Saturday, March 28, 2009

This week in links - week 13, 2009

There are several study reports and papers in this week's set of links, but it starts with the post Sustainable KM: The Challenges" by Andrew Gent:
...one of the first principles of sustainable KM should be do not to make KM additional work. Knowledge Management practices should be embedded in the existing business processes.

...how does change happen if you don't enforce it? It happens because it benefits the people who need to enact the change. In other words, people change when they see value for themselves in the change...//...It may seem like a contradiction, but changing processes is extremely difficult, whereas getting people to change the processes themselves (if they see fit) is much easier...//...So another principle of sustainability is avoid change management, help change manage itself.
"Manifesto for Agile Workplace", a study report by Career Innovation in partnership with British Telecom (via Richard Dennison):
This manifesto seeks to answer the question, "What could the workplace look like if it were designed to promote both organisationan and individual agility, and what must executives and individuals do to realise this vision?"
Social networking fosters collective intelligence, collaborative work and support communities. Tools and behaviors from the consumer world are now making the transition to the corporate world, with diverse implications for changing the way businesses operate. This paper explores 10 opportunities presented by social networking, along with 10 associated challenges.
This paper looks at the role of corporate social capital (CSC) in business innovation. The purpose is to demonstrate how CSC can influence business innovation performance by analysing the nature of the relationship networks that exist in a typical market place.
"Social Media and Employee Communications", a study report by Aon Consulting:
Aon’s Human Capital consultants have just completed a survey that reveals a broad use of Web 2.0 in the workplace for work purposes among all generations. This is of interest since the millennial generation is helping drive Web 2.0 media into the workplace. In fewer than 10 years, this generation will make up a majority of the U.S. workforce (more than fifty percent of all employees).

Thursday, March 26, 2009

SOA can get leverage from social networking and web 2.0


...as pointed out by the speakers, the principles and practices of Web 2.0 are becoming part of SOA.

The emerging SOA-Web 2.0 power duo was explored in some detail by Chris Brealey, senior technical staff member for IBM Rational Software. "At IBM, we strongly believe in service oriented architecture and Web 2.0 as two styles or sets of principles that are extremely complementary, and both endeavor to provide a means for you to achieve great agility and great heterogeneity," he said.

Leveraging SOA and Web 2.0 to renew economic growth will be an important theme at IBM's upcoming "IMPACT" conference, to be held May 3-8 in Las Vegas.
In a previous post, Joe McKendrick reports from a discussion he had with Miko Matsumura, deputy CTO at Software AG, about how social networking can help service orientation.
"Tribes are really kind of the ultimate end game for SOA. It turns out that SOA is not a system integration problem, it is a social integration problem and that getting people to play well with others... But it's hard to do."

Miko says the emerging social networking approaches will address this formerly insurmountable cultural challenge to SOA. "The whole social network becomes sort of inextricably linked to the evolution of SOA. Without the ability to evolve agreement you can't even create solutions."

Many enterprises have highly distributed teams that may even span the globe, from Mumbai to Memphis to Munchen. Along with employees, there are also contractors, customers, and suppliers that need to become more closely aligned with the process. "It's really a social endeavor, it's a social network.... Instead of dragging something down by the weakest link, we're actually trying to drive out all the expertise and actually make something very optimal at the enterprise level. So we're trying to solve the hard problems in system integration through social integration and we're trying to be able to scale systems that way."

David Linthicum have discussed the potential marriage between SOA and social networking from a different angle - also seeing a clear opportunity to increase the value of a SOA by linking it with Twitter:
Lately I've been mixing SOA with social networking within a few engagements, and I have to tell you that the value is clearly there. Thus, you can take the API from one social network, and perhaps a few others, and blend the information extracted with corporate information, such as sales data, to spot trends in what's being Twittered and what's being sold. Believe me, the links are there. In essence, you mix and match the data services (enterprise and social network) to create a business intelligence layer built upon services.

