on Commerce: a Rose is a Rose is a Rose is a Rose!

May 10, 2012

The wheels keep on turning, and we as world citizens do embark into consumerism ever so eagerly. What to do with all the stuff we get in our daily foraging?

Digital Infrastructures have set the prefix of e- in front of every possible term, to emphasize the reasoning of electronic or digital. Question, does this really make sense today? The picture is really blurred. Where does the real world and the digital world end, where does means met ends? When we Internet savvy folks, speak of Internet of things do this echo in the minds-sets of our less connected peer human beings?

On a philosophical angle we buy things either to survive or to boost our personas with stuff related to who we think we are in the social fabric of life. Leaving a signal to other humans that I consume and because of this I am ;-)

Hence, Commerce is a Commerce is a Commerce is a Commerce transformed from the simple but yet omnipresent poem by G. Stein 1913. When traditional retail, brick and mortar, meets e-commerce on the social battle field what is the outcome for the everyday consumer? Well one could name tag this x-channel commerce, where intertwingularity really starts to happen.

Anybody who either have undertaken some kind of business school or baseline marketing diploma knows for sure there are some elements that one just do not take away that easily to make an prosperous business. Same goes for us who have been engaged in entrepreneurship in a small retail or local grocery store. Know your customers! Engage with them on their grounds, invite them to a conversation so you as a provider are able to align your brick and mortar store front and shelves with goods (ends) that meet needs. Second to this, secure a feasible supply to have your store up and running.

The disruptive technology leap with the digital infrastructures, relates to information flows and the social life dealing with this information. Hence in a less open environment with constraints in the information supply, we just either had to comply with the options given, and trust the service provider. Or tinker to find pragmatic solutions to a broken system, as the folks in former eastern Europe had to do due to policy makers with twisted minds. Today in the modern big city life, we all have devices that gives us instant access to information when needed. An upper-hand for the consumer. Power relations have slightly changed the ballpark. Or maybe not? In a local setting with only one ‘Store’ the dealer had to know the demand and personally listen to all locals. We are rather getting back to business, as it emerged on the local marketplace or bazaar still omnipresent in many countries.

e-Commerce pains?
Well first and last… the churn rate to buy stuff when they have entered into the shop is between 2-4% on average. If they find the store in the first place that is! Many users do a quick search using either aggregation measure (Google, Pricerunner) where they get a decent overview, window shopping. All these aggregator services tries to tie some extra value with enhancements or schemas on-top of the unstructured world. Emerging ways of get semantics into this play have been in the loop for 15 years, and we are seeing this mashup economy growing daily and standards being put into action. Second how to curate a nice storefront that is compelling, easy to navigate and vibrant with goods and services to the users preferences and liking? When the information flow back-end with aggregation, integration more reflect staggering data mazes from all the suppliers? Topping this easy to pay! Here still many online stores have über-complex schemas. The x-commerce platform using Ebay/Paypal or Klarna from Sweden are some possible solutions to this threshold. And lastly the social interaction both in term of delivery, service provided and the show-off persona attribute ;-)  My mind started to remember the Internet bombastic e-commerce failures, like Boo. Where users hardly could enter the store due to UX from hell, and those who got to the cashier couldn’t pay. Lastly the few bespoken people who actually managed to buy  something had hard time getting their stuff!

Brick and mortar retail have not gone out of business, ask IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad. If they had the same churn rate for all people driving to their sites and entering the store as the eCommerce folks have. He wouldn’t been on the list of richest in the world. Even the times you visit their site only to get your moneys back for a broken or dysfunctional goods. You can’t resist to take a peek-view into the store and find yourself buying even more. The same goes for food-stores. No one enters them without buying stuff! That’s why we spend time and effort to go there in the first place.

The frontier of eCommerce have realised this, and done their utmost to lure us firstly into the store through SEO, banners and whathaveyous. Second have a curation process that makes their store sticky, mimic real world experience.  It is not as simple as copy the IKEA model, given that you are virtually not present in their store. Lack of sensory triggers! Might improve in 3D worlds with extra-embodied gadgets in near future. The most engaging experiences have basically a content factory with people infusing contextual data to the goods. Improve the appearance and findability across both their own site and in their value network. As the i.e. the fast growing Nelly.com from Sweden.

When you navigate in the store as in IKEA you follow a known path. Well designed so your sensory wayfinding skills don’t make you feel lost. Navigate any eCommerce site that lacks proper and sound Information Architecture and you instantly feel stressed and usually leave before even reaching for the cashier icon. Ask my dear wife who really loves to ‘shop’ compared to me who get the same mall-lost-in-shopping-hell-syndrome in any brick and mortar setting. She trashes many sites within seconds! or rather milliseconds!! Non functional!!! even if she knows that the store hold the searched for goods.

What amazes me, is how bad many eCommerce sites have settled pragmatic organising principles to their content? Maybe a better Content Choreograph assigned to this quest? Derived from this is the insufficient information supply chain. Data from their origin have so poor quality that not even the best automagic data-laundry helps. Why not crowdsource this obvious constraint to a viable and scalable business model? Shared responsibilities amongst all actors? Maybe a intermediary-data-laundry-model for data-flows could be of some help?

