Interesting thoughts around the Information Continuum

In a blog post called ”The Information Continuum and the Three Types of Subtly Semi-Structured Information” Mark Kellogg discusses what we really mean with unstructured, semi-structured and structured information. In my project we have constant discussions around this and how to look upon the whole aspect of chunking down content into reusable pieces that in itself needs some structured in order to be just that – reusable. At first we were ecstatic over the metadata capabilities in our Documentum platform because we have made our unstructured content semi-structured which in itself is a huge improvement. However, it is important to see this as some kind of continuum instead of three fixed positions.

One example is of course the PowerPoint/Keynote/Impress-presentation which actually is not one piece. Mark Kellogg reminded me of the discussions we have had around those slides being bits of content in a composite document structure. It is easy to focus on the more traditional text-based editing that you see in Technical Publications and forget that presentations have that aspect in them already. To be honest when we first got Documentum Digital Asset Manager (DAM) in 2006 and saw the Powerpoint Assembly tool we became very enthusiastic about content reuse. However, we found that feature a little bit too hard to use and it never really took off. What we see in Documentum MediaWorkSpace now is a very much remamped version of that which I look forward to play around with. I guess the whole thing comes back to the semi-structured aspect of those slides because in order to facilitate reuse they somehow need to get some additional metadata and tags. Otherwise it is easy the sheer number of slides available will be too much if you can’t filter it down based on how it categories but who has created them.

Last year we decided to take another stab at composite document management to be able to construct templates referring to both static and dynamic (queries) pieces of content. We have made ourselves a rather cool dynamic document compsotion tool on top of our SOA-platform with Documentum in it. It is based on DITA and we use XMetaL Author Enterprise as the authoring tool to construct the templates, the service bus will resolve the dynamic queries and Documentum will store and transform the large DITA-file into a PDF. What we quickly saw was yet another aspect of semi-structured information since we need a large team to be able to work in parallell to ”connect” information into the finished product. Again, there is a need for context in terms of metadata around these pieces of reusable content that will end up in the finished product based on the template. Since we depend of using a lot of information coming in from outside the organisation we can’t have strict enforcement of the structure of the content. It will arrive in Word, PDF, Text, HTML, PPT etc. So there is a need to transform content into XML, chunk it up in reusable pieces and tag it so we can refer to it in the template or use queries to include content with a particular set of tags.

This of course bring up the whole problem with the editing/authoring client. The whole concept of a document is be questioned as it in itself is part of this Continuum. Collaborative writing in the same document has been offered by CoWord, TextFlow and the recently open source Google tool Etherpad and will now be part of the next version of Microsoft Office. Google Wave is a little bit of a disrupting force here since it merges the concept of instant messaging, asynchronous messaging (email) and collaborative document editing. Based on the Google Wave Federation protocol it is also being implemented in Enterprise Applications such as Novell Pulse.

So why don’t just use a wiki then? Well, the layout tools is nowhere as rich as what you will find in Word processors and presentation software and since we are dependent on being able to handle real documents in these common format it becomes a hassle to convert them into wiki format or even worse try to attach them to a wiki page. More importantly a wiki is asynchronous in nature and that is probably not that user friendly compared to live updates. The XML Vendors have also went into this market with tools like XMetaL Reviewer which leverages the XML infrastructure in a web-based tool that almost in real-time allow users to see changes made and review them collaboratively.

This lead us into the importance of the format we choose as the baseline for both collaborative writing and the chunk-based reusable content handling that we like to leverage. Everybody I talk to are please with the new Office XML-formats but say in their next breath that the format is complex and a bit nasty. So do we choose OpenOffice, DITA or what? What we choose as some real impact on the tool-end of our solutions because You probably get most out of a tool when it is handling its native format or at least the one it is certified to support. Since it is all XML when can always transform back and forth using XSLT or XProc.