There are a ton of applications for enterprise SOA with social networking systems such as promoting upcoming events, selling products, or recruiting employees. Or, perhaps providing customer support and relationship management through a social network. It's all being done and it's a great bang for the buck.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

SharePoint in the hot seat

SharePoint has been in the hot seat for a couple of weeks. It started with Thomas Vander Wal's post "SharePoint 2007: Gateway Drug to Enterprise Social Tools" which evoked a lot of reactions and a pretty intense discussion in the Enterprise 2.0-corner of the blogosphere about SharePoint's fitness for Enterprise 2.0. Here are a few highlights from his post:
The Microsoft marketing people seem to have performed their usual, extend what the product can do to the edges of its capabilities (and occasionally beyond) to map to customer stated desires...What Microsoft marketing did well was sell the value that social tools bring into the enterprise.

...SharePoint has value, but it is not a viable platform to be considered for when thinking of enterprise 2.0. SharePoint only is viable as a cog of a much larger implementation with higher costs.

It is also very clear Microsoft’s marketing is to be commended for seeding the enterprise world of the value of social software platform in the enterprise and the real value it can bring. Ironically, or maybe true to form, Microsoft’s product does not live up to their marketing, but it has helped to greatly enhance the marketplace for products that actually do live up to the hype and deliver even more value.
Although I agree with some of Thomas Vander Wal's points, it is very important to stress that Enterprise 2.0 - as Michael Sampson makes clear - is not primarily about specific products:
Enterprise 2.0 is NOT about specific products from specific vendors. I think the people at the front of this thing called “enterprise 2.0” have shifted from a tooling focus to a strategic focus...Enterprise 2.0 is a way of describing a particular view of business process, culture, organization, and structure.
I cannot agree more: a business cannot achieve the promises of Enterprise 2.0 without putting new glasses on and transforming its ways of working, culture and structure.

Still, specific tools and technologies - and how they are designed, developed and deployed - play a central role in an Enterprise 2.0 business transformation. They are key ingredients in the Enterprise 2.0 recipe and if you take them away or use the wrong or bad ingredients, it will be much harder to achieve the promised business benefits of Enterpise 2.0.

Considering the current market penetration, it is clear that the marketing department at Microsoft has done an extraordinary job to market SharePoint 2007. What is unfortunate is that they seem to have convinced many buyers that they get Web 2.0-style collaboration tools out-of-the-box with SharePoint.

I have personally nearly two years of hands-on experience of using a more or less out-of-the-box implementation of SharePoint for collaboration and this much is perfectly clear to me; SharePoint / MOSS 2007 is designed for the (Windows) desktop and for collaborating on office documents inside the corporate firewalls. It is not designed for collaboration in broader terms - not even for simple file sharing if it goes across corporate firewalls. Furthermore, it is not designed for the web, it has only rudimentary Web 2.0 features and tools (such as blogs and wikis), it is not built with Web 2.0 technologies, and it lacks core Web 2.0 qualities such as ease-of-use. Despite all this, SharePoint is platform with a lot of capabilities which can be extended and leveraged through customization, third-party tools and complementary products and services. The key problem is just that many of the companies that have bought SharePoint 2007 believe they got more than just the basic capabilities out-of-the-box. They might not be ready for additional investments. This will most likely hold back the value they can get from their original investment in SharePoint.

Here are some other voices about SharePoint and Enterprise 2.0:

James Dellow:
...the measure of SharePoint's Enterprise 2.0 worthiness is in how it is used and how users are allowed to use it. And there is where, from looking at the SharePoint product suite and my experiences in the field, that I have a problem with SharePoint.
Mike Gotta:
So my advice - let's get off the "what is" debate about products and features and focus on "how used" when it comes to E2.0.

SharePoint can be used in ways that create an anti-pattern of sorts when thinking about E2.0 - but it can also be used in ways that are well-aligned with E2.0 goals. Yes, often those success stories rely on partners that extend the capabilities of SharePoint as a platform. But the platform is leveraged and some capabilities (e.g., search/social distance, MySite) are credible. I have clients on both sides of the debate with successful and unsuccessful stories to tell.

The inconvenient truth is that the product does not eliminate the overwhelming influence that cultural dynamics has on how well an organization can leverage E2.0 concepts.
Michael Sampson (again):

SharePoint is what it is -- and can become more through third-party add-ons...If an organization has deployed SharePoint with the sole purpose of implementing an “enterprise 2.0” vision, then it’s made the wrong decision. But if the driving reasons are much wider, and take into consideration team collaboration, content management and more, then SharePoint may be a good base platform.

