Sunday 30 September 2007

Notes from Blogoz

No, I didn't attend this one, but Nick Hodge presented at the Australian Blogging Conference this week and has shared some notes and his slides (there are some good cartoons) on business blogging.

Check the blogoz tag for other comments and feedback from the conference.

PS If you're wondering why I'm posting this right now (around midnight local time), its because I'm multitasking while watching Australia vs Canada in the Rugby World Cup on TV :-)

Saturday 29 September 2007

Viewing organisations through a toilet paper tube

Reading this on How To Write Unmaintainable Code* by Roedy Green (care of JP) I thought how this could easily become... How To Make Unmaintainable Organisations and Ensure a job for life:

  • Your organisation should not look hopelessly unmaintainable, just be that way.
  • Managers view your organisation through a toilet paper tube. They can only see a tiny piece of your organisation at a time. You want to make sure they can never get at the big picture from doing that. You want to make it as hard as possible for them to find what they are looking for. But even more important, you want to make it as awkward as possible for them to safely ignore anything.
  • If we have full confidence in our management ability, then change management will be unnecessary. If we look at this logically, then any fool can recognise that change management does not even attempt to solve a problem with a business process, rather, this is a problem of emotional confidence. A more efficient solution to this lack of confidence issue is to eliminate change management completely and send our staff to self-esteem courses. After all, if we choose to do change management, then we have to use change management in every business change, but we only need to send staff to one course on building self-esteem. The cost benefit is as amazing as it is obvious.
  • Your Boss Knows Best - If your boss thinks that his or her 20 year old business experience is an excellent guide to contemporary management, rigidly follow all his or her recommendations. As a result, the boss will trust you. That may help you in your career.

Don't forget to post you own suggestions!

PS The original version is published here, but is slightly harder to read.

Thursday 27 September 2007

Upward trend: Spending on information and collaboration technology in 2007 and into 2008

I'm not sure I agree with labelling this as "knowledge management", but I'm not going to complain about the healthy interest in portals, content management, search, and collaboration predicted by AMR Research to grow by 16% in 2008 (in the US market at least). They also note a shift to hosted and open-source solutions.

However, what's also interesting is that while they don't mention "Web 2.0" anywhere, they do say "a growing number of needs and initiatives are left unsupported by established enterprise applications". Hmm, I wonder if that's what they are hinting at???

Care of Jack.

My take on Intranets '07

I was only able to attend the afternoon session of Intranets '07 (and my own workshop the following day), but I enjoyed each of the presentations from Chris Knowles (Heinz Australia), Keith De La Rue (Telstra) and Deanne Davidson (Thiess). Lucy Hoffman (Te Papa Tongarewa, Muesum of New Zealand), who stepped in as the conference chair, also did one the best conference wrap ups that I've heard in a long time.

My observations:

  • The level of awareness about Web 2.0 and social software has grown significantly in the last few years, with many at least experimenting on the Web if nothing else - however there is a clear challenge around the issue of openness vs control that people haven't quite worked out yet (also see my next point);
  • The maturing of intranets into essential or important business tools (along with the influence of Web 2.0 and other trends) is also bringing the relationship between intranets and IT departments into the spotlight, however the underlying problem of who owns the intranet (HR, communications, IT, etc) hasn't changed much in the last decade;
  • Also related to the above two points is the convergence of Intranet, intranets and extranets into just different interfaces for enterprise content - this is driven by the possibilities of the technology itself but also changing patterns of work; and
  • Finally, many of the core challenges of intranets haven't changed despite the advances in technology, and they are the parts that relate to people and process - one participant described attending these conferences as a bit like therapy to remind himself that everyone faces similar problems!

BTW I didn't know at the time, but Daryl from Anecdote was also there and he also comments on the openness vs control issue, saying:

"there seemed to be a real dichotomy in the language being used. On the one hand speakers when describing their Intranets were talking about standards, compliance, custodians, approval, reviews, structured, efficiency, control, and 'single source of truth'. Yet on the other hand, they mused that intranets were about 'people, people, people' and that they were trying to improve collaboration, increase knowledge sharing and foster networks."