Ok, we have the toolset and some infrastructure in place for that. Now comes my desire to not stove-pipe this information in some close system only used to store ”collaborative content”. Somehow we need to be able to ”commit” those ”snapshots” of XML-content that to some degree consitutes a document. Maybe we want to ”lock it” down so we know what version of all of that has been sent externally or just to know what we knew at a specific time. Very important in military business. That means that it must be integrated into our Enterprise Content Management-infrastructure where it in fact can move on the continuum into being more unstructured since it could even be stored as a single binary document file. Some we need to be able to keep the tracability so you know what versions of specific chunks was used and who connected them into the ”document”. Again, just choosing something like Textflow or Etherpad will not provide that integration. MS Office will of course be integrated with Sharepoint but I am afraid that implementation will not support all the capabilities in terms of tracability and visualisation that I think you need to make the solution complete. Also XML-content actually like to live in XML-databases such as Mark Logic Server and Documentum XML Store so that integration is very much need more or less out of the box in order to make it possible to craft a solution.

We will definitely look into Documentum XML Technologies more deeply to see if we can design an integrated solutions on top of that. It looks promising especially since a XProc Pipeline for DITA is around the corner.

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EMC World 2010: Chiming in with Word of Pie about the future of Documentum

We have got a written reaction to Mark Lewis’ keynote held at EMC World 2010 in Boston. I both feel and have the passion around Enterprise Content Management and it is great that Laurence Hart spent so much time and effort on talking to people to craft this post. Someone need to say things even if they are not always easy to hear. So I will try to not repeat what he said in this blog post but rather try to provide my perspective which comes from what I have learned about Information and Knowledge Management over the past years. ECM and Documentum is a very critical component to move that IKM vision from the Powerpoint stage into reality. In our case an experimentation platform that allows to put our ideas to improve the ”business” of staff work in a large military HQ into something people can try, learn and be inspired from. Also, this turned out to be a long blog post which calls for an summary on top:

The Executive Summary (or message to EMC IIG) of this blog post:

  • Good name change but make sure You live up to your name.
  • A greater degree of agility is very much needed but do not simplify the platform so much that implementing an ECM-strategy is impossible.
  • Case Management is not the umbrella term, it is just one of many solutions on top of Documentum xCP
  • The whole web has gone Social Media and Rich Media. The Enterprise is next. Develop what You have and stay relevant in the 2010-ies!
  • Be more precise when it comes to the term ”collaboration”. There is a whole spectrum to support here.
  • Be more bold and tell people that Documentum offers an unique architectural approach to informtion management – stop comparing clients.
  • Tell people that enabling Rich Media, Case Management, E 2.0 and (Team) Collaboration on one platform is both important and possible.
  • I am repeating myself here: You want to sell storage, right? Make sure Video Management is really good in Documentum!

The name change

Before I start I just need to reflect on the name change from Content Management and Archiving into Information Intelligence Group (IIG). I agree with Pie…the had to be changed to make it more relevant in 2010 and a focus on information (as in information management which is more than storage ILM) is the right way to go. The intelligence part of it is of course a bit fun because of my own profession but still it implies doing smart things with information and that should include everything from building context with Enterprise 2.0 features to advanced Content and Information Analytics. You have the repository to store all of that – now make sure you continue to invest in analytics engine to generate structure and visualisation toolkit to make use of all the metadata and audit trails. Maybe do something with TIBCO Spotfire.

Documentum xCP – lowering the threshold and creating a more agile platform

Great. Documentum needs to be easier to deploy, configure and monitored. Needed to get know customers on board easier and make existing ones be able to do smarter things with it in less time. However, it is easy to fall into the trap of simplifying things to much here. To me there is nothing simple around implementing Enterprise Content Management (ECM) as a concept and as a method in an organization. One major problem with Sharepoint and other solutions is that they are way to easy to install so people actually are fooled into skipping the THINKING part of implementing ECM and think it is just ”next-next-finish”. All ECM-systems needs to be configured and adapted to fit the business needs of the organisation. Without that they will fail. xCP can offer a way to do that vital configuration (preceeded by THINKING) a lot more easier and also more often. We often stress how it is important to have the technical configuration move as close to any changes in Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) as possible. If Generals want to change the way they work and the software does not support it they will move away from using the software. Agility is the key.

In our vision the datamodel needs to be much more agile. Value lists need to updated often – sometimes based on ad hoc folksonomy tagging. Monitoring of the use of metadata and tags will drive that. Attributes or even object types need to be updated more often. Content need to be ingested quickly while providing structure later on (think XML Store with new schemas here). xCP is therefore a welcome thing but make sure it does not compromise the core of what makes Documentum unique today.

