properly combined and aligned with other strategic initiatives for reuse and is seen as a means to achieve reuse.

"Critics force snoop law postponement"

Big Brother has to wait a little longer according to The Local:

Swedish lawmakers have agreed to postpone plans for the passing into law of a controversial surveillance bill following an emotional debate in the Riksdag on Tuesday evening.

A year after the bill was first put on ice following pressure from the opposition, the government eventually agreed to take another look at the proposed legislation.

“First of all, the Swedish Data Inspection Board will be tasked with observing FRA’s activities from the perspective of the protection of civil liberties until the 2011 review,” Tolgfors told news agency TT.

The government would also request the appointment of an external committee to watch over FRA during the period until 2011.

To me, there are several interesting ingredients in this story:

  • Sweden, acknowledged as one of the pioneering countries in the world when it comes to freedom of speech / expression, is to introduce a law that allows for the most extensive surveillance of citizens in the western world. And it iss going to be introduced by a "liberal" government.

  • The individuals politicians in the government parties have been blackmailed by their parties to vote for this new law ("vote for this new law, or it will be the end of your career in politics"). All but three or possibly four of the almost two hundred politicians in the government were actually going to vote for the new law, even though it meant that many of them would act totally against their own beliefs and values. Now all but one have agreed to vote for a slightly modified law.

  • The debate about the law started and was lead by the blogosphere. No discussion took place in the traditional "old" media until they finally understood that they had to take the blogosphere seriously and that the debate there was actually engaging people. They probably assumed that the subject wasn't of interest to people. Obviously it was, and still is.

The story and the non-predicted outcome shows that the blogosphere has become a power to count with, that it can make a difference in politics.

However, the new surveillance law is not dead. It will most likely be approved today, Wednesday 18th of June, but in a slightly modified version. It is the same wolf, but now in sheep's clothing.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Preparing for the arrival of Big Brother


I heard the most stupid reason for voting for the new bugging legislation, also called Lex Orwell, by a Swedish politician on the radio yesterday. She argued that ECHELON and others such as the Swedish National Defence Radio Establishment (FRA) are already (illegaly) bugging us, so we can just as well have a legislation that makes bugging legal and can be done also by our own government.

So, if we as citizens are having problems with burglars breaking into our homes, then our government should make a law that makes it legal to break into our homes. This way we won't have a problem with burglary anymore. Pure magic!
What politicians should do is of course to create laws that protect our rights as citizens and human beings and try to uphold them, not give them up because it seems meaningless to protect them.

The common law definition of burglary was described by Sir Matthew Hale as:

The breaking and entering the house of another in the night time, with intent to commit a felony therein, whether the felony be actually committed or not.

Source: wikipedia.org
Yesterday, on the 16th of July 2008, two days before the Swedish parliament is to vote about the new FRA law (which is tomorrow), the Swedish news program "Rapport" revealed that an employee at FRA has leaked information that the FRA has (illegaly) bugged phone calls for at least 18 months and that it can be for as long time as 10 years.
Am I surprised? No. Now I definately trust the FRA to interpret the new fuzzy legislation as they desire - NOT!

Interesting SOA (and EIM) readings

Here are two interesting SOA readings from The SOA Magazine.

"SOA in the DoD" by Howard Cohen and Josh Taylor:

The United States Department of Defense (DoD) understands the value of information. While this understanding is very clear, it does not yet have a fully functional or satisfactory prescription for the strategic and technical ailments that pains its communities. Service-oriented architectures are not magic but the concepts, if applied with logic, leadership and continuity, make sense.

Information superiority is key to its success, not only in relation to the military but also for its position as a global leader...//...The primary obstacle to successfully leveraging this data is that it has simply become detached from consumers that have the right and authority to access and use it.

The DoD recognizes that information must be visible, accessible and understandable to the right people at the right time, which is a very serious ailment.

When it comes to leveraging the what SOA has to offer, the real question is not tied up in the technical methodology used to create a mature service-oriented constructs because these methodologies are well-vetted. It is in our leadership's ability to take these methods and apply them in a meaningful way.

