Wednesday 30 July 2008

Beware the gaps in SharePoint

Alex Manchester interviewed me the other day for a Melcrum Internal Comms Hub article discussing SharePoint responding to a new report from Forrester. His article also contains a link to a SharePoint case study at BSI Group.

I particularly like this quote:

"Dellow's comments are supported by the Forrester research, which suggests you 'decide what role SharePoint will play to prevent unplanned demands... and user-generated chaos.'"

See, why bother paying Forrester for analysis when you can just talk to me... ;-)

Tuesday 29 July 2008

Is the read/write web a friend or foe to information management?

I haven't written anything other than blog posts for a quite a while, but this month I have a new article in the July/August edition of Image & Data Manager (IDM) magazine, titled So is the read/write web a friend or foe to information management?

In this article I try to bring a bit of balance to concerns about Web 2.0 and issues around information security, privacy and records management. I identify three issue areas that we should focus on to understand how they impact on information management:

  1. Dealing with rich media content types and the even greater explosion of data volumes on the Web, particularly user-generated content;
  2. Balancing information security and integrity with the concept that “data is the Intel inside” – in other words, value is generated in the Web 2.0 by sharing information (this includes messaging, activity and content data) and access to platforms that perform useful functions;
  3. Non-technology issues – e.g. community standards, data sovereignty, legal and work/life overlap.

I'm hopeful that technology will eventually solve the first two, however the different dimensions of the non-technology issues are something that will be more challenging and unpredictable.

As its only just been published, this article is currently only available in hardcopy but drop me a line if you have trouble getting hold of the latest edition of IDM.

Friday 25 July 2008

Information Management Strategy Reality Check

On Tuesday I attended EMC Inform 2008, my first event as a representative of IPP Consulting. I had been warned that the agenda was a little light on the business end of enterprise content management, however with the opportunity to hear a key note from EMC's social software evangelist, Chuck Hollis, I thought it worth the effort.

I ended up attending just two of the business stream sessions. One of those sessions was on Building an Information Management Strategy, which was a little surprising in a way because of its emphasis on building that strategy using Microsoft Office and SharePoint, rather than Documentum. The Microsoft representative positioned the Microsoft story in the context of EMC by explaining that the original success of Microsoft Office was not because it was the best tool in the market, but because it packaged up a range of related but different functionality into common user interface. The argument continues that Microsoft SharePoint extends that familiar packaging, which makes it easier to introduce to users. And now SharePoint and Office can provide a user-friendly common interface into many other applications, including Documentum.

One of the take away later in the presentation was some guidance on how to implement an information management strategy. Taken from my notes, these are the 10 tips or steps they suggested:

  1. You need a vision and roadmap, based on achieving identified business outcomes (classically they are to increase profit, decrease costs or reduce risk). Remember, it shouldn't be about the technology.
  2. You need one information management strategy, but will have many projects.
  3. You need a scalable infrastructure - growing too big, too fast is often a reason for failure.
  4. Build the solution to support specific business processes or needs.
  5. Use an iterative enhancement strategy.
  6. Don't forget about information management lifecycle needs (in this context they mean records management etc, not data storage although of course the better you manage information the faster this becomes an issue).
  7. You need a governance board and policies.
  8. Measure success.
  9. Make user adoption and communication a priority.
  10. Connect and support users.

I would also add another to this list - and this was mentioned later in the presentation - and that is, you need a methodology to guide the implementation (and if you don't have a methodology, then find a vendor or service provider who does).

Overall this isn't a bad list, although I still think there are couple of issues missing - for example, enterprise search. The point about methodology is important too, but also it needs to be the right methodology. However, if we think about the reality of implementing information management in practice, let me put this question to you:

  • What happens if your information management strategy has really been based on a particular technology but doesn't actually meet business requirements?
  • How do you (and should you) create an information management strategy that isn't based on the technology?

Let me know what you think.

Tuesday 22 July 2008

Open for Business

Its only been a few days and I'm still finding my feet at IPP Consulting, but I'm determined to hit the ground the running. That's right, I'm open for business and if you would like to learn more about how IPP might be able help your organisation with independent IT advice, please get in touch with either Brian Bailey or myself.

