Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Work is not a place, it is something you do



Online, on virtual places like Yammer, Twitter or LinkedIn, people tend to tell their colleagues and others what they are doing, thinking, liking, reading...and not so often where they are, when they arrived there and when they left. Why? Because the latter often just doesn't make much sense. Knowing where someone physically is doesn't usually contribute very much to your work. But knowing what someone you work with will help you coordinate actions, and tell you when it time for you or someone else to contribute. By learning what other people are doing you might also spot opportunities for exchanging ideas, knowledge or opinions, or doing something together.

Most people today understand that being physically present at the office is not necessarily the same thing as working or being productive. Still, most corporate cultures are stuck with the mindset from the industrial age that work is a place and uses time spent at that place is the main way to measure work.

It has not always been like that. In the agricultural society, work used to be about what you could produce. Then we moved into factories and offices and began to refer to work as a place. The introduction of the time clock, invented in 1888 by jeweler Willard Bundy, reinforced this. It tracked the number of hours an employee worked and was the main measure by which work was measured and workers were paid and rewarded.

If time spent at the office is a relevant measure or not depends upon the type of work you do. But in most cases it is a misleading measure. For knowledge workers such as marketing and sales people, engineers, IT consultants, writers, and so forth it is damn right wrong. Our work environment is getting more and more complex, with more interactions with more people across organizational, geographical and cultural borders. Many of us work with people in different time zones. Still, our contributions are very much measured in the same way as during the industrial era peaking during the 20th century - by the face time we spend at the office during office hours.



Sooner or later, virtual work will be the norm and a practice that will catch on everywhere. But if it is currently allowed at your company / department / team or not usually comes down to individual managers and whether or not you have a trusting boss. In a Harvard Business Publishing article called "Stay Home and Work", Rosabeth Moss Kanter states:
Choosing how long to work and on what schedule has long showed productivity benefits. People are less stressed when they can adjust their hours or days to family or personal needs. A greater feeling of control is associated with more energy and better health, studies show, making those workers more productive.

Technology exists to make remote work feasible and effective. Cell phones have liberated people from desks. Cisco's telepresence capabilities make it possible to feel as though you are in the meeting room with people anywhere in the world, sitting just across the conference table.

The barriers are the usual human ones. Without a culture of strong accountability, collaboration, trust and personal responsibility, remote work doesn't work. That culture is missing in too many organizations. Managers don't always know how to coordinate and communicate with people they do not see face to face; they must value the work product and not the face time. Leadership is important. People need clear goals, deadlines, and performance metrics. Team members need trust and the ability to rely on and fill in for one another.
It is pretty clear that we have to get away from concepts such as face time and office hours. We need to stop thinking of work as a place and make virtual work a norm. What really matters in the end is what results we produce and that we achieve our goals. But that of course implies that we must define what kind of results we expect, what goals to achieve, and probably also provide some directions. A problem is that a lot of people still don’t know how to do that. That includes managers, and possibly your boss.
“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results” - General George Patton

Resist printing! (and save the world)


Well, if you don't save the world you will at least contribute to moving things in the right direction.
"The average daily web user prints 28 pages daily."
(Source; Gartner group and HP according to Wikipedia)
For about a year now, I have tried my best to live by my new "resist printing" principle. It has not been easy, but looking back I have been very successful in my attempts to change my behavior. Simply put, I print much less than just a year ago. I would estimate that I am definitely down to less than a couple of pages per day on average (I don't print very often, but occasionally I need to print a tender, agreement or such which raises the average).

The most effective way to force myself to a new behavior has been to make it harder for me to exercise my unwanted behavior. This is what I did:
  • When the black ink in my printer at home ran out out over a year, I decided not to buy a new ink cartridge. So from that point I could simply not print anything when I was at home.
  • When at work, I don't log on to the domain unless absolutely necessary. This means that I cannot print at the office - unless absolutely necessary, that is.
  • I assigned the “PDF writer” as the default printer on my laptop. So, if I happen to print by accident at times when I am logged on to the domain at work, it will be printed to a PDF file.
Of course, there are also things that I have done to make this change of behavior easier, such as getting myself a smartphone with Internet access, a mobile broadband card for my laptop, and as using Google Reader to consume most of the information I'm interested in (reading information in an RSS Reader is more optimized for screen reading than most sites). Anyway, key has been the ability to bring my information with me digitally instead of on paper, which in turn has required the ability to be able to connect to the Internet anywhere and anytime, and to access the information I need via the web. Today, thanks to new smartphones, 3G and Web 2.0 apps, that is definitely possible.