"The Benefits of a Data Abstraction Layer for SOA" by Kirstan Vandersluis:

Companies seeking increased agility and reuse through service-oriented architecture quickly find that making sense of widely distributed and disparate data is a major roadblock to achieving the benefits of SOA. To build a successful SOA, architects need to pour the foundation first – they need to begin with a data abstraction layer that makes sense of an otherwise chaotic data landscape.

Data abstraction leads to the ability to leverage physical data, no matter how it's structured, as new, logical schemas that exist only in middleware – creating a common data layer that architects can restructure as needed, rather than making costly changes to the physical database or core services.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Big Brother comes to Sweden

On Wednesday June 18th this week, the Swedish parliament is most likely going to vote for a proposal that allows the Swedish National Defence Radio Establishment (in Swedish, "Försvarets Radioanstalt", FRA) to bug all communication that passes the Swedish border over Internet and telephone networks. You can read about the proposal in The Local, a site with Sweden's news in English.

The critique against the new legislation in the Swedish part of the blogosphere is massive. There is – with Swedish measures - an avalanche of posts (2500+) written about the legislation, most of them taking stand against it in.

If the parliament votes for the proposal, it is clearly taking us one step closer towards a Big Brother society. By doing so, we are actually playing our enemies, those who want to put our western civilization and culture into ruins, right in their hands. This kind of development is exactly what they like to see in our free and democratic societies.

Also large companies such as the Swedish-Finnish telecom operator TeliaSonera and Google have expressed critique against the proposal. TeliaSonera has decided to move all mail servers used for Finnish customers to Finland in order to avoid that the traffic is being bugged by FRA. Google global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer visited Sweden one year ago when the same proposal was planned to be put before the Swedish parliament, but then postponed one year. This is what he had to say about it according to The Local:
We have contacted Swedish authorities to give our view of the proposal and we have made it clear that we will never place any servers inside Sweden's borders if the proposal goes through.

The proposal stems from a tradition begun by Saudi Arabia and China and simply has no place in a Western democracy...//...We simply cannot compromise our users' integrity by allowing Swedish authorities access to data that may not even concern Swedish activity...//...The proposal stems from a tradition begun by Saudi Arabia and China and simply has no place in a Western democracy.
Swedish media have not written much about the proposal and its consequences. As a consequence, I would say that people in general are not aware of what it means - if they even know about the proposal at all. If people would understand that all e-mails that they send using hotmail or Gmail from a computer in Sweden can be read by the Swedish government, I am sure that more Swedish citizens would at least pop the question what this kind of bugging is needed and what it means to their privacy and personal integrity.

It might be that the avalanche of blog posts that raise concerns and critique against the proposal can actually convince some members of the parliament to change their minds so they will vote against the proposal or lay down their votes. If they choose to do so, it will mean that they will vote against the party they belong to, something which is a deadly sin for Swedish politicians. Well, at least it can be a career killer. But imagine if this would happen – then it will be show that the blogosphere has become a power to count with in politics.

It would be interesting to know if Swedish politicians also listen to bloggers in the international blogosphere. So please do not hesitate to bring something this to debate even if you are not Swedish.

Some background information, starting with what freedom of speech / expression is about:
Freedom of speech is being able to speak freely without censorship...//...The synonymous term freedom of expression is sometimes preferred, since the right is not confined to verbal speech but is understood to protect any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (10 December 1948 at Palais de Chaillot, Paris):
[Article 19] Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

[Article 12] No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Now you can upload and share PDFs with Google Docs

The Google Docs Team has listened to a common user request and adressed a need that many of us have - to be able to share PDFs and thereby being able to share files created with other applications. So now it is possible to upload, preview and share PDFs in Google Docs. You can copy text from the PDFs, but there are no editing capabilities. I don't believe that is necessary at all since the value is in the possibility to easily share PDFs with others. Though it would have been nice to be able to highlight and annotate content in a PDF, expecially when sharing articles, reports and such where you might want to direct others to the parts in the PDF that you find interesting. I guess these features are not that hard to add.

Read more on the Official Google Docs Blog or try it out yourself in Google Docs.

