Envisioning and shaping the future of work and business.

Friday, August 29, 2008

This week in links - week 35, 2008

"Google Moves to Mainstream RSS With A Simple Name Change" by Marshall Kirkpatrick, ReadWriteWeb:

For all its supposed simplicity, Really Simple Syndication or RSS has continued to confuse and intimidate millions of people online years after its introduction. What can be done to make RSS more mainstream? Google plans to roll out a small but simple feature that could go a long way. We wouldn't be surprised to see every blog publishing service follow suit.

"Follow this blog" is a clear call to action and those words will soon grace the header of every blog on Blogger.com around the web. When users click that link they'll be taken to either a tab on their Blogger dashboard, presumably if they have an account and are logged in, or be introduced to Google Reader, the company's RSS reader. It's a simple, brilliant plan and we wonder what took so long.

RSS is life and work changing technology. It's what makes an ecosystem of blogs possible by lowering the investment required by readers to follow and support a larger number of blogs than they would visit manually. It's what keeps those podcasts coming after you might have forgotten to download episode after episode. It makes search an ongoing practice instead of a one-off shot in the dark. RSS is huge, but the name alone intimidates many people who ought to be diving into it.

Same thing, different names. Might work.

"ROI for the knowledge worker is ROI for all, and how KM took an ironic approach" by John Tropea:

The old KM was not about people, it went for the knowledge as a separate thing, and knowledge as a separate act approach, where the participants really had no return on their contributions, and no self motiviation to want to participate. In essence this process didn’t blend with human nature at all.

Whereas the new KM is not really KM at all (considering the key to KM is sharing what’s in our heads), it’s not a separate act, it’s embedded into our regular routines. In an ecosystem where we are networked to people and we participate as we do our work, as well as the finished product of our work, there is no conscious effort to make sure you are sharing your know-how, it’s just happening from being, just like in the offline world.

And here’s the irony!

We now understand that a person has unique talent and know-how to bring to the business, and we rely on them exercising that know-how…compared to the machine-like view of industrial man (like they were a spare part that could be replaced).

But our original concept of knowledge management was still treating the knowledge worker as if they were a machine…old KM is industrial in it’s process.

Same name, different thing. We told you so.

"Improving collaboration for engineering teams" by Jari Koister:

Traditionally, software engineering teams are dependent on a few critical tools to function at all. The most important tool for software development is an efficient source control system. In addition, a team can hardly function without bug and issue tracking and project management support...//...Although these tools are necessary for an distributed engineering team to work, they are not sufficient.

These tools do not address the sharing of investigative information; questions and answers; resolution of design and requirements questions; and other types of information that is essential for everybody to feel involved and remove any impediments that they encounter. Neither do these base tools provide any sharing of knowledge or history within the organization.

The key here is to make information easy to find, and also to have the right mechanisms for enabling users to monitor and follow discussions. It must be easy for a manager to identify open questions and make sure they are addressed and resolved. As we work in an iterative and agile way, updating requirements, specifications and designs must be simple and ensure everyone is informed and can change their plans accordingly.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Documentum goes Web 2.0

7:56:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg , , , 4 comments
Bill Ives provides a nice overview of the EMC release of Documentum Enterprise Content Management (ECM) 6.5. The big new thing in the release is apparently that it tries to make use of Web 2.0 concepts and technologies:

They are providing a bridge between traditional web content management and tools and Web 2.0 to allow their clients to take advantage of the new opportunities that many inside the enterprise have seen on the consumer web. This includes simplicity, ease of use, flexibility, open APIs for data sharing, increased social aspects, and enhanced collaboration. At the same time they are still ensuring corporate security, compliance, archiving, and scalability.

It’s nice to see a traditional enterprise content management provider understand the benefits of Web 2.0 and incorporate them in a way that makes business

When a search is done, documents are returned but also links to profiles of the people who created them. You get the social side of search.

This all sounds very promising indeed. The screenshot below of the guided search has a Web 2.0 feel to it in how it visualizes search results.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Who owns the letter I in the Google alphabet

3:31:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg No comments

O'Reilly Radar reports that Google has added Google Suggest to their homepage:

"When Google suggest first-launched Buster McLeod (AKA Erik Benson) checked the suggested term for each letter to create the Google Alphabet, 2004 edition."