The whole Case Management thing

Probably the thing that most of us reacted against in the Mark Lewis Keynote was the notion that ECM-people in reality just have done Case Management all the time. I recently spend some time reflecting on that in another blog post here called ”Can BPM meet Enterprise 2.0 over Adaptive Case Management?”. There is clearly a continuum here between supporting very formal process flows and very ad-hoc Knowledge Worker-style work. They clearly seem different and while they likely meet over Adaptive Case Management but to me it makes no sense to have that term cover the whole spectrum – even for EMC Marketing 🙂

I immediately saw that Public Sector Investigative work is often used as an example of Case Management. Case Management in especially done by law enforcement agencies is fundamentally different from work done by Intelligence Agencies because in Case-based Police investigations there is usually some legal requirement to NOT share information between cases unless authorised by managers. This is of not the case (!) for all Case Management applications but from a cultural perspective it is important that Case Management-work by the Police is not a line of business that should be used as an example of information sharing. It is even so that the underlying concept actually is at ends with any concept of unified enterprise content management strategy where information should be shared. That is why workgroup-oriented tools such as i2 Analyst’s Workstation have become so popular there.

The point here is that it is important to not disable sharing in the architectural level because again it is what constitutes a good ECM-system that content can be managed in a unified way. Don’t be fooled by requirements for that – use the powerful security model to make it possible. Then Law Enforcement Agencies can use it as well. However, there must be more to ECM than Case Management – as Word of Pie suggests it is just ONE of many solutions on top of the Documentum xCP platform. A platform which is agile enough to quickly build advanced solutions for ECM on top.

Collaboration vs Sharing and E.20

So, Collaboration is used everywhere now but the real meaning with it actually varies a bit. First there are two kind of collaboration modes:

  • Synchronous (real-time)
  • Asynchronous (non-real time – ”leave info and pick up later)

Obviously neither Documentum nor Sharepoint is in real-time part of the business. For that you will need Lotus Sametime, Office Communications Server, Adobe Connect Pro or similar products. However, Google Wave provides a bit of confusion here since it integrates instant messaging and collaborative document editing/writing.

However, I am bit bothered by the casual notion of anything as a collaboration tool like Sharepoint and for that sake eRoom is getting. To further break this down I believe there is a directness factor in collaboration. Team collaboration has a lot of directness where you collaborate along a given task with collegues. That is not the same as many of the Social Media/Enterprise 2.0 features which does not have a clear recipient of the thing you are sharing. And sharing is the key since you basically are providing a piece of information in case anyone wants/needs it. That is fundamentally different from sending an email to project members or uploading the latest revision to the project’s space. Andrew McAffe has written about this concept and uses the concept of a bullseye representing strong and weak ties to illustrate this effect.

My point is that it is important that tools for team collaborations from an information architecture standpoint can become part of the more weaker indirect sharing concept. That is the vehicle to utilze the Enterprise 2.0 effect in a large enterprise. Otherwise we have just created another set of stove-pipes or bubbles of information that is restricted to team members. I am not saying that all information should be this transparent but I will argue that based on a ”responsibility to provide”-concept (see US Intel Community Information Sharing Policy) restricting that sharing of information should be exception – not the norm.

Sure as Word of Pie points out in his article ”CenterStage, the Latest ex-Collaboration Tool from EMC” there are definitely things missing from the current Centerstage release compared to both Sharepoint and EMC’s old tool eRoom. However, as Andrew Goodale points out in the comments I also think it is a bit unfair because both eRoom and at least previous versions of Sharepoint (which many are using) actually lacks all these important social media features that serves to lower the threshold and increase participation by users. They also provide critical new context around the information objects that was not available before in DAM, WebTop or Taskspace. Centerstage also provides a way to consume them in terms of activity streams, RSS-feeds and faceted search. Remember that Centerstage is the only way to surface those facets from Documentum Search Server today.

