2009-12-18

Customer Community Success Metrics for 2009

Customer communities are all the rage nowadays, but it is not always clear what works and indeed how to measure success.

As 2009 draws to a close we have been reviewing how Open Text customer communities have been doing.

Background: For those not familiar with Open Text, we are a vendor of enterprise-class software to manage digital files (called content). The term enterprise indicates that we sell to organizations not consumers. We have relatively few customer organizations, but they are often typically some of the biggest organizations in business and government. We estimate that at least 1 in 3 Internet users visit sites that run our software! The software we use for our own communities is the same as we sell.

The Sites

For historic reasons, we run three primary community sites (requiring membership) in addition to our typical corporate websites. The community sites are:


  • Open Text Knowledge Centre (KC)
    • Primarily for system administrators of the software we sell


  • Open Text Developer Network (OTDN) which is housed on the KC
    • Primarily for developers using Open Text APIs


  • Open Text Online Communities
    • Primarily for business champions and power users

Site Metrics

  1. The Knowledge Centre is by far the oldest community, dating back to 1996! As you'd expect, it has the most members and the most ongoing activity. Every day approximately 4,000 users access the site, and between 150,000-200,000 documents downloads are performed every month!
  2. OTDN just completed its first full year during which just over 3,200 unique users participated over the past year
  3. Online Communities got started in its present form in 2005. This last year 10,600 members collectively visited 118,000 times over the year
These numbers only measure direct participation. As you might expect, many community members participate through email-mediated discussions.

Convergence

Multiple systems have traditionally meant that there are multiple, disconnected silos of information. As a result, users don't know where to look and administrators have to duplicate critical content between systems.

A better approach is to deploy a single, 'enterprise library' of digital files (content) which contains all of the files, but just one active copy of each. The three sites above will soon converge to use the same enterprise library, which will also be used by our corporate website that is open to the general public.

One single repository can make user navigation harder unless the most relevant content is presented and organized in a fashion that best meets the needs of each type of user (i.e. persona). Communities of users with similar interests or jobs are one approach to organizing content, but of course there are others, including personalization based on the activities and preferences of specific users.

Measuring 2010 success

These communities will continue to develop, but the latest social networking approaches provide new ways to surface important content. As we deploy more social networking approaches during 2010 we'll have a solid base of community metrics from 2009 to judge progress. As you might expect, activities on external sites like twitter, YouTube and facebook are becoming increasingly important.


Syndicated at http://conversations.opentext.com/

2009-11-17

The biggest changes sneak up on you

Content management (ECM) systems can track everything that a user does. Usually this capability is seen in the context of compliance – you can answer the 'who did what' and 'when did they do it' questions. You can also track changes in what users did over time. And so it is that a colleague was able to track how my behaviour has been changing without me noticing it by reporting on how many documents I deposit.

  • A bit of background: I use a number of Open Text Content Server systems. One of these, nicknamed Ollie, is used to support to support content-centric business processes within Open Text. I have authored many documents, mostly in MS Office formats over the course of my nine years with the company.
The 'aha' moment: So when my colleague made a social networking post that he had found that I had deposited almost 700 documents in Ollie, I wasn't surprise. I was surprised though when he pointed out that I hadn't added any documents in the last month! Zero! None!

This of course got me to think: "What had I been doing?"

He asked if I'd mostly moved to social networking-style tools. But no, I've been using collaborative tools of one form or another fairly consistently, and indeed heavily, over the last decade. What I realized as that I have almost entirely shifted to using wikis in place of documents.

  • A bit more explanation is in order. Content Server (formerly Livelink) is a full-featured ECM system. You can add documents of any type, including of course MS Office files. You can also directly author in wikis. On the collaborative/social networking side you can also post to a range of collaborative tools such as forums, discussions, news channels, blogs, etc., and with more recent additions instant messages, status posts, etc. So a user has a range of content and social tools in the same system to use – they can select whatever they feel most suited to the business task at hand. Given these choices you can then track user preference changes over time by analyzing audited events.
On further reflection it shouldn't have been surprising. Once I used to have the Word and PowerPoint applications open all the time. I would typically send documents to colleagues as email attachments or via links to copies in Ollie.

Now I create wiki pages and then rely on automated notifications and RSS for others to learn about them, and of course push awareness by targeted emails. I very seldom open Word to author content, and when I do I get frustrated because all of the embedded code makes it hard for me to reuse the content (unless I force Word to the blog posting mode as I'm doing now).

That's another thing – I repurpose content to multiple channels much more than I used to. I don't simply author 'free-standing' documents and then deposit and email them. I often use the same content in several blogs and/or wikis.

And now I'm starting to create short videos where once I'd have authored a document...

None of this is surprising in an abstract sense. Pundits have been saying that there are huge changes underway and as someone who works in a company at the forefront of how content is managed in organizations, I've been aware of it and promoted it. I just hadn't realized how much my own behaviour has changed; otherwise I wouldn't have been surprised that I didn't deposit a single document in Ollie last month!


Syndicated at http://conversations.opentext.com/

2009-10-27

Some Thoughts on Effective Enterprise Taxonomies for Content

While discussions of content management are usually referred to in the context of the needs of enterprises (i.e. Enterprise Content Management, ECM) in reality most ECM deployments start at the departmental level. This is not bad – on the contrary departmental deployments typically address specific business needs thereby sharpening their focus to improve their chances of success. However, over time as an enterprise begins to deploy ECM technologies in many departments, the benefits of an enterprise strategy to support cross-enterprise deployment become apparent.

At Open Text we have recognized that there are a number of essential elements without which transitions from departmental to enterprise-wide deployments tend to fall into a 'chasm.' It may seem obvious, but it essential to treat enterprises differently than individual departments, especially since:


  • Enterprise deployments inherently connect departmental deployments rather than replace them
    • If your aim is to facilitate the timely, process-dependent flow of content between departments then you have to accommodate varied work cultures, processes, content types, taxonomies and technologies already in place in order to make the necessary connections as part of a clear enterprise-level content architecture. Wholesale replacement is seldom a realistic option, but supplementing and amending can be effective.


  • Enterprise deployments can also create additional value by enabling new, enterprise-spanning, content-centric processes and perspectives that cannot be achieved solely by connecting departmental deployments
One element to successfully implementing enterprise-level content management is an effective enterprise taxonomy.