Friday, March 20, 2009

This week in links - week 12, 2009

"Trust is the killer app" by Leon Benjamin:
Research produced by IBM concludes; "Individuals in higher-trust societies spend less to protect themselves from being exploited in economic transactions. Trust is an economical substitute for extensive contracts, litigation, and monitoring in transactions and thus economizes on transaction costs."

Organisations (of every size) pay for a lack of trust over and over again and it is the absence of trust that is choking innovation and productivity...

William Davies at the Institute for Public Policy Research...say that “out of nowhere trust has become the most talked about abstractions of our times” and notes that online communities have an unusual propensity to create environments of trust.

One of the most comprehensive studies of the open source community was conducted by Yochai Benkler to understand how Linux...have come from nowhere to challenge mainstream, paid for products from Microsoft, IBM and others. Benkler concludes:

Removing property and contract as the organizing principles of collaboration substantially reduces transaction costs involved in allowing these large clusters of potential contributors to review and select which resources to work on, for which projects, and with which collaborators.”

Trust is the killer app.

"Field Research Study: Social Networking Within the Enterprise" by Mike Gotta:
The media, blogs, and vendors are all abuzz about social networking tools, and some enterprises have started to roll them out...Given this large-scale uncertainty, Burton Group initiated an in-depth field research study to help clients understand the business, organizational, and technical factors to consider when formulating social networking strategies and initiating internal projects.

"Enterprise 2.0 Tools Align with McKinsey Steps for Making Good Business Decisions" by Bill Ives:
Here are the four approaches McKinsey mentioned and some comments on how enterprise 2.0 tools relate to each...
  1. Ensuring that people with the right skills and experience are included in decision making - Social media can be very helpful in finding the right people with the right skills within a large organization, or even a small one
  2. Making decisions based on transparent criteria and a robust fact base - The necessary robust fact base can be augmented by the many eDiscovery tools that go beyond standard search criteria
  3. Ensuring that the person who will be responsible for implementing a decision is involved in making that decision - This is critical and the one of the four that social media will not play a direct role. However, the many enterprise 2.0 platforms for managing efforts can certainly help the person and team implement the decisions
  4. Some types of consensus-building and alliances apparently can help create good outcomes - Social media tools can be very helpful in building consensus and support alliances through enhanced collaboration

"Six Ways to Make Web 2.0 Work" by Raj Sheelvant:

  1. The transformation to a bottom-up culture needs help from the top
  2. The best uses come from users—but they require help to scale
  3. What’s in the workflow is what gets used
  4. Appeal to the participants’ egos and needs—not just their wallets
  5. The right solution comes from the right participants
  6. Balance the top-down and self-management of risk

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Enterprise RSS - alive and kicking

Awareness and interest in Enterprise RSS is on the rise.  Considering that awareness has been low for a long time (Enterprise RSS was recently declared dead), the change is significant. Several customers are curious and asking us about how they can improve their internal communication and knowledge exchange, with RSS technology as one important piece of the puzzle. Noteworthy is the interest in using RSS for business intelligence.

One explanation to this sudden increase in interest can probably be attributed to that RSS is becoming familiar to more people. As people start subscribing to content updates from external sources, they start seeing the benefits of doing the same thing with internal sources. As Forrester has pointed out, adoption levels are still low, but I am pretty sure they will take off this year. 

The most obvious benefit of subscribing to RSS feeds is that you can save a lot of time and energy by having updates come to you instead visiting web sites to check what might have been updated. Most people can understand this benefit without ever having subscribed to an RSS feed, but they might have to see it demonstrated by a colleague or friend to actually believe it and adopt.

If seeing is believing, then experience is revelation. Once you experience the sensation of having updates from a multitude of sources delivered to you in one single location and one single format, you also begin to understand that your information management capacity in terms of the number of sources you can monitor and the number of feed items you can scan and read is much greater the number of sources and items of information you can consume the traditional way (surfing). This benefit is hard to describe in a blog post like this one. You will have to experience it yourself to really understand it.

If you use a web-based reader such as Google Reader, you can access your feeds via a web browser on your computer or mobile phone. Once you discover how easy it is to check your feeds and read feed items via your mobile phone, you always have something to do when you have time to kill on the bus, train or while waiting for something or someone. 