So, I am also a bit disappointed that things are missing in Centerstage that should be there and I also really want to stress the importance of putting resources into that development. Those features in there are critical for implementing all serious implementations of an ECM-strategy and the power of Documentum is that they all sits in the same repository architecture with a service layer to access them. Maybe partner with Socialcast to provide a best practice implementation to support a more extensive profile page and microblogging. Choose a partner for Instant Messaging in order to connect the real-time part of collaboration into the platform. Again, use your experience from records management and retention policies to make those real-time collaboration activities saved and managed in the repository.

Be bold enough to say you are an Sharepoint alternative – but for the right reasons

I’m not an IT-person, I come into this business with a vision change the way a military HQ handles information so I see Enterprise Content Management more as a concept than a technology platform. However, when I have tried to execute our vision it becomes very clear that there is a difference between technology vendors and I like to think that difference comes from internal culture, experience, and vision of the company. It is the ”why” behind why the platform looks like it does and has the features it has. So as long you are not building everything from scratch for yourself it actually matters a lot which company you chose to deliver the platform to make your ECM vision happen. That means that there IS a difference between Documentum and Sharepoint in the way the platform works and we need to be able to talk about that. However, what I see now is that most people focus on the client side of it and try to embrace it is a popular collaboration tool. Note that I say tool – not platform. All those focuses on the client side of it where the simplified requirement is basically a need for a digital space to share some documents in. However, the differentiator is not whether Centerstage or Sharepoint meets that requirement – both do. The differentiator is whether you have a conceptual vision on how to manage the sum of all information that an organization have and to what degree those concepts can be implemented in technology. That is where the Documentum platform is different from other vendors and why it is different from Sharepoint. Sharepoint is sometimes a little bit to easy to get started with which unfortunately means there is no ECM-strategy behind the implementation and when the organisation have thousands of Sharepoint sites (silos) after a year or so that is when that choice of platform really starts to differ.

This week at EMC World has been a great one as usual and there is no shortage of brilliant technical skills and development of features in the platform. What I guess bothers me and some other passionate ECM/Documentum-people is the message coming out from the executive level at IIG. In the end, that is where the strategic resource decision are made and where the marketing message being constructed. I think now there is a lot more to do on the vision and marketing level than actually needs to be done on the platform itself. The hard part seem to be proud of what the platform is today, realize it’s potential to remain the most capable and advanced on the market and use that to stay relevant in many applications of ECM – not just Case Management.

Rich Media – A lot of content to manage and storage to sell

One of the strong points of Documentum is that it can manage ALL kind of content in a good way and that includes of course rich media assets such as photos, videos and audio files. Don’t look upon this as some kind of specialised market only needed by traditional ”creative” markets. This is something everybody needs now. All companiens (and military units for that sake) have an abundance of digital still and video cameras where a massive amount of content needs to be managed just as all the rest of the content. There is a need for platform technologies that actually ”understands” that content and can extract metadata from it so that this content can be navigated and found easily. It is also important to assist users in repurposing this content so it can be displayed easily without consuming all bandwith and also easily be included in presentations and other documents. This is also very much relevant from a training and learning perspective where screencams and recorded presentations has so much potential. It does not have to be a full Learning Management System but at least an easy way to provide it. Maybe have a look at your dear friend Cisco and their Show and Share application. Oh, it is marketed as a Social Video System – the connections to Centerstage (and not just MediaWorkspace) is a bit too obvious. Make sure you can provide Flickr and Youtube for the Enterprise real soon. People will love it. Again, on one very capable platform.

Media Workspace is a really cool application now. Even if it does not have all the features of DAM yet (either) it is such a sexy interface on Documentum. The new capabilites of handling presentations and video are just great. Be sure to look more at Apple iPhoto and learn how to leverage (and create) metadata to support management of content based on locations, people and events. A piece of cake on top of a Documentum repository. Now it is a bit stuck in the Cabinet/Folder hierarchy as the main browsing interface.

Summary

I agree with Word of Pie that there is a lack of vision – an engaging one that we all can buy into and sell back home to our management. In my project we seem to have such a vision and for us Documentum is a key part of that. I just hoped that EMC IIG would share that to a greater degree. From our responses back home in Sweden and here at EMC World people seem to both want and like it (have a look at my EMC World presentation and see what you think). We can do seriously cool and fun stuff that will make management of content so much more efficient which should be of critical importance for every organisation today. At least in the military one thing is for sure and that is that we won’t get more people. We really have to work smarter and that is what a vision like this will provide a roadmap towards.

