Collaboration – Just idle Chatter or Business-critical Core Capability?

Even though collaboration (working together) is obviously a core capability for any organisation, it still has not really taken off in many companies. This keynote presentation from yesterday’s MatchPoint Snow Release Party looks at some of the reasons why, both from a strategic and a more operational perspective.

Slideshare: Collaboration – Just idle Chatter or Business-critical Core Capability?

Optimierte Vorgehensweisen für Intranet-Projekte [DE]

Herkömmliche IT-Projektvorgehensweisen waren noch nie ideale Ansätze für die Durchführung von Intranet-Projekten. Durch die deutliche Erweiterung von Intranets in Richtung digitaler Arbeitsplatz (“Digital Workplace”), hat sich dieses Phänomen nochmals deutlich verstärkt. Ein Intranet-Projektmanagement, das durch Wasserfall-artige Vorgehensweisen zu dicken Pflichtenheften und langwierigen Ausschreibungen führen, sind immer weniger erfolgsversprechend und noch weniger effizient.

Vor diesem Hintergrund habe ich aus der Erfahrung von Dutzenden von Projekten einen verbesserten Projektansatz erarbeitet, der hautpsächlich auf den beiden Prinzipien “iterativ” und “lean” basiert.

Am IX. Austrian Intranet Dialog (20.09.2013, Wien) habe ich diesen Ansatz auszugsweise vorgestellt. Die Präsentation ist auf Slideshare verfügbar:
Optimierte Vorgehensweisen für Intranet-Projekte

“Findability” – from isolated search functionality to organizational capability

I’m currently re-working my slideset on “Enterprise Search and Information Architecture” for a series of seminars that will be starting next month (for German speakers, see: Kongress Media Akademie – Seminar zur Intranet-Suche).

After shedding light into the current state of searching and finding in internal information systems like an Intranet (which is still really, really bad), I was looking for something to top the introductory chapter off. What came to my mind is that search is still not approached from the right perspective:

Findability of information has turned from a function within systems (and therefore a responsibility of a system owner or IT in general) to a core organizational capability, that has to be treated like other key elements of information management (or any other kind of asset management for that matter). So, for instance, it is not acceptable anymore for most organizations to not have roles, responsibilities, processes and requirements defined in regard to information security. Now, the same attitude needs to be displayed towards findability, as the effects of a lack of findability can lead to just as great risks and other negative consequences, as the lack of information security compliance does.

Among the adverse effects are:

  • Reduced ability to take decissions
  • Reduced quality of decissions taken
  • Reduced productivity due to time lost searching
  • Reduced productivity due to double-work (e.g. creating information that already exists, but is not findable)

Clearly, the scope and momentousness of these problems is nothing that can be put into the responsibility of a system owner, e.g. an Intranet Manager. Beside the cross-system nature of finding information, which no single system owner can cover (not even the owner of the Digital Workplace of an organization), such a perspective still leaves the business impact of findability out of scope.

Therefore, the access and thus the capability to make use of information has to be handled like companies do for other organizational assets. If your company, for instance, cannot access and make use of the money it has, it surely would pose quite a substantial problem. The capability to make use of the monetarian assets of your company therefore is a key organizational capability.
The same goes for findability – without findability, information assets are virtualy both useless and worthless.

I remember a statement by P. G. Daly summing it up quite nicely: “If no one can find the information they need when they need it, does it even matter if the information really exists?”

Building the Digital Workplace by improving one work task at a time

Many people are now somewhat familiar with the (basics of the) concept of the Digital Workplace (if you are new to this, you might consider reading our report on the Digital Workplace). Those who are familiar with it see the enormous potential it offers, but – quite naturally – also the effort, time and change required to get there. “We need this so desperately, but we are just not ready to start going down that road, yet” is something I hear organizations say quite often.

