Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Why Read Blogs at Work?

Nice post on why you should read blogs at work. Actually I was quite surprised we need a post on this topic. I would say: of course you read blogs (and other information) at work! Apparently some people need to be convinced... And I hope they are after reading this post.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Intranet from Good to Great

On the Intranetblog I recently bumped into "The Good to Great Matrix. Key Factors for Intranet Success". Being a big 'Good to Great' fan (book by Jim Collins) and because I like to read up on Intranet, I was curious what this matrix would bring us. Well, it's definitely worth your time if you like to think about Intranet improvement! The matrix was developed by Toby Ward, "based on real experience with intranets or organizations with an average of 5000 employees".
Well, what do you get? It gives you a list of "success factors", such as "design", "layout", "governance" and tells you what a good and great intranet will show in these areas.
I'll give you a few examples from the matrix, focusing only on great intranets, of course...:
  • with respect to "content", great intranets have "web-trained writers". Although I agree with most cells in the matrix, I was surprised by this one. If, as another characteristic of great intranet says, "authorship" is "distributed", do we really need "web-trained writers"? Don't we need broad participation in writership, so employees feel committed to the intranet and its content. Anyway, it is nice to have intranet pages that are well written.
  • with respect to "information architecture", great intranets have "many redundant links that cross-promote content". This relates well to James Robertson's posts on cross-linked people directories, which I also wrote about here.
  • with respect to "tools", great intranets have "next generation searhc that is also supported by 'hard-coded' results to popular searches". Wow, this is a good idea. Internal search is not that good, why not hard-code some search queries?! This relates well to Vivek Deshmukh's article on improving peoplefinders. I also wrote about this here.
  • with respect to "employee engagement", great intranets have "regular employee surveys" and "active use of feedback". Very true, you can survey your users, but they will want to see change quickly too.
  • and finally, with respect to "staffing", great intranets have "two to three full-time employees with an informal or formal committee of up to a couple of dozen stakeholders". I assume this is for an intranet for a company of 5000 employees.
So, lots of good stuff and food for thought in this matrix! And there's more in the matrix itself. You can easily use this yearly to check your intranet. You can also use it to support your intranet improvement plan. I also like the way it is written. The language in the matrix can be understood by IT, employees and general management.
Thanks Toby for sharing this with us!

Recommended links infoarch 09/25/2008

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

First Experiences with Twine

As promised I would let you know what my experiences are with Twine. Basically not much. I really took a good look at it in the beginning, but could find out how it would fit in my work. I couldn't just drop my work documents there. I stuff I do outside work doesn't fit there at all.
So, in the end I didn't up using it much. I'm still listening to the Twine users and hoping to hear from them how I can integrate it in my work life.
I do find that Twine could mean a lot in the enterprise. I would be wonderful to drop all my stuff in their, have Twine find interesting related documents, bookmarks and people, connect to people that work on related stuff, etc. Maybe we can try this in the near future?

Two interesting posts on Twine can be found here and here.

Recommended links infoarch 09/24/2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

Wiki Minutes?

While reading this post about wiki collaboration an idea popped up. I am secretary of a couple of meetings. This means I have to write minutes. These minutes are quite formal, written in a template, published with approval and distributed. But before they are distributed I regularly have to ask several meeting participants if I correctly jotted down their point.
Well, here's my idea. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone at the meeting had a Google Document of a wiki page in front of him/her? The secretary would have primary responsibility for the minutes. But all other can read along, change and extend the minutes. This makes things must nicer for the secretary and by reading along with the minutes the meeting will hopefully keep to the agenda (point).
Or is somebody already doing this? If so, what are your experiences? And if nobody is doing this, what do you think of this idea?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

How BT uses Social Media Tools

Richard Dennison just shared a case study that was done for BT on how they use social media. If you follow Richard's blog you won't read anything new, but this case study does sum it all up nicely.
What I was wondering though is: Do they help their users/customers decide where to share and store information? With all these tools, it can become hard for them to choose the right tool! I’m working on an internal document to do just this. And I’ll share it with you soon.