So be proud of what you do best EMC IIG and make sure to deliver INTEGRATED solutions on top of that. For those who care that will mean a world of difference in the long run and will gather looks of envy for those who did not get it.

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With Jamie Pappas in the Blogger’s Lounge at EMC World 2010

The Blogger’s lounge is a great water hole to stop by to get a really good latte but of course also sit down in nice chairs and sofas with power outlets on the floor to blog and tweet about experiences at EMC World 2010 in Boston. Today I stopped by in the morning to have my photo taken with Jamie Pappas who is Enterprise 2.0 & Social Media Strategist, Evangelist & Community Manager at EMC. Be sure to visit her blog and follow her on Twitter. My dear Canon EOS 5D camera managed to capture the nice lighting in the lounge I think.

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EMC World 2010: My presentation around using Documentum in a SOA-platform

Yesterday on Monday May 10 at 11 am I gave a speech at the Momentum 10 conference here at EMC World 2010 in Boston. The presentation was focused around our experiences of building an experimentation platform for next-generation information and knowledge management (IKM) for a large operational level military HQ. Contemporary conflicts are complex and dynamic in character and requires a new approach to IKM in order to be able to handle all those complexities based on a sound management of our digital information. At the core of our platform is EMC Documentum integrated over an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) from Oracle. The goal is to maintain access and tracability on the information while removing stove-piped systems.

I have got quite a few positive reactions both from customers and EMC-people after the session which of course is just great. For instance see these notes from the session. All the presentations will be available for download for all participants but that will most likely take some time. So in the meantime you can download my presentation here instead:

Presentation at EMC World 2010 in Boston

Looking forward to comments are reflections. The file is quite big but that is because my presentations is high on screenshots and downsampling them to save file size will make it too hard to see what they are showing. Try zooming in to see details.

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Can BPM meet Enterprise 2.0 over Adaptive Case Management?

The project that I am running at JCDEC involves a lot of internal ”marketing” targeting both at end users and people in charge of our IT-projects. Lately I have found myself explaning the difference between Workflow processes using Documentum Process Engine and Taskspace and what EMC’s new clients Centerstage Pro and Media Workspace. My best argument so far has been that BPM/Workflow is well suited for formal repeatable process in the HQ while Enterprise 2.0 clients takes care of ad-hoc and informal processess. Keith Swensson explains the Taylorism-based Scientific Management-concept as the foundation of Business Process Management in this blogpost in a good way. He continues to provide a bridge over to ad-hoc work that nowadays is done by what is called Knowledge Worker. Documentum Centerstage is a tool that is intended for the Knowledge Worker which also can be seen as the Enterprise 2.0 way of working.

However, Keith continues to steer us over to a concept called Adaptive Case Management which is supposed to address those more agile and dynamic ways of working as a contrast to slow-changing well-defined business processess that is deployed in traditional BPM-systems. To my understanding this focuses a lot on the fact that the user itself (instead of a Process designer) needs to be able to control templates, process steps and various other things in order to be able to support more dynamic work such as criminal investigations or medical care.

However, Adaptive Case Management is also a concept (I understand) in the book called ”Mastering the Unpredictable”. The idea is to focus on the unpredictable nature of some work situations but also reflect a bit over to what degree things are unpredictable or not. In this presentation by Jacob Ulkeson the argument is that the main bulk of work is unpredictable and therefore also means that Process Modeling using traditional BPM most likely won’t work.

Some people have opinions that there is no need to redefine BPM and that all these three letter acronyms does not contribute much to the understanding of the problem and the solutions. I think I disagree and the reason for that is that there are no silver bullet products that covers everything that you need. Most organisations start somewhere and rolls out systems based on their most pressing needs. I believe that these systems have some similarities in what they are good and bad at. Having bought an ECM, BI, CRM or ERP-system usually says something about what business problems have been addressed. As SOA-architectures matures and the ambition to reduce stove-pipes increases it actually means that the complementary character of these systems matter. It also matters which of these vendors you choose because the consolidation efforts into a few larger vendors means choosing from different approaches.

