The Evolution Of Social Media

EvolutionThere has been a lot of hype around social media, social networks and social business, much of it unhelpful in getting real understanding what this is all about. For some people, “social” will always mean frivolity and time wasting. For others, social media just means marketing and communications.  Predating all of this hype, social learning networks and communities of practice have long existed as ecologies that would encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing. Off-line knowledge sharing communities have been around since the Middle Ages, where crafts and skills were honed, and perhaps best exemplified by the many Worshipful Companies – from bakers to candle-stick makers!

What has happened over the past several years is that social technology has made it easier than ever before to find, connect and engage with “experts” and people with similar interests. This trend was encouraged by Andrew McAfee in 2006 who coined the term “Enterprise 2.0” to describe how the strategic integration of social technologies into an enterprise’s intranet, extranet and business processes could improve decision making. This has given new life to learning, sharing and personal development. Enlightened organisations have recognised that investment in social technology and (most importantly) the organisational development that must accompany it in order to nurture and embed a collaborative culture, can overcome the limitations of silo’d structures that inhibit information flows and opportunities for innovation.  However, it’s still unfortunate that in many cases social media platforms are seen as technology projects and not as part of a wider and more embracing strategic organisational development project. It’s only when poor adoption rates become apparent that organisations begin to focus on behaviours, education and training

Put simply, we’re all still on the learning curve on how to build and sustain a truly collaborative culture, and must be continually reminded that technology is an enabler and not the solution. The paradox is that most collaboration projects are still IT-led and any involvement from HR or knowledge/information professionals is at best incidental.

In a broader context, the pervasive and ubiquitous availability of social media in almost all aspects of daily life, from the way we communicate, get information, buy and sell, travel, live and learn is adding to the pressure on organisations to provide a more porous interface between internal (behind the firewall) and external services. Knowledge workers are increasingly making their own decisions on what tools, products and services that they need to work more effectively and will become increasingly disaffected if these are not available within the work environment.  We’re already at the point where mobile platforms (smartphones, laptops, tablets) are outstripping sales of traditional desktops, and workers who can’t access social networks such as Twitter or Facebook on their office PC are just as likely to use their Smartphone to get access.  Some organisations are adapting to this challenge and embracing more mobile and agile working strategies by implementing ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) projects, with all of the security implications this entails.

What I’m hoping for in 2013:

  1. Organisations start to think about what problems they are trying to solve before implementing a technology “solution”.
  2. Collaboration and knowledge sharing are recognised as skills to be learnt and behaviours to be encouraged as part of a wider organisation development plan, rather than as a nebulous outcome on the back of an IT project.
  3. Organisations listen more to what tools their staff need to do their jobs, rather than assume that one-size-fits-all.
  4. Organisations embrace the benefits of more agile working and accept that not everyone needs to be in the office all of the time.

Well….I can hope!

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Social Business And The Collaborative Workforce

Better productivity, lower travel and communication costs, higher customer satisfaction, more innovation, increases in revenue and profit, faster access to knowledge, improved connection to internal experts and more. Why wouldn’t every organisation flock to this vision of an agile, connected, transparent, people-centred and more efficient business?

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Social Business

Better productivity, lower travel and communication costs, higher customer satisfaction, more innovation, increases in revenue and profit, faster access to knowledge, improved connection to internal experts and more.

Why wouldn’t every organisation flock to this vision of an agile, connected, transparent, people-centred and more efficient business?

Some organisations have glimpsed the future and recognised that survival and growth in an increasingly competitive environment requires new attitudes, new thinking, new business models that can adapt and change to a volatile environment. In short, they are tapping into the phenomenal rise of “social interaction”, where knowledge and information is freely exchanged and where new paradigms for employee and customer relationships can provide opportunities for innovation and co-production.

But what of the rest? There is only so long that an organisation can wait before it becomes too late. Competitors and customers have moved on.  Attracting new talent becomes more difficult; employees become moribund.

Doing nothing is the new business risk.

