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Posts Tagged ‘Social Networking’

So what? Who cares? – The art of being relevant

October 2, 2012 4 comments

When I first joined FileNet, in 2003, all new recruits attended a two-week intensive training course which, for the largest part of it, was a sales skills course. For those of us that were hired in a marketing or technical roles, that part of the course had relatively little relevance other than to empathise with the sellers and as a general skill of communicating with customers.

Nevertheless, everyone took away something extremely useful from the course: A prop! It was a simple piece of card paper (imagine an A4 cut in half lengthwise) which said on one side “So What?” and on the other .”Who Cares?” in bold red letters. The purpose of the card was simple: As we were listening to various roll-playing presentations, we could hold up the cards when the presenter was making irrelevant points or describing product functionality without relating it to the client’s problems. It was a signal to re-think the message and reduce the unnecessary waffle.

So What?” i.e. What is the point you are trying to make? How is this relevant to a business problem? What would the outcome be?

Who Cares?” – i.e. Why is this relevant to the person you are talking to? How does it relate to their work or their own personal targets of ambitions? Who in the organisation feels the pain from the problem that you are trying to resolve? Why should they care?

Surprisingly, nearly ten years later, I still find myself using regularly this simple mental test. Both for my own presentation content as well as when reviewing others’. I find myself applying this principle to presentations, marketing material, website designs and even reviewing customer requirements.  And I often introduce it to conversations with colleagues and with clients. For most of my FileNet colleagues the principle is very clear and familiar, and just mentioning “So what? who cares?” raises a knowing smile and often a review of the task at hand. When introduced to other people, the first response is usually one of shock: “How can you be so rude?”. But a quick explanation makes them realise that I’m not being impertinent, the questions are quite literal and should be answered. And, usually, they take the principle on-board which allows for a much more productive dialog.

Try it for yourself! Next time you are reading a white paper or a marketing brochure or an RFI/RFP/Proposal or even a newspaper article (especially a newspaper article!!), check each of the points made: Do they pass the “So what? Who cares?” test? If not, they are irrelevant waffle and should not be there or they are valid points which should be articulated differently. I promise you, it will make for much clearer, concise and effective communication.

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Systems of Engagement – A bridge too near?

September 29, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s now about a year since AIIM first introduced their study “Systems of Engagement and the future if Enterprise IT” (led by Geoffrey Moore). In this last year I’ve heard this study presented several times and it always resonates with the audience.

However, I believe that the study does not go far enough.

I agree totally that in the last few years we have seen a dramatic shift in the way people interact and communicate and it’s primarily driven through the adoption of social networking and collaboration tools. So the principle of moving to “Systems of Engagement” is sound.

Where I disagree with the study though, is the concept that “Systems of engagement begin with a focus on communications”. That we have moved from managing content to managing interactions. Yes, the new mediums are a lot more interactive and as a result we have more transient content and a higher volume to manage. But fundamentally, this is still describing a system of records, with records encompassing this new type of content.

In my view, what has fundamentally and irrevocably changed is the perception of value. Systems of Engagement no longer derive value from managing information. The focus is on managing Relationships.

  • Relationships between individuals
  • Relationships between people and knowledge domains or communities
  • Relationships between people and information
  • Relationships between information sources – i.e. context
  • Relationships between groups, businesses, communities

What was the primary driver for adoption of tools like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn? connecting people into networks. What will determine the success or failure of Google+? The transition of communities of users from other networks.

In Systems of Engagement, we no longer bookmark the information. We connect with individuals: Friends, Circles, Connections, Followers. We trust the information, because we trust the source. We seek expertise first, and information second. My value, as an individual, is not defined by the documents I’ve written but by my network, my presence and my contribution to the communities I belong.

This applies just as much inside the firewall, as it does outside. Collaborative tools, crowdsourcing, open Q&A, etc. are not driven by sets of captured information, they are driven by connecting the right people to the right tasks and the right communities. By developing relationships.

Yes, as Geoffrey Moore describes in the study, new information is generated through the interaction between individuals. But the new currency in the world of Systems of Engagement is not the snippet of interaction between individuals and the knowledge contained within it. That knowledge is transient and most often obsolete as soon as it is captured.

The new currency today in Systems of Engagement is the Relationship, the connection, the network: Who knows whom? Who knows what? Who do I know? Who knows and follows me?

