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” ūüėČ 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‚Äôs most valuable resource and that new knowledge and competitive advantage are created through the integration of knowledge embedded in the minds of the organization‚Äôs 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 ‚Äúelectronic networks of practice.‚ÄĚ

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 ‚Äúpersonality‚ÄĚ 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‚Äô 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 ūüėČ

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 ‚Äúsecret‚ÄĚ 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!


Serendipity, and the mothers of innovation

March 5, 2009

There is a quest to grasp the Enterprise 2.0 arena both in academia, knowledge management evangelists, and within practice. The terminology is rather blurred and fluffy, but expresses a urgent need to describe the make-do easy going attitude digital natives share towards information seeking, social networking and work practice, that ‘might’ be coupled to a new business setting going forward. In these early days we only sense a notion of the general direction, but fail to prove the evidence. Mostly we share corporate stories, that gives us all the feeling of being part of the change. As researcher and practitioner, I also fall into the simple means of explaining the change in the bedrock of web 2.0 technologies. Artifacts have always changed our human social behavior, but it isn’t that obvious what technology at hand that will gives us such a big leap forward, that we in the history lessons later will reflect upon this as “revolution” in contrast to “evolution”. Timely given the fact that it is exact 200 years ago, since Charles Darvin, made a big step for mankind!

Being digital emigrant, but rather grown up, having used Internet since 1989, my simple stab at this change, is that the social tendencies we now are facing was the bedrock to why I started to use usenet newsgroups, mailing-lists, ftp and other obscure IP protocols. Sharing is in the spines of all this, what has changed is the ubiquitous information environment, and ease-of-use for people outside nerdy Unix worlds (where I started off). Network theory explains these changes in pretty simple means, that makes sense to us all.

Turning the corporate landscape inside out, as proclaimed by Wikinomics author D. Tapscott, or other related works. Will that present a new Enterprise 2.0 arena for all of us?

I think, the answer is yes! but without proven evidence and data we stand small in this sandbox. The scent of emerging change is in our face. The Mash-up soup economy we now are facing stresses the need to network to survive. What all business managers fear is arbitrary decision making (even if that is what they practice daily), and losing control? The killer application is the in-built feature of all humans to have a strong gut feeling for adaptation, and where serendipity will play a key-role. Open-Innovation will give us competitive advantage, if we leverage the networking, and manage (or care taking /cultivate) these changes properly.

Adaptative Organisms, according to Mr Darwin, within nature and elsewhere have three markers to cope with change and risk: Diversity, Autonomy & Responsiveness and Communication (with friends and foo’s). In this simple explaination ones realises how enterprise 2.0 and web 2.0 technologies, regardless of their actual merits being contributions to terminology, fits for purpose. Coping with risk and change will not be possible with traditional management agendas or technologies.

Innovation, and use of technology in this scene grouped together as web 2.0, have been cross-linked with other emerging terms such as intranet 2.0?

or enterprise content management 2.0 or information seeking 2.0. From a sales-pitch point of view, it makes sense if you are a service or a vendor company in this space. (Disclaimer, hence these slides)

From a researchers point of view, these new terms defocuses from the actual need to explain the change in less marked oriented terminologies that will stand up in court years from now.

There is also mixture of what actually brings value to web 2.0, either realised as intranet 2.0 tinkering or improved information seeking experiences to match people, peers and networks. Truly it is a obvious shift from old school top-down derived knowledge management (codified knowledge) initiatives from late 80s and early 90s. Social Networking is human behavior, but the tools at hand renders different forms of information management, believe it or not! and in these days of dispart teams, groups and people ICT is the mediator. Not the camp fire where storries were told! The fascination with social media relates to us being social creatures, listening to the grapewine to survive in our group.

Knowledge Sharing, is in dire need of experience not only capabilities to cope with search and social media, and into this hot pot of loose ends and no means, the mash-up soup boils. To become competitive and unleash serendipity to the work place one need to bridge generation gaps!

Misconceptions, and rumors of “loss of control”?

In recent posts in both popular press, and elsewhere many “sayers” and “knowabouts” express the fear of losing control, when releasing the powers in-built to web 2.0 tinkering.

Problemet är att spårbarheten försvinner om skapande av information ges helt fria tyglar.

Traceability in any digital domain in No problem, even so, the open-arenas as with wiki’s, leave very fluid tangible traces of contribution in the logs, and within an internal setting all entries into social media will be connected to strong end-user profiling and security! Much better than the old school document centric way of solving collaboration, with work-in-progress documents tossed around, and where the changes will be lost over time, and the miss-use of corrupted temples makes it even more complex. For most organisations, it is only a matter of enforcing information management policies, standards, guidelines, procedures, governanace models and tools to increase the traceability, and features for future need to retention.

In the Enterprise Content Management arena, and especially within the practice amongst large intranet owners within the communication networks, the loss of control of published material on the intranet is really tangible. Control over the editorial processes and a strong force to use the channel as push, have given most corporations intranets that are indifferent for everyday users.

‚Äď De m√•ste f√∂rst√• skillnaden mellan en blogg och formell information som skapats av intran√§tets redakt√∂rer. Om inte den mognaden finns m√•ste man f√∂rst utbilda medarbetarna, s√§ger Fredrik Ring, ansvarig f√∂r enterprise content management p√• Logica.

There is obvious differences between push and pull and mass-collaborative environments, and in the end-user experience this should be pretty easy to illustrate with genres, and visible markers. People aren’t stupid! The real value is set, when intranet managers will realise this, and mash-up their push-angst to intertwingle information flows, based on end-users actual needs, not only corporate ambition to use the intranet as their vehicle.

In the story  Tower of Babylon, human communication and problems related to reach out, outside your community illustrated our human errors. Border Objects, being language constructs have always been the means to cross-link practices, languages and cultures.

En viktig del i tänkandet bakom Enterprise 2.0 är klassificering, taggning, av information för att öka sökbarheten

Information Management and Information Architecture practices and practitioner have worked with ontologies, taxonomies, and controlled vocabularies and information models to bring order into the unstructured reality being provisioned by us humans. Good effort, but less used! Hence poor findability across all digital information environments. Social Tagging and folksonomies raised great expectations from IM and IA folks, including myself. It is a great promise in the networked society to rebuild the Tower of Babylon?  but there are still hurdles to cope with before we reach the promised land.


Snow fortrest

February 21, 2009

Finally we got winter