In fact, one of the conversations on my first day was about our elevator pitch to describe the kind of business technology consulting services we are providing along side IPP's established IT project, recruitment, relocations and infrastructure (e.g. data centres) consulting services. We're still fine tuning that elevator pitch, but a phrase we zeroed in on was "Technology Alignment". But, really, what does this mean in practice?

One focus area we have is what I call the "information workplace" - thinking of the physical environment of your workplace and all the different services, infrastructure and tools that exist to help people work, the information workplace consists of all the information systems that people need to work. This of course includes the new wave of social media tools (Wikis, Blogs, etc) and Web 2.0 service models, but also traditional technologies like enterprise content management (e.g. EMC Documentum), business intelligence (e.g. Cognos) and portals (e.g. Microsoft SharePoint). Today of course, unlike the physical workplace, the information workplace can also extend well beyond the firewall and we are seeing system convergence - e.g. unified communications.

Technology Alignment in this context is about providing an independent viewpoint to help ensure the right information, business process, communication and collaboration technologies are selected, designed, implemented, improved and sustained. And in the process of achieving technology alignment we look holistically at the business, people and technology issues. Simple right? But speaking to a vendor recently they admitted they didn't do change management very well but acknowledge it was a major risk to a successful outcome when they implemented their software.

So, maybe my elevator pitch is that IPP Consulting provides independent consulting to help make your information workplace successful. We are experienced business technology consultants who can help you to develop and manage your information workplace by addressing the alignment of business, people and technology. We can help you by simply providing another pair of eyes or we can manage a project from beginning to end.

What do you think?

As I've already hinted at, I think one of IPP Consulting's key points of difference is this independent view point. Vendor neutrality at IPP Consulting means the firm has no financial or other relationship with hardware or software vendors. However this doesn't mean we don't want to talk to vendors! A few years ago I started a series of industry update posts about different content and collaboration solutions and I would like to start that series again - so if you're a big or small vendor or have ambitions in the enterprise information workplace space, I'd like to hear from you... Remember, if I don't know about your product then I can't help clients to consider it as a possible solution.I'm looking forward to hearing from you.

Friday 18 July 2008

Dreaming of a new inbox

One of the liberating aspects of changing jobs is the idea of starting a fresh with a new email inbox. However, following Luis' lead I've been thinking if I might be able to minimise use of my new work inbox from the very start. I'm quite serious about this, as looking the stats for my work email over the last three years I'm seeing some scary numbers:

  • In 2006 I sent and received 10 emails per day on average, in 2007 it was 18 emails per day on average but in 2008 its now 30 per day on average.
  • So far this year I've managed to accumulate 2GB of email data, which means I would be on track for a 4GB mailbox by the end of the year.

This is despite having other communication options available, like instant messaging, project rooms and even a wiki - email is still king at the moment. In fact, breaking down my 2008 stats a little further, 70% of the volume of my work mailbox consists of messages sent to me. That's about 20 incoming emails per day, compared with Luis who had "between 30 to 40 e-mails a day at the highest peak of times" but who is now receiving just a little more than that per week! (And you wonder why I'm so interested in Enterprise RSS.)

In that respect its quite interesting to compare my work email account with my personal Web-based email account - I can't easily grab the same stats but I know that a great deal of the traffic there these days is predominately notifications for the different social apps I use - e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn, FaceBook, etc - and a few newsletters. There is probably room for improvement on that email front (like shifting more to RSS), but to be honest its less of a problem in my mind and certainly requires less day to day management at this point. Bear in mind the ratio of received to sent is probably even higher in my personal mailbox than work, but most of the incoming data is simply notifications.

Of course, I know that the challenge isn't really just one for me and its not just about reducing the numbers. Either way, I'm going to try and use this opportunity to finally loosen email's grip on me at work. And I might even end up being more productive as a result of it :-)

Saturday 12 July 2008

@Chieftech going 2 IPP. ttfn

Since the cat was let out of the bag on Twitter last night, I thought I would write a brief post to let people know that this coming Friday will be my last day at CSC - I'm moving into a technology consulting role at a specialist consulting firm, called IPP Consulting. I'll be working along side Brian Bailey based out of their Sydney office. Brian and I have previously worked together at Ernst & Young.

