Ten years later, why are we still arguing about the value of enterprise instant messaging?

I’ve been following some of the coverage of Lotusphere through other bloggers, like Luis, Mike Gotta, Ed Brill and Ross Mayfield. I won’t repeat the product announcements (it would be third-hand anyway), however one thing I did notice is the comment that Lotus Sametime is ten years old. In fact according to the current entry in Wikipedia on instant messaging, Sametime was the first corporate instant messaging system (as we known instant messaging), although it was quickly followed by Microsoft.

Clearly ten years ago these companies saw the market potential for enterprise instant messaging (EIM), yet today (according to figures quoted from Gartner) there is still only a 25 percent to 30 percent penetration of enterprise instant messaging. And I don’t think the products are a fault here.

Now this is a rhetorical question, but I have say: Why are we still arguing about the value of enterprise instant messaging after more than a decade? I dug out a few of my own posts on this from 2005:

Unfortunately pretty much these same arguments are still bouncing around organisations I’ve come across more recently that haven’t yet embraced instant messaging. Perhaps instant messaging will sneak in the back door through unified communications?

Of course, what also worries me, will we still be arguing about the value of more recent Enterprise Web 2.0 tools in ten years time?

PS Happy Australia Day everyone! 🙂

Ross Dawson on Enterprise 2.0 and the Future of Knowledge Management

Not only is the NSW KM Forum supporting Ross’ Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum in Sydney on 19 February 2008, but Ross has also offered a pre-event entree for NSW KM Forum members the week before – he’ll be talking about a subject close to my heart, Enterprise 2.0 and the future of knowledge management.

BTW If you’re quick, Stephen Collins also has a free ticket to give away to the main event on the 19th.

All Systems Go!

Yes, even the best of us stuff up from time to time. I’ve allowed my own domain name chieftech.com.au to expire over the weekend. I know, I know! (I’ll tag this post with “stupid”)

I’ve just renewed it, but it may take a bit of time to come online again. In the meantime, you can also email me at my name using  @gmail.com instead or via my CSC contact details if you have them.

chieftech.com.au (the URL just points to this blog) should be back in business now! Can’t wait for my mailbox to fill up…

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Are you ready for collaboration (again)?

I think Shawn from Anecdote is right, “collaboration” is becoming fashionable again. During 2007 I’ve noticed quite a few posts that touch on collaboration and conversations going on about collaboration specifically – including Microsoft enters the furniture market, Collaboration challenges and success factors, Thinking, thinking about collaboration, The Shifting Sands of Collaboration, More chatter about collaboration and Still talking about collaboration. Phew!

Anyway, I agree with Shawn‘s conclusion about the drivers for its resurgence:

Collaboration is important more than ever because of the nature of the world we live in. The problem, however, is that we not taught collaboration in organisations. It happens through necessity and success is mostly by chance and experience. Organisations wishing to develop a collaboration capability more systematically will need to thinking clearly about the process of collaboration and how they can support that process.

I also agree with Shawn‘s emphasis on the people side of collaboration; even while focused on the tech in the past I’ve talked the about the human capability of an organisation to collaborate using technology as being a source of competitive advantage, but to be honest felt at the time this message feel on deaf ears. Perhaps, now the time is right?

This is particularly interesting when we consider comments like this, from Jeff Palfini:

implement these new, time-saving technologies, but do so at your own peril, because unless you can get consensus on how best to work in each mode of collaboration, you could end up with an overstimulated, underachieving workforce.