Peta Hopkins has also shared her thoughts on the main conference day and promises to post more on the workshop she attended.

What do you think - how well can you relate to these issues for your own intranet?

Monday 24 September 2007

The Art of Web 2.0 PowerPoint

A nice hat tip from James Robertson and others for my "lovely looking slides".

It was actually a bit of a joke in the workshop that I told people I was envious of all the fancy looking Web 2.0 slides out there, produced of course on an iMac. This was the best I could do using a curvy font in PowerPoint and photos from Microsoft's clipart collection*. However since I spent so much time (seriously, a lot of time) picking photos I'm very happy with the positive feedback!

Actually, by using Microsoft's clipart there is a bit of a hidden message there about form vs function...

*Tip: You can restrict your clipart search to just photos.

Sunday 23 September 2007

The talk on the street this weekend

I know I promised to post some comments about the Intranets '07 conference and my workshop, but I've been a little distracted. Some of what I've been reading the last few days...

The other distraction has been Yahoo! Pipes. As part of my recent episode of blog housekeeping I wanted to see if I could filter some spam blogs out of my My Cosmos feed. But since I built the My Cosmos pipe, Yahoo! have added a whole bunch of new functionality, which I'm playing with right now...

Anyway, I will write something soon about Intranets '07. I promise, just once get over these other distractions...

Saturday 22 September 2007

The Sort of Refreshed ChiefTech Blog

Ok. The blog is sort of back to normal with all the key links back in place. On the upside I have a slightly better tag cloud.

Along the way I've found out that the new'ish Blogger drag and drop layout tool is ok (and I mean ok, not great), and where services like Feedburner have bothered to create click and play Blogger widgets then getting the links to my RSS feeds back into the template was easy. I've also changed colours slightly for a bit of a change (well, it was easier than trying to change the colours on my new Technorati blog cloud). Actually getting the Technorati link count widget was the hardest part. I should be grateful that at least Blogger lets us fiddle with the HTML if needed (and thanks to Hoctro for the template tip).

But after all this it still doesn't work correctly in IE6! :-( I'm beginning to think that my earlier problems are really just related to my particular install of IE6 and associated security settings (if you're using IE6 does it work for you?) however based on your feedback I'm not going to lose any sleep over it!

Friday 21 September 2007

Slides from my Intranet 2.0 workshop

I'll write up my comments and observations from Intranets '07 in a later post, but in the meantime the slides as promised are up on SlideShare:

One of the key discussion points in this workshop is about the form versus function aspects of the new Web 2.0 technologies and how that impacts Intranet 1.0 and drives expectations and needs for Intranet 2.0.

Tuesday 18 September 2007

ChiefTech Blog Service Announcement

If you actually read the Web version of this blog (rather than just the RSS feed) you might notice that my customised Blogger blog template has changed slightly... I've basically blown it away tonight and replaced it with a standard template (with some minimal changes) while trying to track down a javascript error and the reason why embedded SlideShare slides won't display in IE6 (works ok on the SlideShare site, in Windows Live Writer preview and also Firefox???).

Hopefully something close to normal Web service will be restored in the near future, although it has made me wonder if and why I really need to put so much effort into it when I suspect many people are just consuming my RSS feed. What do you think?

Slides from Rebooting the Enterprise (11 Oct 2006)

In anticipation of sharing my workshop slides later in the week, I have finally bitten the bullet [point!] and started to upload a few of my past presentations to SlideShare. Here is one to get you started from last year:

BTW I've also upload a copy of the slides that I presented with my paper at KM Challenge 2004.

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Saturday 15 September 2007

Where 2.0?

Brad recently presented on tailoring intranet content for Web 2.0 and had earlier also asked me:

"Is it the tools that create the demand or do the tools support the demand/need that already exists? I know organisational context is critical but I reckon it's important to start with the people first, not the technology."

Good question, Brad.

My personal take on this, if you are trying facilitate innovation around Web 2.0 inside the firewall, is that it depends... ;-)

Brad starts to hint at this in terms of the issues management might want to consider around why, who and how Web 2.0 will be used internally. However, the technology dimension is as important because:

  • Employee's experience of technology outside the firewall can drive their expectations or shape their requirements;
  • If employees haven't ever experienced Web 2.0 or don't understand yet how Web 2.0 can be applied inside an organisation, then they may need to see real examples of how it can be applied.