But it’s not always easy to make the necessary changes, particularly in large and well-established organisations. Some of the typical barriers that challenge large organisations include:

  1. Fear of change. People are generally risk-averse. Organisations more so, after all they are accountable to shareholders and other stakeholders. “Don’t fix it if it isn’t broken” is the usual mantra.
  2. Command-and-control. Who says every organisation wants to be transparent and flexible and invite participation from every quarter? What if senior management do not want a pluralist organisation where democracy rules?
  3. Profusion of tools. The explosion of social software tools is a source of great innovation, but also a lot of confusion. Organisations can easily end up with several enterprise social networks used by different teams or departments, or for different purposes, along with social applications for purposes such as project management or employee recognition, each coming with their own user profiles and activity steams and notions of how connections are formed.
  4. Lack of integration. A legacy patchwork of IT solutions that have only ever been superficially integrated and where every application has a threshold of “good enough” integration to make the system usable but never quite perfect.
  5. Competition from free public social networks. Staff will inevitably compare their experience on an enterprise social network with the one they enjoy on consumer sites such as Facebook. This can be a problem if the enterprise experience suffers by comparison by being awkward to navigate, frustrating to use, or missing important features.
  6. Compliance requirements. Regulated industries such as financial services and healthcare must pay particular attention to whether an enterprise social network meets compliance requirements such as data archiving. Moreover, they might tend to see more risk than benefit in a technology that makes it easy to share information widely when they have a responsibility to keep some categories of information under tight control.
  7. Fit with business processes and workflows. Enterprise social software should ultimately make business and work processes more efficient and adaptable to a fast-changing environment (internal or external).  How will improved knowledge flows and opportunities for collaboration and co-production be channelled into the existing business/work processes.

These are just some of the issues that will be covered at the forthcoming Social Workplace Conference on 24th May. There’s a great line-up of speakers and sponsors who will be sharing their experiences of building enterprise collaborative solutions and how they’ve addressed the barriers to organisational change.

A great opportunity to tap into the post-industrial age of “fluid knowledge”.



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Overcoming The Challenges of Internal Social Networking

Internal social networks offer numerous collaboration benefits for the average enterprise. They allow for quick, fluid, and constant communication, thereby making it easier for employees to coordinate at all times. They encourage feedback, proposals, and ideas from all workers, thus opening the door for innovation in any shape or form.

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Guest Blog by Jennifer Smith

It’s no secret that social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have found tremendous enthusiasm among businesses and enterprises. With Facebook, a company can freely advertise and conduct focus group research. It can draw traffic to a website and effectively engage with a loyal consumer base. It can create communication opportunities between employees, partners, and affiliates.

Many businesses have, in fact, embraced social media to such a degree that they seek to implement a social networking platform of their own. These internal social networks are accessible only to employees and include message boards, profile pages, file sharing software, and private communication applications – not dissimilar from a public social media system.

Internal social networks offer numerous collaboration benefits for the average enterprise. They allow for quick, fluid, and constant communication, thereby making it easier for employees to coordinate at all times. They encourage feedback, proposals, and ideas from all workers, thus opening the door for innovation in any shape or form. They furthermore integrate well with cloud computing platforms and allow files to be shared and transmitted in a secure manner. And, finally, they can contribute to the culture and sense of community that a company seeks to foster. Instead of having to stand near the water cooler or sit around in conference chairs, employees can feel integrated even when removed from the office.

There are two main concerns that prevent many managers from implementing an internal network. First, implementation difficulties and security challenges stand to pose headaches even after adoption occurs. Second, it is often feared that employees, when given access to an internal social network, will only become less productive during the workday as a result. Both of these concerns ultimately boil down to money, as business decisions usually do. Are the costs of installing and maintaining the system worth those peripheral benefits – benefits that may only be offset by productivity losses in the first place?

While this question is a valid one, it is likely that these concerns will only continue to diminish in the future. When internal social networks integrate further with cloud computing software, businesses will increasingly view the joint security and implementation costs to be worthwhile ones. When social networking becomes an even more dominant business tool, companies will more and more often realise that collaboration between employees is just as important as communication between consumers. And in this manner, the challenges posed by internal networks will – slowly but surely – be surmounted and overcome.