  • Enterprise or corporate taxonomies (see Wikipedia definition) are becoming increasingly critical to classify, save, access, reuse and report on growing volumes of information within an enterprise
  • Enterprise taxonomies are particularly important for Content Management and Knowledge Management, but the needs of each of these disciplines are not exactly the same
While the principals of taxonomy development are relatively well understood, there are particular challenges associated with effective enterprise taxonomies. In my discussions with colleagues several recommendations have emerged:

  1. Externally derived and validated taxonomies should be adopted whenever possible – this can be especially critical when you are faced with multiple, overlapping taxonomies that were adopted and typically custom built to suit the needs of specific departments
  2. If you adopt an external taxonomy (#1 above) it is most likely that you should only implement a simplified subset – aim for 'just enough' detail
  3. Natural language taxonomies are preferable to numeric or other code-type taxonomies to support user adoption
  4. The appropriate taxonomy type or structure should be chosen before implementation is started, i.e. flat, hierarchical, network or faceted
  5. Each taxonomy you deploy at the enterprise level should be orthogonal to any other
Typically enterprise taxonomy discussions begin when staff become frustrated because they cannot access the information, and especially content, they need from one location. In such cases an enterprise taxonomy may be seen as an access enabler (e.g. through a portal) where the focus is on information presentation.

Another driver may be the need to manage key records to meet regulatory demands. In this case an enterprise taxonomy is expected to support storage of all relevant content and effective retrieval on demand by a small set of users. Such taxonomies often don't serve the general needs of all staff.

A third scenario is becoming more common: ensuring that appropriate content items are presented in the context of business processes that already rely on structured data (e.g. in ERP or CRM systems). In effect metadata applied to content can be the effective bridge between structured data and unstructured content.

The recent application of social networking technologies within enterprises has brought with it demands to classify unprecedented volumes of small content items where much of the meaning depends on the context of discussions and may not be captured within the content itself. In this case we need to consider deriving social metadata.

These are some initial thoughts on the topic of enterprise content taxonomies. It is a rich topic that I expect to explore in greater detail in future posts, especially looking at reconciling nor only classic, mandated taxonomies, but also the more recent emerged user-managed cloud taxonomies.
Syndicated at http://conversations.opentext.com/

2009-10-13

The tale of two coffees – or why altruism doesn’t work in ECM

Our facilities management has been changing how coffee is provided, and judging by the posts on our internal social network, they have been failing miserably.

On the face of it, the new system should be much better – freshly brewed coffee in a range of blends and flavours. It replaced a system using single pouches of reconstituted, dried coffee that most people felt was tolerable at best.

So where's the problem? The new system depends on altruism. The coffee must first be brewed in several large batches that are then saved in thermal carafes to hold the brewed coffee without burning it. There are five or six blends, and therefore an equal number of carafes in every small office kitchen.

In the ideal use case, a 'user' comes to a kitchen, selects the blend they would like and dispenses a steaming mug-full. If they see that a given carafe is almost empty they set it under the coffee machine, select the right blend, push various buttons and then ideally wait ten minutes until it is completely brewed, or at least expect another colleague to finish the process and move the carafe back to its stand.

Of course anyone reading this knows what actually happens. You come to get a coffee, find several carafes empty, take some coffee from one of the only carafes with some left, and then find it is lukewarm. To rectify this situation you would need to brew up at least three or four large carafes, but you're already in a foul mood so you just walk away in disgust. After all, you have an important business meeting in one minute and the company isn't paying you to make coffee for everyone!

There have been attempts to rectify this. I've seen helpful Post-it notes saying, "Brewed at 1:35pm" – which at 4:00pm tells me I don't want to even try the half-empty carafe! Packages of the correct blend are kept next to the carafes to make sure people can find the right one – as if that was the only reason they hadn't re-filled an empty carafe before!

So it's pretty clear un-recognized altruism doesn't work in the workplace. That's as true for coffee-making as it is for managing content.

ECM implementations that depend on users to do more than they need to do to discharge a task don't work. Enforcement efforts only work until people find an alternative, which is becoming increasingly easy to do with the availability of free Cloud resources.

But self-promotion works, which is recognized in successful social networking implementations. So look to social networking as a way to get people to do things that they wouldn't otherwise do in your ECM systems! After all, why else would I be writing this piece on my personal time?!

Syndicated at http://conversations.opentext.com/

2009-10-08

Instant Messaging: dating or working?

Instant Messaging (IM) is becoming more common in enterprises, although the latest statistics I have seen suggest not as much yet as some people expect.

Personally I use IM in a work context almost every day. I hadn't given much thought on how I use it, other than realizing:

  1. I am a lousy typist who needs an autocorrect feature in my IM client, and
  2. Often IM is a preamble to a telephone call as I mostly work in a home office. My IM posts often go as follows: "hi > are you free? > can I call?"

So when I saw the results of a survey on the right and the wrong way of using IM in dating, it made me reconsider how I use IM at work.

The OKCupid.com survey results were published in my local newspaper, The Globe and Mail – in case you were thinking I've been using that dating service!

The worst greetings are "hi", "hey" or "hello" – I mostly say "hi"...

Far better are questions such as "how's it going?", "what's up?", or even "hola"!

In a dating context I can see how a question would more likely lead to a follow-up. But in a business context, would it be better to say, "How's it going?", "Are you busy?" or "Can you spare a minute?" than opening with a "hi?" Maybe "hi" is fine if you've established a working relationship already, i.e. got past first contact.

Interestingly in dating use of netspeak (e.g. lol, bfn, imo, etc.) is not a good idea on first contact. The recommendation is to, "ditch the slang" for the proper language and to make sure you proofread, since it suggests that you consider the interaction important.

I think that same care very much speaks to being 'professional' at work as well, although with close colleagues with whom you chat a lot netspeak almost becomes a way to indicate that you are an expert IM user, not just a work-only user.

Mini-IM essays are a turn-off in dating, and I think likewise in work chats.

Your personal picture is critical in dating IM of course. I think it's even true for work IM. I see a larger proportion of people using real pictures of themselves in work IM settings rather than the cartoons, avatars or seemingly random graphics typically used in consumer IM and social networks. At work it's very important for people to recognize you so they can link their online perceptions of you with what they find when you meet face-to-face.

