Everything is Miscellaneous, or is it?

Enterprise 2.0 is (amongst other things) about iconic labels such as emergent, tagging, folksonomies, social bookmarking and, you could say, a new paradigm everything is miscellaneous. The third order of order. This pattern is evolving and blogs, books and webinars are picking up the pace. Does this mean that enterprises should loosen up and “Give up control“?

BPM focuses on identifying, designing, implementing and managing business processes within an organization. The realm of ECM focuses on achieving a centralized, structured, transparent and compliant (and more) digital working environment
. Combined, you could say the ambition of BPM and ECM is an organization being in control of what they do, how they do it and improving on that continuously. “Being in control“!

At first glance E2.0 and BPM/ECM sound quite like a paradox. But are they? In my opinion, they aren’t. James Surowiecki gives a beautiful hint of this in its bestseller the Wisdom Of Crowds. You need both structured centralization (or as he says “aggregation”) and unstructured (or niche-structured) decentralization. Explicitly: you can give op control in the niches of work, but you have to remain in control at the centre of it; as a whole.

As a matter of fact, the basis of giving up control is first of all having enough of it. The structured repositories of information, materialized through the implemented business processes, gives an organization a jumping platform to dive into the unstructured world. It’s the next step in digital working. After getting grip on these structured processes, what’s left are the unstructured ones. The characteristics of these processes are collaborative, knowledge intensive and highly unpredictable. Just suitable for E2.0 concepts.

What I find fascinating is trying to identify the design principles, or main beliefs, of the new Enterprise 2.0 concepts and identify the consequences of the digital working environment of today, 1.0. Bridging the gap between then and now.

An example thereof is implementing a social bookmarking principle for search an retrieval on top of the established taxonomies and metadata schemas for archival, process management and compliancy purposes. The result: best of both worlds. The organization is in charge of it’s processes and the team of three individuals somewhere within the company can find their specialized information the way they want to; the workforce cumulatively establishing a layer of social tags on top of the existing and rigid taxonomies.

Summarizing: not all is miscellaneous, but then everything could be.

Continuous Improvement not a fad, but the way forward

Last week I organized a meeting concerning “The Business Case for Digital Working”. Quite interesting it was, I might say. The striking thing of the meeting was that the outcome of this session wasn’t a shortlist of Business Cases, translated into marketing products. Because we approached the Digital Working Environment from an entirely different angle, being “the business” instead of “IT”, the outcome was quite different.

After intensive discussion (which is, fortunately, quite normal within YNNO) we realized that implementing and “running” a Digital Working Environment is never finished. It doesn’t end with “working with Documentum, Hummingbird, LiveLink, or any other ECM application”.

This, of course, isn’t mindboggling, I hear you say. True, IT always has its fair share of bug fixes, add-ons, new releases, et cetera. No, the striking thing was that, because we addressed it from the Business Point of View, we realized that the business never stands still, continuous improvement and adaptation. My colleague Guus appointed that quite nicely from his earlier posts in the realm of BPM. Also, I read a very interesting article on that in MIT Sloan as well.

So what does this mean for the realm of ECM and the related operations within the organization, keeping it aligned with the business? What does it mean for governance? How do these processes have to be managed? Furthermore, if you read posts about Enterprise 2.0, as my other colleague Robbert does, the “golden release” of the IT doesn’t exist anymore (or did it ever?); it’s perpetual beta.

More questions than answers, as it should be after an intensive session. It’s quite interesting to take these outcomes and put them to good use…. Continuous Improvement isn’t a fad, but the way forward; I’m convinced. The result: a digital working environment constantly tailored and suited for the business.

A Framework that works

The last month I’ve been so busy with my consulting work, that I didn’t have time to do my posts. Off course, there isn’t such a thing as “no time”, just “not taking the time”. Having realized that, here’s a short update.

I’ve made my first yards in the development of the framework. These yards include making a selection of the main pillars on which, we at YNNO believe, a digitization project must rest, such as: Taxonomies, Metadata structures, Authorization schemas, Document Lifecycle, Registration and Inheritance, Search and Retrieval, Archival and Durability, Processes and Workflow, Conversion and Migration, Interfaces, Social Network Analysis (SNA), User interfaces.

