Tuesday 31 May 2005

New Shared Technology Research

ANTA - the soon to be abolished Australian National Training Authority - have published a new report titled New technology, training and public funding: The case for greater flexibility, that adds to their past Shared Technology research.

Even while these report are focused on the needs of the vocational education sector in Australia, they do provide some interesting insights into technology adoption and trends. The new report investigates the views of enterprises that are using new technology and how they respond to new technology training requirements. It includes a discussion of theory around technology adoption and some case studies.

Shared Technology: A Road Map for Traditional and Emerging Industries to 2008 looks at the technologies that are likely to have an impact in a range of industries in the next five years to 2008. The key technologies they identified to be influential across many industries were:

  • increased use of integrated voice and data communication;
  • increased use of wireless communication technologies;
  • continually increasing processing speed of equipment; and
  • use of independent power systems.

Monday 30 May 2005

Industry Update No.4: TeamFrame from Crux Cybernetics

Talking to Maarten Tentij, Managing Director of five-year old Sydney-based software developer Crux Cybernetics, is a refreshing change - rather than diving into TeamFrame's features and functionality, Tentij's initial focus is on business outcomes and how technology can support service delivery.

TeamFrame meets this objective by helping organisations to connect planning to action by providing an online work and resource management solution that is flexible and responsive to change in dynamic service industries. In this way processes can be captured in templates and workflow but adjusted to meet new need demands or situations. It is then possible to build common best practice standards over time.

By using TeamFrame's reporting tools, organisations can retrospectively mine past projects to look at what is and isn't working. From this perspective TeamFrame also helps organisations to manage risk by picking up on issues before they become problems.

The functionality of the TeamFrame application is built around what Tentij calls the the Optimal Practice Methodology (PDF).

The actual application is provided as a hosted ASP service using the resources of ac3 at the Australian Technology Park (where Crux Cybernetics are also based). Users access TeamFrame using a Web browser and Macromedia Flash is used to provide a rich user interface. It is suitable for small teams and large organisations - for example it has been used by a small software development company as well as the marketing department of a financial services organisation. The software was successfully deployed at international financial giant HSBC in 2004 to manage its outsourced IT work.

In recent news, Crux Cybernetics used CeBIT last week as an opportunity to announce the release of TeamFrame version 3 with the following new features:

  • File Attach and Share for Teams (FAST - an easy way for project participants to securely access and share project files, no matter where they are)
  • Cross-company project sharing
  • Custom risk management
  • Expense reporting

BTW You can also check out an exclusive Chief Technology Solutions article on the TeamFrame portal, title The Sum is Greater than the Whole, that looks at the role of trust and technology in effective collaboration.

Disclaimer: Information on this site is of a general nature. Please seek advice for specific circumstances. Unless otherwise stated, please assume that I have no commercial relationship with the vendors or products discussed.

Previous Industry Updates:

Sunday 29 May 2005

Chief Technology Solutions Associates

My Website has undergone a minor update to put greater emphasis on highlighting my range of vendor neutral and strategic consulting services that include system reviews, strategy and planning, knowledge management, software and systems selection, and development.

Something else I'd also been intending to do for a while is provide a mention and some links to a few complementary businesses that I work closely with:

  • AdeptKM
  • Optimice
  • ThinkingShift
Read more on my associates page.

Thursday 26 May 2005

Observations from Redesigning your Intranet and CeBIT

As you might have guessed from my recent posts, this week I've been pretty much focused on the Ark Group's Redesigning your Intranet conference and CeBIT, both of which are taking place in Sydney at the moment.

The Ark Group's intranet conference is always popular and its a good place to get a feel for what's happening across a wide range of organisations from government to construction and finance to telecommunications. Some of the common issues I observed that are challenging many participants in all industries include:

  • Dealing with the ever present problem of getting management and stakeholders to engage with the different aspects of running an intranet;
  • The need to evolve intranets into extranets and a desire to reconcile the management of internal and external facing sites; and
  • The increasing use of intranets as platforms for delivering rich media, access to business applications and collaborative tools.
Some participants expressed dissatisfaction with the capabilities of content management system software and vendor support, but I suspect some of this has origins in the growing complexity of intranets and how people plan, acquire and manage their intranet "systems". I was however a little surprised about the lack of awareness of social software like blogs, wikis and RSS.