To me all of this means an opportunity to leverage the strong points of different kind of platforms. Complex sure but if you have the business requirements it is probably better than building it from scratch. So I think when companies quickly rolls out Enterprise 2.0 platforms from smaller startup vendors they soon discover that they risk creating yet another stove-pipe but in this case consisting of social information. Putting E 2.0 capabilties on top of an ECM-platform than makes a lot of sense in order to be able to integrate social features with existing enterprise information. The same most likely goes for BI, CRM etc.

When it comes to BPM the potential lies in extending formal processess with social and informal aspects. However, it is likely that the E 2.0-style capabilities make new ways of working evolve and emerge. Sooner or later they need to be formalised maybe into a project or a community of interest. Being able to leverage the capabilties of the BPM-platform in terms of monitoring and some kind of best practice in form of templates is not far-fetched. To some degree I believe that Adaptive Case Management-solutions sometimes should be used instead of just a shared Centerstage Space because you need this added formal aspects but still want to retain some flexibility. Knowledge Worker-style work can then be done on top of a BPM-infrastructure while at the same time utilising the ECM-infrastructure for all content objects involved in the process. Having a system like Documentum that is good at content-centric human workflow processes makes a lot of sense.

So is the Documentum xCP a way to adress this middle-ground between Process Modeling-based processes and Knowledge Worker-style support in CenterStage? The mantra is ”configure instead of coding” which implies a much more dynamic process. I have not played around with xCP yet – we have so far only deployed processes developed from scratch instead of trying out the case management templates that comes with the download.

Not all companies want to do this but I think some will soon see the merits of integrating ECM, BI, E.2.0 and BPM/ACM-solutions using SOA. The hard part I belive is to find software and business methods support for the agile and dynamic change management of these systems. The key to achieve this is to be able to support various degrees of ad-hoc work where on one the user does everything herself and on the other way a more traditional developer coding modules. Being able to more dynamically change/model/remodel not only processess but also the data model for content types in Documentum is a vital capability to be able to respond to business needs in a way that maintains trust in the system. This is not a task by IT but something done by some kind of Information and Knowledge Management (IKM) specialist. They can get some proper means of doing their work using this SOA-based integration of different sets of products.

So employ E 2.0-style features in Task Management clients and make sure that E 2.0 style clients include tasks from BPM/ACM in their activity streams or unified inboxes. Make sure that all of this is stored in an ECM-platform with full auditing capabilities which needs to be off-loaded to a data warehouse so it can be dynamically analysed using interactive data visualisation, statistics and data mining. I hope we can show a solutions for that in our lab soon.

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The Long Tail of Enterprise Content Management

Question: Can we expect a much larger amount of the available content to be consumed or used by at least a few people in the organisations?

Shifting focus from bestsellers to niche markets
In 2006 the editior-in-chief of Wired magazine Chris Andersson published his book called ”The Long Tail – Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More”. Maybe even the text printed on the top of the cover saying ”How Endless Choice is Creating Unlimted Demand” is the best summary of the book. This might have been said many times before but I felt a strong need to put my reflections into text after reading this book. It put a vital piece of the puzzle in place when seeing the connections to our efforts to implement Enterprise 2.0 within an ECM-context.

Basically Chris Andersson sets out to explain why companies like Amazon, Netflix, Apple iTunes and several others make a lot of money in selling small amounts of a very large set of products. It turns out that out of even millions of songs/books/movies nearly all of them are rented or bought at least once. What makes this possible is comprised out of these things:

Production is democratized which means that the tools and means to produce songs, books and movies is available to almost everybody at a relatively low lost.
– Demoractization of distribution where companies can broker large amount of digital content because there is a very low cost for having a large stock of digital content compared to real products on real shelves in real warehouses.
– Connecting supply and demand so that all this created content meets its potential buyers and the tools for that is search functions, rankings and collaborative reviews.

What this effectivly means is that the hit-culture where everything is focused on a small set of bestsellers is replaced with vast amounts of small niches. That has probably an effect of the society as a whole since the time where a significant amount of the population where exposed to the same thing at the same time is over. That is also reflected in the explosion of the number of specialised TV-channels and TV/video-on-demand services that lets views choose not only which show to watch but also when to watch it.