"In honor of Google Suggest graduating from labs", Brady Forrest has provided the annotated Google Alphabet, 2008 edition. Notable for a Swede like me is that IKEA owns the letter "I". A former (american) business partner of mine provided the following analysis:

"The exact method Google uses to choose the default "Suggestion" is not publicly known. It's actually not based only on the quantity of searches. In any case, Google thinks it's more valuable to users to show IKEA first."

"Interestingly Walmart, one of only two traditional retailers whose website has more traffic than IKEA, didn't get the 'W' (because Google thinks Wikipedia is more relevant)."

Monday, August 25, 2008

Releasing the power of networks

7:44:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg , , 2 comments
Hyperlinks connect content with content.

Social networks connect people with people.

RSS feeds connect people with content.

Together, these technologies can be used to make information flow between people in an organization almost like water flows in a metropolitan water system. They can help people find other people with knowledge, information or ideas that when intersecting with their own spawn new knowledge, value and innovations.

If virtually all information would be allowed to flow freely through these networks in an organization, the organization could actually become the sum of all its parts. It could potentially use and benefit from the collective intelligence of all its people.

How come then that many organizations are still not seizing this opportunity as fast as they possibly can? I believe a that major part of the answer is quite simple; the people who build their power on keeping information for themselves feel threatened. They might have built their current positions on hoarding information instead of sharing it. It is obvious that they won't let go of the information if they do not get something in return that makes them feel safe in their positions.

Threats to existing power structures in organizations must be handled very carefully, but they should not be allowed to hinder the democratization of information. It is the responsibility of top management to understand and act according to this insight.

Not doing anything is a deadly strategy. No organization can put the genie back in the bottle. People have already gotten used to freely expressing themselves and sharing and consuming information and experiences on the web. We must remind ourselves that these are the same people who go to work and feel that the IT department is - passively or actively - hindering them to do the same things at work, the same people that either will give up and loose their motivation or quit to start working for a competitor that actually tries to empower its employees instead of hindering them.

The point here is that any organization needs to create a strategy that addresses how to make use of these new opportunities to improve communication and collaboration and how leverage any ongoing grass-root initiatives instead of hindering them. But this strategy also needs to address how to deal with barriers to change such as existing power structures that might be threatened by the change, counteractive attitudes and behaviours among coworkers, and a complex and inflexible IT legacy.

Friday, August 22, 2008

This week in links - week 34, 2008

5:02:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg , , , , No comments
Stewart Mader has written an article for the Website Magazine called "5 Effective Wiki Uses and How Companies Benefit From Them":

"...a wiki is one of the most versatile tools you can use. But what keeps people coming back is its simplicity. In a very short time, people can learn how to use the wiki and put any one of these examples into practice. Once they do so, they will wonder how they got along without it."
"50 Ideas on Using Twitter for Business" by Chris Brogan:

We really can’t deny the fact that businesses are testing out Twitter as part of their steps into the social media landscape. You can say it’s a stupid application, that no business gets done there, but there are too many of us (including me) that can disagree and point out business value. I’m not going to address the naysayers much with this. Instead, I’m going to offer 50 thoughts for people looking to use Twitter for business. And by “business,” I mean anything from a solo act to a huge enterprise customer.
"What exactly is Wiki? Wiki is not a software, not a website, but a concept. And why Wiki is powerful a concept" by Trần Tuấn Tài:

Friend: “Hey Tai, what is wiki? Is it a software or a website?”

TaiTran: “Neither. Wiki is a concept. It refers to a content which everyone and anyone can edit.”

Friend: “What? You’re confusing me!”

"140 characters to knowledge share" by John Tropea:
There are many times when colleagues at work discover something in our office, but are too busy to blog about it, this is when micro-blogs comes into the picture. People may find blog posting takes up too much time because they treat it as formal publishing, and fair enough (I covered this in my KM 2.0 Culture post). We have tried to overcome this with posting to a blog by email, making it feel very informal, now you can “flick a blog post”, just like you “flick an email”.

