Monday, March 31, 2008
Imagine having only one calendar, one user account, one address book, one mobile phone, one computer, one external storage, one application of each kind, one version of each application, and so on instead of having different ones for different environments such as work and home. Wouldn’t that simplify some things? It sure would for me. I currently carry two laptops in my bag (one from my consultant firm, one from a customer) besides the one I have at home. What makes me stand this heavy burden is that I can access my online apps such as Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar (synchronized with my Exchange account at work) and Google Reader from any computer and also from my smartphone. Otherwise I would be in File Management Hell. I would have spend a lot of time and energy shuffling files between computers via different e-mail accounts or USB sticks, working with multiple calendars and converting files between Office 2002, Office XP and Office 2007.
As information technology is becoming an integrated and natural part of our entire lives (not just the work part) more and more people are getting a better and better understanding of how IT can be used to simplify, enrich and in other ways add value to their lives. They have clear ideas of what they need or want and how they want things to work. As a result, their expectations and what they require from their work environment in terms of IT support is increasing. Just as organizations are trying to break down their silos and integrate different units better to improve communication, collaboration and information exchange, employees are expecting their employers to make it possible and easy for them to integrate their personal lives (consumer applications and devices) with their work lives.
An important point here is that employees should not be expected to cut off their personal lives from their work environments while at the same time be expected to work “anywhere, anyplace, anytime”. Being always connected means that we should always be able to stay connected to every part of our lives – work, friends, family, and activities of various kinds. Being always connected enables us to make faster transitions between different environments where we operate – we don’t have to change physical environments just because we have a different kind of task at hand. If we are able to keep ourselves up-to-date and to control all parts of our lives “anywhere, anyplace, anytime”, then we are likely to reduce the stress that comes from not being able to control our lives.
Organizations who do not let employees access online apps such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Gmail are in fact building barriers for people instead of removing barriers. They make it harder for people rather than to simplify for them. They are disempowering them. That is why people bring their personal devices to work. And with the consumerization of IT, they have access to the latest technologies and tools.
What does this means for organizations? Well, management and IT departments should focus more on trying to empower the people within their own organization. They should trust them enough to provide them the mandate and tools to shape and control their own working environment and how they use it. One important part of this is to break down the barriers between the work part of people’s lives and the other parts. Doing so will empower the people and allocate more energy and motivation so they can contribute more to the well-being of the entire organization. It is my firm belief that people who have a rich social (online and/or offline) life are also open-minded and more willing to share things with others. As a result, they are also more likely to contribute to a richer, more collaborative and more productive work environment.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
During the last few years, I more and more often get the feeling that the gap between the IT department and the users isn't closing - it is in fact growing. When looking through my star-marked posts in Google Reader, I found this post on the High Performance Workplace Gartner blog by Rita Knox. When reading it, I realize that it is really an excellent post which put words to the situation I often see in organizations. So here it is in full:
The emergence and adoption of alternate technologies is hard to ignore. Employees find technology to support their needs (such as desktop search tools, blogs or wikis for collaboration), explore what they can do and teach their colleagues how to use the tools so they'll have a way to work together, but these sorts of technologies are not supported by most businesses' IT organizations.
A technology subculture is evolving. CIOs concentrate on costs, business processes and governance, while employees say, "just do it!" If my kid can carry on discussions, swap homework and post pictures on the Web, then why can't I do comparable things at work? The gulf between the employee's and IT organization's view of corporate computing is growing.
The CIO has the responsibility of keeping the company's computing infrastructure healthy and secure, and keeping back-office operations running, while employees are concerned with figuring out ways to streamline their work processes, make them more interesting and exploit new technologies to help them. Many of these new tools are easier to use than what the company provides - if not actually filling a void the company does not address altogether.
Although some IT departments are beginning to think about these resources and ask us, for example, if folksonomies can be used internally to the corporate advantage, we don't hear the question often, and we hear about deployments of such social technology even less often.
The two views - MIS-centric vs. employee-enabling - need to
converge if a company's IT resources are to be aligned.
