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Enterprise social networking market diversifying

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Forrester Research conducted survey of 170 ECM (enterprise content management) decision makers to understand where the market might be headed in 2010. The survey found 72 percent of organizations are planning on investing in ECM in the new year.

Barb Mosher covered the study in an article on CMSWire. I thought it was an interesting article, not so much for the insights into the ECM industry, but for the insights into ESN (enterprise social networking) and related social technologies.

As I said in the comments, the ECM industry has been around since around 2001, and has been hailed and cursed many times over. We can see this happening with ESN too. With all of the hype and expectations, there will be inevitably be a post-New-Year's-Eve-like hangover as we realize that no solution is a poultice to our collaboration headaches.

The S word by any other name is still just as sweet

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The S word.
 
Andrew McAfee examined whether "social" is "a helpful or harmful word when talking to enterprises and their managers about the new digital tools and the business practices that make use of them?" in a recent blog post. And in my opinion (which I left in the comments), it’s not about what we call it, but how we use it that counts.

Skills of successful social librarians

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We've talked before about how librarians are crucial to the success of a social knowledge network or social library initiative. Librarians carry out key duties including feeding and weeding, organizing, and cultivating information. Indeed, when libraries go social, the role of the librarian is more important than ever.

To perform these duties effectively, there are several skills librarians should have. Jonathan G. Geiger covered them in an article in Information Management, which our customer and friend Melanie Browne (from Maple Leaf Foods) had forwarded to us. I thought I'd share the link. Jonathan talks about technical, interpersonal, and positional skills required to carry out the role of what he calls the "data steward."

Crossing the Chasm of using social in the enterprise: Inmagic Year in Review 2009

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Something we've learned this past year through our conversations with industry analysts, customers, and partners, is that social in the enterprise is not on the radar of many companies. It's also been a recurrent theme in many of our recent podcasts.

As consultant Gil Yehuda touched upon in a blog post, companies that use "10-year-old technologies and 20-year-old management styles" to address today's problems are not only going to miss the social bus, but will see the same fate as DEC, Compaq, and Xerox.

Today's collaboration imperative: a podcast with Patti Anklam

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Collaboration and teaming are nothing new to the enterprise. But according to many knowledge management professionals, including Patti Anklam, today's information overload has made collaboration and teaming more crucial to organizational effectiveness and competitiveness than ever before.


Patti is an independent consultant focusing on collaboration practices, social network analysis, value network analysis, and knowledge management systems strategy and architecture. She's also the author of "Net Work: A Practical Guide to Creating and Sustaining Networks at Work and in the World." We talked to her recently to unfold why there's such an imperative for organizations to adopt a more collaborative approach to business.

Prove E2.0's benefits by first focusing on a small use case

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Last week, the SOCIALtality blog published a series on social media and enterprise 2.0 adoption. It featured an interview with Jacob Morgan, Principal of Chess Media Group; and Wendy Troupe, the blog's founder. I thought it nicely framed issues surrounding adoption.

In part 3 of the conversation, Morgan says, "You need to focus on use cases before deploying platform ... You need to speak in terms of 'supporting' rather than 'changing."

This brought to mind a key approach we've taken with our customers when implementing social knowledge networks: Demonstrate the benefits of E2.0 in a specific situation (use case) first. Then demonstrate additional uses of the platform. The good news is that for the second project, the investment is very low, so the ROI can be high. I unfolded this more in my comment.

Vote in the KMWorld Reader Choice Awards poll

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KMWorld is holding its Reader Choice Awards poll, and we thought we'd share the link if it hasn't crossed your desk yet. They are polling readers to learn more about their current deployment activity and vendor awareness.

Calling all feedback on our Enterprise 2.0 Conference proposals!

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The folks from the Enterprise 2.0 Conference (Boston, June 2010) are doing a Call for Papers, where speakers submit proposals for sessions. All proposals are viewable by the public and open to feedback on the conference Web site. We've submitted three proposals and would love to know what you think! We'll be using your feedback to refine our proposals to make sure we talk about what you want to hear about.