The missing piece in the Google application portfolio is an light-weight document / content management application that allows users to upload, store, manage and share their files. It seems as Google Docs is now heading in that direction. Surprising? No. Appreciated? Yes.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

This week in links - week 24, 2008

My list of links this week is dominated by links to posts and articles about the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston.

"Developing business rationales for an enterprise 2.0 strategy" by David Spark:

Pete Fields, Senior VP eCommerce division at Wachovia, told his company’s story of the process they went through to determine the business rationales for deploying social networking across the enterprise...//...Wachovia’s business rationales for deploying social networking tools across the enterprise were:
  • Work more effectively across time and distance
  • Better connect and engage employees
  • Mitigate the impact of a maturing workforce
  • Engage the Gen Y worker
Not nearly as impactful as the first four, here are Wachovia’s last five rationales.
  • Position Wachovia as innovative and forward thinking
  • Lift general employee engagement
  • Reduce travel expenses
  • Provide employees world-class tools with which to compete for business
  • Support other key corporate initiatives like going paperless

"Geek breakfast, email and RSS observations..." by Martin Koser:
RSS is a technology, which in my perspective is still underrated - this holds true also in corporate settings. RSS can ease the life of knowledge workers, yes this is an obvious fact, but one that got reinforced today in the sessions I attended yesterday at the BarCamp Bodensee. Yet, a big problem is awareness - it’s hard to teach people, you have to help them giving it a try, and help them see how RSS comes in when dealing with information work.
I agree. I personally think it is frustrating that so many yet haven't discovered the value of RSS because if they would, the value of RSS would increase also for me as we then would have an easy way to share information with each other.

"Enterprise 2.0: CIA's Secret Intellipedia Has Universal Relevance" By W. David Gardner:

Two officials from the Central Intelligence Agency told an overflow audience at the Enterprise 2.0 conference Tuesday that they use popular Web 2.0 tools like wikis and blogs in their pioneering Intellipedia intelligence database.

The wiki-like application fills the all-important role of providing information in an easily-accessible location for members of intelligence community agencies. In this way, the wiki is a solution to the age-old problem of getting important information into the hands of intelligence agency people who can put it to good use.

Dennehy [one of the officials] offered one piece of advice to IT workers thinking of establishing a pioneering wiki project: "Start small. Make barriers small."
Interesting that CIA recommends that you make barriers small. Maybe something to think about for the security guys at the IT department who protect everything by default?

"Waiting for virtual environments to become boring" by Roland Legrand:
Time to refer to Here Comes Everybody (Clay Shirky). Somewhere in this book Clay says that the transformative potential of a technology on society is realized when that technology becomes boring. Old enough people remember the days when office workers watched fascinated how the first faxes where being transmitted, and later on when the first emails where actually being used in the office, or the first time access was granted to the World Wide Web in the office.
I'm reading this book by Clay Shirky as well. There are many good thoughts coming from that man. A definite must read.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What blogging brings to business

Although I would really have liked to be present at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston this week, I am glad to be able to take part of a large number reports from bloggers who are present and blogging about the conference sessions they attend. In fact, by reading several reports from the same session I think I get quite good picture of not only what has been said, but also of the atmosphere and the discussion going on. Although the reports are personal and present different experiences of the same event, reading.

One session that I would have attended if I would have been at the conference is the "What Blogging Brings to Business" session. It took place yesterday and was a panel discussion moderated by Jessica Lipnack and with bloggers Patti Anklam, Doug Cornelius, Cesar Brea, and Bill Ives in the panel. Some of the panelists have already blogged about the session and their experiences from it.

Regardless if you have attended the session in person or not, it must interesting to read what and how other bloggers report from the session. David Spark provides a summary of the issues and points about blogging that where brought up in a post on the Enterprise 2.0 blog, for example:

A blog is a personal knowledge management system. That’s your initial audience. From that it grows to people who share your interest.

Blogging disciplines you to collect thoughts and write them down.

A blog lets you prove your expertise. Claiming expertise without it today can be difficult.

Businesses often need to prove their expertise to existing and potentially new customers and other stakeholders. They also need to capture the knowledge of their employees so that the knowledge can be shared to other employees and is still in reach and when an employee leaves the building.

