Saturday, 30 August 2008

SNA study of

Laurie Lock Lee from Optimice has published the results of a social network analysis (SNA) study of the Wikipatterns community (pdf). Laurie used SNA to examine the value of participation, health and value of new relationships of this particular community, using a combination of a survey and "wiki mining" to gather data.

A couple of interesting results in relation to the value a wiki brings:

"Looking at the percentage differentials, we can see that those that took on the more active roles of commenting, collaborating, editing and to a lesser extent, exploring, were associated with gaining more value from their participation.  In other words one could assume that those more active participants also gained more value from being members."


"of the 22 new relationships developed through meeting in, the majority have been rated as ‘very important’ by the respondents. This is an extremely positive result for  the community in its ability to broker highly valued new relationships through participation in the wiki."

BTW I'm not entirely convinced we need a new term like wiki mining to describe the gathering of relationship data from a wiki, but its certainly worth recognising that a wiki does offer a particularly rich environment for an SNA study to draw information about different interactions.

Friday, 29 August 2008

The value of social networking, now just business as usual

Metro Station are a hot band of the moment, but that's not why I mentioned them here. I like this little story from an interview with them about how they formed:

So how did all of you guys meet?

TC: Uh, me and Mason originally first met because, I knew his little brother, and I just kept hearing, ‘man, I gotta meet Mason,’ and then we got together and hung out, and a few days later, I went to his house and we recorded our first song like that night. I guess our parents were kinda shocked, cause we work pretty good together, and kept making songs after that. Eventually, I was searching on MySpace, and I came across the band that Blake was in, I sent him a message trying to see if he could play synth for us, and he was just like gonna help me and Mason out kind of, and us just do a song together for fun and it turned into something bigger than we thought and he dropped out of his other band, and the three of us started playing shows around LA and we were trying to get signed and put a record out and we searched and we found Anthony after about three drummers. He was a blessing. [emphasis added]

I think this is a fairly typical experience across all industries where people are using online social networking tools, that they are just part of that blended mix of real world and online. Social networking really is just turning into business as usual, don't you think?

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Frog in a SharePoint - is the water boiling yet?

The other day I posted a link to the summary of a conference presentation, titled "SharePoint can lead to huge chaos". Looking at my stats this morning, I noticed an above average response to this post in terms of hits. Clearly, this issue grabbed the attention of some people and in fact this is the very reason why I posted the link, because I know its an emerging problem.

However, its not just about the technology and in response to offers from Microsoft-specific vendors, IPP Consulting are offering a vendor-neutral approach to deploying and sustaining MOSS (pdf)*. But its interesting... the phone isn't exactly ringing off the hook with people asking for help?

Maybe the water just isn't boiling yet?

Here are some more ideas to help you check the temperature - 7 Signs Your SharePoint Project Is in Trouble:

  1. You require a large amount of process change
  2. Your defaults encourage bad behaviour
  3. SharePoint doesn't work well for ____, but you're going to use it for that task anyway
  4. You have a hostile business-to-IT relationship
  5. You have a disconnected workforce
  6. You're focused on turning off features
  7. Your organization is bad at project management

What do you think? How is your SharePoint implementation going?

*Why vendor-neutral? Because your investment in SharePoint should still be based on a business case and requirements that are independent of the technology.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

My Blogging Manifesto

Twittering with James Robertson and Alex Manchester, the other day we found ourselves talking about how we define blogging and the differences between plain old content management and blogging... here are some more thoughts on that issue:

This is something I've talked about in the past, describing it as the grey area issue between social computing and other traditional information management tools. What this means is that it is possible for social media tools to be used for traditional information management, and also vice versa. Consider that the earliest "webblogs" pre-dated the existence of blogging software. Blogging is therefore not defined by the software - instead the software evolved to meet a need, allow rapid adoption and then enhanced it (typically as innovators were able to hack and develop different scripts, plugins and services). Likewise, other applications have also since adopted blogging functionality, which can be defined at the most basic level of permitting the chronological addition of content. Of course most users now expect far more sophistication in their blogging tools, including features such as commenting, tagging, RSS feeds and more.

