Monday, February 14, 2011

Essential Readings For Knowledge Workers

"Results-Based Management – The Key To Flexible Work"
  • Let’s face it, the real reason telecommuting and other flexibility programs haven’t caught on is because fundamentally, managers don’t trust their employees to work untethered...Whether your employees are down the hall or thousands of miles away, if you’re not managing by results, you really don’t know who’s working and who isn’t.
  • Research shows that what employees of all age groups want is the flexibility to determine for themselves where, when, and how they work.
  • Demographic, cultural, economic, and technological realities have forever changed the nature of work. Leading change agents agree, companies that haven’t culturally adopted that results are what matter will be chewing the dust of those that have.
"Smart Work? Making It Happen" by Anne Marie McEwan (PDF)
  • Knowledge about smart working and making the transition to new ways of working, including practical tactics and theoretical perspectives, is widely available but overlooked in practice
  • People participate in shaping their own realities...It is more possible than ever for us to influence and shape our working environments, our experience of work and of each other.
  • Although people are not prisoners of organisational systems and processes, the pull towards the status quo is strong. Existing knowledge is useless until it is experimented with and applied through ‘chaotic action.
  • The second wave of smart working builds on what we know from work philosophies associated with lean, quality and agile manufacturing – based as they are on collaboration, problemsolving and continuous improvement.
  • All knowledge and capabilities, not just those of elites, need to be nurtured and mobilised in today’s hyper-competitive, globally-connected economy.
  • A significant difference now is that continuous improvement has the potential to expand outside the boundaries of the organisation and become networked collective untelligence.
  • The opportunity for widespread knowledge sourcing, creating and disseminating is phenomenal.
"Global CIO: How Gen Y Can Kill Collaboration Projects" by Chris Murphy, InformationWeek
  • Adding collaboration tools just because millennials expect it is a mistake
  • Instead, IT needs to forget about placating younger employees, and focus on the most critical moments of engagement in companies
  • Global competition leads to more specialization, which puts emphasis on expertise and collaboration among those experts along the supply chain.
  • We're coming up on a huge, second wave of IT investment, this time around collaboration technologies.
"The connected company" by Dave Gray:
  • It’s time to think about what companies really are, and to design with that in mind. Companies are not so much machines as complex, dynamic, growing systems. As they get larger, acquiring smaller companies, entering into joint ventures and partnerships, and expanding overseas, they become “systems of systems” that rival nation-states in scale and reach.
  • Cities are large, complex, systems, but we don’t really try to control them...but we can manage them well. And if we start to look at companies as complex systems instead of machines, we can start to design and manage them for productivity instead of continuously hovering on the edge of collapse.
  • As companies add people, productivity shrinks. But as cities add people, productivity actually grows.
"Rethinking knowledge work: A strategic approach" by Thomas H. Davenport:
  • It’s time for companies to develop a strategy for knowledge work—one that not only provides a clearer view of the types of information that workers need to do their jobs but also recognizes that the application of technology across the organization must vary considerably, according to the tasks different knowledge workers perform.
  • Leaders must pursue IT and productivity opportunities at the right level of granularity. While it might be tempting to think that a given approach will work well for an entire organization, reality is rarely so tidy.
  • To move the needle in a specific business unit or function, it’s not enough to launch a set of company-wide initiatives or to count on a piece of software. Instead, leaders of knowledge workers should understand the key differences among them and tailor solutions to these peculiarities.
"Sharing Secrets to Innovate More Profitably" by Tom Simonite:
  • If you bring outside things into your organization, you reduce your time to market, because you can work with things that have already undergone some level of development. You can also share some of the costs of development.
  • In the other direction, sharing ideas and technologies from your own business can open up new revenue streams—for example, if you license something or spin it off into a new enterprise.
  • One successful strategy is keeping a great idea to yourself for a while and then letting it be used by others only when you've moved onto the next one. I call that turning competitors into happy followers.
  • A company's R&D is actually a monopoly: it's the only one that can supply new ideas and technology to the business. The business unit is a monopsony, a single buyer, the only buyer of new ideas and technologies...Open innovation breaks down those monopolies and monopsonies and introduces competition for both sides.
"Gossip, Collaboration, and Performance in Distributed Teams" by Larry R. Irons:
  • Effective collaboration really requires proactively sharing information with those it affects, not simply reacting to information requests.
  • People are reluctant to share uncertain or sensitive information in formal meetings, especially when they think they alone possess it.
  • Shared experience, not just shared information, is fundamental to the social networks underlying collaboration and community.
  • Comfort with one another is needed to develop a shared experience where trust increases the likelihood that needed information is shared, or that the need itself is anticipated.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Rules of the Game Are Changing

There is a past and there is a future. For a business to succeed, it needs to embrace both.

If you ask me Enterprise 2.0, or social business if you like, has never been about either or, about leaving everything we know or how we have done things previously behind us and replacing it with something completely new and different. I see it as discipline aimed at supporting a transformation which is needed for businesses to be successful in a globalized business environment which is subject to constant change, and where the advances in technology have given individuals access to powers which previously were only available to large organizations, or governments. The balance of power is shifting.

Since the industrial revolution began a few centuries ago, businesses have had to abandon their once entrepreneurial cultures, stop nurturing close relationships with their customers, and become less responsive to customer needs as they have tried to increase their profits by aggressively pursuing economies of scale and turnover growth. During this journey, they have had to introduce rigid structures and mechanisms of control in order to ensure that their operations and management are enough optimized to make them competitive.

