Archive for February, 2007

I apologize for the light blogging lately. I’ve been sick for the past few days. My daughter loves to bring the latest colds home from day care and pass them along to me.

Anyway, I’m getting caught up on all the action going on the past few days and came across this InformationWeek article on Enterprise 2.0.

What I find fascinating is how these technologies will get rolled out. At my company, if blogs and wikis are available for us to use, then its not public knowledge. It’s the responsibility of the IT department to make the tools available, however, I’m sure these tools would be easier to find if people were asking about them.

There is a 2 pronged challenge here…finding room in the budget for Enterprise 2.0 tools that aren’t in currently in high demand by employees and teaching employees that these new tools are available and how they can benefit them.

This brings us back to the chicken and the egg problem. When I talk to my colleagues about using a shared spreadsheet or wiki they’re confused. They have never needed these tools in the past and aren’t sure what’s wrong with the current way of doing things. Many people get set in their ways and it’s only through teaching and training that they begin to understand the benefits of changing an old process.

In order to have a successful roll out of Enterprise 2.0 tools, a company needs to have a plan for how to use such tools. Just making them available won’t be enough to ensure success.

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I found it interesting that Business 2.0 recently redesigned their magazine to give it a Web 2.0 feel. Just 10 years ago it was the opposite. Web sites tended to have a distinct magazine feel to them. Especially with the number of print designers making the switch to the web. Now you have web designers with a pure web background and the print industry is the one trying to capture this new look.

Here’s a quote from Business 2.0 editor, Jash Quittner, explaining the new design.

“Every page is shiny, colorful, and covered with widgets, creating a magazine that looks more like a Web 2.0 site than a traditional print publications.”

I’ve always liked Business 2.0’s clean look and they’ve managed to refresh the magazine without losing this attribute. The shiny widgets can sometimes be a bit too much (think typical Web 2.0 company logo complete with drop shadow) but it doesn’t get in the way of the content which is what’s important to me.

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I love it when companies try to have their employees promote the company message using a “single voice”. Does this ever work? We’re all suppose to have the same 30 second elevator pitch ready go at any moment. My guess is that if you poll 30 people from the same company, you’ll receive 30 different answers, every time.

This, of course, isn’t a bad thing. What you receive is a pure, honest answer rather than the 4 line marketing pitch which leaves the questioner even more confused about your company.

So why is that we can continue to try to promote the company with the single voice criteria? Certainly in our cluetrain world, honesty is what the people want. Personally, I’d rather hear that company x builds software which connects databases together so management can see one report any time they want which helps them make better business decisions rather than try to figure out what a data integration company that combines disparate systems to provide a single view of the enterprise really does. In the first instance, I can visualize in mind what the product does and I relate it to my experience so can understand if it would help me. In the second instance, I’m left trying to decipher the latest buzz words thrown at me. When I’m done…I’m left laughing at the thought that a room full of people over the course of several months and meetings finally came to the conclusion that “this is it…it explains what we do perfectly…now lets have the lawyers review it”. Why do we continue to waste all this time?

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Excellent blog posting for those interested in learning more about implementing an Enterprise 2.0 environment into their business. I originally wrote my view point on this but accidentally closed my Firefox tab. Until I get over wasting the last 20 minutes, I’m only going to provide the link to Andrew McAfee’s post.

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I came across this post today by Mike Cannon-Brookes, CEO and co-founder of Atlassian.

Shared drives drive me crazy. It’s always the number one solution that IT comes up with to appease those looking for a way to share documents. It’s quick and easy to implement and gets the requester off their back in a hurry. The problem is that shared drives don’t work for all the reasons Mike mentions.

Initially they solve the users problem because the first people to use the shared drive know exactly what is on there. However, the longer the drive is used and the more information and people added to it, the less useful it becomes. There is never any documentation on what is stored on the drive and no one ever knows when the old information should be removed.

I’d love to see IT start to embrace better tools that employees can use to collaborate and share documents. This way, rather than a short term fix, a more long term solution can be used that will be valuable for years to come.

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My email is out of control. Not in the sense that I receive too much volume (although that can be a problem) but in the sense that tracking projects, archiving important resources, and keeping up with company information is not what email was originally meant for and I’m guessing there are many people feeling the same burden.

Let’s take company communication for example. I’m willing to bet that most people receive some kind of company update on a regular basis whether it’s a sales communication to marketing or an HR communication to the whole company, email is perhaps the worst way to deliver such information. We see these things, say I’ll go back to it later, and then several hundred emails later we remember we wanted to read something but can’t remember what it was or when we received it.

This is where a good company intranet comes in, especially one built on flexible Web 2.0 applications such blogs, wikis, and tagging. Companies need to deliver tools that employees can use to collaborate with online. Whether it’s a sales wiki that archives the latest documents to be shared with marketing or a blog from the VP of Sales talking about the latest trends in the field, using such tools would vastly change communication in a company for the better.