It is time for organizations to wake up and make "Empower the people" a mantra for every business unit - even the IT Department.
Friday, March 28, 2008
"Back in the 80s the "Value Chain" was key, this was the series of steps and links that it took to deliver the value. Now the Value Chain really suited a process mentality. It was a pretty linear thing, everyone did their own bits in it and handed on from one place to another...//...process made sense in this world, A was followed by B which followed C etc etc. People mapped out simple processes and it just seemed to make sense.Here are some excerpts from the post "The best way to sell SOA? Try Web 2.0 techniques" by Joe McKendrick about the convergence of SOA and Web 2.0:
The problem was, and most assuredly is, that Systems Theory was making itself more and more known in the business world. This is where collaboration becomes more about units (services in SOA terms) working together in complex networks than simply a chain which hands over responsibility. This led to the Value Network approach that business schools started pushing out in the late 90s.
The current, and next, generation of businesses are about complex collaborations to deliver value, not simply about following a process. This collaboration approach requires a business service approach and a focus on interactions, objectives and KPIs. Its a much harder environment to be working in than simple Value Chains but the potential rewards, and dangers, are
much more significant."
"IT Execs Want More-Effective Collaboration" from PR-USA.net:
"Web 2.0 addresses the same problems SOA is addressing...Enabling users to easily compose services that make calls to back-end systems will go a long way to helping businesses see the value in SOA"
"Web 2.0 and SOA also have different philosophies...SOA is about empowering the enterprise, and Web 2.0 is about empowering the individual...we want the user to become increasingly more familiar with in the broad Internet, and bring that experience into the enterprise...At the same time, allowing the enterprise to free up its assets, and empower the business user.”
"The study, commissioned by Novell, surveyed 100 senior IT executives on their experiences with and plans for collaboration software. A full 80 percent said it is of critical or high importance that individuals in their companies have the ability to collaborate securely within and beyond organizational boundaries, but fewer than half said their current collaboration solutions are extremely or very effective in enabling collaboration among individual knowledge workers or among teams and virtual teams."
"'Providing employees with collaboration tools that enable them to work together effectively, no matter where they may be located, is no longer a wish-list or nice-to-have item – it’s a requirement,' said Kent Erickson, senior vice president and general manager of Workgroup Solutions for Novell. 'But it’s a requirement that is not being adequately addressed for most organizations."
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
“The cure to information overload is more information - the way to manage information overload is more information. That's what the doomsayers of the 90's — Information Anxiety! Information Tidal Wave! — didn't foresee.”
Yes, the solution to deal with information overload is absolutely not to stop creating and sharing information. It is rather to create more; information about information (metadata).
Traditionally (in the IT world), metadata has been more or less synonymous with file properties; file name, location, date created, and so forth. These metadata have been hidden and hence remained unknown to most users. They have also been of technical character, making them hard to understand for users. In other words, they have not been usable for the wider public. They have not really helped people to find what they are looking for.
The point with metadata is to create usable metadata. Users must simply not be forced to spend their time and energy on trying to understand detailed metadata or weird terms with complex syntax. The metadata must be easy to read, interpret and understand. To create good metadata, you need to have knowledge about both the content and its intended uses. This is also why there usually is a need for different metadata for the same thing; the same metadata might not be usable for all intended uses and users.
To me, the most revolutionary thing about Web 2.0 is how creating metadata has become a natural thing to do - it has almost become a life-style. The value of describing things for other people has become evident to us since simple tags and descriptions have made it so much easier to find and share these things with others. Metadata is now being created by the people, for the people.
