Making the Digital Workplace Work

Armless Black Knight kicking King ArthurI recently wrote an article at CMS Wire about how Intranets have been eclipsed by the advent of new tools like enterprise social networks (ESNs). Like the old web, Intranets, and the portals that were often created in their name, didn’t really serve much of a purpose outside a large bulletin board. Efforts were made to make them more useful but without addressing a real need, those efforts often came to naught.

The concept of an ESN works better because it is a place where people can come together and work. I’m not talking Facebook in the office. That is crazy. I am talking something more akin to Yammer. I am talking about taking the break room and moving it online for organizations that are collaborative in nature but may not be co-located.

My good friend Jed Cawthorne took exception to my article. He said Forget ESN’s, Give me a Digital Workplace.

ESN, More than the Sum

Jed rips into me for using the term ESN. I agree, it is a cruddy term but the industry seems  to like their three letter acronyms (TLAs). Part of the reason is that a TLA is more than the sum of its parts. It is multiplicative in nature, not additive.

  • Enterprise: Jed restricts this to being within the organization. It is bigger than that. The scope is everything in and related to the organization. Enterprise can scale to include partners and systems.
  • Social: Jed and I agree, people. People need to work together. Without them we can just go home. This qualifier is more about the approach to putting the system together. It has to support how people work together.
  • Network: The connections between people and information. This is pulling everything in the enterprise scope into one place.

Just as Jed took me to task for being restrictive on the definition of an Intranet, I think Jed should ease up on the definition of an ESN. Semantics do matter but to focus on the the term more than the concept can lead to a lot of tangents.

The Digital Workplace is Good

I’m happy with Jed’s vision. It is the vision I had, just different labels. As an industry we have evolved so far past the original Intranet that I feel we need a new term to describe what we do. Digital Workplace is a solid term. It describes what we are trying to accomplish in the same manner that ESN focuses on the how.

My proposal to Jed, let’s kill the terms Intranet and ESN. Digital Workplace is solid. The tools that make up the Digital Workplace will depend upon the mission, structure, and culture of an organization. Map those out and a useful Digital Workplace can be created for any organization.

Moving Past Systems of Record and Engagement

Tom Baker & Matt SmithWhen the terms of Systems of Record and Systems of Engagement were introduced, they were a great way to introduce the concept of expanding social from the water cooler to the digital world. Then a  funny thing happened on the way to success. It didn’t work.

For every success story on the move towards social business, there are more examples where collaborative software didn’t take off. When you sit down and ask why, it becomes apparent that the issue isn’t always that people don’t want to collaborate. They just don’t want to do it in a forced manner.

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The White Board Reality

Recently, Ron Miller wrote a nice little article explaining that there is no need for collaboration to be done in the same room anymore. He says, based off of a tweet of mine, that those that think that face-to-face interaction is needed are living in a White Board Fallacy.

Well, I hate to break it to Ron but he’s fallen in love with marketing hype and his lower complexity of collaboration. I think Ron is a great guy and a wonderful writer, but his personal experience and collection of anecdotes only goes so far.

Cold Shower of Reality

Ron is a writer. He works on articles and interviews people. This is readily done via Skype. When editing an article, or having one edited, even email works for this level with no problem.

But collaboration isn’t always so easy.

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Yammer and Microsoft, a Win for Both Sides

There is going to be no shortage of analysis of Microsoft’s acquisition of Yammer. I’m not going to take time to parse it all. I do want to share some quick thoughts on the acquisition while everything is still fresh on my mind and the deal seems more likely to be completed.

Yammer Cashing Out

Yammer was one of the pioneers in the the Enterprise 2.0/Social Business space. The issue that over the years as the space has evolved, the amount of evolution coming from Yammer has been limited. Their product has gotten better but they remain, at their core, a micro blogging service.

imageThe space has been moving on though. People have been learning that all these Social Business tools work best when they are part of the business process, not when they are on their own. With Yammer, you may produce less email and generate greater visibility into what people are doing in the organization, but you also have a new inbox to check. It is just one more window to keep open.

Let’s face it. Chatter turned SalesForce into a social platform. Yammer has been stuck in tool mode.

Yammer was facing a stiff uphill battle to remain relevant over the next several years. They seem to have been heading in the right direction, but there were a lot of questions about whether or not they could evolve fast enough to keep up.

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Social Media, a Knowledge Management Tool

I was reading an article on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network on Social Media versus Knowledge Management. Written by Anthony J. Bradley and Mark P. McDonald of Gartner, I was interested because I’ve discussed the topic of Social Media and Knowledge Management a few times in the past and I was pleased that the topic was still getting attention.

Then I read it.

To be fair, it started badly and got better. Here are their two “definitions”.

“Knowledge management” is what company management tells me I need to know, based on what they think is important.

“Social media” is how my peers show me what they think is important, based on their experience and in a way that I can judge for myself.

The basic precept presented in the article was that Knowledge Management is about collecting, classifying, and distributing knowledge while Social Media is chaotic and a source of concern for organizations afraid of losing that control.

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Failure, Mistakes, and Actual Success

shanghai_building_cs_20090629035740.jpgA month ago, as I was waiting to start my first day with AIIM, I can across several tweets that I felt over-stated the benefits of failure. I decided to write a quick little post on how Failure is Not a Positive on my tablet over my morning coffee.

There were some great comments, but I had little time to respond. I am taking some time now to respond because this is an important topic. First, let me start with my baseline statement:

Failure is bad.

I still stand by that 100%. It should be noted that once you are no longer in grade school, you realize that good and bad are on a sliding scale and are rarely absolutes. Something can be bad and not be the “worst”. Bad in this context refers to the simple fact that if you draw a line in the middle, failure is something to be avoided.

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Keeping Your Content Alive, With or Without SharePoint

Last week I called SharePoint a legacy system and that there were many document graveyards/coffins out there built upon SharePoint. I also said that SharePoint was just the latest Content Management system to host document graveyards. This lead to an entertaining discussion as well as related articles by Ron Miller questioning the point of Content Management and Billy Cripe discussing the need for a new focus for Content Management Systems.

Before moving forward, I want to clarify. I was not slighting SharePoint. If anything, it was a recognition of what SharePoint has achieved as a legitimate Content Management system.

Let’s now take a step back and look at keeping Content alive.

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