Perhaps, not only are we finally valuing (technology enabled) collaboration but we are also finally learning that its a balance between people AND technology? I actually have a list of questions I wrote back than you might like to consider to check your readiness for collaborating with technology:

  1. Do your people know how to collaborate?
  2. Does your organisation under the value, benefits and risks of collaborating on-line with you partners and clients?
  3. Are your IT people ready for user-driven development of a Web-based collaboration tool?
  4. Do you have the right processes in place to both diffuse a collaborative capability as well the processes that would form your collaborative infrastructure?
  5. Have you implemented the appropriate IT systems to help minimise the risks your organisation is exposed to from on-line collaboration with your partners and customers?
  6. Is your technology infrastructure adequate prepared to support a Web-based collaboration tool?
  7. Do protocols exist for testing the on-line workspace before collaboration begins?
  8. What data, information and knowledge do you intend to share on-line?
  9. Are guidelines available for knowledge managers and end-users to learn about the leading and recommended approaches to on-line collaboration?

Bearing in mind I wrote these in 2004, I think most of these questions are still very applicable. So, how does your organisation stand up against these readiness questions?

Gaming, learning and the coming galactic war

I had a more thoughtful post in mind about social networks but have been distracted by some other real world issues this weekend. In the meantime, make of it what you will about these two medical stories related to gaming and learning:

  • From Wired, Man Imitates America’s Army, Saves Lives – “A North Carolina man who saw an SUV flip and roll on a highway last November was able to provide medical aid to the victims with skills he learned from the America’s Army, say the videogame’s makers.
  • From Engadget, Wii used to hone surgeons’ fine motor skills – “a study on a small group of surgeons who had practiced gaming with a modified controller showed them to achieve significantly more improvement on a standard simulator procedure than did a corresponding group of control subjects.

Hmm. I’m not sure what Star Wars Battlefront is teaching me, but should I find myself in the middle of a galactic war clearly I shall be well prepared 😉

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Whither Facebook?

Out of all the networking sites, Facebook continues to create (at least from where I’m sitting) the most discussion. Following the Beacon incident, the most recent fracas at the very beginning of the year involved Robert Scoble, who has been banned from Facebook for scraping his “friends” into Plaxo.

Others are now coming out the wood work complaining about social networking in general, like Thomas Baekdal who gives us five reasons why he doesn’t use social networking sites including this comment about FB:

    Let’s face it, 90% of all the things going on in social networks is just crap. Facebook is the worst I have experience so far – my front page is filled with junk.

(BTW He has subsequently back tracked and for the right reasons, I think, agreed that LinkedIn does have some value.)

Care of Nick Carr (and please someone, buy his new book so he’ll stop advertising it), Guardian columnist Tom Hodgkinson give us the conspiracy theory why we should abandon FB:

Facebook is a well-funded project, and the people behind the funding, a group of Silicon Valley venture capitalists, have a clearly thought out ideology that they are hoping to spread around the world. Facebook is one manifestation of this ideology.

Hodgkinson also warns us that some of those venture capitalists include the CIA and suggests we subsitute the word “Facebook” with “Big Brother” in FB’s privacy policy 🙂

Personally, I have mixed feelings right now about FB as a business tool but not because I think social networking in business is a waste of time or that the FB marketing system is anything different than a system like Flybuys. I know FB are trying to tweak the system to keep it attractive, like the new extended profile option, but as their user base broadens I suspect they are gradually running into what has always been the dilemma of portals, both inside or outside the firewall, (and FB is a user- or social network-centric portal) being how to:

  1. Meet the needs of different user groups without requiring so much personalisation that users either give up, find it so complicated they can’t or they simply can’t be bothered;
  2. Keep the portal relevant and useful enough to create regular usage.

(The relevancy issue is one reason why if a company wants its employees to use it for business, then making FB the intranet is a good idea although I’m not so sure about the employees.)

Fundamentally I’m finding mixing my business and personal life, and the privacy issues that go with that, in FB a challenge; and because FB isn’t meeting this need well its affecting the site’s relevancy to me. Perhaps Charlene Li was right after all and I should simply create a second FB identity, however what I really want is something that is easy to use.

And not just me I’m worried about, as this blog essay on AlterNet warns:

Most people don’t use the privacy settings to limit access to their Facebook profile. Four out of five simply accept the default setting, which allows their whole network to see the entire profile. In the UCLA network, that’s 50,400 people. The Boston network has 312,404 people. For comparison, the city’s tabloid, the Boston Herald, has a circulation of 201,503. Users may think they’re only sharing with the friends they can see, but they’re actually publishing with the reach of a newspaper.

