Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Information Management Principle #3: Information needs to flow

The second principle of Information Management says as follows:

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.

To realize this value potential, the information needs to flow. It needs to flow to the people who needs it to achieve their goals. It needs to flow to them whenever they need it and wherever they are.

If information does not flow good enough, the potential value of the information is not realized in full. In a sense, information is like water; it needs to flow to those who need it. And like water, it must flow also to keep fresh and usable.

Making information flow is about making sure that people who need it have access to it and that they easily can find it, make sense of it and use it. But it is not enough to make people access, find and use information that has already been encoded into some content. Since information and knowledge exist only in our own heads, we need to make sure that information flows between people. The information must flow from senders to receiver. This means that it must be easy to encode the information in content, find receivers and make the content accessible to those receivers for the sender. Thus, three key words when it comes to making information flow is accessibility, findability and ease-of-use.

Monday, July 28, 2008

This summer in links

Although I have tried to stay away from blogging during the past couple of weeks, I've been watching the feeds I subscribe to in Google Reader. Here are excepts from some of the more interesting posts I have encountered:

"As Travel Costs Rise, More Meetings Go Virtual" by Steve Lohr, New York Times:

Accenture figures its consultants used virtual meetings to avoid 240 international trips and 120 domestic flights in May alone, for an annual saving of millions of dollars and countless hours of wearying travel for its workers.

The results can be seen not only in the expensive new telepresence systems like those from Cisco Systems or Hewlett-Packard, but also in more mainstream collaboration technologies — Web conferencing, online document sharing, wikis and Internet telephony.

Only in the last two years has the technology gotten to point where it really makes sense to use it,” said Alan Minton, vice president for marketing at Cornerstone Information Systems, a 60-person business software company in Bloomington, Ind. With his sales force doing many product demonstrations online, Mr. Minton estimates the group’s travel costs of have been cut by 60 percent and the average time to close a new sale has been reduced by 30 percent.
"Freeing Yourself from Email" by Betsy Carroll:
A common problem that office workers face today is email overload. For some, email has taken over their work life and it is damaging, rather than improving, their productivity...//...A major reason for email’s negative effect on productivity is its injudicious use. Because of its accessibility and convenience, email tends to get used for purposes it was not designed or best suited.

Last week, I saw an article in New York Times about an IBM employee, Luis Suarez, who has freed himself from email’s grip...//...He was able to cut down the incoming emails by 80% in a single week. Suarez still uses email but he uses it judiciously, such as when he has to discuss private and confidential matters.

Suarez suggests that people have an array of technologies available for communication and collaboration, and that those options should be chosen depending on how well they are suited to the task at hand. Suarez uses wikis, instant messaging, emails, phone calls, blogs, and social networking each for different purposes. Here we outline the situations or purposes for which the technologies that Suarez is using are likely to be suitable.
"Social Media is not Community" by Rachel Happe:

I'm finding that there is a lot of confusion between the concept of social media and the concept of community. They are often used interchangeably and they are not the same thing. Social media can help foster communities but social media can be limited to allowing a conversation around content...which is *not* community.

There are two opportunities for enterprises then. 1 - to use social media to enable conversations and get a better idea of how constituents respond to specific content, initiatives, goals. This is much easier both to understand and implement. 2 - to create communities that extend their capabilities and engage their constituents in richer ways that results in higher retention, lower risk, increased ROI, and faster operational capacity.

Communities have enormous strategic benefits to companies but require considerable investment (in resources, time, and tools) and are difficult to implement because they have a significant impact on business processes.
"Objection #3: Control of Information" by Kevin D. Jones:

By implementing a social learning solution you sit on the control fence. Control to much and it won’t be used. But not controlling it at all is unwise. There needs to be a balance - enough structure and processes to give guidance yet enough freedom to allow the users to do what they want.
"P2P & the Limits of Cloud Computing" by Mike Karp:

In the business world, some data is highly valuable, some less so. And some (the accounting department's football pool, for example) may be of no value to the company at all. This is an important concept, because these different categories of data are entitled to different classes of service. Less valuable data -- an example might be archived data, "less valuable" in the sense that it is rarely, if ever, accessed because it exists elsewhere on local, high-performance storage systems -- would seem to be particularly suitable for Web-based storage. Storing data that is involved in business-critical transaction processing would not be. If you like this logic and are thinking about Web-based storage, and if you understand the value of your various data sets, it's likely that offering Web-based services to your less valuable data will offer the greatest utility.
"Overload, Schmoverload: The Myth Of Personal Productivity" by Stowe Boyd:

As we have moved from hierarchical, top-down, centralized work -- think Henry Ford's assembly lines or the pre-Internet global corporation -- to networked, bottom-up, edgewise work personal productivity has been trumped by network productivity. Network productivity is the effectiveness of a person's entire network: contacts, contacts of contacts, and so on.

Connected people will naturally gravitate toward an ethic where they will trade personal productivity for connectedness: they will interrupt their own work to help a contact make progress. Ultimately, in a bottom-up fashion, this leads to the network as a whole making more progress than if each individual tries to optimize personal productivity.
"The tacitness of wikis" by John Tropea:

Stewart Mader from Grow Your Wiki is guest posting on Wikinomics and his lastest post is on the effectiveness of wikis enabling tacit sharing.

Documents that are open and dynamic allow people to evolve the documents by direct editing or leaving comments…ie. people are sharing their experience and what they know can add to the richness of the document.

Right away I thought of the How-To Guides I’m writing for our Communities of Practice (CoP) at work.

If my guides are on a wiki rather than PDF, people who use the guides can leave comments, or people with permissions can edit the page itself or a new page to add what they know.

This way they can help me evolve the document, even though it’s finished. Well, that’s the idea, it’s never finished…I may miss a feature, and I can’t experience every context, so there’s stuff that happens when people use Communities that I may not know up front. eg. a new way to use blogs, a workaround (exception to procedure) page for Document Control as each client has different needs.
"Interesting Report on IT depts role in value creation" by Bertrand Duperrin:

The CIGREF (french big companies CIO club) issued and interesting report co-written with McKinsey. Although it’s written in French, I would like to share
some points with you. And, if ever you know someone who can make a quick
translation for you I think it’s really worth.

- IT doesn’t impact directly value creation

- value doesn’t reside in tools but in their use

- as a result, IT depts don’t have to provide people with tools, hoping it will meet their needs and they’ll manage to do something efficient with it, but have to fulfill people’s needs.

- IT depts can’t create value by themselves and on their own, they have to co-create it with business managers.

- by the way, IT’s impact on value creation has to be measured by business indicators and not by IT ones.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Convergence of data management and content management

I recently posted the following question in the ECM group at InformationZen.org, "AIIM's online network for education, research, and best practices to help organizations optimize their information":
I would like to get your view on the convergence between enterprise data and content management. Is there such a convergence going on and how does it show? What are the major challenges you see for such a convergence to happen? Can it even be done? Should it be done (what are the main benefits of such a convergence)?
I also provided one of my own graphics (see below) to illustrate what I see as the main differences between data and content. The point with the graphic is that data, as it is more structured than content, provides less context than content.



Billy Cripe, Director of Product Management for Oracle Enterprise Content Management Products, responded as follows:

This is a great question. I believe there is a convergence going on. I think that as unstructured information (content) becomes increasingly transportable (think XML) and reference-able (think micro formatting, semantic structures, etc) it becomes more and more data like.

Furthermore, I think there is increasing demand for context around data that is produced by, stored in, and leveraged by fairly sophisticated data management systems (e.g. databased, data warehouses, transactional systems). In the BI community there is a growing awareness that the contexts provided by content flavors the analysis / results that is easy to produce on/for structured data. That awareness is breeding calls for a convergence of the information (structured and unstructured) to provide a complete picture.

As organizations boot-strap themselves with home grown systems that bring together content and data for specific purposes, they see the clearer, sharper, stronger results.

The convergence of unstructured and structured data management into what some analysts have called Enterprise Information Management structures is the mechanism by which the enterprise data picture goes from blurry to sharp.

He continued the discussion on his own blog where he developed his answer to my question further. I believe that Billy Cripe's reasoning is very much aligned with my own view on Enterprise Information Management (EIM) as a "unifying" discipline. ECM has done a good job at unifying various disciplines that deal with different aspects of managing unstructured content of various types and formats (Records Management, Document Management, Content Management, Digital Asset Management...), but I don't see how ECM could also bring Data Management under its umbrella. Instead, this role is tailor-made for EIM.



EIM focuses on information needs and how information assets need to be described, structured and organized in order to support these needs - regardless of how (structure, format, type) they have been encoded or what technologies are required to capture, manage and deliver them. Separating data and content only makes sense from a management perspective, but not from a usage perspective. My fellow blogger Henrik has expressed this nicely in his post "Bridging Data And Content For Enterprise Information Management (EIM)":

Information assets are based on data and content which means that successful EIM needs to bridge the traditionally separated areas of Data Management and Content Management. Both areas have been oriented to the production side of data and content including techniques for creation, integration, administration, access and delivery. Data and Content Management also work with e.g. security, quality assurance and consolidation into master sources.
I would be happy if you would share your own thoughts and opinions on this subjects, so please don't hesitate to post a comment.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

How to make an idea spread like an epidemic - and stick

This vacation, I finally decided to read the best-seller from the by Malcolm Gladwell; "The Tipping Point" (I have previously read "Blink" by the same author). Here are a few quotes that I wrote down in my notebook as I read the book:

"The Stickyness Factor says there are specific ways of making a contagious message; there are relatively simple changes in the presentation and structuring of information that can make a big difference in how much of an impact it does."

"When people are asked to consider evidence or make decisions in a group, they come to very different conclutions than when they are asked the same question by themselves. Once we're part of a group, we're all susceptible to peer pressure and social norms and any number of other kinds of influence..."

"Humans socialize in the largest groups of all primates because we are the only animals with brains large enough to handle the complexities of that social arragement...//...The figure of 150 seems to represent the maximum number of individuals with whom we can have a genuinely social relationship, the kind of relationship that goes beyond knowing who they are and how they relate to us...//...At this size (of group), orders can be implemented and unruly behavior controlled on the basis of personal loyalties and direct man-to-contacts. With larger groups, this becomes impossible."

"An awful lot of what we remember is actually stored outside our brains. But we need to memorize where to find them....//...We store information with other people. When people know each other well, they create an implicit joint memory system - a transactive memory system - which is based on an understanding about who is best suited to remember what kind of things...//...When new information arises, individual members (of a group) are automatically assigned to remember it. Expertise leads to more expertise. Since mental energy is limited, we concentrate on what we do best."

"For a company...//...that relies for its ability to innovate and react quickly to demanding and sophisticated customers, this kind of global memory system is critical. It makes the company incredible efficient. It means that cooperation is easier. It means that you move much faster to get things done or create teams of workers or find out an answer to a problem. It means that people in one part of the company can get access to the impressions and expertise of people in a completely different part of the company...//...an organized mechanism that makes it easier for new ideas and information moving around the organization to tip - to go from one person or one part of the group to the entire group all at once. That's the advantage of adhering to the Rule of 150. You can exploit the bonds of memory and peer pressure."

"Merely by manipulating the size of a group, we can dramatically improve its receptivity to new ideas. By tinkering with the presentation of information, we can significantly improve its stickyness. Simply by finding and reaching those few people who hold so much social power, we can shape the course of social epidemics."

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Now we can do big things for love

If you have not yet read "Here Comes Everybody - The Power of Organizing Without Organizations" by Clay Shirky, the following quotes from his book will hopefully inspire you to do so:

"Most of the barriers to group action have collapsed, and without those barriers, we are free to explore new ways of gathering together and get things done."

"We can have groups that operate with a birthday party's informality and a multinational's scope."

"The cost of finding like-minded people has been lowered and, most importantly, deprofessionalized."

"Most organizations believe they have much more freedom of action and much more ability to shape their future than they actually do, and evidence that the ecosystem is changing in ways they cannot control usually creates considerable anxiety, even if the change is good for society as a whole."