Recommended links infoarch 09/18/2008

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Workshop on Enterprise Social Software

Just came back from a nice workshop on Enterprise Social Software. It was organized by the Telematica Institute and held at IBM in Amsterdam. The Telematica Instituut organized this workshop in the context of one of their project, the Future Workspaces (FWS) project.
The group of participants was really nice. It always wonderful to be together with people from the knowledge management (or, in this case, more specifically, the Enterprise2.0 community) and openly talk to and share with each other. These people love to tell all!

About FWS project
We started with a short presentation about the FWS project by Robert Slagter. More information can be found here.

Showcase Enterprise Social software IBM
Then Erik Krischan of IBM gave an overview of what IBM is doing internally with social media. If you follow Luis Suarez, e.g., you already know they’re doing A LOT in this area. It was nice to get an overview of this from Erik. Here’s my notes:
He wanted to give a brief introduction and flavor of what we are doing in E2.0 at IBM.
Erik starts by showing their intranet (- he opened it in Firefox by the way!).
Primarily they are using e2.0 for corporate integration. They use it primarily to become a globally integrated company. Their intranet is focused on this goal. It’s intended as the extension of your workoffice, your electronic workplace. The intranet landing page shows your communications on the left hand side. If their Sales reps would go to the intranet it would show a portlet to the CRM system.
They integrated ‘2.0’ as much as possible in their daily work.
IBM Bluepages is their Facebook. Whoiswho plus ‘recommended social path’, tabs with additional information about experience, etc., search on profile (not only people you already know). It allows you to connect to people you never knew via personal contacts.
News items are published with video and links to experts on the topic. Also a relation to communities (of practice) is given, if they exist.
Articles can be rated. They RSS-ify the content and provide a feedreader (called 'Spectacular!').
Erik goes on to show IBM Whisper: it is an automatically generated list of people you know and/or subjects you are interested in. It comes up with suggestions for documents etc that you might find interesting.
He shows tagging in their intranet. Search gives regular search results and, separately shows tagged pages. Also provides separate list of blogs, wiki’s and communities. It also gives a list of experts on the topic and shows the social network to connect to them (this network is used to build trust, Erik says). Also searches in (internal and external) webpages that IBM people bookmarked with their internal ‘delicious’, Dogear. You can look up the people that also tagged the page. It also generates a folksonomy. Tagging is also linked to communities.
Erik shows Social Network Analysis tool they have. They track email communication. Employees can choose to opt in or not. Type in a word you want to see the network for. The tools comes up with a diagram and/or map with connections between people on it.

E2.0 has changed their way of working and their culture. Changed the way people look for information. From ‘ask Manager and direct colleagues’ to ‘ask Manager and search the intranet’.
E2.0 was adopted via their Technology Adoption Program. Connect, Innovate, Discover. This program facilitates innovation. There’s a program/workflow behind it to get funding etc. Via this program they experiment with web 2.0.
They also just started Twittering internally.
A very important reason why all this works at IBM has to do with the buy in of their previous CEO, who used these kind of initiatives to turn IBM into an integrated company.

Another company also presented their E2.0 initiatives, but I’m not allowed to blog on it.

Introduction Knowledge Café
Mireille Jansma of ING introduced those that were new to ‘Knowledge Café’ (KC) to the concept.

In a KC a group of people talk together about a subject of mutual interest. The goal is to talk, not to define an action plan, etc.
Based on the input of ‘things to discuss’, she clustered the topics into 3 categories:
  1. governance and security
  2. organization
  3. selection and integration/architecture
One of these can be used for the actual KC.