Without refined and enhanced raw-data, next step is basically impossible. Cross-channel commerce have to have sound organising principles, if not considering stove-pipes of different content factories in the back-end to a great cost! The improved digital assets needs to be smarter in all possible ways. When we talk about Internet of Things, as with RFID, NFC and other emerging standards within the UbiComp arena. Mobility First raises the bar for simplicity, cut the crap. Get to the point and deliver now.

The Social Creature
Living in a world of social means to capture our attention, it is no reason for a commerce provider to stay with a stale, stigmatised old school commerce model without the flavor of social intertwined all through. Some genres of products and services, do have better social flows, given that they are things people happily share. The travel and tourism industry is one of the business arenas, where user-generated-content really makes-sense. No one books a hotel without first checking out TripAdvisor, google maps/earth and many more sites to get a more nuanced picture of the planned trip. And both during your travel users annotate, share, curate and socialise around their experience, with a final reporting while being back home again. Same goes with fashion, and similar goods and services. Food chains have recepies.  Whereas other stuff never have had any social sharing either in brick-and-mortar or eCommerce realm.

A greenfield commerce project
The notion of greenfield gives us a fun journey when we develop the cues for future commerce. No strings attached and build from ground-up with the soil and plants. Cultivate and nurture this new space. New entrants in the retail business have done some remarkable assertions. A people centric view to shopping, make the online and store visit a compelling journey that is seamless. C. Wonder have developed a new experience, where there are only personal shopping assistants, no cash register lines. The staff are passionate about the goods served, use mobile devices and pervasive and ubicomp setting to get handy information and data while guiding their clients in the store. All items sold have been enhanced with RFID. In the background there is a back-bone ERP, Supply Chain, CRM and whathaveyou cloud instance. That serves up real-time data and do manage the data in a completely new fashion.

What runs the show? DATA! all over the place but with a pragmatic, agile, and make-do feeling. Tinker, try, build and engage, review and improve. With proper organising principles to information and data. Here cloud service delivery models interplay with the ubicomp and mobile devices to create an ambient data service.
How to engage, well obviously social have been built into the spines of all core processes for the commerce set-up. As other retailers in this scene do. Have your Customer Service with Facebook feeds, and so forth. Online stores in any relevant social space. Basically let the users share their love (or hate!?) for the services and products. Have talented staff members intersected into the different levels of conversations. Social Business by design if you will ;-)

Intelligence – pick my brain!
With the abundance of data flows in such a business design, big data. Tools and metrics to quickly align the practices on the floor have to be real-time. Consumer behaviour in all domains leave digital trails, combined with ‘smart things’ (RFID). But intelligence also implies tapping into the social conversations online pre- , during and post physical in store experience.

Intelligence also have to be the tuner to competitive outlook. Even if person centric service and human touch have a great impact on revenue, consumers still do have choices to make. So intelligent price-modelling and scanning will be key. These data backbone algorithms produce prices in constant flux ;-) Higher quality and experience taxes a bit more pricey level to things, but it still have to be on the same ballpark as the most low-cost option online. As with the Bazaar, where local store owners do mutual adjustment to prices, but then in the sales-pitch ‘haggle;-)


Bring out the eminence of your workforce

September 22, 2011

The notion of social business, resonates to many people today, given that we are seeing the swift change to more transparent business practices. And true engagement to the different constituents within the ecology for the enterprise, being the customers, consumers, partners, suppliers and obviously the leadership & workforce.

Why will open be so engraved to what we do in our everyday work. It all boils down to be authentic. Companies will not prosper with double standards, simple as that! Or as Lincoln ones said, character is like a tree, and reputation is the shadow.

For us who actively participate in this change, it is a true prerogative.

What facinates me, is what happends when we get the mutual adjustment of the crowds. Conversations orchestrated in similar ways as the virtual choir. We build bonds and relations, through our insigts and emotions to relate and see other peoples interests resonate our own being.

The creation of constituencies will emerge, and if these groups of people sharing values and insights also nourish curiousity and serendipity to new ideas. We are on the right path, again open! Contrasting this is the personalization of delivery. A matter of filter the abundance of triggers, feeds, content and flow of events that takes place all over the place. This notion is already very in front today in politics in US blocking their economy. This creates stove pipes, and balkanization of something that should go the opposite way. The bots already raise this issue of filter bubbles, i.e. the feed in Facebook or Social Search from Google. Algoritmic filtering in conjunction with social filtering might ease our minds in short term, but these small world scenes have to intersect and be intertwined! Our Circles overlap, as in the recent G+ design!

So if you are running a business, or are about the embark in the enterprise world. I would bring out the eminence of your workforce.  As people connect with people, and embeddning this into the core values. Every discrete unite of practice will lever new knowledge creation. And build constintuency that will be a competitive advantage, regardless of what type of business you do.

The fear of loosing control, when the workforce speaks up (as in social media), should rather be reflected back to the leadership who fails to behave and act in the open. A good coach and thought leader will get people engaged to the cause and mission if the ways of working also is lived by the managers. The social networks run our lives, and helps us in continous learning. That is key to all this!

The art of long view, have to be intersected into how you run your business. Diversity and always learning and innovating outside your comfort zones, charge the influencers. From the inside out!

Who you are, speaks out so loudly, that I can hardly hear what you say!

We are seeing the contours of a new collaborative profession. The path to co-creating the social business.


Information Tidbits in the social fabric!