Here are our proposals:
Thanks to everyone for contributing! We have some interesting conversation going on in the feedback sections, and I encourage you to give it a read and share your thoughts. You'll be able to vote on all proposals Jan. 6-20.

Have a "social" holiday!

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This year, in lieu of sending traditional holiday cards, we have created an electronic greeting for our friends in the Inmagic community. We've also made a donation to the Greater Boston Food Bank on behalf of our employees, customers, partners, and community. From everyone here at Inmagic, I wish you all a joyful holiday season and prosperous New Year!

The socialization of KM: Inmagic Year in Review 2009

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One thing 2009 will be remembered most for is the socialization of KM, the next topic we wanted to revisit as part of our Year in Review.

Social media has significantly changed KM due to the culture of sharing that has pervaded our lives, professionally and personally. People of increasingly diverse ages are trained, willing, and able to use social media. That makes it easier to get employees on board with social media in the enterprise, and understand how and why to use it.

However, a big question raised this year is, Has social media finally enabled KM? Andy Moore, Publisher of KMWorld, wrote in an article, "For decades, it’s [KM] been a promise. But knowledge management is finally possible. That’s because social networking MAKES it possible. By allowing fast, easy and lightweight collaboration between individuals and workgroups, tools such as user forums, blogs, wikis and their ilk have finally made good on the promise of KM."

That quote received a lot of attention from people in the industry, including Carl Frappaolo, who asked, Just what have we been doing until now? Carl's counter argument is that KM is not just about technology. It is "a business practice and ecosystem, that evolves over time."

From this debate, we conclude KM is about more than one technology and it's also about more than just technology. It's about capturing and using enterprise knowledge to achieve the business objectives at hand. It requires, among other factors, the right technology, the right strategy, cultural embracement, and senior management support.

Finding value in SharePoint and Google Wave: More feedback from Gilbane Boston 2009

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I've compiled more thoughts on Gilbane Boston from our team here. Some big topics of conversation at the show were SharePoint, Google Wave, and collaboration, which were explored and parsed in various ways throughout the panel sessions. Here's our take on some of the sessions we attended.

The global workforce continues to emerge: Inmagic Year in Review 2009

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Another trend worth noting for our Year in Review is that organizational structures continue to take on many new forms. Workforces are becoming increasing globalized, teams are becoming dispersed, and hours are irregular. Remote working has also become increasingly prevalent. As much as 10 percent of today’s workforce telecommutes, over triple the level of 2000, according to a Northeastern University and IBM study.

A major implication of this is that team collaboration will become increasingly crucial to business operations. Organizations need new ways to efficiently communicate and share knowledge across departments, offices, and borders.

Solutions also need to be cost-effective. With budgets tight and resources reduced, decisions will lean towards cost-effective, out-of-the-box, easy-to-deploy and maintain solutions that leverage existing content management and enterprise search technology, such as SharePoint.

What's more, with analysts predicting high employee turnover in 2010, some workforces will become permanently dispersed. Organizations need to have knowledge retention plans in place to capture employees' collective knowledge before they leave.

As content management consultant Chris Brown told us in a podcast in October, new social knowledge management technologies can provide organizations the ability to retain this knowledge, and use knowledge assets in ways that help employees collaborate and be more productive.

SharePoint 2010 threatening ECM vendors, ESN to wane, and other thoughts from Gilbane Boston 2009

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Overall, I thought the Gilbane Boston conference was a great learning experience. One of my biggest takeaways is that the industry has clearly moved past where it was one short year ago when most of the talk was about early adoption of social media technologies. The industry is now taking E2.0 seriously.

As these technologies "cross the chasm," it will become increasingly important to tightly integrate social media into real and practical applications. Otherwise, the industry will only create more information silos.