Knowledge Café
The possible topics to talk about have been mentioned above. In our group we mostly talked about topic 1, Governance and Security. I’ll share with you what was said about this topic.
You cannot conduct enterprise social media initiatives only from bottom-up. You need top-down, corporate support. Make sure you get support at departmental level at least.
Employees (people in general) love to share knowledge. They do that ‘at will’. But you need management to the knowledge sharing contribute to corporate goals.
One participant tells how they introduced wiki’s in their organization. First, there was huge resistance, because a wiki was not standard IT technology and due to IP issues. Slowly is was accepted. The explicitness of the information on the wiki as acknowledged and not it is accepted by management. The contribution to the wiki is mostly done by some agents from one location though.
One company shared the idea to give departmental presentations about enterprise 2.0 to raise awareness.
When applying social media tools it should have a mix of features (needed functionality), organizational relevance and fun.
How to start using a social media tool?
  1. start with an agent/moderator that has a concern and understands the potential of the tool. He will give it a spin.
  2. When things are up and running, look for improvement of and integration in processes (e.g. publish minutes on wiki’s)
  3. Grow participation.
How do you grow participation? Some experiences on this topic were shared.
  1. besides functional need, also address other things, such as fun
  2. recognition by employees, management
  3. find people with a shared concern
  4. offer interesting, unique content
A related, but different list was also mentioned. What are reasons for users to participate in wiki’s, blog, etc?
  1. because they are practice-related
  2. because they are social-related
  3. because of involvement in formal organization.
Should the manager be in the community? It depends on the manager…
The adoption of these kind of tools should be compared to the adoption of email. (Anyone have nice article on the adoption of email, by the way?)

Someone mentioned an interesting distinction: hedonic and utilitarian information systems. The first is about games. The second is your corporate collaboration tool. It seems these two distinct worlds are mixing.

‘Scale’ was an issue that was mentioned. Talking to a small group is easier than talking to a large, undefined one. Therefore it was advised to start with a small group, when rolling out these kind of tools.

There seems to be a fundamental mismatch between hierarchy and social media, someone mentioned. Another said, the real problem is when personal power differences are applied.

Measurement of the effectiveness of enterprise social media should not be done in the traditional way (ROI, etc). Measure number of search, the number of people using the tool, etc. And ask how the manager has fostered collaboration.

We might set up a community to help each other adopt e2.0 in the companies we work for.

I want to thank all the participants. I had an inspiring time and hope to meet you soon somewhere!

By the way, I'll add blog posts about this workshop when they pop up. Tom Verhoeve twittered about the workshop.

UPDATE 20-9-2008: As promised I would add other blog posts on this workshop as soon as they popped up. Here's Ton Zijlstra's take of the workshop.

Recommended links infoarch 09/17/2008

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Revv up Internal PeopleFinders

James Robertson of the Column Two blog has a very interesting post on "Staff Directories benefit from Cross-Linking" In short (you should read the whole post!) it says to cross-link your internal staff directory as much as possible and it also tells you how to do this.
I completely agree with this point. At the company I work for we also did this in our old people directory too. Regrettably it was replaced by a less-linked one. We’re working on getting the more cross-linked people directory back. Another example of cross-linking is ‘people > expertise’. We added that in our old version too. That gave very interesting results. Finally, this can also be extended outside the company. The internal directory then becomes a CRM-ish tool.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Publishing in a Web 2.0 World

It's been a while ago since I found this, however I didn't have time to listen to it until yesterday... An interesting talk by Tim O'Reilly on Publishing in the new Web 2.0 world. Really interesting to hear how his company, a book publishing company, is keeping up with this new world and how traditional (paper) and modern (digital/web) publishing complement each other.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ambient Awareness

Sometimes you run into an article that just blows you away. (Thanks for the pointer Lilia!) That's what happened to me while reading Clive Thompson's NYT article "Brave New World of Digital Intimacy". The article is very long, but super informative and gripping. It's about online social networks, especially Facebook and Twitter. I find everybody should read it!
The article questions why and how people use these tools. It basically answers the question with: You have to experience it to know. It also questions how real-life social networks relate to digital ones. Why are real-life networks smaller than digital ones and what does this mean for intimacy.
I love the terms 'ambient awareness', 'ambient intimacy' and 'ad hoc, self-organizing socializing' to depict these tools. Because it's true, that what I experience too when using Twitter, my blog and Facebook.
And I knew real-life networks were limited by the magic number, 150. But I didn't know Dunbar (ah, the Dunbar number) gave the proof for this number.
And I love the way the article is closed: "In an age of awareness, perhaps the person you see most clearly is yourself."
Did you like the article? If so, let me know and I'd love to discuss it in more detail with you.