However, this blogging functionality still doesn't define the activity of blogging (what I consider to be the "form" of usage and is different from the "function" of the software). Its like the difference between using PowerPoint as an artist's medium, rather than a presentation tool. So the key difference between blogging and content management is the intent of the blogger to engage their readers on some level over a period of time, rather than simply broadcasting information. And that to me to is best described as a conversation, although hyper-connected one at that.

The inclusion of commenting (and other track back)functionality to me reflects a desire of the blogger to engage with their readers, particularly those that don't blog themselves. In particular, a blog without comments limits the conversation to only those that also blog. But an even better proxy of intent is how the blogger engages with the conversation around them. Ultimately, participation is still more important than functionality.

In this respect I don't consider the posting of news items under the banner of a "blog" as blogging. It has nothing to do with the blogger's voice, although this might make them a more effective and credible as a blogger overall. Again it comes back to intent. But remember, this isn't a prescriptive statement and it doesn't stop anyone from using RSS or blogging software for broadcasting information (a great information management benefit).

Incidentally, Alex reflects on the key message in Niall Cook's book, "Enterprise 2.0", with a blog post titled, Intranets can't just be about conversations. This reminds me of the model in Stenmark's paper on "The Relationship between Information and Knowledge", which I use to discuss the different roles of intranets:

  • Information;
  • Communication;
  • Awareness; and
  • Collaboration.

In the past most organisations only used the intranet for information and some communication. Intranet 2.0 however is beginning to offer a much more rounded purpose - getting back to Alex's point, I agree its not just about conversation. Similarly, blogging software can be used for all the purposes listed above, but in my mind a true blog is still all about the conversation.

Information security myopia

My article in the current edition of IDM magazine used examples of traditional information security failures to provide some balance against concerns about Web 2.0 security. In the latest example from the UK a contractor lost an unencrypted memory containing "details about 10,000 prolific offenders as well as names, dates of births and some release date of all 84,000 prisoners in England and Wales - and 33,000 records from the police national computer."

Again, I'm not saying that Web 2.0 is more secure but that we need to look at the information security risks of both existing technologies and the new social media tools. Even in this latest example the data wasn't stolen with some criminal objective by the person who lost it, they probably just wanted a copy of the data to work on offline. In that respect this kind of incident is probably just the tip of the iceberg. A marketing study by Dell suggests that hundreds of thousands of laptops are lost at airport each year - they claim:

"half of the mobile professionals it polled for the study admitted to carrying confidential company data on their computers without implementing the appropriate steps to ensure its protection."

Securing enterprise data and devices is important, but one other obvious part of this strategy is for organisations to also provide the collaboration and information access channels that people need so that staff and contractors don't need to download data on to sneaker net or elsewhere in the first place.

Monday, 25 August 2008

"SharePoint can lead to huge chaos"

Blogging from NZ's BrightStar Intranet conference, Michael provides a summary of Chandima Kulathilake's presentation on SharePoint governance. Kulathilake is a Microsoft SharePoint specialist and explains how "SharePoint can lead to huge chaos":

  • Site proliferation ... no plans
  • Server proliferation ... people and groups doing their own thing
  • Technology proliferation ... many different tools, where do you put things?

Since this warning comes from a SharePoint specialist, don't say you haven't been warned. Of course, IMHO governance should ideally be addressed before you pick your solution. In a brown field site its quite likely that SharePoint overlaps with other existing solutions, which can only add to the chaos that if left unchecked it will create.

ICT is the 5th most important factor in attracting and retaining staff

During the last year or so I had been working on a number of projects that linked ICT to staff recruitment and retention, so its always good to see other evidence supporting the argument for investing in the information workplace. I noticed that Colliers International's 2008 Office Tenant Survey reports that cutting-edge ICT is the 5th most important factor in attracting and retaining staff. And compared to the last survey in 2005, its importance to recruitment and retention has increased.

However, while its nice to have a statistic to quote in presentations and reports, I wonder what their definition of "cutting edge" is?