In this situation, it first needs explaining that a Digital Workplace shouldn’t be thought of a finished product that one day (after lots and lots of hard work) will just be there, but rather as the long-term goal of a well-designed Digital Workplace Roadmap.
While this helps people relax and bring the Digital Workplace back into an area of their minds that is tagged “realistic projects”, still a lot of upfront work is required before you can harvest the first sweet fruits coming from such an initiative.

So as you are creating your Digital Workplace strategy and roadmap – and I encourage every organization to really take their time to find out what it is, that they want the Digital Workplace to do for them – there are still things that you can do to bring about the new digital reality you want to create even faster.

The Digital Workplace is about work optimisation

Nowadays, work increasingly is “digital work” or “information work”. Especially the tasks with the highest impact on organizational success fall into the category of “information work”. Technology can do a lot to improve this type of work, but “a fool with a tool is still a fool” – and the Digital Workplace is no exception to this. Optimizing and changing current work practices is therefore a big issue for any Digital Workplace (and for the more advanced Intranets as well). And that is exactly where you can start today, right now, without any grand strategy, without the need to buy a new system or any other big investment.

All you need to do is find work procedures that are not well executed today. And you don’t need to look far to find them. The way in which the vast majority of people are working with information today is highly ineffective (the aforementioned report lists a disturbing amount of proof for that). The good news: much of this can be improved with little changes and by using current technology.

So, in parallel to more strategic considerations also start on a more operational, day-to-day work level. There are so many things one can do to improve information work. Given that this kind of work constitutes an ever increasing part of the job for an ever increasing number of staff, you will gather support for your broader Digital Workplace initiative from the people that you have helped in getting their work done in a better way.

In order to help you get going, I will start a series of blog posts that look at typical tasks in information work and how to improve them. The first couple of posts will look at aspects of collaboration in an enterprise setting, at what works and what doesn’t.

Have a great day and let me know any such “small steps” that you have already successfully introduced in your organization’s journey to the Digital Workplace. :-)

 

What does the Digital Workplace actually look like?

One of the most frequent questions I get from readers of our highly successful report “The Digital Workplace” (more than 1’000 registrations so far) is this: how does a Digital Workplace look like and where can I go and see one?

There of course isn’t one single answer to the first part of the question, as each Digital Workplace will be very individual to its respective company. Still many people have a hard time imaging how it would be for their company.
Intranet guru James Robertson has shared his vision of the future intranet and Digital Workplace already two years ago in presentations at various conferences around the world. This vision was so gripping that you literally could see it before your own eyes while James was talking.

Now he has put the scenarios he described in his talks into a whitepaper that is available free for download: A week in the digital workplace

A must read that also answers the second part of the question above.

Hinter jedem gutem Intranet steckt… Leidenschaft!

Hervorragende Intranets entstehen weder durch Zufall noch von alleine. In den vielen Jahren, in denen ich ungezählte Intranets kennen lernen durfte, ist mir ein Faktor immer wieder aufgefallen, der direkt mit dem Erfolg eines Intranets verknüpft zu sein scheint: die Leidenschaft des oder der Menschen, die für das entsprechende Intranet verantwortlich sind.

Das mag glamourös klingen – und dadurch einen deutlichen Kontrast zum Alltag der meisten Intranet Manager bilden – doch es stellt offensichtlich einen Teil der Intranet-Realität dar. Wer sich davon überzeugen will, kann dies in der Kampagne “Intranet Love Affairs” des Intranet Benchmarking Forums tun. Dort finden sich bereits mehrere Seiten voll von “Liebeserklärungen” von Intranet Managern an ihre Intranets.
Und wer mitmachen will, kann die eigene Leidenschaft für sein Intranet dort auch direkt zum Ausdruck bringen.

Links:
- Alle “Intranet Love Affairs” sehen
- Eigene “Intranet Love Affair” posten

What industry experts say about the Digital Workplace report

The whitepaper “THE DIGITAL WORKPLACE – Redefining Productivity in the Information Age” has gotten quite some attention in the market in the few weeks since its publication.

