Click on the above image for Lithium’s PDF from where I grabbed this snippet.
Also check out Michael Wu’ s excellent post where he delves into social networks and online communities.
There is an discussion going on in one of the BA LinkedIn groups. The person who started the discussion was that when she joined the group, it was “to understand how others BA see their role and how they overcome the issues they face.” However she’s only finding discussions and articles like “5 Tips to apply to blablabla”, or “10 Things you should know on blablabla”.
One of people who responded stated that “forums (or groups or whatever) are best when they are about exchanging or sharing ideas. That means that the person who starts the discussion needs to participate other than just at the start.” Often what will happen is someone will post a link (often to their own material), in a group/forum, and then never be heard from again. The group/forum is, effectively, just being used as a noticeboard.
So what is an online community? And what makes it different from a social network?
Michael Wu, a smart man who is one of those people who earns a living staring at tea leaves in the bottom of a cup, said that…
“the single most important feature that distinguishes a social network from a community is how people are held together on these sites.”
In a social network, Michael says, people are held together by pre-established interpersonal relationships, such as friendship, classmates, colleagues, and business partners. The primary reason that people join a social networking site is to maintain old relationships and establish new ones to expand their network. on to state that social networks
Carrying on, Michael explains how Communities, on the other hand, are held together by a common interest (it can be a common project, goal, location, etc.). People join the community because they care about this common interest that glues the community members together. Some stay because they felt the urge to contribute to the cause; others come because they can benefit from being part of the community.
So keeping in mind what Michael said, and looking at these people who post ”10 Things you should know on blablabla” links in discussion forums. The area where they are posting, is a community, and there are, most likely, some people who benefit from reading the posts. But are these posters really helping “contribute to the cause”? Or are they just generating noise? I know what I think…
Case in point – I was at a well-known appliance store the other day, that has branches throughout the country.I asked the girl at the checkout whether there was a store in one particular city. While she looked furtively at her screen, I took a peek over her shoulder. It was the company’s intranet. I advised her to open up a new tab in her browser, go to Google, and type in the name of the store plus the word “branches”. She obediently followed my instructions, and two minutes later she was able to give me an answer.
I won’t talk about the magic that Google performs to bring you the information that you want. I do want to talk, however, about why people are going to an outside facility rather than using the companies own resource…findability and usability.
Findability does not just mean being able to search for something and getting results. It also means that the information on the intranet is structured in a logical way that allows people to navigate to information quickly. Often, little thought has gone into the way information should be presented:
Traditional, legacy ECM platforms like Documentum, FileNet and OpenText are not ready for this new world. Those technologies were architected in a time when users and content stayed behind the firewall, on servers and PCs.
So starts paragraph two of Alfresco’s whitepaper “Next-Generation ECM”. This, and a recent post by Laurence Hart in which he says “Records Management as we know it is dead and it has dragged Enterprise Content Management (ECM) down with it.”, piqued my interest.
Preceding all this was a promotional email from Alfresco’s Melissa Meinhart: “4 reasons why Traditional ECM is dead“. Her reasons were:
This got me thinking… My current role has me working with clients to help them create intranets that are “social”. Ones that foster richer collaboration, and interaction.
Customers are focusing more on this “visible” part of the social collaborative experience, along with the “content management” part that goes with it. In this case, I am talking about the content that is surfaced on the Intranet pages.
Those areas that come under the heading of “Information Management”, such as Records Management, or Enterprise Content Management (ECM), are “roadmap” items. Things that the customer knows are important, but that they also realise, needs more extensive analysis, and planning.
This awareness, by companies, that a well-thought out ECM system is a necessity, is truly excellent. But Alfresco’s white paper raises some good points…users are, more and more, disconnected from the Enterprise. They work anywhere, at any time, on any device. And there are still concerns (rightly, or wrongly) about content “in the cloud”.
Another excellent point that the white paper makes is something that I have had many long discussions on, at my current place of employment (and which is worthy of a separate blog post). This is with regards to the social content, and conversations, that are now trying to be fostered (see the above paragraphs). These often contain valuable tacit knowledge, or are artefacts that companies don’t want to lose.
