Monday, 27 August 2007

Enterprise Web 2.0 inside CSC

Since I'm asking fellow Aussies to share their Enterprise 2.0 and Enterprise Web 2.0 experiences, its only fair I talk about mine:

There are three enterprise level wiki experiments I'm aware of at CSC (there could be more, and I believe there are some project or team related wikis around). In July one of these experiments was integrated into CSC's global portal infrastructure as part what we are calling our Collaboration Portal Center:

"The Collaboration Portal Center boasts a wide-open experimental Collaboration Wiki; videos; podcasts (well only one to start); Yahoo Pipes, Blog, and RSS mash-up; comment areas following many content pages; documented solutions and case studies; a Global Google Maps mash-up; and RSS feeds on several portions of the content . . . not too shabby for just getting started."

Right now this particular wiki is running on Twiki and is also being used to host a few internal blogs (like Stu Downes) using a plugin template. However, in Australia we are actually experimenting with Mediawiki, although we also have some local experience with Atlassian's Confluence too. One of the quick wins I like with our Australian CSC wiki are the client profile pages that provide an overview of each client, including key links to different tools and reports plus filtered external RSS news feeds.

Of course there are other Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0 and Enterprise Web 2.0 related activities going on, but right now there really is a lot of exciting buzz around the wiki experiments and a sense that no matter the outcome its going to be a good learning experience.

OK. I've shared a little about what's happening where I am, now its your turn :-)

You had to be there

I escaped to Sydney for lunch today, for what we're calling - tongue in cheek of course - Coffee 2.0, to discuss Enterprise 2.0 adoption in Australia with Alex Manchester (also blogging over at Melcrum), Alister Webb from Telstra, Kolya Miller, Matt Moore, and Ross Dawson. The topic of the moment was of course the recent media attention on Facebook and other networking sites.

One outcome of the meeting was a general agreement to make an effort to find more examples of Australian organisations experimenting or implementing Enterprise 2.0 or Web 2.0 inspired technology inside the firewall. We all feel that many Australian organisations aren't talking about their experiences in this space because they are either nervous about the publicity or don't think they have something worth talking about... but if you're reading this and you are in one of those organisations we would like to hear about your experiences with blogs, wikis, RSS, mashups, social networking, etc! To this end, I will share in my next post about what's happening in CSC in this space at the moment.

BTW Coffee 2.0 isn't an exclusive group, but small enough for us to have a good conversation. Let any of us know if you'd like to join us next time. Matt Moore suggested that next time should be a Beer 2.0 event ;-)

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Janssen-Cilag Wiki Case Study

Here is a great Aussie wiki case study shared by Nathan Wallace from Janssen-Cilag, a pharmaceutical subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

One of the interesting points in the case study is that after evaluating different wiki products, they opted for Confluence by Atlassian because it provide functionality such as "a hierarchy of pages, strong attachment capabilities, news features, LDAP integration, high quality search and a decent rich text editor."

He concludes with some spot on points:

"Users do not perceive our Intranet as a Wiki, with all the anarchistic overtones that brings. Rather, they see the simplicity and flexibility as a natural evolution of Intranet technology... Problems of driving collaboration and content updates remain, but they are exposed as the cultural and people problems at their heart since the technical and workload "excuses" have been stripped away."

Hat tip to Andrew Mitchell.

Monday, 13 August 2007

ATOM Publishing Protocol API in Lotus Connections

While playing around with Lotus Connections in the Lotus Greenhouse, I have been wondering if Lotus Connections would - in true Web 2.0 style - support a non-IBM, offline blogging client (like Windows Live Writer).

Firstly, there are some positive conversations going on around support for the ATOM Publishing Protocol API in Lotus Connections. And looking at the code in my Greenhouse blog home page, I noticed it contains the following code:

<link rel="service" type="application/atomserv+xml" title="Atom Publishing Protocol" href="" />

If I've understood correctly, then this bit of code that should tell an ATOM compatible blogging client what it needs to be able to publish.

Unfortunately, it looks Windows Live Writer doesn't yet support the ATOM protocol but will in a future release. So, what to try in the meantime? Funnily enough it sounds like WLW doesn't support the ATOM publishing API, but Word 2007 does. Shame I'm still on Word 2003, else I would try it out. Perhaps someone else with Word 2007 could try it out in the Greenhouse? Or can someone recommend an offline blogging client that supports the ATOM API?

Integrating Enterprise 2.0 into your corporate Intranet - 20th September

I'm running a half day workshop at Key Forum's Intranet '07 conference in September. I'll be looking at:

  • Enterprise 2.0 opportunities and challenges;
  • The technology building blocks: Blogs, RSS, tags, search and wikis; and
  • Implementation approaches: Nature or nurture?