Another factor that has considerably reduced my consumption of paper is that we don't have a newspaper at home. Both my wife and I read all news online, except for an occational news magazine stuffed with great journalistic content (like the excellent Swedish magazine “Filter”).

To sum things up; we live in a digital age characterized by digital abundance when it comes to information. Almost everything that is printed on paper can be read online as well. Resisting printing and reading daily news online instead of on paper are two really low hanging fruits when it comes to saving our environment and reducing unneccessary water consumption (AND saving costs). We have really no excuse for not changing our behavior. Expecially if we consider the following:

One year's worth of the New York Times newspaper weighs 246 KG (520 pounds). (2)

Approx. 324 liters (85,6 gallons) of water is used to produce 1 KG (2.2 pounds) of paper. (1)

It takes 75,000 trees to print a Sunday Edition of the New York Times. (3)

New York's largest export out of the Port of NY is waste paper. (4)

It costs the Times about twice as much money to print and deliver the newspaper over a year as it would cost to send each of its subscribers a brand new Amazon Kindle instead (5)
In ten years from now, the newspaper industry as we know it today will be gone and printers at home and offices will be much less used. The fact that we today still read news on paper and print so much information that could as well be consumed online will seem incredible stupid. Our children will look at us and ask us what the f**k we were thinking.

References:
1. Environment Canada (from "
Eco Design Paper Facts" by iD2 Communications)
2. Purdue Research Foundation and US Environmental Protection Agency, 1996 (from "
Eco Design Paper Facts" by iD2 Communications)
3. North Carolina Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling (from "
Eco Design Paper Facts" by iD2 Communications)
4. What About Waste, Cornell Waste Management Institute, 1990 (from "
Eco Design Paper Facts" by iD2 Communications)
5. “
Printing The NYT Costs Twice As Much As Sending Every Subscriber A Free Kindle”, Silicon Alley Insider

Friday, September 25, 2009

This week in links - week 39, 2009

Here is this week's set of links with some comments of mine.

"Social Business" by Euan Semple:
...I believe there is a fundamental change in how we do business heading our way. Driven by the networked communication tools flourishing on the web, tools like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, not only how we communicate with those who benefit from our services but also how we organise ourselves to produce them will be changed forever.

Social tools like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Wikis and Blogging are placing in the hands of everyone communication tools that give them access to global audiences within seconds with virtually no cost and no gatekeepers. This has never been possible on this scale before and no one really knows what the impact will be.

What I believe is happening, as more of our society becomes more connected and computing power and bandwidth become pervasive, is the equivalent of the advent of the printing press.

Being aware of these technologies is a very different thing from understanding them, actually using them, and knowing how to get the best out of them. This is before we even begin to touch on the subject of how to use them in a business context and how to “manage them”. The biggest change in communications, and possibly the most challenging for those called communications professionals, is a change in tone.

There are those who would claim that the views expressed here are just another re-hashing of cyber-utopianism that has been around since the start of the net...But I would argue that what we are seeing is a much more gradual, long lasting and profound change in the way we see ourselves and each other driven by the proliferation of networked communication described above. There is a genie that has been let out of the bottle and while we may not see the full effects of its actions in our lifetime there is little doubt that things won’t ever be the same again.
Comment: Hear, hear!

"Defining KM" by David Snowden:
Given the overall levels of cyncism about knowledge management, together with issues of initiative fatigue and excessive communication, it is proposed that a simpler and more common place definition be adopted together with some clearly business orientated guiding principles. A first draft is set out below:

The purpose of knowledge management is to provide support for improved decision making and innovation throughout the organization. This is achieved through the effective management of human intuition and experience augmented by the provision of information, processes and technology together with training and mentoring programmes.

The following guiding principles will be applied:
  • All projects will be clearly linked to operational and strategic goals
  • As far as possible the approach adopted will be to stimulate local activity rather than impose central solutions
  • Co-ordination and distribution of learning will focus on allowing adaptation of good practice to the local context
  • Management of the KM function will be based on a small centralized core, with a wider distributed network
Comment: A new definition is very needed and this is a great start.

...the main objective, let’s be honnest, is to make people give their best, to be sure that no talent or expertise is left unemployed. That’s the macro level.

At the micro level, it’s considering people as the engines of the organization. And their knowledge and social capital as the fuel. A new kind a fuel that can’t be stocked, replaced or substitutable and which combustion is uncertain.
Comment: Great points, agree 100%. I also agree that we must explain what we mean when saying that we should put "people in the centre". For me, it means that we need to focus more on how employees can become more productive, efficient and innovative (once called "white collar productivity"). Until now we have mainly focused on processes, non-human resources and technology. These is so much potential in people yet to be released!