May 19, 2011

Terminology, is what we talk about in our daily practices, share insigts and ideas with peers related to our business processes and embeded/intersected into our information systems. To harmonise, standardise and communicate coherent use of terms across the enterprise is a continuous improvement (think ‘lean‘). There will never be one golden standard only useful tidbits in the social fabric!

Lately we have seen an abundance of ‘terminology’ feeds into the ‘social’ realm. As Social Business, or Social Collaboration. This is an obvious tautology, never the less it comes into fashion ;-) In my research practice I have the refined use of terminology amongst peers, to get acceptance in relevant contributions to my part of the world, same goes when I do put on the business suit (like Mr Walker contrasting the Phantom). Same thing with different ways of communicating!

I took a detour into my reference litterature to grasp things ahead of me, and realised still how crispy and mindblowing the book ‘The Social Life of Information‘ is! Even if it was written during the haydays of 1998 (internet era or dot com) all things match with todays business arena. When we talk about the emerging social intranet (or social collaboration, or enterprise 2.0, etc), we as IS/IT-saviours get hooked into TOOLS! and forget that the social fabric that makes up any organisation. People will undertake predictable irrational uses.

As Mr James Robertsen, states in his recent post:

You can’t change corporate culture using social tools

Spot-on!

Communication and conversations amongst people is all about sense-making to cope with your everyday persuit. Hence in the midst of this resides our terminology, the way we express our self, manifest our agreements and rule out our policies and procedures to work together in a polite and easy manner. To narrow down the scope for this post into the theme around social intranet. I took the itchy part called Findability! One albatross around his neck, that any intranet manager could testify is intranets poor findability. Pragmatically we all agree that it should be easy to find things of high relevance to my needs, second it would be sweet if it also were simple to contribute in such a manner that I add things with high quality. And not dilute the information landscape with abundance of crap!

So findability isn’t a quest for a new search engine of preferred taste, it is all about pragmatic use of search patterns, and provision with good/simple to use information management practices. In all this our terminology is the glue to sense-making. Hence if one took a snippet of the social intranet tools and used it to cope with ‘the enterprise terminology‘! These terms are heavily embedded into the ICT tools we use. Be it in the Business Applications arena (structured data) or Enterprise Content Management arena ( unstructured data).

controlled vocabularies

Here in this hot-spot we really could get attention, engagement and lively debates about the use of words in the enterprise, and their different interpretations. Social as anything! and for a good cause. With this practice in place (networked governance), the future state of  enterprise linked data makes sense in everyday business. And we would also get pathways for our wayfinding to corporate culture and social fabric via the conversations around terminology….set into action in search engine refinement, guided classification means in any provision and so forth. All in all improving the information architecture and obviously findability….


Moving targets: playin’ the networked web governance game

July 13, 2010

The web emerges into most parts of our daily life. In our everyday office hours, information and conversation interplay through the lenses of the web, either internally through the intranet, or externally through all our interactions with web sites and services. Obviously this blurs into our more nomadic urban life, where our mobile devices serve up as our embodied knowledge network expanders. The emerging lifestyle with blurred realities, work, family and friends do stress new ways to govern our enterprise web spaces. Networked conversations in your private and professional life have to be a learning process.

In my research and practice, Web Governance repeats as one unsolved riddle, both for large enterprise portals (read intranet) or external web portals and sites. This governance theme have been heavily debated in communities of practice amongst Internet and intranet professionals, where several really good ideas and practices have been elaborated to find a design pattern that fits for purpose in our networked business environment. The term Web will in this context cover the enterprise information and communication spaces where web technology is the key delivery mechanism, be it enterprise portals / intranet, internet sites or extranet in all modalities stationary/mobile. Inside the corporate wall and outside web governance have different set-up, but when the open and networked everyday life unfolds, things will be very similar.

A few areas that still need to be ironed out are (focus in this blog post on #3):

  1. Intersection between business strategy, decision making, operations and web governance. Who owns the enterprise web platforms when everything becomes web? Depict the areas of responsibilities? Mark Morrell @ BT reveals his tales from the trenches…(being web manager)
  2. Web governance and IT governance, flip side of the coin? or a multi-faceted shadow entity? Since the Web do have heavy implications to the ICT environment for any enterprise
  3. User Adoption, and engagement in the continuous evolving business demand to everyday use of Web platforms.

Pre-condition: Every large web site is a complex adaptive system

A complex system is a dynamic network of agents (which may represent cells, species, individuals, firms, nations) acting in parallel, constantly acting and reacting to what the other agents do, John Holland

Can we govern a series of moving targets?

The control of a complex adaptive system tends to be highly dispersed and decentralised

The overall behaviour of the system is the result of a huge number of decisions made every moment by many individual agents

A networked Web Governance model….

Networked Web Governance

Networked Web Governance

This simple work-flow illustration stretches to the two core implications with User Adoption and conversation and pragmatic steps to make ‘the Web’ space development more transparent, second the ‘builders‘ view. The latter have been pretty detailed over the years with a set of useful good practices and patterns, such as Enterprise Architecture, ITIL, agile methods and other means to deliver new features to the Web.

The core problem, relates to the initial conversation amongst actual end-users, about i.e. their intranet experiences and business demand. Over the years we as practitioners have tried to take ‘hostages‘ through different means of end-user participation methods (i.e. UX), but in most cases I have discovered both in practice and research we end up having’ the ‘developers‘ (web professionals) driving the scene. The developer’s guild will obviously encompass, both ‘content owners’ and communication professionals, and all different pieces of the ICT folks trying to deliver the Web technologies. I know it is pretty unconventional to pair the communication professionals and ICT folks into one coherent group, but in reality they have melded together.