If this move to IPP Consulting doesn't make immediate sense when you read their profile - they have a strong emphasis on risk and security consulting, as well as technology - don't worry! I'm not about to disappear behind a firewall. If anything, expect to hear and see more from me in the future. For me this is about returning to the goals I had when I started my own consulting business in 2004, which is reflected in the tag line on this blog:

"Helping you to get on, not get by, with information technology"

This isn't to say I haven't been doing that at CSC (and I've really enjoyed the CSC experience), but I think I will be better positioned in my new role at IPP to do that. More on all that and what I'll be doing at IPP later...

Wednesday 9 July 2008

From EDP to CEO: Lessons from Ralph Norris, CEO at Commbank

Tonight I attended an UNSW Australian School of Business alumni event (I'm an MBT'er), Meet the CEO, with Ralph Norris from Commbank. I wouldn't normally blog about this kind of thing, but I was pleasantly surprised to hear about Ralph's background in information technology (Electronic data processing at Auckland Savings Bank in 1969, to be precise), which eventually saw him move into the role of CEO.

This profile on an unrelated ACS media release pretty well sums up some of the encouraging points he made about the role of IT tonight, particularly "Technology is an enabler". In addition, tonight he emphasised (to use my words) the importance of understanding the people context, having technologists with people skills and the importance of change management that answers the "what's in it for me question".

(All this certainly made up for the late start to the evening due to a firm alarm and the wet weather!)

Wednesday 2 July 2008

E-mail: A communication tool for one on one conversations of a sensitive, private or confidential nature

Unless you have been living in cave, you'll know that Luis has been giving up (or rather changing how he uses) corporate email. However, this is worth quoting from his most recent update:

"... I have never mentioned that e-mail is dead! I am just saying that it needs to be re-purposed and used for what it was meant to be in the first place: A communication tool for one on one conversations of a sensitive, private or confidential nature. The rest should be going out there, in the open, in the public space(s), transparent and with an opportunity for everyone to contribute! Notice that I am differentiating quite clearly between communication and collaboration, because they are not the same, no matter what people say about it!"

With the weight of evidence on Luis' side, is it time for us to update the definition of email? And perhaps at the same time we can dump all those email "dieting" tips, techniques and training courses? BTW I've made my thoughts about dealing with e-mail in an article, called For better, or worse: Living with e-mail in the workplace.

Tuesday 1 July 2008

The folly of waiting for the office of the future to boil

A number of factors are driving interest in virtual meetings and teaming at the moment - from the price of fuel to the carbon footprint of business travel. However, an alternative view point is the office of the future is driving us towards a more mobile and transient workforce anyway, so why not talk about the benefits that technology can provide regardless of the immediate trends - Capital One is a good well documented example and in this interview they explain the return on investment in terms of the efficient use of office space:

"My tour guide is Dan Mortensen, Capital One's senior vice president for corporate real estate.
MORTENSEN: One thing that you'll probably notice as you walk through is the place is occupied and busy. We actually have been able to take a space built for just over 600 work stations. And we actually have more than a thousand individuals assigned to this space. In fact, nearly 1,200 people are assigned to a space that's built for just over 600. One way to save on office space is to encourage employees to work at home, or in the field. When they do come in, mobile associates don't have a dedicated office. They take whatever space is available, or has been temporarily assigned to the associate's project team.

Its important to note the interplay between information technology and the design of Capital One's office spaces in this success story, as this article explains:

"Inaugurated in November 2006, the company's VoIP deployment -- known as My Phone, My Way -- provides employees a single phone number they can carry with them, thereby enhancing their mobility, says Robert Turner, senior vice president of enterprise technology operations at Capital One, and the project's lead. 'Our Future of Work implementation provides people with mobility options. They can work in any building and log in to their phone,' Turner says, adding that employees are equipped with a Cisco VoIP phone, a BlackBerry device, and a notebook PC."

However, I think many companies are going to get a shock if they think they can just "switch on" this kind of office of the future - not just the physical workspace elements, but also the supporting information technology infrastructure and more importantly the workplace culture change and skills needed for people to adopt. As this article in the Guardian comments:

"Remote working hasn't happened as speedily as a lot of pundits predicted it would years ago, probably because it involves an act of trust and a culture transplant that most companies can't easily cope with. Employees like the idea of working from home, but they are still reluctant to give up the status of a desk in the office that is a home away from home."