Friday, January 06, 2006

from the CP Square Web 2.0 discussions

Noel Dickover - 02:32am Jan 4, 2006 GMT ( 6.) * Mark Reply

I think its almost essential that corporations adopt social computing

We've been collectively working on this whole problem of getting the organization to actually "know" what it knows. Its pretty clear at this point that there's only so much that structured approaches can do. While they work great for some things, they are truly poor at detailing all the "good stuff." Lessons learned, common, preferred and best practices, task oriented guidance, overview information and the rest of the stuff which hangs off a knowledge domain don't really work all that well in a structured environment unless the organization is willing to devote big bucks to a back-end knowledge support staff. Worse, even if well done, most are still divorced from the practitioners and experts which provide this stuff.

The social computing movement provides a different answer, one where the interaction is collaborative and self-organizing. This, I think, is a far better approach for detailing what an organization knows.

The big issue most larger scale corporations are dealing with is the massive growth in unstructured data (documents, presentations, emails. etc.). All organizations know that leveraging expertise, both in people's heads and in their information structures, is critical to success, but it turns out to be a very hard problem. I put a document in the resources section that provides an overview of some of the technology solutions organizations are using, including service-oriented architectures, portals and enterprise content management systems.

Trust seems to be the biggest barrier to adopting a collaborative view of an organization's information and knowledge. This involves a number of dimensions, including:

1. proprietary information: organizations have a hard time opening up their information infrastructure. for fear something important might leak out, so they tend to hoard their information instead, even if this means that they themselves aren't benefiting

2. Individual trust of the corporation: getting the key experts in an organization to participate in sharing their expertise online in a free-flowing manner requires the individual to move away from the "knowledge hoarded" = "power" mindset. Frankly, in many organizations, its absolutely in their interest to hoard information.

3. Recognition that knowledge is supposed to be messy: There is this strange dichotomy in organizations. On the one hand, most file shares are best described as vast information junkyards, yet whenever information systems personnel design content management solutions, they expect the resultant information base to be pristine. There is a HUGE percentage of failed ECM (enterprise content management) systems installed, that run perfectly, but are never used.

On styles & endpoints

There may be other ways to characterize communities when thinking of support technology. How about endpoints?.

If you look across communities and organizations you may observe individual communities that tend to gravitate towards a finite number of endpoints in terms of their style, evolution, boundaries, trajectories and interactions. Here are my sightings:

1) Business intelligence: this group sets itself up as a filter and gathering mechanism for the organization (eyes, ears & nose), builds and cultivates relationships with primary sources and evaluates secondary material, supplying informal or documented reports on target competitors, technologies, processes or market shifts. Think social search / bookmarks, collaborative annotation, notification, subscription.

2) Problem solvers / helpdesks: the community come to see themselves as an internal resource for hard problems and issues, they thrive on really tough questions and finding good solutions for complex issues, e.g. printing over a LAN. Think FAQ, Q&A, escalation rules, subscription.

3) Continuous learning: these groups exist to help and support the members learning. Insights are shared, awareness is generated and new knowledge may be constructed. Often this can become a sink hole, with little explicit return to the organization, most of the value is in the social capital or the tacit knowledge of the members. Think, wiki, web conference, collaborative concept mapping, visual thinking

4) Process keepers: groups that document, broker and arbitrate around large organizational processes. They particpate in negotiating meaning and deal in the boundary objects that move between the organizational silos. Think: CMS, business rules, expert systems?

5) Centers of excellence: the group strives to gain recognition through conducting cutting edge research, external publication, seeks patents and often spends more time in industry and scientific fora than facing internal customers. They may become a kind of intellectual ambassador and company status symbol. Think library systems, reference tools, ppt presentations, podcasts?, group blogs

This is not so much about how they interact as it is about who / what they believe they really are! - It is the group identity that drives technology selection, adoption / adaptation, user practice and tool mix selection.

Individual communities can arrive at their endpoint using, meetings, informal conversations, Q&A, f2f gatherings, meetups.......

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