Traditional ECM is not sufficiently capable of accommodating this new user behaviour, the extended enterprise, or social content. And even Microsoft’s SharePoint, now considered one of the latest members of the “ECM club”, is lacking.
Naturally, Alfresco’s white paper is a pitch for its own product. I do not have a problem with that. They raise some valid points, and their solution looks like it could have potential. I do want to look into it further though, and assess whether their solution is the “one”.
If you want to read about their offering that they claim meets the challenges of the new ways of working, as well as some other great insight to this area by, refer to the links below.
The following has been taken,unashamedly, from Wikipedia… I openly admit it. I just love their article on Information foraging
In the 1970s optimal foraging theory was developed by anthropologists and ecologists to explain how animals hunt for food. It suggested that the eating habits of animals revolve around maximizing energy intake over a given amount of time. For every predator, certain prey are worth pursuing, while others would result in a net loss of energy.
In the early 1990s, Peter Pirolli and Stuart Card from PARC noticed the similarities between users’ information searching patterns and animal food foraging strategies. Working together with psychologists to analyse users’ actions and the information landscape that they navigated (links, descriptions, and other data), they showed that information seekers use the same strategies as food foragers.
In the late 1990s, Ed H. Chi worked with Pirolli, Card and others at PARC further developed information scent ideas and algorithm to actually use these concepts in real interactive systems, including the modeling of web user browsing behavior, the inference of information needs from web visit log files, and the use of information scent concepts in reading and browsing interfaces.
“Informavores” constantly make decisions on what kind of information to look for, whether to stay at the current site to try to find additional information or whether they should move on to another site, which path or link to follow to the next information site, and when to finally stop the search. Although human cognition is not a result of evolutionary pressure to improve Web use, survival-related traits to respond quickly on partial information and reduce energy expenditures force them to optimise their searching behaviour and, simultaneously, to minimize the thinking required.
The most important concept in the information foraging theory is information scent. As animals rely on scents to indicate the chances of finding prey in current area and guide them to other promising patches, so do humans rely on various cues in the information environment to get similar answers. Human users estimate how much useful information they are likely to get on a given path, and after seeking information compare the actual outcome with their predictions. When the information scent stops getting stronger (i.e., when users no longer expect to find useful additional information), the users move to a different information source.
Some tendencies in the behaviour of web users are easily understood from the information foraging theory standpoint. On the Web, each site is a patch and information is the prey. Leaving a site is easy, but finding good sites has not always been as easy. Advanced search engines have changed this fact by reliably providing relevant links, altering the foraging strategies of the users. When users expect that sites with lots of information are easy to find, they have less incentive to stay in one place. The growing availability of broadband connections may have a similar effect: always-on connections encourage “information snacking”, short online visits to get specific answers.
Attempts have been made to develop computational cognitive models to characterize information foraging behavior on the Web.These models assume that users perceive relevance of information based on some measures of information scent, which are usually derived based on statistical techniques that extract semantic relatedness of words from large text databases. Recently these information foraging models have been extended to explain social information behavior.
“There’s a lot of research about the way our brains process faces and how they have a unique way of making us happy. A smiling face, even in the form of a small profile picture, tells us someone else is there. The web is a social environment, and at the heart of it all is people.”
The above snippet comes from Box’s “Introducing Box Notes” page…
The three sentences, highlighted above, say a lot. The web is a social environment.
Something that I have been using for a few months now is Microsoft’s Social Connector for Outlook 2010. This allows Outlook to display the profile photo, and info, from one of the social networks that that person is a member of. In my case, I have set up the connector so that it connects to LinkedIn. What difference does this make? A lot! When I get emails from clients I know, having their photo on display, makes it more personal, and for people I haven’t yet met, it makes that first face-to-face meeting so much more enjoyable.
So, here’s a push to stop hiding. Come out into the open. Let us see who you are. (Naturally, there are limits…)
Just curious how many brand their intranets beyond the basics like changing themes?