In fact, one analyst panel predicted a shakeout in the enterprise social networking (ESN) market as the "hype cycle" wanes in favor of producing real value to the enterprise. Social media isn't a market; it's a descriptor for technology. Vendors that succeed will be the ones that leverage these new technologies to help enterprises add value to their content and applications, and deliver real and tangible business benefits to end users and the business.

Basically, I think it comes down to this: Social networking tools are capturing a lot of buzz. But to what end? Are they tools in search of a market and business value? Will their value be limited, given their almost singular focus on connecting people to people, and not people to the crucial content buried in silos?

I also sat through the SharePoint 2010 workshops. I think the platform will become an increasing threat to enterprise content management (ECM) vendors. However, companies that focus on ease-of-use for end-users, bringing together disparate content into a single knowledge management portal, and leveraging and complementing SharePoint are in a great position, because our world is all about supporting the content user and knowledge worker.

I consider myself a classic "end user," and I would never use a product like SP 2010 out of the box. It's simply not designed or intended for me. I suppose I could wait for IT to build me a SharePoint app, but I'd rather use a product that is sit-down simple for me to use. Many of our customers share the same sentiment. That's why we've built Presto to leverage SharePoint, while delivering real end-user value through an application designed for their needs.

So from my vantage point at the show -- and maybe this is the marketer in me -- but I think our approach of using social media to create content-based communities (social knowledge networks) is spot-on industry trends. We had great feedback from attendees in the panels where Presto users were featured.

It's not a question of content management systems (CMS) vs. ESN, or proprietary ECM vs. open source CMS, which is the debate that most of the vendors seemed to want to make. It's really about solving business problems and delivering real benefit and ROI by making diverse content accessible to end-users.

It's also about using social media constructs to inform and enhance that content to make it more relevant. And it's about creating communities of knowledge around that content. We address the needs of content consumers, who have largely been on the outside looking in, whereas as ECM tools have been focused on content producers, and not accessibility by end-users.

Google Books case still unsettled? Inmagic Year in Review 2009

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Google's efforts to digitize millions of copyrighted books has been a four-year battle between the Internet behemoth and authors and publishers. But 2009 marked a turning point in the case, which we're revisiting at part of our Year in Review.

The Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers, and several authors and publishers filed a class action lawsuit against Google Books in 2005. Their argument was that Google would violate their copyrights by scanning their works and creating short excerpts without their permission. They claimed it would also monopolize access to information and intellectual properties. Many librarians thought Google would, in effect, take over their role.

But on Nov. 19 of this year, the court granted preliminary approval of an amended settlement, which covers a much smaller group of scanned books. It includes those published in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia, and those registered in the U.S. copyright office. However, questions remain on exactly how Google Books will play out, such as issues surrounding privacy and risk of censorship.

Despite this, Google has made clear that its goals are virtuous. "Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful," according to a quote on Google's Web site from Sergey Brin, the company's co-founder and President of Technology. And for now, it appears that's just what's happening. You can now search through the full text of 7 million books using Google Books.

What are your thoughts on the case? Is it a good thing or a bad thing?

Warm welcome to our new VP of Products, Bob Warren

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Wanted to extend a warm welcome to Bob Warren, who has joined Inmagic as our new Vice President of Products. He comes to us from MetaCarta, and will be driving our global product development strategy. We put out a press release with more details on Bob and what he'll be doing for us.

Biggest challenge of enterprise social technology integration: takeaways from Gilbane Boston 2009

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A common takeaway we drew from the Gilbane Boston Conference was that social features, such as tagging and commenting, are becoming increasing prevalent in various enterprise data and content management systems. Inmagic Solutions Engineer Kevin Rourke, however, sums up the biggest challenge he's seeing surrounding this initiative:

How culture influences enterprise social media adoption -- Inmagic Year in Review 2009

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Organizational culture is a major factor impacting adoption of social media in the enterprise. As we look back on 2009 for our Year in Review series, we found culture, as well as technology, are crucial components to a successful enterprise 2.0 strategy.