Recommended links infoarch 09/12/2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Office 2.0 conference summary

This post is not really intended for you, my dear readers. But you can read along if you like. Just wanted to collect lots of links on the Office 2.0 2008 conference after reading the posts and watching the video's. In short the conference was about 'doing everything in the cloud', interesting stuff on e-signatures, progress on virtual conferencing and creating successful communities (inside and outside the company).
Here's my link collection:

Recommended links infoarch 09/11/2008

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Esquire e-ink cover

Wow! Esquire has an e-ink cover for its anniversary edition. Boing Boing isn't too impressed though: Esquire e-ink cover a pathetic disappointment.

Word Processing Poll RRW and My Prediction

Interesting poll on Word Processing over at ReadWriteWeb. I must admit I still mostly use MS Word at work. But at home I just Google Docs and OpenOffice more and more. I do find, though, that even within companies, document collaboration will move to the web. And we will be working directly on document content using wiki concepts and stuff like Scribd more and more. Do you agree?

Recommended links infoarch 09/09/2008

Monday, September 8, 2008

IT, Executive and Social Media Culture

Nice comparison of IT, Operator & Executive, and Social Computing culture on the IBM developerWorks platform. I don't agree with one row though. It says IT finds that "Information can be captured and frozen in time". The Operator & Executive cell has not been filled in. I would say they agree with IT on this topic. Social Computing does not agree with IT on this. According to Social Computing culture information is alive and also co-evolving. Remember?

Faster Answer Finding in Three Degrees of Separation World?

Interesting article on Techcrunch about "Six Degrees of Separation Is Now Three". And, as we all know and experience, "email and mobile phones were the key factors in reducing the degrees of separation."
What I was wondering though is: are we actually also finding answers more quickly than in the 'six degree world'? Is there any research on this topic? Because, if it's true that our separation is diminishing and we are more connected than ever, this should also have some great advantages, right? Or is it just leading to more information (overload)?
I think this trend could have really nice consequences. Wouldn't it be nice if you were walking around alone somewhere in a city and you would like to talk to someone on subject x, that your mobile would tell you that such a person is nearby?
What (dis)advantages do you see?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Investing in the IT That Makes a Competitive Difference

An interesting article was published in the July-August 2008 edition of HBR. It was titled "Investing in the IT That Makes a Competitive Difference" and written by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson. It interested me because McAfee is one of the authors - I try to follow his work. Furthermore I was curious what they had to say on the way companies invest in IT. In most large companies the large part of the spending is on large corporate-wide systems, like SAP. And not on an enterprise-wide collaboration tool or corporate intranet, for instance.

So, what do they have to say? What I’ll do is summarize the article for you, passing on the highlights. But first a couple of comments:

  • I’m surprised to read they advise companies to define (new) ways of working after deploying a technology platform. I thought we should define our working methods first?
  • I’m surprised they don’t mention PDM/PLM (Product Data Management/Product Lifecycle Management) systems as examples of enterprise software applications. For large technology companies, these tools are just as or more important than ERP systems.
  • I like the balanced approach this article takes, focusing on large enterprise systems, but also on web 2.0 tooling and, last but not least, people.

Here's my summary:

"To better understand when and where IT confers competitive advantage in today's economy, we studied all publicly traded U.S. companies in all industries from the 1960s through 2005, looking at relevant performance indicators from each (including sales, earnings, profitability, and market capitalization) and found some striking patterns: Since the mid-1990s, a new competitive dynamic has emerged - greater gaps between the leaders and laggards in an industry, more concentrated and winner-take-all markets, and more churn among rivals in a sector."

"In the following pages, we'll explore why the link between technology and competition has become much stronger and tighter since the mid-1990s, and we'll clarify the roles that business leader and enterprise technologies should play in this new environment."

About the link between IT (investment) and competitiveness. They set out "to compare the increase in IT spending with various measures of competition, focusing on three quantifiable indicators: concentration, turbulence, and performance spread."