Obviously, as with Intranet Managers, they usually derive from the communications guild, but since they have to cope with a ‘social technology artefact’ being the CMS, Portal, Search or whathaveyou techie stuff, they learn to master the language of the ICT folks to be able to reach for their everyday business demand to deliver a decent working platform to undertake their craftsmanship. Similar to the ICT people working close with the communicators, they sooner than later try to become web communication ‘savvy’, with some difficulty ;-) . Regardless of this, these two Communities of Practices have so far represented the ‘business’ in the lion part of all decision-making bodies to deliver the intranet, enterprise portal or Internet sites. All in all they do represent the Professional Web practices, meaning people working everyday delivering content or technology for the Web.

With the advent of Emerging Social Software Platforms, Andrew McKefee (read web 2.0 technologies) there is a new player to the Web Governance game: the business end-user, who contributes daily through their ‘in-the-flow’ conversations with peers. In IS research, the Diffusion of Technology and Innovation is omnipresent! There are bulk loads of stories/research data from ERP, CRM, CSCW and so forth that show how crucial User Adoption is to reach for real business values, and how often misuse, no-use and so forth diminish the outcome of the investment in any ICT platform.

The ambition with the outlined and proposed (simple) Web Governance Model is to bridge this gap through open-conversation spaces (emerging social software platforms, web 2.0 technologies). To be able to cultivate a vivid, cultivated community that in a highly dispersed and networked manner engage in the development and change of the enterprise Web platforms.

Web Governance, today and cues to the future

As many gurus within intranet and web, have stated there are some commonalities for an i.e. Intranet Strategy and Governance model. Mr Martin White compiled a simple and descriptive model 2007 that still works as good bedrock for our conversation. Lacking in this model is User Adoption and Participation. It has three dimensions: steering, operations, and lastly development. As stated by Martin White , Jane McConnell, Gerry McGovern and others in the ‘guru‘ conversation, there is no one-model-fits-all! The set-up for any given enterprise has some similarities or patterns, but then reality comes in and strikes back. In the best of worlds we all would like our key leaders and managers, such as the CEO, CIO, VP HR, VP Communication etc to become owners of the Web Governance.  Over the years, and in enterprises that have a more matured governance model, they do act in the Web Governance space; in other it is less obvious who will take the lead in all this. It would also be very nice to have the strong leaders/managers from the key areas in the business to take active part in the governance of their enterprise web, such as marketing, sales, supply chain, operations or Research & Development.

Simultaneously with the efforts to bring the managerial resources to the dinner table, there is a need to close the gap to the IT-Governance model. Sometimes these resources do overlap, sometimes not. In several cases that I have written about in my research there is an emerging practice to deal with web governance, but this is continuously interlinked with the means (money): The IT-governance people do act and own the money to invest in the infrastructural pieces that make-do of any Web. Power Relations and politics!!!

Too play any game, as board games like chess, backgammon or why not Monopoly, we all need a set of common rules (standards, policies, operating procedures), but the actual game playing is like a live soap-opera. In the Networked Web Governance model, the main idea is to bring in ‘social constructs’ derived from the open-source movement. If the model is able to cope with different levels of granularity, dispersed open decision making amongst many agents in real-time through Emerging Social Software Platforms  we will be able to boost User Adoption.

The democratisation of the business demand and change conversations from the Web Professionals scene to all users, with a strong focus on Communities, will be the lever. Essential in all this, is that when the developers ‘black box‘ is open, and the conversation flows. The users do not have to cope with professional ‘lingo‘ to express their needs, instead the social fabric of networks will bridge this and make-do of the conversations and translations between practices.

All Artisans, like ICT-folks, Communication pros’ use different means and tools to communicate. A common allegory: When you buy a house you invite several different crafts to both translate your ambitions to what the house should look like, what features and uses you intend to have with this artefact in a social fabric. They all translate this into their descriptive models and simplifications to both make-do of their internal practices communication, but also between practices (carpenter, plumber, electrician, roofers, architects and so forth). You as the forthcoming user of the house will have the opportunity to both compile their detailed schemes and models, but most often you trust their craftsmanship.

Sometimes you as a house buyer have difficulties to express your inner thoughts about the social use of the house, and the artisans deliver a house with a disjoint end-user experience….but if you had the option to tap into ‘all’ house buyers networks, combined with the artesian common place knowledge in their standards and guidelines as well as their internal discussion. You would at least have the option to be able to have a more fluent dialog. And hopefully your house would emerge into something you actually asked for, or want move into!


Panopticon or Beacon revisited: What’s the currency of your digital trails and social graphs?

April 24, 2010

The network society have never been more connected, and intertwined and every day we take gigantic steps into unknown territories and the philosophical appearance of ‘you/me’. In my quest, being researcher within knowledge networking in the era of Internet use, it is truly fascinating to sense this adaptive environment. Two well-known Internet brands (Google and Facebook) compete at the frontiers to learn all about the collective mind, and in their ecologies we see several symbiotic application spaces (Twitter et.al.).

Prior to the event of web 2.0 and social media and more specifically Facebook we have never had the opportunity to connect all our facets of ourselves and the networks we act within. The ease of sharing and contribute, is the main motivation for people being engaged online, since it strengthen our self-esteem, self-manifestation and persona amongst our peers. Recent emerging technologies from either Google (Buzz) and present also Facebook (Open Graph API) stress the privacy issues into new terrain. Before the event of Internet where we expose our everyday life into the digital trails of our information quest, and social networking, we didn’t have to tailor our privacy settings [1]. Some countries use surveillance on their citizens (panopticon)……are we heading the very same path on Internet? Many Internet savvy peers, who question the ‘good’ of letting your digital trails and contributions to become the currency for large brands, will reinvent tools and practices to act under the radar of corporate surveillance, no doubt about it. Whereas the crowd, not being Internet savvy stay put!

Social Mashup- here comes everybody – into one space?

Why, is something we all question in our everyday life online? It feels strange to share conversation space with relatives, peers, co-workers, customers, friends and family (including mother-in-law, and kids… expanded family).  One has to consider who will be presented with your status updates, and sometimes-different networks simply do not comprehend to messages sent. In my case, who is über-social-networked compared to many peers this happens daily.

It isn’t difficult for me being a frequent user of social media; too see these changes as disruptive to the web per se, but also too future business models. Obviously Facebook wants to tap into the knowledge about Us as Google have been doing in a very prosperous way. A snippet of Adsense success and cashflow! 10 reasons why Facebook focus on Facebook and not the open-web ;-) = $!

I really like the idea of making things easy to share, and too network with my peers to connect, and for me the web isn’t the corporate BS stuff that have been flooded since 1995 with indifferent corporate web sites. The frustrating theme in all this is that these emerging standards to do mashup, aren’t interoperable. Open Social and Facebook Connect and Open Graph do not act seamless.

Internet in either modality, stationary or mobile needs to nurture the open arena, open innovative and emerging standardisation efforts to build new application layers upon previous efforts, with no proprietary owner of one protocol. My hope is that Open Social and Open Graph use will merge into a more coherent social networked space. We all need filters to cope with information overload issues, and in that social search and social networking becomes our most tangible use patterns (Search Patterns, Design Patterns for Social Web). RSS, Twitter and future use of Open Graph will evolve in this individual channel and conversation filtering. But it won’t erase my need to embark into different search patterns. My social networks gathered in i.e. Facebook do not always match the everyday needs I have, so I don’t think Facebook will eat the whole cake from Google or similar places.

Facebook Beacon revisited, or a Google Buzz big step-into ‘social-surveillance-shit-creek’ ought to be learning spaces for these innovative brands, but still they sometimes act in such a hyper-speed manner without consideration, reflection and thought through mind-sets. Yes, innovation – but to what cost? In the best of worlds we get crowd sourcing and knowledge networking for the common good, the flip side of the coin is mobs where ignorance shows its ugly face. The ease to lever in the social contribution value chain from viewer, listener, to lastly become curator is a good thing, since the more people share the closer we get in some sense. Smart-mobs taking the means at hand to change the power relations overhaul countries with less transparency and democracy.

Lastly a reflection about the conversation about Enterprise 2.0.

I have been engaged to many different arenas to talk about the change, and what strikes me is the lack of overview perspective. IT-folks do get hooked upon the emerging technologies, but fail to go beyond the developers’ backyard. PR/Media/Marketers gurus do build early adapters networks of in-breed conversations.  But neither of these practices builds cohesive groups with mixed resources, since they have different quests to the business landscape. All reflect early adopters that test and develop the maps in the new human social terrain. Meantime everyday users contribute daily, without tag themselves as social media savvy or gurus. This later mass of people reflects all other areas within our corporations of today.

If leadership want to build future Enterprise 2.0 business, they need all of the corporate clans to collaborate and coordinate their conversations. The problem is that we are living in two different time zones, since change on the Net is in hyperspace speed, whereas internal enterprise change takes much longer time. Still intranet is a poor reflection of Internet behaviour, and usually way behind in ease of use. Mashup of our daily lives will continue, no doubt, but consider the less than zero business model always have a flip side of the coin. Your Privacy – the most tangible asset of our time.


Coaction and apophenia: patterns of the collective mind

March 28, 2010

The act of participation and collaboration is one deeply engraved pattern amongst us human beings. Our brain capacity is far reaching when it comes to adaptation. The senses we use to communicate remains the same, but our tools change as well as our everyday pursuit. Teamwork is a well-researched area, as well as knowledge management but I would like to give some cues to future networked coactions, from two similar but still different experiences. Both cases do reflect the need to coordinate, collaborate with a specific outcome and timeline. Highly time-stamped, as they both represent live events for knowledge creation. Both cases have co-located and distributed networked resources, where the first all participants work at the same enterprise and the second case several actor networks contribute in the collaboration.

Themes on knowledge networking

  1. Intra-organisational
  2. Inter-organisational

When pulling together a teamwork effort, to create any information and knowledge to be shared we all agree that being co-located will the best way to deliver. But one cannot squeeze all resources into one spot, without a great effort and to a high cost, so we daily rely on distributed networks to get things going.

How do we get knowledge flows seamless with different modalities to interaction, prior, during and after an event?

Case I: Intra-organisational. A consultancy firm with a Community of Practice, being experts within enterprise content management.

How does one expand a live event experience into a multichannel knowledge flow?

The setting, 150+ in the CoP and a corporate body with 1300+ in several countries, but mainly Swedes. A two days event off-site and a nice location with invited guest artists with fixed theme. Prior to the event a wave conversation emerged to develop the agenda, shared ideas to our joint outcome after the event. The internal SharePoint collaborative space and a Yammer mixed the channels, but the main contribution in Wave to trial multi-user-wiki experience, and to expand the prior-event conversation to the guests as well.

At the event, a live HD-Video broadcast were set-up to capture and stream the guest artists to everybody not being on-site. Collaboratively participants contributed to the vivid and lively wave conversation, and posting internal tweets using Yammer to get cross talk within the whole corporate body. The idea generation from the event, used a tailored Moderator series, were distributed resources could add questions to the participants, while listening to the video streaming experience and following the simultaneous contribution channels.

Outcome? Well, it took awhile to get all accustomed to Google Wave (well documented drawback), but when 90+ peers work from one highly connected place, in time and space. Things do emerge and new ways of knowledge contribution in a never before seen fluid way, really made the event a success. The distributed approach to invite people to an onsite experience while being away, really worked well and we got several ‘spot-on’ questions in the idea-generation in Moderator that converged well into the stew. Good quality streaming and video/sound and fun new conversational spaces enlightened all participants. The art of community is a social construct, and the digital habitats needs stewardship.

Case II: Intra-organisational. A live Tech Business Case Competition, with students, University and Corporate resources co-located and distributed

Will open-spaces and Internet based (i.e. ‘social media’) collaboration improve knowledge sharing?

The setting, 16 teams from top Universities from all over the world were invited to a 24h race, where they would develop a tech business case and present it to top-corporate management. Winner gets 25 000 USD. The joint taskforce from the corporate world and University, wanted to tap into the collective mind and the stream (‘social media’ use amongst smart MBA students anno 2010), to capture the vivid online conversation. This years quest ‘Navigating the sea of Connectivity‘!

Prior to the event several different means were used to collaborate, Google Apps/Docs, Wave, email, teleconferences, and inside the corporate walls SharePoint spaces. Different means to develop a coherent plan of actions and activities, simply put distributed-teamwork. To engage the students before arrival Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, Linkedin, and a Univ. Blog and corporate dot com sites where used. At the event a very distributed team from both the corporate and university worlds acted both co-located at the university site and on the Net. All competing teams were given a twitter accounts, and shared principles for participation and contribution were used. To glue all channels together a social tagging scheme were proposed. Given that the teams managed to aggregate the online conversation regardless of contribution space in a coherent way, using Google Reader, Twingly, Tinker and Yahoo Pipes. This mashup tinkering and pragmatic approach delivered a very comprehensive and easy to use flow. During the 24h race the tweets from the different actor networks melted into one social tag space, and cascaded into live-blog entries and Facebook page updates. The same path emerged from video, sound and picture uploads. The co-located competing teams used many different tools, such as DropBox, Google Docs and Slideshare in their knowledge creation before presenting to top-management.

Post event, the ambition is set to develop a collaborative story telling based upon mashup technologies and i.e. Wave conversation (to be told in future posts)

Apophenia, the spontaneous perception of connections and meaningfulness in unrelated things

Traditional collaborative spaces, 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 new ways of knowledge sharing internally or externally? Given these two very simple cases, there are some tangible cues:

  1. Mashup, bringing all channels together and all actor networks. Filtering is key, since we all act as individuals in the ecosystem of our everyday life. Simple integration works.
  2. Being social! Well, network effect runs the show! Constraints given the mission impossible to squeeze everybody into one room, will find its remedy using social media tools.
  3. Open collaborative spaces unleash innovation. Serendipity will be a beacon when we all connect. Cross talk inside the corporate walls or on the Net glues the collective mind into an emerging tapestry.
  4. Simplicity rules, low-cost and fast deployment of context specific collaborative spaces. Technical infrastructures and information interoperability between platforms, a modular architecture. Disruptive Technologies runs innovation.

These new tool-kits to undertake teamwork as in both cases; do give us new means to solve the problem. A richer experience! But one obvious warning to all this, it is not about the tools. The social fabric will emerge, and we do not always know which tool kit that will fit for purpose. The answer to the questions raised based upon the experience from these two separate events is:

  • To get knowledge flows seamless, one have focus on simplicity of contribution and integration
  • To expand a live event, one have to have orchestrated and well governed approach, spiced with loads of pragmatism
  • Emerging technologies for collaboration do improve the outcome

Are there any patterns of the collective mind? Yes, make-do and pragmatic tinkering works regardless of technology. We as humans adapt!

A fun notion to all this, is that prior to the events in the two cases, SharePoint worked pretty good to capture the preparation, but ones the event went live the distributed teams needed to mix modalities from being mobile (using Facebook, twitter, flickr, youtube and texting) and stationary producing blog entries, content and presentations. Micro-coordination had to cope with this multitude of channels and modalities. By no means this happened to be workflow, or traditional document management. Having SharePoint on your mobile device yet? think not! but a set of social media tools….future posts will continue these early thoughts.


Enterprise Inferno, are you Content?

August 28, 2009

There is a big divide in how the internal information environment, e.g. intranet, we use daily in any work practice works compared to our external use of Internet services and resources. Being a researcher with focus on enterprise content management, knowledge management and social networking this becomes the beacon and most obvious reply I get daily from respondents in either surveys or in interviews.

