From mail to knowledge

November 16, 2014

Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) are usually considered as a mean to gather the corporate knowledge that is dispersed in the people’s head, or in mail/documents threads.

The pattern commonly adopted, to connect the sources of this knowledge, to the final repository, that can be a tool within the ESN, is depicted in the following figure:

disegno from mail to knowledge (1)

  1. the user receive mail;
  2. the user select some messages, that are relevant for his social interaction, and publish them on the Enterprise Social Networks;
  3. the user (or someone else, an ESN editor), further classify (using tagging, grouping or other ESN features), the content that contains knowledge.
  4. Now, the knowledge-bearing content is available to everyone.

Where is the limit? In user actions.

This pattern assumes that the single user is willing to spend some effort in publishing/reviewing/classifying content. But we forget that this is not his job.

Imagine a salesperson, in hurry, trying to close an important deal. How much do you think that he will be committed in leaving a knowledgeable trace that that particular kind of product requires a specific customizing in order to be successful for a particular kind of customers? Maybe he will do it later? With an inbox receiving hundreds of email each day?

This is why sometimes user adoption for ESN projects is limited, and adding a “training/sponsoring” track to the project is not enough.

Now imagine a different model:

different path from mail to knowledge (2)

Here, the Enterprise Social Network software includes the inbox features. Incoming mail appears immediately as a new post on the user’s dashboard, classified in the proper thread. If the message contains short-term content (i.e. “John is coming late at the meeting: he will arrive perhaps 10:30″), it will remain in the user inbox, and will be deleted lately.

There is still the need to select and classify content that is relevant for the corporate knowledge-base, but this action will be easier if the content is already classified in the context of the ESN.

A step in this direction can be seen in Zimbra, or in the last Inbox by Gmail development. But I expect that this will be a significant development for the most popular ESN products.

Google have just released a new mail client for its Gmail service, which is usable free or with a paid subscription for smb and education.

Whith this new client, Google is suggesting that a mail client should support the user not only in mail “browsing”, but also for acting on the mail messages, taking and organizing the proper actions required by each message.
This is not new, the classical user interface of Microsoft Outlook was already providing an integrated environment for mail, tasks, calendar and contact management.

image

Google is adding value to this idea in two directions:
1 adding information from the search engine that is relevant for the mail content (flight info, stock quotes, etc.)
2 providing a grouping mechanism, that was already in place in the traditional web interface for Gmail, that assign each mail to a group (social, updates, forums, etc.) according to its content/sender

The final expected result is a cleaner inbox, that helps finding out the important messages, plan when we are going to act upon them, and gently guide us in browsing other categories of messages when we are confortable.

Now, the main components of a mail messages are:
1 content
2 people involved

image

People are sets, nested and mixed together in various ways, that can be seen as “containers” for several messages, with the exception that the containment is not strict, as water in a bottle, but shows a sort of ripple effect, that goes beyond the natural border of organizational or social set.

Google is putting emphasis on content: mail are classified according to their content type, even if the sender is used as an element helping content classification.
The missing element is people relations, and threads, intended as an extended version of the traditional mail threads (answers, forwards).
I think that this is a promising further line of development.

Content is something that is somehow limited to the single message (or message thread).
People is something more “stable” in the network of our relations, and more significant when we shift to groups/clustwr of people.

In this field, Google has already its social layer, Google+, that is already exploited in the traditional web interface of Gmail.
A shift from the single interaction model that is typical of mail messages, toward a more social aware model is, in my opinion, the future evolution of mail, and the convergence field with Social networks, and, furthermore, Enterprise Social Networks,

Originally posted on Postdigital Node:

The Innovation Week Rome ended with the Maker Faire European Edition, a huge event where makers from all around the world met to showcase and share their innovative ideas and inventions with more than 90,000 people from all ages.

Showcases, exhibitions, workshops and talks in the field of robotics, 3D printing, drones, sensors, and many more, took place during 4 days at Rome’s Auditorium Parco della Musica.

Maker Faire Rome was promoted by Camera di Commercio di Roma and curated by Massimo Banzi and Riccardo Luna.

On this post we will focus on the Opening Conference that gathered an array of noted international speakers to talk about the future of the Third Industrial Revolution and Maker Movement.

IMG_20141003_125328

Young makers at work

I can’t let you do that, Dave

Science Fiction author and technology activist Cory Doctorow made one of the boldest speeches of the meeting.  Doing a strong call to make an active defense…

View original 802 more words

Revert the order

October 17, 2014

One of the key issues facing Enterprise Social Networks project is adoption rate.

ESN Managers struggle to involve users in the network activity, and the main internal competitor is usually the email system.

mails1

Users have always the mail client opened on their desktops, and it’s very easy and flexible to use. The user selects the client and is not willing to add the burden of “platform selection” to his messaging process.

How can we address this issue? For example giving to the user a messaging client that helps forwarding each message to the proper platform.

2014-10-17 12_35_01-OneNote

The basic idea may be to have the following usage sequence:

  1. create the message text (title/subject) and body;
  2. select, attachments, favoring document links pointing to the Enterprise Social Network publishing section;
  3. select addressee;
  4. flag importance
  5. using the above elements, create an email message, or a post on ESN

When a Company hires retired, aged, workers, the news spread across business and popular information channels.

