Collaboration Resurrection: ‘Suger-Daddy’ will take you to the clouds!


In recent posts on the Net, the beloved collaboration and knowledge sharing theme have been set into a new notion of future directions. Interesting for all of us doing research closely related to computer supported collaborative work (CSCW), knowledge management and new themes such as social media and web 2.0 and enterprise 2.0. The well documented backdrop of early attemps into the knowledge management realm, and CSCW where Lotus Notes were taken as “hostage” to illuminate the inbuilt social dilemmas. Have now ones again been set into the ‘hot-seat’, given the major switch to the collaboration suites from Redmont.

Suger-Daddy (Mr B. Gates) is set to induce us all into this new collaboration space. The reported grand use of the platform, makes me a bit curious: to what extent will social norms to knowledge sharing have impact to the reality check in all this? To a large extent, the new social media and web 2.0 collaboration and conversation ICT use, resambles very similar outset as the 90’s CSCW! Which from my part give me a gut feeling of “deja vu” ;-) Especially when I listen to techie evangelist, who fail to make sanity check to the social dilemmas that CSCW and early KM work faced.

Collaboration and Conversational use is key to Social Media inside corporations (how open?) Disclaimer: Cisco marketing stuff

Background

(reformated excerpts from ECIS 2006 paper “Examining knowledge exchange and organizational outcomes within intra- organizational electronic networks of practice with restricted access”, Teigland, Wasko & Landqvist)

With the rapid development of internet communication technologies, individuals may now communicate and participate in discussions easily with others in their organization regardless of time and space through emergent electronic networks focused on work-related issues.  As a result, many multinational organizations are implementing web 2.0 tools, such as Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server (MOSS) or similar eCollaboration suites from other vendors, to promote the sharing and creation of knowledge across internal organizational boundaries.  Investments in these technologies are driven by the assumption that knowledge is the firm’s most valuable resource and that new knowledge and competitive advantage are created through the integration of knowledge embedded in the minds of the organization’s individuals.  Management hopes that by creating virtual meeting spaces, numerous geographically dispersed individuals will be able to gain access to new information, share expertise, and discuss ideas with others who are often not available locally or through their immediate social networks of friends, contacts, and colleagues within the organization.  Building upon the work of Brown and Duguid (2000),   these computer-supported networks is refered as “electronic networks of practice.”

While management and designers of enterprise wide implementation of i.e. Sharepoint expect that the users of these systems will engage in the open sharing of knowledge, generating greater knowledge flows throughout the organization, what tends to happen is that the technology is adapted to the local situations by its various users and ends up being used differently than it was initially intended (Orlikowski 1992).  Researchers have clearly demonstrated that in many cases knowledge is not like other commodities, people are not necessarily willing to share all types of knowledge , and organizational culture and not technology has a greater impact on whether people exchange knowledge.  Employees may or may not be willing to share knowledge as widely as technology makes possible or as much as managers desire.  Different appropriations of the technology by different groups of users within the organization create some interesting dynamics that reflect an underlying split “personality” of the firm.  Some organizations may develop a culture of internal norms that discourage knowledge exchange because of the fear of industrial espionage or of diverting employees’ attention away from their direct work tasks.  More specifically, there is a tension within organizations between creating an open, information sharing culture that promotes knowledge flows and innovation and keeping its proprietary knowledge secret from competitors through restricted access and formal controls. Which is the inbuilt promise from Enterprise 2.0 envagelists, to open up the firms ones and for all. Organizations that are successful because of their ability to exploit proprietary knowledge, such as research and development intensive firms, benefit from the innovations resulting from open knowledge flows but may actually have policies and procedures (both explicitly stated and implicitly assumed by workers) that discourage open sharing.  Ironically, intranet technologies, i.e MOSS,  can be appropriated by users to develop open, electronic networks of practice, where anyone with an interest in the shared practice can participate, or users can appropriate the technologies to create private communities, creating knowledge silos by restricting access to participation.

