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.


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.



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?


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.


“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.