From Norway to Indonesia, from New Zealand to Canada, from Spain to Vietnam – readers come from around the world and from organizations of all sizes and sectors.

I’ve been impressed by the feedback we’ve received so far and just wanted to share some such statements that other industry experts gave on the report:

“Organisations need to act now on the problems highlighted in this report as work shifts to a digital workplace. Acting quickly and clearly now will gain organisations cost savings and competitive advantage. The longer the solution approaches presented are ignored, the higher will be the risk of failure and increased costs.”
Mark Morrell

Intranet Pioneer

 

“This report provides a comprehensive, thought-provoking view on the digital workplace and its impact on organizations. It offers both a broad strategic perspective and plenty of facts and figures. I strongly recommend this report to both executives and practitioners who will find it a valuable source of information and inspiration.”
Jane McConnell

NetStrategy/JMC, author of “Digital Workplace Trends 2012″

 

“The biggest problem with intranets today is that they are primarily used for communication and are owned by communication. Therefore the potential for the intranet is not developed into a digital workplace and used to make organisations more efficiently. I welcome this report and hope that CEO’s will read and understand, that the responsibility for the intranet does not belong in communication, IT or HR but in a department directly under the CEO with the sole purpose of making the organisation more efficient. This is much too important for the organisation to be suboptimised to lower positions in the hiearchy.”
Kurt Kragh Sørensen
IntraTeam

 

“Knowledge work is the foundation of many organizations in the digital age. This report uncovers how we can reshape the view on productivity and transform knowledge into a valuable and sustainable asset. It is a MUST READ for decision makers and communications professionals!”
Reto Stuber, author of the bestselling book “Erfolgreiches Social Media Marketing mit Facebook, Twitter, XING und Co.

 

“I highly recommend this report. It is based not simply on opinion and conjecture, but on solid research and facts. It will provide organizations with much needed evidence that their internal information systems and practices are in drastic need of an overhaul. It offers a solution which has the potential to fundamentally change the way work gets done in organizations.”
Andrew Wright
Worldwide Intranet Challenge

 

If you haven’t got the report yet, registration for a free PDF-copy is still open at: http://www.infocentricresearch.com/Research/Publications/The-Digital-Workplace.aspx

 

 

The Digital Workplace – Building Blocks

This is the final part of a mini-series giving a preview on our whitepaper about the Digital Workplace. The whitepaper which covers all the topics in detail is available for download from Friday (Oct. 14th) and you can pre-register for it using the link that you will find at the bottom of this post.

 

The previous posts looked at the vastly changed nature of work in organizations today and the massive problems this has brought along with it. It is now time to look at the instrument to change this situation a bit more in detail.

As already mentioned earlier, the Digital Workplace is not primarily an IT-system. While technology ultimately is the indispensable enabler a Digital Workplace is made up of, it can only be effective when completely embedded into all aspects of an organization. This of course is only possible if fully backed by management and accompanied by substantial change management activities. Both work and management practices need to adapt for the better in order for the Digital Workplace to live up to its full promise. Furthermore, a “logical infrastructure” (e.g. enterprise-wide information architectures) has to be in place just as much as the technical one.

 

Supporting all aspects of information work

Today’s situation in information work can be compared to an ill organized workshop where tools lie about all over the place and workers constantly have to look how and with which tool to best do their next task. What we should be having instead is a highly automated assembly line with everything in place and manual activity focussed on what human intervention is required for.

In order to deliver on that promise, the Digital Workplace has to support information work from end-to-end instead of just being a repository that can be accessed when needed. Given the broad spectrum that information work has in organizations, also the scope of the Digital Workplace needs to be comprehensively covering that spectrum.
This “holistic” approach can make it hard to grasp what the Digital Workplace actually is.

