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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Information Management in the age of Web 2.0

Few would disagree that easy and efficient communication, collaboration and sharing of (the right) information (in the right time) across organizational, cultural and geographical barriers within an enterprise will be crucial to the success of the enterprise in the future.

Organizations have struggled with trying to manage their information resources for decades by establishing and enforcing central control and ownership of the information resources. But, enabling easy and efficient communication, collaboration and information sharing between people has never been the focus of that kind of approach. Creating well structured information resources and storing them in secure, optimized and managed repositories (databases) is a waste of money if the information resources are not easy to access, find, use and exchange.

Lately, organizations have started to realize that information that is not used and exchanged is worthless (duh!). It needs to be accessible, findable, usable and exchangeable besides being accurate, complete, and so on. Consequently, their main challenge is no longer to automate business processes and make humans redundant in processes that lend themselves to automation, but rather to leverage their knowledge assets (employees, partners, customers) in order to compete in the marketplace with new innovations and unique services.

The Web 2.0 people-centric philosophy and technologies such as social software, RSS, blogs and wikis has given a direction a new direction for organizations and the way they approach their information management challenges. The reasoning is simple; why shouldn't it be possible to enable successful collaboration and sharing of information between people within an enterprise context when is has already been achieved on the web?

Here are a few voices on how the web 2.0 technologies can leverage communication, collaboration and sharing of information within enterprises, starting with Forrester's "The Seven Tenets of the Information Workplace":
"...enterprise Web 2.0 is rapidly advancing, bringing even greater "Design for People" concepts into the IW. For example, through the power of social networking and mashups, which allow people to have it their way, the IW can go beyond role-based to even become individualized. With enterprise Web 2.0, the IW also gains two new facets: "social" and "quick." With all these characteristics, the IW will better support a "Design for People" world and allow people to work in a much more natural way."

Mark Lewis, chief development officer of EMC, doesn't hold back when praising the impact of web 2.0 technologies on information management:
"Web 2.0 flips the information delivery model upside down--it's now about global access, and information at your fingertips, aggregated from sources that you don't even necessarily know about, or care where they exist. Based on a set of search criteria, information in all its rich forms--media, video, audio, images, documents, text--all will be assembled together in context and delivered to users and applications for real-time experience."
IBM has a suite of components that offer "Information on Demand through Web 2.0 technologies and patterns". "Info 2.0" is a trendy but also boring name on the marriage of Information Management and Web 2.0. They try to spice it up with the slogan "Mashup and remix your enterprise information assets". Here's how they promote Info 2.0:
"...leading companies in many industries and new breeds of user-driven, Web-based, not-for-profit user communities have already...created business approaches using a set of philosophies and technologies, known as Web 2.0, to foster innovation and responsiveness to customer and marketplace trends and to simplify communication and collaboration among members of the extended value chain. Web 2.0 approaches can enable organizations to create community value by tapping the collective knowledge of extended teams."

But let's not get too focused on technologies. Web 2.0 technologies alone will not radically improve internal communication, collaboration and information exchange within enterprises. The main obstacles to doing this has never been technological, but rather cultural and related to such things as attitudes and values, organization, management style and how people are rewarded.

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