Friday, November 23, 2012

Social Business and The Digital Workplace

For those of you who follow my blog but don't know I also write for CMS Wire, or for some reason have missed out on some of the articles, here are my most recent ones:

The Six Pillars of Social Business
"For any organization that has the ambition to survive in the long haul, it needs to look beyond the quarter economics and invest aggressively in initiatives aiming to improve collaboration and organizational agility, including establishing a culture and practices that continuously improve collaboration, knowledge sharing and communication across the extended enterprise. It has to build it’s future on the six pillars of Social Business."
Social Business: We Have the Tools. Now What?
"The reasons may vary, but the fact that social tools have been bundled with information management platforms such as SharePoint mostly likely has made the decision to introduce them fairly easy. It is almost as if this has taken both corporate decision-makers as well as the early adopters by surprise. Now that we all have the tools, what shall we do with them? How can we use them to change the way we work? And even if we see the use cases and want to change our ways of working, how do our work environments encourage and enable us to do this?"
Six Core Digital Workplace Capabilities: Designing with the Workforce in Mind
"The failure of the technology-centric approach to improving knowledge work is a major reason why new concepts such as “Digital Workplace” have a reason for existence. The Digital Workplace encourages us to take a more holistic approach when designing the digital work environment for an organization’s workforce. Rather than focusing on the individual solutions and tools such as intranet sites, collaboration tools, communication tools and productivity tools, we need to start with identifying the needs of the organization and its people and take a holistic approach to designing their digital workplace."


The Digital Workplace: The Need for Good Practices in a Complex Work Environment
"Today's workforce has a growing number of tools at their disposal to communicate, collaborate and get work done. But there is a concurrent increase in workflow complexity, which, left unmanaged, results in time lost and inefficiencies. It's time to bridge the gap between the two. For easily repeatable tasks, the process has often been defined and implemented in the systems you are using, such as an ERP system. In knowledge-intense and highly dynamic and collaborative work environments, processes are often barely repeatable (check out Thingamy for more on the concept of barely repeatable processes). This means that knowledge workers who participate in a task have to design or redesign the process each time it is executed. Much more is required from those who participate in a barely repeatable process than an easily repeatable. Instead of simply following instructions created by a process engineer, you have to be a process engineer yourself and design the process on the fly as you execute it."

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The future of Corporate IT is...


Information technology is everywhere today. There is basically no business development initiative that doesn’t include information technology as a key ingredient.

Paradoxically, the IT department as we know it will cease to exist, and in some - even large -organizations it already has (I know about a few).

The current development with the increasing digitalization of work and interactions with customers and other stakeholders requires IT to become a proactive partner to the business. IT-enabled business development will to a much larger extent be driven by business developers with IT skills who don’t belong to the Corporate IT department.

Some prophecies are just meant to happen. Systems, processes and resources that can be outsourced will be, and we will see more cloud computing for bread and butter IT, much as we have seen before with telephony and web conferencing. It will happen also for ERP and CRM, and for collaboration.

Organizations will need to strengthen their business development capabilities, which to a large extent requires knowledge and skills in IT. They need to understand and apply new technological concepts such as Social, Mobile, Cloud and Big Data - what Gartner calls "The Nexus of Forces". But it is a different skillset than most people who work in a traditional Corporate IT department have developed, as needs are shifting from implementing and maintaining infrastructure and enterprise applications to implementing services and solutions that can create competitive advantage for their business.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What’s wrong with SharePoint?



You've probably seen or heard the message quite a few times: "We can build a intranet for you in less than one week". (Me and Jeff Willinger had a good laugh at this particular rollup)

I am sure they can. But it is really "How fast can you build me an intranet?" the most important question you want an answer to? I can guarantee you that it's not. For one thing, it assumes that you know exactly what you need and that you know that you will find everything you need in one product out-of-the-box. When did that happen recently? Have you even heard it happen to anyone? (Well, I believe it when I see it.)

The questions you really would want to get answered are likely questions like "What do we need to improve and why?" and "How can an intranet help to improve it?". So, the first thing you will need to do is to cover your eyes and ears when you read about or hear messages such as the one above, and instead spend your time and energy on finding answers to questions such as:

  • What pains are we experiencing, where, and how can those be relieved?
  • How can our work be supported, taking into account the entire flow of a particular task or process?
  • How will people interact with the solution in the context of their work, at what touch-points, and what value will each of those interactions give them?
  • What will you need to improve that is outside the scope of the platform, but necessary to make work flow smoother end-to-end?
The last bullet is anything but unimportant. If you just improve a part of a task or process, the investment in the new solution will be wasted if there are hurdles elsewhere that make it hard, or provides no added value, to adopt the new way of working. The chain will break at its weakest link.