In my experience when you first interact with a colleague through telephone and conference calls with no pictures, you build a mental image of them that often conflicts dramatically with the reality you find when you first meet them in person.

There are a lot of parallels to being an effective IM user in the workplace and when dating, but of course you do have to be careful not to be seen as flirting when you compose a work instant message!! The content of the messages is what makes the difference, but both work and dating are more serious than some other social situations, so share some common rules.

2009-10-06

Rethinking the focus of ECM

I find using the term ECM directs discussion and thought along predictable paths having to do with the management of content in the enterprise in a way that misses some key elements.

So yesterday I proposed a thought experiment:

Could you work without using electronic technology at work ("My electron free work diet")?

It really asks, "What is the nature of work in the modern workplace and how is it valued?"

Electronic tools are now essential for most staff. In analysis, if you first focus on the individual, then you have to ask what makes a staff member more effective in getting their job done. That job probably involves the creation of content in its broadest definition, so easier creation of better content is obviously critical. But the business or enterprise value of that content then depends on how effectively it is used within and sometimes outside an enterprise. Promotion of content to create value requires collaboration as we used to refer to it, but is now more commonly referred to as social networking.

Syndicated at http://conversations.opentext.com/

2009-10-05

My electron-free work diet

People complain about email at work: "I'm drowning in email! It takes me two hours to clear my email before I can get to work!" they say.

Some people have even declared that they are giving up email for good.

But I think they are cheating – they are not really giving up the activities for which they use email, they are just finding another 'technology drug' – something newer, better and arguably more effective. After all people need to do their jobs. The proportion of knowledge workers is increasing steadily, and you just can't be a knowledge worker without using electronic aids. Whether they admit it or not, email (or some other electronic technology) is now essential to executing their job if they prioritize email activities according to business value.

I would hazard a guess that hardly anyone who has given up email has gone back to writing or typing their business correspondence. They are using instant messaging, social networking, video conferencing, shared blogs or something I've yet to hear of to do what they used to do in email.

But working in business there is a risk in adopting a new technology before your colleagues – no one may listen to you and you will become irrelevant, and in business it is never a good idea to be irrelevant! It's good to be seen a trail blazer as long as you are also seen to be more effective.

I was stuck by this the other day when I needed to contact a colleague who is the most active user an internal social network in our company. I sent him an email, just as I would do for anyone else in our company, but just for good measure I sent him a direct message on the social network, asking him to check his email. He replied to say it was a good thing that I had messaged him, as his email client was turned off!

So if you were really serious you would swear off all electronic technologies to conduct work. Martin's electron free-diet declares that:

"If it plugs in for electricity or to send information, you can't use it!"

I allow for artificial lighting where required, as long as it doesn't plug in for power or to send information. The same goes for heating and elevators.

I have no intention of adopting this diet as long as I want to keep a paying job.

Really this is a thought experiment to define what we consider to be content in the context of enterprise content management (ECM).

I think Content is what knowledge workers create using the electronic tools so vital to the conduct of modern business. Content is the currency of business processes.

The traditional ECM perspectives have document management origins that tend to make most content descriptions document-centric, and even when the scope is expanded to include a much wider range of file types, there is still a focus on lifecycle management from capture to archiving. I was struck by this reviewing the entries in the recent Infonomics Weekly
ECM in Sixty Seconds Video Challenge. There were great entries that said very much what I would have said if I had my act together in time to enter.

Now I'm beginning to feel that the trouble with enterprise content management as a description is that it emphasizes content, the enterprise and management too much!

I'm leaning towards thinking ECM is more about helping workers be more efficient at doing their work and ensuring that their work product has value because it makes a difference.

2009-07-17

The Pushmi-Pullyu of Enterprise 2.0 Social Networking

The new software segment of social networking for enterprises developed because organizations, especially companies and government, recognize that their staff may want to use tools like Facebook and twitter, but are concerned about the associated security and compliance risks.

It is strange then that most of these Enterprise 2.0 social networking applications have subsequently developed integrations with those same consumer Web 2.0 tools that were of concern in the first place!

I wonder why this is?

One explanation is that developers of enterprise social network tools are getting caught up emulating what is going on with consumer tools:

  • Each is trying to be the preferred site by enabling users to do everything from their site. As consumers 'flit' between social networking services looking for the next big thing, it's hard to keep them without adding new features – either by building analogs to proven tools, or partnering and integrating with the leaders. Meanwhile, aggregation services allow users to post to many social sites at once, or the receive feeds from many sites – thereby allowing users to avoid visiting the sites at all. Watching this it must be hard not to do the same!

But aren't enterprise 2.0 software vendors missing the point? Enterprises that buy into the value proposition of 'social networking without the risks,' are not likely to open their door to the tools they rejected, even just to help their staff unidirectionally monitor the latest external posts.

On the flip side, in most cases there can be no surety that staff are not finding a way to use those consumer tools at work, despite whatever policy or technology-blocking approaches are taken. There are just too many sites, too many tools available and such rapid change, and outright bans lead to circumvention. Then of course staff will be using the tools in their personal lives.

So where does this leave us?

At some level much of the new style of social networking is an effort to replace email as a communications medium. For some time email management tools have been available to help companies achieve compliance. These tools usually capture and index all enterprise communications in a manner that supports both controlled destruction and future discovery.

  • Email management for compliance is an outgrowth of traditional content management for compliance. In many ways emails are special content types – usually with less content, more versions (especially including multiple branches or threads) and fewer controls on access (especially because of email forwarding).

In the same manner, social networking tools allow users to create even larger numbers of smaller pieces of content, often with more versioning, and with especially complex relationships that define context and therefore meaning.

  • For example what I say in through IM or microblogs can only be understood in context, whereas emails and especially documents are larger, more complete and often able to be understood largely in isolation.

While organizations once blocked staff from using email to mitigate risks, email access is now nearly universal in the workplace – but it is managed. Certain tools are selected and sanctioned and staff must use those.

I believe that in the same manner, enterprises will inevitably permit selected social networking tools (some enterprise and some consumer) once appropriate control technologies are applied to assure lifecycle management for compliance.