As for CeBIT, it really is a rather overwhelming smorgasbord of different IT vendors (CeBIT itself divides them into about 15 or so major categories). I was interested to look at both content management solutions as well as other products for project management, governance, voice over IP telephony and web-based video conferencing and of course mobile solutions. However, just focusing on the content management system space, some of the companies I spoke to at CeBIT include (and in no particular order) Komodo CMS, ISYS, Crux Cybernetics, Intranet Dashboard, Solutione, Internetrix, Weblogics and Elcom Technology. Look out for industry updates on some of these vendors in the future.

PS Also look out for my latest article in the May/June edition of Image & Data Manager (IDM) article where I look at the advantages, disadvantages and technology choices of using wikis within organisations. A copy of this article will be available in my IDM archive in due course or pick up a free copy of the magazine at IDM's CeBIT stand!

Tuesday 24 May 2005

Industry Update Extra: CeBIT starts today

Just a reminder that CeBIT starts in Sydney today. Some of the vendors I've covered or will be covering in the ChiefTech blog are exhibitors.

"CeBIT Australia is Australasia's leading Information & Communications Technology (ICT) event for the business marketplace and covers the entire spectrum of technology and the key elements that make up the ICT products and services marketplace. This is the only Australian event where you can explore the full range of next generation global technologies and solutions."

Previous Industry Updates:

Monday 23 May 2005

Conductive organisations: Moving beyond automation to optimal collaboration

I've been playing with the idea of collaborative infrastructure and more recently collaborative ecology for a while now, however a new term in this field comes from Canadian KM guru Hubert Saint-Onge: Conductive Organisations.

A conductive organisation is one "that continuously generates and renews capabilities to achieve breakthrough performance by enhancing the quality and flow of knowledge and by calibrating its strategy, culture, structure, and systems to the needs of its customers and the marketplace."

That's the definition they provide anyway. If you want to learn more you can read the book (co-authored with Charles Armstrong) or have a look Saint-Onge's take on the conductive organisation from the CIO's perspective, which apart from being is free is perhaps a little more accessible.

I particularly like the point Saint-Onge makes in the article where he says "if all it took were wireless technology and data mining, every business would have the perfect collaborative environment. In fact, technology is absolutely required, but it's insufficient by itself to build an effective knowledge platform. The right approach and process must be put in place to harness the full potential of a technology-enabled collaboration system"

It fits in with my own ideas that "collaborative" ability and know-how is source of competitive advantage that can't be easily replicated with technology alone.

Tuesday 17 May 2005


IBM is telling the world that it too is getting on board the blogging train...

"IBM today is publishing an announcement on its Intranet site encouraging all 320,000+ employees world wide to consider engaging actively in the practice of "blogging". This move follows several years of persistent grassroots efforts by an informal community of IBM bloggers."

Apparently they used an internal wiki (not Quickplace then?) to develop their own corporate blogging guidelines.

24th May: Consolidating your Intranet

Back in 2003 I enjoyed presenting a workshop on "Evolving Your Intranet into a Corporate Portal" at the Ark Group's Annual Re-Designing your Intranet conference. Now I'm pleased to announce that I've been called in at late notice to fill in for a workshop next week at this year's event. This time around rather than talking about intranet evolution, I'll be running a workshop on "Consolidating your Intranet". I'll be covering:

  • Concepts and building blocks
  • Current trends
  • Strategy and planning
  • Audit & analysis
  • Issues in design
  • Implementation, management and monitoring

Can't make the conference but would like to know more? Drop me a line or give me a call to discuss how I can help you to consolidate or evolve your intranet.

Monday 16 May 2005

Suits, cardigans... but what about the users?

The suits versus cardigans debate in the Australian IT industry continues - a couple of weeks ago in the Australian newspaper's IT section Campbell Arnott's CIO , "suit" Craig Garvin, proclaimed that "It is not about whether I am technical or not, it is about whether I have a good team."

Later Aussie retailer, Woolworths, weighs into the debate in Computerworld, where their CIO warns that "If the people are not right, everything will be difficult" and advises us to "Emphasize leadership management skills over technical skills. Great leaders first, great technicians second."

However, it has occured to me that maybe what both the cardigans and the suits should really be worried about is the users. Users have access to an ever growing range of user-driven software tools (from the humble spreadsheet to mobile devices and Web-based social software applications, such as wikis) but they may not always be aware of the information risks associated with them.