Build strong relations with your colleagues and you will be successful. This has been a common mantra for many years. However, when faced with new challenges, many employees have found to their surprise that their internal network and relations fail to provide them with sufficient answers and inspiration.

My advice earlier this year was to start networking right away, but a recent conversation with Christian Waldstrøm, Associate Professor at Aarhus School of Business, brought to my attention that the value of internal networks may in fact be overrated. Waldstrøm has found that internal networks tend to lock stakeholders into unfortunate inter-relations while fostering habitual thinking and stereotyping patterns.

A strong internal network of relations can certainly be valuable, but external relations may be more valuable and helpful in times of change. If you know somebody who has solved a similar problem, you can always contact him/her irrespective of organisational changes. In addition to ideas and potential solutions, you also get a fresh outside perspective and the opportunity to meet peers who share your challenges. If you are able to connect with somebody who has solved some of the issues you are facing, the solution might need to be adapted to your organisation, but you don’t need to reinvent the wheel entirely.
Comment: Strong points. A company is often a very competitive environment and people tend to build alliances that help them to a better position, not real relations based on trust. It is your external network that might help you get a new job if you need one.

"12 Theses on Collaboration" by Dr. Kjetil Kristensen:
Any initiative aimed at improving collaboration internally and / or with external partners is a complex undertaking. These theses on collaboration has been developed to create some structure in the apparent chaos.
  1. Collaboration is an essential part of knowledge work.
  2. The majority of work is collaborative.
  3. Think, then act.
  4. Collaboration requires disciplined management and leadership to succeed.
  5. While important, technology is not enough.
  6. Work practices should be systematically developed and reviewed.
  7. Usability is too important to be left to the technology people alone.
  8. The importance of awareness and training cannot be overstated.
  9. Collaboration is inherently dynamic and should be treated accordingly.
  10. Get your priorities right.
  11. Find the sweet spots rather than using a forced approach.
  12. Never forget that collaboration is about creating value.
Comment: Great guidelines for collaboration.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Managers ARE scared to death of social media

A study made by the Swedish organization Ledarna where they conducted deep interviews and surveys with managers across Europe has found that more than halv of all managers are afraid that social media will make employees less productive and that sensitive information will leak outside the organization.

More than half of the managers see that social media as a interruptive factor that does not provide any proven value. Peter Liljeros, leadership consultant at "Ledarna" comments:

"That it [social media] might consume time or that sensitive information can be spread has nothing to do with social media. It can just as well happen during a coffee break."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Presentation: Getting Real About Enterprise 2.0

Here's the opening presentation from Acando's Enterprise 2.0 event in collaboration with AIIM September 10th 2009. It served as an introduction to the sessions that followed by AIIM, Tetra Pak and NewsGator.

Monday, September 21, 2009

5 Essential Enterprise 2.0 Whitepapers

Here are a few good whitepapers that complement my previous post "5 Essential Enterprise 2.0 Research Reports":

"Enterprise 2.0: What, Why and How", Enterprise 2.0 Conference
An introduction to Enterprise 2.0 - what it is, and why it's one of the most crucial concepts to understand in business today.

"The ROI of Enterprise Social Computing", NewsGator
whitepaper that discusses how social computing solutions can deliver ROI and help improve three core areas of your business: Reduce expenditures, Leverage current investments, Improve operating efficiency

"Developing an Enterprise Social Computing Strategy", Intel
Read how Intel IT transformed collaboration across Intel while addressing top business challenges such as helping employees to find relevant information and expertise more quickly, breaking down silos; attracting and retaining new employees; and capturing the tacit knowledge of mature employees.

"Collaboration: Know Your Enthusiasts and Laggards", Cisco
Cisco conducted one of the world's first comprehensive studies of the factors associated with successful adoption of network-based collaboration.

"Balancing Candy and Aspirin - The Goal for Enterprise 2.0", Open Text
Business has two main objectives: generate revenues and keep costs and risks low. All organizations must learn to strike the perfect balance between meeting the expectations of Web site visitors and those of internal teams. Customers look for information to make informed choices. Internal teams have lead generation goals and must control public information.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

5 Essential Enterprise 2.0 Research Reports

Here are 5 quite recent research reports directly or indirectly related to Enterprise 2.0 which I recommend reading.

"AIIM Industry Watch Collaboration and Enterprise 2.0", AIIM
- Download the report (registration required)

"Enterprise 2.0: Social Software on Intranets", Nielsen Norman Group

"How companies are benefiting from Web 2.0, McKinsey Global Survey Results", McKinsey & Company
- View, download, share, print the report (registration required)

"Intranet 2.0 Global Study findings report", Prescient Digital Media
- Read summaries: Bill Ives

"Global Intranet Trends for 2009", JMC / Jane McConnell

And finally, an extra that does not qualify as research but nonetheless is an useful reading:

"Developing an Enterprise Social Computing Strategy", Intel

Friday, September 18, 2009

This week in links - week 37, 2009

Here are three important pieces on Enterprise 2.0 from this week.