So Enterprise 2.0 vendors don't need to enable interface integration with consumer web 2.0 tools, but rather capture and control integration with enterprise records repositories.

2009-07-14

Official vs. unofficial social networks and their impact on user adoption

Guest post from my colleague Agnes Kolkiewicz originally posted to Open Text Online Communities Metrics community (Metrics Blog).





In my last post, we looked at the correlation between the success of collaborative systems and user adoption. Many of you struggle to obtain user adoption within your organizations for communities of practice (CoP). We mentioned that staged deployments are usually recommended by analysts and that the resultant 'success stories' can then be showcased within the company to further promote user adoption and justify the investment. But where can you find a good initial 'use case' within your company that is likely to succeed?

Consider the following excerpt here from a post by Etienne Wenger, an internationally recognized expert in the field of learning theory:

"A community of practice is different from a team in that the shared learning and interest of its members are what keep it together. It is defined by knowledge rather than by task, and exists because participation has value to its members. A community of practice's life cycle is determined by the value it provides to its members, not by an institutional schedule. It does not appear the minute a project is started and does not disappear with the end of a task. It takes a while to come into being and may live long after a project is completed or an official team has disbanded." (http://www.co-i-l.com/coil/knowledge-garden/cop/lss.shtml)

It has long been observed that unofficial networks exist within a company. People join these because they see value in participation. Knowledge is being exchanged within those networks outside of any organizational structure, crossing information silos. When designing an information system that supports communities of practice and collaboration, the challenge of an administrator may very well lie then with initially identifying what unofficial networks already exist within the organization and designing systems that will support these networks.

You can start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What is important to our employees?
  • Where do they find value?

What might follow then is that a community of practice should not be imposed on a group of people according to organizational structures – rather, it should serve as support for unofficial networks that have already been created within the company. The value to the organization exists then because the knowledge that is already being exchanged through informal discussions, IMs, or email is now being captured and archived within a community of practice, and is then easily searchable by newcomers to the organization or people outside of the specific community that also have an interest in the subjects being discussed. This type of exchange is much more difficult to recreate when establishing a community of practice based on official organizational structures.

This is not say that communities of practice should not adhere to organizational principles further down the line, but chances are that by identifying such unofficial networks within a company, and supporting then using social media, you might stumble upon an initial 'success story' that could be then used to promote the technology throughout the organization.

2009-07-07

Meeting the needs of both the enterprise and staff

It seems that for many people the enterprise goal of corporate compliance is seen to be at odds with the goals of users. I think that's wrong!

This was brought home to me by the surprised reaction of observers at the recent Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston to Open Text's new Social Media offering.

In recent years the primary driver for implementation of enterprise content management (ECM) systems in organizations has been regulatory compliance. Organizations need to manage critical records in a consistent manner over time, as required by relevant laws and regulations.

Ensuring that staff (the 'users' of enterprise systems) are aware of requirements and use the implemented systems is often a challenge. Well designed ECM systems can ensure organizational compliance while requiring little change in behaviour as users create and deposit content – but it can take real effort.

As Web 2.0 has shown, users want simple applications, that can be learned quickly, and work smoothly. Increasingly they want these applications to be available for mobile devices as well as desktop computers.

Staff want to interact effectively with their colleagues. Social networking tools are seen as a way to achieve this in enterprises. As I described in an earlier post, this approach is, "people-centered not document-centered." It is also becoming independent of device and therefore location.

It was therefore a pleasant surprise to some observers that Open Text, as one of the largest ECM vendors, with a long history of content management, would come out with a people-centered application that runs on mobile devices like Blackberries and iPhones, in addition to the expected personal computers. And most importantly, this application enables users to exchange content with established content repositories.

In commenting on the Enterprise 2.0 conference, Gil Yehuda, for example, said:

"Open Text impressed many people with their new enterprise social media and collaboration tools. With a solid enterprise-class suite of tools, Open Text was one of the few ECM/Portal players to make a showing and a splash at the conference. Whereas many E2.0 vendors target low-tech SMBs, only some vendors have the depth of credentials to handle Enterprise 2.0 (with a capital "E") with its many hairy concerns."

Nice sentiments – my thanks to Gil – but I think we would all agree that technical integration supporting both enterprise-driven content-centricity, and user needs for mobile networking, is but a first step as we rebalance the needs of enterprises and their staff. I expect we'll soon see considerable advances in implementation practices.

There has been much discussion about how compliance requires that all communications by staff be managed as potential corporate records, but a recent AIIM study has shown that most organizations have yet to tackle the problem. It seems that many assume that the way to do so is to 'stuff' transactions from email, IM, social networking, etc. into a content store. The problem is that these people-centered communications will generally not map to content-centric hierarchies. In some cases the only indexing field that can be used is the date of creation. As a result it is necessary to rely on full text search for later discovery, which is then followed with painful, manual recreation of context. Imagine trying to determine who said what and when – from a collection of stored emails that mention a specified term! And email is relatively easy compared to instant messages (IM) and 140 character tweets, since email communications are generally more comprehensive and richer in derivable context.

If you accept that social networking has its own, distinct organizational principles, then compliance applied to social networking must take a different tack. How users interact with each other and the network of communication links that they establish are the most important contextual elements – the medium is the message. Helping users make the connections easily automatically creates context. That context must then be preserved if the saved communications are to be reliable and meaningful from a compliance perspective.

So enabling users to network more effectively actually supports compliance in a developing paradigm!

2009-07-03

Immature Complexity

I'm working with a colleague on a project that integrates structured content and processes (in SFA/CRM and ERP) with unstructured content (ECM).

We are coming at this unified need from very different perspectives – he from a background in telecom process support (what Geoffrey Moore in 'Dealing with Darwin' would describe as a Volume Operations model), and me from content management in a software company (what Moore would describe as a Complex Systems).

As always, such interactions serve to challenge your assumptions, helping you to broaden your perspective.

He understood that we need to capture content created during interactions with customers and had made provision for it in his plans.

I kept saying, "But unstructured content represents more than 80-90% of the information," as most of ECM practioners routinely claim – I don't think he believed me in a tangible way…

Then I shared some research I did four years ago. I looked at how many pieces of content we typically collect before a first sale to a customer. At that time (2005), the number was an average of 88 objects. Since that time we've gotten better – we collect more. As part of the same research I also looked at content associated with customers of many years standing – in the case of one conglomerate we had over 28,000 content objects! Again, that has continued to grow.

