Envisioning and shaping the future of work and business.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Managing Content is a Collaborative Effort, But...

7:20:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg , , No comments
Efficient collaboration is critical for succeeding with Enterprise Content Management. Consequently, collaboration services and tools are also natural components in an IT infrastructure that is to support ECM. But even though collaboration is a natural part of ECM, it does not necessarily mean that collaboration tools and services should be purchased and implemented as part of an ECM suite.

The main reason to be cautious when choosing and implementing collaboration technologies is that an enterprise should strive to create a collaborative infrastructure that supports basically any kind of collaboration need within the enterprise. Providing the right users with the right collaboration tools can help to improve the productivity for any kind of activity, from ad hoc activities to very formal and structured processes. Collaboration in an ECM context is however content-centric by nature - a process that requires two or more people to create or use content to accomplish a business objective. This means that an ECM suite might provide collaboration services and tools that are optimized for ECM, but not suited for other situations and contexts that require efficient collaboration and support from collaboration technology. So, collaboration services and tools must be chosen and implemented in a way that makes it possible to collaborate with anyone, anywhere, at any time, about anything (ubiquitous collaboration).

Secondly, the same kind of reasoning as for Basic Content Services (BSC) can be applied for collaboration services. BCS can be seen as a less costly and less complex alternative for enterprises that don’t need or cannot afford to buy an expensive and complex ECM suite. Even if they start with BCS, it does not stop them from extending their content infrastructure at a later stage with more advanced content services such as workflow automation. A similar approach might need to be used for collaboration services and tools – to start out with implementing a basic set of collaboration services that are generic and needed for any kind of collaboration and then extend the infrastructure where and when it is needed. Purchasing them as parts of an ECM suite is the opposite strategy.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

More About Content, Experiences and Information

8:28:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg 1 comment
Here is a short follow-up on Henrik’s post "Back to Basics..."

Acknowledging that information and knowledge cannot be managed with technology is important. The main reason is that it allows us to put our focus and efforts on what we actually can manage with technology; how knowledge and information is encoded into various forms of content and how that content is then managed and delivered to the right user in an efficient way.

Why then even bother to make this separation between content and information, between what can exists in the outside world and what can exist only in the minds of humans? Well, because it will hopefully make the content creator - the sender of the message - more aware of that a content product can be misinterpreted and not understood in the correct way by individuals who come across and use it. Some individuals might think that the information that they are able to extract from a content product is incomplete and feel a need to get more detailed information. Others might think there is too much and irrelevant information in the same content product.

Content producers have come to realize that their content products need to be tailor-made for a specific audience, sometimes even for specific individuals. And that they are delivering experiences, not only satisfying rational needs. We are in fact moving from an era where physical products where mass-produced for the masses to satisfy "objective" and rational needs, to a new era where consumers expect to get great experiences when interacting with digital or physical products. And experiences are subjective and emotional, not objective and rational. To satisfy the expectations of their consumers, content producers simply must put more care in to how they create and deliver content. Technology cannot do this part for them.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Two Biggest Mistakes in Strategy-Making

10:34:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg , No comments

The two biggest and probably most common mistakes in strategy-making are:

  1. Not having a strategy at all
  2. Not changing the strategy as needed

Today, very few organizations are unaware of their own content management problems and the challenges related to managing their content assets. They know that they can both manage and make use of their content assets better, but too often they fall short by putting their hopes to technology alone.

What these organizations should do instead is of course, after having defined clear and measurable objectives (what they want to achieve and when it shall be achieved), to develop a content management strategy (what to do, when to do it and who should do it) that will help them achieve their objectives. Such a strategy must not only identify and describe what technologies are needed to fulfil the business objectives, but it must bring together the people, activities, technologies, content and other resources which are needed to achieve the objectives.

An organization that wants to leverage its content assets must both define clear and measurable objectives and develop a strategy that describes what actions already have been taken and which needs to taken in order to achieve the objectives. The strategy must focus on the actions needed to achieve the objectives: what to do, when to do it and who should do it. And since the enterprise inevitably will be subject to a lot of different changes over time, the content management strategy must be adjusted as needed. New developments and conditions on the market, new technologies, new laws and regulations, fiercer competition, and changing customer needs are just some of the things that might call for changes of the strategy. The strategy must be dynamic and allowed to evolve over time.