At the time I read it, there were already two responses. I added my own…
It’s an interesting discussion – whether to brand, or not.
With regards SharePoint, Microsoft’s Jeff Teper – senior vice president for SharePoint, advises…
“Use SharePoint as an out-of-box application whenever possible — We designed the new SharePoint UI to be clean, simple and fast and work great out-of-box. We encourage you not to modify it which could add complexity, performance and upgradeability and to focus your energy on working with users and groups to understand how to use SharePoint to improve productivity and collaboration and identifying and promoting best practices in your organization.”
However, and this is something that Dan Adams touched upon, you need to think about the purpose of the Intranet. Is it just a file-share-replacement? or is it a focus point for staff members to learn about the company, about each other, as well as to engage them and to foster exchange of ideas?A “branded” intranet, if done properly, can achieve the latter. I say “if done properly” because a “hack-job” can result in a something worse than a plain vanilla install. To do it properly, it is essentially to have, not only developers who know what can be changed without breaking something, but also a designer with UX/UI skills. These make for a very pleasant user experience, and one that helps the intranet align with the company values, as well as being somewhere that people “want” to go to when they turn their computers on first thing in the morning.
At the same time, a good Information Architecture (IA) helps, enormously, with usability and findability. Often, when an intranet is created, items and content are put into places “that make sense…at the time. Then as more things are added, they are placed either “where it makes sense for the person adding it”, or a new grouping is created. As time flows forward, the intranet becomes more and more complex. Having an IA that is usable, as well as maintainable, requires a lot of work, but can make a big difference to the system.
The Intranet can also act as a file share replacement. There are many benefits to this. Being able to label content as well as apply extra metadata to it, adds considerable value. Content can be grouped more effectively, and can be surfaced (through search functionality) in a way that has more meaning to the end-user. However, here also, great care must be taken. A suitable taxonomy should be created, as well as a way that allows content to be correctly labelled. Otherwise you end up with the original file share – just in a different format.
Underpinning all this.. some form of governance is important. This is what ensures that the intranet remains that great place that it started out as, rather than degenerating into a complex, tangled bog of despair that people use because “they have to”.
Recently I found a piece on the internet titled “SharePoint V The Rest of the World”. One part of it that stood out was the statement that the type of software used doesn’t affect the overall value of the Intranet
Billy Cripe responded to this, and I made a statement that I feel that I want to broadcast again…
There is an IIBA session coming up that covers the role of the Business Analyst in Waterfall and Agile methodologies. The description for the session starts off with…
“There is no IT meeting that does not talk and debate endlessly about Waterfall vs. Agile development methodologies. Feelings run strong on the subject with many considering Agile ‘so of the moment’, just so right, while Waterfall is thought to be passé! “
Gotta admit, I agree – this discussion always starts a enthusiastic debate. However I’m keen to see what this will uncover.
In an attempt to understand what “Change Management” actually is, I came across this delightful video. Especially cool with the sound.
A friend of mine, Keith, is a very polished presenter. He delivers his argument logically, with precision and a great deal of depth. It's rare to hear an ummm, ahhh or other verbal glitch come out of his mouth. By training, he's a lawyer, although now he's the CEO of a successful company. At business school, in open debate or discussion of a case study he would give such precise detailed answers that he earned the nickname…
In a recently published study, it seems that the confident-in-every-situation, I’ve-got-great-ideas, extrovert is, in the long run, not that effective. ULCA Today published a great article summarising the findings of the study…
Drawing from what psychologists call “the big five personality traits” — openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism — Bendersky and co-investigator Neha Parikh Shah, an assistant professor at Rutgers Business School, focused on two of those traits in research published last month. “The Downfall of Extroverts and the Rise of Neurotics: The Dynamic Process of Status Allocation in Task Groups” appeared in the Academy of Management Journal.
What’s going on? For extroverts, some of the very qualities that make them shine can tarnish in the glaring light of teamwork. And for neurotics, traits that aren’t very exciting turn out to be quite effective on the job.