This last point is even more important with user driven technologies, like Web 2.0, because we can't plan and design everything in advance - instead we have to convince management to put the foundations in place and then let the solution emerge.

I'm presenting next week on Intranet 2.0 and will upload some slides soon after that will describe some more of my thoughts in this space.

BTW In the meantime for those with an interest in content, Brad also points to a nice post covering the key elements of "Web 2.0 content management".

Enterprise Scenarios for Integrating Social Network

Luis recently rejoined the Facebook community and commented that he has been asked, "it will be interesting to see what 'best practices' you practice regarding Facebook app adoption. e.g., everything or nothing?"

From an enterprise and enterprise user point of view, this is a really important question.

I don't think Facebook (or any similar services) offer a lot of value on their own to all enterprise users for a couple of reasons:

  • From a social network perspective they aren't representative of the entire workforce for any organisation, so if you want to find someone in your organisation you will still need to look inside; and
  • From an application perspective they don't integrate with all the enterprise systems, applications, databases and other internal business services that enterprise users need.

We know from experience with internal enterprise portals that for people to get real value, they need to use them all the time - i.e. its an everything approach. Facebook and the like are no different.

With this in mind I can see three possible enterprise scenarios that could play out:

  1. A network of integrated social networks, inside and outside the firewall - the normal Web 2.0 glue will bind them together (e.g. RSS and common APIs).
  2. Social "Marketplaces" that do not represent the entire business but have touch points back into the enterprise - they will never be entirely representative and only the people who get real value from them will gravitate to them (and make the effort to use them).
  3. A single external network that represents everyone - for this to work, the network platform would need to replace existing intranet (or at least an organisation's primary intranet).

Of course these options don't completely take into account the other forces that are shaping the future direction of the Internet that might eventually transform our whole concept of inside and outside the firewall (aka Web 3.0), but bear with me as this is a blog post not a dissertation...

Actually, looking over this list again I can see that these options might equally apply to virtual worlds like Second Life in order to make them really useful.

Incidentally, here is a good example of a popular enterprise application, Salesforce, being integrated with Facebook:

"Faceforce Connector for the AppExchangeTM complements traditional CRM data with dynamically updated personal data and photos. The seamless integration pulls critical Facebook profile information into your Salesforce Account, Lead, and Contact records in real time, providing you with an instant 360º view of customers, prospects, and business associates."

Considering my points above, perhaps this should say it will provide a 360º view of customers, prospects, and business associates who are actually in Facebook and using it on a regular basis and who will let you see their private or organisational data. Still, its a smart demonstration of what's now possible and a hint at where we are going.

Friday 14 September 2007

Avenue A | Razorfish Wiki Case Study

OK. Now we're talking Wiki Case Study...

"The Avenue A | Razorfish wiki has evolved considerably since its launch late last year. It does some things well, a few really well and a couple terribly. So we're redesigning it. With that in mind, we're going to start talking about the redesign process here on the blog. We think it might be fun and educational to share the decision making and get some feedback too."

Don't forget to check out the appendices too, as their is some great detail there that is worth reviewing.

A couple of observations and comments:

  • Their wiki sounds very much like a portal, but a portal implemented in a wiki or Web 2.0 style ("wikaportal" maybe? Hmm. Don't think it will catch on)- it probably has what every base enterprise wiki needs: home page, project pages, blogs, profiles.
  • Getting the wiki platform in place is easy, but there is still a lot involved in putting it to work - including 2,000 hours of effort and people to help with ongoing governance and sustainability;
  • I love the fact that admit they think WikiText is "arcane and non intuitive" (I thought I was the only one!), but interesting they wish they had used HTML instead and the services of a creative designer!

Anyway a big round of applause to Avenue A | Razorfish for sharing.

Care of Mike Gotta.

Next Generation solutions to the Information Overload problem

I have been meaning to blog about this for ages, as I'm a fan of Nathan Zeldes's original e-mail program to tackle information overload at Intel, here are some new ideas on dealing with information overload:

  • Infomania: why we can't ignore it any longer - a new paper by
  • Nathan Zeldes, David Sward and Dr. Sigal Louchheim that represents their call to action on information overload and its impact on decision making, business processes and quality of life; and

  • And putting this call to action into practice, Zeldes annouces their Quiet Time pilot at Intel - "300 engineers and managers, located in two US sites – will adopt a 'Quiet Time' agreement. Every Tuesday morning they will all set their email and IM clients to “offline”, forward their phones to voice mail, decline all meetings, and isolate themselves from 'visitors' by putting up a 'Do not disturb' sign at their doorway. Thus, for half a day each week they will have the ability to focus on the 'thinking work' that researchers have shown is critical to creativity, innovation, and to faster, better production of output"

BTW This also reminds me that I came across a research organisation,  called the The Institute for Innovation & Information Productivity, with a stated mission to "conduct and engage in the study of the impact that information technology has on innovation and information work productivity in all sectors of global business, and to support, enhance and promote it effectively." Members of the institute include HP, Microsoft and Unisys.

Thursday 13 September 2007

Thinking, thinking about collaboration

I've been thinking about Matt's response to James Robertson's model for improving how collaboration tools are introduced into organisations. James is correct when he says:

 "It's clear that there's a huge unmet need for this capability"

He then goes on to suggest an idea for a four step model for introducing collaboration. Matt in turn thinks about James' four step model and while agreeing with much of it concludes:

"The collaboration tool space is changing very quickly at the moment. Phase 4 [Coherence; personalised portal-like interface] feels like a utopia at the moment. And given this dynamic environment, a very unlikely utopia. I think many organisations have enough on their plate trying to get to phase 3 [Rich networks; Organisation-wide collaboration]."

Well, here are my thoughts, as this is something I've been thinking about for a long time now too.

  1. Collaboration happens. what matters is how well it happens (insert your measures of choice here).
  2. People will collaborate with what ever tools are on hand (see point 1 above) - and with Web 2.0, choice and accessibility to "unsanctioned" and consumer tools has increased massively.
  3. The capability to collaborate with technology is a combination of factors including willingness, technology and skills.

Overall, my approach to introducing collaboration tools has been a combination of two key themes:

  • The innovation process around how people in an organisation understand that a particular tool is available and how it is  integrated into individual and groups work practices and business processes; and
  • The collaborative infrastructure required to support the introduction and ongoing use of the tool(s).

To me, James is describing the innovation process and some elements of the collaborative infrastructure, where as I would treat them as parallel processes. The issue that Matt points out is the challenge of trying to reach an equilibrium or stability (or perhaps perfection? - see The Search for the Perfect Intranet). In this respect I think the process James is describing should be seen as a cycle, not an end state. In fact if you managed to stabilise your collaborative environment I would be wondering what you have done wrong.

This cycle by the way is taking place at an enterprise level, but also at the level of individual workgroups, teams and projects. This leads me into another observation, that it looks like this process assumes that the collaborative technologies are in place and working but they are just not integrated in a content sense. Web 2.0 is changing the dynamic of getting new technology introduced, but in larger oganisations it can still be a difficult process to get new collaborative technologies formally introduced. I mean, while some of us are starting to talk about unified communications, many are still debating the value of instant messaging.

Still, its good to think about this stuff from time-to-time.

Tuesday 11 September 2007

Zimbra point out the compliance issues with outsourced Office 2.0

More commentary, this time from Zimbra, on the Goolge Apps deal with Capgemini, that incidentally reflects my earlier comments:

"Zimbra says that since all Google docs and files are stored on Google's servers, public companies would face big Sarbanes-Oxley compliance issues if they deployed Google Apps. The solution? You guessed, it: deploy Zimbra instead. Zimbra told R/WW that their messaging and collaboration platform 'provides enterprise customers with freedoms that Google Apps just can't provide, including the ability to archive for compliance purposes.'"

Its a good point, but I think the compliance gap is a lot easier for Google or another Office 2.0 contender to fill than the mashing gap I also mentioned.