And it's not just content volume, but a growing variety of formats and subjects.

I believe my colleague was stunned, which of course led to a discussion of how we can best manage such volumes. I can go one for some time about best practices in ECM deployment – content architecture, governance, user training, permissions, controls, etc.

But I came away from this discussion with a reinforced feeling that ECM is hard. If it was easy this software sector would be more advanced – it would be like ERP is, not as it was 15-20 years ago. The enterprise content management sector is relatively immature because it is tackling a harder problem – unstructured is more of a problem to manage than structured – and there's more of it.

Although some content types are becoming at least semi-structured, and so are arguably easier to manage, the growth in completely unstructured and diverse content types far outpaces it.

So the immaturity of ECM is a reflection of its complexity. Meanwhile the value of ECM continues to grow, but we still have a way to go before all information professionals really understand it, although with maturity comes understanding…

Nothing original, but I enjoyed re-examining my assumptions and testing them against the perspectives of others from a different background.

2009-06-29

Will the real Gen Y please stand up?

Much of the discussion about social media in the enterprise posits that the incoming generation will demand the new technology tools that they have learned to depend on.

However, In working with some old ECM systems I have been surprised at times how new, young staff have just accepted them, rather than 'demanding' something better.

So will in coming workers 'demand' change or meekly accept the status quo?

An article called, "After the recession, the fallout will be lasting," in the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail this weekend suggests an answer. The theme of this article is that the recession has had a profound and sobering effect on career expectations:

"…many young people I talk to have significantly, and resentfully, lowered their expectations. They didn't imagine themselves in this situation in their wildest dreams."

The article goes on to say this change is affecting workers of all ages:

"This hard-line attitude will leave a bad taste in many workers' mouths. Some will develop a lasting cynicism and suspicion of organizational motives. They will not expect anything good of their employers. Others will be traumatized. Whatever cockiness employers have accused Gen Yers of having, for instance, will be knocked out of some."

So it is not hard to see why some workers simply put up with bad systems at work.

On the other hand, others are more likely to seek alternatives:

"Others will develop a healthier self-reliance. They will understand that organizations will not necessarily look after them and they will have to look after themselves." I think it is these people that are more likely to 'go around' what their employer provides to find the cloud-based, social networking tools they want.

So the current recession has polarized the response of Gen Y in the workplace. On the one hand some staff will resentfully use old technology, while others will be more likely to seek alternatives, with less concern for the risks to their employers.

2009-06-24

Obtaining and Using Key User Adoption Metrics for Enterprise Communities

Online communities are an appealing but challenging topic for enterprises. Most organizations feel they will increasingly use social networking tools, but are uncertain how best to proceed.

Proving business benefit and responding to deployment challenges can be a difficult, but these activities must be grounded on objective data, so obtaining key metrics is essential. However, often community and social networking applications intended for enterprise deployment lack the necessary query and reporting tools to support business champions and system administrators.

Recently we launched a Success Metrics community on Open Text Online Communities for those who have deployed Open Text Communities of Practice (CoP). Members of that community have access to reporting tools and templates specifically designed to provide community metrics.

My colleague Agnes Kolkiewicz just made the following blog post in that community (see Metrics Blog):

 
 

Many of you have mentioned that you are struggling with user adoption within your communities. As I believe that the success of any software project (and particularly where document management and collaboration are concerned) is largely dependent on user adoption, I believe it would be within the scope of this community to include some best practices on user adoption. To support this, I will start a "user adoption best practices" wiki in the community with the hope that all of you can add to it as we progress.

Metrics and user adoption, especially in the case of collaborative or social media software go hand-in-hand. The more that substantive content is added and the higher the participation and log-in rates, the more value your system will bring to the organization, but you need to be able to measure that progress and growth in participation:

  • Measuring log-in and participation ratios will enable you to determine how your efforts to improve user adoption are progressing. These ratios will also enable you to identify "peak times" in participation - this way you can likely pinpoint what had caused the surge in participation and aim to recreate the event. By measuring these ratios on a regular basis, you will also be able to demonstrate at a later date how the system has improved over time and set a foundation on which the overall value of the system can be determined.
  • Metrics are applicable throughout a project lifecycle. This applies to any software project but it can easily get out of hand where large enterprise deployments are concerned. This is why most analysts recommend that you start off with smaller deployments and apply metrics to measure progress. Once successfully deployed, you can then use the success of this project, and any ROI realized, to champion the solution as a "success story" throughout your enterprise to further promote user adoption in subsequent projects.
  • You should start looking at metrics in the pre-project phase taking into consideration what your objectives are for the software project at hand: these objectives will help you identify metrics as well as KPIs for the deployment. The developed metrics should then be measured throughout the lifecycle of your software deployment until the software is no longer used by your organization.
  • In many cases, the same metrics that were used to evaluate the overall health of your system will also form the foundation for any later cost-benefit or ROI calculation. Where no metrics are kept during deployment, it is much more difficult to "go back in time" and determine how the project has progressed over time and identify realized improvements as there is no benchmark for comparison. We have tried to overcome this obstacle by creating some reports that allow you to measure certain aspects of your deployment at a specified date, but that hasn't been always possible. A rule of thumb here is to start thinking of metrics as an integral part of any project you undertake.

I would encourage everyone to use metrics throughout your project lifecycles – please keep in mind that metrics not only help you prove an ROI, but also help guide your project as it progresses by enabling you to measure progress and identify areas that work well and those that need improvement. In the case of document management or collaborative software, user adoption goes a long way in helping ensure the "success" of your project.

  

2009-06-15

Don’t interrupt, I’m writing a new business document

Bud Porter-Roth posted an article (The SharePoint Myth) which describes why technology solutions to address enterprise content management (ECM) often fail. He points out that if you don't understand the role of People and Process, then any new Technology (he cites SharePoint as an example) is bound to fail for the same reasons as similar technologies before it have.

Bud gives three reasons why people don't use document systems:

1. Employees create their own file structure that they only use for their work because they don't like the way the team file share is organized.

2. Workers recreate in whole or part many documents they know exist, but couldn't find.

3. Nobody trusts the information they do find on the file share because they can't tell if it is the latest version of that information.

But I think there is a fourth reason, somewhat related to #2. People routinely prefer to repeat work. Often this is not because they can't find past work, they simply don't look for it – they are unaware, uninterested, or believe it would have no value. They are confident they can do something better and more current!

I see people starting new projects and initiatives to address old issues over and over. While some staff are aware of similar past efforts which are often well documented, even if those documents are stored and readily available, people seldom review them for lessons learned.

Could you be a culprit? If your boss asks you to write a report, do you look to see what was done before, or just hit Google and start writing? This seems like a common People issue in all companies to me.

People can work for days writing and reviewing a report or similar document. Despite this effort, the final product may be read, or even just scanned, by one or just a few people. The effort devoted to production is many times greater than the effort others devote to comprehension. Despite this, report writing is seen by many as 'real work' – something that traditional email, and more especially modern social network tools, simply interrupt and frustrate.

When you do something at work you want it to be effective – it needs to make a difference to have worth. In any given situation, do people consider first if writing new documents is always the most important or effective at impacting an organization? And if documents are so effective, why don't others accord them enduring value and read them, when they are first finished or some time later?

2009-06-09

Your Major Life Milestones – But Not in Years

We're wed to using years, and especially decades, as units to measure major milestones in our lives.

For birthdays each passing decade is noted: "My God I'm 40 years old," and so on. The 65th birthday is often a biggie, as are 16, 18 and 21.

Correspondingly, besides the decades of marriage, we especially note 25, 50 and 60 years of marriage.

But why only years? With Wolfram Alpha it's now easy to check when you reach milestones in other units of time like days, hours and minutes. To get started, simply enter your date of birth and Wolfram Alpha will tell you how long ago that date was in various time units.

In units of days here are some to think about:

  • 10,000 days = 27.4 years
  • 20,000 days = 54.79 years
  • 25,000 days = 69.49 years

Those seem like worthy milestones of celebration to me.

Average life expectancy is around 30,000 days!! Try asking people at a party how many days they think they still have to live. A 55 year-old has an expectancy of around another 10,000 days. Most people guess a lot more than this.

Some noteworthy units of hours:

  • 200,000 hours = 22.85 years
  • 500,000 hours = 57.08 years

Almost no one has reached 1 million hours (114.2 years) – just two or three currently alive (reference).

The good news is than most people will get near the 40 million minutes and 2.5 billion seconds milestones.

2009-06-02

“Walking in someone else's moccasins”

There are some clear technology trends that don't show any sign of changing; among these are:

  1. Increasing bandwidth and close to zero cost
  2. Always on and always available (i.e. mobile)
  3. Global access to an increasing proportion of the World's population

Social networking and rich media have become prominently recently because they have become practical for widespread use. But these are only steps of a continuing journey.

Where might all this be leading and how will it impact people?

Here's a 'thought experiment':

"What if you could see, hear and smell in rich detail indistinguishable from personal experience, everything anyone else in the world is experiencing whenever you choose and whenever they let you"

That sounds like science fiction, and currently it is, but if the above noted trends continue it could become feasible, and anything that becomes feasible usually happens. Even if it doesn't happen completely, we'll certainly get much closer to this scenario. Consider how you perceptions might change if you had such close interactions with another person:

•    How would you feel about them?

•    Could you take over from them? In their work, in their culture

•    How would this change your choice of country, job, language, culture, political affiliation, religion?

The sharing of information globally challenges national identity.

Traditionally Canada has been defined by geographic proximity. I'm a Canadian because I live in Canada. Most people that I interact with, and those that I interact most closely with, are also Canadians. The sum of our interactions has helped define the culture of Canada.

But now, I can interact with people around the globe, and the richness of those interactions is growing rapidly. Will I feel as Canadian in the future as I do now?

These are the kinds of issues that the Canada 3.0 Forum will be grappling with next week in Stratford, Ontario, Canada.

2009-05-28

On being our own worst enemy

Sometimes you know you need something different and you ask for it. Then when you get it, you ask why it isn't like what you expected – based on your experience with what you already had…

I'm seeing this in new enterprise content management (ECM) products, especially around social media applied to Enterprise 2.0 concepts.

While ECM now covers a wide range of technologies, at its core many of the concepts come from document management. Those concepts are mature and consequently well-embedded.

Many, but not all ECM systems follow a 'folder' paradigm – Livelink is one such ECM system – and of course Windows and Mac OS has used folders for many years. Most people just expect folders.

In the case of Livelink, as collaborative tools like Forums, Blogs, Wikis, etc. were added it was 'logical' that these be offered in the context of folders (and other Livelink folder-like container types like Workspaces and Communities). In Livelink you can add a Blog to any Folder for example, if you have the appropriate rights.

This approach works well when the collaborative discussion is centered on related content.

For example, a set of product specification documents are reasonably grouped with a product discussion in a Project workspace.

In fact traditional knowledge management (KM) approaches emphasised the importance of providing context to documents – grouping the documents and the related discussions about them while they are used and when they are subsequently archived achieves this.

While Livelink collaborative objects must be placed in Folders, tools are also provided to find them irrespective of location. You can list all Blogs, Communities, etc. on one page, but in my experience almost no one uses these features – the expectation and habit of navigation to a folder location is just too strong! And when you give users a range of different approaches, they generally only follow one well worn path.

Social media comes at the problem very differently – it is people-centered
not
document-centered. You listen to what people are saying, and then create a social network based on who you want to listen to and the discussion topics you want to hear about. So users and topics become the organizing elements instead of folders. Topics are often multi-faceted and un-predictable, so are quite different from the parent-child taxonomy type of classic folders.

Sure you can add documents to the discussion, and you can link to other documents, but fundamentally you are saying, "I'm talking about this document," irrespective of its location. In fact a document is still best managed according to a document management paradigm in a repository.

Very shortly Open Text will be releasing Open Text Social Media – a solution designed to support social networks in an enterprise, both internally in the social workplace, as well as externally in the social marketplace of a company's partners and customers. The user interface is simplified in a 2.0 style, and focuses on what a user needs to network socially. It does not have the full set of document-centric options – and therein lays the rub.