Thursday, 21 August 2008

The Lean Information Workplace

You get the impression that many organisations think that good information management is a nice to have, rather than something that can help the bottom line. However, reading The Complete Lean Enterprise again I'm reminded (and encouraged) that information management really is a critical area for improvement. In the introduction, the authors say that organisations are only focused on achieving a 35%-40% productivity gain in their production areas, when in reality they should be aiming for a 400% gain through improvements to both production and non-production areas, i.e. problem solving and information management processes. So information management is important in both non-service and service organisations.

Now, bearing in mind the current economic environment, isn't this something every company should be interested in doing?

Maybe part of the problem is understanding how much will this cost to achieve and how much money will I save, especially if I need to buy yet more information technology. Now, there are couple of highlights in the book that focus our attention on understanding the types of "waste" in information management value streams (ranging from overproducing to underutilised people) and their root causes - and through the value mapping process, you can establish the cost of current processes. However, the part I really like is their approach to prioritising identified improvement projects ("kaizens"), which is:

  1. Eliminate non-value-added tasks that don't require new IT;
  2. Simplify steps that require minimal IT support;
  3. Improve the flow of transactions or paperwork; and
  4. Implement the solutions that require significant new IT.

If you look at both points 2 and 3, then I see value first in looking at what you can do with the information systems you have available - so its not just about buying new information technology!

However, with my information system hat on, I do believe its also worth thinking about what systems might be easily implemented to solve a large number of steps but that still only need minimal IT support. Today the wiki is the fashionable approach to providing a flexible information workplace (and maybe you can save a few more dollars by going open source), but it might equally be Microsoft SharePoint, some other portal platform, Web-based project spaces or even (heaven forbid!) Lotus Notes!

All these systems have the potential to solve many small process problems that would otherwise be too costly to solve individually. So, if you already have one of these platforms on hand, are you maximising its potential to help power your lean information management workplace? If you don't have a platform like this available, would it be beneficial to invest in one if you could solve many problems (rather than investing in a large system to solve a single problem?). The new generation of conversational collaboration tools are also ideally placed to help solve design problems and are worth considering if this is a point of pain.

So is creating a lean information workplace a priority in your organisation and how are you going about it? Or is information management still treated as a nice to have?

The new kid on the vendor-neutral CMS consulting block

James Robertson from Step Two blogged recently that:

"As far as we are aware, we are the only truly vendor-neutral CMS consultants in Australia"

Just a reminder (and in the interest of some friendly competition), there is actually a new kid on the block (although we have a heap of experience)... IPP Consulting. I've actually recently added a new Information & Knowledge Management page on the IPP Website to explain the areas we work in.

As far as being vendor-neutral,

"IPP Consulting does not supply any hardware or software and has no financial connection with suppliers of equipment, software or human resources. This assures our clients that our audits, assessments and recommendations are structured solely towards achieving cost effective solutions, and are not motivated by supply margins."

We're so vendor-neutral that we are even using an open source information management methodology. :-)

We're all about choice, so once you've spoken to Step Two don't forget to give me or Brian Bailey at IPP a call too! A capability statement and client list can be provided on request.

Error! This Enterprise upgrade requires Change Management 2.0 is installed

Kate has shared her slides from the Enterprise 2.0 for Information Professionals conference and also commented a little on the point about innovation that I also mentioned in my reflection post:

"The entire process of adopting enterprise 2.0 is an innovation activity. It is about driving new ways of interacting between people and with new technology. It is about using this technology to enable new connections and to deepen collaborative capabilities within and beyond the organisation.

Thus the implementation of enterprise 2.0 would be prey to all of the challenges of innovation. This means that change management, stakeholder management and project management skills must all be employed to enable adoption within the organisation. Fun stuff!"

Kate is spot on. Unfortunately I find that it is often hard for people to understand (and maybe accept!) that I'm not an IT consultant, but a business and technology consultant. Managing innovation and change management are key components of my skill set (and its these types of non-technology areas I studied as part of Masters in Business & Technology at UNSW).