Enterprises do emerge, and grow into the big corporations over time, depending upon the business climate they act within and time. Enterprises are social constructs, where our inbuilt behaviour of using tools will be the competitive advantage if the human actors will be content with their task.

Being social implies that we act with different facets (mind-sets) depending in what network our interaction takes part. Our minds share ideas, interests or other relational aspects to life. The outfit we carry relates to our perceived role in the network, e.g. while at work we have assigned roles and responsibilities that come with expected outcome, look and feel. Our experience and know-how is embodied in the craftsmanship, in how we act and solve problems at hand. We all depend upon given infrastructures in life, as traffic rules, or shared spaces like Intranet, cities or houses. We walk around in this maze of defined or undefined infrastructure. In our quest to reach out to our networks and engage in conversations, we have always used different communication tools, today reflected with Internet use. Media is our storytelling techniques to share insights stored on papyrus scrolls or multimedia spaces like YouTube. Lastly we hang out in groups/networks, like to play different characters in these settings, either being within the family, with friends, co-workers, or neighbours or fellow citizens.

being social

being social

The business environment that we all act within stresses new options to solve our daily tasks at hand with our peers and with good leadership (if possible). The problem is that size doesn’t always matter if the counterpart of competitive advantage lies in the hands of human’s social behaviour. Obviously some businesses have very expensive tools (resources), and in the industrial era the access to these resources gave an upper hand.

How to cope with this inferno? The answer might be within reach, when corporations turn into networked entities within their realm and embrace the emerging collaborative opportunities outside the company walls. Not invented here, might be the key to future success, if cultivated into the spines of culture of the enterprise. If corporations don’t accelerate and become more adaptive and agile, they will become yesterday’s news, and left over’s in the trash bin of the enterprise world. Simply put, end-users realising that their internal information environment won’t realise good enough findability, will refocus outside the company wall. With despair reaching out to the larger community living on Internet.

A Healthcare & Lifescience scenario

What is the enterprise today? It is all about networks! A very recent and hot topic, that will be useful to illustrate the new tapestry, is the healthcare and life science space.

There are obvious actors in the network, but they fail to converge into a coherent semantic space, where the citizen and patients will be tightly intersected. The bolts in this meccano are the enterprise applications supporting the process, to either provide efficient healthcare, or develop new treatments that will improve life for us being humans. All supporting information systems within the work practice have grown out of proportions, and now when national or international actors try to harmonise the structure. They fail to see the crispy and clear picture! Focus should be set to the edges and use interoperability as one building block, combined with social constructs and behaviours deeply embedded into the pragmatic work practice. Instead the technology and deterministic worldview still prevail: lets build ONE system (large scale)

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

All available research within the domain enterprise wide system, enterprise architecture and the diffusion of technology, shows with thousands of academic papers and best-practice and valued data that this path will only lead to failure.

Crowdsourcing and inviting the citizen and patients to a co-creation of better healthcare and life science is the only feasible route. The national imperatives should only state traffic rules, improve network infrastructure, such as interoperability means and reach for open innovation spaces where practitioners will be able to create common good. One outstanding critical issue relates to new identity and security management standards to be able to be more open without loosing credibility. Patient data shouldn’t be widely open!

Emerging Architectures will rule

It is all happening as we speak that new value networks create both greater speed to change and real value back to the end-user community than traditional value chains ever have. For IS/IT professionals one have to cope with the perpetual beta and technology drifting as the building block in the architecture. Good examples with Twitter ecology, or Facebook and Google Open API Lego pieces. The enterprises that release to power in ‘emerging architecture‘, and open innovation in their value network will get content end-users. And the inside-out picture will be blended into new ways of doing business, e.g. enterprise 2.0 thinking. The culture of change is represented by for instance Cisco, as Tom Malone, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, sees Cisco as a pioneer for a larger trend. Traditionally, he says, management was about “command and control”. Now, as technology makes communication much cheaper, bosses should move to a more flexible view, best described as “co-ordinate and cultivate


Combatants: on eachothers turf, surfin’ the waves or another ‘blingbling’ bing?

June 2, 2009

The last two weeks have been very promising with new launches and sneak previews into what the giants are up to while old enterprises are going down (GM). Google strikes its first really vital attack to the one pillar in the Redmont Castle, being MOSS by launching its amazing waves concepts. I truely like the freformedness and streamy spirit to collaboration and conversation, that might overcome the knowledge sharing problems from the past. From the other side of the ring, we get a airy punch from northwest reaching for the findability organs. First impression from the search experts is pretty lame. Bing will evolve into semantic and a structured data exposé and I reckon there are some real Norweigan Wood built into the house to make-do.

Emerging technologies like wave, WolframAlpha and Bing fuels the Enterprise 2.0 scene. Outstanding questions raised, is when will these things go live in reality inside and outside the corporate environent. My humble answers, sooner than later, given the speed of change we all are undergoing. Business need to be reshaped to value networks and reach for new open innovation spaces to get profitable. The end-user community, you and me, demand simplification and interoperability. Hence firsts trials will probably be in the crossroads where different business ecologies meet and re-invent new networks, as in the intersection for Lifescience, Healthcare and citizens/patients. Each vertical have their own spices to the stew, but it will all become new semantic meaning to our daily lifes on the net.


