Thursday 28 February 2008

A KM postcard from Perth

I've spent most of this week in Perth, presenting at a forum for CSC clients, helping out with our client innovation program and also assisting with some other information management projects. With a bit of help I did manage to squeeze in a quick chat late this afternoon with some locals who have an interest in knowledge management (KM). Over a couple of drinks we talked about wikis, metaverses and the state of KM in Western Australia. Unfortunately there isn't a knowledge management forum in Western Australia, but this doesn't mean there isn't a wealth of experience and I certainly got to talk to some innovative thinkers who are busy exploring the possibilities of social media and Enterprise 2.0 to compliment existing KM approaches. Also, as we've been discovering this year, I'm continuing to find that there is no shortage of companies across Australia that are experimenting with wikis in one way or another and here in the West the situation is no different (although I do wonder how long we can keep using "[insert company name or business unit here]pedia" to name them).

Wednesday 20 February 2008

Coverage of yesterday's Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum

I attended yesterday's Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum - while I still haven't had a chance to write up my observations, the event did attract some media coverage:

Also, visit the E2EF blog or check out what else the blogosphere has to say about it - like:

Monday 18 February 2008

Managing a multi-generational IT workforce

Hot off the press, CSC's Leading Edge Forum has just published a new report on managing a multi-generational IT workforce*, which was based on the analysis of themes from structured surveys and one-to-one interviews with IT executives. Just flicking through its forty-or-so pages this morning, this part stands out because this report confirms some of the assumptions many of us building our Enterprise 2.0 thinking on:

"Most younger workers are heavy users of technology in their personal lives. As more enter the workforce they bring knowledge and skills about newer technology and expectations about how it should be used in their jobs to challenge the status quo. For example, young people routinely use social networking and collaborative technologies to connect with their friends and to build professional networks. As a result, they are used to far more technologically-mediated communications and want their employers to adopt more of these tools in the workplace so they can use them to link to their professional networks, keep up with peer groups and forge knowledge links while at work."

I suspect this particular point has wider ramifications beyond the IT function. What do you think?

*BTW Sorry, this report is brand new and only available to LEF subscribers.

Saturday 16 February 2008

The role of enterprise portal software and Enterprise 2.0

Jack Santos, a Burton Group analyst writing in CIO magazine picks out five Enterprise 2.0 related technology trends that CIO should be watching - I've listed them over on the E2EF blog - but wanted to focus a little further on his comments about Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server (MOSS):

"Not unlike the early years of Lotus Notes, MOSS provides a framework for quick and easy applications that integrate data and workflow in a browser-based front end. And like Notes, it can be viewed as either a challenge to manage for IT shops or an important innovation catalyst for business processes. CIOs can't afford to miss this tidal wave, or they'll get swept under."

In a way this echos some of my past thoughts about both what Enterprise 2.0 can learn from the Lotus Notes experience and also more recently a concern that we might end up creating a mess of things if we don't actually practice the collaboration patterns we've known about for a long time now. However, its worth noting that Santos isn't actually talking about collaboration here either.

Now, over on my E2EF blog post I comment that "out of the box MOSS is considered to be a traditional document-centric collaboration tool" and in parallel Jive Software's CMO, Sam Lawrence, takes this head on with his recent post:

"This election year reminds me of how unbelievably different the two collaboration software “candidates” are. What does a  vote for Clearspace or Sharepoint mean? They couldn’t be more different. The bottomline is that a vote for Sharepoint is a vote for file-centric collaboration. A vote for Clearspace is a vote for people-centric collaboration. Storing vs sharing: It’s that simple."

Lawrence goes on to list the benefits of a people-centric approach, which I agree with. However I think its important to point out what he doesn't say about portal tools like MOSS, that while its true they are document-centric its also true that they do more than just support collaboration. As Santos hints at, they are also tools for integrating data and workflow. For MOSS specifically, Microsoft propose the following functions:

So lets not throw the baby out with bath water as we rush to implement social media technologies, as there are other business needs that existing enterprise software supports. However, lets also recognise that for people-centric collaboration traditional enterprise software hasn't been delivering the kind of functionality we needed.