The greatest - and probably also least tangible - potential benefit from Enterprise RSS comes from its ability to help making an organization more transparent and integrated. In a transparent and integrated organization, it is easier to discover and get hold of information that might be of value to you and which can help you to make more informed and better decisions. This benefit is amplified when you combine RSS with blogs, wikis, micro-blogs, video sharing, and so on. Notifications from enterprise applications that alert you about updates to data or tasks can be very valuable, but context is king. The more contextual information you have access to, the faster and more correct you will be able to understand how your project, team, business area or the entire business is performing.

When combined with RSS, tools such as blogs and wikis help to make work, knowledge and ideas visible and available to a broader audience than those who happened to be on the TO/CC/BCC list. RSS specifically contributes by makes monitoring, consumption and reuse of content easier. RSS provides a way to tap into information silos and monitor work and conversations that goes on distant corners of the enterprise.


Transparency is necessary to make ideas flow. It helps us avoid reinventing the wheel over and over again, to identify and manage dependencies, to discover people and content, to spot possible synergies and new opportunities... I think you get the message. But to REALLY get it, you need to experience it yourself. And if you have the role as CIO, exploring and trying to understand the value of Enterprise RSS should be at the top of your agenda.

Friday, March 13, 2009

This week in links - week 11, 2009

"Building Employee Engagement With Internal Social Networks" by Toby Ward:

Employees want to connect with each other, and more importantly, they want to connect with the company and senior management. A study by Towers Perrin found that employees overwhelmingly want to know “that leadership is interested in them.”

Social networking allows employees to connect with relevant or related individuals by subject matter, job description, geogrpahic location, and by personal networks to help birdge this information gap. In fact, for those social media doubting-Thomases that question the value of Intranet 2.0, there are increasingly more numbers that quantify the measured value:

  • 52% of organizations using Web 2.0 achieved Best- in-Class performance (5% didn’t) (Aberdeen Group)‏

  • Companies using Web 2.0 tools achieved 18% increase in engagement (1% of those that didn’t) (Aberdeen Group)‏

  • Sabre has already attributed $500k in savings to their employee social networking tool

  • Cisco attributes $millions in savings to their wikis

Leading organizations that understand the power of Intranet 2.0 are blazing some incredible trails. Early adopters are finding positive business results by helping employees connect through "internal Facebooks." By effectively harnessing these new networks, organizations are seeing positive impacts on internal brand building, as well as employee engagement, satisfaction and motivation -- which leads to higher levels of productivity, revenue, and profit.

"How to find the people you need" by Jon Mell:

Rich profiles can be a powerful cornerstone of an Enterprise 2.0 / next generation intranet / social business software solution. Finding people rather than documents can be highly beneficial in terms of productivity, using information rather than looking for it, and simply getting things done and making things happen.

They are also often misunderstood, many fail to understand that profiles do not require regular maintenance or updating, and can stay current and relevant with very little effort on the profile owner's part. This is a scenario based on Jive Clearspace (although Socialtext and Lotus Connections have very similar functionality) to show how rich, social profiles can help people do their jobs.

"Working Together" by Power of Information Task Force:

The Government today published a new document called ‘Working Together - Public Services on your side’ outlining its vision for public sector reform.

This contains the comments below in the Strategic Government section which refer to the Taskforce report:

"Delivering transparency...A focus on outcomes is only meaningful when it is combined with clear and reliable information on performance. Transparency that delivers accessible and useful information on the performance of services and the outcomes they achieve is at the heart of our strategy for improving public services."

Here's a good definition of collaboration by Matthew C. Clarke in "Wanted/Needed: UX Design for Collaboration 2.0":

Collaboration is a co-ordinated sequence of actions performed by members of a team in order to achieve a shared goal.

The main concepts in this definition are:

  • Collaboration is action-oriented. People must do something to collaborate. They may exchange ideas, arrange an event, write a report, lay bricks, or design some software. To collaborate is to act together and it is the combined set of actions that constitutes collaboration.

  • Collaboration is goal-oriented. The reason for working together is to achieve something. There is some purpose behind the actions: to create a web site, to build an office block, to support each other through grief, or some other human goal. The collaborators may have varying motivations, but the collaboration per se focuses on a goal that is shared.