Anyway I feel that people will indeed post to a micro-blog as the content is the length of an SMS, ie. a max of 140 characters. This is not hard at all, and the format encourages a type of informalness. Another low barrier is posting via email or some sort of app that’s real easy to get to and post, perhaps via the browser or a desktop widget.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A teaser for our upcoming seminars

12:23:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg , , , , No comments
We have now uploaded a presentation to slideshare.net which is sort of a teaser for our upcoming "Web 2.0 på jobbet" ("Web 2.0 at work") seminars in Gothenburg and Stockholm in September 2008.

If you have the possibility to attend any of these seminars which will be held by us, Henrik Gustafsson and Oscar Berg, please register here:

If you want to know more about Acando, please visit Acando's homepage.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, August 15, 2008

This week in links - week 33, 2008

Michael Sampson shares Some Thoughts on "Collaboration":

To be collaborative means that you embrace a certain way of life and work ... an openness to the ideas of other people, and in particular to how their ideas and perspectives may mold, change and transform your ideas. The heart of collaboration is openness to the ideas to others, and a stated and acted upon willingness to explore those ideas, rather than assuming that everything you think is right and correct from the get-go. To be collaborative then, is in essence a human process, that plays out over whatever modality of interaction you use with other people, be that face-to-face, email, a wiki or any other "collaborative technology".

"Social Media And US Business Familiarity, Usage And Adoption: A Research Study Of The Inc. 500" by Nora Barnes and Eric Mattson:

In early 2007 the results of a groundbreaking study into the adoption of social media within the Inc. 500, an elite group of the fastest-growing companies within the United States, were released.

Now, approximately one year later, that same group was studied again in an effort to look at longitudinal change in the adoption of these digital communication tools. The companies who responded were asked the same detailed questions concerning their familiarity with, usage of and measurement of social media.


Not only is this widespread adoption being driven by strong familiarity but also from the recognized critical role of social media to a company's future success in today’s online world. When queried on the importance of social media, 26% of respondents in 2007 felt that social media is "very important" to their business and marketing strategy. That figure rose to 44% in approximately one year. It is clear that this group of fast-growing companies considers the use of social media as a central part of its strategic plan.

"Assessing Organizational Readiness for Communities" by Rachel Happe:

All the hype as well as the overwhelming focus on using social media for outbound marketing can distract companies from really understanding how communities fit into their business processes and operations - and the considerations organizations need to account for before they decide to employ a community strategy.

Here at Mzinga, we have a couple of different assessment frameworks. The first is a framework for understanding culture and communication styles - this is really to understand how 'WE' a company is at the individual level. We have a second model too - a WE Corporate Assessment framework that lays out six operational components that will determine where on organizational maturity scale a company is.

"Social Networking at Ford: Community Is Job One" by Rob Salkowitz:

Signs that Enterprise 2.0 has gone mainstream are everywhere, and this point was driven home to me last week in an interview I did with Scott Monty, the new head of digital communications and social networking for Ford Motors.

While Ford may seem like the quintessential “old economy” company, its approach to social computing, both from the business and the IT perspective, is as far-sighted and strategic as any I’ve encountered. I was interviewing Monty primarily to discuss the relationship between social computing technology and efforts to recruit a next-generation workforce, but surprisingly (to me, at least), that element was not very high on his radar. He and his management are sold on social networking purely on the business value.

One of the reasons for having a social media strategy is because we have so many different constituencies,” he explains. “We’ve obviously got customers -- that’s the outward facing portion. We’ve got employees for the inward facing [portion]. But we also have shareholders, we have our dealership network, we’ve got unions, we’ve got retirees -- a huge alumni population of Ford retirees. So there are many different aspects to take into account, which is why a well crafted and well thought out strategy should be able to address all of those.”

Google Reader takes another step in the right direction with a new feature

6:35:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg , No comments
Until Google recently released a feature which enabled users to share RSS feed items with others, Google Reader had only enabled hoarding of information. To be able to share interesting items with others before this feature was launched, you had to leave Google Reader and navigate to the source web page, copy the link in the address bar and then send it via e-mail if you wanted to reach specific individuals, or post it on your blog or another "hub" if you wanted to reach a wider audience.