Finally, it needs to be said that a strategy is meaningless if it is not practical and realistic. Unfortunately, many strategies are pure fantasies, based on unrealistic objectives which state where the organization wants to be within a certain period of time, but not where it realistically can be. There should not be a wide gap between the "want" and the "can". The organization must simply have - or be able to allocate - the resources and other pre-requisites that are required to execute the strategy.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Back to Basics - Defining Data, Content, Experience, Information And Knowledge

The emerging fields of Content Management, Enterprise 2.0 and others introduce new concepts as well as modifications (new interpretations) of already existing concepts. There are often logical inconsistencies between key concepts such as data, content, information and knowledge, which cause confusion and complicate discussions and analysis. We find that it often helps to go back to basic definitions and to try to sort them out.

Some of the most basic concepts dealt with in our blog are outlined below (Philosophers and epistemologists must excuse our simplified but practical approach).

  • Data: Data is content that has been structured so hard (in order to be stored and accessed in an efficient way) that it does not provide enough context to the user to be usable on its own. It needs to be aggregated, formatted and described to be usable.
  • Content: Content is something that is indented to communicate a message from a sender to one or several receivers e.g. a diagram, a document or a digital asset such as picture or movie. The purpose of the message (e.g. the communication process) can be to inform the receiver about something or to create an experience. Digitized content is formatted and described in a way that it can easily be managed and delivered to the user with information technology.
  • Experience: The receiver (user) always gets some kind of experience when he/she interacts with digital content via some kind of device and software user interface. The sender might see the experience as a means to communicate the message to the user more efficiently, or the experience might be the actual message.
  • Information: When perceiving and interpreting content that is intended to inform the user about something, the user will hopefully understand the message. In other words, the content is transformed into meaningful information by cognitive processes in the user's head.
  • Knowledge: When the user reflects and applies the information, it can be transformed into knowledge.

The definitions above are intended to show that it is one thing to manage data and content, and another thing to manage information and knowledge. The point is that data and content can be managed with the means of (information) technology, but we cannot manage information and knowledge with technology alone since information and knowledge are created and exist only in the heads of humans.

We can try to conceptualize knowledge into information and capture it as digital content and then deliver it to the audience, but we cannot guarantee that the audience will understand it as we intended.

There are many discussions to be made around the mentioned definitions. What for example are your view on the commonly used term - information worker and knowledge worker? ;-)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Recommended Enterprise 2.0 Tools

11:23:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg , , No comments
I have tried the "Answers" feature on LinkedIn a couple of times. Last week I posted a question about personal experiences from using Enterprise 2.0 tools. This was my question:
Which products would you recommend, and why, for enterprise use
(deployable, scalable, localization support, LDAP integration, open
standardsbased API...) in the following software categories:

1. Wikis
2. Blogs
3. Social bookmarking / tagging
4. Social software / networking

I would be greatful to hear about experiences from a user perspective as well as customer cases.

I've got a few answers so far, but only one answering my question directly. One answer pointed me to this quite nice overview of Enterprise 2.0 and another to Social Media Today where I found posts like My ten favourite Enterprise 2.0 applications.

I am looking for personal experiences from using products (not SaaS) in these categories, products that have been deployed as components in an enterprise IT infrastructure. If you have personal experiences to share (or can point me to others who have), please do!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Some Comments on Enterprise 2.0 and Intranets

With the adoption of Web 2.0 applications and technologies within an enterprise context (Enterprise 2.0), the old intranet sites will be replaced by or transform into a network of hyperlinked resources that connect people as well as content resources with each other. The enterprise portal serves as the entry point and provides enterprise users with a single gateway to wikis, blogs, web based productivity tools, collaboration and communication tools as well as to enterprise applications and content sources. Although all applications are not executed and all content is not displayed within the context of the enterprise portal, all the resources that are available to the employees can be found via the portal.

One important aspect of Enterprise 2.0 applications such as wikis and blogs is that they can help to bring hidden but often valuable content up to the surface, content assets that otherwise probably would be forgotten and then be recreated instead of being found and (re)used. With blogs and wikis, these content assets are being brought up to the surface by the people who need and uses it - and who is better suited to know and decide what content is valuable or not than the users?

Furthermore, with the introduction of social software, the intranet can become a more efficient and dynamic environment for communication, collaboration and knowledge exchange. Instead of just being able to find and access content resources and applications via the enterprise portal and its connected resources such as wikis and blogs, the user can find and connect with the people that might possess the information or knowledge that the user is looking for.