Chris Jones, Consulting Principal of SourcePOV, often sees culture as a barrier to entry preventing many organizations from implementing enterprise 2.0 strategies. He talked about it detail during our podcast with him in November, and in his presentation at one of our user groups in October. He emphasizes that a key to creating a successful E2.0 strategy is to have a culture that values collaboration.

E2.0 thought leader Andrew McAfee supported this notion in a KMWorld interview in September. He said, "I always look to the senior leadership to see if they are sincerely interested in helping people collaborate, capturing what the organization knows. Do they really realize that it is a serious challenge? If they do, then chances are much, much higher that they are going to be interested in these [social media] tools."

The importance of culture was also brought to light this year by an article from Dion Hinchcliffe of ZDNet. Dion wrote how it's surprisingly common to encounter a resistance to social technology in "organizations that have fewer competitive pressures, are highly specialized, or are unusually late adopters of technology."

This also speaks to the idea that E2.0 is not a one-size-fits-all initiative. It should be able to be adjusted, and fit within a given organization's structure, processes, and culture, so that it achieves that company's specific business objectives.

Photos from Gilbane Boston Conference 2009

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The Inmagic team was out for the Gilbane Boston Conference last week, and we've returned with pics and feedback from the event. Below you can check out the photos we snapped. Next week we'll be sharing our thoughts on the show, so check back!

How to capitalize on in-house experts -- Inmagic Year in Review 2009

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Last week we kicked off our Inmagic Year in Review 2009 series by recollecting the "Is enterprise 2.0 a crock?" idea. Today I want to revisit another hot topic of 09: In-house experts, and how organizations can best benefit from them.

Finding an expert is an informal process, as this Wall Street Journal article explored in October. That's because in-house experts aren't just the usual suspects, such as lead scientists, executive technologists, and head researchers. They're many employees -- amateurs, even, as Ross Dawson highlighted in August.

In-house experts are a crucial form of knowledge within an organization. Just as we need to find and extract information from books, articles, documents, etc., we need to find and extract information that lives within employees' minds.

For instance, a sales associate might know that slides 3, 5, 11 of a new PowerPoint presentation resonated well with a certain prospect. This is important information for the sales team moving forward. When other salespeople use the presentation, they'll know to be sure to go over those slides, and expand on the information contained in them.

This PowerPoint presentation, as well as books, documents, etc., are forms of explicit information, and can be searched in a fairly structured way. But information that resides within employees is tacit, fluid, and constantly changing.

Continuing with our example, say several salespeople use the PowerPoint and discover that slides 3, 5, and 11 only resonate well with prospects within a particular industry. The tacit knowledge surrounding the PowerPoint presentation has been refined.

The challenge for organizations, then, is to find, collect, and share this knowledge that exists within in-house experts -- whether those "experts" are senior executives or junior associates. This was a common theme we found among organizations in 2009. Our take on it, as you'd expect, is that this is an opportunity for social media in the enterprise.

Social technology is fluid in nature, and can make the expert seekers and the experts themselves self-sufficient in finding and providing information. For instance, when employees have the ability to add their knowledge directly to implicit information, such as with comments and ratings, they can share their knowledge with others. This is the nutshell of social knowledge management.

Social knowledge management acts as a connector of people -- with all of their thoughts, ideas, and opinions -- to relevant content. Putting context around content is what will enable organizations to quantify, analyze, and experience collaboration improvements around their knowledge strategies.

One major improvement is knowledge retention, which is a natural by-product of social knowledge management. Capturing implicit knowledge that is tied to relevant content relieves companies of the aging workforce and turnover rates that challenge knowledge retention.

More hot trends and topics of 2009 to come ...