The issues and challenges of using SharePoint for Enterprise 2.0 (Dion Hinchcliffe)

  1. Sharepoint is not web native
  2. The technology landscape of the enterprise environment fits SharePoint well; the business requirements to  a lesser extent.
  3. The wilds of the open network can be a challange for Sharepoint
  4. Self-service capabilities are lacking or not emphasized
  5. Cost and compexity

Web native implies something that by its nature is something ‘obscure’ from the start for the Redmont folks. Sharepoint is more a diligent market re-format from a desktop tinkering that is used to great extent. The fit for purpose extention is tricky since Sharepoint started its routes in a another realm, but have been reshaped to look like a web 2.0 suite (getting there with extentions and costly tweaks). From my part I think the most central challenges resides in the in-built lock-in/control contrasting open thinking. Enterprise 2.0 is all about applied open innovation tinkering and freeform mass-collaboration, where the document/desktop centric analogy fails to leverage to a large scale. Which gives us millions of knowledge silos and no findability. Hence all the debates into this space. The invaders from north west will surely manage a great improved suite where most of the in-built difficulties will have been fixed. Question still remains, will R.Ozzie be able to get his fellow peers into the collaboration thinking. I think he will, since this is where he comes from, and where future business in the cloud will be their cash-flow. Azure still need to been realised in reality to be comparable to Amazon EC2 or Google stuff. My personal reflection will all these clouds be compatible/interoperative? since all business networks will not be computed in only one cloud. The sky is full of clouds and even some sun ;-)

Conclusion

Although there has been a significant increase in networked communication and a growing interest in technology-supported knowledge management, to date the basic assumption by researchers and practitioners alike has been that individuals value the open sharing of knowledge.  However, there has been little research into what happens when organizations try to promote the open sharing of “secret” or proprietary knowledge. Wikinomics gives us some cues.

Proprietary knowledge exchange within an intra-organizational electronic network focused on discussions of work practice is dependent upon

(from ECIS 2006 paper)

  1. the size of the electronic network
  2. the structure of ties that emerge through individual interactions in the electronic network
  3. the relational quality of ties that develop between individuals in the electronic network
  4. the relational ties individuals have with the organization
  5. the individual attributes extended to the electronic network.

Related threads and topics in the blogosphere that is really good reading:

Dion Heathcliffe [1, 2], Sarah Perez [1], Bill Ives [1], James Dellow [1] Hutch Carpenter [1], Marissa Peacock [1], Sameer Pretzel [1] and lastly my favorite Thomas Wander Val [1].

Don’t eat to much suger, moderation is good for you! The swedish term ‘lagom’ reflect the pragmatic approach to things. I think we all are going to see these threads around collaboration continue. Regardless of technology at hand.  Human behaviour and social themes won’t go away that easy even if we now have a US President who ‘twitter’ and masscollaborate using Google Moderator! A fun world!

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21 Responses to Collaboration Resurrection: ‘Suger-Daddy’ will take you to the clouds!

  1. tropMymbort says:

    Хороший пост. Чувствуется ведёте блог с душой, хотя сейчас повально все увлекаются заведением блога, в твитере акка..но по делу, грамотно и интересно мало у кого получается писать, а главное постоянно. Так же всех наших дорогих и горячо любимых дам с 8 марта!!!

  2. Хороший пост, бро…так держать!!!

  3. Статья хорошая, только если бы ты оформил её немножко получше (добавил скрин-другой, или какой-нибудь арт) и заголовки сделал – тебе бы вообще цены не было :)

  4. А мне понравилось, побольше бы таких постов в рунете..Спасибо автору.

  5. […] i.e. old school Notes used during the 90′ and today’s corporate use of SharePoint have well documented draw backs, so will new emerging technologies in the social media and mashup spaces (Enterprise 2.0) unleash […]

  6. […] the Internet. Appreciate the power of difference, and be beware of the echo chamber problem, with closed silos. Make the networks […]

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