Thursday 14 February 2008

Now blogging on the E2EF blog

It feels a little odd - having been blogging here on my own since 2005 - but I just made my first post to the Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum group blog, talking about a true social networking success story.

BTW Yes, I'll be there on Tuesday so look out for me!

Brad's talks about his presentation on tagging and the enterprise

Brad Hinton has written a series of posts about his Tagging and the Enterprise at a conference last week. Brad discusses search, the benefits of tagging and its perceived disadvantages, and provides some links to articles about enterprise social bookmarking and tagging.

Reminding me of the broad theme of David Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous, Brad ponders:

"perhaps one could say we are in a period of transition from the structure and hierarchy of giving order to physical information (like books, journal articles and celluloid film) to one where digital information allows for innumerable access points, innumerable tags and descriptors, and seemingly available from anywhere."

BTW I haven't found Brad's presentation on SlideShare just yet, but in the meantime you'll find some other examples.

Wednesday 13 February 2008

Bills Ives reflects on Wikipatterns and Knowledge Management

If you've been following my Wikipatterns posts this week, then you might be interested in what looks like a series of posts coming from Bill Ives comparing Stewart Mader's Wikipatterns book with Knowledge Management:

"Parts of it also took me back ten years ago to promoting knowledge management best practices. I found it interesting to reflect on the differences and similarities between a top down system that required bottom up support and participation (aka KM) and a system that requires bottom up support and participation and offers a bottom up structure (aka wiki). Now you might say that a wiki is a tool and KM is an approach. However, it seems that wikis are also very much about an approach, more than just a tool, and KM relied on tools to enable its approach. I think more comparisons are valid, especially since both are about content."

You can probably guess why Bills comments caught my attention. So far he has reflected on two sections from the book:

I'm looking forward to reading further posts from Bill on this subject.

Lucas McDonnell discusses wikis versus forums

Considering my last few posts about wikis, a relevant post from Lucas McDonnell who discusses when you should use a forum and when should you use a wiki - he concludes:

"It’s not that wikis aren’t a great tool — it’s just that we always have to keep in mind that they are impersonal, general and non-iterative. Forums however, lack the clear consensus-building... capabilities of a wiki."

Of course some wiki platforms combine both forum and wiki pages, which may give you the best of both worlds.

Wikis versus Content Management or Collaboration

Over on Slaw, a Canadian legal blog, Ted Tjaden, Director of Knowledge Management at McMillan Binch Mendelsohn, asks what makes wikis different from document management systems:

"I remain contrarian and cynical. Aren’t all major law firms with mature document management systems (DMSs) “wikified” to the max already? If everyone in the firm has online access to the “Smith file” or the “Jones file” and can edit documents, view calendars or other lists of information, access research memos, and post comments, isn’t this “wiki” personified?"

However, its the comments that make this post interesting and while each response (including legal KM blogger Doug Cornelius, who I read from time-to-time) attempts to explain the differences and value, none of them quite nail it for me. For example, Doug suggests in his comments that a benefit of the wiki approach is RSS and that this "dramatically changes the interaction with content and the people that care about the content." However, I would argue that you can also RSS'ify a document management system if you want.

Connie Crosby comments that:

"Please don’t forget, however, that the majority of lawyers are not in big law firms. Not all have DMSs or intranets or portals. A wiki platform for some, therefore, might be useful for projects where they don’t want to implement a full document management, content management, or intranet system. Moreover, it could even serve as a lightweight solution for easily building a small intranet."

So, in this case a wiki is an option as a light weight content management or collaboration system? No wonder we are having problems explaining wikis, as its the old grey area problem. In a recent post I highlighted Chuck Hollis' concept of document versus social collaboration - I think this might be, in part, the explanation that Tjaden might be looking for to help him understand the form versus function differences.