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

April 25, 2009

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!


Citizen (in)sanity: What Enterprise 2.0 unleash into the E-Government Mash-up Soup?

March 30, 2009

The expectations too forthcoming e-government is huge! As citizen we expect the different ‘service bodies’ that is reflected as the state, region/county, city or neighbourhood to act in a new agile and flexible manner. Transparency to the public sector is by all means something we see as a true democracy milestone. This new agenda for the public sector, regardless if it is police, hospitals, schools or other domains unleashes pretty obvious glitches in the tapestry. In many cases we as citizens fail to reach out to the service providers, simply because we don’t know or care how they are organised and whom is set as responsible and who to contact. Many everyday needs from us citizens, reflect end-user scenarios where we would like to have a public sector that acted as one layered service provider with simple and easy access, but reality check show us it is truly a maze we enter. Inter-organisational relations and shortcomings into the well-known social norms of power and knowledge sharing, stresses that we as citizens fall in between different service providers.

In a world prior to Internet and ‘Googlish’ instant access to information and services, this would still hold up in court. Bureaucracies have this inbuilt aura: hence Franz Kafka’s very illustrative and still vital trilogy, the Castle, the Trial and America. Now we as citizens don’t accept these loose ends and no means tinkering: We want perfect information delivery instantly regardless of were about we are, being at office, at home or moving around.

Findability is key to all this, from an E-Government perspective. If we as citizens can’t find the information needed to act coherently with the service providers and other citizens the trust decrease rapidly. In many cases E-Government have focused on perfecting the ‘work-flow’ and business processes behind the scenes within different silos of organisational units. Before we as citizens transcend from information seekers into transactional modalities to “ask for a specific service delivery”, we need to find the information. Or cues to interaction with the service providers…

The new transparent open public sector behaviour is something that we as Swedes have set as one of the key take a ways of being citizens in one of the most open societies on earth, but the truth of the matter is that we in several occasions through out our life journey get Kafkaian public sector experiences ;-)

A very tangible scenario is emergency response where several different actors need to coordinate their effort to save lives amongst us citizens. Recent research from my fellow researcher (Jonas Landgren) at the Viktoria Institute, and practice have shown obvious glitches that might be solved using open arenas, emerging technologies with a ubiquitous information environments where we as citizens ‘co-act’ in time-critical actions. The term that reflect this emerging social networking is ‘smart mob‘.

There are a set of key elements to future design, one have to consider regardless if one have responsibility to a city web site portal or other more local/specialised information services.

  1. Information interoperability within the network of actors and the ubiquitous information environments. Mashup technologies and simple web oriented architecture (WOA) and to some extent service oriented architecture (SOA). The later hampered with way to complex integration schemes compared to WOA.
  2. Spatial (geographic), and temporal (time) navigation and pathways to information and humans
  3. Genre as means to lever ‘wayfinding‘ in all digital domains. Language constructs, like metadata (i.e. Dublin Core),  controlled vocabularies, ontologies, taxonomies and folksonomies (social tags) are the building blocks to the information architecture, and future semantic web. Healthcare have one very active interest group to cope with these central issues, and more groups do emerge within e-government/public sector.
  4. The need to reach for levels and granularity in information delivery: most users need very local/individual information that is bridged to global information.
  5. Guided Classification and inter-linking in all content provision, to improve information quality and findability.
  6. Decentralised and dispersed governance models, where we as citizens collaborate, have conversations and co-act with service delivery actors. Social Media integrated into daily practice. Transparency stress new ways of working!
  7. Portal top-down tinkering will fail, act in a networked manner. No service stands in the “top”, since end-users will dive into the details and not start their journey in a expanded file-share from hell click trip!

Obviously technology is one mean to this, but most of the design criteria is sound “common sense” human social norms. Lastly do not re-design, refine…. Act in everyday use, and have the word pragmatic as the standard.

All in all many of the search patterns give hands-on fixes, such as the use of facets, best-bet and other means to guide the citizen.

Concluding remarks

Wayfinding and navigation being a citizen is very individual: we start our journeys from different perspectives and with  different levels of knowledge. A ‘Google start’ with a explicit quest in a query, or guessing a “top-node” starting point, i.e the local hospital, city, region or whatever granularity we reach for. Any ambition to make-do of one ‘costume for all purpose’ will be destined to fail! This mash-up behavior unleashes the urgent need to collaborate, and open-up a mixed experience. When we as citizens finally get a clue on to whom we need to engage with to get the set of packaged services needed. There are outstanding and unresolved patterns of integration and disconnected none inter-operative supporting service. In this complex scenery one should apply ‘good enough’ and ‘dead-simple’ integration (i.e RSS, Widgets) to not reach ‘dead-lock nirvana’ with power relations blocking any feasible way of make-do. Here we see notions of future intermediary such as Google Health that takes on the individual/personal health records (PHR).

If the public sector manages to re-format its daily everyday practice to become more Enterprise 2.0 oriented, the emerging citizen social networking and knowledge sharing will be traces of collective action to create innovation commons.

May the force be with you!

Further recent post within Government 2.0: partI & partII leaves a few hints, but my own reflection is that public sector can only act as one with a networking practice across boundaries with all involved actors!

Note: Other related topics, such as Usability, End-User centric development (UX) and participatory design and accessability to name a few have been take for granted!


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.