For example, as social software tools like wikis evolve up and integrate other functionality such as workflow and complex access control mechanisms, the risk of users introducing a costly design mistake will grow. Just consider the recent history of mistakes with spreadsheets.

What can we do about reducing this risk? IMHO the technicians, suits and users all need to be included in the IT management equation. That way the right information risk controls and know-how can be embedded across the organisation, rather than resting within the domain of the IT department.

Thursday 12 May 2005

Technology & Business (T&B) reviews document management systems

Matthew Lipscombe, from DocBanq, has pointed out that Technology & Business (T&B) magazine's April review of 7 document management systems is now available online on ZDNet Australia. T&B review Objective, DocuShare, HummingBird, DocBanq, Interwoven, SmartLibrary and Trim.

One word of caution - this review isn't really going to be much use in helping you to pick the right solution, just possible candidates. As the reviewers puts it:

"In this extremely competitive market place picking a clear winner is almost impossible. It is a dead heat between Interwoven and Hummingbird. DocuShare, Objective and Trim coming a close second. Also don't discount Docbanq or SmartLibrary as a solution if you are a smaller business and have limited budget for investing in infrastructure."

PS If you need assistance with selecting a document management system, please contact me. Further information can be found on my Website and don't forget to check my industry update series for further software options not covered by T&B.

Wednesday 11 May 2005

Bluetooth liaisons with Nokia's Sensor

Talking of social software, you might remember this story from the Sydney Morning Herald's Column 8 about a brief laptop-to-laptop liaison on a commuter train. Well, Nokia, the company that brought us life caching with its LifeBlog service, now brings us Sensor.

Nokia describe Sensor as a "spontaneous, sociable application for spontaneous, sociable people". What it actually does is use Bluetooth to allow one Sensor user to 'sense' other Sensor users within a 10m radius of their phone. Each Sensor user creates a personal profile page that is accessible to other Sensor users in range. You can also exchange messages, and share files.

Grey Area: Social Software or Information Management?

A recent contribution I made to an online forum and a later an e-mail conversation had me thinking about the grey area between social software and information management.

What I mean by "grey area" is the fuzzy line between using tools like blogging and RSS as genuine social software or simply for the purposes of information management. What's the difference? Well, that difference can be subtle but I think essentially for a blog to be used as social software we need to see evidence of hyperlinked dialogue (or polylogue perhaps?) taking place. In other words social or community blogging isn't a style of communication, its a form of electronic conversation. On the other hand, one-way communication isn't a conversation (no matter how you chunk up the content or style it) - but blogging and RSS technologies still provide a perfectly valid mechanism for helping audiences deal with information overload.

Of course, real life is never this black and white - we get a grey area because of the intent of the blogger, the reaction of the audience and their ability or willingness to engage in conversation, and the skills of the communicators to use this medium well. People, particularly knowledge workers, are also good at blending communication and a blogged conversation can shift between other channels and modes. For example, Podcasting - at least in its current and typical form - exists in the grey area. To move out of the grey area we need someone to come up with a popular way of tagging, slicing and hyperlinking multimedia content. (Any suggestions anyone, or should I patent this idea now?). Also within an organisation blogging and RSS could be used to support a mixture of conversation and information management. The question is would the use of this technology for information management help to diffuse the idea of social blogging into an organisation? That will depend more on the collaborative ecology in place at that organisation - i.e. technology, know-how and culture.

BTW Before you ask, yes by my own definition I would say this ChiefTech blog currently exists in the grey area. It could go either way, but that depends on the you my audience and your willingness to engage me in conversation ;-)

Tuesday 10 May 2005

Industry Update No. 3: GMB Research & Development

Last week I spoke with John Simeon, Sales Director for Asia-Pacific at GMB Research & Development, who briefed me on the upcoming launch of their new KnowledgeOne (K1) product, which is set to be released in July. GMB, headquartered in Sydney, Australia, has a twenty year history in the information management field and is well known for its RecFind product (which K1 replaces - more on this). GMB has over 500 customers in Australia and also has a presence in New Zealand, North America, the United Kingdom.

In an exciting development for GMB, K1 replaces RecFind which has its last planned major update at the beginning of the year. I say replace, because GMB emphasis that K1 isn't simply a rebadging of RecFind. Existing RecFind customers will be able to move over to K1 as an upgrade, while still continuing to have access to the same functionality. User profiles will mean that users will only see the functionality they need and are permitted to use. However, those that decide to tap into the new functionality will be able to do a lot more by using K1 as a platform for a broader range of information and knowledge management tasks.

