Thursday, July 23, 2015

Book review: Digital Success or Digital Disaster

Governance. It is a word that commands respect. Perhaps this is why so many in the world of corporate communication shy away from it. I have none other explanation for the sorry state of most intranets I have seen. By doing so, they fail to realize that it's important to have a good governance framework in place to get adoption and ROI from a digital solution such as an intranet. Many intranet owners still to put their bets on the technology itself, hoping it will 'automagically' be adopted by the intended users and then be used by everyone in structured and organized ways. We all know it doesn't work that way. People don't work that way.

If you want to succeed with your intranet, or any digital solution, you will need to put an effective governance in place. An effective governance does essentially one thing: it helps people who develop or use the intranet make the right decisions, aligning with the strategy behind the intranet. As intranet pioneer Mark Morrell expresses it:
"One vital factor applies to all great intranets. It is having a strong governance framework that supports an intranet strategy, aligned with the organisation’s strategy."
This may sound like common sense, but a quote from the book "The Knowing-Doing Gap" (well worth a read) is relevant in this context:
"It is interesting how uncommon common sense is in its implementation" 
In his book "Digital Success or Digital Disaster", Mark Morrell shares a lot of insights and practical tips on intranet governance derived from his long experience from managing a large intranet at BT, and from advising other organizations on intranet governance. As the title suggests, he shares lessons learned which can help you avoid digital disaster and take the road to digital success instead.

If you are working with intranets, maybe as intranet product owner or intranet manager, I am you will find Mark's book useful. If you are new to intranet governance, you will probably appreciate the introduction Mark gives to intranet governance, covering important aspects such as what it is and why it is needed, what components an intranet governance framework must include, and what you should consider when creating one that fits your organization. If you already have a working intranet governance in place why not make a sanity check using Mark's 7 principles for creating a good governance framework? I am sure you will spot improvement opportunities that can make your intranet even more successful.


You can read more about the book and find out where to buy it on Mark's web site.




Friday, June 26, 2015

Upcoming Book: Collaborating in a Social Era

I am very happy to announce that my book "Collaborating in a Social Era" will be available for purchase as ebook and in print this September! 


If you have appreciated my work and writings on this blog and elsewhere, such as CMS Wire, I am sure you will appreciate the book as well. 

I have stuffed the book with some of the best ideas, insights and models that I have collected or created over the years, including models such as The Collaboration Pyramid and The Knowledge Work Capability Framework. 

The book, which will be in color, will contain over 50 informative and useful illustrations. 



I have set up a Facebook page dedicated to the book where you will find news and information about the book, such as when and where it will be available. I also intend to use it to host a discussion about the subjects I cover in the book, as well as a feedback channel to help me improve on the book.


You will soon be able to download a free sample chapter from the book and pre-order the book at a discounted price from Intranätverk. Later this fall, the book will be available for purchase via Amazon and iTunes as well. 

So stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Introducing – The Digital Collaboration Canvas

There is plenty of waste hidden in knowledge work, much of which we have come to accept as “normal” ways of working. I am not just referring to inefficient meetings we attend and the time we waste on managing our email inboxes. As knowledge workers spend a lot of time on activities such as searching for information, trying to figure out what the colleagues are doing and when to contribute, re-creating information that already exists somewhere else, and so on. One might say that we are spending all this time just getting ready to work.

Although the tasks we need to perform come in all shapes and sizes, most rely on a number of basic capabilities such as finding information or locating expertise. The more interdependent our work becomes, the more important these capabilities become to us. If they are weak, our ability to collaborate and create value together as an organization becomes crippled. Therefore improving such capabilities can both reduce a lot of the waste in knowledge work and enable people to work smarter together.

Over the years I have developed a framework of 9 capabilities that are important for knowledge work in general and for collaboration efforts in particular. I use the framework to help clients understand their current ways of working, identify problems and opportunities for improvement, and to explore better ways of working – with digital tools. The framework is illustrated below, inspired by a model by Harold Jarche who combined Ian McCarthy’s honeycomb of social media with an early version of my capabilities framework.



When I work with clients of various sizes and in various industries to improve digital collaboration, I use my framework and a tool that I call “The Digital Collaboration Canvas”. It includes definitions of each capability and helps you to assess and improve these capabilities within a certain context, such as project collaboration or a specific business process.



You can download The Digital Collaboration Canvas as PDF and you are free to use it under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (see details at the bottom of this post).

If you are interested in learning more about how to use my framework and The Digital Collaboration Canvas, feel free to contact me. Please feel free to suggest any improvements.


