Yet another year, with the sorrow companion being a pathogen. The question: “How to be good?”, as simple it may seem, have since ages been our albatross around our neck. At heart, compassion and caring should be the guiding principle. As the original sin, we as humans continuously need to take our own responsibility and make the choices in life. To be continued….
A strange year comes to its end, with a feeling of despair and great loss. Early this year, I got the notion about a pathogen outbreak in a region and city of China, Wuhan, I did not even know about. Strange given its size with a population almost in the ballpark of the population of the whole of Sweden.
How do we separate wheat from chaff? No one have had a clear plan to safeguard the most vulnerable old, who have been sacrificed in the process. At the same time, we have never seen such outstanding collaboration and co-action to deliver new treatments, vaccine at extreme speed.
What kind of learning of experience will 2020 leave us with, passing over to 2021? and how should we embrace a new world order that is more participatory, open, resilient to cope with future chaotic outbreaks? We should not pull back, and retort to the ways things worked before the year of the pathogen and decease COVID-19. Rather lean upon new policies, practices and processes to support our everyday life and safeguard our world citizens.
Sadly we have proponents of doubt, who claim that the outbreak is a hoax, similar to the impact man has o the climate. With world leader in the forefront, waving their poison of lies.
As derived from the UN charter preamble, “we the peoples”, state a notion of belonging to an overarching theme. Being a practitioner and researcher in the realm of knowledge management (KM), a few questions surface in one’s mind since the concept KM is about people, their skills, experiences, learning paths and ability to become knowledgeable within their practice and discipline. Also to what extent we are able to build sustainable models, processes and tools to lever knowledge from an individual or group to a continuum of a learning organisation. The UN charter preamble nails the core being people, and to that, the governing principles follow the path.
Where are we heading with KM? Since inception in late 80’s and emerging in the 90’s the knowledge management area have both matured but also gone into freeze or a KM winter with the omnipresent diffusion of technology.
Talking about people, since this is where we all start, an early attempt to codify knowledge or open up the famous tacit knowledge in peoples social behaviour patterns and conversations to undertake whatever practice, have failed. Regardless of technology stack at hand, since it is a people-centric quest. People are messy, and will never be motivated to codify what they know into some record keeping space.
The recent rise of attention in the digital assisted arena (AI), semantics and cognitive computing stress the sense-making parts. Obviously, people want a cohesive workplace and tooling that decrease the digital landfill, and dismal of feeling puzzled by the maze-like workplace. People also like to group and work together. An in-built social structure that makes us human. Homo Sapiens are really good at collective imagination and mass-collaboration.
The hyper-connected enterprise, have to become demi-dexterous: both being an imagined reality (organisation) with governing principles (structures, work practices, disciplines, skills, experiences and processes) as well as act in an agile manner to reach for innovation. Stable and fluid in a good balance. Smart emerging enterprises lean upon the agile ethos, using a pod structure where autonomous network nodes (groups of people) co-act and collaborate. These building blocks for a sustainable model is what we see in the open domain (i.e Wikipedia) realm, where the genome for collective intelligence sparks
Knowledge Management will evolve and defrost, and start making sense in the corporate world. Maybe to notion manage in KM, as control, will be replaced with cultivation since knowledge creation, curation and dissemination is a social process all in all. A shared ride, if we only focus on people, not technology per se. The need to tinker with knowledge graphs 😉
How do we as humans, break barriers, trying to reach out to make sense? Human collaboration, always tax negotiations and mutual agreement, and a participatory approach. Codified knowledge, have since our first ancestors walked on the face of the Earth, been leaving traces, being means to store narratives to be shared as continuous learning within the community or tight knitted social network. We need to build trust and belonging.
When different members of different communities share information, using boundary objects, there are always a risk that information gets lost in translation, since we add different meaning to shared concepts. Sensemaking occur, when the narrative and shared concepts bridge the linguistic uncertainty.
In a workplace setting, it is a core necessity to share, mission, goals, processes, practices and values along with controlled vocabularies. Meaning deciphered into coded rules of utility and application. A organisation is a set of rules that bind a group of humans together into shared organising principles. To organise, things, tasks and people.
Hunters-gatherers societies where foraging and collecting was key, stay in contrast to the agricultural societies where governance, cultivation and domestication of resources are means for a sustainable society. The shift into the industrial era, focused on automation and resource management. Hence having processes efficient and smooth. In a modern society, organising will capture all of these previous notions of grouping, since we both need to be attentive and competitive to survive and be agile to quick shifts, and in the same time govern and cultivate the resources at hand. And lastly automate as much as possible.
Knowledge intensive work practices, as most professionals subscribe to today, use organising systems (often digital) to codify knowledge, in record keeping. Where a collection of resources have been organised according some design principles and intention. When shift happens, as our society today change in an ever faster pace, these legacy systems break when new interaction models and uses are needed.
We all like a well organised workplace setting, where all things are easy to find, tools and resources have their place and shared utility, and our shared practices to keep our workplace safe and useful, we keep it clean and tidy. As with the 5S principles. If we do not help out keeping our workplace in a good shape, we end up in a digital landfill.