John explained that out-of-the-box K1 can be used to provide customer relationship, human resource and helpdesk functions. The key benefits for organisation doing this is that they can reduce the number of separate applications being used while also allowing data to be better integrated. In this respect, one of the K1 features John described that really interested me is the availability of a wizard that will allow superusers to further customise K1 in terms of look and feel, but also the ability to add and remove data fields. Some of the other technical features of K1 are that is developed in .Net, is browser-based, has multilingual capabilities and integrates with Active Directory.

We also spoke a little about GMB's e-mail archiving solution, called GEM. Recognising that user behavior can be a barrier to dealing effectively with e-mail content, GEM is able to automate e-mail capture using programmable filters and workflow. GEM works with Exchange, Domino and Groupwise.

In the next industry updates I'll be reporting on Crux Cybernetics and Grouputer.

Disclaimer: Information on this site is of a general nature. Please seek advice for specific circumstances. Unless otherwise stated, please assume that I have no commercial relationship with the vendors or products discussed.

Previous Industry Updates:

Nicholas Carr on Utility Computing and RSS

For those of you who haven't heard of Nicholas Carr, he's the guy who created a few waves in the information technology industry last year with a Harvard Business Review article and book that asked the provactive question, does IT matter?

has a go at refreshing this debate with a new article in MIT Sloan Management Review, titled The End of Corporate Computing. He draws a comparison with the history of commoditisation in electricity generation with what he suggests will be an eventual move to utility computing. Underlying this idea appears to be a focus on the thin-client computing trend, built on top of “highcapacity, fiber-optic communication networks”, along with software tools and data that are univerally compatible with each other using virtualisation and Web-services. This will mean organisations can simply plug in and access as much, or as little, computing capacity and applications as they need.

Unfortunately, while I think Carr has done a good job of explaining the drivers for and benefits of utility computing, I don't really see any ground breaking observations here. He does make a good point about the management mindset being a barrier to utility computing, but I think he fails to consider how organisations will manage the risks associated with utility computing and the nature of change possible in the digital world. I was also interested to note that he makes no mention of wireless and mobile computing or peer-to-peer networks.

Now, along the way to finding this new article I discovered that Carr how has his own blog, called Rough Type. One of his recent posts outlines his thoughts on RSS as the next “killer protocol for push media”. But what makes this post worth mentioning is the cheeky comment from Wired that points to a May 2004 article in that magazine where they had already revisited their 1997 predictions about push technology. In the later article, Wired comments that:

But while the vision has become vivid once more, the seamless Web of the original push fantasy is almost as far away as ever. This is because the Web has grown far bigger, more diverse, more open, and messier. It cannot be unified by a single easy-to-learn, concretely useful specification like RSS... But one of the things we have learned since push is that at the level of real applications, we will continue to live in a world of translations, patches, interruptions, incomplete instructions, neat tricks, false hopes, and a receding universality that's always almost just as far away. Paradoxically, this is a sign that the progress is real.

An interesting thought considering Carr's ideas on utility computing.

Monday 9 May 2005

Its all about content: PDAs, 3G and what people want

A Gartner report on the global PDA market shows a reversal of previous predictions that suggested this sector was in decline and instead grows by 25% in the 1st quarter of 2005. According to Gartner, "This increase is primarily the result of the growing popularity of wireless e-mail, with users favoring larger displays and QWERTY keyboards that are operated with both hands."

Meanwhile over the weekend, Business Sunday (transcript available) on the Nine Network provided a report on the 3G evolution in mobile telecommunications that is finally gathering momentum here in Australia. Business Sunday pitched 3G as the mobile technology that no one asked for, but when you consider the growth in wireless PDAs above its not too far fetched to see that wireless PDA users are at some point going to start demanding access to rich content and information services that go beyond e-mail on the move.

Of course the big question is what will this content be? If we listen to MIS magazine, then the future of 3G content (for consumers at least) is adult content... which isn't much use to the business user, although ironically they will benefit from the investment in the infrastructure. So what might we expect in the business space from mobile content? Just a couple of ideas:

  • Mobile digital dashboards (although this may need to be mirrored on the desktop); and
  • Web-services that can bring existing internal business content to the small screen.
Maybe not quite as exciting as girls, gambling and games, but collaboration and access to information is the content of doing business.