"E2.0: Unleashing the Potential" by Paula Thornton:
How is 2.0 thinking different? It relies on a shift away from many commonly held beliefs. It is not an abandonment of such beliefs, but requires that they be suspended to move to a more flexible, adaptive middle. It requires the ability to embrace dichotomy, to simultaneously consider opposing concepts to find new possibilities.

Enterprise 2.0 unleashes the potential of corporate resources by shifting control. While management does not go away, it is not an activity in the hands of a few.

While digital technologies contribute to the structure, they are only seeds. At the lowest level construct, Blog technology is not different than a Wiki: both provide functions to create and display content in a specific format. The main distinctions in Blogs and Wikis are the functions and formats they provide. But the same is true for all other common desktop applications. A Blog or a Wiki is no more inherently social than email.

There is no prescribed starting point for Enterprise 2.0, but there is one capability that emergence fundamentally depends on: the ability for people to find each other by things that define relevance – work, topics, skills, affiliations, trust. As well, people must have ready access to relevant ‘raw materials’ for their work. Shorten the distance to finding relevant resources.

To be truly emergent, Enterprise 2.0 must be seamlessly integrated with knowledge work. It cannot be an appendage; it should not require adoption.

Enterprise 2.0 is inherently social. It is not about managing knowledge but is about rendering knowledge. It is enabled by, but is not achieved by installing a digital technology. It unleashes the potential of humans not with workflow, but by flowing work and thought on persistent conversations.
"Defining Social Media" by Mike Gotta:
Social media enables public and transparent participation models where people and organizations interact as peers.

Social media possesses low-barriers to expression, engagement, and contribution to promote exchanges, relationships, and sense of community among its participants.

Social media strategies include practices that facilitate behavioral and cultural contexts necessary for social media to be adopted and leveraged by its participants.

Social media itself is not a single technology or set of technologies as much as it is a design point for the application of social tools or leveraging of social platforms. Social media leverages a variety of network and infrastructure services, including end-user devices and form factors, to deliver contextual and situational user experiences that bond people with other participants in a trusted fashion.
"Rules are for impatient people" - guest post by Stewart Mader on Dennis Howlett's blog "Irregular Enterprise":
To me, a term like Enterprise 2.0 is a nice label to affix once you recognize that there is something visibly different about how an organization functions. For example, universities that have encouraged wide adoption and use of technology in teaching and learning, developed online courses in addition to traditional ones, and changed the educational environment to emphasize learning for understanding instead of content delivery and memorization could conceivably be given the label “Enterprise 2.0.” Universities are enterprises, and 2.0 represents a change from 1.0.

In sum, here are several timeless patterns I’ve observed in my years of working with a variety of organizations on technology adoption. As Merlin Mann said in a recent speech, “This is not a list. It is a list of four things, but don’t think of it as a list. Because that makes me mad. Item 1.”
  1. Never underestimate how busy people are, and how quickly they will ignore or dismiss something they don’t see as useful.
  2. What has worked for me, time and time again, is to work my way through an organization team by team, department by department, and find out what day to day problems people want to solve.
  3. Rules are for impatient people. You need to observe patterns to see what works well and where the weaknesses lie.
  4. The best strategy for long-lasting technology adoption comes from running a small pilot, working out the kinks, telling a good story with relevant examples from the pilot, giving people permission and encouragement to find the best uses, and letting them guide their peers.

Ready or not, here it comes

I am a firm believer that communication is the core of any enterprise and that communication contributes greatly to its success if it is effective.

In these days, with globalization, virtual teams, telepresence and complex collaboration between organizations, effective communication is even more important than before.

For that simple reason, I am confident that more and more organizations will adopt Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 to improve the ways they communicate.

As Nielsen Norman Group concludes in their "Enterprise 2.0: Social Software on Intranets" report:
"Ready or not, here comes Enterprise 2.0...Social software is not a trend that can be ignored. It’s affecting fundamental change in how people expect to communicate, both with each other and the companies they do business with."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Why a social (professional) online network is a key strategic resource

Below is an excellent summary of how online social networks benefit organizations by Lisa Kimball and Howard Rheingold, Rheingold Associates:

You get the biggest payoff for having a distributed organization when groups can work together across departments, functions, and roles on developing strategies to respond to changing conditions. This is where organization becomes more than the sum of its parts. Instead of relying on small, isolated groups or outside consultants, organizations can leverage their social network to identify opportunities and resources for strategic initiatives.

But strategy requires communication about more than project milestones and logistics. To support strategy, the communication across the network must be rich, conversational, continuous, and involve everyone in the organization.

The danger for distributed organizations is that their communication about strategy becomes disjointed because members lack the environment to support substantive, ongoing (between face-to-face meetings) discussions. Many people believe erroneously that f-t-f meetings are the only time you can have this type of exchange. New skills are required to engage with each other effectively at different times from different places.

This is where the organization can get the biggest payoff for investing in communications resources (time, energy, supporting technology). An organization that does this well can create strategies, processes, and new approaches it needs to thrive.

Conversations are the lifeblood of modern organizations. Until recently, the knowledge and understandings conveyed in meetings and memos and water cooler bull sessions just leaked into the air. The great advantage of new media is not how much information they can put at disposal of individuals and organizations – but the kind of conversations they make possible. The technology for sharing knowledge and cementing powerful social networks is no longer rarely accessible or expensive. The knowledge of how to use the technology, not the software or the physical means of transporting it, will be the strategic advantage of those who possess it and diffuse it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

People need information, not data or content

Simply speaking, Information Management is about enabling the delivery of the right information in the right time to the right audience.

One essential insight needed to achieve this is that when people need information, they don't care to distinquish between data and content. They just need information. Structured content (data) is not information, neither is unstructured content. Information is what you might get when interpreting content.

For many different reasons, ranging from historical to technical, structured content and unstructured content is managed differently in most organizations. Structured content is typically created and managed in business applications such as ERP. Unstructured content is often not managed in any systems at all. This creates a divide in the information landscape which in the end hurts an organisation’s productivity, efficiency and ability to innovate.

So, a major challenge in Information Management is to ensure that all content is managed and then integrate it to serve the information needs of the users.

When designing external customer-facing solutions, we understand that we must focus on information needs. We understand that we can’t force customers to turn to one system to view structured content that holds information about a product and to another system to view unstructured content such as manuals or reviews. We understand that we need to provide it all in the same context, just when the customer needs it. Not even one click away. Otherwise the customer won’t be convinced to buy the product.

Strangely, we often don't care to integrate unstructured and structured content to serve the information needs of internal users (employees). As a result, employees have to spend a lot of their time on personal information management – finding/refinding, organizing and sharing information. They need to turn to different systems to satisfy their information needs even if these are related to the same thing, such as a product. So, a lot of their time is spent on finding and refinding information they have already found before. And they often don’t have much support from internal IT solutions. As confirmed by AIIM’s Market IQ on Findability from 2008:

"A majority of respondents believe that findability in their organization is worse to much worse than their own organization's consumer-facing web sites and 49% of respondents have no formal goal for enterprise findability within their organizations."

So why don’t organizations do more to solve this? The solutions are out there, more or less.

I believe the answer is pretty simple; it is because it is very hard to see and follow the cause-effect chain down to how all this affects the bottom-line result. Something which is much easier to do when it comes to customer-facing solutions.

Most people, including those in management, would probably say they understand that there must be a connection. But as long as they don’t see any real evidence of the connection and that bad internal Information Management affects the bottom-line results negatively, most people won’t act to do something about it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

This week in links - week 37, 2009

3M, the Post-it company, is a shining example that when organizational systems and culture needed to encourage and support collaboration are created, greatness happens. This article in Business Week highlights some of 3M's projects which could not have succeeded if employees were not encouraged and expected to collaborate with teams.

Here's what businesses can learn from 3M's approach to collaboration as detailed by Business Week:
  • Support networks. Build social networks to help employees that have problems find those who can provide a solution to it.
  • Build collaboration into your employee evaluation system. Be able to reward employees not only for developing and processing an innovative idea or technology but for spreading it as well.
  • Encourage curiosity. Allow employees some time to spend on personal projects. It will give them ample time to develop new ideas outside of their work focus.
  • Create innovation funds. Create an alternative source in which employees can go to for funding of innovation projects.
  • Don't underestimate the value of physical proximity. Make it easier for employees in different departments to visit each other. If this means having a free shuttle service then so be it.
"How Web 2.0 usage is changing over time" by Andy Miller, McKinsey & Company:
Across all categories, the use of Web 2.0 technologies by employees for internal purposes has increased from 53% in 2007 to 65% of respondents in 2009. The largest components of growth have come from using Web 2.0 to develop new products / services internally, to manage internal knowledge and to reinforce the company culture via tools such as internal social networking applications. The companies who have embedded these tools in their day-to-day activities and processes have seen the largest impact by improving communication across silos to reduce duplicate work and leverage experts in other areas.

The momentum we see in the growth of Web 2.0 technologies implies we will see higher penetration in 2010 for using these technologies for employees to collaborate and to facilitate interactions with customers. To drive increased usage for managing interactions with suppliers and partners, companies will need to find ways use these technologies to augment the formal relationships between business entities and not substitute formal interactions with more ad hoc ones. Nonetheless, it is clear that expertise in the use of Web 2.0 technologies is becoming a required skill for all enterprises.
"Re-designing Your Business Culture" by David Armano, Dachis Group:
Right now the industry is focused on technology, which is understandable since advances in it have enabled us to do so much more with less. However, I wanted to focus this short post around a subset of people. It's a thing commonly referred to as "corporate culture".

I'm not interested in debating the validity or not of the term, but it's a fact that every organization has an ecosystem and within the ecosystem, especially on the internal side, people act and behave a certain way within a pre-defined hierarchy. To underscore the "culture" issue, here are a few phrases I hear from the people who work in the trenches of very large organizations as it relates to social initiatives:

"We implemented sharing platform X for employees, but the results are not what we expected"

"We tried social media but we're just not ready to engage customers"

"Our legal department shut that down before we could try it"

Now assuming that the tech products worked and that the organization had some form of process in place, these are by and large people/culture issues at the core. The fact is that you can bring in the best of technologies or have the best of intentions for opening up your organization, but if at the core the organization isn't calibrated for it, efforts cannot scale or potentially be ineffective.

Many organizations work in industries which simply can't support some of the things we hear thrown about in the social media space. However, all organizations will have to deal with these changes in some way that will better position them for the future. One of the biggest opportunities right now is tapping areas in your internal ecosystem which can benefit your organization. But buying the best tool out there will never change the hearts and minds of people who have been trained to hoard what they know (and rewarded for it) vs. sharing openly. In a newly emerging network economy a cultural shift will be required for best results.
"New! Internet Stats all in one place" Dom Elliott, Google Barometer:
Did you know 20 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute? That 84% of the UK population owns a mobile phone? Or that on average 30% of our leisure time is now spent online?* We always hear interesting stats on the Internet marketplace and we thought it would be great to share these in one easily accessible location so we've just launched an Internet Stats microsite. This site aims to provide searchable and browsable stats on the Internet and the advertising industry from reputable and carefully selected sources.

Monday, September 7, 2009

This week in links - week 36, 2009

Here are some must reads from last week. The article on innovation is especially interesting as it explains a lot of the current development of the web and information technology, including that it is very hard to describe and predict. Even though many object to using the term "revolution", I have no better word to describe the current events (revolution = fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time). One significant aspect of a revolution is that you cannot predict how it will end, what will come next, when you are in the middle of it.

...much of the pace of change today is driven by the modern world’s pervasive and instant global flows of knowledge is largely due to influence of the Web and its billions of two-way touchpoints with nearly a third of the world’s population (including practically all of the developed world). In addition to ultra fast feedback loops that drive real-time action/response scenarios in the marketplace, the Web has also become an incredibly efficient, inexpensive, and easy-to-use delivery system for just about anything that an interface can be wrapped around.

The Web OS has become a fast moving river of business opportunity as the number of credible services with it has mushroomed in the last 18 months. Having the processes in place to evaluate and exploit this environment to connect with and tap into compute power, infrastructure, software, workers, knowledge, and innovation in time frames that are useful will be one of the signature challenges for traditional businesses seeking to harness what is turning into the richest accessible set of business inputs in history.

A new book by W. Brian Arthur, a pioneer in the area of positive feedback in economics, argues that genius is overrated and technology drives its own innovations.

The book's basic argument is that new technology is just combining old technologies in new ways. And all technology is, at its core, simply the harnessing of nature and its manifold phenomena for human needs.

The Nature of Technology is also about the ways in which technological evolution has a self-creating logic of its own. For one, innovation is path dependent — that is, existing technologies define what can come next. For example, when the modern microchip becomes a standard building block, it defines both the possibilities and limitations of a generation of inventions.

For another, all technologies create new problems. And these new problems call for new technological solutions.

The current new economy seems especially difficult to describe and predict. We are now entering into the era of digitization and networked interconnectivity, very different from the machine-based production of the previous economy. "The economy is acquiring a nervous system," Arthur said. "One hundred years ago, everything was done locally. Suddenly everything is hooking everything into everything else."
"The Future of Email" by Doron Aronson:
Email has been the central form of communication for over a decade and the bulk of corporate data is still stored in email. Yet, email today exists in a silo. Email communications are not readily shared across content collaboration platforms.In its next evolution, email will remain at the heart of communication but it will be tightly integrated with a variety of collaboration approaches. For example, any email content can be shared through any social networking mechanism with a single click. Conversely, social networking content can be immediately published for a pre-defined email community. Email integrated with social collaboration becomes a tool for both ad-hoc and process-driven workflow, from brainstorming to supply chain management to project monitoring to community interaction. And companies can feel comfortable endorsing these new modes of collaboration because communications and sharing of content can be managed by secure policies and appropriate control of access rights.
P&G and Cisco make widespread internal use of videoconferencing, collaboration tools.