Human messines, will alway persist, and given that fact we need to apply mechanics as automation and augmentation for all knowledge work, to decrease information overload, erroneous knowledge codification. Helpers, to connect the dots, adding meaning and semantics, translators. So that all content provision and uses within the organisation will be better concerted. That also implies using governance and rules applied, as data vacuum cleaners, keeping the workplace tidy and well organised. Help us make sense!
Me, talking about sensemaking in the digital workplace
In the recently released book Digital Success or Digital Disaster, Mark Morrell describes in a very pragmatic manner Governance. Why it matters, and to what extent all these simple sense making guardrails sometimes get lost. Leading to a disaster, where it with some common sense could have become a success.
The book is really a good read, regardless if you have ambitions to become an Intranet Manager or you have other means or things to govern in the business. The foundation with a sustainable, enliven and culturally grounded Governance model should be of highest priority. Clueless is the word sometimes that rings a bell, when organisations, people and folks from leadership simply tries to change. Without setting the playground to how the new workplace will unfold. Who decides what, to what extent have the responsibilities been communicated, so that the members of staff act coherent and compliant? Mark explained in his talk at Intranätverk, the 7 principles that most of us should address!
In our everyday lives we change our behaviors to fit in with those around us, to co-exist. We do this instinctively when driving our cars, during meetings at work or deciding who will do the dishes at home.
The same holds true for the information systems we use at work. It is important that all users have the right training and skills so that we can rely upon the integrity, sustainability and usefulness of the system in question. This can only be achieved through a consistent set of information governance principles, standards and procedures aligned to business context, objectives and external dependencies.
We all know that medicines are more effective when we follow the doctor’s instructions about how and when to take them. And yet it is estimated that 50% of patients do not take their medicines as prescribed. The reasons are multifactorial and the same holds true for our compliance with standards and procedures relating to information systems at work. Very often employees feel constrained by controls that they perceive to be too restrictive. Digital Workplace straightjacket?
Therefore, it is important that the guidance provided to employees is easy to understand and follow, appropriate to the business context and clearly linked to company objectives. If, for whatever reason, employees do not comply with published standards and procedures, feedback loops need to be in place so that the guidance provided can be updated as appropriate. Most people at work tries to do their best, but if the tools and procedures don’t match their needs. They start to tinker, find shortcuts and leave the guardrails behind, and move into unmapped terrain. It is key that all things that make-up to what we call the Digital Workplace have resilience and a plastic behavior to support emerging uses from the members of staff. And that the governance guardrails follow in the pathway of the users. Making sense!
The core principle is that Information is an Enterprise Asset
Context aware applications such as wristband health monitors are becoming part of our daily lives. This is in contrast to the overlapping data and information systems that make up our digital workplace which tend not to interact in any meaningful way.
The movement towards a sensor-driven Internet of Things such as smart cars and household appliances will be echoed in the digital workplace. This will require back-end systems to be fully compliant with information governance standards and procedures. Although the guidance provided should be easy to understand and follow not everyone will need to read them I order to rely upon the integrity, sustainability and usefulness of the system in question.
Cognitive computing is already with us and a number of companies are working on systems capable of ‘learning’. This is done through applications that capture our sometimes rational and sometimes irrational behaviors and as a result are flexible enough to adjust to our context.
Mark and I had a Governance Talk, to further discuss why it all matters:
The intranet space have been around since mid 90’s, as a small world inside the corporate walls incarnation of Internet, based on the very same standards that built the web. The ambitions and inspiration to create value, leaned upon lessons learned from success stories on the Net. Hence after the first bottom-up techie wizard built instances of intranets, we saw the dawn of Enterprise Portals in the early 2000’s. The claims still persist after 15 years, trying to create true business value, and a useful and efficient workplace platform for knowledge workers.
Now companies are buying Intranet on-tap, cloud based, with grand hopes to overcome the gaps and perils from previous attempts. The terminology changes from intranet only, to cover the digital workplace. This makes sense in a world where most companies undergoes a fast pace into digitalisation of all service and goods, regardless of line-of-business. The digital workplace encompasses all communications tools (ICT) to do everyday work. Anywhere, on any device, anytime.
There is a new book on the core topic, “intranets that bring value” (Intranät som skapar värde) written of a group of friends and peers, and experts within the intranet professionals domain. It is the first book in years, in Swedish. Most other books on intranet focus on design solutions for a given technology. Whereas this book main contribution is within strategy, governance, content and information architecture, findability, metrics and measures, user engagement and adaptations. To be able to reach the sought after business values.
Workplace changes, take time, which is obvious given that we now have been working with intranets for 20 years, and still lack good precision in delivering a coherent, easy to use user experience. That connects the dots in the enterprise landscape, helping the users find information, data and peers to solve the tasks at hand in their everyday pursuit.
This book, gives very pragmatic and hands-on advice. And for all intranet professionals I think pragmatism and endurance are key skills, to survive in the stormy environment of constant change in technologies and business demands to the supporting platform.
Hope you enjoy the reading, and do not hesitate to give me feedback on the chapter I have written on organising principles to intranet. The printed version will be available in May. Don’t be square, order a copy now 😉
The results of our digital trails, make up much of the data flows that create the abundance of digital debris we struggle with in our everyday lives. At work we carry out tasks using all kinds of information systems, in order to accomplish our daily work practice, be you a teacher, doctor, or a researcher like me.
In the brilliant book Information Diet, it becomes very evidident that we are becoming obese in the way we consume and create information. And the only way to survive, is to constrain our irrational behavior with pragmatic organising principles, so that we as individuals can understand ourselves, and more importantly the social context where we act- be it at work, in a team or at home, figuring out how to balance between the life of social online domains with that of real-life experiences.
In other domains of our life, we practice simple organising principles for shared social resources e.g. the wardrobe where we manage our clothes, or the refrigerator where we store our food. Most families have unwritten rules on how these shared resource collections should be used. The resources (clothes) in the wardrobe are sorted and categorised depending on the owner of the resource, type of garment and its function. We may also add further structure according to seasonal use and have an occasionally sort out to dispose of the worn out resources. These same resources then will have completely different organising principles dependent upon their resource description, fabric type or cleaning instructions. It is not likely that every family will have the same organising principles for each use case of every ‘resource’.
The same goes with food. If food isn’t organised according to its lifecycle, it will eventually start to rot. Differences from the shared family view of how to organise this food collection can lead to heated discussions, no kidding! This is real-life experience for most of us. And when we are about to use and consume the food, we have the further recipe instructions to use as organising principles. The same set of resources that were in the fridge, the become governed by completely different set of organising principles.
Most physical resources then have storage constraints! In the digital domain however resources don’t go off, and we just tend to upgrade our cloud service plan to add (hoard) even more data. Think of our typical collection of digital photos created daily, using all sorts of devices, and then shared on several different platforms. Most of us tend to add yet another couple of TBs of lovely photos when space runs out and we put off the day when we are going to try and sort this landfill….probably not before retirement. Thankfully Google+ have added photo services to guide and help us in this quest, by adding usage patterns and resource descriptions (meta data) captured when each device takes a picture.
At work, most organisations try to enforce good practice and pragmatic organising principles. But I dare to say it, in most cases these fail. Firstly, different platforms do not or cannot share interoperable services at all levels. Secondly, most users, including myself, do not comply with the said policies and behave ‘irrationally’ in order to fulfil short-term wins – just like the way we store our private photos then! So should we just add more storage and get better search?
If we consider the simple inverted pyramid for communications, it should be easy to see the signs if you adhere to the pragmatic organising principles set for a given digital platform within the digital workplace. You can spend days preparing a slide-deck with nice figures, data and a compelling narrative. But then when faced with filing the presentation, you tend to ignore any simple rules for adding resource descriptions to the content. In most cases, if the system is user-friendly, this shouldn’t even take a minute to complete.
You probably expect that the IT department at work will just buy another bigger search engine to allow the further management of building resources and let you continue to ignore resource description. Well the thing is, this won’t help… you will just end up adding more to the digital landfill. This is well-illustrated in this recent Q&A with Martin White
“Well why can’t we just have Googlish services inside our digital workplace? Or maybe just let the NSA or other Government agencies to store and find patterns in our digital trails?
I would much rather flip the coin, and address the way we create digital landfill. In a utopian future, all devices you use daily will understand what you aim at doing, and will guide you through your provision process. In the meantime, we could simply add the most obvious things to our foraging of data and information.
- Add relevant resource descriptions (metadata) that address the is-ness, and about-ness of the content
- Lifecycle to all things, when is it time to trash things, and could it be a good idea to trash beforehand? less is more in all this.
- Adhere to the agreed social contracts either in your private sphere or at work. When being at work you actually get paid to behave in a good manner. And activities at work is sometimes tedious and boring…”
- And lastly, all software vendors and online service in the information management space that makes up the enterprise information landscape. Have to address semantics or continue to create IS/IT-legacy stigma. Simply be making all ways of digital provision aligned to linked-data paradigm shift without putting us end-users into peril!
These are simple steps, but add in collaborative ways of working and you will find that other uses of your information and data, may result in other resource descriptions being added, according to the new context. It is like the food and clothes allegories mentioned previously. In this case it is a more fluid content experience that we are all see emerge. Something starts from its source/origin but ends up as a sea of data (read Big Data). If simple rules are applied for the ‘raw material,’ it may be possible to link your data with that of others, the same way that linked-data-cloud and the semantic Web are emerging.
At the end of the day, you want to find the right ingredients to prepare your family dinner, and find the right information needed to make well-informed decisions at work.
- The future relies on interoperability, on all levels, not only technical device specific, but rather semantic and social grounded interoperability with sound governance for all data fed to us everyday!
A highly recommend The Discipline of Organizing, a brillant book and online experience for anybody interested in pragmatic organising principles
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.
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’ 😉