Friday 6 May 2005

Are smaller enterprises in a better position to get the benefits of telework?

Further news on the investigation by the Australian Federal government into “telework”:

ComputerWorld reports that Dr Neville Meyers (who I recall meeting at a telework conference last year in Brisbane) has presented findings from his research to the government committee that show telework results in a 30% increase in productivity and better work-life balance (as long as you don't become an info-maniac of course!). Meanwhile this week the Sydney Morning Herald also reported on other research by the Australian Institute (read a summary - PDF file) that in Sydney some working parents are spending more time traveling to work than they do with their children and overall long commutes result in nervous tension and higher blood pressure. So one way or the other it looks like we need telework.

But Dr Meyers suggests that the biggest challenge is overcoming the resistance of Australian corporations to embrace telework. Perhaps this is the wrong sector to chase – the SME sector may be in a much better position to embrace telework because the sad fact is that a whole range of new human-centred and user-driven technologies – from mobile computing to social software – are currently evolving outside of the formal control of corporate IT departments.

Just yesterday I saw an example of a small regional transport business taking advantage of “corporate” technologies such as thin-client and mobile computing. Where there is a willingness to give it a go and the setup cost is reasonable, smaller enterprises typically have the flexibility to implement it and get on with it. So it may be that as we see more powerful technology placed in the hands of non-technical users, the larger companies will struggle to keep up unless they find a way of embracing these user-driven technologies.

Wednesday 4 May 2005

Industry Update No. 2: Objectify

Objectify describe themselves as a “young and innovative” Australian software company. They are based in Victoria and were established in 2000 around their core product, an XML-based Web Content Management System (WCMS). An AusIndustry COMET grant in 2001 and an R&D Start grant in 2004 has helped them to commercialise their product and the company now employs 22 staff.

I was particularly interested to meet up with Objectify because I had earlier received an unsolicited recommendation from one of their government users. Despite talk of moving to Open Source in the government sector, in this case a proprietary offering was seen as offering a better package of functionality, service and support. According to earlier e-mail correspondence I had with Objectify's CEO, Karina Heikkila, their clients include a flagship installation at the City of Greater Geelong council as well as a range of private and public organisations such as BankWest, Toll Holdings, and Sensis.

Jodi Barry
, Sales Manager at Objectify, was up in Sydney this week and she gave me a tour of the their new Objectify Enterprise Knowledge Management System (KMS). The KMS is part of a new Objectify Enterprise suite and the idea behind it is to provide a flexible repository where users can easily contribute and retrieve information.

At the moment the KMS product is still fairly new and I expect we'll see ongoing improvements in future iterations. Jodi explained that it was developed in part as a response to a need at Geelong council to provide staff with a customer service knowledgebase that could be shared across multiple sites. However, in looking at their architecture it is clear that the Enterprise suite is a natural progression for them. Possible applications suggested for the KMS range from using it as a skills register to storing procedures.

From an architecture perspective the core content management engine (that provides content management functions such as workflow and approval for the KMS) runs under Windows and was developed in .Net, while the control interfaces are designed with Internet Explorer (IE) 5.5 and above in mind. However it is probably important to emphasis that there is a very strong XML flavour to Objectify. While the KMS will come with prebuilt forms, savvy KMS administrators can edit the underlying XML schema and design content filters that can make the underlying data accessible to other parts of the Objectify suite and other applications. In that respect the KMS can exist along side another content management system as either a stand alone site or as a content source.

So if you're looking for content management system plus other functionality with a strong XML flavour then Objectify may be worth looking at. I'll stay in touch with Karina and Jodi from Objectify and will bring you further updates during the year.

PS Coming up in my next industry update I'll be reporting on a new product release coming from GMB in July.

Disclaimer: Information on this site is of a general nature. Please seek advice for specific circumstances. Unless otherwise stated, please assume that I have no commercial relationship with the vendors or products discussed.

Previous Industry Updates:

Tuesday 3 May 2005

For and against business blogging

Two articles caught my attention this week, both offering a different perspective on business blogs:

Cone's article, as well as providing an overview of RSS and sharing Sun's blogging rules for its employee blogs, has a look at the thorny issue of integrating bottom-up blogging and wiki technologies into the typically top-down, standardised corporate IT environment.