In order to make sense of the multitude of disciplines and functionalities involved in the Digital Workplace, it should be seen as a framework that is made up of different building blocks. Organizations can make us of these in accordance to their respective needs. There are three types of building blocks:

  • Work Performance Building Blocks: there are 4 building blocks in this area, covering all aspects directly related to performance in information work. They include personal performance, team performance, organizational performance and process performance.
    Personal performance for instance is about having a central place where all the information and functions relevant to a person come together. This includes having a single repository for all personal and team or project tasks combined, seeing at a glance what is currently happening in all the projects and activities you are associated with, having overview panels for all metrics relevant to you (from target achievement to expenses reimbursement status) or direct access to information from any sources important to you whether in- or external. It also provides resources to draw upon in regard to continuous learning, organizing information relevant to you, getting paper-based information in and out of the Digital Workplace and many more utilities that enable a true one-stop-shop experience for everything a person needs to get their job done.
  • Generic Building Blocks: this includes 2 areas only indirectly related to performance and tasks, namely “Communication & Information” and “Culture & Relations”. Both are aimed at providing resources for all things not directly embedded in an employee’s work tasks, like for instance everything relating to corporate culture.
    In the Digital Workplace this will become even more important, as the tools we do our work with are an integral part of our day-to-day experience of the company we work for. Naturally, a professional, well-designed, ergonomic tool will allow for a more positive experience than one which is unpleasant to look at, cumbersome to use and frequently frustrates you as it doesn’t support you in your tasks as it should do.
  • Foundational Building Block: this provides the structures, context and services that build the foundation of the Digital Workplace and that are offered to and used in the other building blocks. This is the “engine” below the components described above. Unlike in current systems (where for instance the intranet has its own distinct search engine) it provides its services to all the components. This is a key distinction in order to make services available truly cross-system. Without them, a unified user experience and “single-point-of-working” is not possible.

 

The report contains detailed descriptions and sample scenarios for all building blocks.

 

A place for all your information, messages and notifications

While the Digital Workplace consists of many parts and pieces, some such elements that are key to the success of the Digital Workplace are outlined in a separate chapter of the whitepaper. One such key element is the Universal Inbox.

There is a strong motivation behind this, as it is not sheer information volumes alone that impact employee productivity and frustration most, but diversity of channels, information types, systems and media. In that environment, today’s number one information management tool, the e-mail inbox constitutes but one of many channels that employees constantly (have to) check for messages, news and notifications of all sorts. And with each new system an additional place to check is introduced, further impacting productivity and stress through constant system change.

Rather than further adding to the already high levels of information sprawl, the Digital Workplace needs to do away with that burden by bringing together all messages, news streams, alerts and notifications an employee receives across all systems, channels and devices in a single place.

This place can be thought of as a personal, fully customized “Universal Inbox”. It is likely to be one of the most important factors for employee acceptance of any Digital Workplace as its benefits are clearly obvious upon first use. All information relevant to a person is aggregated in a single place with rich capabilities for filtering and acting on the respective messages and notifications.

Until now the role of the universal inbox has been delegated to the email software for lack of alternatives. Many systems for instance send emails to users to notify them about news and changes that occur in that system (e.g. a workflow system sending a notification about a new task a person has been assigned with). Lack of integration, interactivity and control make this concept no longer an option in the Digital Workplace.

 

The next step

I hope this series of teasers to the whitepaper “The Digital Workplace – Redefining Productivity in the Information Age” has sparked your interest in the topic.

From Friday, October 14th, you can download the full whitepaper free of charge from the website of Infocentric Research or order a paper copy there. Pre-registration is already open.

Link: The Digital Workplace – Redefining Productivity in the Information Age

The Digital Workplace – the problem with information work

The 1st part of this series gave a brief introduction into what the Digital Workplace is and why new approaches to managing information and designing information work are desperately needed. This post will look at the overwhelming problems organization have today because of information mis-management.