"This technological story is like literacy, wherein a particular capability moves from a group of professionals to become embedded within society in itself, ubiquitously, available to a majority of citizens."

"We are used to a world where little things happen for love and big things happen for money. Now, though, we can do big things for love."

"We are living in the middle of the largest increase in expressive capability in the history of the human race."

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Mind-Opening Infographics

I am going on vacation and will leave my computer at home, so this will be the last post for a while (a few weeks).

I am a great fan of information graphics and other kinds of visualizations and have put together some mind-opening infographics in a presentation and uploaded to Slideshare.net. I can by no means take credit for the content. I have collected the infographics from the web and have provided links to the source of each infographic. A good advice is to download the presentation since the downloaded version has much better resolution - and it is needed. Anyway, please enjoy!


Not to forget - have a nice summer!

Friday, July 4, 2008

John Newton - How Web 2.0 will change the face of business

In the article "How Web 2.0 will change the face of business", John Newton does a really good job at describing what Web 2.0 is essentially about and what impact the driving forces behind Web 2.0 have to businesses and software vendors (such as Alfresco themselves):

Web 2.0 is explained more by example than by defining the technologies that make it up. A collection of brands provide the metaphors for what exactly is different in the way we use new web technologies, such as Google for search, YouTube for video, Flickr for photos, MySpace and Facebook for social networking and Wikipedia for wikis...//...These brands as metaphors become the nouns and verbs of describing Web 2.0 as a new way of socializing, communicating and sharing with each other in huge, consumer-scale markets.

Web 2.0 is not really so much a revolution in technology, but in how people use technology and how people interact with each other as a result of that technology.

As a result of the introduction of the internet, rapid infrastructure build-out and
the new generation of Web 2.0 sites, we have seen one of the most dramatic
democratizations of technology since at least the PC, if not the telephone
. Through universal access, users discovered that computers could be used for far more than information; that they could be used as a medium of expression, sharing and revelation.

Software vendors are now jumping on the bandwagon with social software and collaborative features smelling a bit opportunity. Many are repackaged capabilities from another era of enterprise software. Some are looking at their portfolios and asking whether this is what they were doing all along. This misses the point. Web 2.0 has so far outstripped enterprise software as we know it in usability, accessibility and empowerment, that it causes mass rolling of eyeballs at its mere sight of not just the new generation, but most others as well. Those who are familiar with the ease of use and empowerment of Web 2.0 sites like YouTube, Wikipedia and Facebook are aware of what is possible and have much higher expectations. It will take a few years, but eventually they will figure out that Web 2.0 is not just a few new collaboration features and highly interactive web technologies, but empowerment of their users and the ability to draw in a critical mass of users from outside the trusted circle.

I could not agree more. I persistently argue that easy access and easy of use is a key part of Web 2.0 (as it is a key to empowering users). In the post "MOSS 2007 is missing the point with web 2.0" I take Microsoft as an example of a software vendor that seem to think that Web 2.0 is just a bunch of features, but I also conclude that it is a misconception that most of the old software giants have:

Web 2.0 is more than a bunch of new technologies – it represents a new paradigm in how people think and behave in how they use information technology. Much that was said about the web in the dotcom days (“the Internet revolution”) are actually happening today. Technology-wise, not much is new since the dotcom years. What is new is that the masses have adopted modern information technology and the Internet and practically made it to their own. Today, people are often faster at adopting new technologies than companies. They bring consumer technologies to work, they want to choose their own productivity tools (and do so) and see IT as a business thing rather than an IT department thing. To most people, IT is no longer an obscure thing.

In the hands of the old enterprise software giants, web 2.0 easily becomes a complex thing. Their ambition to extend and modernize their feature-packed software suits with web 2.0 applications and technologies might cause them to miss the whole point of web 2.0; the ease of use.

I have previously described some of my experiences from using SharePoint for collaboration, but I won't go into another argument whether or not SharePoint / MOSS 2007 is a good platform for collaboration or not - because it both is and it isn't. But it is not Web 2.0.