Collaboration inside the firewall needs context and purpose

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David Armano put forth his 2010 social media predictions in a post on Harvard Business. And while I think David is spot-on with his outlook regarding social media in the consumer space, I think he misses an opportunity to discuss social media trends inside the enterprise.

David predicts 2010 will be the year many more businesses will get serious about using social media behind the firewall. I'm with you, David. But I disagree with David's idea that businesses will need to resort to gimmicks within their social media applications to drive usage. Usage will be driven and driven alone through productivity gains and tangible business benefits.

This is the key to understanding the difference between social media trends inside and outside the firewall. Think of it like this: When used in the consumer space, social media is a communications platform. You chat on IM, share pictures on Facebook, and discuss news on Twitter. Enterprises don't need another communications vehicle. Phone, e-mail, and face-to-face interaction accomplish that very effectively.

What organizations are seeking, however, are ways to enable faster, more cost-effective collaboration among employees for business benefit. And that's how social media adds value inside the enterprise. It is a collaboration tool.

But not just any collaboration tool. It must be driven by results. For instance, when we work with media companies, they want the editorial staff to be able to create better stories faster. They want to speed the research phase, which involves gaining better access to internal and external documents, news, and facts. They also want to improve collaboration among editors, and make better and more efficient use of the research. Both content and collaboration are key in this situation.

We see this pattern over and over again in our experience with our customers. Organizations are seeking collaboration with context and purpose. Another example is with entertainment firms. We find they want to make new shows faster. They are looking to foster a more creative environment by using social media, and they want access to past projects to learn from their mistakes and build on their successes -- not to merely communicate with colleagues.

I expanded on this thought more in the comment I left on David's article, and you can click over to read the rest!

Is enterprise 2.0 a crock? Inmagic Year in Review 2009

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It might be the end of the week, but there's no better time than the present to kick off our Inmagic Year in Review series.

The first story I want to revisit is the firestorm Dennis Howlett ignited when he posted his "Enterprise 2.0: what a crock" story on ZDNet in August. It seems there were just as many people agreeing with Dennis as disagreeing, but we thought Gil Yehuda summed it up nicely when he wrote this on his blog:

" ... I don't believe 'Enterprise 2.0' is a solution, I believe it is a description ... Enterprise 2.0 describes a transformed organization. If your organization uses social computing technology and that has transformed your organization's nature -- then describe that as a new kind of organization -- one that has been inspired by the analogous change that we see in the Web."

Enterprise 2.0 isn't going to suddenly be here overnight. It will be a steady, progressive adoption. But the dialogue will keep us thinking about the possibilities and limitations of E2.0, and how it can benefit our organizations.

Inmagic Year in Review 2009 and Predictions 2010: What defined this year and what will shape the next

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This year's headlines, comment threads, Twitter chats, online searches, and offline discussions tell us a lot about what's dominated our attention and defined our work as information professionals for the past 365 days. They reveal our passions, goals, trials, tribulations, and successes of 2009. And with the year coming to a close, we're going to look back on it all.

We'll reflect on the major trends, technologies, debates, controversies, and events of the year in our Inmagic Year in Review 2009 series. We'll revisit topics we found garnered a lot of engagement, including:
That's just a few of things that have made our list. We'll start revisiting each topic in turn throughout the month. We also want to open the floor to your input. What do you think topped 2009? What deserves another mention, a grand finale? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments.

And no year in review is complete without a look at the year ahead. So we'll also be putting our best thoughts forward in our Inmagic Predictions 2010 series. Based on our customer interactions and deployments, discussions with industry peers, and observations of 2009's techs and trends, we'll forecast the knowledge management market for 2010. Our aim is to shed light on the budding trends that promise to grow, early technologies due to take off, and innovative ideas expected to become viable solutions.

Our first recap post will hit the blog later this week.

Metro Vancouver hosts Andornot user group Thursday -- RSVP deadline today

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Our partner, Andornot, is holding its next user group meeting this Thursday for Inmagic users in the Vancouver area. Today is the last day to RSVP, so be sure to sign up if you're interested!