The feature that allowed users to share (and comment) RSS items with your Google Talk contacts provided the first step to encourage sharing by making it easier. Now the Google Reader team have released a new feature which makes it possible to share a little bit more selectively:
"We've been working hard to create a more flexible way to let you choose who to share with; you can now manage a Friends list within Reader, separate from your Gmail chat contacts."

"...you can choose to either continue sharing with all of your chat buddies or create a custom Friends list with those that you hand-select."

This is definately a step forward. But I would still like to see is the ability to - just as with e-mail - select individual friends or groups of friends that I would like to share a certain item with. Which can be different for different items.

I have already addressed this wish in a post I published in May called "Getting more out of RSS and Google Reader":

I would like to be able to share items with specific friend instead of all of them. I want to be able to share items that I know a specific friend is interested in and which other friends might not be. I also would like my friends to have the possibility to share items with me that they believe I would be interested in . Right now, this feature is a little egocentric. It is more "I find this information interesting so I'll share it with all my friends" than "I believe my friend X could interested in this information so I'll share it with him".

I interpret the new feature as Google Reader is moving in this direction.

A good thing with Google is how they encourage feedback. You can post any feedback you have about their products in different groups in Google Reader. I have used this possibility a few times and will use it also for giving feedback on the sharing feature.

By the way, the Blogger Dashboard looked differently today - it has been equipped with a new look & feel. Better, I think. It provides a better overview than before, partly by removing visual clutter.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Time for social-driven micro-improvements

7:42:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg , No comments
This post comes directly from the exercise bike at the gym (written and sent to Blogger from my smartphone)...the best place to develop a random thought. Here it goes...

To become better at communicating and deal with the over-use of e-mail as communication tool, organizations need not only create a collaborative environment and provide a collaboration platform with a diversity of easy-to-use, easy-to-access and reliable collaboration tools that fit the work styles of the employees. They must also encourage their employees to question and change their own habits, mindsets and ways of working.

As an employee it is easy to blame inefficient communication and collaboration on, say, bad management, lack of tools and the existence of a non-collaborative culture (management not trusting employees, a command-and-control culture, lack of job rotation, excessive fear of making mistakes, and so on). It is easy to make fun of all those inefficient meetings taking place in every corner of the organization, to complain about over-flooded inboxes, and to curse that we need to wait for someone to answer a certain e-mail in order to continue doing what we are supposed to do. But maybe we shouldn't blame that guy in the other end?

We cannot neglect the fact that a change needs to start somewhere. A spark needs to be ignited. It won't happen by itself.

As employees we are members of an organization and (well, maybe not formally but definitely morally) responsible for its results. Therefore we are all also responsible for making necessary changes happen. We also need to take initiatives to make improvements on an individual level. We need to take a look at ourselves and how we think and behave. Maybe we are following the same attitudes and behaviors that we are condemning others for? Probably we are.

Changing how we think and behave as individuals can be as easy as asking ourselves a few question before we choose how to communicate with others. Wait a minute...which options do I have? Besides e-mail or picking up the phone? Which option is the most efficient for what I want to achieve? If we spend a minute of thought before starting a communication process then we will for sure gain that time many times over later on than if we don't think before we act. Why such a hurry? This should be pretty obvious, but probably it so obvious that we do not care to occupy our stressed out minds with it.

Maybe things will go faster if we call someone than if we send an e-mail? Maybe we can hook up on IM and interact more spontaneously with each other and thereby avoid leaving voice messages since we know when the other person is present or not? Maybe we can reduce lead-times and make better decisions if we choose a means of communication which enables frequent but shorter interactions than the weekly meetings which are scheduled but not particularly structured and definitely not on-demand? Think about it. A lot of scheduled meetings will suddenly disappear from our calendars.

I personally think it would be great with less scheduled meetings with a standing agenda but sometimes no content and thus no meaning. To satisfy our social needs, we could meet by the coffee station instead if we just stop feeling guilty because our chat is not taking place under cover of a "work" meeting.

My point is that if we all as employees can help to spread a mindset and build a culture from grass-root level where we all constantly reflect on and question our own ways of thinking and working, such as how we communicate with others, then we could for sure identify and implement so many micro-improvements in our daily work environments that they will by far outnumber any big corporate improvement efforts in terms of increases in efficiency, productivity and quality, and ultimately increased profit. Don't you think?