A more extensive coverage of the session can also be found at the Internet Evolution blog where Nicole Ferraro reports about the discussion between the panel and the audience about the value of blogging for businesses. Some of the persons in the audience seem to have a problem with that blogging takes time and energy (well, doesn’t all work to that?):
One audience member shouted that only those with time and energy should keep a blog.

"It just seems like a large time-suck out of a very busy existence to begin with," said another disgruntled audience member.

"The fastest way for these people to come around is to show them their competition is doing it," said panel moderator Jessica Lipnack, CEO of NetAge. "The competitive part is really the convincer."
Jessica Lipnack thanks the attendees and her fellow panelists in a post on her blog and nicefully wraps up what blogging really is about.


That so many showed up for this session indicates the interest in blogging. As several said today, it's really not about the blog. It's about the communication and connection blogs make possible.
If you happen to have read my most recent post, “Being close makes a difference”, I hope that the value that blogging can bring to a business is quite clear on a high level. It all boils down to if tools like blogs can be used to make communication and collaboration more efficient or not.

Jessica concludes in her post that "the conference is high energy and jam packed. Another indicator of interest in this topic - even when travel is difficult and costly."

I would say that the interest in this topic is huge, but it is hard to measure and even harder to communicate to the people who need to be convinced. Traditional measures, such as measuring the number of people attending an offline event, needs to be complemented by measures that measure how many people that - like me - take part of the event directly and indirectly online. THERE you have a value of blogging that cannot be overstated. Just think about the REACH a business have can have thanks to blogging.

It is easier to count the number of attendees physically present at a conference session (who do not need to be interested to show up) than to measure online activities related to the session. If you cannot measure and show the results to people in a convincing manner, which usually means showing them numbers and figures, then they might not trust what you are saying even if you have a really good reasoning. In addition, it is often more powerful to say that X persons were attending the session than that X visitors have read a blog post or that the post has been linked to or commented X number of times.

What I'm saying is that we are still stuck in old and blunt ways of counting interest. The same holds true for how we calculate value. Many business people still expect to be able to calculate the ROI of business blogging. We all have to do what we can to change this mindset. Can you calculate the ROI of having better relationship with your customers?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Being close makes a difference

Efficient communication - when people communicate and understand each other - is the most important ingredient in any enterprise where people get together and need to collaborate to achieve a common goal.

To be able to communicate something to someone directly whenever you need to by using the most appropriate communication tool - anything from your voice and body language to drawing or writing - in the current situation is essential for communication to be efficient. It is especially important that the persons who are communicating can give each other instant feedback and have an dialogue. The ideal situation is that they are located in the same room or space, talk the same language, share a common conceptual horizon, know and trust each other and have the most appropriate and convenient communication tools at hand. Being close makes a difference.

Being close is also important for innovation to happen. Have you ever wondered why so many successful enterprises are born in a basement or in a small college room? Being close creates room for spontaneity and ideas to flow freely. No structure or constraints need to be imposed to the communication processes. Ideas can be articulated with simple and even primitive means and they can be exchanged immediately as they pop up in our heads. In addition, if we know and trust each other, we are more likely to share our ideas with each other instead of keeping them for ourselves. Being close forces you to get to know each other.

So, being close is the ideal when it comes to collaboration. But this does not mean that we should always be close physically. The main reason is that it is often not practical or economical. There are always costs associated with being close unless we are not located closely to each other from the beginning. The most obvious is the costs associated with traveling - unproductive traveling time, monetary and environmental costs of traveling, mental stress and exhaustion due to time zone adjustments and lack of sleep, loss of calendar time due to the problem of finding space in calendars for traveling, social consequences of being away from our friends and family, and so forth.

All these things and more make traveling something most organizations like to avoid unless it is absolutely necessary. Still, we cannot escape the fact that we live in a globalized world where we need to be able to collaborate with people distributed all over the world.

