Thursday 22 May 2008

EMC's Documentum and eRoom gets a 2.0 make over with "Magellan"

For those of us that live and breath large enterprise computing AND have an interest in Enterprise Web 2.0, this is interesting - EMC's Documentum and eRoom are already widely deployed enterprise content and collaboration tools and their new proposed client platform, Magellan, could provide an alternative to Microsoft SharePoint (for collaboration) and IBM's Connections/Quickr. From the end-user perspective, Magellan will provide Web 2.0 collaboration features, such as Wikis, blogs, RSS, and tagging:

"Magellan shows a much needed change in the thinking at Documentum. One size, no longer fits all. Previous iterations of Documentum web UI’s have always started with a full featured application and then grayed out to limit features a user would not use. But what was forgotten was all these gray menu options were really a lot of clutter making the product look complex. Magellan finally changes this and creates a UI for casual users. That’s right power users have Webtop and casual users will have their own.

The user interface is clean with simple document lists to show content within a directory with only a handful of attributes presented (but these can be customized). Gone are the list of menu options that make the Webtop UI look like the old Workspace Windows client. But the system also presents Web 2.0 functionality in that a second window shows discussions on the project or individual document.

Better still the UI is not only clean but sexy. Learning from the best in UI, Magellan adds interfaces introduced by Apple for iTunes and iPod. In addition to standard thumbnail directory views, Magellan offers a browse option similar to Cover Flow. While search adds a filtering option similar to that in iTunes for finding a song based on a genre and artist."

I must admit, I never thought I would hear EMC's interfaces being described as "sexy" or inspired by Apple ;-)

Also see this post and a couple of YouTube videos from EMC World 2008.

Monday 19 May 2008

Simon Revell at Pfizer gets Enterprise RSS

Great to see someone else getting Enterprise RSS - in an interview in ComputerWorld, Simon Revell, Pfizer's manager of enterprise 2.0 technology, talks about the value of RSS:

"Pfizer is about to go live with an enterprise RSS suite for its R & D employees, he added.

'RSS has huge potential,' he noted. 'Even if you ignore doing any of the other things in this space in the enterprise ...RSS has a role to play. We have a whole bunch of content inside of Pfizer that we want to expose. We have a lot of internal Web sites, Internet sites and apps. And anyone in any role has to touch quite a few of them in their work. The newest version of [Microsoft's] SharePoint is completely RSS enabled so ... every single piece of SharePoint can be exposed. Users can see when folks are reading content.'

In addition, unlike email where people can get bogged down by correspondence they don't really want or need to read, RSS allows people more control over what content they consume and how they consume it, he added.

'[The enterprise RSS suite] is a social solution very similar to BlogLines where you can see what other people are subscribing to and how they react to it," he added. 'That fuels the social aspect of it.'"

Pfizer already have an established wiki ("Pfizerpedia") and are also looking social networking.

Pirates of the Enterprise 2.0

I've just finished reading Empire of Blue Water by Stephan Talty, which is a book about 17th-century pirates in the Caribbean and their impact on the history of the New World and Europe. Central to this story was Henry Morgan, a pirate in the service of the English crown, who with his volunteer army was able to consistently out manoeuvre the Spanish who were constrained by their rigid centralised culture and government.

I've also just been reading an article from the May edition of Harvard Business Review about leadership in massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), titled Leadership's Online Labs. There are some interesting parallels between the two, particularly the descriptions of the democratic and transitory leaderships styles and structures within both the games and pirate culture that provide mechanisms for motivating people.

At a stretch we might even compare these parallels with the bigger story of Enterprise 2.0. However, we might not want to take this story too far - in the end, Morgan was a loyalist and eventually became part of the establishment and hunted later hunted down his peers who wouldn't renounce their pirate ways.

His lifestyle of hard drinking also contributed to his early death - perhaps too much social media will be bad for us too?

(Thinking about Enterprise 2.0 and pirates I'm also reminded of Monty Python's short film The Crimson Permanent Assurance, but I digress...)