Most people who have seen Open Text Social Media love it! It's easy to learn and easy to use. The key to that ease is simplicity – that means there can't be too many options and the ones that there are revolve around social network activities.

So it's interesting to watch people start asking for folders/hierarchical classification and a whole raft of document management features – they love the new stuff, but want the familiar as well. If we gave them what they asked for, then they'd loose the initial benefits.

But we haven't forgotten the document management world. Open Text Social Media allows you to talk about documents in other repositories like Livelink, while they remain where they are in an organized hierarchy, with appropriate permissions, lifecycle controls, metadata, records management, etc.

In the real world of the business or government enterprise, it's necessary to balance the what you want of 'candy' with the what's good for you of 'aspirin' (see video below).

Two paradigms. Two approaches. Designed co-existence!




2009-05-19

Is there a Permissions 2.0 future for ECM?

ECM permissions

Users who either fail to use a system or use it incorrectly present the biggest challenges to Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system deployment.

Ironically, one of the core value propositions of an ECM system is the easily configurable, highly granular control of permissions – who can do what and when to each piece of content – and it is this feature that leads to the greatest misuse in my experience.

Some ECM installations exist solely to manage critical corporate records alone, and these typically have tightly controlled, rules and governance for the management of content, including the correct application of permissions.

There are specific business processes that require such controls. And they can be further extended based on retention and archiving requirements (Records Management = RM). Regulatory demands make ECM essential for many enterprises.

But most ECM systems serve the needs of several groups or departments, typically for a range of different purposes. Often some of these purposes do not require most permission options – in fact I would argue they often don’t need any! This is especially true when the main aim is to share and collaborate with content.

Easily configured permission actions play to most people’s natural tendency to be secretive, especially at work. Watch a user set up a location in an ECM systems to ‘share’ content with colleagues. Often the first thing they will do is to decide who they think should have permission to access the content, and their thinking is usually very narrow:

Who needs to see this?
  • Thinking about only current staff and current needs as they know them
  • Typically forgetting someone who has a legitimate right or even need to see the content
  • No thought about future needs of current or future staff, or the wider range of content that might subsequently be added
Then you give them additional control granularity, leading them to decide:

If a user can see this content, what rights should they have to do anything to it beyond seeing it?
  • Mature ECM systems have 8 or more permission levels such as: See, See Contents, Modify, Edit Attributes, Reserve, Delete Versions, Delete, Edit Permissions; each of which can be set down to the level of an individual user level
  • Further restrict rights to make any changes to a small subset of the people who can even see the content
  • Think of current not future needs
So, fundamentally ECM permissions provide options to restrict the useful sharing of information, and most users habitually overuse them when there is no need.

Collaborative transparency

The conjunction of ‘2.0’ to terms like ‘Web’, ‘Enterprise’, etc. is overused, but it has established certain patterns and expectations.

If something is ‘2.0’ it often includes new technology, but more importantly includes new, typically simpler ways of doing things.

Many 1.0 tools have failed in deployment because they were just too hard – people needed training that they often did not take, or quickly forgot.

Unfortunately traditional ECM tools often face this challenge.

It is a characteristic of 2.0 tools to be much simpler – often to the extent that no training is required – users find them intuitively obvious because they follow established UI models and the options are obvious.

Typically new collaborative tools have very limited permissioning options: permissions are restricted to granting users ‘membership’ in a community, and sometimes other predefined roles to which permissions have been preset. This is easy for people to understand and mostly keeps them out of trouble (Aside: It does tend to lead to community proliferation).

While this approach improves usability and through it user adoption, it does not support more rigorous, records-oriented needs where a full ECM permission model is essential.

As a result, we see 2.0-style collaborative tools adopted in many parts of less regulated organizations, but being summarily rejected where tighter controls are actually required.

We see the establishment of yet more unconnected systems.

If we don’t recognize this trend and address it effectively, there will be yet another round of content repository proliferation; some people will enthusiastically adopt the newer collaborative tools, using them to share content, while some cannot, even within the same organization.

There is a certain irony that 2.0-style approaches to collaboration that preach information transparency, will actually lead to less transparency across an enterprise!

What I think is emerging is a model that supports the consolidated management of organizational content, which absolutely requires the rigorous, permission management characteristics of ECM systems, coupled with collaborative tools that are easy to use and apply situational-specific, simple permissions.

In some way there is nothing new to some of this – in the past email was the easy-to-use, collaborative vehicle where initial permissions were simply set through the act of addressing the email to specific recipients. The issue was that there was typically no coupling between the ECM system and the email system and no lifecycle consideration. The newer collaborative tools seek to replace e-mail as the system of choice, but by default are not coupled to ECM systems; therein lays the danger.

Interim conclusion

As new collaborative modes emerge to replace or extend email, there is a need to insure the appropriate connection to an underlying ECM system is designed in from the outset! And appropriate permission management will be a key element to ensure appropriate, enterprise-wide and longitudinal transparency.

2009-04-09

Social Networking in the Enterprise - Part 2

In my first post on this topic I described using by Twitter account (MartinSS) to meet specific enterprise or business objectives.

  • Clearly in this case I’m working in the social marketplace of the web trying to achieve enterprise objectives. I have other activities in the social workplace that I’ll discuss another time.

As I mentioned last time, I didn’t score highly as a Twitter user. Clearly if you are going to use Twitter to meet specific objectives you should do it well or not bother. Last week I embarked on a program to use it better.

Motivation

My orientation is to use Twitter as a brand development tool.

My posts or tweets now revolve around the topics of my work interests – enterprise content management (ECM, #ecm, #cm). I tend to watch related topics such as social networking and tweet or re-tweet (essentially resending someone else’s tweet that you find interesting). And I make posts to my four work-related blogs (including this one).

Let’s be frank – I certainly want to support the brand of the company I work for = Open Text. But in doing so I can’t help but impact my own brand (hopefully positively). I also spent quite a bit of time at this – both work time and personal time – but as many blog posts have noted recently, work and personal time merge in the new world.