"We connect in clicks, with video anywhere and work everywhere, so work is not a place but something you do," said Laurie Heltsley, director of global business services at Cincinnati-based P&G. "The ultimate IP [Intellectual Property] we have is [our] people and the collection of their expertise and everything associated with their identity."

With 138,000 workers in 80 countries, the $80 billion consumer products giant now finds collaboration tools to be a vital part of the business, she said. "It is an absolute necessity to be able to collaborate every day. We have a mandate to brainstorm, to listen, to innovate, where competition is fierce."

Rick Hutley, vice president of Cisco's Internet business solutions group...agreed with P&G's Heltsley about the abiliy of collaboration to bring internal experts together. "We have virtual experts, because we don't have enough experts to be in enough places enough of the time," he said. "There's a huge opportunity to leverage skills and expertise you already have in your company, but the problem is finding it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Voices about Dachis Group acquiring Headshift

The news that Dachis Group is aquiring Headshift is big news in the Enterprise 2.0 / social business area (but maybe not that big outside of it). Here are some voices about it:

Lee Bryant, cofounder of Headshift that has been acquired by Dachis Group:
We are ready to move beyond the experimental phase to create real business transformation. Leaving behind the niche world of enterprise 2.0, we are ready to work with businesses at a senior level to run change programmes aimed at bringing their processes, internal IT and communications into the Twenty-First Century. It has never been cheaper or easier to collaborate online. It has never been easier to harness people power to drive business performance. It has never been easier to engage with customers and business partners. Yet, as we know, most companies have come to accept an overly bureaucratic, process-heavy high-cost model of doing business as the norm. They need credible partners who can operate across technology, organisational design and business analysis to help meet this challenge, not just evangelists or technology vendors. That's our role.
Euan Semple, Enterprise 2.0 and Social Media authority:
...Which chimes with my own post a few days ago:

"People have always needed help on how to best run businesses taking into account the prevailing social and technological environments and that is all we are doing now. Not a movement, not a fad, not a revolution. Just the ongoing evolution of how to do stuff well given the tools currently at our disposal."
Larry Hawes, analyst/consultant:
Today’s announcement that the two companies are joining forces is huge for a number of reasons:
  • It promises to define the relationship between Enterprise 2.0 (internal-facing), Social Media (customer-facing) and the use of social software to collaborate with business partners
  • It brings together some of the brightest minds in all three of those areas
  • Their potential community of existing clients could provide powerful adoption data and case studies that the market has demanded, but not received
  • The combined company will have a strong global presence
Jevon MacDonald, partner at Dachis Group:
We believe that organizations across the globe will begin to view “social media” as social business and when this happens, integration, scale and adoption will become complex issues which will only be solved through a purposeful act of coordinated activities built upon a solid strategic foundation. Enter social business design as a systematic comprehensive approach that orchestrates social business across three core areas: business partner optimization, workforce collaboration and customer participation.
Steven Walling, ReadWriteEnterprise:
Dachis Group is a top consultant group in the U.S. advising companies about social technology adoption, and they've served big name corporations in many different verticals. Headshift has been the European counterpart to the Dachis Group (or vice versa, depending on which side of the pond you're looking from). "Headshift's street cred matched with Dachis' vision yields a formidable talent combination," said IT industry veteran Susan Scrupski, "This acquisition validates a maturing market."

Though various sources have called both groups "social media agencies" at various times (including during news of the acquisition), this is not the kind of social media guru/expert you might have in mind. Headshift consultants aren't out there acting as company representatives on social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

Rather than fishing for companies, Dachis and Headshift are teaching them how to fish for themselves. "It is time for companies to move beyond the hype and toward delivering concrete, sustainable, and measurable value from their social media activities," said Headshift co-founder Livio Hughes in a statement.

Apple Mac OS X Versions named after German tanks?



My former college and web development guru Robert Nyman has an interesting theory regarding the naming of Apple Mac OS X Versions...
We were sitting around a table in the beautiful Swedish archipelago, having a drink and chatting a little. Big men talk about big guns, right? So, we were discussing different German tank models. Not being just a man, but a computer geek as well, it hit me that the name of German tanks are the same as the name of OS X versions.