Now it is time to get off the exercise bike...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Demystifying Enterprise Architecture

You might think that it sounds quite pretentious for someone to call oneself Enterprise Architect (at least if you don't see yourself as one of them). Well, I don't blame you if you do. The term Enterprise Architect easily leads one's thoughts to someone who architects an entire enterprise from scratch or who orchestrates every wink and turn of an enterprise as a sort of puppy master. Such a conception is course wrong. The Enterprise Architects are cogs in the enterprise wheel just as all others - they are only different in the sense that they have been assigned the responsibility to observe the complete machinery and keep track of the different parts and how they relate to each other. But also to envision how new or changing requirements and constraints - big or small, few or many, dramatic or subtle - will need to change the enterprise and its different but yet often very tightly related parts.

The key word here is "related". An enterprise consists of a lot of different parts, ranging from business models, strategies, processes and people to information resources and IT systems (in turn made up by applications and content stores and running on an underlying IT infrastructure).

Today we all know that one cannot change business models, strategies or even small parts of business processes without changing or at least considering how the change will affect other business processes, people, information resources and IT systems. And vice versa.

To avoid that changes have unpredicted and unwanted (side-)effects, this complex environment of interrelated parts must in some way or another be managed, and to be able to manage it, the different parts and how they relate to each other must be known and understood by all who needs to know about it and understand it. That is why there are some people in your organization who officially or unofficially call themselves Enterprise Architecture. They try to build and communicate this knowledge and understanding to others. "Enterprise Architects" who hide in their offices without talking to people - who are more concerned with creating perfect representations of the architecture of the enterprise - should not be taken seriously.

To be able to "eat the elephant", an Enterprise Architect needs to slice it up into a number of more manageable dimensions and look at it at different levels of abstraction. An Enterprise Architect that tries to do that with anything bigger than a very small enterprise soon realizes that he or she cannot do this alone. Specialization and a team that brings the different specialties together are needed. Together, the members of the team might be able to create, maintain and communicate an understandable model (or actually a number of models) of the most important dimensions of the enterprise and how they relate. They can then be advised when there are new or changed requirements or constraints that call for changes somewhere in the enterprise. They can try to envision what consequences the change will have and guide any implementation initiatives along the way of change.

Enterprise Architecture is about caring about the big picture, the sum of all parts, and every little corner of the enterprise at the same time. It is about being able and willing to (fore)see and care about the consequences of a change - regardless of where these occur in the enterprise - and make sure that someone is appointed to manage them.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

This week in links - week 32, 2008

Nitin Mangtani, Lead Product Manager at Google makes a good sales pitch for the latest Google Search Appliance in the post "Tackling information overload, 10 million documents at a time":
We think that searching for the myriad of business information that helps you do your job should be as easy as searching for information on Google.com -- regardless of how much content your organization has, or where it resides. And since the volume of documents, customer contacts, presentations and other data flowing into your office is probably not going to shrink any time soon, giving your IT organization access to a high-capacity single appliance (instead of the dozens that come with typical enterprise search implementations) might save your company expense and administrative hours while making it that much easier for you to find the exact piece of information you need to close that sales deal -- 10 million documents at a time.

Steward Mader explains some of the main differences between Wikipedia and enterprise wikis in the post"5 Differences between Wikipedia & Enterprise Wikis". It is a good introduction to enterprise wikis, but what caught my interest was Mader's answer to a reader who had commented the post and asked whether or not it is possible to trust wiki content when there is no approval process:

A wiki should be used for activities that don’t need levels of approval before publishing, and to influence a change to practices that require fewer approvals. Here’s how:

Get your team to produce content together from the start. In this model, you don’t need approvals because people agree to be involved and provide constant input throughout the process, instead of only getting involved at a late stage to review and approve what others have produced.

The notion of approvals has been created as a response to the practice where someone (usually a manager) is not involved in content production because they’re usually busy attending meetings. When an organization chooses to adjust the way they work at all levels, including better meeting management using a wiki, managers and others who would traditionally only approve content can now get more involved at that earlier stage, which reduces the need for the approval process.