Personally I apply a few innovation and change management concepts in my work:

Even if you don't think change management comes into the equation when it comes to deploying enterprise social computing, bear in mind that at an organisational or management level you will still be moving through a change process even if you aren't managing it actively.

Don't have time read all this theory? Give me a call and I can give you the hour long version over a coffee. :-)

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Reflecting on Enterprise 2.0 for Information Professionals

Last week I attended the second day of Key Forum's Enterprise 2.0 for Information Professionals conference and I blogged some short summaries of each presentation. I thought might add some more reflective thoughts on the whole of that day:

  • Neither open source or proprietary tools won out. People are picking the tools that make sense within the context of their strategy, available skill set, functionality and budget - what's right for one is not necessarily right for another. For example, Andrew Mitchell highlighted Mediawiki's text editor as key functional weakness that would make him think twice about using it for a broader deployment in his company. Andrew also reminded us again of the distinction between truth (business records if you like?) and information that was useful at a point in time (transitory information or conversational collaboration?) - unfortunately some organisations treat all information as a record and need to capture both types. IMHO addressing record keeping is a big gap in the enterprise social computing space.
  • There is still a need to help cross the divide between those who understand the social computing concept and explaining this to the rest of the business. Of course, those that have experienced Web 2.0 now have an expectation of access to a similar environment internally. I can't help but think of this as a classic technology innovation process.
  • There did appear to be a consensus that Enterprise 2.0 isn't a free for all - some level of structure, order, control and support is needed. For example, don't expect the right kind of order to emerge in a forum or Wiki if you start with a completely blank sheet. Be open, while retaining the power to moderate but in practice avoid doing it!
  • From a business perspective I noticed that there are still some concerns about how social media might both mitigate and contribute to information overload - that is by reducing the size of our inbox, we end up requiring more demand for people's attention from other tools. My take on this is that social media technologies can only help to reduce information overload where the skills exist, but users lack the appropriate tools.
  • The Ernst & Young Facebook case study also raised some interesting issues about online identity if you are asked to represent your organisation online - there is a real need for the employer to ensure the employee understands how to protect their privacy in the Web 2.0 environment.

However, the one thing I didn't get a sense of from the day was the level of impact Enterprise 2.0 was actually having on local organisations in terms of radical change. Clearly enterprise social computing is having a benefit to collaboration, but I think we are still a long way from seeing a real Enterprise 2.0 in the wild.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Redesigning the NSW DPI Intranet

The NSW Department of Primary Industries intranet was picked out earlier in the year as being one of the world's top 10 intranets. These slides outline the process they went through for the redesign that won them this recognition:

NSW DPI Intranet Redesign
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: intranet redesign)

IPP looking for Recruitment Consultant with a "smile"

This is IPP's first attempt at using social media tools like YouTube to help us stand out from the crowd, but we are also looking at other ways to use video in the recruitment process. Watch IPP's recruitment and contracting manager, Kaitlan Murray, explain why you should come and work for IPP as a recruitment consultant...

Read the rest of the ad on

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Enterprise 2.0 for Information Professionals

I'm at the second day of Enterprise 2.0 for Information Professionals, thanks to a complimentary invite from Key Forums as I'm presenting at another event later in the year.

  • Paul McDonald (Gilbert + Tobin) - presenting "naked" (that is, without the PowerPoint) I missed the start of Paul's entertaining session on the golden rules of Enterprise 2.0, but was around for a group discussion activity on some rules that I'll share my thoughts on later; and
  • Matt Moore - currently talking about using social software to reduce email overload (Matt has promised to post his presentation and a related podcast online soon).

Coming up later today are Alexei Fey (Savings & Loans Credit Union), Kate Carruthers, Sharon Cartwright, Andrew Mitchell (Urbis) and Lindy McKeown.