Metro Vancouver will be the special host for this user group. The organization provides water, sewerage, parks, housing, and planning services to 22 member municipalities in the Greater Vancouver region of British Columbia. It recently replaced its ILS with DB/Text Library Suite, comprising DB/TextWorks, Web Publisher Pro, and Genie, with implementation and consulting services from Andornot. At the meeting, Metro Vancouver library staff and Andornot will discuss the implementation, and the new publicly searchable catalog created using Inmagic's platform and Andornot's Starter Kit.

As always, the floor will be open to your questions, and there will time to bounce ideas off your fellow Inmagic users. If there's anything you'd like the meeting to cover, just e-mail Andornot in advance.

Here are the nitty-gritty details:

WHAT: Andornot user group meeting

WHEN: Thursday, Dec. 3 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

WHERE: Metro Vancouver
4330 Kingsway
Burnaby, B.C., Canada
Map

RSVP: Today, Dec. 1 to Thora Gislason

MORE INFO: Check out Andornot's blog.

Pactolus's Paul Blondin joins Inmagic's board of directors

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We wanted to extend a warm welcome to Paul Blondin, who is the newest member of our board of directors. He's currently Chairman of the Board for Pactolus Communication Software, and has spent over 25 years in the software industry. He'll be providing strategic vision and guidance to our management team, and we're looking forward to the expertise he'll bring to our company. To read more about Paul and what he'll be doing at Inmagic, check out our press release below.

KMWorld presents Inmagic KM Promise Award 2009

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We were excited to learn KMWorld has given Inmagic its KM Promise Award for 2009. Thank you to the editors! For more information on the award, check out our press release below.

Gilbane Boston discounts: Attend Technology Showcase for free or take $200 off any registration package

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If you're interested in attending the Gilbane Boston conference in December, but would rather see just some things at the show, we have a great option for you. All members of the Inmagic community (that includes blog readers!) are invited to attend the Technology Showcase for FREE. This gives you access to:
Think of it as the lite version of the Gilbane Conference.

On the other hand, if you'd rather see more things at the conference, we're also offering a $200 discount on ANY of the other conference options.

To get the goods, just register with discount code Inmagic.

Social knowledge management panels to see at Gilbane Boston 2009

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The Gilbane Boston conference is fast approaching -- Dec. 1-3 to be exact. This year's theme is "Content, Collaboration, and Customers," which will be broken down into four main tracks:
  • Web Business and Engagement
  • Managing Collaboration and Social Media: Internal and External
  • Enterprise Content: Searching, Integrating, and Publishing
  • Content Infrastructure
If you're interested in learning more about social knowledge management in particular, I recommend you go to these two panels:

Collaboration Challenges 2: Sharing Content
This will be an interactive discussion on the challenges surrounding effective content sharing inside and outside the firewall. This would be good for anyone interested in starting and/or improving a social knowledge management strategy. Panelists and the audience will be sharing best practices and tools they've used and that are working for them.

Moderator:
Geoffrey Bock, Senior Analyst of Collaboration and Enterprise Social Software, Gilbane Group

Panelists:
Bob Lindenberg, Senior Vice President, Putnam Investments
Ginger Richards, Pew Research Center
Jason Corsello, Vice President, Knowledge Infusion

When:
Wednesday, Dec. 2, 1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Collaboration Challenges 5: Fostering and Supporting Innovation

This interactive discussion will cover the challenges of instituting an innovation management discipline, and solutions for overcoming them. This also speaks to issues such as organizational culture.

Moderator:
Carl Frappaolo, Co-founder and Principal, Information Architected

Panelists:
Mary Lou Tierney, Enterprise Architecture Planning and Innovation, MITRE
Melanie Browne, Librarian and Project Manager, Maple Leaf Foods (an Inmagic customer, by the way)

When:
Thursday, Dec. 3, 9:40 a.m. - 10:40 a.m.