"Were there economywide changes in these three measures after the mid-1990s, when IT spending accelerated? If so, were the changes more pronounced in industries that were more IT intensive - that is, where IT made up a larger scale of all fixed assets within an industry? In a word, yes."

"… our field research suggests that businesses entered a new era of increased competitiveness in the mid-1990s not because they had so many IT innovations to choose form but because some of these new technologies enabled improvement to companies' operating models and then made it possible to replicate those improvements much more widely."

"Although modern commercial enterprise systems are relatively recent - SAP’s ERP platform, for example, was introduced in 1992 - by now, companies in virtually every industry have adopted them. According to one estimate, spending on these complex platforms already accounted for 75% of all U.S. corporate IT investment in 2001."

"Sharing and replicating of innovations (via analog technologies like corporate memos, procedure manuals, and training sessions) would be relatively slow and imperfect, and overall market share would change little from year to year."

"In this Schumpeterian environment, the value of process innovations greatly multiplies. This puts the onus on managers to be strategic about innovating and then propagating new ways of working."

"To survive, or better yet thrive, in this more competitive environment, the mantra for any CEO should be, "Deploy, innovate, and propagate": First, deploy a consistent technology platform. Then separate yourself from the pack by coming up with better ways of working. Finally, use the platform to propagate these business innovations widely and reliably."

Deployment. "Determining which aspects of their companies' operating models should be globally (or at least widely) consistent, then using technology to replicate them with high fidelity."

Innovation. "Data analytics drawn from enterprise IT applications, along with collective intelligence and other Web 2.0 technologies, can be important aides not just in propagating ideas but also in generating them. They are certainly no replacement for brilliant insights from a line manager or a eureka moment during a meeting, but they can complement and speed the search for business process innovations."

Propagation. "While an ERP system is an obvious tool for propagation, other technologies area also important, and they show that innovations do not necessarily emanate from headquarters. For instance, Web 2.0 applications can help process changes emerge organically from lower levels in an organization."

"As corporate IT facilitates the implementation and monitoring of processes, the value of simply carrying out rote instructions will fall while the value of inventing better methods will rise. In some cases, this may even lead to a “superstar” effect, as disproportionate rewards accrue to the very best knowledge workers. Human resource policies and corporate culture will need to evolve to support this type of worker. An effective leader and a well-designed organization will need not only to aggressively seek out and identify such individuals and the innovations they generate but also to develop and reward them appropriately."

"The arrival of powerful new information technologies does not render obsolete all previous assumptions and insights about how to do business, but it does open up new opportunities to executives. Our research had led to three conclusions: First of all, the data show that IT has sharpened differences among companies instead of reducing them. (…) Second, line executives matter: Highly qualified vendors, consultants, and IT departments might be necessary for the successful implementation of enterprise technologies themselves, but the real value comes from the process innovations that can now be delivered on those platforms. (…) Finally, the competitive shakeup brought on by IT is not nearly complete, even in the IT-intensive U.S. economy."