  • Alexei Fey - interesting tour of Savings & Loans' adventures in social computing, including how they use Facebook (20% of staff utilise it), their external blogs, the history of failure and then success with an internal forum, their alumni program, how they stay in touch with absent staff and marketing - his overall message, investing in this technology is cheaper than low staff morale (and you can reduce costs through open source and bringing the work inside);
  • Kate Carruthers - explains why deploying social computing isn't like rolling out an ERP system and provides a Machiavellian view of introducing enterprise 2.0, including an overview of drivers (e.g. social networking traffic now greater than email) and implications (e.g. findability - social computing inside the firewall will add to existing information management problems);
  • Sharon Cartwright - how Ernst & Young is using Facebook for recruitment, although apparently E&Y doesn't allow its use from inside the firewall;
  • Andrew Mitchell - Andrew has previously shared his experiences with using wikis at Urbis at the NSW KM Forum; and
  • Lindy McKeown - talking about using Second Life (and other 3D environments) in education - Lindy is working with the University of Southern Queensland to develop their Virtual Worlds Strategy.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

The iPhone Cometh (to the Enterprise, like it not)

Having played around with an iPhone in the Apple store in Sydney, I've been reflecting on the hype and talking to an Apple guru I know, Damian Damjanovski, to understand better how and where it fits as an enterprise business technology.

Personally I think there is a lot of misinformation flying around about the iPhone from all sides, however I did enjoy this comment:

"I don't recall Apple going after the Enterprise...More the Enterprise came after Apple."

Lets not forget how the BlackBerry first infiltrated the enterprise. If I worked for enterprise IT, I'd want to be on the front foot with the iPhone this time around. Perhaps this explains why a law firm like Mallesons Stephen Jaques is evaluating the iPhone sooner, rather than later? To me, that sounds like a smart move.

What do you think?

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Plenty of Open Source choices for the enterprise

Browsing through InfoWorld's list of the best open source (and freeware) software for 2008, I naturally zeroed in on the list of collaboration tools. However other than Elgg, a social networking platform, the rest of the social software winners are the typical list of suspects for blogging and wikis,  e.g. Wordpress and Mediawiki. As a side note, personally I wouldn't automatically pick Mediawiki as the best option for your organisation without understanding some of your key requirements - e.g the technical platform you want to run it on, security needs, etc.

The enterprise applications space offers a much more interesting selection, if only because of the diverse range of enterprise functions covered. With the exception of email and calendaring (listed under the collaboration category), the enterprise applications category includes tools for BI, BPM, CRM, ECM, ERP, Portals, Project Management and Reporting. If you aren't currently using open source, then certainly no one can argue you don't have a choice of where to dip your toe into the open source water!

However, on reflection I noticed the list has quite a few areas missing that might interest me, such as:

  • Tools to help with findability, like search and tagging;
  • Enterprise RSS;
  • Mashing;
  • Instant messaging and persistent chat; and
  • Microblogging.

Any suggestions anyone?

BTW I would be really interested to talk anyone in my part of the world who is making use of open source enterprise collaboration and business applications.

Friday, 1 August 2008

IIM event in Sydney: Managing Information in 2008 and Beyond - A Practical Perspective (13th August)

Just doing my bit to help promote this IIM event during August:

"The presentation examines the risks inherent in managing information in today's technology-enabled business world, and provides some guidance on how to deal with these risks.

By generating increasing numbers of transactions and volumes of information (data, documents, web content and records), information technologies have stimulated the generation of even more information and at a faster rate. Practical approaches to mitigate information risk management are often overlooked by organisations."

See the IIM Website for more information and how to register (note: this event is free but you must register before 7th August).

Trusting the Cloud

Nothing like a list in a blog post to start a discussion... in this case Stacey Higginbotham at GigaOM gives us 10 Reasons Enterprises Aren’t Ready to Trust the Cloud - she writes in her introduction:

"I have no doubt that this is The Next Big Thing in computing, but sometimes I get a little tired of the noise... So let’s turn down the noise level and add a dose of reality. 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.

Its well worth reading through the comments for the different perspectives. I think my gut reaction to the list is similar to many others (and very similar to what I discuss in my recent IDM article) that yes, there are issues, but this is a new space and personally I think some will be solved indirectly. The bigger issues in fact are the non-technology challenges that are emerging from how we use the cloud.

Hat tip to Martin.