  • Collaboration involves a team. No-one can collaborate alone. Collaboration requires a group of people working together. The team may be any size, may be geographically co-located or dispersed, membership may be voluntary or imposed, but there is at least some essence of being part of the team.

  • Collaboration is co-ordinated. That is, the team is working together in some sense. The co-ordination may follow some formal methodology, but can equally well be implicit and informal. There needs to be some sense at least that there are a number of things to be done, some sequences of actions, some allocation of tasks within the group, and some way to combine the contributions of different team members.

Any collaboration process involves interactions between six elements, as shown in the following diagram:


"Launch of Implementing Enterprise 2.0 Framework" by Ross Dawson:

A centrepiece of our recently launched Implementing Enterprise 2.0 report is an Implementing Enterprise 2.0 Framework.


Like everything in the report, the framework will be developed and refined for future releases of the report, so any feedback and input will definitely be taken into account as we make this framework more useful and relevant.

Monday, March 9, 2009

How BBC uses Twitter as a journalistic tool

"BBC News, Twitter and suits" by Darren Waters:
...in the past 24 months it is clear that Twitter has become another tool or conduit in our reporting. So how do we use it?
  1. Talking to and responding to queries from readers, fellow professionals and colleagues.
  2. Asking the audience questions and using the crowd as a source of information
  3. Reporting updates, breaking news, and giving colour and texture
  4. Pushing out headlines and blogposts to Twitter via RSS and TwitterFeed.com
  5. Getting a very fast and very global sense of events
  6. Using hashtags to find viewpoints around breaking news as well as a source of user generated content
  7. Unifying different threads of reporting - news website, blog, Flickr etc
One of the biggest lessons I think we are beginning to learn from Twitter is in understanding the value of having a simple technology both to deliver and publish breaking news updates.

Twitter excels in its ubiquity and simplicity across different platforms and reveals the value in delivering real-time, sequential updates around breaking news.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Start living by these principles - now!

Michael Sampson pointed me to an excellent post by Brett Young where Brett shares his personal collaboration rules. After reading them, I must say that I agree 100% with all of them. And although I have never written these rules down myself, I recognize that I am trying to live by these rules myself everyday. Now that I see the rules in writing, I must say that it is very valuable to have them written down in this simple and straightforward format. 

If we all help tp convince more people to live by these rules, our personal and corporate information management environments will be much more manageable. 

Here are the rules (in a slightly shortened version):
  1. Capture once - There's nothing more wasteful than capturing the same information multiple times

  2. Process once - How many times have I looked at an email just to defer action a little longer. Each time I have to reread it, I'm wasting time. 

  3. Resist printing.  There are really very few instances when printing to paper is a good idea. Resist printing an agenda or other meeting materials that end up in the trash within minutes of being created.

  4. Don't use email to collaborate, use it to communicate - Email is a terrible collaboration tool, but an excellent communication tool. When it comes to collaboration, email tends to create more work, and lacks critical context.

  5. Send links, not attachments - Nothing eats up disk space on email servers faster than attachments, especially if you're not sharing a single-copy message store.

  6. Store in a searchable, linkable repository - Unfortunately, most people use email as their personal content store. The problem is that I may have some content that someone else could really use. However, if they don't know me, they will never find it. 

  7. Be a sharer, not a hoarder. As we share what we know, others can become co-contributers. This results in a product that is better than any individual could have accomplished on their own.

  8. Use real-time communication, instead of email and voice mail, to reduce cycle time - Voice mail and e-mail are slow. It usually takes at least 24 hours to hear back from someone. If you end up going back and forth for several cycles, you could waste days or weeks.

Getting Real - how to do it

About a year ago, a collegue of mine gave me a copy of 37 Signals book Getting Real. The book has been a trusted friend since then. Not that it contains much new and revolutionary insights that I did not already have (their ideas are not entirely new, but the ideas are very well communicated), but it helps to remind me what is important not only in web application development and in other areas as well. The latter is not just something they say:
While this book's emphasis is on building a web app, a lot of these ideas are applicable to non-software activities too. The suggestions about small teams, rapid prototyping, expecting iterations, and many others presented here can serve as a guide whether you're starting a business, writing a book, designing a web site, recording an album, or doing a variety of other endeavors. Once you start Getting Real in one area of your life, you'll see how these concepts can apply to a wide range of activities.
You can buy the book as paperback or PDF, or you can save your money for something else and read the entire book online. It is an easy read, but if you are too busy to read it I have destilled 10 principles from the book that (to me) communicates the very essence of it: 
  1. Stay Lean. The leaner you are, the easier it is to change.