Furthermore, I’m also trying to incorporate aspects of Enterprise 2.0 into the framework, with pillars the likes of: Ease of Use and the Rich User Experience, Perpetual Beta, Innovation in Assembly, Freeform versus Control, Emergent, Social and Collaborative.

And last but not least, the first “main beliefs” of the pillar “taxonomies” are already made explicit from tacit knowledge and experience . Mine, to be exact.

If you’re an ECM consultant and have just read the summary of pillars, you’re probably thinking: “so what, that’s nothing special?” Correct. The framework in it self is nothing special. I’ve become conscious of the fact that making the framework work what’s special.

I realized this during a meeting I had with a colleague of mine in which we discussed a project approach he was writing. We discussed the contents, approach, scope and ambitions and I realized that I was already using the framework as a common vocabulary to talk from and to distill my assumptions from. The result was not “well, you could do this and that, probably”, but instead it was “you should this and not do that, because past experience has shown that it works like that”, and so forth. And that’s the result only after walking a couple of yards! I’m being optimistic, as always, but the potential of filling the “hollow framework” with working knowledge (made explicit) was suddenly crystal clear to me.

At present I’m busy organizing and preparing an interactive session with my colleagues operating in the field of digitization projects at knowledge intensive organizations. In this session we’ll present our main beliefs and use them the lighten up a discussion and to, ultimately, fill the hollow framework and make it work.

I’m being too optimistic when I say that one session will be enough. Maybe enough for the next couple of yards. That’s not a problem. The other thing I realized during the discussion with my colleague was that the value is not just in the destination, the journey is just as important.

In the next post I’ll give some examples of “main beliefs”.

Realising a true digital working environment

Another research area we at YNNO are interested in is identifying the critical success factors for realizing and embedding a successful true digital working environment within an organization.

The research focuses on organizations that are knowledge intensive, with mainly unstructured processes, with high specific information exchanges and a workforce for the most part existing of knowledge workers.

For the last couple of years projects have been started within these organizations with the ambition tot transform the status quo of the unstructured and unregulated digital work (working on fileshares and sharing documents through “anarchy digital communication channels” like e-mail) into a true digital working environment:

  • using regulated repositories for information storage en retrieval
  • incorporating and digitizing the (incoming, internal and outgoing) paper information streams,
  • and transferring information and decision processes through predefined, but flexible, workflows

Alas, the track record of these digitization projects isn’t anything to write home about. Many have failed, or have delivered suboptimal successes. In our opinion this past performance is mainly due to the fact that during the course of the project too many pillars on which the digital working environment must rest, have crumbled.

We at YNNO manage, consult and operate succesfully in this field and for these type of organizations. Our experience is that there are key factors to identify which are critical for achieving the desired results. The research we are conducting has the ambition to:

  • clarify and make explicit these main pillars on which a digitization project must rest and, more importantly,
  • our main belief of how these pillars must be designed, build and maintained to be able to realize and embed a successful digital working environment for the portrayed type of organization.

YNNO consultants use these pillars and main beliefs individually from experience and gained tacit knowledge. An example thereof: the metadata structures (pillar) used in the organization, embedded within the ECM application (main belief):

  1. must serve the archival regulations for structuring and maintaining information,
  2. must be effectively and efficiently updated trough optimalization and maintenance processes
  3. but may not in any way “cripple” the day to day business processes of the organization.

This accumulation forms a nice paradox which has to be balanced during the entire project. The daily practice, unfortunately, is al to frequently a shift in to one specific direction: archival, business or IT. If it does, the pillar is made of the “wrong cement” and will not last long enough for the digital environment to “flourish” within the organization. The more pillars crumble, the higher the change the aspired goals will not be met.

In the current state, the total overview of the pillars and used main beliefs only exist within the separate minds of the YNNO consultants operating in the field (or operating near to it). The goal of the research is to bring these minds together and to extract and build an explicit framework from these available cumulative tacit knowledge and experiences.

This framework will (of course) never replace the tacit knowledge present within YNNO, this is not the aspiration of the research. The aim is to built a strong tool, a common paradigm and vocabulary for YNNO to speak from, to communicate about, to fall back on and to have readily available for the projects at hand.

During my research activities I’ll post my findings within our YNNO blog.