And don't forget to stop by to see us in exhibit area G. We'll be there to talk shop, discuss knowledge management trends, and give you pointers for shaping your organization's social knowledge management strategies and initiatives for 2010.

If you haven't signed up for Gilbane Boston yet, it's not too late. You can register on the conference site.

Presenting our Know and Go series: Bite-sized information to help you start and improve your social knowledge management strategy

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We've put together a new educational resource to help organizations begin, plan, manage, and improve their social knowledge management strategies. Our "Know and Go" series is designed to give you the latest information on the trends and topics that will help shape your organization's social knowledge management strategy, all in a “bite-sized” format consisting of webcasts, videos, white papers, and more.

The best part is, they're on demand. Grab them whenever you need guidance. We made them for quick, easy viewing and sharing. And as an aside, this program will be launched officially in a few weeks. But we wanted to give our blog readers advanced notice of our first webcast. (Perks of being part of the Inmagic community! :))

Chris Brown, Content and Knowledge Management Consultant for Inmagic, hosts "Knowledge Management 2.0: Enterprise Social Networking and Social Knowledge Management." In this webcast, Chris covers best practices for socializing your organization's content.

New enterprise social networking technologies are beginning to gain adoption. But before you know what solution will fit your organization's needs -- or if your organization is even ready for this kind of technology -- you'll need to answer crucial questions, including:
  • Will your knowledge management needs be properly addressed by simply connecting people to people? Or do you need to connect people to the information and content that will help them -- and your organization -- become more effective?
  • Can you wait for your social network to reach critical mass before you realize value and organizational impact?
  • What role should social media play in your overall content and knowledge management strategy?
Chris provides answers and insight for these questions and more. More Know and Go sessions are in the works, and we’ll have a subscription link for you soon. In the meantime, check out the first installment and let us know what you think.

How social media adds value to your company's knowledgebase

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I contributed an article to ITWorld that covers the capabilities that social media technology can add to an organization's knowledge repository by using a social knowledge network (SKN). However, when planning your SKN, it's crucial the initiative not be viewed just as a social networking project -- because it's not. It's based on enterprise knowledge management principles. In my article I give five recommendations for extracting maximum cost benefits from your SKN. Click over to check it out. And thanks to ITWorld for publishing my piece!


Inmagic reports positive results in third quarter 2009

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A lot of positive things have been going on here at Inmagic these past several months, and we thought we'd share the news in a round-up press release. Some of the latest organizations to adopt Presto and Presto for Social Libraries are the Canadian Tax Foundation, Nisqually Indian Tribe, and the San Francisco Symphony. Software Magazine named us to its list of the world’s 500 largest software and service providers, and Edison Venture Fund recently provided the company with a follow-on investment to support our expansion.

You can read more details on the news in our press release below.

Inmagic and Maxus Australia give Ecuadorian school library a fresh start with DB/Text Works

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Jini Andrade, a librarian at a special education school in Quito, Ecuador, finally has a way to organize and catalog the 10,866 books in the school library. She's using DB/Text, which we recently donated to the school with our partner, Maxus Australia. Maxus put together a case study covering the story.

As you might imagine, the school, Ninos De Maria, Fundacion Padre Jose Kentenich, has very limited resources, and had been operating its library without any form of cataloging whatsoever. Then Sue Hodgson, recently a librarian at Resolute Mining in Perth, West Australia, traveled to Quito to do volunteer work through the organization Antipodeans Abroad. Her assignment was to work with Jini for four weeks.

Sue had used DB/TextWorks in the past and "always found it one of the most useful and intuitive library software packages around." So when she saw the piles upon piles of books strewn about the school library floor, she immediately saw how DB/Text Works would be ideal for organizing and cataloging the books.

