Thursday, June 16, 2005

Via the Knowledge@Wharton newsletter comes an interview with Philip Evans (Boston consulting Group), Janice Fraser (Adaptive Path) and Ross Mayfield (Socialtext): "Wikis, Weblogs and RSS: What Does the New Internet Mean for Business?". I don't think that the article says anything new about the collaborative software space, but what I did appreciate was the attempt to explain the shift in enterprise psychology and organisation that is necessary to make the most of these "new" developments.

For me, three quotes stood out - one from each interviewee.
Connecting is about "decentralization and relinquishing control" according to Janice Fraser. I think this is an important point, but I always consider that within the enterprise it is more about "loosening control" (or "controlled freedom" as I like to call it) rather than relinquishing it. The aim is to have a clear set of governance policies and the resource to police and push collaborative efforts forward. Intranets , for instance, started down the organic path, expanded beyond control and are now being rationalised and brought under more central frameworks. Draw a line in the sand, but make it relatively fuzzy so that you do not discourage participation, then make sure that you enforce your policies. This has often been the issue with the various blogger sackings - companies have not been clear enough from the outset about which areas of business employee-bloggers can discuss without over-stepping the mark.

"One danger, however, is that of assuming that you can just grab some of these tools that have great social dynamics on the public web and believe they will work equally well inside an enterprise." is the second quote, coming from Ross Mayfield. This leads on from my remarks about governance in that a company needs to consider appropriate usage as well as auditing and control. In addition to this, however, a company needs to carefully implemement any collaborative strategy. "Why are we doing this?", "What do we expect as an outcome?", "Are our staff ready for this?", "Are we fully behind this?", "How does this fit in with our business strategies?" - these are the sorts of question that need to be addressed before sailing into the great wide yonder.

"So much of reengineering, which is what major corporations have been about for the last 10 or 15 years, has been about linear efficiency -- lining everything up in as tight a way as possible along a path. That's wonderful if you know exactly what it is you want to do, and the aim of that task will never change. Increasingly, that's not the relevant challenge. The challenge is adaptability, complexity, uncertainty and your capacity to mine the elements of your business, people and knowledge into different and new combinations." Philip Evans comment rounded things up for me: collaboration can assist in filling in some of the gaps in business, speeding time of response, pointing out the shortfalls in existing processes, exploring new market opportunities and so on and so forth.

I think that for the latest generation of social software (think Groupware) to succeed in the long-term, we should not focus on the types of software and technologies themselves: blogs, wikis, rss, online project management tools, but on the principles behind them: collaborative authoring, ownership of voice, timeliness of information, retention of experience and understanding, flow of information, point-to-point communication et al. The technologies will change over time, but the principles should not.

UPDATE: was just looking through my feeds in bloglines and noticed Mike Gotta listing
"Properties Of Collaboration?"
in the same vein. His list read: Contextual; Situational; Behavioral; Transformable; Historical; Shareable; Securable...

No comments: