Happy New Year!

Living in Australia, I crossed into 2009 many hours ago. For those of you still in 2008 I can tell you that this morning at least, its looking pretty good over on this side.

Of course, this is also a reminder for me about the limitations of all this wonderful communication and collaboration technology we have – we can compress distance, but alas not time. Luckily that didn’t worry me too much on this New Years Eve – it was time I spent with friends in the same place at the same time. And I hope you too had (or will have!) the chance to enjoy New Years Eve in real time with friends and family.

Happy New Year (and belated Christmas greetings) everyone!

UPDATE: A related story about two virtual Australian NYE parties… interesting that they run for "24 hours to cover worldwide timezones".

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Office Suite lock-in: The same today as it was yesterday

In CIO magazine online, Rich Levin writes that:

"Today there’s a bumper crop of worthy Office alternatives… None of this has been missed by Microsoft, which debuted a revamped Office Professional 2007 last year in an effort to clearly differentiate its cash cow from the bulging mass of Office me-toos, and now is promising a new version that’s cloud-enabled. But the new Office user experience, "the Ribbon," is likely responsible for driving once-devoted users into the arms of alternatives."

I’ve always thought the interface changes for Office 2007 was a stroke of genius by Microsoft, but I guess we will never know if this was genuine attempt to improve and innovate, or just pointed-headed marketing strategy to block the copy cats.

Levin goes on to suggest a bunch of word processing/office suite alternatives, which includes the obvious ones like Open Office, Google Docs and Zoho but also:

I also saw today talk of a Windows version of KOffice, but it looks a long way off.

Still, I think the scope of the examples are quite limited. Into this mix I would also add WYSIWYG editors in Web-applications, like Wikis. Not that I would rate them as particularly mature at this stage, but as Sam Lawrence has proposed in the past, the office suite concept itself is stuck in the old siloed productivity paradigm.

And what about outlining and note taking tools like Treepad and Evernote. All offer rich text editing capabilities. Actually, in this area I think Windows Live Writer (a thick-client blog editor) excels beyond any other Web-based text editor I’ve seen.

All this got me thinking today that even in this world of Web 2.0, compatible file formats just don’t seem to be enough. I wonder when will we see a better separation of data from the editing applications we use, so it becomes a question of which tool do you use when and where, rather than which do you use full stop. Even for me, the wiki paradigm is limited because it still requires me to go *there* to work.

How are using Office alternatives to get work done?

Where next for Enterprise RSS in 2009

Looking back on his own predictions about the RSS space, G. Oliver Young notes:

"KnowNow went out of business completely; NewsGator shifted focus and now leads with its Social Sites for SharePoint offering, while its Enterprise Server catches much less attention; and Attensa has been very quiet this year. In other words, all is not well in the enterprise RSS space…

…I’m concerned there is something more fundamental going wrong here. At the end of the day enterprise RSS is predicated on the notion that shoving all communications through email is too inefficient and must be augmented with other communications channels. Is it possible that people simply don’t feel that pain strongly enough to invest the time and effort to learn to use RSS?* And that every wiki feed will eventually dump right into email because that is what people really want?"

I’m actually encouraged by what I’ve seen in the last 6 months around Enterprise RSS adoption (in terms of growing awareness and interest at least), but I won’t argue that it isn’t a slow up hill battle. However, while I think Young is right about the user perception of RSS (a point I’ve discussed with many people) I think the place where leadership is really needed is within enterprise IT departments.

This need for leadership is reflected in Young‘s other comments that,

"[Businesses] know they have a problem, but instead of investing in RSS many bought other products like wikis, blogs, and social networking tools.

For me the absence of Enterprise RSS (and perhaps along with other key infrastructure, like Enterprise Search and social tagging tools) in environments where we find wikis, blogs and social networking tools is a sign of tactical or immature implementations of enterprise social computing. We are just at the beginning of this journey.

Of course this isn’t a sure sign that existing Enterprise RSS solutions will continue in their current forms. But what I am sure about is that if we really want to bring Web 2.0 inside the firewall, then we need Enterprise RSS functionality in that mix. And that’s because the 9X email problem isn’t just a barrier for Enterprise RSS adoption, but a barrier for Enterprise 2.0 itself.

In this respect, I can actually see many opportunities for integrating Enterprise RSS features into Enterprise Search solutions or into existing portal platforms (actually, Confluence is a great example of a feed friendly wiki platform – both to create and consume). And why doesn’t Microsoft Exchange play a greater role in supporting sophisticated Enterprise RSS capabilities? I suppose in a way this is exactly what Newsgator are doing for the Microsoft suite.

So, Enterprise RSS is here to stay.

BTW Don’t forget to check out my Enterprise RSS article, where I introduce the concept of the Enterprise RSS Value Chain to help you understand where Enterprise RSS can add value.

Actually, as a quick vote – have you or your organisation evaluated Enterprise RSS or thought about it seriously during the last year? Or is it something you plan to look at in 2009?

What are Collaborative Patterns?

I googled the phrase "Collaborative Patterns" and was mildly disappointed to find my own blog post came up as the top result – after all I was looking for other people’s ideas on this topic! 🙂

Now, according to Wikipedia, the concept of pattern language itself originates in civil and architectural design but it has also been applied in software development – e.g. the Portland Pattern Repository. A pattern is typically a single problem, documented with its best solution, in a single design pattern. Each pattern has a name, a descriptive entry of the problem and solution, and some cross-references to other patterns, much like a dictionary entry.

In the context of collaboration, I think the idea of collaborative patterns are particularly relevant because my feeling is that we actually do know what does and doesn’t make collaboration work. However, the technology continues to evolve so fast that it is all too easy to get caught up in the new functionality and forgetting what we already know.

Also, these technology-agnostic pattern solutions to collaboration problems are helpful because, as is typical with user-driven collaborative tools, there are many different ways to apply these tools to actually implement the solution in practice. For example:

  • Through agreed protocols and shared practices (for example, a simple ‘workflow’ built using folder structures or naming conventions);

  • Through non-programmatic customisation, which may also include templated and repeatable approaches; and

  • Through actual custom development of the base solutions.

During the life and investment in a particular collaborative technology or set of collaborative technologies all three approaches may be utilised at any one time. In fact, a protocol may be the basis for a template customisation, which might eventually be hard coded into the solution over time.

So what are these actual collaborative patterns? Well, I might need a little help from you all to define them – a good starting point might be the technology-specific set of patterns for wikis.

How many people does it take to implement an information management project?

This is neither a joke or a trick question!

People are often surprised at the level of effort required and different specialists needed for information management projects in medium-sized organisations and upwards. From the current edition of Image & Data Manager magazine (I also have an article in it) is the example of an Australian property development company with 750 staff that implemented a document management system with the following project team:

  • Project Manager – 60% full time;
  • Information Manager – full time;
  • Change Manager – 50% full time for 6 months;
  • Classification Specialist – 2 months full time; and
  • DMS Administrator – full time for 6 months.

In addition they also mention a mobile training team that went from site to site and that also provided on-site support as people were learning the new system. And of course beyond the core project group there were a number of stakeholder groups that provided input into the project.

The whole initiative elapsed over a year, with the first six months spent on just developing the strategy and business case before product selection.

That actually all sounds about right based on my own experience.

One of my other rules of thumb is that it is as much about the number of documents and number of staff as it is the number of locations, departments and unique work groups involved that determine the overall complexity of an information management project. This also assumes you have all the right IT infrastructure in place before you start!

Anyway, next time someone questions why your project is looking so resource intensive, here is an example you can show them.

However, have your experiences been the same?

The complete Enterprise RSS Value Chain article

Back in late September I mentioned I was working on an article about Enterprise RSS. To be fair to Image & Data Manager magazine subscribers I normally wait a little while before uploading a copy of the article to my online archive. However, as the published version needed to be edited down considerably due to space this time, I thought I would upload a version that combined it with the extra sections now. This includes a section that describes the Enterprise RSS Value Chain concept and connects it with the examples I provide, so I think it adds some value to the published version.

The combined article also profiles two very different Enterprise RSS solutions (Newsgator and Xenos) and some case studies, including the now ‘classic’ Wallem shipping example from Attensa.

As usual, let me know what you think. 

Looking for feedback about securing Enterprise RSS news feeds

Samuel Peter Verhoeven (care of Samuel’s blog) is looking for feedback about securing RSS news feeds:

Last months we evaluated two Enterprise RSS solutions: Attensa Feed Server (AFS) from Attensa and NewsGator Enterprise Server (NGES) from NewsGator, to replace our self-made Enterprise RSS solution.

Both products are missing an essential feature for us, namely good support of “secured feeds” and options to share “secured feeds” with employees with the same permissions.

Both these system offer methods for securing feeds, but not in a way that suits his business requirements. Any ideas anyone?

Update: Some related posts here and here.