What I just described here is the overall business case for helping people to communicate and collaborate more efficiently with the use of various collaboration technologies. This does not mean that you should start with looking at collaboration technologies. What is more important is to articulate efficient communication and collaboration over time and space with all relevant stakeholders as the overall guiding principle for all IT initiatives - even though the objectives of a specific initiative might be contradicting to this principle. The point is that this principle should never be compromised unless absolutely necessary. Even when a comprimise is needed, the business case for such an initiative should also include costs related to decrease in communication and collaboration efficiency. These kinds of costs are of course hard to quantify, but the cost of innovations not happening is even harder to quantify. That is also a reason why this guiding principle must exist and never be excluded from a business case just because it is hard to quantify in monetary terms. The consequences must be analyzed regardless.

When I start talking to customers about Enterprise 2.0 and associated technologies, I am always trying to do so from this angle. For example:
  • Social networks help to bring people who are separated in space and time closer to each other. They make it easy to connect with persons you have never met physically or not for a long time. They make it possible to get in contact with people in your own and extended personal and professional networks. They keep people together in-between collaborations and also make collaborations happen easier.
  • Blogging makes it possible for virtually anyone to distribute information to any stakeholder who might interested in it. The information can be made accessible over time and space via one easy-to-use communication point (hub). Team blogging works as a catalyst for communication and collaboration, increasing the numberof interactions between team members as well as helping to supply each other with consistent information.
  • Subscribing to and reading RSS feeds puts the control in the hands of the user. The user can it passively tap into a lot of information flows and filter out information that is useful. Instead of spending time on browsing and searching for information (including trying to find the source again), users can passively monitor the information flows from sources they trust and consume and act on information immediately after it has been made available from the source.

And so on.

Web 2.0 technologies have already proved to simplify and increase communication and collaboration over time and space for non-business users. Being easy to use, encouraging open communication and sharing and putting emphasis on people instead of technology are some of the success factors. It is time to take these success factors into enterprises, putting efficient communication and collaboration as the overall guiding principle for IT initiatives and introduce new solutions and tools that leverage this principle.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Information Management Principle #2: Information is a means to an end

There is no value in information which is not – sooner or later – being used. Information that might be of use sooner or later holds a potential value, but that value is not realized until it is actually used for something. Simply put, information is just a means to an end.
Information has no value until it informs a decision (Ross Mayfield)

Information is power, but only if you act on it correctly. (JP Rangaswami)

Information serves as the basis for beliefs, decisions, choices, and understanding our world. If we make a decision based on wrong or unreliable information, we do not have power--we have defeat. (Robert Harris)
Content (text, images, sound, video) is a vehicle that can carry information between humans. When the content is found and consumed by a human, it is turned into information - given that the person consuming it is able to interpret and understand it. The person who consumed the content now possesses information. The person can choose to use it or not to use it, or simply keep it for later use. When the information is used, i.e. informs a decision, then it can create value and thus be valuable. The decision which it informs might lead to an action, or it might lead to a non-action.

Atanu Dey chooses to categorize information into “actionable” information and “pure” information. Information that can be used immediately is actionable information and pure information is something that holds a potential value but is not used immediately:


"Actionable information is something that enables a decision to be made and action is prompted as a result. Pure information is something that does not result in an immediate response or action. Pure information is “good to know” as opposed to actionable information which is “need to know.” Economists may call pure information a luxury good, while actionable information is a basic good.
Let me also say that some information can be extremely valuable even though it is hopefully never used, at least not for what it is originally intended for. In the post “Perspectives on the Value of Content”, Tommy Bengtsson uses the example of SOP:s (Standard Operating Procedures) for emergency situations in a power-plant to make this point:
No one would enjoy having to “consume” the content, but having it around “just in case” brings value to the company, the employees and the people living next to the plant. It can also be an issue of legislation compliance. Content has to be created, categorized and published in order to meet certain rules and regulations, even if no one ever would act on the content. If the content is missing, the company can be prosecuted and having to pay serious fines.
There is a lot of potential value in the information (meta-data, or rather meta-information) that tells us that the SOP documents exist, where they exist, that they are accessible for the right persons and that they are of sufficient quality. This also tells us a little about how valuable meta-information can be. The information that it describes - typically encoded as text and other types of content in a document - can be located and consumed thanks to the meta-information. If there is no meta-information, the information might not even be found at all thus having no value even though the potential value might be enormous.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

This week in links - week 23, 2008

"Already Got an ESB? Read This Before Proceeding with SOA" by Loraine Lawson:

I also couldn’t understand why some people were so passionate about warning us about ESBs as SOA – particular when, as Joe McKendrick recently pointed out,
so many organizations are using ESBs as a simple and useful path to SOA. But after reading this ZapFlash on ESBs and SOA, I finally get it why this is such a hot issue – and a particularly important one for those of you just embarking on service-oriented architecture, but already invested in an ESB solution or two.