The key to make efficient communication and collaboration happen within enterprises is to make it easier for users to create and share metadata. This way, they allow not only themselves but also other people to easily find what they are looking for – be it virtual resources such as information, experiences and knowledge or physical resources such as people, locations and objects. This is where Web 2.0 technologies and solutions have an important part to play for enterprises, but only if they are coupled by a culture of trust, participation and openness. The old ommand and control style will not do it.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
"Developers now have an easy way to both add features to Google Docs (in spreadsheets to start) and to pull collaborative data from Google Docs into gadgets on iGoogle and other platforms"Boris Evelson at Forrester commented this release earlier today:
"We joined forces with the Google Visualization team, who developed a common data delivery method, starting with data from our spreadsheets...//...This is really an exciting feature for us, as it gives spreadsheet collaborators more than a dozen new ways to look at their data -- including animated charts from the Google Finance and Trendalyzer teams as well as Pivot tables, Funnel charts and Gantt charts from a few of our beta developer collaborators (Panorama, Infosoft Global and Viewpath, respectively). And that's really just the beginning... so don't stop asking for more."
"This morning, Google will unveil a beta version of its spreadsheet application with some new advanced features, such as Pivot Table. The Pivot Table is a product developed by Panorama, a small, but upcoming BI vendor (they are currently being evaluated in detail by Forrester BI Wave ’08), who were, interestingly enough, the original inventors of Microsoft Analysis Services OLAP (Online Analytic Processing) engine. So now, part of Panorama code will be inside two of the biggest software companies in the world!"
"With this new feature, every Google spreadsheet user will have access to powerful OLAP, as a free BI SaaS add-on to Google Docs. In my opinion - a very wise move by Google to continue to push Google Docs into enterprises. "
"Stranger in a Strange Land" by Susan Scrupski:
"...we, in the Enterprise 2.0 community, tend to immerse ourselves in the echo chamber of those who already have crossed the mental chasm to web 2.0 freedom and collaborative sharing. Our clients are not resisting the changes afoot. They’re eager to learn about social media and web 2.0, but they face hard realities concerning what to even invest their time in, let alone their budget– which, by the way, is mostly already committed to legacy apps and operations expense."
"I’m aware that the so-called “revolution” is being waged in departmental groups of large enterprises, but in order to reap the true benefits of enterprise 2.0, IT must embrace the transcendental experience. Despite the flood of information flowing every day onto the web on Enterprise 2.0 and social media, the largest firms in the world are now just becoming introduced to these concepts. It’s important to keep this in mind even if we think we’ve seen it and heard it all."
"Generation Collaboration" by Roger Farnsworth:
"I believe it means that employers must do a better job of creating an interesting environment for employees. In the past, management selected workers based on their skills and assigned them tasks. In the workplace of the future, where data flows freely and knowledge, not information, is the coin of the realm, leaders must adapt their styles to the reality of a much more informed and mobile workforce. Give too many unpleasant tasks to one worker without considering the ramifications and you may unwittingly thrust her into the arms of a competitor. So, rather than thinking of collaboration tools as a way to assign tasks, I think of them as a way to unlock potential."
Robin Good lists his selection of online collaboration tools which can be used to:
"...share access or let other people remote control your computer, to help you share documents, to send files, and to chat on all major instant messaging services".
Monday, March 17, 2008
Looking at e-mail from a feature perspective, e-mail allows us to easily compose messages and send them to one or many receivers within seconds. Besides that, we can carbon copy recipients who should only be informed, attach files and forward received e-mails…among other things.
If we instead look at e-mail from a benefit perspective, it is easy to see why it has become so popular. E-mail can help us get in contact with new people, keep in touch with friends and colleagues, get hold of valuable information, apply for a job, initiate and maintain relationships…in general, e-mail is a good means of communication when it comes to contacting friends or colleagues and it can be used for virtually any purpose of communication. Add to that that (almost) everybody has an email address, even though it might sometimes be hard to find out which e-mail address they have.
The power of e-mail comes partly from its ease-of-use, but mostly from the fact that it overcomes the boundaries of time and space. People living or working in different locations and time zones can communicate with each other asynchronously – they don’t both have to be at their computers at the same time to exchange a message. The only alternative we had to communicate asynchronously with other persons do before that was to use regular mail, which was slow and expensive.
E-mail also makes it possible to communicate simultaneously with more than one person and to attach electronic documents, images or files. And as is a more subtle way of communication than using the phone; you don't need to have anything really important to say before you pick up the phone...sorry, before you write your e-mail and click the send-button. This makes people more willing to communicate. And so does the fact that messages sent via email are interchanged at virtually no cost.