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Building and Nurturing On-Line Communities – Batteries Not Included

Much has been written about best practice for developing and nurturing on-line communities , such as Communities of Practice (CoP), and the accepted wisdom is that technology by itself – no matter how good – will NOT deliver vibrant and successful communities. “Build it and they won’t come”  should be the mantra, as Google Wave so amply demonstrated (and I know this was not an on-line community in its purest sense before I get flamed!).

I’ve previously tried to illustrate this using the analogy of baking a cake, where the cake’s ingredients e.g. sugar, butter, flour, eggs, milk are the component parts of an on-line community. To bake a really good cake you need all of these ingredients; missing out any one of them can result in something which either looks or tastes nothing like a cake.

cake-ingredientsSimilarly missing out one of the ingredients in an on-line community will lead to potential failure of the community. Clearly some ingredients will be key, e.g. technology is going to be pretty important if it’s an on-line community! Members/users are important because they ARE the community. But let’s not forget the other ingredients, such as the community facilitator (also variously known as the community manager, steward or moderator) the business sponsor, the subject matter experts, the mentors, the librarians etc. Some of these roles may be combined, but the functions they perform are distinct. But I want concentrate on the role and function of the community facilitator, for I would argue that this role is the difference between the success and failure of an on-line community (and especially a CoP), and I have the empirical evidence to prove it!

For any prior readers of this blog you will know I had (and still have) a key role in the development of the local government on-line community platform. Currently over 65,000 registered users and 1,300 CoPs.  Using various metrics available on the platform, I can clearly see the correlation between a successful community and the capability of the facilitator. If this role is so important to the health of the community, what skills and attributes are needed to be a successful facilitator? I’m still not entirely sure, though I do know it’s not a case of just providing some training, although this does help. It’s more about personality; enthusiasm; willingness to share; being sensitive to the community environment; and energy! Lots and lots of energy. Not the sort of things you can learn or teach using a pedagogical approach. I recall co-hosting a community facilitator’s story-telling session using the excellent Anecdote story-telling guidelines. We got ten or so of the LG Improvement and Development (previously IDeA) exemplar community facilitators together to share their experience of what worked so that we could perhaps identify some key lessons that could be shared with all the other community facilitators. One recurrent theme was how hard they worked at making the community successful.  There was nothing really unique or special that they were doing, other than putting energy and enthusiasm into their role. They believed in the goals for their community and worked at helping the community achieve them.

So, coming back to my original theme: what makes a successful on-line community? The community facilitator is the answer, and though it’s clear we need some useful technology to support an on-line environment, that alone will not deliver success. If you will excuse me for switching metaphors, an on-line community (CoP) without a good facilitator is like have having a battery-driven toy without the batteries –  and hence the title of this blog post. This concept is supported by the accompanying slides, developed for a recent IBM webinar hosted and arranged by my good friend and colleague Luis Suarez (@elsua) and available for download from Slideshare.

To conclude, a brief story about a recent response to a proposal I received from a large government body who wanted a cost effective solution to improving knowledge sharing for their dispersed staff. There was a limited budget, and I identified a fairly low-cost collaborative technology solution that was well within the available budget. However, I also included a dependency on having a community facilitator/manager to ensure the success of this nascent community. Unfortunately the cost of the community facilitator/manager was more than twice the cost of the technology, and consequently the solution was starting to look expensive and unlikely to be accepted and implemented by the client. Yes, I could have just quoted the cost of the technology and then left them to get on with it, but then again, I’m not a technology vendor and I don’t believe in perpetuating the myth that technology delivers successful on-line communities. It would have been like leaving them with a battery-driven product but not telling them that the batteries were not included!

I hope the slides are useful for anyone involved in bulding and sustaining on-line communities – and if you happen to be a community facilitator, you have my utmost respect!

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The Impact Of The Social Web In 21st Century Organisations

The following was published in the Guardian IT Supplement on Thursday 26th November. It was produced as a leader article for the Online Information Conference 2009.

We are witnessing an extraordinary growth in user-generated content, whether it is conversations on social networks such as MySpace, Bebo or Facebook, or photos and videos uploaded to websites such as YouTube and Flickr, or comments and opinions published in the ‘blogosphere’ or ‘twitterverse’.  It has never been easier to get ‘digitally connected’, where more often than not the only technology required is a mobile phone.