Let's take an example: Many organizations have implemented SharePoint to support collaboration and communication in projects and other collaborative efforts. For this purpose they typically implement team sites with lots of features and a nice corporate look and feel. Still, so many organizations fail to get the basic document management capability that it supposed to be SharePoint's main capability to work. After some initial attempts by users to collaborate on documents via SharePoint, they usually continue to collaborate on documents as they used to before, emailing attachments back-and-forth, or working on the document on file server with ad hoc versioning in the file name. SharePoint becomes a place for storing documents when the documents are completed, which in combination with the fact that few people see the value in visiting SharePoint when they work with their documents elsewhere turns it into a document graveyard.
"80% of email users with SharePoint access continue emailing documents back and forth, instead of sending document links and using library services for check in, check out, and version control.   This is consistent with the overall population of email users surveyed"
- September 2010 uSamp survey
First, let's be clear with one thing. This is not SharePoint's fault. Blaming the product is simply the wrong approach. It's like blaming the soup when you’ve spilled soup on your shirt. Blaming the product is what you do when you're too embarrassed to confess that you have made the wrong choice of product, or implemented it incorrectly. Or when you want to indirectly blame the person who did just that (my suggestion: try to find the root cause instead and fix it).

Every product has it's weaknesses, and those weaknesses typically exist somewhere outside of the scope of the product. The weakness is this example lies in a part of the typical workflow people use when collaborating on documents that the product doesn't support, for one reason or another. This leads me to the second point: What the product supports and what it doesn't support should be a well-know fact from the start. It's one of the reasons why you would hire a company to implement SharePoint for you. They should know what the product can do and what it cannot do, and be able to explain that in the context of your work. They should help you spot and fill in the blanks. Do you think a company that tries to sell you a new intranet in one week will do that?

In the example described above, such a simple thing as adding a third-party product for SharePoint to the mix can make all the difference. There are vendors, like harmon.ie, that have made it their business model spot weaknesses in products that make work break, and provide solutions that help organizations overcome those weaknesses. If organizations would just adopt a similar way of thinking and approach to implementing technologies for information workers, they wouldn't waste so much money on implementing technology solutions that doesn't get used or bring the expected returns.

As my friend Michael Sampson, Collaboration Strategist, puts it:
"Clearly you need to know what the technology can do…but the focus you should have is: how can I bring these features and capabilities to core business problems and pains people are dealing with."
Yepp. But that's obviously easier said than done.

Monday, November 19, 2012

My take on the state of Enterprise 2.0

A simple, but rather narrow, definition of Enterprise 2.0 is to define it as the introduction and use of social networking platforms to improve collaboration (and many-to-many communication) within and across organizations. While collaboration traditionally has been restrained to a small group of people, it can now extend far beyond the traditional team to involved large networks of people from within and outside the organization.

The characteristics of this new breed, or generation, of communication and collaboration tools allow for people to communicate and collaborate more freely at a greater scale, with a higher degree of participation, and with more immediacy and richness than was previously possible. Collaboration can now happen more dynamically, allowing anyone from anywhere inside or outside the organization to quickly start communicating and collaborating around an idea, goal, problem, or opportunity. This kind of collaboration becomes increasingly important as the business environments changes more rapidly, competition increases and customers expect faster and better service. You can even involve other customers in the collaboration, allowing them to help each other with support or so they can contribute to the development of a company’s products and services.

Is anyone there yet?

If you take this simple definition and purely look at the implementation of tools and technologies, then many organizations are well on their way if not already there in some business processes or parts of their business. But if you look at what is required to reap the full value from this kind of collaboration in terms of improved agility, innovation and productivity increases, most organizations have still a long way to go. Many organizations are just paving cow paths with the new technology, clinging on to existing practices and not developing better ones with the use of the new technology.

There is also, besides adjusting existing structures to allow this kind of collaboration to happen freely, a need for a corporate culture than is more open and transparent and less controlling and hoarding, a culture that allows for and encourages greater participation and autonomy among the workforce. This is the tricky part, because it requires a change of people's mindsets, attitudes, and behaviours. To change these, we need to change many of the things (systems) that have shaped the corporate culture, such as how employees is incentivized, how authority and accountability is implemented in the organization, and how leadership is being practiced.

Some organizations will (and some have already) experience a backlash and disappointment with the new technologies not creating the expected benefits. Often this will happen because there is too wide a gap between their readiness for this kind of working and the change they want to see. But, the good thing is that these new technologies themselves help to accelerate such a culture change since they make it simple to create, share, have conversations and connect with other people and information from anywhere.

What about the tools?

Typical tools labeled with Enterprise 2.0 are tools such as micro-blogs, social networking sites, blogs and wikis, social bookmarking, activity feeds, and so forth. But we see that new kinds of tools and solutions that have been designed based on social principles and that uses social mechanisms (such as tags, links, search, ratings, comments) are being introduced all the time. The innovations are to a large extent driven by the innovations on the commercial web and consumer markets, and they give rise to new ideas on how to use the new technologies inside and between organizations. When we apply the thinking and design principles behind the social web in a business context, new solutions will emerge.

So, what we are currently seeing is only the beginning of this new generation of communication and collaboration technologies. We are only beginning to scratch the surface on how we can improve knowledge worker productivity and collaborate better to improve operational performance. As I’ve mentioned before, the biggest part of this potential can only be unlocked by changing other aspects in how organizations are being managed and operated today.

I believe we can expect a lot of innovation happening in this space in the years to come, with enterprise applications being integrated with social tools and also being redesigned based on social principles in order to enabler enterprise-wide collaboration. But the greatest change we will see in how we approach new technologies, as we will have to work much more with changing our cultures and existing practices and behaviors, not just rolling out new technologies to users.