UPDATE: I just remembered this post I made about about the term wiki last year and Mike Cannon-Brookes' comment, about wiki being a verb and a noun.

Tuesday 12 February 2008

Michael Sampson's 7 Pillars Analysis of Microsoft SharePoint 2007 is now available

Michael Sampson's 7 Pillars Analysis of Microsoft SharePoint 2007 is now available. Michael has used his 7 Pillars model to analyse SharePoint 2007 and concludes:

"On its own merits, SharePoint fails the needs of teams for collaborative software in 6 out of the 7 areas. It thus passes only one of the areas on its own merits, and it passes an additional two areas if the organization adds additional server software from Microsoft. However, using the software available from Microsoft, it earns a failing grade in 4 out of the 7 areas."

To try before you buy, down the free summary document.

Monday 11 February 2008

Chuck Hollis on EMC's Social Media Journey

Following on from my post on the weekend about Wikipatterns, and thanks to Jeremy Thomas, I heard about Chuck Hollis who is driving the adoption of social media at EMC and sharing his experiences through his A Journey In Social Media blog. If you're looking for a case study of large organisation trying to make the transition to Enterprise 2.0, then this work in progress is worth reading from the start.

Now, EMC provides a range of information management related services and products, including Documentum (for enterprise content management) and eRoom (what they describe as a "Web-Based Collaborative Workspace for Distributed Teams"). However, Hollis isn't using EMC's own solutions - instead he's opted to use Jive's Clearspace. This isn't the first time we've heard about collaboration software vendors who don't use their own tools, but don't jump to conclusions about his reasons as he makes a point that really caught my attention:

"We didn't see this as a document-centric problem.  We think social media is all about communication, not creating vast repositories of stuff.  So we weren't interested in Lotus, or Sharepoint, or even EMC's eRoom and Documentum products.  We know we'll need stronger content management capabilities in the future, but we don't expect Jive to provide that in their product, only the ability to integrate with stronger back-end content management and workflow platforms."

There is a lot in this paragraph we could discuss, but for now I want to zero in on a point I've made on many occasions about form vs function. I like the fact that he identified their functionality need as communication, rather than that they needed "blogging" or a "wiki" (i.e. form). And he is right, neither eRoom or Documentum are designed to support that so he picked an off the shelf product that would. Hollis explores document-centric versus social collaboration further on his other blog and after describing the evolution from transactional collaboration to the failure of first generation knowledge management comments:

"I think that the document-oriented collaboration vendors are a good starting point, but they're going to have to re-think their user interaction model substantially using social media concepts: blogs, wiki, forums, chat, etc."

So, what has this all got to do with my patterns post? Well, in another post, Hollis describes EMC's own experience of using eRoom and notes:

"I've seen some eRooms that have been built and used by our Documentum brethren.  Some of them are vibrant, participatory and interactive places in their own right.  A few are excellent examples of SM and community principles at work.

But that same tool, in the hands of the rest of EMC, turned into a document dumping ground."

He then offers us eight lessons from that eRoom experience:

  1. Users of a tool have to be helped to learn to use the tool in the intended manner;
  2. No private spaces;
  3. No avatars or pseudonyms;
  4. No explicit guidelines regarding conduct;
  5. Some communities are inherently temporary in nature;
  6. Not everyone will get to build a community just because they asked to;
  7. Lurking is free; and
  8. Don't get heavy-handed on taxonomy and classification.

Well, don't you think those are pretty good patterns for both document-centric and social collaboration?

Thinking about this I also have a sneaky suspicion that, as with eRoom and other similar collaboration tools, past and present, that have spiraled out of control, we will also find that adopters of social media tools are going to experience the same disappointments if they don't follow patterns like this and those identified in the Wikipatterns book. But don't forget - this anti-pattern is a collaboration challenge, not a solution specific challenge.