ZapThink managing partner Jason Bloomberg does the best job I’ve seen of explaining why this topic is so important and, more importantly, putting ESBs in their place, so to speak. As Bloomberg explains it, the problem isn’t so much whether or not you use an ESB, but rather, how you use it — an important distinction. He says committing to an ESB too early in the process of developing your SOA “substantially increases your risk of failure.”

"IBM’s Zollar: SOA, Web 2.0 drive IT ‘industrialization’" by Joe McKendrick:

It can be argued that SOA itself is a manifestation of IT industrialization, since the methodology promotes the mass production and mass consumption of reusable services, versus custom-crafted applications. Zollar makes the point that SOA, along with Web 2.0 methodologies, are taxing the IT operations expected to support these new approaches, and that the operations themselves need to be “industrialized.

...IT industrialization has only begun...//...Those cursed silos are holding us back again! Of course, SOA — and now Web 2.0 approaches — are breaking down those silos, and, in the process, making it easier and more cost-effective to mass-produce software for the masses. The challenge is that while SOA and Web 2.0 are accelerating the mass production and consumption of software, IT teams are still trying to keep up on a piecemeal, if not manual basis. This calls for deeper automation, or industrialization, of the operations behind the applications, Zollar said.

"Learn from MDM Early Adopters: People & Process Will Continue To Trump Technology" by R “Ray” Wang and Rob Karel:

You'd be hard pressed today to locate a senior executive at a large, public company who hasn't stood in front of her employees, customers, or shareholders and announced that the company's corporate data is a critical asset that must be nurtured and protected. Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, MDM requires much more than rhetoric to survive its adoption barriers. The most common roadblocks cited by early adopters and successful implementation teams include:

  • Considering MDM as purely a technology initiative. IT organizations still drive and sponsor many MDM initiatives. Business stakeholders who ultimately define the value of these efforts in improving their business processes provide minimal participation and sponsorship.
  • Managing the vast complexity of multiple data domains without proper techniques.
  • Assuming that dirty data is just an IT problem. Poor data quality is a critical business barrier.
  • Prioritizing funding and managing costs.
  • Underestimating the level of executive sponsorship required for success.

"Corporate Information: Asset vs Liability" by David Vellante:

CIOs in regulated and information-intensive businesses (finance, pharmaceuticals, and others) have begun to consider information value in the context of a balance sheet. On the one hand, information is a differentiator and a vital ingredient of transacting business. On the flip side, information has rapidly become a corporate liability where organizations can be charged with wrongdoing based on the discovery of electronic information contained in emails and other non-structured data types.

In the next five years, CIOs face a challenge between introducing technologies to limit corporate risk while at the same time delivering information services that improve business productivity. This is not straightforward...//...the CIO must consider information in the context of risk and value, then balance the tensions between the desire to grow a business and the need to mitigate risk. Make no mistake, as you use technology to limit liabilities, you will handcuff parts of your organization, and information value will decrease.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Do we make better decisions - or just more decisions faster?

The last three days I have been holding a series of seminars about service orientation and SOA for one of our customers together with my colleague Leo Cutlip. Urban Nilsson, a former colleague of Leo who is now working for EDS, held the opening session the second and third day. His session was a look in the back mirror of the IT revolution, putting some light on the short history of information technology (considering that information technology is a new thing in human history, it is hard to call it anything other than a revolution). The purpose of the session was to put the recent developments and such concepts as SOA in a historical context.

