Envisioning and shaping the future of work and business.

Monday, November 16, 2009

This week in links - week 46, 2009

Organizations are positioning the intranet as the entry point into the organization’s ensemble of information, applications, collaboration and communication tools.

Approximately one third of the organizations have a high-level intranet Steering Committee.

Twenty-five to 30 percent of organizations that have already implemented some form of social media have experienced 3 general benefits: increased employee engagement, more effective knowledge sharing, and better-informed employees.

Concerns are changing as organizations gain experience. Doubts are considerably lower about the relevance of social media to business needs, senior management hesitancy and employees wasting their time. At the same time there is a higher degree of concern about two things: the difficulty of finding information and potential user resistance.

Technologies such as presence indicators, instant messaging and web conferencing are found more frequently the more mature intranets

Intranets are leaving the workplace, or rather the workplace is being extended to where the people are.
"Enterprise 2.0 Schism" by Greg Lloyd:
I hereby declare myself an Enterprise 2.0 Strict Druckerian. I believe that "2.0" should be considered a modifier of Enterprise rather than an allusion to mere Web 2.0 technology - which is what an Enterprise 2.0 Strict Technarian would have you believe.

I believe that although both technology and broad bottom-up participation are necessary to achieve the Drukerian vision, neither element alone is sufficient to achieve the noble end of re-engineering how ordinary people work together to achieve the ends of enterprises they choose to affiliate with.

As Peter Drucker said: "The purpose of an organization is to enable ordinary humans beings to do extraordinary things.

Peter Drucker constantly advised businesses to give employees direct control over their own work and environment, with teams of "knowledge workers" responsible for work toward goals stated as broad business objectives rather than prescriptive plans. Drucker stated that management could only achieve sustainable profits by treating people as an enterprise's most valued resources, not as costs. In later years he described his role as "social ecologist" rather than management consultant.

On "Return on investment" debates, I believe that Taylorist time-and-motion studies would show gains that typically exceed the modest costs of introducing and using Enterprise 2.0 software, but studies for knowledge work where the value is not transactional (time to process a purchase order) are difficult to design and far too easy to fudge. Large scale experimental studies based on overall business success are even more problematic - except in hindsight.
Many thinkers and consultants in the Enterprise 2.0 space are recognizing and discussing the need to re-design knowledge work and the small and large structural elements of organizations, due to the growing pervasiveness of today’s information-flow infrastructure.

The principles and elements of socio-technical systems theory, and offshoots like Emery and Trist’s Participative Work Design (on which I have written before), are in my opinion very useful and practical sources for thinking through and implementing some of the changes … in mental models and in practices … that I believe will be necessary to obtain the latent potential available in purposeful social computing aimed at an organization’s objectives for better and more responsive performance.
I'm a huge driver of collaboration tools in the company. But, I'm also a realist - and I know two significant factors that argue against change at the time:

Prioritizing "Improvements": We are implementing ERP and other highly intrusive / foundational systems, and there's a lot of change that comes along with that. I understand that an organization can only take so much change at once - so why not focus on the stuff that's bringing real (ie. quantifiable, bottom-line, significant) business value.

New Collaboration Tools need Lead Time & Practice: Eight months ago, sharing files by e-mail and ad-hoc, unstructured meetings were the norm. To be fair, we were working smaller projects with teams of 10-20, and usually in no more than two locations. Over the past few months, as we were teeing up for Big Go-Live #1, we've been introducing the newer tools in small bits. For Go-Live Weekend, the team was already familiar with going to SharePoint for status updates, or recording a new Issue in the SharePoint list. The mechanics were old hat, and folks didn't need to think about it - which was nice, since we need them thinking about their Tasks. If we introduce new collaboration tools with little lead time before the Big Go-Live #2, Tasks will be interrupted with people struggling to remember how to communicate.

In the right setting, collaboration tools can clearly add value - even for the most conservative jaded technology users. However, you can't introduce something so new and expect people to "get it" in the short term. Better approach is to introduce the new tools early in the process, when there is no pressure. This lets the team build familiarity, understanding, and skills by the time you need to rely on these tools for critical communication.

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