Organizations of all sizes and sectors are quick to admit that they have a problem with information. Few, however, can name the root-causes of the problem or quantify its size, reach and impact. In fact, most organizations just take information related problems, such as information overload, for granted (i.e. as a problem they just have to live with) and think of it as an issue with only minor relevance for the business.

They couldn’t be more wrong!

In order to realize the full impact that the problems with information have on a business, one has to look at the very nature of work in organizations today. The last post gave some insight into this and the report will elaborate on this in more detail. In short it can be said that information work constitutes the most relevant kind of work in organizations today both from a quantitative and qualitative perspective. There is proof that information and its flows are the number one factor to enable a business achieve its strategy and goals. Yet, information work is probably the most underestimated and worst managed kind of work that ever existed in organizations.

“If the CEO only knew …”

For this whitepaper we looked at more than 2 dozens studies available on the market that cover problems in information work form different perspectives. And while information related problems come in many shapes, the issue of “looking for information” seems to be the one best analyzed by research. In fact, “searching” in all its forms is the most ubiquitous activity that information workers perform in their jobs.

Being very generic, we often don’t recognize “searching” as such. And it is not only “using a search engine” (or any other kind of navigation mechanism for that matter) but includes emailing or asking around for information, assigning someone else to gather information, checking whether the version you have is the current one, trying to locate that email, browsing the web, etc.

Productivity is affected in two main ways by issues related to this omnipresent task:

  • time loss in searching and finding information (and related effects such as employee frustration by long and unsuccessful searches)
  • quality loss by not having the right information, where, when and in the appropriate format and detail needed (e.g. incomplete, inaccurate, untimely, too complex, … information) for the respective task (and therefore for instance making a bad decision)

This has drastic effects on employees, managers, organizational performance and even the economy as a whole. While the report will present many (rather shocking) facts on this, I want to use just one analogy here: if we take the time that the average information worker is wasting in “looking for information” and spread it out over the time span of a year, then from October 1st to December 31st he would be doing nothing else but searching for information.
I wonder how many CEOs would think of this as an acceptable situation if its full impact would be known to them?

And to make things even worse, “searching” is of course only one of many problematic areas in information work. It can be estimated that activities like for instance recreating already existing information, having to deal with different versions of a document or secondary effects due to wrong or not up to date information will often turn out to have even more negative impacts on employee productivity than even that of searching.

As already noted, information problems of course don’t exist in isolation but directly affect those who use the information and their respective work results in mayor ways. Information problems therefore also substantially affect the performance of an organization itself. Some sources estimate this impact to be as high as 29% of the overall performance.

“How can it be, with all our IT…?”

Lack of awareness is one of the key root-causes for information related performance issues. As a “mass phenomena” information work is relatively new and current work practices are highly immature and largely unmanaged. Information work is also distinctly different from the dominant forms of work of the past and therefore has to be approached in a different manner. For instance, even most information systems are still based on the logics and restrictions of paper handling instead of the possibilities of digital media. The same goes for current approaches to leadership which typically are still based on industrial age principles. These often fully contradict the work reality and requirements of information based work.

Being so fundamental in nature, these problems of course cannot be addressed by simply introducing an intranet, a collaboration platform, social media or any other tool. It is the organization and the “way of working” that has to adapt in order to stop wasting time and resources.
Unfortunately, problems with information aren’t even on the agenda in most organizations, as they turn a (giant) blind eye on them, so far.

Current information management systems don’t come to the rescue, either, as the way technology is designed and put to use today is also part of the problem. Some of the key shortcomings in this area include:

  • Lack of logical, enterprise-wide architectures
  • No clear distinction between tool and business need
  • Users not educated in information management
  • Technology not embedded into the way of working

 

The report will give more details on these points and their importance in addressing the problems in information work.

 

The final part of this mini-series of blog posts will look at the building blocks of a Digital Workplace. It will be published here on Monday, Oct. 10th.