Despite all the good things with email, it is often put to blame for not supporting collaboration in a good way. It is especially ill suited content-centric collaboration where two or more people are to collaborate on content. Still, blaming e-mail as a tool is the wrong thing to do. We should rather blame ourselves for how we use email. Emailing has become a habit. We use email without reflecting over how we use it. We don’t ask ourselves if there are better ways to do some of all the things we use e-mail for. This leads to misuse and overuse, with consequences which might obscure the real value of email. And we don’t tap in to the value of new ways of working supported by other tools and technologies.
The overuse of email is not primarily a problem for individuals, but more so for communities and enterprises where efficient communication, collaboration and knowledge exchange is essential. We all know that habits are hard to change and changing habits is a great challenge for enterprises. They need to constantly question and change old habits and one of the habits they need to question and change is how they use email. Looking a bit broader, they need to reflect on current attitudes and behaviors and identify opportunities for improvement in how people communicate, share information and collaborate with each other. Speaking in terms of technology, they need to look beyond traditional and well established tools and technologies such as e-mail and evaluate how other tools and technologies can support more efficient communication, collaboration and knowledge exchange. This is the obvious answer to the question why enterprises should take a serious look at Web 2.0 technologies such as wikis, blogs, RSS, social bookmarking, and social software. They should try to see how these might benefit them. If they succeed in this, email is likely to regain some of its original glory.
Friday, March 14, 2008
"While that may be the case for some future date, it's not the case now for business trying to find information today. Yes, text mining technology is getting better at extracting meaning from content and in turn categorizing or using it in a useful way, and one day my cell phone may just let my doctor know immediately if I'm having a heart attack. The technology exists now to be able to do that. But the car has also existed for over 100 years, and most of the continent of Africa doesn't have roads. Useful technology without infrastructure doesn't go very far.
For now, content is stove-piped in multiple systems, and search has made people lazy. People think the answer should be as easy as a keyword. But the answers to our biggest findability questions are no more easily found by typing in a keyword than a non-French speaker might get a ticket on a working Métro line during a strike. Getting there is no easier than what Amtrak had to do to get the tracks laid down for Acela, and they still couldn't get the train to go as fast as it could have due to organizational and regulatory disarray."
This is classical human behaviour. Instead of climbing the mountain to access the riches on the other side of it, we decide to stay put at the foot of the mountain and wait for some inventor to come by with a teleporting machine that will teleport us to the other side. If you think that is a good strategy, then you should probably not bother to deal with taxonomies.
And let's face it - to make content findable, we need to continue (or start?) describing content with both descriptive and structural metadata until the following occurs:
- Search engines can actually analyze and understand the semantics of both the query and the content that they index
- Search engines know what people are asking for even if they don't know it themselves
- People can ask questions in a way that not only other people but also search engines can understand
It seems to me IDC may have missed (or at least skimmed over) some important conclusions in its newly released 2008 update of last year's widely cited The Expanding Digital Universe, which tries to outline the dimensions of the ongoing explosion of digital information. Not surprisingly, the 2008 update finds that the 2007 estimate of the world's information content was too small. It turns out the 2007 digital universe was actually 281 billion gigabytes, about 10 percent bigger than IDC thought.
By 2011, IDC says in its new report, the digital universe will grow to 10 times its 2006 size. I suspect that when 2011 rolls around, this estimate will prove an underestimation as well.
It seems there are two fundamental Laws of Information at work here:
- Information is vastly easier to create than to store
- Information is vastly easier to store than to dispose of
I believe we have to tackle this in two ways: Obviously, we need to make it easier to get rid of content. But we must also learn to accept that we cannot get rid of all content which is no longer needed. We have to accept that it is there, but use smart technologies to filter out irrelevant content.
By the way, you can now download AIIM President John Mancini's Keynote from the 2008 AIIM International Exposition and Conference. It is free for download if you register as an AIIM member, which is free of charge (unless you choose Professional membership).
