Feeling soft and mushy about Social Intranets

Posted: July 6th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Business, Social Media, Work | View Comments

These thoughts are quite preliminary, soft and mushy – but I needed to get them down. I’ve been thinking about an opportunity to create an enterprise intranet from scratch – where the current state is so poor that it might well be abandoned and started afresh as a clean slate. I imagine a workplace with a small number of pillars – communications, HR, carefully selected document stores and maybe the major products – but structuring everything else around social networking models. Throw away the org charts and imposed architectures and let people organize and communicate across disciplines or channels as needed, and base the tools on connections rather than ‘knowledge’ – just like the real workplace.

I like the idea of a solution that supports collaborative creation of knowledge as compared to retrieval of old knowledge. In my experience, corporate knowledge is embodied in its workers, not stored. I don’t gain knowledge when I access a document. I’m in possession of an asset that requires context and community to make it live, and that contextualization comes from people. Even if  all that meta information could be captured, it would be frozen in a moment of time. Pragmatically speaking, document stores aren’t kept up to date at the speed of business (sorry, I know it’s a cop of a Bill Gates book title) and as a result what I learn about some asset could be badly out of alignment with the state of business right now.

My next step is thinking about knowledge assets themselves – where does their greatest value to an organization  lie and how do we identify and extract that value from an online social context? How do we make these knowledge assets accessible while  keeping them social through connections to the community of thinkers that generated them and at the same time ensure their visibility outside the community of practice or interest that nurtured it? How do we avoid the repository trap of sending people through volumes of misaligned, out-of-date data that risks diminishing value? I keep thinking that social is the answer – please weigh in.


What are intranets good for?

Posted: May 15th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Business, Work | View Comments

Interesting discussion kicked off by James over here: http://2020visions.wordpress.com/2010/05/13/intranets-huh-what-are-they-good-for

Having weighed in in the comments, here’s some more considered thinking that seemed too wordy for a comment.

Intranets matter and deliver when distributed service levels and scale are factors. One of the best examples I can cite is in a global consumer goods company that was driving a centralized procurement system. They could achieve millions of dollars of savings annually through this, but they weren’t getting the penetration and usage they needed because folks found the SAP system behind it hard to use, and the policies and procedures were…somewhere else. Here, the intranet integrated SAP transactions into step-by-step pages that explained the policies and process, leveraging personalization to deliver content for country-specific variations (i.e., different office supply vendors in each country, local procurement contacts) and in the local language.

Solutions like this are far from easy, and I believe this is why so many intranets are as you describe. This project cost a lot of money and took almost a year, but the savings were huge and ongoing. Thankfully the sponsor was a finance person and understood that this effort and cost were necessary to achieve her larger savings targets.

Intranets need to support business processes and reduce complexity and friction if they’re going to add value. It may well be that solutions like that one only work for global enterprises, not for organizations that have only a few thousands of folks.


Enterprise slugfest!

Posted: June 15th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Work | View Comments

Dennis and Robert seem to have had a spat, I’m not sure why but from where I sit it looks like each is claiming they have the skinny on what enterprises are truly like. I’m sure their perspectives are based on real experiences, but are they valid? I don’t follow Scoble, I think it’s just because I’m a bit of a contrarian – he’s just too popular and doesn’t need my subscription, thank you. I have read in his “About…” that Dennis used to work in the enterprise space, so I’ll take that at face value and give him the benefit of street cred.

Me, I spent almost a decade at Citigroup moving around doing advanced technology, corporate services ERP stuff and enterprise portals. Since I left there last year I’ve worked on strategy and design deliverables for 5 or 6 Fortune 50s. Enterprises are complex and messy places. Any time you drop into one of them, it’s like quantum physics: you’re seeing a tiny slice of a much larger cosmos, you’ve altered reality just by being there, and the rest of it often behaves very differently. Any conclusion you reach is severely limited.

Granted, senior folks are critical if you’re a vendor or responsible for a delivering a strategy. But these beasts have sprawling, complex cultures and politics. Interviewing CIOs, CTOs COOs will NOT, I repeat, NOT give you deep insights into how an enterprise really gets things done or how it behaves. The Corporate HQ is often quite a cocooned place. Yet spending time on the ground in a single BU or geography will not be representative of how the rest of the organization works either.

I don’t know why but I find the ‘sez you-whadda you know-let me tell you what it’s really like’ kind of funny. But I know that what I know about enterprises is that it’s like trying to comprehend the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. It’s so big your mind just kind of goes “tilt”. Don’t assume that because you’re familiar with a part of it that it represents the whole.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this a lot lately and sharing these thoughts with my colleagues. On the consulting side it’s common to be working in a company with a bunch of folks who just can’t shoot straight, and then read somewhere about how this same company is a trailblazer in some fabulous bleeding edge space that lights up the Twitterverse. It’s a dichotomy we’d all do well to be mindful of.


Niceness kills, or at least costs

Posted: June 12th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Work | View Comments

I know a company that has a problem: everybody is too nice.
No, it’s not my employer, although let it be noted that my co-workers are very nice indeed and when we disagree it’s both civilized and it gets results. Very cool, indeed.

But at this other company nobody wants to say no. Nobody wants to get anyone else upset. Everyone behaves very well in group settings, agrees to do things and then goes off and quietly doesn’t follow through if they didn’t really agree in the first place. Projects get built but don’t launch because they thought they had consensus but at the last minute some roadblock appears, often in the form of ‘that won’t work for my business, here’s why’. That way people aren’t held accountable. They agree to give it another try, and surprise! – same results. So we’re poking around, looking for someone with stamina and teeth.

Why am I writing about this? I need to figure it out and just needed to get some thoughts down. More later.


One year later

Posted: May 30th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Work | View Comments


Pimping my company for Sapphire

Posted: May 3rd, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Work | View Comments

Visit my company, Logical Design Solutions at booth #872, and say hi. Tell ’em I sent you and be sure to see our three presentations:

  • The Enterprise Portal Success Story at Colgate-Palmolive
    Session 1800, May 5, 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
  • Best Practices for User Experience Design for SAP NetWeaver® Portal
    May 6, Consumer Industries Theater, 12:15 p.m. – 12:45 p.m.
  • NetWeaver® Microsoft SharePoint® – Strategic Content Management
    for the Enterprise Portal Session 1808, May 7, 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m