I'll be drawing on material covered in my knowledge management masterclass around social software and also talking about what I've seen happening in this space at CSC and other organisations.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Openness on the edges

We're talking about Facebook, and I talked about Facebook as a marketplace (I was thinking more in the classical sense, not necessarily an e-commerce hub) meanwhile Ross Dawson has been highlighting the trend to openness, which many others are commenting on.

This conversation reminds me of one of stories in The Adventures of English , where it describes the melding of Old Norse and Old English:

"The new grammatical meld tended to happen in the borderland market towns; word followed trade. Clarity for commerce may have been the chief driving force."

Of course, English is the UK is still well known for its many dialects but has also continued to evolve around the world - we now have no dialects, such as Aussie Strine, Singlish in Singapore and many others. This original openness at the edges provided a platform for ongoing development.

Of course, information technology is a little different and unlike language, interoperability often calls for exact commonality. But perhaps a better comparison - and it pains me to say it - is email.

What do you think? Will openness make social networks the email of Web 2.0? This means walled gardens (or dialects) will exist, with different and unique functionality, but they will still understand each other just enough.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Replace or redundant?

Considering all my recent telecommunications problems, perhaps I should have thought about going completely wireless? This option has been seen for years as a solution for developing countries - for example, even recently there was news about a province of Vietnam where community phones are being replaced with high-speed WiMAX broadband connections and VoIP telephony.

Now here in Australia, Virgin Mobile are offering a completely wireless home phone and broadband package as fixed line replacement. The only problem I can see is that the package only contains 4GB of data and supports speeds of up to 512 kbps - hardly the high speed direction we want to be heading towards. I'm not sure if the limit here is technology or network access cost by Virgin?

But perhaps what is more interesting to ask, is if we go wireless for the last mile why do we still feel like we need a home phone at all?

The State of Data Visualisation

Smashing Magazine has a great article about different digital data visualisation techniques:

"There is a variety of conventional ways to visualize data - tables, histograms, pie charts and bar graphs are being used every day, in every project and on every possible occasion. However, to convey a message to your readers effectively, sometimes you need more than just a simple pie chart of your results. In fact, there are much better, profound, creative and absolutely fascinating ways to visualize data. Many of them might become ubiquitous in the next few years."

From a practical point of view, I really liked newsmap, "an application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News news aggregator. A treemap visualization algorithm helps display the enormous amount of information gathered by the aggregator".

It also provides links to a few free online visualisation tools including many eyes and swivel, but also circaVie and Xtimeline for creating timeline visualisations.

BTW If you are interested in Web design, then its worth exploring the rest of Smashing Magazine.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Relationship before conversation before transaction

In the last few weeks, the Facebook for business conversation has even reached these distant Aussie shores - I've had few conversation with different people in recent week who are asking questions about its value and why is it different from other networking tools like LinkedIn. In fact, I get the feeling that this is part of a wider conversation going on in different parts of the world right now - so is Facebook reaching a tipping point for business users, or will we just see another injection of ideas that will expand the Enterprise Web 2.0 computing stack beyond wikis, blogs and tagging?

If you've missed them, there have been a series of great posts by JP Rangaswami on the Facebook debate starting with Facebook and the enterprise: Part 1. One of his later posts talks about the issue of productivity and wasting time (something I also posted about the other day) - he makes a valid point about the technology innovation process, where people need to experiment and learn how a new technology might be applied and uses spreadsheets as an example:

"There were people playing with Visicalc, and they were followed by people who played with Excel. Digging around to find out how it worked, using it for all kinds of purposes. And all around them, people stood accusing. Accusing them of wasting time. Spreadsheets weren’t real work. they said."

For me, one of my main observations from playing with Facebook is that unlike passive networking tools like LinkedIn, you need to be actively logged into Facebook and using it to get anything out of it. Other people have talked about the idea of a Web OS, but have pointed at Google as an indication of the direction we are heading in. Perhaps, Facebook is really where we are heading in terms of a Web OS that is centred on what JP describes as "Relationship before conversation before transaction".

Unfortunately there isn't a lot in Facebook right now that can actually help me directly with the majority of my day to day work - right now there aren't enough of my work colleagues on it or even my customers, there are no Facebook applications that integrate with internal business processes and there is no integration with enterprise data (I'm not saying there isn't potential for this, its just not there right now).

On the other hand I'm currently playing with IBM's enterprise social software suite in their online Greenhouse lab (in fact I'm going to try and cross post this there). If we think of JP's "transaction" as an "activity" in Lotus Connections, then I can actually get a better feel for how something like Facebook can work inside the firewall. What I find harder to imagine, unless Facebook takes on Microsoft proportions and lives on every desktop, is how Facebook can really be the centre of the enterprise - its more likely it will become a marketplace than a workplace.

Friday, 3 August 2007

Don't use Enterprise Web 2.0 to homogenise organisations (again)

Over at the Collaborage blog, Todd Stephens addresses some of the productivity related objections against using social computing within organisations - he gives good arguments against the following four issues:

  • Excessive Socializing;
  • Users Spending too Much Time;
  • Maintaining Duplicate Information; and
  • More Software to Learn.

I would add to Stephens' about argument against duplicate information objection, that while from a pure data or information management point of view duplication is seen as waste, from a knowledge point of view duplication is not necessarily seen as a problem. From the knowledge perspective duplication can be desirable and may reflect the natural social life of information or the process of innovation taking place in an organisation. This is particularly true in large enterprises.

Think about the similar arguments presented by Mohanbir Sawhney in his HBR article, Don't Homogenize, Synchronize:

"CEOs start to urge—even force—people from different units to work together, setting up all manner of cross-functional and cross-business task forces and teams. They seek to establish companywide processes, to create a single “customer-focused” culture, and to impose uniform performance-measurement and compensation systems. Such moves sound rational—in theory. But in reality, attempts to erase organizational boundaries can be destructive. Different business units have different strategic and product imperatives, and different functions rely on different kinds of employees with different skills and ways of working. Imposing uniformity can blur the organization’s focus on product and functional excellence. By trying to optimize cooperation across units, executives end up lowering the performance of each unit.

There’s a better way. Rather than tear down organizational walls, you can make them permeable to information. You can synchronize all your company’s data on products, filtering it through linked databases and applications and delivering it in a coordinated, meaningful form to customers. As a result, you can present a single, unified face to the customer—a face that can change as market conditions warrant—without imposing organizational homogeneity on your people. Such synchronization can lead not just to stronger customer relationships and hence more sales but also to greater operational efficiency. It allows a company, for example, to avoid the high costs of maintaining many different information systems with redundant data."

I've always like his points about making organisational walls "permeable to information" and of course the general point about not "imposing organisational homogeneity".

Also, on the issue of learning new software I think one of the challenges for champions driving the adoption of enterprise social software is to keep it simple - there is always the risk that once we introduce social software inside the firewall it will mutate from liteware to bloatware. The lower learning overhead of Web 2.0 and social software tools can be easily lost if forget the Web 2.0 mantra of small pieces, loosely tied.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

NSW KM Forum: Follow up to KM Australia 2007

Even if like me you didn't make it to KM Australia 2007, there is some worthwhile post-conference coverage via the blogosphere:

I hear that many people were impressed by Michel Bauwens, who spoke about peer-to-peer at the conference. Bauwens actually posted a guest blog post on the forum's blog before the conference that is worth checking out. Patrick Lambe also joined us at the forum after the conference and gave us a guided tour across the Kingdom of Taxonomy.

Online customer service failure

The good news is that the saga is almost over, and I am finally back online. :-) Last night, I accidentally discovered I had broadband; this morning I found the online bill for my first month of service (I use this term loosely) had arrived... looks like another call to the phone company to ask some questions about strange charges.

Anyway, one of the observations during my time of being disconnected from the fast world web was our reliance again on the telephone for accessing and managing the different services that run our lives. The impact of not having any or decent Internet access was magnified by the time spent on hold.

Of course, this doesn't mean the whole online customer service experience is all rosy either. Shortly before losing phone and Internet access I needed to organise the disconnection of another utility. Going online I found an electronic form that I could complete to request disconnection. But I then discovered that if I submitted the request online it would take up to 20 working days to complete - alternatively I had the choice of ringing a call centre if I needed disconnecting more quickly.

The funny thing is that requesting disconnection from the call centre required them to email me a form, that I then completed by hand and faxed back. The disconnection was then confirmed by someone who phoned me back and the actual disconnection was completed in 5 working days. The charge for quick offline service was no different from the slow online service. Is it just me, or is there something seriously wrong with this picture?

A few years ago now I actually wrote a short piece for a local business e-zine about the importance of empowering customers with self-service - see Empower customers with self-service, not automation. But there are two sides to the self-service equation - one that I've covered is empowerment, the other is control. Over at Anecdote, Shawn points to a post by Dan Lockton on the architecture of control:

"Architectures of Control are features designed into things which intentionally attempt to restrict or enforce certain behaviour on the part of the users. The most prevalent examples are DRM and other attempts to control how users can interact with software and data, but similar thinking (in different degrees) is evident in many aspects of the built environment - such as anti-loiter and anti-homeless benches - and in product design in general. The term architectures of control is used by Lawrence Lessig in the seminal Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, although the basic idea has been expressed in a number of fields by many different people."

I wonder, was the online disconnection form simply a rationing or filtering mechanism? When you think about it that really is a terrible way to treat customers - that is, if you need something urgently then it will cost you your time.

On the other hand are they simply treating online customers here in Australia badly because they are the minority - Ross Dawson points to research for his Future of Media Report 2007 that links broadband speed to low participation in social media here in Australia. Perhaps its not just social media that is affected, but e-business as a whole?