This is a different way of thinking about work, but it’s much more efficient for people at all levels. Inside an organization, you really shouldn’t have to worry about trust as much as you would on a public wiki. People are there to do their jobs, and an environment with a high level of trust is conducive to high quality work.
David Linthicum says that "A good enterprise architect should see blurry" since "the line where the enterprise begins and the web starts blirring":

...there are two types of enterprise architects out there: those who embrace the value of the Web and have learned how to leverage it, and those who do not see the value, and have drawn a pretty bold line around the enterprise.

The former is much more innovative and creates an infrastructure that's much more cost effective. They consider the value that information and application services that you neither own nor host can bring to your enterprise systems -- systems that are starving for new functionality, content, and data. It's just a matter of adjusting your thinking, and finding the resources you need to leverage.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Everybody is invited to The Great Content Picnic

8:23:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg No comments
In the nineties the Internet was a one-way publishing platform that gave people with an Internet connection access to a lot of information for free.

Then, just at the turn of the millenium, the Internet became a market place for physical goods.

During the last few years the Internet has also become a market place for services. Most of the services, just as the majority of the content we find on the net, is "free". We pay for it indirectly by buying physical goods from companies which just happen advertise at the places where we go to look for "free" content and services. This is the most successful business model in The Content Economy so far. But just so far. We know something else will come but are just not sure about what it will be. That is because we are in the middle of a revolution.

This commercial development of the Internet was quite easy to foresee as it was simply an extension of the "old" economy. It was less easy to forsee when people were ready for it. Some of us were just too eager to think people were ready to buy things over the Internet or misunderstood which things they could think of buying. Now the dotcom crash has qualified as one of the great financial crises in modern history.

Nowadays I prefer to see the Internet primarily as a great public park where people can - and do - meet and share information and experiences with each other. Anyone (well, not in countries like China and North Korea where the governments still try to keep people from accessing the Internet) in the developed world can access and choose to visit to have a picnic at any time. They go there to consume, create and exchange information and experiences which they or someone else have encoded into some type of content (text, photes, video...). I call this phenomenon The Great Content Picnic, and it is setting new rules for The Content Economy. Rules that we are inventing and setting together and which the businesses born in the "old" economy have to adjust to.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Transforming from a “need to know culture” to a “need to share culture"

10:47:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg , No comments
In a post on the FASTForward blog called "If the US State Department Can Use Wikis and Blogs Effectively, So Can Your Organization?", John Husband refers to an article in The New York Times about the use of wikis and blogs within the US State Department, an organization that he describes as having "interest in controlling its messages AND in understanding better how to use information, knowledge and brainpower to be effective".

It is a very interesting article that addresses the value and concerns with wikis in a very clear and practical manner. Here are some of the highlights:
It’s grass-roots technology in a top-down organization,” said Eric M. Johnson of the State Department’s Office of eDiplomacy in Washington, who recently gave a talk about Diplopedia at Wikipedia’s annual conference in Alexandria, Egypt.

He pointed out that unlike Wikipedia, Diplopedia does not allow anonymous contributors, so bad actors could be tracked down. He then observed, “There are plenty of ways to commit career suicide; wikis are just the newest one.”

The decision to embrace wikis is part of a changing ethic at the department, from a “need to know culture” to a “need to share culture,”
said Daniel Sheerin, deputy director of eDiplomacy, which was created in 2003. “This is a technological manifestation of a policy difference,”...

We are all the same and we are all different

8:16:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg No comments
With globalization and the offering of products and services to multiple markets comes a need for localization. To reach a global audience, you have to respect their differences. You have to learn about how they expect to be treated and then try your best to treat them in that way. Differences in culture, language, legislation and other things need to be taken into consideration.

In web site and content development, localization should be a key part of any strategy aiming to reach a global audience. Web site localization usually translates into basic things such as talking to an audience in their own language. However, there are many more factors to consider and much more to it than translating text. I find it usable to view the localization challenge in three different dimensions:

1. Information Architecture - how a site is conceptually structured and how the structure and building elements (pages, page components, buttons etc) are labeled

2. Content - text, images, video and so on that need to be translated and in other ways adjusted to local requirements.

3. Templates - The containers of the content must be able to hold and display localized content. You should strive to be able to use the same page design for all markets and the only feasible way to achieve this reuse is to design page templates which can automatically be adjusted to local needs.

