Saturday, November 15, 2008

Business and Cultural Challenges of a Next Generation Collaborative Solution

Cross posting from my blog post on the EMC Knowledge Worker blog.

Last Monday, at Momentum Prague 2008, I held a Product Advisory Forum (PAF) with 27 EMC customers. The overall objective of the Knowledge Worker PAF was to assess the characteristics of a next generation collaborative solution. As an introduction, we reviewed a set of disruptive trends around:
  • The changing nature of the Enterprise
  • New work habits, social and cultural changes
  • Disruptive technologies that support new patterns of collaboration
  • The impact of the changing economic climate
See the presentation for more details on each trends.

3 teams of participants were then asked to assess business, cultural challenges and solutions that would help their organizations adapt to such trends.

Overall Needs and Business Challenges
The following needs and business challenges were identified:
  • Organizations need to improve collaboration within their organizations and with external parties. This raises issues around the proper level of openness and how to balance such a need against the needs for better security.
    • Open systems are necessary to enable expertise location and finding information
    • Integration between enterprise services is required to break information silos and encourage collaboration across various types of content in the enterprise
    • Improving connections between people and content provides additional context to the information and fosters better interaction between knowledge workers
  • Organizations need to improve the use of information structures and reuse of already existing information
    • Formalizing knowledge within organizations can improve its reuse. In order to do so, organizations needs better mechanisms for classifying and organizing information. Both taxonomies and folksonomies have a role to play.
    • Reusing content in new ways can open new business opportunities and improve the speed of delivery of new projects.
    • Organizationally, there is no substitute for producing lessons learned and synthesizing information. Organizations need to adopt models that encourage information reuse and developed template based information models.
      • This provides a framework for producing new quality information more quickly and on-ramping on new subjects and projects more quickly.
  • How do organizations make sure that the information they manage is valid and of quality and how do they effectively manage their information lifecycle?
    • Organizations can rely on informal validation where the collective intelligence of the community can be leveraged to produce and elevate the most valuable information
    • In parallel, some categories of content will never be properly assessed by the community. Formal processes are required for such content (e.g. Standard Operating Procedures)
    • In addition, organizations need to put systems and policies in place that preserve information readability over the years and retain only content that is relevant to the organization. How does an organization properly identify the content that needs to be retained, in particular when it pertains to the organization knowledge?
    • Organizations should look at technology that helps with concepts extraction and leverages such capabilities for improved information classification
  • Organizations must deploy technologies and solutions that empower their business users:
    • Business users should be able to configure applications in a way that meets their needs
    • Access to information should be ubiquitous
Cultural and Organization Challenges
Software does not drive organizational changes, people do. Too often, budgets get sucked into technical implementations to the detriment of investments in driving adoption and culture changes. Investments in driving adoption are critical and software vendors can help by delivering better out of the box solutions that allow organizations to focus on adoption and less on implementation. Some of the cultural challenges organizations have to confront include:
  • Fear. Fear of consequences and fear of rejection. Organizations need to assess how they value knowledge. Often, people are reluctant to contribute for fear that it will undermine their own value. Organizations needs to adopt processes that better value and reward sharing information.
  • Privacy. People are also concerned that we will share information and loose control of how the information will be used. Vendors need to provide features that help end users better understand how the information they contribute is being reused.
Organizations need to leverage the viral aspect of Web 2.0 technologies and move towards a Discover / Adopt / Adapt model. Only when the information is adopted and adapted does it start to deliver significant value to the enterprise.

Being able to justify the ROI of Web 2.0 and social networking technology is a challenge. Organizations must be able to measure the adoption of the content being shared. Measuring direct benefits should focus on productivity benchmarks with or without such technologies.

EMC Knowledge Worker Strategy Fit
Overall, EMC Knowledge Worker strategy is a great fit for many of the business challenges identified during the workshop. EMC's investments in CenterStage will provide improved patterns of collaboration that empower their business users and extend the reach of their virtual organization.

In addition, EMC Documentum provides a robust framework for managing the information lifecycle and the reuse of information. At the core of EMC strategy is a strong emphasis on information intelligence to permeate all of its collaborative capabilities. Based on advanced concept extraction and combined with an understanding of people social networks and interaction with content, such information intelligence will foster information reuse and provide better models for information classification and retention.

In order to help customers with the adoption of such technologies, EMC will work with its partners and its own consulting organization to provide best practices on how to most rapidly deliver business value.