(The rest of this blog essay is well worth reading.)

One simple way to do this is to have one identity but two distinct FB sites – Facebook “Original” and Facebook for business, perhaps offering organisations with private label options – where the context of where you login and create particular relationships would determine what and how information is shared. Its just an idea, and maybe there is a better way, but for now FB is failing to achieve all it could be.

The Potential for Enterprise Metaverses

As part of an internal CSC research project I’ve started working on this year, I found myself revisiting Second Life in the last few days. I’m actually less interested in the social and virtual alter ego aspects of these public 3D virtual worlds – or “metaverses” – and more in their application for business collaboration and elearning. In this interview, Ian Hughes from IBM, explains how they add to the collaboration experience:

the added presence of the avatar and proximity to others helps add to the flow of a meeting. e.g. people gather a few minutes before the meeting, as in real life. Then they form into the meeting, e.g. they all sit down whilst the meeting leader stands and runs the meeting. When the meeting finishes people tend to not just leave instantly but drift away over a few minutes. During those few minutes they interact in social groups (which again are very visual as you tend to go over and stand near the people you are talking too. This is analogous to a real world meeting where conversations happen on the way out. Standard phone meetings or even video conferences tend to end in a more instant and dead way.

Generally speaking I think its important that if we use virtual worlds for business collaboration and elearning, then our virtual entity (expressed an Avatar) needs to be an extension of our workplace identity rather than alternative identity – unfortunately Second Life forces you to adopt an alternative identity (I’m known as Chieftech Kidd). However, the OpenSim project is developing an open source “functioning virtual worlds server platform capable of supporting multiple clients and servers in a heterogeneous grid structure.” I can see great potential in the OpenSim project to allow organisations to create their own inexpensive and controllable intraverses and extraverses(I thought I could be the first to coin this term, but alas a few people are already using it!) that are integrated as part of their information workplace. There is an interesting connection with CSC‘s existing research into the concept of Digital Trust, as this is probably one weakness in the existing metaverse systems – the inability to register and access different metaverses based on a single, transferable avatar. BTW I just found that Susan Kish has posted an excellent guest post on the LunchoverIP blog that explores some of these issues is more detail – I particularly like the Virtual Geography diagram that describes:

MMORPGs (massive multiplayer online games, such as World of Warcraft), and Metaverses (Virtual Worlds that are primarily social vs. game oriented, such as Second Life), to MMOLEs (focused on learning and training environments), to Intraverses (putting up a virtual world inside the corporate firewall), to Paraverses (often also called Mirror Worlds, such as Google Earth).

The other aspect of extending real life into the metaverse is extending real objects into the metaverse. I read about this SAP experiment in Second Life last year:

I particularly liked the demo of a project SAP is working on with a large property manager in Switzerland, to build models in Second Life that are tied via sensors to real buildings. The prototype is only a small model building, a doll-house, so to speak, but this is definitely the future of property management: open a door in the real building, a door opens in the SL analogue.

This prototype is also very on trend with one of the big ideas we have about where Web 2.0 is going, towards Web 2.0 applications that are fed directly by sensors, so that “participation” no longer just means typing on a keyboard, but the accidental information we create ‘merely in living as and where we live.’

There are also a couple of video examples from Daden Limited of using the libsecondlife software library (that is based on reverse engineering of the Second Life protocol and resulted in the Copybot incident) to  demonstrate how actions outside of the metaverse can result in changes in the virtual environment:

Its worth checking out their YouTube channel for a few more interesting examples of integrating external data into Second Life, including Google maps mashup and a Twitter fountain!

I think the potiential for embedding application into meteverses that connect back into the cloud (and subsequently the real environment) is just as exciting as the presence and proximity benefits described above. I’m looking forward to seeing the first composite metaverse application builder!