This Saturday's FT (26th November 2011) included an interview with Sir Clive Woodward, now Olympic Sports Director, previously England Rugby coach. It was wonderful to read Sir Clive's cheerleading for knowledge management:
""We went from number six in the world to number one. Between 1999 and 2003 we played 49 games and won 45. We had four years of all this knowledge and data. What happened was we all just walked out the door with it ... they (the RFU) didn't capture it."
That knowledge and data are in large part sitting on the desk in front of him [the article continues]. "The black book" is a thick ring-binder containing pages and pages of coaching philosophy - in a nutshell, the art of turning talented individuals into a formidable team. Now it serves Sir Clive at the BOA ... ""
Of course, I would like to see the black ring binder in electronic form, as a ring binder in itself forms an obvious barrier to knowledge sharing. But I don't doubt that the work is in hand, given the evident passion Sir Clive has for the subject.
For the full text, see here.
Part of a helpful general overview of SharePoint, agreeing with our view that:
"The bigger challenge is not technical but concerned with planning the site content.
- Which SharePoint features will you use?
- How will the content be sub-divided?
- Who should have what permissions?
- What are the compliance considerations?
- Will the deployment include custom applications?
- If you will be using social media features like discussions, status
updates, wikis and blogs, then what usage guidelines need to be put in
Information Management has just publicised a panel discussion, including John Zachman, titled "What is Enterprise Architecture?" The participants were given a list of key terms and asked to include them in a single slide to represent how the elements of Enterprise Architecture relate to one another. The slides and article can be found here.
I regularly teach enterprise information architecture, and I am always looking for better ways to present "the big picture". Without a big picture, people find it very difficult to plan and prioritise information architecture work. Tasks such as developing workflows, building taxonomies, creating governance structures, float in and out, almost at random.
In my classes and much of our consulting work, I use an Information Architecture Development Model. This is a step by step approach, unlike the domain models put forward by the panel.
I found two out of the four models easy to understand and persuasive - Zachman's and Leon Kappelman's, with the latter account the overall winner. Both of them can be thought of as Russian dolls. In Kappelman's case, the largest doll is the Enterprise. Inside her, we find Enterprise Architecture, which contains Strategy. Working inwards, we eventually reach IT architecture, which has several daughters in the shape of projects, plans and applications.
You may not remember this, but just over 10 years ago a paper was posted on the web by Cory Doctorow. It was entitled "Metacrap: Putting the torch to seven straw-men of the meta-utopia" (click for the original article). On the face of it, you might think that metadata would be at least half dead ten years on. In fact, it's alive and well in some unexpected places.
For your amusement, I'll recap the seven straw-men:
- People lie
People are lazy
People are stupid
Mission: Impossible -- know thyself
Schemas aren't neutral
Metrics influence results
There's more than one way to describe something
All true. However, in the intervening years some pretty effective metadata has emerged on the web - it just hasn't been the kind of metadata people originally envisaged.
I'm going to give passing mention to Facebook. People are willing to spend a mighty amount of time tagging images of themselves and their friends. And I should also touch on the expanding world of image libraries. But what's most interesting lies in Google and Google optimisation.
I use the term Google optimisation lightly, but in some ways it's a more accurate term than SEO, given that Google sets and enforces most of the rules. Consider some of the elements your web page needs in order to shine in Google's eyes: Alignment of keywords with ad (if you're advertising); alignment of title, description, heading and page keywords, in roughly correct ratios. Appropriate site architecture, with the presence of terms, addresses and so on. Sounds a lot like metadata and information governance to me.
People play by these rules because they are highly incentivised to do so. This may not be the case in the same way in an enterprise setting. I'm convinced that if the business incentives are strong enough, people will start to tag very carefully. But business incentives may not be strong in traditional organisations. If you have a fixed place in the hierarchy, do you care whether others in the organisation find you? Will you be incentivised for your expertise in some area? If incentives aren't built in, metadata will always be a minority sport.
Global 360's report, How are Businesses Using Microsoft SharePoint in the Enterprise? (2011), says that 3 out of the 4 top barriers to SharePoint adoption relate to people and planning, not technology. Here they are, in order:
- Development time and effort required to build business applications (19.4%)
- End user adoption or training (17.5%)
- Governance (15.5%)
- Limited of lack of SharePoint strategy (14.9%)
The point is reinforced by another survey from Global 360 and uSamp showing that 46% of SharePoint users used it less than once a week, and 83% still prefer to use email for collaboration on documents.
83% still using email is a major missed opportunity.
Let's respond to these observations with some points:
- It wouldn't be valid to add the three "people" points together, interrelated as they are. But we can guess that at least one third of respondents would rank one or other of them as important.
- One of the difficulties for users lies in conceiving or imagining a SharePoint governance plan. Managers tasked with examining a market can reach for Porter's 5 forces or PEST; IT project managers with Prince2, PMBOK or CMMI. Governance plan templates are harder to come by.
- Developing one requires a multi-disciplinary team, with expertise in areas outside the usual SharePoint / technology comfort zone.
- It's not easy, either, to say what a SharePoint strategy should look like. What elements should it borrow from conventional business strategy?
- There's quite a lot of SharePoint IT training in the market, but relatively little in the way of end user training. The ideal end user training, in most areas, will cover changes in business process and ways of working as well as SharePoint features, so to a greater or lesser extent it will often need to be bespoke. Ideally, planning the training and adoption would start at the same time as the requirements analysis and preparation for development.
- The need for training and other kiinds of support it often simply overlooked. Asking users to collaborate on documents in SharePoint, for example, requires a change of mindset, the learning of new processes and techniques, and the ascrifice of email's familiarity in exchange for new features and benefits in SharePoint.
This is a part of a broad change in the way that organisations use technology, where people and business issues are to the fore. Challenging, but interesting and full of opportunity. To see how we cover people issues, take a look at our SharePoint model.
Harvard Business Review Jul-Aug 11 edition, shines a spotlight on collaboration, with several substantial articles on the subject. There is interesting material here, and I will blog on the topics as they come to mind. The first covers "The New Brokers of Work", services like Elance, Odesk and Innocentive. I've used several of these services for several years now, and they give rise to some thoughts beyond the HBR paper:
- My guess is that the 9-5 employment market still has a tight grip on talent. Some of the best people on the talent marketplaces are moonlighting. Nothing wrong with that, apart from the limits it puts on their ability to commit to larger or longer term projects
- A lot of the talent on marketplaces is somehow brokered by agencies or companies. Hire someone, and you will often find he is an intermediary with the actual worker. Again, nothing wrong with that in principle, but it often introduces problems or inefficiencies in practice.
- Ranking the talent is still an area of considerable difficulty. All the marketplaces feature ratings in some shape or form, and much of the talent is rated 4.5-5/5. But dig a little deeper into the ratings, and you find that many of them are for sub-$50 jobs, which I personally tend to discount on the suspicion of friends and family involvement. There are further issues with feedback, let's face it. Most of us will only post a really bad review if the relationship is irreparable.
In my view, learning about the performance and talent of employees is a top requirement for enterprise social media, and surface has barely been scratched so far. More and better mechanisms are needed both online and inside the corporation.
There's a lot you can do to brand a SharePoint 2010 site hosted on Office 365, as we hope our Motif website shows. Through master page customisation and custom page layouts, a distinctive site can be created *quite* easily that doesn't look like "out of the box" SharePoint. There are some gotchas, though. For one, publishing features are not enabled at the top level of the site. However, they *are* enabled on subsites. With the correct site planning, therefore, you can achieve a distinctive look and feel.