Good Ol'Aussie Ingenuity

Good to see a bit of ol'Aussie ingenuity at work over a Google where they have come up with some Rugby World Cup widgets, slightly improving the lack of Web 2.0 tools for fans.

And don't forget there is Tangler discussion here too.

Monday 10 September 2007

Capgemini Gettin' Jiggy Wit Google Apps

The news that Capgemini has agreed to sell Google's hosted office applications (Google Apps Premier Edition) as part of its outsourced information technology services is creating a bit of interest. Interviewing a Capgemini executive, Nick Carr provides a bit more detail about how Office 2.0 fits with this more traditional IT service model; basically a way to offer a office suite and, perhaps the more strategic of Capgemini's play, to offer a better way for organisations to collaborate with each other.

Read/WriteWeb also offers this commentary:

"This is an interesting move by Google - not so much the outsourcing to CapGemini, because that is a common and almost necessary way to crack the enterprise market. Of more interest to me is how Google is positioning Google Apps as a complement to Microsoft Office. It's almost admitting that Google Apps isn't good enough to be a standalone office suite yet. And to be frank, they are right - it isn't. So for now, riding into the enterprise on the coattails of the big kahunas (MS Office and to a lesser extent IBM) is a pretty cunning strategy."

I have a slightly different take on this view. Firstly, many organisations use Microsoft Office not just for word processing, presentations, etc, but to create applications. The trick for anyone in the Office 2.0 space to really unseat Microsoft Office is going to be through the ability to deliver ad hoc applications... aka mashups. Google has the potential of course, but the question for all user-driven mashup tools is how easy it is for the average user to develop tools that do what they need them to do and deal with the 9X challenge (i.e. the new solution needs to be 9 times better than the old solution).

The second issue is records management and compliance - many enterprise solutions are designed to integrate with Microsoft Office, and certainly not this new wave of Office 2.0 applications. Of course EDRMS can be provided as a hosted tool tool. Google Records Management anyone?

A secret incantation to derail a meeting

Like many others I chuckled about this too:

"How sweet to see Dilbert taking on web 2.0. We definitely are in another era of buzzword bingo, in which people use the lingo but don't really understand the meaning. I love the idea of "Web 2.0" as a secret incantation to derail a meeting."

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Sunday 9 September 2007

How Web 2.0 is the Rugby World Cup?

How Web 2.0 is the Rugby World Cup? Officially, not very by the looks of things. I did manage to find a single RSS news feed, but its an all or nothing affair that provides headlines only. Still, if there is a feed then that's a start at least... there is a lot you can mashup from that with a bit of effort.

On the other hand, the BBC offers a feast of Web 2.0 options with blogs, twitter and flickr plus podcasts.

Australia's ABC isn't too bad as their Website has some interesting Web 2.0'ish features including personalised tagging and a tag cloud anyway - but its a shame that the tag data doesn't make into their RSS feed; and there is nothing special for the Rugby World Cup either.

Overall verdict: Thumbs down.

Saturday 8 September 2007

Tips on bringing Web 2.0 into the enterprise

Reporting back on the Office 2.0 ConferenceDan Farber shares Adam Carson's tips on bringing Web 2.0 into the enterprise based on his experiences at Morgan Stanley:

  1. Inject, teach and create Web 2.0 awareness
  2. Locate supporters in your organization
  3. Make friends with IT, you will need their help
  4. Approach senior management with a proposal
  5. Work closely with business management
  6. Gather and distribute best practices
  7. Feed the open mouths, don’t force it
  8. Be patient, change takes time

Some good advice there - I like point 7, and point 3 sounds familiar.

I'm Just Asking

I could have been blogging, but instead I've been sucked into the world of LinkedIn Answers. The idea is similar to something like Yahoo! Answers, except it is contained behind the walls of LinkedIn and it is "designed to allow professionals to exchange expertise."

Now, the idea of a closed question and answer forum isn't that new. Even within the firewall, many organisations already have had similar forums or systems in place - for example, CSC has a global question and answer forum, called Request for Assistance, that pre-dates Web 2.0. So what makes LinkedIn Answers special?