Traditionally, when developing intranet sites, a lot of effort and focus is also put on creating a structure for organizing all content resources that are to be made available on the intranet site. The goal is often to define and design an information architecture in which basically everything can fit, existing content as well as content to be produced in the future. This is often an overwhelming, if not even impossible task - if the goal is to organize all content. In addition, such a static structure might work for content resources that are related to formal processes that almost always are carried out in the same way. However, a lot of the work that is being done within an enterprise is actually dynamic, instant and occurring only once in the exact same way. The information you need and the path you take to find it might be different from time to time, even for the same activity. The hypertext navigation model where users can navigate based on semantic relationships between content supports - in combination with search and social bookmarking - this way of working much better than the predefined hierarchical navigation systems that usually dominate on an intranet site. They are still needed, but they are not suited for all tasks or needs.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Enterprise Wikis and Permission Management

8:45:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg , , , 3 comments
In a way, a wiki is simply a scaled down content management system. It focuses on making authoring easy, partly by avoiding features such as an advanced workflow engine, complex permission management, hierarchical organization systems, metadata management, and so on.

Given that the main advantage of a wiki is the simplicity of collaborative authoring, it should be quite easy to make efficient use of wikis within an enterprise. Just ask yourself - what content do you need and want as many as possible to contribute to when we produce and maintain it?

Why not take a look at your intranet? If you look around a bit, some of the content on the intranet is probably not updated, incomplete or incorrect just because it is hard for the right people to easily update it. Valuable content might even be completely missing on the intranet for this reason. It has certainly been true for the intranets I have used.

One of the biggest obstacles of making authoring easy on an intranet is probably not the usability of the user interface, but the way users are given access to the authoring tools. The access to the content in the administration tool where you maintain the content and structure of the intranet is typically restricted to certain users with specific predefined roles that have been assigned specific predefined rights (on specific content types and/or groups of content). So, it is typically quite a cumbersome procedure to set up rights for users who only want or need to contribute on a small scale and probably something that has to be done my a user with administrator rights (and skills). At least it cannot be done the same minute that a user finds out that he or she can contribute with something of value.

An enterprise wiki on the other hand is (and should be) accessible for any user within the enterprise. When someone finds that something is missing, incorrect, inaccurate or incomplete - he or she can update the wiki in a split second.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

8 Insights about ECM for the CIO

12:51:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg , , 1 comment
1. Everything is content

“Everything that is intended to communicate something is content (text, numbers, pictures, sound, video). Content is what is contained within a web page, document, graphic file or a record in a database. Content is not to be confused with the media that carries it, the paper that the text is printed on, or the web page that presents it. Content is the encoded message, the contents of a book, document or mp3 file. The book or file is simply a container. The same content can be re-purposed and/or reused and put in different containers.” (From the post "Content Essentials")

Simply put, everything humans produce that is intended to communicate something is content, whether it is information and/or feelings that the receiver is intended to experience.

2. Content is the monster under the bed

More and more people produce more and more content while very little of the content is disposed. The content is produced with different applications, formatted differently and stored and distributed on multiple locations. Much of the content is unmanaged, outdated, incorrect, redundant and insufficiently described to be easily found and managed. All together, this makes it harder for people to find and use the content they need when they need it.

3. It costs not to find content

There are several costs of not finding content, such as time and effort spent on looking for content, costs occurring from to the inability to perform tasks correctly due to incorrect content, costs for reproducing content, or costs occurring from not being able to perform tasks to that the content is not found at all. These are unacceptable costs that an enterprise needs to deal with and avoid.

4. The value of content is determined when it is used

"Added value is often connected to the end of a process, i.e. when a product is finished (i.e. “produced”) it is ready to be consumed, as an end consumer product or as input to another process...///...the process perspective can help us calculate a net value of content based on the gap between the costs of producing the content connected to the value it brings to its consumer." (From the post “Perspectives on the Value of Content”)

5. Context is king

“Content can inform and create experiences for the content consumer. Information is something that exists only in the consumer’s mind, a result of cognitive processes. This insight makes it natural to think about who the consumer is or might be when producing content...//...Context is what surrounds the content, helping the content consumer to understand what the content is about, who created it, what its intended use is, and so on. Content that is used to describe other content is commonly called metadata. The metadata enriches the content with descriptions that put the content in a context and makes it easier to understand and use for the content consumer. Context is king, an absolute necessity for communication to be successful.” (From the post "Content Essentials")

It is essential to consider the context (user, need/task, location, culture…) in which the content is to be used when ensuring that the right users get the content they need when they need it. And the content itself must be placed in the right context (relationships to other content) so that it can be found, perceived and interpreted correctly by the right user. The content also needs the right metadata to be managed and delivered in the right way with IT.