A reflection that I made during his session was about how fast non-verbal communication has become during the last two decades, mostly due to the fact that e-mail has come to replace regular "snail mail" for many of communication purposes. The speed with which we now can send and receive information digitally has definitely changed our perception of time. It has also lowered our acceptance level for how long we can accept to wait for a response, a level which is constantly getting lower as we get more mobile and can read and reply to email and instant messages basically anywhere and anytime. If we send an email, most of us expect to get a response within a number of minutes, at least during office hours.

Looking back just a few decades ago, an employee could write a memo to another colleague, put it in an envelope and then send it with the internal snail mail system. At best, he or she could receive an answer to the memo in a few days.

In this sense, we have become much more efficient in how we distribute information to each other thanks to email and the Internet. The increased efficiency in information distribution - both in terms of speed and bandwidth - inevitably leads to that more information being sent and received, which in turn makes us act on information more often. The time between the moment when we receive the information and the moment when we decide to act or not to act on it has definitely also decreased. But has the quality of our decisions gotten better? Maybe the pure speed by which we make decisions nowadays actually increase the number of bad decisions that we made? If that is true, then it is likely to assume that what we gain in one end by having become more efficient in distributing and consuming information - more or less - gets lost in the other end due to an increasing number of bad decisions.

What do you think? Do we take the time needed to reflect enough on the information we receive before we act on it? Is the quality of the information that we send to each other via email or other digital means even close to the quality of the information sent in handwritten or printed memos being sent via internal snail mail a few decades ago?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

This week in links - week 22, 2008

"SOA marches on despite U.S. economic troubles, analysts" from ZapThink:

Bloomberg, senior analyst with ZapThink LLC., argues that whatever is happening with the economy it is a mistake to scale back on SOA. "Companies who have been struggling with SOA -- either in the planning or deployment stages -- are at risk of canceling or scaling back their initiatives to their peril," Bloomberg said. "After all, SOA offers cost savings and agility, two essential benefits in good times and bad. What smart organizations are doing is taking a more focused approach to their SOA initiatives, driving toward key business benefits with more rapid, less expensive iterations that show value quickly."

"How SOA and IT are faring in the ‘unrecession’" by Joe McKendrick:
...there has been no apparent impact or downturn in support for SOA projects and initiatives. And we also generally agreed that any rise or fall in SOA’s fortunes will happen regardless of how well or how lousy the economy is doing. But it may be in many organizations’ best interests to look into service orienting.

"Cloud Computing and Content Management" by Alan Pelz-Sharpe, Analyst at CMS Watch:

If there is a buzz around Web 2.0 in the Content Technology community, then there is a roar in the wider IT community around Cloud Computing...//...In fact Cloud Computing simply means moving things to big and bigger Data Centers. Data Centers are anything but fluffy. They are huge, energy-sucking giants -- many the size of small towns. They are environmental disasters and the only thing fluffy about them is the C02 emissions they belch out. Data Centers will in time according to The Uptime Institute become bigger polluters than the aviation industry. Data Centers require massive amounts of energy to operate -- often as much energy is used to cool the centers as to power them. All that heat has to go somewhere. If you think your air conditioning unit is an ecological no-no, then consider the AC demands on a data center the size of 5 football fields, then consider further that according to market research firm IDC, there are over 7,000 major data centers worldwide, and many more in the process of being built. By the way, just because they are big does not make them efficient; it is estimated that around 1/3rd of Data Center servers continually sit idle.
"Study Points to Enterprise 2.0 Perplexity" by Lauren McKay at destinationCRM.com:

Despite steady growth forecasted for Enterprise 2.0, recent research by content management association AIIM demonstrates that organizations are unclear of exactly how to make the best of the Enterprise 2.0 market.

AIIM, which recently introduced an Enterprise 2.0 training program, defines Enterprise 2.0 as: "A system of Web-based technologies that provide rapid and agile collaboration, information sharing, emergence, and integration capabilities in the extended enterprise."

Respondents seem to agree on the goals for Enterprise 2.0, despite not really knowing how to deliver them. Sixty-nine percent of respondents say they wish to use Enterprise 2.0 to increase collaboration. However, they are not clear on which business processes to enhance collaboration.