I’m tired of the weekly spam email. Instead, employees should be able to go out and find the information on the intranet that they need and subscribe to the RSS feeds that deliver this information instantaneously. Personally, I’d rather have one place that I go to for this type of company information and free up my email client to track my direct communication with my fellow employees. An RSS client is better suited for tracking this type of information and employees can use it to easily tag, and later find, the information that is important to them.

The benefits of such a system clearly out weighs the “this is how we’ve always done it” system. Just because the current system works, doesn’t mean it’s the most efficient solution. Remember, less than 20 years ago email was in such an underdog position. Now a business wouldn’t even think operating without it.

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I’m not sure how this fit into things but here’s a thought I had earlier today…

Today, if you were to visualize how news spreads, it would look something like this. Picture a globe spinning in your mind. As that globe spins, picture one point on that globe briefly flashing. This flash represents a new blog post. Now picture subsequent flashes as people pick up on the conversation and either reply to or expand upon that blog post. These flashes would jump around from continent to continent, city to city, with no rhyme or reason as to where the next step in this conversation will take place other than a common interest in the same topic.

Now picture how such a conversation would have taken place in the early 1900’s. If you looked at the same spinning globe, you would still see the initial flash of light, but the subsequent flashes would probably look more like a ripple effect slowly moving away from the conversations epicenter. You would need to magnify your global vision and look at the conversation based on a smaller region such as a city or town to see the same “jumping” effect we now see on a global level.

What does all this mean. To me, I find it fascinating how small our world has become. Today’s global mapping of a conversation probably looks like a conversation mapping of a city early 1900’s. Today’s ripple effect has been minimized by our ability to easily take part in conversations on a global scale. In fact, if the same ripple effect was to take place today, it would have to happen beyond our planet, beyond the current boundaries of the internet.

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One, if not the most, valuable resource a company owns is the information stored on each employee’s computer. This information is filled with employee knowledge and understanding of their specific role with an organization. There are thousands of Word documents, spreadsheets, and presentation files that would be a valuable resource to other people in the company. Unfortunately, this data is rarely shared outside of a project or scope of work. This is why I’m a huge advocate of using wiki/blog/online document tools for sharing information within a company.

Using such tools would allow a vast amount of knowledge to spread throughout the organization. Instead of trying to figure who knows what, what information they’ve created, and whether or not its useful once they send it to you, you could simply find this information on the corporate intranet. If you wanted information on a particular product you would go to that products wiki page which would be a collaboration of content based on all current and past employee knowledge. Links would be provided to all the presentations, documents, brochures, etc. that existed for this product. This central storage would ensure that the hard work going into creating the documents weren’t lost once an employee left a company.

One downside to such a setup is that it requires a certain type of company to get this right. It requires a company who’s culture is based on trust and openness and doesn’t let fear get in the way of providing and sharing information with all of its employees, not just the chosen few. There are also logistics that would need to be worked out such as working on documents while your away from the network but there’s no reason why this can’t be overcome or why it should be used as an excuse for a more closed system. The value of such an open system is immense. Imagine an employee network where everyone feels free to collaborate, learn, and share information in an environment that fosters trust and respect. Such a company would have a huge advantage over all of their competitors.

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The Wiki Intranet

Apparently, I’m a little late to the Wiki intranet game. Avenue A | Razorfish launched such an intranet a few months ago. It’s wonderful to see that a lot of things I had in my head are already shaping up in the real world.

I especially like how they can bookmark content from digg, Flickr, del.icio.us, etc. and share it on their intranet. This is a company that gets it!!

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This week I started using Google spreadsheets so I can share information at my company without worrying about version control and emailing separate files to everyone. So far, this has worked great. If I’m logged into the spreadsheet at the same time as someone else, we’re able to see updates happen instantaneously which makes it much easier to work together on a project. It’s only a matter of time before this type of collaboration starts happening in many companies for both documents and spreadsheets. I’m not sure why we continue to try to “collaborate” on documents by creating them in our own little silo’s and then passing them around to edit individually. Is this really collaboration? And better yet, working in this way means no more spreadsheet_version_89_final_final.xsl document names 😉

Surprisingly, RSS is missing from this application. I wish there was a way to turn RSS on so I could be notified when updates where made to the spreadsheet. Hopefully, it will be added soon but I can see why it may not be available at the moment. I’m sure it would be difficult to figure out when an RSS update should be sent. I don’t need to receive an update every time someone changes a cell. In a perfect world, I’d be notified when someone was done making updates but this can be difficult to determine since the document is constantly saved. The only event that may occur that would tell the system your done is logging out, and not every one does that, at least not right away.

Now back to my intranet discussion…I really need to start a business around this…anyway…my ideal corporate intranet application would include document and spreadsheet applications similar to Google docs and spreadsheets.

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