Sunday 11 May 2008

More conversations about Enterprise RSS

Following the Enterprise RSS Day of Action, the conversation about Enterprise RSS continued to ripple across the blogosphere:

  • Yuriy Krylov provided a detailed overview of RSS and the value of Enterprise RSS to organisations - he concludes, "Centralized, enterprise-class RSS infrastructure is an enabler of more than news consumption. Social, asynchronous feedback loops are critical aspects of collaboration and are made possible by investing in RSS as infrastructure."
  • James MacLennan described the impact of RSS-ifying internal project system and Dennis McDonald discussed why "it is not a “slam dunk” that all IT staff will have an immediate affinity for benefiting from the efficient information flow and improved collaboration and innovation potential that RSS supports." (also see Oscar Berg's thoughts on Jim MacLennan's post).
  • Jeff Nolan reflects on the future of RSS building on the areas where Newsgator is seeing success with RSS but notes "enterprise users are the last to benefit from these advances because they are dependent upon IT. It will happen but the use cases we have to build to will be specific and in some cases tedious in an effort to get a flywheel spinning that elevates RSS in the enterprise to a strategic focus."

However, what is starting to grab my attention right now are some separate but related conversations about the future of the office productivity suite, eliminating email and activity streaming. But more on all that in another post.

Thursday 1 May 2008

Social Productivity: A strategic choice or Web 2.0 revolution?

A few weeks or so ago, Sam Lawrence via Twitter pointed me to a post he made at the end of last year about how office suite software (i.e. word processing, presentations, spreadsheets etc) hasn't changed in over 20 years but that:

"Traditional office software features are being absorbed into browsers and OSes. The next level of digital office work is shifting from a disjointed file exchange work model to one that's much more connected, contextual and collaborative. In the old model, users create documents in isolation and exchange them with other isolated users--all insulated from and out of sync with the bigger picture of relevant interpersonal activity. In the new collaboration model, connected people understand when, what and why to engage and they do it in a unified environment. They use file-sharing only as a supplement, when and if it's necessary. We refer to this collaboration model as Social Productivity, which frames our daily work activity in the "we" vs. "me" context and then delivers new functionality to help with these connections. This more accurately mimics our work-with-others activity vs. the produce-alone-and-distribute part of our daily equation. Now we can get context at a glance, work doesn't disappear once we hit "send," and we stay connected to the efforts most important to us."

It reminded me that many years ago I heard Dale Chatwin talk about the Australian Bureau of Statistics, a government organisations, as a Lotus Notes case study. A quick search actually turned up a case study (PDF) about this particularly story, which dates back to the 1990s. It makes interesting reading in light of Sam's ideas, since this organisation did exactly what he describes as "Social Productivity" - they developed databases:

"that permit all members of a group to work inside the same database simultaneously, so that a document that is being collaboratively created does not need to be emailed around to the members of the group with each person having a separate stored copy but is kept in a central location... The central repository and shared workspace of the workgroup databases is not only a freeing tool for collaborative co-creation of knowledge it is also a vehicle for transparency and knowledge sharing, as other persons not in the workgroup can still access the workgroup's database and see the information there and the work in its current state of progress... Almost all of the information and knowledge in the ABS is held on and processed through Lotus Notes® Workgroup Databases, and almost all persons have access to almost all databases, making the entire organisation's information and knowledgebase transparent, freely accessible and available to all members at all times."

Even closer to Sam's vision, the organisation's "elimination of desktop word processors" means that for majority of users at the time the office suite was embedded as part of the Lotus Notes "browser" (i.e. the Lotus Notes client). This doesn't mean everyone was happy with the decision - reading the case study, it looks a combination of issues affected their experience:

  • Functionality in the Lotus Notes text editor versus a stand alone word processor;
  • Dealing with upgrades that changed the Lotus Notes interface;
  • The need to collaborate and share information externally; and
  • The lack of choice.

Incidentally users still had access to a separate spreadsheet application, however one user commented:

"Lotus 123 is terrible with anything to do with Excel"

A reminder that not all office suite software is the same.

Now its been a while since I last saw Dale and I'm not sure where this organisation is these days with Lotus Notes, but I recommend you read the case study and draw your own conclusions to decided if you think their strategy was a success or not. Certainly some were positive about the approach. But what is clear is that they were unique in adopting this strategy and I don't know of any other organisation that has attempted the same thing.

I wonder if they were attempting to do this now, what would be more important - the strategic decision to implement a social productivity approach or the quality of the user experience in our Web 2.0 environment. What do you think?