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by Jay Fienberg

KMWorld: Building the Collaborative Enterprise

posted: Oct 16, 2003 11:37:28 PM

I am at the KMWorld conference in Santa Clara.

This presentation, "Building the Collaborative Enterprise: Tools, Techniques and Challenges", is by Eric Woods, research director of Ovum.

Eric is going to give a perspective and broader context for evaluating collaboration technologies.

Ultimate goal for collaboration software is to turn the network into a shared space, where people can work together and exchange ideas in a friction-free environment. Achieving it means understanding how people work together and giving them the tools they need.

How to make better use of collaboration technologies? Technologies need to be more flexible and dynamic. Shouldn't impose itself on the way people work. Should be seamless with the way people and organizations work.

Also, need a more sophisticated understanding of how we work, how we have to change the way we work going forward. Critical problem in the past has been not understanding enough what we were trying to achieve with collaboration technologies.

Three things driving change towards more collaboration. 1) Change of financial circumstances: reduce cost and be more effective using resources. 2) New technical environments have changed the possibility for collaboration: example, email.

We haven't yet worked out how to best use technologies like email, and then new technologies are also coming out like wireless, IM, and web services that are further changing things.

3) Changes in marketplace from market leaders, in terms of their offerings of collaboration tools.

Software has changed in the last few years, the way IT finance and value is calculated has changed. KM technologies need to be on a more realistic financial footing than in the past.

Three areas of innovation and investment: 1) the Internet and a truly networked world (continues to infiltrate organizations from top to bottom, IT architectures are maturing, web services); 2) Integration of application, information . . . and people (way of managing complexity); 3) Intelligence in all its forms (knowledge management and collaboration projects are being driven by the need to exploit information and knowledge assets).

Intelligence provides ROI: the only software sector which saw any growth in 2002. Continued growth ongoing.

Collaboration software: evolution and revolution. Map of core pieces of KM technologies (email, CM, portal, etc.). What is interesting is how their relationships and overlap is evolving.

He used to think complete suites of software would handle all of these pieces. Now, he thinks this is less the case. Different projects with different stages of maturity, for these different pieces. Future: more creative interchange between pieces. Web services opens up new possibilities.

So, more holistic strategy of how these pieces fit together is now needed.

Key collaboration functions: management, synchronous and asynchronous, communication, collaborative services, workspace. Workspace is an area where there is a lot of change and innovation (e.g., portals). The ability to define much more flexible collaboration environments is key.

Design and implementation, in the past, has been major bottleneck. Much more flexible and rapid deployment is an area of innovation. Usability issues, especially around how teams work together, is important.

Communication functions: synchronous / real-time (IM, chat, white boarding, application and screen sharing, a/v conferencing). Asynchronous (email, message boards, broadcasting, subscriptions and alerting, discussion threads).

Presence (e.g., IM) is going to be important, e.g., integration with CRM and other systems. This will be a major area of innovation.

Collaborative services: workflow, calendars and scheduling, content management, task management, surveys, voting and polling, search and discovery. Future: more flexible workflow.

Management services: group and role management, site management, archiving and auditing, and message management. How do we make effective use of these technologies. Email / spam is a huge issues. IM archiving and auditing is an areas needing more management services. How do you manage virtual spaces. Both IT and KM issue.

We have to also look at how is KM changing in sync with changing business requirements. Maturing of where businesses want to go with collaboration and KM matching technology development.

The big change a few years ago happened with intranets. Then, a brick wall was hit in terms of getting knowledge out of the intranets created. Now, people are struggling with balance between the different roles need to make the most of intranets and portals: IT, KM, business.

Evolution: from information publishing to informal collaboration to formal collaboration. The technical base need to be tied to a more holistic understanding of where these technologies fit in the organization. Integration of KM tools and technologies with business applications.

The trick is getting balance right. Process: the explicit of formal definition of how work should be done. Practice: how people work together to get the job done. The goal for the collaborative enterprise is to combine the best of both.

Communities of practice and process management need to be balanced. In the past, technologies have driven us down one or the other, but new tools need to focus on flexibility of both. In any specific business (or specific initiative), the balance needs to be adjusted. Tools need to support this flexibility.

Mentions examples where too much process or too much practice don't work. Not exactly a technology issue: need to think through what things need to be formal processes, and what best come out of communities of practice.

The goal is bringing a number of different pieces together, in term of the flexibility of different tools.

Collaboration in context. Collaboration services can bring new life and dynamic energy into enterprise portals. Integration is important (web services, XML, offerings from IBM and Microsoft are integrating portals and collaboration tools).

Content management also needs to integrate into portals and collaboration services. Not clear how this will work: lots of large software stacks without guidance on how to fit them together.

Another key point of integration is with business applications (ERP, CRM, etc). Broad, holistic view to match up with transaction based perspective.

Another is integration with office productivity tools. We have reached an end with the scope of existing tools. Future is investment in collaboration with these tools. Microsoft with Office 2003 and SharePoint is starting to work in this direction.

Leading edge: expertise management. Finding and making connections with experts. At this point, just simplistic notion of how to connect with these people. But, expertise management software will evolve. Measuring expertise and pinpointing its location.

Privacy is becoming an issue in terms of how you control your work. Bringing the spotlight onto expertise creates a new dynamic around this.

Scenarios. Email is now mission critical, but also a cost issue. Cost is being driven down: sell is around making email more efficient. But, growth market is around collaboration tools: live meetings, etc.

Vendor positioning: Consolidation. He is not sure what they are trying to achieve by consolidating CM with collaboration with portals. How is big software stack going to be flexible enough? Jury is still out.

He is talking about suppliers of KM tools, and going with strategic partners (the ones with the most architecture alignment and purchase value with your organization).

2003-2004: the period of transformation. 2005 and beyond: a new class of enterprise collaboration tools.

Summary: Collaboration is a matter of balance. Not too directive and not too hands-off. Process and practice. Beware of the management issues as the number of virtual spaces grows. Don't get obsessed with knowledge capture: enjoy the dynamic. Promote collaboration. Entice people into using the online facilities. Think creatively as to how and when to collaborate.

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