And here's a podcast with Carl Frappaolo, AIIM Vice President, Market Intelligence, who reveals the results of its’ exclusive survey (sponsored by EMC) on content management. From the summary:
"While 99 percent of respondents admitted that unstructured information played a significant role in driving their business processes, most identified major challenges if unstructured information was not readily available as part of those processes""Open Networks, Open Platforms Seen As Mobile Industry's Future" by Richard Martin, InformationWeek:
"As the FCC's auction of valuable spectrum in the 700 MHz range winds down, the mobile and wireless industry is entering a new era of open networks and open software platforms -- regardless of the outcome of the bidding in the auction.
'Finally, the Internet is going mobile,' said Jonathan Christensen, general manager for audio and video at Skype. With the open-access provisions attached to the 700 MHz auction, the advent of open platforms such as the Android operating system from Google (NSDQ: GOOG), and the success of VoIP applications like Skype (which now has 276 million registered users), 'a new game begins,' added Christensen.
This new game is marked not only by efforts by large established players like Google and Verizon Wireless...//...but startups like OpenMoko, which is backed by First International Computer and has developed a fully open-source, Linux-based software platform for mobile computing devices."
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Is the threat of global warming true or not? Do we dare play the game as if a global climate change won't happen?
In essence, the point is that we cannot control if it will become true or not. What we can control is our own actions, if we choose to do something or not.
Regardless if you like game theory or not, you should watch this video:
So, what can YOU do about it? Spread the word! Start an avalanche!
To the politicians and leaders out there - future generations and history will not judge us by all the things the common people did or didn't do, but by all the big things the big leaders didn't do. The leaders of today will be judged as cowards since they did not take decisive actions despite having access to reliable information and predictions about the future.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Now it seems like the IT industry is finally starting to get the message of simplicity. In an article at DestinationCRM.com, Lauren McKay reports from the AIIM 08 conference and the keynote by AIIM President John Mancini that "The Future of ECM Is Simplicity":
"The iPod. Nintendo's Wii. Google. TiVo. What do these products share in common? Besides their obvious success, all are linked by a single buzzword -- simplicity...//... The implementation of simplicity is key, Mancini told the audience during his industry address at the annual AIIM summit. Yet there's nothing simple about simplicity when it comes to implementing enterprise content management (ECM), he said"
I get all warm inside when I read this. With simpler content management technologies, enterprises might begin to focus their efforts on actually managing content instead of trying to implement and manage content management systems.
Here are a few of my own posts on the subject of simplicity.
- Just think S.I.M.P.L.E.
- The Curse of Portal Software
- Enterprise Wikis and Permission Management
- Expensive Things Must Look Advanced
- What Users Say They Want Isn’t Always What They Need
- Why Folksonomies Work
"Simplicity means the achievement of maximum effect with minimum means."
(Dr Koichi Kawana, designer of Japanese gardens)
"Simplicity is a virtue."
(Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA)
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler"
(Albert Einstein, a smart guy I know)
Monday, March 10, 2008
To succeed with making SOA an enabler of agility and choice, it requires involvement and commitment from other parts of the business than the IT department. The architectural principles of a SOA (encapsulation, loose coupling, abstraction, service contract, and so forth) must be understood and applied by the entire organization, not only IT part of it. The IT department has always been considered as service to the rest of the business and with SOA the IT department has found a means to make the IT systems truly reflect that. But the IT department should not do this in isolation. Rather, each part of the business should think and organize itself in the same way, as a service provider of resources to the rest of the business. Only then can the promise of SOA in terms of agility and choice be fully realized.
Friday, March 7, 2008
"I met with a group of CEOs recently, and asked them in advance for their questions related to Enterprise 2.0. Many of these concerned definitions of Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0...//...I got the impression that some confusion existed, and tried to think of how to tee up the points I wanted to make during our session. So one of the first slides in my presentation (yes, I still use PowerPoint) read:"
"You cannot greatly influence Web 2.0. You can greatly influence
"Is that the right message for senior executives, or did I greatly oversimplify or steamroll an important distinction?"