My first DMS kiss…

September 22, 2011 Leave a comment

A recent tweet exchange with @pmonks and @pelujan (legends amongst the ECM Twitterati…) prompted me to dig deep into my past to find my first flirting with Document Management, a relationship that has lasted over 35 years.

The year: 1984

The venue: London, offices of a Greek shipping company

The actor: An impoverished first year BSc student

The platform: Perkin-Elmer (later Concurrent) super-minis, 32-bit architecture

The language: CoBoL with proprietary RDBMS and transaction processing

The screen: Green on Black

The medium: X.25 network, over a private leased London-to-Athens line

The gig: Long-distance telephone calls between London and Athens offices were costing the company a fortune. Also, the timezone difference reduced the effective daily communication window by 4 hours. The company was looking for a way to leverage their existing technology platform, to exchange messages between offices synchronously or asynchronously, without incurring additional telephone costs.

The solution: A database system written in Cobol, which allowed terminal users at either end to pick a recipient from a list or registered users, leave a message from the user to the opposite party and receive a message back. Since it showed a history of the messages exchanged between the parties, if both parties were on-line, then you could have a dialogue in real-time (line-by-line). If not, the other party would pick the message when they logged in and respond back. This was using a temporary database table. If either party wanted to keep a permanent record of the conversation, they would “archive it” in a separate table, holding metadata like start time, end time, from, to, a subject description, location, etc. Also, since I wanted to be able to exchange messages about code with other programmers in the head office, it had a primitive system of referencing external files on shared disks.

In today’s terminology, this was email, Instant Messaging, micro-blogging and Document Management system rolled into one. An early form of social collaboration. I designed it and built it in about two weeks and it was used daily. It was simple, crude but effective.

[A side note for the pedants: I know email systems were already around by then in the Unix community, but they were not commonplace and they certainly were not available on a business platform like the Perkin-Elmer. Remember, 1984: no TCI/IP, no Internet, no Windows, no PCs, no files]

Since then, I’ve worked on many more weird DMS implementations, before the Document Management market was even identified as such: A hand-crafted invoice processing system written in VB with Kofax cards and massive Cornerstone monitors on OS/2 machines; A bespoke DMS for commercial property agents, with distributed desktop scanning (property images) attached to workflow (rental review) cases; A bespoke DMS based on Uniplex and Informix 4GL for lawyers, a fully fledged DMS with version control and content searching on NeXT machines, using C, Informix and BRS-Search (free-text database), later ported to a disasterous Ingres implementation on Windows 3.11

By then Documentum came on the scene and I remember writing VB for a very early implementation of version 1 (effectively just a set of APIs) for a Pharmaceutical company. FileNet was already on the scene with the first notion of Imaging+Workflow as a single intergrated platform, but our paths were not to cross until a decade later.

Now, there is a point to this inane drivel, beyond self-indulgence…

In today’s confused ECM market, none of these early bespoke implementations would classify as proper “Document Management”. Yet at the time, they were all innovative, trailblazing, and large companies would pay good money to implement them. It created the legitimate (if schizophrenic) ECM market space that we live in and love today.

When I launched “Document Management Avenue” in 1995 – the first independent online community forum for DMS, for those old enough to remember – we were tracking over 300 products in this space. I still have the list somewhere. Today, most of us can only point at a dozen or so major ECM / EDRMS vendors.

There you have it. My own short history of watching the birth of ECM – The bespoke became product, which became open-source, which became commodity. The rest, as they say, is history… And some of us are still arguing what to call the baby 🙂

Tweet Jam Tarts – Revisited…

(c) dadcando.com

Last Thursday I participated in another exciting ECM Tweetjam (if you don’t know what a Tweetjam is read it here) organised by @bduhon (long suffering editor of AIIM’s publications and curator of @AIIMCommunity). I had missed the announcements, but stumbled upon a tweet message from a friend, just in time, so I jumped in.

The usual suspects participated in the discussion. Virtually all vocal participants were from the vendor community, but that is not surprising given AIIM’s make up as an organisation. Also not surprising, since the people who have opinions to share on ECM tend to be the ones that have been around this industry for a while and have seen the good, the bad and the extremely ugly (I’m talking about ECM projects here, before anyone gets offended!)