Metrics

And the results? Without Metrics you can’t know if you’ve been successful. Fortunately with Twitter there are many third-party tools available. Here’s how I rate:

  • Twittergrader (takes a moment to execute) – today’s rating is 93, it was 90 10 days ago. I moved from 145,422 out of 1,828,061 to 112,249 out of 1,952,297
  • Tweetwasters – tells me I spent a total of 2.68 hours since I started posting, based on 30 seconds a post. Methinks it was a little more, but then I actually look for ‘good stuff’ and read it, rather than talking about walking my dog. At least I rank 27,739, but I’m not sure out of what.
  • TweetStats – shows my posts have really picked up

But arguably the most important metric is how the number of followers I have has changed. Last Monday I had 132 and today I broke 250. You can see the changed velocity in this nice graph from twiitercounter.com, although the numbers it uses seem to lag a bit.

So the effort worked. The results are not stunning, but then I am focusing on a niche topic area = ECM – I’m sure I could get thousands of followers talking about other things in other ways. But that’s not my intent.

In my next post I’ll talk about WHAT I did to achieve these results, including using several other applications to handle some tasks and manage the incoming flood.

Is this all?

Twitter allows you to have multiple accounts. I might already have a completely different account based on another identity, doing very different things and getting other results… or I might not! I’m not telling! ;-)

2009-04-03

Closing the Enterprise 2.0 Expectations Gap

This week I’ve been asked several times to talk about challenges to deploying Enterprise 2.0 technologies within Enterprises, which is personal interest of mine.

In brief here's my current perspective:-

Most early Web 2.0 adopters were young consumers, drawn by ease of use, immediacy and social reach.

Recent data have shown growing adoption by older consumers, especially those with well established careers, leading to pressure for comparable tools within organizations.

Enterprises have been slow to understand the applicability of these technologies and to develop a balanced analysis of benefit vs. risk.

Recent changes in the Economy introduced new factors to this analysis:

  • Benefit – Specific 2.0-style technologies applied in a focused manner promise organizations very welcome operational savings
  • Risk – The longevity of many of these technologies is questionable as many small venture-backed startups offering similar tools are acutely, financially challenged
    • Creating mashups from several such technologies greatly increases operational risk

Enterprises have requirements which run counter to user experiences with consumer Web 2.0, including:

  • A need to control information sharing, especially in heavily regulated industries
    • Much Web 2.0 literature talks about the value of sharing information openly
  • A preference to only deploy relatively small toolsets and to try to limit silos
    • On the consumer web users are used to trying many similar sites and technologies, flitting to the next ‘hot’ site
  • Long deployment cycles, especially with current economic considerations
  • A need to consider long-term information preservation in a recoverable form

At least my predicted contraction and retrenchment in the number of Web 2.0 choices on the consumer web, and perhaps fewer free-to-end user services , may narrow the gap in user expectations… or not…

2009-03-30

Social Networking in the Enterprise - Part 1

I’ve immersed myself in social networking over the last few months. I’m not particularly interested in gaining online ‘friends’, but I do want to understand the potential of the new tools to meet specific objectives, especially those of enterprises and their staff.

Take Twitter as an example.

  • BTW, if you’d like to follow me on Twitter check here: http://twitter.com/martinss. - follow me and I’ll automatically follow you by way of SocialToo.com).
  • If you look at my score on various Twitter sites I don’t currently score very highly, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t learned from Twitter ;-)

Originally Twitter’s model was one of personal status updates: “MartinSS is walking the dog”, or some such. And for many purists it should still be that way. There is certainly value in that – I’ve learnt things about colleagues that I would never have done otherwise, and maybe we interact better as a result. In the end though I think there is a limit to how many people I want to know in detail. Interestingly this was reinforced by a recent study that showed humans have an enlarged brain center that is predicted to allow them to follow about 165 people and all of the interactions between those people in detail. That number seems about right to me, or perhaps in my case a bit high ;-)

Twitter is just a tool – it’s how you use and the benefit that you derive that matter most. There is no right way to use Twitter any more than a right way to use a telephone. As another blogger expressed it recently, why should he have to justify using Twitter when he doesn’t have to justify using a phone?

At the other end of the spectrum from the social update users, are people epitomized by Guy Kawasaki. He unabashedly uses Twitter as the most powerful marketing tool he knows. As a result he is one of the most followed individual Twitter users, but he is also one of the most reviled but unapologetic. I find value in his posts. Recently there was a controversy when it was revealed that he uses ‘ghosts’ – other people who make posts for him – which is hardly surprising given the volume of his posts and the nature of his effort. Since his posting formula is quite clear, there is nothing wrong IMO with others following his formula under his direction.

When you start using Twitter you can be overwhelmed with the flow of information. You can select a few people to follow and keep the volume down, but inevitably over time the volume builds. One of the first things you have to learn is to, ‘let it go’. If you don’t read a feed for a period you don’t have to go back and read everything you missed – it isn’t email where people have been conditioned to try and read everything (although that’s breaking down nowadays, but that’s another topic). There is an ongoing ‘conversation’ and if you aren’t ‘in the room’, then you’ll miss it, but you have other things to do, so don’t worry.

Next you have to learn how to filter and manage the flow. There are tools to look only at replies targeted to you, posts related to specific key words, etc.

Kawasaki is using Twitter as a Social Marketplace tool. My interest is more in how tools like it can work in the Social Workplace – do they help people in an enterprise get their jobs done better or faster? And if they do, which tools are best, what features must they have and what other tools must they be connected with?

Currently within Open Text we are working on an enterprise, social networking tool currently codenamed “BlueField”. I’ve used it a lot and really like it, and I think the ways to use it best are becoming clearer.

2009-02-23

Social Networks for the Enterprise

David Sacks, CEO of Yammer gave an interesting interview recently on Yammer approach to providing hosted social networking for enterprises. We are in the early day of understanding how social networking is best configured for organizations where information privacy and security are so important, and where staff need to be able to show that they are more productive if the use such tools.

2009-02-02

MS vs. Google spat - "My app's better than your site" http://ping.fm/Iil38
SAP has good results "while a challenging economy ... nearly eliminated any purchases by first-time buyers" http://ping.fm/uB7sS

2009-01-27

The Product Information group recently launched a customer survey about the Open Text documentation http://ping.fm/4FT93

2009-01-05

realizing I've been here before when my Word auto-correct replaces HNY with Happy New Year