Why?
Because HR departments, Board members, recruiters, commonly believe that a younger workers offers more “opportunities” for the Company.
This is based on a common perception of the shape that the age/opportunity curve has:

image

After the peak, reached between 30 and 40 years, the opportunity offered by a worker decreases (and its cost increases). So, the marginal utility of hiring such worker decreases.

This approach doesn’t take into account the shift introduced by the evolution of the wealth/social landscape occurred in the last years. Why business and recruiters are missing this point? Mainly because they have been trained by aged teachers, or by teachers replicating concepts and behaviors that are linked to a previous situation.

It’s known that social systems have the tendency to maintain their established order,  and this is valid also for the ecosystem of labour market.
I believe that the real opportunity curve is different:

image

The green curve shows a flattened tendency over the years.  This means:

A) younger workers offer an higher opportunity value, earlier,
B) older workers retain their opportunity value for a longer period, and the slope of the decline is less.

Remember that I am talking about “hiring opportunity”, not about “retaining opportunity”.

Conflicts value destruction

September 21, 2014

When a Company is relying too much on direct, vertical interaction, among functions or divisions, and the Head, conflicts multiplies.

image

Vertical interaction, according to Ackoff and Gharajedaghi, is typical of an uni-minded organization, where peripheral, or vertical, units, are supposed to execute the directions from the Head, with a limited amount of “local” flexibility.
In the real world, this often means that the Head loses touch with the reality of the field, as each vertical unit repprts a filtered view of the business status.
Furthermore,  competionion develops among internal lines, diverting the energy devoted to competing in the market, towards internal struggles.

In the traditional management wisdom, this is often positive, as increases strength of each vertical unit, creates a self-controlling mechanism, and promotes natural selection: weaks are eliminated.

In the wide and wild market of the globalized world this is no more true.

Internal competition destroys value, through two mechanisms:
– limited deployment of competency,
– entropy.
Internal competitors seeks the goal of damaging other internal competitors, creating the conditions that make their competitors’ performance worse.

A good top management should be aware of the increasing level of internal competition,  putting in place mechanisms that turns this energy in value for the Company.

The easiest way is to give rewards to “promoted results”: if your competitor/collegue reaches a result thanks to your support, you receive a bonus, and his bonus will be higher if he acknoweldge this.
Such an approach puahes teamworking, and lowers the collaboration barriers across certical organizational structures.

The result is an increase in competitive strength,  for the Company, in the marketplace.

Image The traditional landscape for Office Automation application has changed significantly.

The disruptive new entry was Google. During time, the Mountain View Company has built its online offering over four main pillars:

  • Drive,  this is both a generic cloud storage, but at the same time offers a suite of Office applications (Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Drawing);
  • Gmail, just for mail processing;
  • Hangouts for text, audio, video, chatting;
  • G+, adding a Social platform to the suite.
Microsoft, durign the last years, but mainly during the last months, have followed, with an offering that is similar, by some points of view, but different in non trivial details.
  • Outllok.com offers the mail functionality, integrated with text chat (the old Messenger);
  • One Drive offers the cloud storage functionality, integrated with Office apps, with a subset of the traditional PC based Office suite.
  • Yammer: is the Social component, but in an “Enterprise” flavour. Yammer is the result of an acquisition, and is still under “integration” with the other products.
  • Share Point, in the cloud version, is a derivation of the mature on premise product, with a simpler deployment curve. This product offers an unique, structured, platform for file archiving, that doesn’t compete with Drive, or other similar products, like Dropbox or Box, but rather with platforms like Alfresco.
  • Lync, for internet based video/audio communicaton.
  • One Note, is a mature note taking product, that wasn’t able to gain user traction, leaving space for other competitors like Evernote.
Now, the two competitors are pushing their marketing efforts toward the rich Business market, and this is the big shift that I have introduced at the beginning, and that each CIO should consider carefully.
 

Significantly,  both platforms don’t put a big emphasis on the “mail” component, and both struggle to obtain a good acceptance for their Social apps.
The two things are linked, in my opinion: why any Social app require so a big effort, in a business environment, to conquer the user attention and involvement? 
The answer, I believe, rests in the lack of integration with the mail component. The great part of our daily interaction, at work, comes from mail messages. Managing messages, organizing them, forwarding and processing them, absrorbs the biggest part of the time  that we commit to interaction. This is why few minutes are left for engagement in other collaborative platforms, and we are, somehow, scared of being further involved in other things.

 

The solution would be quite simple: integrate mail in the “stream” of posts that populate our social dashboard. This could work well if we are able to organize mail, posts, documents around the big “themes” that we deal with, projects, prospects, processes.
This require two things:

  1. An intelligent classification system that is able to spot the right hashtag that is to be applied to each message/post;
  2. An intelligent search mechanism, capable of finding related posts/messages/documents, beside the “natural” linking mechanism provided by hashtags.
Another point: the majority of the cloud apps users consider them only as a practical online replacement for the traditional PC versions, enjoying the availability on fixed and mobile platforms. The real time collaboration features are often overlooked. But the ability to work, in real time, by multiple users, on the same spreadsheet or document, while chatting, introduced a new paradigm for collaborative work, that has still a long way to go.
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