Even though you can use any twitter client to participate in a tweetjam, TweetChat was the preferred tool of the day. It just keeps everything focused and flowing but even with the best tool for the job, it’s difficult to keep up. At the peak of the discussion there were between 5-10 tweets in every 5-second refresh cycle. No chance of reading all of them, never mind responding. Bryant did his best to streamline the flow by numbering the questions but, inevitably, the limitation of 140 characters and the multiple threads of conversations/retweets/comments on each question meant that it was fairly chaotic at times. That’s not a bad thing in a tweetjam! It shows that the participants are passionate about the topic and that it’s not scripted. I’ve been in other tweetjams before, where it was obvious that the only participants were marketers with a very specific message to convey. Those tweetjams are boring!

For those interested in stats: In an hour – 977 tweets, 82 twitterers, potentially reaching 42,500 people…

It’s worth remembering though, that for every person active in a tweetjam conversation, there are several others that just listen in, monitoring the hashtag and looking for pearls of wisdom. And there were several in the session.

So, what ECM pearls did we pick up in the Jam? Here are some…

  • The never-ending saga of “is ECM the right name for what we do?” continues
  • BPM is a fundamental part of ECM, as confirmed again by OpenText acquisition
  • ECM is relevant to small organisations as much as it is to large ones
  • SharePoint is here and offers basic ECM, if implemented correctly, but there are some ‘evil’ implementations out there.
  • Operational efficiency is “sexy”… According to some at least.
  • Some of us are too old and have been in ECM for far too long…

You can read Bryant’s more detailed blog about the #ecmjam here, but I must say it was fun!

Social Amnesia – What’s your social identity worth to you?

I had the unfortunate experience of losing one of my Social Media accounts recently. And as per the popular song… You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone!

I like Social Networking: Even if I haven’t quite eschewed email and my C: drive, I rely heavily on my social network for information, for feedback and for personal communications. My 350 carefully vetted Twitter followers, my 150 Facebook family and friends, my 100 LinkedIn business contacts and University alumni, my 50 RedBubble artist friends and the dozen subscribers to my WordPress blog, make up most of my social network.

It’s not a huge network, but it’s mine, it is personal, it is relevant and it is important to me. Whether I like it or not, it also defines my public identity, to a certain extent.

So what happens when disaster strikes? What if all that was wiped away?

Louis Richardson very eloquently describes a new Information/Knowledge Management environment that centres around the individual and his social network rather than information collected in documents. (“People-centric vs. Content-centric” http://bit.ly/gU5Skf). AIIM (by voice of Geoffrey Moore) similarly describe the transition from “Systems of Record” to “Systems of Engagement”. (http://www.aiim.org/Research/AIIM-White-Papers/Systems-of-Engagement)

Both of these highlight the fact that my social identity is now a more important asset than the collection of knowledge artefacts that live on my hard disk and get backed up regularly.

I have no backup of my social identity!

Within my work environment, people will look to my social community profile, to understand who I am, where I come from and what my interest and expertise is, based on my profile, my tags, my network contacts, my blogs, the communities I belong to, the bookmarks I shared, etc

One day my public profiles (through a weird upgrade bug) got wiped clean. My profile was blank, my identity was gone! I was no longer an opinionated thought leader and social media zealot, or helpful ECM advocate with answers to questions. I was another blank profile with just a name.

Rebuilding that identity is not easy. Not only it takes time and effort, but trying to remember what was there to start with, is a nightmare. Who was I connected to? Which communities did I belong to? What tags did people assign to me? More importantly, how long will it take for my profile to “mature” to the same level of trust and credibility that it carried before?

Thinking about this, I realised how much I’ve come to rely on social media. Facebook and LinkedIn are my address & phone lists and birthday calendars for friends, family and work colleagues.  My on-line calendar is also my diary and meetings history log.  My blog site contains most of my innovative thoughts & nuggets from the last 3 years. The people I follow on twitter are my market intelligence engine. The people that follow me, are my influence sphere.

If these accounts were to suddenly disappear, I will have lost not only years of investment, but my social identity and my social memory. And that would cost me time, it would cost me operational efficiency, it would cost me credibility, it would cost me competitiveness, and it would cost me personal angst. It will ultimately have an impact to both my work and to my private life.

How do I protect this identity? Some tools, like Facebook, have their own mechanisms for taking a backup copy of your profile data. Did you know that? When was the last time you took a backup of your Facebook account? Other third-party tools (e.g. http://www.backupify.com) will backup and restore multiple public profiles from different tools. They are commendable, but not complete. And how many of us actually use them?

Take a step back: Imagine for a moment that your Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts are wiped clean. Imagine that your blog has no entries. In the people-centric world of social networking, what impact will this Social Amnesia have to your business and your personal life?

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