Early Knowledge Management and the rise of Web 2.0
Back in the late 90-ies Knowledge Management efforts thrived with great aspirations of taking a grip of the knowledge assets of companies and organisations. Although there are many views and definitions of Knowledge Management many of them focused on increasing the capture of knowledge and that the application of that captured knowledge would lead to better efficiency and better business. However, partly because of technical immaturity many of these projects did not reach its ambitous goals.

Five or six years later the landscape has changed completely on the web with the rise of Youtube, Flickr, Google, FaceBook and many other Web 2.0 services. They provided a radically lowered threshold to contribute information and the whole web changed from a focus on consuming information to producing and contributing information. This was in fact just democratization of production but in this case not only products to sell but information of all kind.

Using the large-scale hubs of Youtube, Flickr and Facebook the distribution aspect of the Long Tail was covered since all this new content also was spread in clever ways to friends in our networks or too niche ”consumers” finding info based on tagging and recommendations. Maybe the my friend network in Facebook in essence is a represention of a small niche market who is interested in following what I am contributing (doing).

Social media goes Enterprise
When this effect started spreading beyond the public internet into the corporate network the term Enterprise 2.0 was coined by Andrew McAfee. Inside the enterprise people where starting to share information on a much wider scale than before and in some aspects made the old KM-dreams finally come into being. This time not because of formal management plans but more based on social factors and networking that really inspired people to contribute.

From an Enterprise Content Management perspective this also means that if we can put all this social interaction and generated content on top of an ECM-infrastructure we can achieve far more than just supporting formal workflows, records management and retention demands. The ECM-repository has a possibility to become the backbone to provide all kind of captured knowledge within the enterprise.

The interesting question is if this also marks a cultural change in what types of information that people devoted their attention to. One could argue that traditional ECM-systems provide more of a limited ”hit-oriented” consumption of information. The abscense of good search interfaces, recommendation engines and collaboration probably left most of the information unseen.

Implications for Enterprise Content Management
The social features in Enterprise 2.0 changes all that. Suddenly the same effect on exposure can be seen on enterprise content just as we have seen it on consumer goods. There is no shortage of storage space today. The amount of objects stored is already large but will increase a lot since it is so much easier to contribute. Social features allows exposure of things that have linkages to interests, competencies and networks instead of what the management wants to push. People interested in learning have somewhere to go even for niche interests and those wanting to share can get affirmations when their content is read and commented by others even if it is a small number. Advanced searching and exploitation of social and content analytics can create personalised mashup portals and push notifcations of interesting conent or people.

Could this long tail effect possibly have a difference on the whole knowledge management perspective? This time not from the management aspect of it but rather the learning aspect of it. Can we expect a much larger amount of the available content to be consumed or used by at least a few people in the organisations? Large organisations have a fairly large number or roles and responsibilities to there must reasonably be a great difference in what information they need and with whom they need to share information with. The Long Tail effect in ECM-terms could be a way to illustrate how a much larger percentage of the enterprise content is used and reused. It is not necessarily so that more informtion is better but this can mean more of the right information to more of the right people. Add to that the creative effect of being constantly stimulated by ideas and reflections from others around you and it could be a winning concept.

Sources

Andersson, Chris, ”The Long Tail – Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More”, 2006
Koernan, Brendan I, ”Driven by Distraction – How Twitter and Facebook make us more productive workers” in Wired Magazine March 20

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Is Etiquette and Netiquett different? Should it be?

Lately I have started think about how social rules IRL(in real life) and using digital media really works. As everything else in society all these rules vary to some degree between situations and are affected by who you are interacting with. The question is what is considered being good tone and what is considered to be rude nowadays. Humans are really good at sending signals ”between the lines” using diplomatic language with hints and insinuations and using body language to signal different emotions which then other humans are differently skilled at interpreting or even caring about at all.

In normal day-to-day conversations around a table it is generally considered rude to ignore what someone is saying or even refrain from answering direct questions. Over the phone or a voice chat it is similar but body language isn’t communicated (unless using video chats) and you can therefore afford to look bored, do faces or whatever while somebody is talking in the other end. As long as we are doing synchronous (real-time) voice communication a lot of the social rules for IRL seem to apply.