Firstly, lets look at but put aside some of the nice features in LinkedIn Answers - for example:

  • Personalisation - I can see all the questions I've placed and the answers I've submitted; and
  • RSS - You can subscribe to a feed of new questions. 

These nice but don't make it special. I think what really makes this LinkedIn question and answer system a little different is the connection back to the social network that is at the core of LinkedIn:

  • I can choose to look at questions only from people in my network;
  • I can restrict questions to only people I select from my network; and
  • You can nominate other experts in your own network as people who can answer someone's question.

However I can see some future problems for LinkedIn Answers as it continues to grow in popularity:

  • The volume of questions (and answers) is already a little overwhelming, and there is no way to tag questions other than with the categories defined by LinkedIn (incidentally they need to add a feed for questions just raised by people in my own network);
  • There is no way of restricting a question to people who work in organisations I'm affiliated with in some way other than a direct connection; and
  • With the push towards more open social networking platforms, will the pressure to open up erode some of the trust and social capital that is probably driving the current popularity of this new feature with LinkedIn members?

The first two points can be solved with improvements to the platform (look at Facebook to see how some of this might work), but the last is something quite different and relates to what motivates people to ask and answer questions.

Another issue to consider is what do we do with existing in-house Q&A systems - enhance them with the features we see in LinkedIn (therefore needing some kind of internal networking system) or move them outside the firewall?

Friday 7 September 2007

Bromberg & Sunstein LLP Wiki Case Study

I discovered this quite by chance, but its actually a good case study on a law firm turning to wiki technology (in this case its Confluence again!) to solve identified business problems around knowledge sharing, collaboration and documentation - there is no social software hype here!

"As we started looking at new technologies, the flexibility and ease of use of wikis immediately caught our eye.  A wiki would provide the kind of flexibility we needed for our documentation and allow us to create pages that were easily interlinked.  Unfortunately, the pure wiki software we evaluated was, in many respects, too flexible.  We found that one can end up with a huge, flat Web of pages linked to other pages without enough internal organization.

The anarchic nature of a wiki made it very difficult to build the structure we required.  What we really needed was something in between a document management system, with its isolated and highly organized documents, and a wiki, with its ability to create and edit information easily in an ad hoc and unstructured manner."

When I read the case study I sense that this isn't so much about the success of social software, but more the about the success of the software product itself AND the evolution towards read/write intranets.

Wednesday 5 September 2007

Australian Blogging Conference - 28th September

Great to see this event taking place in Brisbane on the 28th September:

"The growth of the Australian blogging community has mirrored the expansion of the blogosphere elsewhere in the developed world. However, there have been only a few opportunities afforded to Australian bloggers to get together and discuss their common interest.  This unconference, modelled on the successful BloggerCons in the United States, aims to redress this by providing a forum that will allow Australian bloggers to gather together and talk about blogging and the Australian blogosphere.  It aims to be a user-focused conference for the Australian blogging community."

This is a good sign of a healthy local blogging community.

Being Ruthless

I have to admit that my level of information overload is overflowing the e-mail domain and rising in my RSS world at the moment - this is mostly a symptom of being busy right now. I checked them all this morning and by the afternoon I was almost touching over 100 unread feeds again.

Time for some serious pruning I think.

However, there is no doubt that RSS is easier to manage than e-mail, but you still need to be a little ruthless. When I don't have time to read all my subscriptions the news and tag-based feeds are the first to go - I mark them as read without actually looking at them. But its harder to choose from the individual blog subscriptions. However, this cuts out over 75% of my unread items in just a few seconds - I don't think I could do this so easily with e-mail?

Will I miss anything interesting? Maybe, but I'm sure one of the other 22 unread posts will have picked up on it if it was something important. You have have to trust the collective :-)

What also makes this easier is that with a few exceptions none of feeds are directly work related and there is nothing mission critical. Having said that, there is also a percentage of e-mail passing through my 3 e-mail inboxes (1 @ work, 1 on a client's e-mail system and a personal account) that would be better as an RSS feed.

The next step of course is should I just blow away those unread subscription altogether? I'm considering it! I just need to be more ruthless...

UPDATE: I hadn't got to Matt's post when I posted this. Be ruthless and learn to say no.