Today, most businesses use the same strategies as always when pursuing increased profits. They are doing so while experiencing diminishing returns on their optimization efforts and that the time available for optimization efforts is getting shorter and shorter as new innovations constantly disrupt their markets and force their existing products and services out of the market. Some really important questions are yet to be answered. When every business have moved the production to low-cost countries and outsourced the parts of the businesses which others could do better and/or cheaper than themselves, what remains to create competitive advantage and get a bigger share of the total profits within a market?

I believe three things remain:
  • innovating products and services
  • creating outstanding customer experiences
  • creating new markets
These things have to be done not only once, but over and over again. The problem is that most large organizations, with some rare exceptions such as Apple, suck at all of these things. Instead, they often acquire smaller and more innovative businesses that are great at some or all of these things. Then they can use their size and massive resources to reach out to the markets and capitalize on their acquisitions.

But what if the small and innovative businesses don't want to be acquired? What if they realize that they can use information technology to reach out to consumers anywhere in the world and that they can collaborate with other small and innovative businesses and together shake the ground beneath the giants?

We are in fact seeing this happen more and more often today. The rules of the game are changing.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Enterprise Portal is Dead

After having seen a walkthrough of an enterprise app store with a dozen of enterprise apps for iPad (and later on iPhone and Mac) I am more convinced than ever that the enteprise portal is dead.

Sorry, let me rephrase that: the enterprise portal as we know it (a one-size-fits-all web site with some personalization features) is dead.

Our devices, be it laptops, smartphones or tablets, will be our new enterprise portals. The enterprise app stores will allow us to create our own portals to relevant enterprise resources and customize each portal for the kind of tasks and situatipons where we use a certain device.

Lots of organizations are still building web sites as portals to their enterprise resources. In fact, with multi-talented platforms like SharePoint 2010, building portals has been made easier and thus become more popular than ever. But that doesn't mean enterprise portals should be designed the way they were designed yesterday.

To quote William Gibson, "the future is already here - it's just not evenly distributed". Get out there and start looking for it. Staring at what happens in the mainstream today is not such a wise strategy if you are planning for tomorrow.

UPDATE:

By mistake, I rejected a comment to this post. Thankfully, the notification email alerting me about the new comment contained the entire comment. Here's the comment (posted by an anonymous user):

"Not that sure! As a matter of fact, the function of enterprise portals is double: provide employees with the information sources they need, but also transmit messages from the enterprise to the employees. I do not imagine how a more or less "self-service" interface can fulfill the latter function. Companies will always want to consider some content and/or functions as "compulsory" for all their employees."

I actually don't see how my reasoning would speak against having content and/or functions which are mandatory to all or specific groups of employees. Some apps can definitely be mandatory. If you have a smartphone like iPhone, you know that some apps have been installed by default and can't be removed. The same thing could be done with enterprise app stores. If you have apps for corporate news and accessing the employee directory, those would probably be mandatory. For the user, these would be preinstalled / automatically installed.

The point I wanted to make is that the idea to create a portal (unified access point) to all enterprise resources in the form of a web site soon will be replaced by a better idea. Instead of trying to squeeze everything into a web site, we will design apps optimized for specific purposes or tasks and tailored to fit the situations and ways a certain type of device is being used.

How social are Swedish regions and local authorities?

At a recent workshop with IT strategists from several Swedish regions and local authorities, we gave a broad introduction to social media and explained typical external and internal use cases. We also used Gartner’s Open Government Maturity Model to help them position themselves and the participants given the task to identify concrete and urgent activities that could help them create business value with the use of social media.

Some of the observations I had made earlier were pretty much confirmed during the workshop, such as the following:

  • Most regions and local authorities are lacking a broad and integrated approach to new digital channels, and social media is shabbily treated as something separate and odd. They are in the beginning of exploring these channels and have yet to grasp the shift in expectations among citizens that such things as social media usage and consumerization of IT give rise to. 
  • If they use social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, they mainly for one-way communication and not for an active dialog with citizens. Some of the early adopters, with presence on Facebook and Twitter, have still not figured out the purpose of being there. 
  • Social media initiatives are not anchored in existing organization and processes, but rather isolated phenomena which are dependent the contributions and engagement from enthusiastic individuals.
  • Digital channels in general and social media in particular are still treated as something separate from the daily operations. This is the major obstacle to value-creation, as issues related to privacy and security are be put more in focus than how digital channels actually can be used to improve management and operations to deliver better customer service and increase citizen influence and engagement at lower costs.

Up until now the focus has primarily been on reducing risks by restricting and blocking employee’s use of social media, but that is gradually changing and restrictions are being removed in order allow for exploration and learning. They are just now starting to look at how to create value from social media.

The is obviously a growing external pressure from both citizens and the Swedish government. This also creates an increasing internal pressure and willingness within regions and local authorities to move towards increased transparency and openness towards the citizens, but also to engage with citizens and improve the customer experience. Paradoxically, existing laws in Sweden which have the purpose to protect the integrity of patients have a crippling effect on initiatives in the health care sector, thereby hindering attempts to increase operational efficiency and deliver better customer experiences.

The participants in our workshop concluded that a lot of things can be done internally to improve collaboration and increase knowledge sharing within and among local authorities and regions. There is obviously great potential in increasing internal efficiency and productivity, but local authorities and regions are still externally focused in their use of digital channels and just now trying to understand the changing environment, realizing they need to adjust to it rather than try to regulate and control it.