Implementing non-"manage risk, reduce costs" IT projects

Olivier Amprimo over at the Headshift blog has a very long and interesting post on "Taxonomies > Sensemaking > Adoption". First of all Olivier points us to Marchand's strategic information alignment framework. This model is pretty well-known. Nonetheless, I took another good look at it after reading Olivier's post and even printed it to hang in on the wall as a constant reminder. Why?
Well, Olivier shows us why many innovative IT projects struggle. I advise you to read his whole post, but I'll pass some main points - I hope I got them… - here:
In theory, IT policies are to address the four elements evolving in a sequence "manage risks" > "reduce costs" > "add value" > "create new reality".
In reality this taxonomy displays two distinct (and often non-compatible) behaviours:
-    manage risks and reduce costs
-    add value and create new reality
This is a good reminder! This is why the big PDM and ERP projects get all the attention, and social media projects, but also intranet projects, don't. Olivier stresses this point:
While social computing is today clearly in the "add value, create new reality" side, most managers stick to "manage risks, reduce costs". The ROI debate on 2.0 apps last year, right when social computing was getting attention to boardrooms, is a clear signal.
How come?
One reason is laziness, another one from Andrew McAfee is busyness and a third one is about sense-making. As Patrick writes: "managing costs usually requires an intimate knowledge of your internal process and constant information flows to monitor and control them". Trick is that social computing addresses knowledge activities (knowledge, not information).
1.    Knowledge is immaterial;
2.    Measure is only applicable to material elements;
3.    Knowledge is not measurable;
4.    "What you can't measure, you can't manage";
5.    Knowledge is not manageable;
6.    Knowledge is not managed.
(…) However, when you look carefully the "manage risks, reduce costs" is all about rationalisation (exploitation), while "add value, create new reality" is all about innovation (exploration).
This is something to really keep in mind when we set up non-"manage risk, reduce costs" projects. Olivier also explains how this can be done using taxonomies. I won't summarize that part. He does extend the above-mentioned point by saying:
Given the fact that the bigger the organisation, the more entropy (complexity, peculiarity), creating value in IT today means embracing what looks like "chaos". (…) Organising IT "chaos", recreating coherence (organisation that makes sense - cosmos) in this long tail world implies shifting from system centricity to user centricity. Quality Management is all about that and Knowledge Management is getting down that road too (the link is the "learning organisation"), so that there is nothing new in the shift. Coherence is to be created at user level by providing him/her with a relevant set of tools so that s/he can manage exceptions, not by implementing a an organisation-wide one-size-fits-all set of tools and prohibiting situated initiatives (typical of economy of scale approach).
That's where social computing is relevant: it helps creating user tailored content.
Great, but so far end users still have to manage social computing tools and legacy tools. They often have to navigate in between systems via a long string of clicks or different toolbars to access all the information they need to perform properly. The result is that coherence is not complete, yet.
This is interesting, I find. I reminds me of the discussion I had with Rod Boothby of InnovationCreators about their 'The IT Flower'. The Flower also, but in another way, shows how social computing tools and legacy tools should fit together. 'Should', I say, because they don't. Indeed, this gives us knowledge workers a hard time, constantly switching between these tools, while we'd rather only work in the first set. That’s because our work, for a large part, consists of coping with and maintaining chaos.
To round up: I think the interesting thing about our intranets is that they are moving from the set of legacy tools to social computing tools (- although even as legacy tools, they have hard time keeping the attention of high-level management).
Thanks, Olivier, for this insightful post.

Recommended links infoarch 09/03/2008

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

On Breaking the E-mail Compulsion

Often the blogosphere just points you to great posts. Luis Suarez pointed us/me to this great post on email overload on the tfpl blog. It is titled "Breaking the e-mail compulsion". It passes on some interesting facts about email use and addiction. It goes on to give us some good email tips (which I apply already). But what really triggered me was the big question:
The challenge that I would like organisations and vendors to address is this:
  • How do we enable colleagues to generate, send and store an important communication about a project within the same application that holds the rest of the documents, communications and information relating to that project?
I can't tell you too much, but colleagues of mine addressed this issue and answered this question to a large extent. I pointed to a paper on this work here. And I hope to publish another paper on this topic with them soon. So, keep in touch!
"Context" and keeping information "in context" is what it's all about. And that is what email is not good at, leading to a large part of our email overload issues.

Microsoft's Blogging Policy

An interesting remarks in Ross Dawson's "Review of Day One of Enterprise 2.0 conference":
Nigel Watson of Microsoft described the history of blogging at Microsoft, from the early days through to the breadth of blogging across the enterprise that there is today. While I'm familiar with the history, it was good to hear it again. I didn't realize that Microsoft doesn't have an explicit blogging policy, and that Microsoft's general employee policies are seen as sufficient.
I knew they had a simple policy like: "Be smart". But this means their policy is even simpler!

Recommended links infoarch 09/02/2008

Monday, September 1, 2008

BT Intranet evolution

Richard Dennison of BT has a nice diagram to show how their intranet evolved. Go and take a look!