  2. If you feel passionate about your app, it will come through to the final product.

  3. Embrace constraints. Let limitations guide you to creative solutions.

  4. Ignore details early on. Details reveal themselves as you use what you're building.

  5. Figure out what matters and leave the rest.

  6. Don't force conventions on people. Give people just enough to solve their own problems their own way.

  7. If you try to please veryone, you won't please anyone.

  8. Get something up and running quickly. Real things lead to real reactions. 

  9. Don't expect to get it right the first time. Let it morph and evolve. With web-based software there's no need to ship perfection.

  10. Test via real world usage. Get real feedback. Then improve based on that info.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Dot-Com nostalgia

Those were the days...

During the summer of year 2000, I managed a project that developed student community web sites for a startup in Stockholm owned by Universum. Besides managing the project, I also managed requirements and developed the interaction design for the sites. 

In the beginning of year 2000, some expensive management consultants from Boston Consulting Group had identified a "window of opportunity" that they presented to Universum. Their message was that the company that was able to get there first would dominate the market...you probably know how the story goes.

As most startups did back then, they made some very big plans, evidently too big to be even close to realistic. They had already recruited people and set up organizations in Sweden, UK, France and Germany before there was a web site within sight. At that point, they appointed my company in May 2000  to develop the sites (Sweden, Germany, France and UK) and made me and my project team work our asses off (pardon my French) during the entire summer so that we could launch the sites for the new semester. As you might have guessed already, it was one of those projects that you afterwards regret getting yourself into. 

I recently found an illustration of the site concept in my "archive" and I was struck by how little things actually have changed since then - at least on a conceptual level. 
Not bad, if I may say so myself. But it is probably to generic to be usable. I see no other reason why it seems relevant even today.

Friday, March 6, 2009

This week in links - week 10, 2009

"Is your Organization Talent Ready?" by Margaret Schweer, the Wikinomics blog:

In our practice we are seeing the current economy accelerate profound changes in the fundamental structure and operating principles of organizations. These changes are challenging people to behave in different ways . . . requiring new capabilities.

The very nature of work is changing. It is . . .

  • Project driven . . . based on roles not jobs.
  • Community based . . . the active use of collaboration tools to share information, create relationships, develop insights or create product is the work itself.
  • On demand . . . the style of work is ‘bursty’ meaning its discontinuous and done when required by the work not necessarily during ‘work hours.’
  • "Golocal" . . . requires that we simultaneously take a global and local approach and mindset to work and talent.

How we do work is also changing. Organizations are becoming more networked with a fluid structure and transparent processes. This means that:

  • Work is more horizontal and self organizing in nature
  • Peer oriented with less control being provided by the center of the organization
  • Supported by processes that are modular and can be assembled in a flexible repeatable way

The tools we leverage are changing. We are already seeing wonderful examples of web based tools that reside on responsive platforms . . . that are available on demand . . . instantly reconfigurable . . . agile and adaptive to circumstances.

"How Much Scale Is Needed in Enterprise 2.0 Employee Adoption?" by Hutch Carpenter:

Usually, all social software is lumped together under ‘Enterprise 2.0′ and there is a collective view that wide-scale adoption by employees is a necessity. It’s actually more nuanced than that.

The graphic below depicts the relative levels of participation required for different apps to “deliver value”:


"Wikis, “Opt-in Culture” Contribute to a Healthy Organization" by Bill Arconati, Atlassian:

One of the great things about working in a company that has fully adopted the wiki way of working is that it fosters what I call an opt-in culture. In an opt-in culture, employees contribute to conversations where they gain the most satisfaction and have the largest impact. They look beyond their tiny fiefdoms and seek out situations where they can add value and offer their expertise...//...In opt-in cultures, employees are more engaged and more productive leading the overall organization to greater success.