Saturday 9 February 2008

Are Wikipatterns, Collaborative Patterns?

In terms of enterprise social computing, wikis continue to be the flavour of the month and Stewart Mader taps into that interest with his new Wikipatterns book, the name reflecting the Wikipatterns site that he helped to start.

The book is structured well and steps naturally from explaining the value and use cases of wikis into the adoption process. In terms of adoption, Mader offers 11 steps to a successful wiki pilot... that's right, these are tips just to get the pilot right! In fact, its refreshing to find someone suggesting that adopting a wiki in an organisation can take a lot more effort than simply plugging a wiki into your corporate LAN. However - considering my background - I must admit I didn't find anything surprising in the patterns Mader describes. For example, patterns such as using champions, seeding content, welcoming new contributors etc I've used successfully with old school discussion groups for years (for some ideas in this space, check out Cliff Figallo on Hosting Web Communities).

Actually every time I think about Wikipatterns (the concept, rather than the book as such) I can't help but think about this paper, The who, what and why of knowledge mapping [PDF]. While it focuses on the concept of knowledge maps, the patterns it suggests for the who of map making sound eerily applicable to wikis:

  • Map maker - creates the details and sets the usage pattern of the knowledge map;
  • Map users - use maps in order to accomplish their tasks and to develop learning potential;
  • Map innovators - alter existing maps through use, reuse and diffusion of innovation; and
  • Map champions - uphold the need for knowledge maps as providing a competitive advantage for the organisation.

In fact, this pattern was the conceptual basis for an electronic knowledge map I helped to create using Lotus Notes at Ernst & Young, called NavigatorLite. Today if you saw it you wouldn't be completely wrong in mistaking it for a wiki.

But, don't get me wrong, as I'm not saying don't buy this book. Rather, my recommendation is that Wiki Patterns is worth a look regardless of the collaborative technologies you are using... there are a set of "patterns" in well written format here that can be applied to a variety of collaborative technologies. For example, I've seen successful application of a wiki-like philosophy to document management systems and web-based project spaces that deliver significant benefits over the email and shared drives they replaced. In one instance the process of submitting a large package of information to head office that was too large to email was reduced from hours of effort and days of elapsed time to less than an hour.

The other thing I like about this book is the case studies. Case studies are an important part of any technology innovation process and this book provides ten different stories you can use to explain the how and why of using wikis.

However, you should also be aware that there are some patterns that this book doesn't address, such as how to transform an organisation that already has already has a solid base of "traditional" collaborative and information tools in place into one that uses wikis and other social media. I've noticed with CSC's own experience in this space that a significant effort has been made to integrate our beta enterprise wiki into our extranet portal, because initially you needed to be physically connected to our network to use it - for us that was a major barrier to any attempts at widespread adoption in the business.

As many of you will know, I'm also trying to champion the adoption Enterprise RSS systems as while RSS is mentioned in Wikipatterns, obviously the patterns for adopting RSS itself isn't a focus area. However, I suspect in large organisations Enterprise RSS will be a critical factor in the successful adoption of wikis (and other social media tools). In that respect I'm still looking for someone who can provide a comprehensive set of patterns for the broader enterprise Web 2.0 stack (see slide 25 from my Intranet 2.0 workshop slides to get an idea of what I'm talking about).

Overall, Wikipatterns get a thumbs up from me for anyone involved with collaboration technologies, not just wikis.

BTW If you're looking for other books on wikis, also worth checking out is Wikis for Dummies and Ward Cunningham's The Wiki Way: Quick Collaboration on the Web.

One feed to rule them all - KM in Australia

Cory Banks, from the Queensland KM Forum (QKM), has helped to create a listing of Australian knowledge and information management related organisations - its a wiki page so feel free to help keep it up to date!

Inspired by this effort, I've also created a combined feed for ACT-KM, the Melbourne KMLF, the NSW KM Forum and QKM.