Web site localization is a very challenging job, not the least since you have to balance user experience design against the localization needs. The interaction design and visual design will inevitably be compromised for the sake of meeting up with localization needs.

Currently, I am hired as consultant by a global company with a large number of sites in 20+ different languages. I am leading pre-studies for new development and localization is always a key requirement that we need to consider. I am going to share some of my own experiences on localization with you in this and a few following posts, starting with two fundamental things to do in any localization project.

First of all, you need to identify the localization requirements and bring these as input to the design process. You need to identify and analyze ALL possible localization requirements, not just those having to do with languages; currencies, addresses, measurements, use of imagery, reading direction, symbolic meaning of colors, different legal and cultural requirements... For example, in Europe some countries might be changing currency to the Euro, so your design might have to support dual currencies. If you forget to think about this from the start, then you might get into serious problems later on.

Secondly, you need to define how the localization process should work. You should do this before designing the web site. Who should do the translations, where, when and how?

If you start out with these two things and work iteratively on refining the localization requirements and localization process throughout the project, the localization challenges coming ahead will be much easier to manage. I'll tell you more about those challenges in coming posts.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Saturday, August 2, 2008

This week in links - week 31, 2008

I came across a working paper called "Communication (and Coordination?) in a Modern, Complex Organization" by Adam M. Kleinbaum, Toby E. Stuart, and Michael L. Tushman from Harward Business School via Mike Gotta's Collaborative Thinking blog. Here are some glimpses from the paper:
The basic question we explore asks, what is the role of observable (to us) boundaries between individuals in structuring communications inside the firm?

...we find that women, mid- to highlevel executives, and members of the executive management, sales and marketing functions aremost likely to participate in cross-group communications. In effect, these individuals bridge the lacunae between distant groups in the company‘s social structure.

When we invert our perspective to focus on those who span the densely interacting groups within the firm, we were surprised to discover that women at BigCo are more likely to bridge the communication silos in the company. The available evidence suggests that this finding is neither an artifact of gendered sorting by job function, nor is it indicative of a gender difference in preference for communication media.

...one of our most surprising findings is the modest role that the firm‘s most senior executives seem to play in coordinating the activities of the enterprise.

You can download the full working paper here.

From James Dellow's blog I came across the article "10 Reasons Enterprises Aren’t Ready to Trust the Cloud" by Stacey Higginbotham:
Cloud computing could become as ubiquitous as personal computing, networked campuses or other big innovations in the way we work, but it’s not there yet...//...Here are 10 reasons enterprises aren’t ready to trust the cloud:
  1. It’s not secure.
  2. It can’t be logged.
  3. It’s not platform agnostic.
  4. Reliability is still an issue.
  5. Portability isn’t seamless.
  6. It’s not environmentally sustainable.
  7. Cloud computing still has to exist on physical servers.
  8. The need for speed still reigns at some firms.
  9. Large companies already have an internal cloud.
  10. Bureaucracy will cause the transition to take longer than building replacement housing in New Orleans.
A press release from HP:
The HP, Intel and Yahoo! Cloud Computing Test Bed will provide a globally distributed, Internet-scale testing environment designed to encourage research on the software, data center management and hardware issues associated with cloud computing at a larger scale than ever before. The initiative will also support research of cloud applications and services.
McKinsey have just published the article "Building the Web 2.0 Enterprise: McKinsey Global Survey Results". Here is what they see coming:

Almost 60 percent of the respondents satisfied with Web 2.0 initiatives (but only 42 percent of other respondents) see them as a driver of competitive advantage. Expect these companies to become more aggressive in the marketplace against rivals that are slower to get on board.

Satisfied or not, all companies plan to spend more on Web 2.0 tools—an opportunity for software developers.

There are few differences in size, region, or even tool use between companies that are satisfied with their Web 2.0 experience and those that are not. This suggests that today’s seemingly insurmountable barriers could be overcome through the adoption of managerial methods that satisfied companies use.

Successful companies already use Web 2.0 for business applications such as communicating with customers and suppliers; soon they may use it to drive innovation.

Finally, here's an interesting presentation by James Robertson at Step Two Designs "talking through a range of practical ideas for getting the most out of collaboration tools, while avoiding common pitfalls":