Perhaps the best way to understand and appreciate an opt-in culture is by contrasting it to an opt-OUT culture like email. Have you ever left work at the end of the day and thought to yourself, “All I did today was respond to emails?” In email-based companies you frequently spend your days knocking down emails like a bad game of Whac-A-Mole.

The main problem with email is that you have little control over what lands in your inbox. Most emails are either (i) people asking you to do something or (ii)conversations between two or three people (frequently executives) with a dozen innocent bystanders in the cc line. The only way to shut out the noise in an email culture is to opt-out and say “Take me off this thread!”

"Intranet trends" by Toby Ward:

Intranet and portal specialist Jane McConnell of NetStrategy highlights the latest trends identified in her Global Intranet Trends Report for 2009:

Important ingredients for a successful intranet:

  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Empowering employees
  • Optimizing activities & processes
  • Focusing on the needs of the customer (external)

Direction of intranets:

  • Portal concepts – aggregating content and tools into a single screen
  • Integration of applicatons – HR, business applications, collaboration spaces
  • Social media – user-generated content
  • Management awareness – senior management is slowly becoming aware of intranets

Changes in business:

  • Virtual teams (geographically dispersed)
  • New expectations
  • Tele-working (working remotely)
  • Smart phones (mobile access of the intranet)

The intranet is on the verge of breaking:

  • Today's typical intranet is not sustainable
  • Too top-down
  • Not business-oriented
  • Not people-oriented
  • Out-of-date
  • Arthritic – too hard to publish
  • Closed – limited to employees (closed to partners & contractors)
  • Sendetary – limited to office, PCs

Thursday, March 5, 2009

How to choose the right chart for your message

I picked up this excellent chart chooser mind map developed by Andrew Abela via Cool Infographics.



Not only did I find an excellent chart and a new blog to subscribe to, but I also discovered that a friend of mine, Peter Meurling, had contributed with a Swedish translation of the chart chooser. Isn't it a small world?

Efficient meetings with blogs and wikis

We all know that many of the meetings that we attend at work are not very efficient. Sometimes no agenda is distributed in advance. Sometimes people who were not invited show up at the meeting. Other times the discussions get off the track. More often than not, the meeting time is exceeded. Consensus is not always achieved and neither is the desired result. All too often, actions are not identified and action plans not created or communicated. Afterwards, actions are forgotten and never carried out…

To make meetings efficient, you can come a long way just by following some basic ground rules on how to facilitate efficient meetings. Examples can be found here, here and here. If you feel that you need to some really drastic measures to get your meetings more efficient, why not try some of my radical ideas for efficient meetings?

Anyway, once you have established the groundwork for efficient meetings you can also make them even more efficient by using blogs and wikis. Say that you are managing a project and want to make your project meetings efficient. We assume that you have set up a project wiki and blog, and ensured that all project stakeholders and meeting participants have access to these tools. Then you can try this flow to make your meetings more efficient:

  1. When planning the meeting, create a page for the meeting in the project wiki. Edit the page and outline the agenda for the meeting. Add the basic structure of the meeting notes, such as a table with participants and roles and a table for your action plan.
  2. Invite all the people who you want to attend the meeting via e-mail. In the invitation e-mail, provide link to the meeting page in the wiki.
  3. Depending on what type of meeting you are facilitating, you might want to make an announcement about the meeting via the project blog so that all project stakeholders can become aware of it.
  4. During the meeting, appoint someone to document the discussions, decisions and actions identified during meeting directly in the wiki.
  5. After the meeting, write a post on the project blog that briefly summarizes the meeting. Provide a link to the page in the wiki and ask those who attended the meeting to review the meeting notes and add anything that is missing or correct mistakes. Also ask them to update the status of their actions once they carry them out.

So, how does this flow help you make your meeting more efficient? Here is how:

  • You don’t have to provide information such as the agenda in the mail or in an attachment that might disappear in the inbox. It is available at one single location, in one copy only. The most recent version is always the one presented to you.
  • By putting the agenda in the wiki, anyone can edit it before the meeting takes place. They probably won't, but they might add comments to the page and this is something you should encourage. They might give you feedback on the agenda, tell you what is missing, issues that you should address, or any other kind of feedback. This gives you a chance to prepare the meeting in a better way.
  • If you have missed to invite someone in your e-mail invitation who should attend, that person can read about the meeting on the blog and thus get a chance to contact you to get invited to the meeting.
  • You don’t have to worry about participants or other stakeholder not finding meeting notes. Meeting notes will not be buried in e-mail inboxes or in documents on file servers that cannot be easily searched. The participants can easily search for the meeting notes in the wiki or navigate to them via the blog post.
  • The participants can correct any mistakes or add things to the meeting notes that are missing. The facilitator does not need to collect, identify and merge changes from several copies of the meeting notes documents into the one single meeting notes document.
  • Feedback is provided in public, so it is less likely that several people will provice the same feedback.
  • Valuable discussions might arise on the blog or the wiki in the tail of the meeting. Anyone can follow the complete discussion threads and the discussions are captured and possible to find by anyone with access at any point in time. That is not the case with discussions via e-mail.
  • Actions are visible to everyone who has access to the project wiki. The sense that anyone can follow up on the status of actions might make participants more motivated to carry out their actions and report the status of their actions. Especially if they know that others are subscribing to any updates to the wiki page via RSS or e-mail notifications. For the doer, this is a way to show off. If there are no updates for actions, that indicates that someone is not doing what he’s supposed to - and you (or someone else) can easily find out who that someone is.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

This week in links - week 9, 2009

Massachusetts-based Forrester Consulting was recently commissioned by Adobe to analyze the current condition of knowledge workers in Europe.

In December 2008, they published Enabling The Future of Collaboration, which revealed several interesting findings.  While workers heavily favor integrating more efficient and tangibly productive collaborative methods into their workday, there is overwhelming evidence showing that they do not utilize these tools to anywhere near capacity. Though collaboration is an increasingly important aspect to workers, they “tend to favor established and familiar collaborative tools over newer alternatives.”  This is referring to phone conversations, emails, and face-to-face meetings as their primary source means to collaborate.  As for the usage of “instant messaging, Web conferencing, and team work sites”, only 13% of Europeans take advantage of these tools.  Moreover, people use newer web 2.0 tools, such as “wikis, blogs, and social networks,” even less at 5%.
The biggest barrier for implementing and adopting social media inside the organization (on the intranet) is not technology, but culture. Blogs and wikis are very simple technology, but educating executives and employees on the value of social media while promoting and motivating use requies significant change management and communications.

The real value of social media on the intranet are the relationships and connections that are built and enhanced for unlocking tacit knowledge and unleashing creativity and future potential.

And yet while most social media represent simple technology (and some like discussion forums and instant messaging have been around for more than 10 years), it is new enough that most employees have little experience using it (particularly older generations) or struggle with understanding the value it represents to the business.
"Reduce management costs with Enterprise 2.0" by Jon Mell:
I was with a customer the other day who very succinctly described their business motivation for delivering an Enterprise 2.0 intranet. "We're looking to expand, but without increasing management costs".

Employees who are efficiently networked don't need management making sure that they're talking to the right people, or introducing them to other members of the organisation.

They don't need to attend team meetings with the "enforced networking" sessions that invariably happen afterward.

They don't need to ask their manager who they need to ask about abc, or where they can find information about xyz.

They find that information from the flow that social software generates - their personal radar enables them to know who to ask and where to look
"8 Things You Need to Know About Making the Case for Document Management in a Recession -- #8" by John Mancini:
#8 of 8: Most organizations (86%) do not know what they do not know when it comes to information integrity; they are unconsciously incompetent when it comes to the effectiveness of their information management systems.

Positioning Model for Communication Tools

This Wednesday, Ross Mayfield asked three questions on Twitter in order to find out how Twitter is different from Instant Messaging, e-mail and forums. He received a lot of interesting answers that he published in a post on his blog:
How Twitter differs from IM, email and Forums is important because new users always compare things to what they know. Obviously there is a sample bias, the sheer diversity and pure gems in the below replies tell us something about what's new
One way to define various tools (or ways to communicate) and how they differ from each other is to visually position them in various dimensions. For this purpose, I have developed a simple positioning model that I call "Positioning Model for Communication Tools". I have uploaded a first version of it to Slideshare.net and registered it under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

In the presentation, I also attempt to position tools such as micro-blogs, e-mail, IM, SMS, blogs and forums. I would appreciate your feedback - such as what you think about the positioning model and how I have used it to positioned various communication tools.