When the mobile phone rings you either answer or don’t but most people choose to call back at a later time to see what that person had on their mind. To me that is a good example of a social rule in modern society. Can one expect someone to call back if we have bothered to call them? Or is the social rule that if it important (enough) you expect someone to try again? Is therefore a repeated set of calls in a short matter of time a sign of urgency?

Getting an text message (SMS) notifying me that I have a voice message usually also signfies a sense or urgency or importance which I usually find results in a call back to me. However, I believe here is another area where we see a change in social interactions because the mobile phone is always with us and always on. Many people today bring their phone everywhere which includes meetings,vistit at friend’s and dinners. That means that is has been regarded ok to not answer because you are not able to talk at that specific time. Reasonable that has also meant that people choose not to answer when someone is calling and you don’t feel like talking to them.

Text chats seem nowadays to bridge synchronous and asynchronous communication. In one sense it is real-time because you can interact very rapidly and if both are typing really fast it can become a fast paced discussion. In general I also think that in the early days of Instant Messaging (IM) the siginificance of a text chat was higher than it is today. If you got that pop-up window with a bleep I usually switched my focus on that and bothered to answered directly. Today, we see IM going really mainstream and becoming a part of corporate infrastructures often with the argument of replacing some emails. That means that IM text chats are to some respects a replacement of asynchronous messaging (often email) where you type something up which does not really require an immediate response but something you want your co-worker to be aware of. You know that people are in meetings, talk to people around them and therefore can’t be expected to pay attention to all incoming IM-messages right away. That IM-message has then became an asynchronous message that gets read minutes or even hours later. Socially that must mean that there is an acceptance of IM-messages not being answered to directly and therefore not considered a rude behaviour. However, I do believe that it is a little but rude to ignore replying to an IM at all or at least mentioning that in an email or the next IM-chat.

I personally think it is really cool to be online at all times but the question is if that also means a committment(personal domain) or responsibility (corporate domain) to also answer and interact as soon as you can? In my personal domain I think the way IM is used has changed a bit over the years. In the early days of iChat we were intensely chatting often but nowadays it has almost shifted that an IM is done only when you have something important to say and therefore almost ”worthy” of a phone call but just almost. The way IM works is that it usually doesn’t require your full attention the way a phone call does. Nowadays you do IM while doing something else.

I wonder if this means that all means of communcation changes in the way we see them as requiring our attention or how important they are to us. We I got my first Internet connection back in 1995 I think I considered an email being somewhat the same as an old-fashion letter. It was carefully drafted and sent with some sense of importance and thus requiring an answer. Over time email also became a way to share information ”for-your-information” rather than something requiring a direct reponse. Email became a way to share information more casually. Compared to writing a letter it is so much easier to copy a text or just send a link to a web page. More of anything can often mean that the sense exclusiveness goes away somewhat, unless you are in love of course when I guess many love messages only make things better in most cases.

Social media (such as FaceBook) brings the sharing aspect of information to a whole new level. Nowadays you can share your current situation where you express what you are doing, how feel and what you are about to do. Thing that differes social media networks from web pages with information is that it usually assumes you have some sort of relationship to people who you are sharing your information with. The information is personalised and therefore to a higher degree targeted by you. Just as you expect a reaction to something you say over dinner about what is happening in your life I guess many people who post their ”status” on FaceBook hope or desire some kind of reaction to it. Congratulations to good things that happen and expressions of compassion when bad things happen in their life. So as we are getting more and more information about people around us the questions how we do handle the social rules about all this social information. Is it rude to not read or try to keep up-to-date about someone you know? Do you expect comments from these people around events in your life? Is a FaceBook message something that require an answer just as we might think of an email or an IM-chat?

No matter if how reactions or response will arrive the increase of information streams (should we call personal ones life streams?) coming from sources you have chosen will most likely affect people who consume them to some degree. In an era of mass information and need for affirmation it can be confusing when different people apply different social rules to all these communication possibilities. Some people apply the social rules of IRL strictly and get offended when people don’t follow them. Others are very relaxed about the whole thing and don’t feel obliged to do anything at all. The thing that confuses me is when the level of obligation is determined out of someones particular view of a specific tool rather than their relation to the person they have a relationship with.

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