What some commentators initially referred to as a trend is now being seen more as a revolution, with a potential impact as great as that seen in the 16th century, where the introduction of the printing press made mass production of books possible and created the environment for better educated societies.

The phenomenon has been variously labelled as Web 2.0, or social computing, but the term ‘social web’ is a more accurate description since it invokes the concept of people and relationships that that are supported and enabled by technology.  Perhaps the best description for the social web is that it is the democratisation of voice, conversation and opinion. It is no longer necessary to be elite or famous, or have a newspaper, TV or production company behind you in order to be heard. The cost of participation is trivial, where almost anyone can blog, or upload their clip to YouTube, or their photos to Flickr.

But what does all this mean for 21st century organisations? Opinion remains split between two camps; those who see the social web as something to be embraced and incorporated into how their business is developed, and those who consider it as irrelevant or hostile to their business, or a time wasting activity for their staff.

In the ‘pro’ camp are those organisations that are aware that their products and services are being discussed by their users and customers, and have realised that this can be a rich source of intelligence and research. Participating in these conversations provides a potential business advantage if they can respond to, adapt and deliver on user requirements ahead of their competitors. EBay and Amazon are two of the more well know organisations that have embraced this way of working, where the social web is providing thousands of touch points with their customers, replacing the more traditional single-channel CRM model.

An example from the public sector is Patient Opinion, which encourages hospital patients to comment on their experience in their local hospital. These comments are then collated, categorised and aggregated before being automatically directed to the relevant manager in the NHS. Though each comment may focus on some micro aspect of the service – e.g. “The ward orderlies never knocked”, or “The consultant never once washed his hands”; collectively they have the same power as a highly organised lobbying group for influencing policy change and improvement.

The ‘con’ camp is more likely to comprise of those organisations that are conservative in their outlook, and hence more risk averse. However, the new risk is in not being able to adapt to an increasingly volatile environment. The social web is an agitating presence that can create rapid change in user requirements and erosion of brand loyalty.

Organisations that remain oblivious to the social web also remain oblivious to what their customers are saying, with the consequence that their products and services become irrelevant. Successful 21st century organisations will be fully tuned into the social web; they will have a better understanding of their customers’ needs and concerns, which will drive innovation, improvement and efficiency.

What is certain is that everything remains uncertain; that the ability to adapt and change are prerequisites for survival, and that the social web can no longer be ignored – by anyone!

Guardian IT Supplement (PDF)

Guardian printpress

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Managing Beyond Web 2.0 – MkKinsey Article

A recent McKinsey & Co article advocates that organisations should start preparing now for when Web 2.0 morphs into Web 3.0.  The article doesn’t really expand on what it means by ‘Web 3.0’, but there are a few useful nuggets, such as:

  1. Using social networks to listen to what customers are saying (read ‘citizens’ for public sector organisations)
  2. Rather than pushing messages at consumers (citizens), isten to them and think constantly about ways to activley engage with them.
  3. Experiment with social media  – e.g. create an organisation profile on social-networking sites or sponsor an event.
  4. Optimize your Web site so that it connects fluidly with online communities and social-media sites.
  5. Make friends with bloggers and tweet your customers on Twitter.
  6. Make it simple for consumers to link to you and tag your content.
  7. Eliminate the mass-media broadcast mentality: for example, rather than simply buying ads on MySpace, make interactive Web 2.0 and integral part of the communications strategy.
  8. Use the Web tools and quantitative analysis to track the results of your experiments.

The Bottom line is that by focusing on the fundamental aspects of the consumer’s (or citizen’s) online behaviour— not just current best practices—organisations will be better prepared when Web 2.0+ morphs into Web 3.0 and beyond.

McKinsey – managing beyond web 2.0 (PDF)

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Knowledge Hub – part 1

This is the first opportunity I’ve had to write anything about the Knowledge Hub (Khub) Advisory Group meeting that took place last week (17th September) in London, though a number of my colleagues have been pretty active in the blogosphere and twitterverse on the topic. In particular I found Ingrid Khoeler’s post pretty much spot on and wondered if indeed if I had anything more to say on the topic. Well, clearly yes, because I’ve started this post!