6. Valuable content must be managed as other assets

"...investing in producing content assets that nobody or few experiences is most often a waste of resources. It also means that if we have invested in producing a content asset we should make an effort to re-use it in different products and channels for maximizing consumption and generation of value. Digitized goods like content are unique because it is relatively easy to re-produce them for re-use" (From the post "A portfolio of content assets")

7. Content Management is a means for Information Management

“The fields of Business Intelligence, Document Management, Records Management and so on are all about both Content Management and Information Management. Although they are taking different perspectives on communication processes based on the type or nature of the content that is to communicate the message, they share the same goal - to ensure that the intended receiver(s) gets the right information or experience in the right time. In other words, they are all about Information Management. And, they are all about Content Management since the process (content) needs to be managed if the content is to be handled and delivered in a secure and efficient way to the intended receiver.” (From the post "Information Management & Content Management")

8. Every enterprise needs a strategy for managing its content

“Knowing where you are, where to go, and how to get there is a basic requirement in orientation. Any strategy includes these components. Many enterprises do not seem to do this basic orientation when it comes to ECM. Maybe it is because of an uncertainty about what to address in such a strategy?” (From the post "Components Of An ECM Strategy")

Friday, August 3, 2007

Using a Wiki For Requirements Management

A colleague of mine commented some time ago on the problem of finding and tracing requirements in traditional requirements documentation (i.e. documents such as Word). This is especially true when you need to trace requirements in one document to requirements in one or several other documents. References between requirements in different documents are often incorrect, pointing to a non-existing document or pointing to the wrong location, or simply missing.

I have been responsible for the requirements management in many software development projects. To manage the requirements documentation, we have either just stored the documents in a folder structure on a file server, or managed them with a versioning system such as CVS or ClearCase. A few times we have coordinated and traced requirement documentation with a tool such as Requisite Pro, but since it is problematic to use such a tool in conjunction with a versioning system (even ClearCase) we have had to skip either the tool or the versioning system.

Even though managing requirements documentation is a big challenge in any software development project, one of the biggest challenges with requirements management is to capture the right requirements, and this has often to do that it is problematic to get them reviewed and validated by all stakeholders. It is a time-consuming process to get every stakeholder to continuously review and give feedback on captured requirements and it really is no option to review all requirements together with each and every stakeholder every week. If stakeholders were to participate more in the requirements management process, it would be easier to detect and correct misunderstandings and conflicts at an earlier stage and thus avoiding costly changes later on. In other words, stakeholder participation is necessary for capturing the right requirements.

To me it seems reasonable that a wiki could increase stakeholder participation in the requirements management process. With a wiki, it will be easier for team members and stakeholders to access and find information. For novice users of versioning systems, it is often problematic to access and find the information. A wiki would also allow them to tag any conflicts and misunderstandings as well as incorrect, incomplete or missing requirements, and to discuss with each other on how to solve these. In addition, instead of mailing word documents to stakeholders for review, they can simply visit the wiki and read the documentation online. A wiki also provides versioning and a detailed revision history for each page (document), which is essential for managing changes of requirements. But most importantly, it is the collaborative aspect of wikis that make them interesting as tools for requirements management.

If anyone has experiences to share from using wikis for requirements management, I would be happy to hear about them. Please leave a comment.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Practicing The Ancient Art Of Knowledge Capture

10:03:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg No comments
I'm back blogging after a few weeks of vacation. Before leaving home, I took the terrifying decision to leave my laptop at home. I decided to settle with a few pens and notebooks and to practice the ancient art of knowledge capture. It turned out to be a very good decision.

Fact is that no technology can beat the old pen and paper when it comes to quickly capturing (and developing) thoughts, ideas and insights. These tools are so intuitive to use (well, when you know how to read and write first) that you can capture what is on your mind almost in your sleep. There is no turning on or waiting to get the device started up, you just grab the pen in the dark and write it down on the paper. I might not have produced the prettiest handwriting or sketches, but they were at least possible to interpret when I woke up in the morning. And during daytime, I could go basically anywhere with my pen and notebook. I did not have to limit myself to the house or to shady places outside (where the LCD screen is readable).

While staying at a hotel in Stockholm (Scandic Anglais, a very fresh and nice hotel in the very centre of Stockholm which I can recommend to anyone visiting Stockholm) I was happy to find a little gift on my bedside table called "The Clear Head Book". It encouraged me to "Empty your head of random thoughts and ideas before you sleep and let your thoughts roam free in dreamland". It sure worked for me. I hadn't slept that good for a long, long time. Although I didn't use it, just knowing that it was there helped me to relax and come to peace. If I had had my laptop with me, I would for sure have turned it on before getting to sleep - which is probably not the best way to end the day if you want to get a good night's sleep.