Creative Commons LicenseThe Digital Collaboration Canvas by Oscar Berg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://www.oscarberg.net.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.oscarberg.net.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

New book about intranets released today

A new Swedish book about intranets was released today. It is not everyday that happens.

The title of the book is "Intranät som skapar värde", which can be translated to "Intranets that create value".



The book consists of a number of chapters written by Swedish intranet experts. Each chapter discusses intranets from a certain perspective. Taken together, they provide a comprehensive of what is needed for intranets to create value for organizations - today and in the future.

I myself have contributed with a chapter about what role an intranet can play in the digital transformation of an organization. These are the other contributors and their contributions:
The book is published by Intranätverk, with Kristian Norling as editor of the book. It can be purchased as an e-book starting today 9th of April. If want it in print, you will have to wait until May.

I personally really like the way the book came about. It started as an idea by Kristian Norling about a year ago. It really took off and turned into a project when Kristian started a community on Google+ and the first contributions were shared. Soon, more contributors joined the community and shared their contributions. The level of activity in the community increased the closer we got to the deadline. Sure, we pushed the deadline ahead a few times, but we were all dedicated to make the book happen.

Although we have been responsible for writing our own chapters, we have helped each other out in different ways, from providing feedback on the contents to proofreading.  We used Google Docs to write and review the chapters and shared our writings, discussed different things and coordinated the production in the Google+ community. Not only did it help us turn the idea into a finished product. Along the way we all probably got to know each other a bit better. At least we will have something more in common to discuss the next time we meet. :-)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Are transparency and security incompatible?

Security is often used as the greatest argument against increasing openness and transparency because it might lead to sensitive information might end up in the wrong hands. But is it a viable argument, or is just that our existing solutions are insufficient?

Security as a Middle Age castle
The approach many organization take towards information security is similar to the defense strategies use for Middle Age castles (and almost as outdated too). A Middle Age castle typically had high curtain walls, a surrounding moat and a drawbridge that are to keep unwanted visitors from entering the castle. If anyone would need to leave the castle, they would have to pass through a castle gate where guards could make sure they wouldn’t bring something from the castle. The people inside the castle were safe as long as the outer defenses held, but if someone managed to break through the outer defenses, the inhabitants of the castle were very vulnerable to an attack - except for the family of the lord of the castle and his valuables who could seek protection in the central tower or keep.

This is how many organizations have chosen to protect their information, building high curtain walls that make it hard for anyone from the outside to access and steal information, but also for people to bring any information with them to the outside. To do that, they need to pass through the tollgates and ask the gatekeepers for permission to leave the castle. There are also internal curtain walls between different organizational silos, making it hard to exchange information between those silos.

Security is about enabling value creation

"…the security department must become adept at identifying the real threats to ensure that security becomes an enabler for business innovation, rather than an inhibitor. Security should be seen as a tool that can be used to accept risks so that the business can take advantage of market opportunities it was never able to before."

Eric Ouellet, VP Research, Gartner

As humans are risk averse we underestimate the benefits of open systems, focusing on the risk and neglect the value that can be created on the other end of the scale. Realizing this, organizations need to look at security as a tool to take opportunities while minimizing risk. Many organizations have forgotten the most important part - to make it as easy as possible for people to do their jobs in a secure way. At the end of the day, that is what most people want to do. They want get their jobs done as good as possible. This usually implies fast and with good quality. Sometimes their work will require them to exchange information with people in other organizational silos. Sometimes it will require them to bring information outside the castle, because they need to work somewhere else or share it with some trusted party that doesn’t come from the same castle. When they do, the great number of gates and gatekeepers that are there to protect their information from falling into the wrong hands hinder them to do their jobs. Sometimes the only pragmatic way to work seems to buy a ladder so they can climb the curtail walls. There is always a tradeoff between security and usability, and system that is entirely secure is also entirely useless. When the usability of a system is bad, people will find workarounds.

Security is "a people problem" 
Organizations often put all their trust into the systems they have designed to secure their information. But let’s not forget that security is ultimately “a people problem”. Hence safeguards and education can avoid inadvertent information leaks. People need to be educated in how to deal with sensitive information and there must policies and guidelines in place that are usable, that people actually can follow and get their jobs done at the same time. We must all become better at judging which information could be shared and which should not. Systems that restrict or even prevent us from sharing make us act without thinking. Many people have become used to these rigid systems and when they sometimes use more freeform tools, they might use the freeform tools to share information without thinking – because they’re used to not thinking. With email, that happens every day already. Even though there are more complex security and privacy concerns related to email than to most social software, hardly anyone ever questions the value of email today.