Maybe I should start by giving some background to this project. I think the story starts in summer 2005 when I was contracted by the Improvement & Development Agency (IDeA) to develop a three year knowledge management strategy. Though it’s only 4 years ago, much has changed on the KM landscape since then, not least of which is the development of Web 2.0 tools and techniques to support knowledge sharing. However, I distinctly recall that this was deemed a high risk strategy when I raised the concept of developing a Web 2.0 platform that would support communities of practice (CoPs) working in local government, and switching emphasis from publishing (i.e. broadcasting) information on cases studies and best practice to connecting people who have the same goals or same issues, such that they can collectively solve problems and share learning with other practitioners working in the sector. I should also add that the term “Web 2.0” was not even invented when we started this programme; it is accredited to Tim O’Reilly who used the term for the first time later that year.

Winding the clock forward 4 years it is easy to forget how incredibly difficult it was to get this project off the ground and in particular getting to a point where there were sufficient number of users and communities to ensure the strategy was self-sustaining. With over 35,000 users and more than 900 CoPs, I think we’ve achieved this, and the CoP platform has gone on to win a number of industry awards for encouraging team working and knowledge sharing in local government. However it will come as no surprise to KM professionals working in this space to know that the technology was the easiest bit; establishing trusted communities and developing new ways of working is where the real effort was required.

I was almost caught by surprise when I was asked “what next?”when the anniversary of the 3-year strategy came around in 2008. I struggled with this question for some time, and spent an uncomfortable winter of 2008/9 coming up with a strategy for the next 3 years. However, I did eventually present a strategy paper to the IDeA KM Steering Group in February 2009 which described the idea of a Knowledge Hub. The concept is largely based on personal experience as a KM practitioner in trying to keep up to date with new ideas and good practice. This entailed belonging to many different professional networks, both on-line and off-line, active use of social bookmarking and development of many different types of lenses and filters, such as RSS feed aggregators and personalised dashboards – in order to make some sense of the growing mass of information that was available. In essence, picking out the conversations that add value from the background noise.

Reflecting on the tools and techniques I used, I realised that though the “Web 2.0” landscape has made it far easier to connect with people and share knowledge, it has also created its own complexities. I don’t think a day goes by where I don’t get invited to join another social network. Standards such as Open Social do help in creating the links between the community platforms that adopt this standard, but we’re still a long way from having one ubiquitous standard that all vendors are happy to support, and maybe this is utopia.

In developing the next 3 years strategy it was also helpful to look at what had worked and what hadn’t with the IDeA CoP platform. Interestingly (and this is where I often wish I’d taken a degree in anthropology or sociology) most communities were being set up as private spaces, and there was little evidence of inter-community knowledge sharing. It was as if we’d created a platform which encouraged silos of knowledge to develop. And, with the exception of the IDeA-sponsored CoPs, it was very difficult to solicit information on how successful these closed and private CoPs were in achieving their goals. This has been partly addressed by having a “Community Hub”, an enhancement to the CoP platform that went live in October 2008 which encourages CoP members to publish what they are doing in a common community space visible to all users of the platform.

So, we come to the “Knowledge Hub”. What is it? How will it overcome silo’d knowledge repositories? How will it help users to connect and share knowledge more effectively? How will it help to improve local government services? Quite simply, it will support more effective decision making by making it far easier for users to filter, share and access the information that is most relevant to them, using personal profile data and activity streams to improve relevance. We’re all familiar with commercial websites such as Amazon which give us information about ‘customers who purchased this also purchased….’, and reviews from customers on how good/bad a product is, so why not reuse and adapt these techniques for professional networking platforms? Again, Amazon were doing this long before the term Web 2.0 was bandied around, yet they are one of the best exponents of Web2.0 technology to engage with and better understand their customers. So, we’re not really doing anything new with the Knowledge Hub, other than applying these tools and techniques to a professional network of local government staff.

The Khub will support social computing and adopt open standards that enable connections to be made between personal and professional networks.