"Back to Decision-Making Basics" by Tom Davenport:
"We have lost much of the connection between the supply of information and the demand for it in decision-making. Despite the fact that companies often justify IT projects on the basis of better decisions, there is seldom a direct tie between the information a particular system produces and the decisions that are supposed to be based on it."
"How have supply and demand become disconnected?...//...One is that many systems implemented at the enterprise level are initially focused on transactions, not decisions...//...second reason is that managers don’t often know all the information and knowledge that is available to help make a decision."
"I have faith that access to information and knowledge can yield better decisions. On occasion they already do. However, I do not have faith that our trillion-dollar investment in corporate information systems is yielding better decisions on a regular basis. If your organization spends money on IT, that should worry you."
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Click on the image to open it full size in a new browser window.
Here is our first draft of the checklist, based on an idea about "green teams" from Jessica Lipnack, and here is Jessica Lipnack's version on which Michael's flowchart is based.
This week has contained news about some new features in applications I use and which I actually look forward to get.
Microsoft has released Community Kit for SharePoint: Enhanced Blog Edition 2.0. I hope it will make blogging within MOSS easier and more powerful since MOSS suffers from severe limitations when it comes to blogging and RSS. New features in the Community Kit are custom RSS links, trackbacks / linkbacks, post trimming, SEO Friendly URL's and tag clouds. I hope my company will implement this kit and that it will live up to my (not so high) expectations. One small step for man, but a giant step for MOSS 2007.
But what I am really excited about is the fact that Google just released “Google Calendar Sync”, an application for two-way sync between Google Calendar and Outlook. The value of this feature is obvious. I tried to achieve the same thing with an unreliable third party tool some time ago, but it was unreliable in the sense that it erased all events in my outlook calendar (!). My first action after that was to uninstall it and accept to live with two separate calendars. One calendar instead of two is what the promise is from the Google calendar team. I use Google calendar for planning all the family-related activities together with my wife and Outlook planning work-related activities. My expectation is that these two worlds can have a happier marriage with less conflicts and misunderstandings.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Many Enterprises dream about mastering master data and content assets to provide "a single version of the truth". The main point is to be able to identify product, customer, employee, location or similar assets and trust it to be consistent, complete and correct. Master Data Management (MDM) is the common name for these initiatives and a successful approach can yield e.g.:
- Increased business decisions and control
- Better consolidation and reuse
- Improved quality and compliance
- Speed up collaboration and processes
- Setting a foundation for Service Oriented Architecture (SOA)
Some enterprises have started their journey towards MDM. The IT organization is frequently the one that first recognize the needs and defines the requirements. Unfortunately, this also means that the MDM approach is technology centric and habitually concern what MDM solutions to use, not what the solutions should be used for. The usual barriers to success are e.g.
- No directing data and content management strategy
- Absence of a guiding data and content architecture
- Data and content governance mechanisms are missing
- Limited home grown solutions or the use of immature MDM vendor solutions
It is important for the IT organization to understand and promote the awareness of MDM benefits and barriers. The IT people also need to team up and align with the business people and their strategies and improvements initiatives. The best approach for long-term success is to initiate an MDM program that gradually addresses the multifaceted challenges of MDM.
Now we have understood that e-mail maybe isn't the best communication tool for everything, although we use it for everything. We have other tools available to us, such as instant messaging, web conferencing, wikis, blogs and social software and need to consider how these can be used in an enterprise context to facilitate communication, collaboration and information exchange.
Still, many managers seem to fear that employees will spend their time using Facebook or blogging about their interests. And the IT department is afraid of Instant Messaging or allowing external RSS feeds to be displayed on the enterprise intranet (I’ve actually heard about that in one big company). So instead of adopting these tools and using them to the serve the enterprise, they ignore them or even ban them.
This is a mistake we often do. We don't separate the tool from how it is - and can be - used. Imagine if we would have banned word processors because of the risk that employees would spend all of their work time writing poems or letters to friends and family.