Balancing transparency and security
If everything is becoming open and transparent one might ask how one gains competitive advantages in markets that are classically based on information asymmetry. The answer to that is that twofold. First of all, everything won’t become transparent. The level of transparency can, and should, be much greater within an organization than towards the outside. Only a fraction of the information that is created and used inside organizations are relevant to the outside world. Secondly, in this increasingly interconnected and digital world, we are deceiving ourselves if we think that having unique access to certain pieces of information is what will create competitive advantages. Talented people who are able to find relevant information and turn it into actionable knowledge and create value together create real comparative advantage. The challenge is to find, attract and retain these people and create an environment where this talent can be used to its full extent. Enabling high levels of openness, transparency, participation, conversation, and recognition is a prerequisite for success in such an environment.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thinking digital - it's a generational thing

I’m going to stick my neck out and argue that there is a generational gap when it comes to our ability to think digital. I don’t care if some people in my own and previous generations will feel insulted.

It’s perfectly natural that such a generational gap exists. If someone grows up in a certain paradigm, that person will have a hard time adjusting to a new paradigm. It’s not just about learning new behaviors. It’s also about unlearning behaviors that have turned into habits. What is even more difficult is shifting to a new way of thinking. From thinking physical to thinking digital. Those of us who aren’t digital natives have already been wired for the thinking physical paradigm.

Growing up in a digital world is similar to growing up with a culture and language: you are fluent in the language because you think in that language, and since the culture and language are intertwined it helps you connect with other people who share the same culture and language.

I’m not saying you can’t be older than 20 years old and think digital. I’m just saying that you really have to speak and read a language every day for many years before you reach the point that you actually think in that language. Furthermore, you won’t start thinking digitally just because you use computers and other devices on a daily basis. You also have to unlearn existing behaviors and enter a new and different mindset, and that doesn’t happen without a lot of effort.

Altimeter Group defines digital transformation as ”the re-alignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital consumers at every touchpoint in the customer experience lifecycle.”Not having digital natives -  people who have learned to think digital – involved in and influencing the digital transformation of your organization can turn out to be fatal.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Did Nokia fall victim to silo mentality?

At the turn of the millennium, the Finnish company Nokia had become the largest mobile phones manufacturer in the world. Four years later, the company was divided into four divisions: Mobile Phones, Multimedia, Networks and Enterprise Solutions. The Mobile Phones division produced the successful feature phones for the consumer market. The Enterprise Solutions division served business clients so they could get mobile access to corporate networks while traveling, which primarily meant accessing email, "the number one mission critical business application” according to Nokia. The world’s first commercial smartphone, Nokia Communicator, was key in this strategy. It was a smartphone intended for business users, but not for regular consumers. The Mobile Phones division was taking care of the needs of consumers.

In 2007, when Nokia’s revenue and turnover was at all time high, Apple launched the iPhone, a cool-looking smartphone with a touch interface that consumers, unlike any smartphone before it, actually found attractive and easy to use. Ironically, this happened at a point in time when Nokia had just shifted its focus from smartphones back to basic phones. Nokia’s strategy was to make smartphones for businesses, and feature phones for consumers, each being the responsibility of separate divisions that didn’t collaborate with each other. Instead, they competed with each other.

When discussed in future management textbooks the demise of Nokia will probably primarily be blamed on collaboration failure. Imagine if the two divisions had collaborated and pursued a shared goal instead of competing and pursuing their own goals. Chances are Nokia would still be the largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world. Instead they had to sell their bleeding mobile phone businesses to Microsoft to avoid shutting it down completely.  

It is feasible to assume that Nokia fell victim of silo mentality that led to collaboration failure. Silo mentality is a typical phenomenon in large organizations. Teams tend to focus on the part they are responsible for and specialize in. As a consequence, they sub-optimize and focus on their own goals. The silos become organizational barriers that limit communication and thus impeding knowledge exchange, collaboration, and innovation within the enterprise. With so many people involved in an enterprise, and with so many barriers that make communication hard and result in lack of communication between different groups, it also becomes hard for any group to paint the complete picture and thus also hard to make decisions that are in the best interest of the organization as a whole. I am pretty sure this is what happened at Nokia.

Sources

  1. Nokia reorganizes into four divisions”, Nokia press release, 2003
  2. "Nokia's New Coke moment? The Communicator software debacle”, Andrew Orlowski, The Register, 2007
  3. Nokia's Bad Call on Smartphones”, Anton Troianovski and Sven Grundberg, The Wall Street Journal, 2012