It will be a vantage point and visualisation tool, providing “heat maps” showing emerging trends and ideas. It will have a serendipity engine which enables new topics and ‘hot’ conversations to bubble up to the top.

Content sources will include Twitter feeds, e.g. from local councils, Blogs, RSS feeds from council websites and other public, private and third sector organisations involved in public services. It will have access to publicly available datasets and enable mashups between different data sources to be created for value-added services. For example, overlaying data on knife crime with socio-demographic data, displayed against Google Maps to indicate hot spots or where local authority initiatives have had most impact.

It will be an open platform where APIs can be used for developing value-added services. Widgets and plug-ins can be developed for users to easily customise and personalise their interface to the system, e.g. using iGoogle Netvibes or iPhones.

It will support benchmarking and data visualisation tools that enable councils to compare and contrast services in order to identify lines of inquiry that may lead to greater efficiency savings (see post by Ingrid on the Efficiency Exchange).

It’s also a big, bold and ambitious project with many stakeholders, and particularly the department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) who are funding the project.

It is therefore extremely important that we have an empowered and “expert” Advisory Group, drawn from a cohort of freelance and independent social innovators who are currently delivering collaborative solutions to the public sector, together with stakeholders from central government and social media early adopters working in councils and local communities. The Group will help shape the project over the coming months, and help in identifying the training and support that may be needed in local authorities in order to ensure its success.

As I mentioned earlier, this is a 3-year strategy, but at least now the journey is now underway!

Check out the slides below to get a better perspective of what this all about or contact me if you need any more information. See also Dave Briggs post on The Partnerships and Places Library prototype – which is one of the discreet projects that will feed into the development of the Knowledge Hub. There’s a lot happening out there!

If you want to follow the conversations around this topic, then sign-in or join the FriendFeed ‘room’.

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EDRM and Web 2.0 – where two worlds collide.

Possibly at a slight tangent to the collaboration and knowledge management memes that I normally write about, and no doubt exposing my roots in Information Management, I’ve been doing some research into the potential dichotomies between the highly structured and organised world of document and records management, and the relatively unstructured (some might almost say ‘anarchic’) world of Web 2.0.  I’ve been particularly intrigued by how Information and Records Managers working for public sector organisations seem to be oblivious to the growing trend towards use of Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Google Apps by staff who have become frustrated by the limitations of their Enterprise systems. And this in environments where effective data/information governance is essential for meeting compliance and regulatory requirements, i.e. central and local government.

Soon after embarking on this journey of enlightenment I realised that there were very few people who seemed to fully appreciate the impact and implications of data and information being created across multiple applications and repositories in organisations where there is public accountability. One notable exception is Steve Bailey, who’s book “Managing the Crowd: rethinking records management for the web 2.0 world“  became my main inspiration for developing my own thoughts on this issue, but I should also acknowledge my friend and colleague James Lappin, who I’ve turned to on more than one occasion for support and advice on some complex information management issue and from whom I’ve borrowed more than one idea in the following preamble I used for a recent presentation on this particular topic.

In the mid 1990’s records management simply transferred its paper practices over into the electronic world; building classification structures and folders into network drives or Electronic Document and Records Management (EDRM) systems.

Web 1.0 didn’t make any significant difference to EDRM strategies. Staff passively consumed websites, but they were still dependent for theor own work on the systems provided, policed and controlled by their organisations. Now Web 2.0 is here, colleagues can create, share and store information in any number of web-hosted applications: Google docs, blogs, wikis, Slideshare, Flickr, YouTube, Facebook etc. The information is not held on the organisation’s servers. Web 2.0 is tilting the balance of power away from the organisation towards the individual.

There is a dichotomy between organisation-centric information management and user-centric information management, which is not being recognised or given sufficient priority by Records Managers. It will be interesting to see how future disclosure if information under the Freedom of Information Act will be addressed where significant parts of the ‘evidential record’ are distributed across different applications, many of which are outside the firewall, and many of which are potentially unknown to CIO’s.