When I got back online, I did a quick search, and Internet being what it is, naturally I hadn’t been the only one thinking about it. In German armored vehicles and Apple Mac OS X all these are listed, but please allow me to present a short list:

Mac OS X 10.0 Cheetah
Tank: Flugabwehrkanonenpanzer Gepard (Gepard in German means Cheetah in English)

Mac OS X 10.1 Puma
Tank: Sd.Kfz. 234/2 “Puma”

Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar
Tanks: Jaguar 1 and Jaguar 2

Mac OS X 10.3 Panther
Tank: Panther

Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger
Tanks: Tiger 1 and Tiger 2

Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard
Tanks: Leopard 1 and Leopard 2

Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard
Haven’t found the corresponding tank yet, but I’m sure it exists…:-)
And Robert is of course right about Snow Leopard (at least it exists as a model). If you want a model of a German Snow Leopard tank on your desk next to your Mac, you try eBay.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

And now for something completely different...


I posted a number of tweets recently about ECM and Information Management (IM). Richard Veryard (@richardveryard) asked me on Twitter to assemble these tweets on my blog so that he could comment properly. So, here is an attempt describe and expand my train of thought in the format of a blog post (and hopefully soon get to read some good comments).

“The missing piece and root cause of most ECM woes is a lack of understanding of business context — how people and business processes use content. And therein lies the challenge: How can you determine the business context for all of the unstructured information within your organization?” - Forrester

When we perform a task, we usually do not access and use the information or tool(s) we need in isolation. We do it in a usage context; a certain place, time, and physical environment. This usage context probably contains other information items that we currently view or have recently accessed.

A lot of work, especially knowledge work, is also highly collaborative by nature. To perform a task or complete a project, several people are usually involved. The people we need to interact with when performing a task are also part of the usage context. Easy access and ways to interact with them is as important, if not more, than to access the information we need.

Unfortunately, many of the tools and solutions we use do not account for this context, which I prefer to call “usage context”. Instead, they designed as if there were no other tools and solutions surrounding them, as if their use is our primary purpose. This is disruptive for many workflows.

Thus, to help us perform tasks, but also to switch between tasks and resume interrupted tasks, we need to keep the information and applications we need in a bigger context than - the usage context. They need to be available in the context of their work. That is why we must learn to know the usage contexts and never loose sight of those when designing tools and solutions that are to provide us with the information and tools we need to do what we need to do.

That is the overall challenge that Information Management is to address. It needs to provide the information we need at our fingertips, available just when we need it. It needs to link our needs to the information items, people and tools we need.

The main problem today is that the information landscape is fragmented, with information distributed all around and in different formats. There is too much redundancy, too much information about the same thing. The information is often inconsistent and it is hard for us to tell which information is the most current, if it is valid, and so on.

The natural starting point when aiming to improve Information Management in an organization is to start with the usage contexts. When mapping information needs to information entities, we must never lose the usage context. This brings me to the problem of many ECM initiatives.

Simply speaking, ECM addresses the need to manage unstructured content in an enterprise. The need comes from the fact that unstructured content, in contrast to structured content (data), usually is not managed even though a lot of the information which is exchanged via unstructured content is often very important for the management and operations of an enterprise.

Although many today acknowledge the importance of information that is encoded in unstructured content such as documents, mail and wikis, the ECM discipline is still often seen as doing “gardening” in the environment around business applications to cut costs that drain IT budgets. It puts more emphasis on the storage, protection and preservation of content than on supporting access, findability and (re)use of content. The reason is that it sees content as a liability, not as an asset.

ECM often also attacks the “content monster” from many different frontiers in isolation; Web Content Management, Document Management, Records Management, Digital Asset Management, and so on. This can be benefitial, since different types of content poses different challenges and needs to be managed in different way. But it is very dangerous if the usage context is not considered and in focus. Even though the ECM initiatives help to solve some basic problems such as knowing which is the current version of a content item and preventing it from falling into the wrong hands, they can make the fragmentation of the information landscape even worse.

The thing is that we as users don’t care if the content that contains the information we need is structured or unstructured - we just want to have all the information we need to do whatever we need to do. What we don’t want to do is to go and look for it in different places just because it has a certain format, or to find the same thing here and there but without knowing which is the one we should use. We don’t want to spend most of their time getting ready to do their work (i.e. collecting and managing information).

From a business perspective, many ECM initiatives fail since they do not help enough to defragment the information landscape. They certainly do not bridge the gap between structured (data) and unstructured content, not even from a content/data management perspective. That is why we need Information Management to keep us from losing sight of the usage context where it makes no sense to talk about data and content as two separate things - it's just something that carries information.