I presented on this dichotomy between the structure and control as enforced through traditional electronic document and records managements systems (EDRMS) and the almost freeform environment of Web 2.0 at a recent Public Sector Forums event. Perhaps the title of the presentation is a little over-dramatic, but my intention was to evoke some interest and reaction from what appears to be a very laissez faire attitude to all this from Records Managers and other information management professionals.  I don’t profess to have all the answers to the issues, but it might go some way to thinking about how these issues are going to be addressed if there was at least some recognition that current IM policies and standards are at best out of date and at worst, completely irrelevant in a Web 2.0 world. Perhaps this blog might at least raise some awareness!

Edrm And Web 2.0 Where Two Worlds Collide Slideshare Mar09

View more presentations from Steve Dale.
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Enterprise 2.0 – Innovation through Aquisition

Great spot by Mike Gotta over at Collaborative Thinking. He picks up on an article in CIO magazine by CG Lynch, “Web 2.0, Social Networks in ’09: The Year of Consolidation, Not Innovation“, originally spotted by the The Connections Blog. This quote puts it all into perspective quite nicely:

IBM, for its part, has more aggressively shown willingness to move forward with Lotus Connections, which right now has a better design than the social software features in SharePoint, which is largely still a document management system.

I think most people would agree with that – well at least those that are struggling to implement Sharepoint as a social software solution.

The CIO article goes on to say:

But both companies are further removed from innovation than the enterprise 2.0 vendors. While enterprise 2.0 vendors mimic what they see in the consumer market, thus keeping them a degree of separation away from where the innovation actually occurs, the incumbents are even further removed; they simply copy the enterprise 2.0 vendors.

This isn’t a sustainable model for innovation in the enterprise Web 2.0 market. With shrinking access to venture capital, there’s reason to believe some of the enterprise 2.0 start-ups will fail or struggle to make money in 2009. When this happens, they’ll either fold or be purchased by IBM or Microsoft.

Web 2.0, Social Networks in ’09: The Year of Consolidation, Not Innovation – CIO – Blogs and Discussion

Mike goes on to say:

Sure, Connections is ahead of SharePoint when it comes to some of the key aspects of social software – but I find “Enterprise 2.0 vendors” to be ahead of Microsoft and IBM when it comes to certain technical capabilities or user experience aspects. Sometimes I think that Microsoft and IBM are so intent on stealing away the install base of the other, that they are not paying attention to other market signals regarding what customers are looking for in social platforms. Still, the economic downturn will make it difficult for smaller vendors to survive so IT strategists should expect some vendors to fail and others to be acquired (which really is not anything terribly insightful based on past downturns and bubble bursts).

So, on reflection, I’d say that Google are pretty well placed to just get on with mopping up the Social Computing space that the ‘Enterprise’ boys are ignoring.  The key differentiator (and potential weakness) between enterprise vendors such as IBM and Microsoft and their erstwhile nemesis Google is the very fact that they only know ‘enterprise-speak’, i.e. negotiating and selling at a corporate level, whereas Google’s market is the end user, a market they they know far better than their competitors in the social computing stakes.  So, whilst users wait for their organisations to provide what they really want, Google is out there delivering it, e.g. Google Groups, Google Apps, Google Sites, Google Friends Connect etc.

Yes, we know that the likes of IBM and Microsoft will survive the credit crunch, and that consolidation is a natural consequence of a recession, but I know which horse I’m putting my money on to flourish in these difficult times!

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Enterprise 2.0 tools and the need for business context

An interesting discussion over at Jon Mell’s blog about Enterprise 2.0 tools and the need for systems developers to consider business process context for the tools and not assume the users will intuitively know this. I think there is merit in this idea, but as I have commented:

I don’t disagree with the general thrust of your argument, i.e. keeping the tools you use within the context of the business process. However, the last point you make (…the tools should do the thinking for us as to which communication mechanism to use – they shouldn’t require us to think) is arguably a utopian view and, certainly in my opinion, unlikely to happen. In fact, I was putting a presentation together yesterday for a group of people who we’re trying to encourage to get more involved in an on-line community, and one of my bullets read…”Live with the complexity; technology can’t solve everything”. So for me, I think we should strive to become more like Generation Y and learn how to use the tools in context until it becomes intuitive.

Pitch in if you have an opinion.

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