Sue used the program to create a simple organizational structure for the library comprising nine subject areas, including Reference, Fiction, History, Language, Mathematics, Science, Arts, Religion, and English. Color coding is being used to classify subheadings.

Jini has degrees in teaching and English, computer skills, and access to a PC with Windows 2000. She has no library background. But when Sue taught her how she would catalog the books using the DB/Text Works system, she found it easy to learn.

Although Sue's volunteer assignment is over, she has given Jini the technology and knowledge to finish cataloging all of the books in the library. Other teachers at the school will be helping Jini.

Sue sent this message to Maxus after her assignment with Jini was completed:
"Your generous donation is so appreciated you cannot imagine the excitement it has generated. It will in the long term make life in the library so much more functional. It will mean being able to lend books, which is currently not allowed. I have found the project very rewarding and believe I am going to be leaving Jini with some skills and confidence to complete the project."
I think I speak for both Maxus and us here at Inmagic when I say we're so delighted to hear about the happy ending. Best wishes to the school, its staff, and the children!

For more details and photos from the project, click over Maxus's case study.

E2.0 not about technology???

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E2.0 not about technology? Really? I keep seeing this phrase echo across the E2.0 (enterprise 2.0) landscape lately, and I'm not sure of it's origin. This tech backlash could be in part due to the crowded social-technology playing field that is making a lot of noise right now. Or it could be just technology nay-sayers that have been burned in the past (and who hasn't?).

But if it's not about technology, then how does one plan to collaborate? Smoke signals? Vulcan mind melds? It can't not be about technology, just like it can't not be about culture, or executive influence, or probably 100 other factors that directly and indirectly shape an organization's social knowledge management strategy.

My take from all this requires a certain clarification: E2.0 is not about some technologies. There are certainly companies claiming "social technology" capabilities that in actuality do not resemble anything close to social -- or technological for that matter. But there are definitely players, new and old, that will emerge as key drivers in the E2.0 evolution. Our job, as end-users, buyers, vendors, evangelists, or (insert relevant title here), is to vet out the technologies that best play to our own (or our customers') organizations strengths.

SourcePOV's Chris Jones: Enterprise 2.0's biggest barrier is culture

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If you're considering or exploring enterprise 2.0 or social KM strategies at your company, you might have recognized a key barrier to entry: your organizational culture. Maybe your company doesn't value or understand the business benefits of social collaboration. Maybe executive management doesn't support it. Whatever the reason(s), many of them are influenced by corporate culture.

You're not alone. It's something Chris Jones, Consulting Principal of SourcePOV, sees often in his work. He talked about it more during a podcast with Janelle, which you can listen to above.

Chris focuses significant energy in collaboration services, a new approach he's developed for tackling knowledge management. You might recall that he presented at our user group meeting a couple weeks ago. In the podcast, he touches on some of the same themes that he covered in his presentation, "Imagine: A Knowledge Renaissance," with focus on forces impacting KM in today's organizations.

Janelle talks with Chris about the major trends he's following in KM. Chris discusses how he sees many organizations still rely on the "silo model" where enterprise knowledge is compartmentalized by departments or practice areas. Enterprise 2.0, however, has the ability to unlock these silos, allowing insight to be shared across organizational boundaries. Chris emphasizes the importance of creating a culture that values collaboration, and shared some advice for building that.

But he says culture isn't the only challenge facing knowledge workers. Another is information overload resulting from a flood of new resources made visible by social media. He sees this as a short-term challenge that can be addressed by knowledge workers taking steps to better index information. He says it's a question of establishing context, and that organizations need to focus on it.

"Establishing context has always been the mission and promise of KM," he says. "Now, more than ever, we need to get the job done."

Long-term, Chris sees holistic collaboration environments where all levels of the organization are involved in building the enterprise knowledgebase. Although he sees E2.0 as a corporate game changer, it will take some time before its effects will fully play out.

For more from Chris, you can read his blog at Driving Innovation in a Digital World. Chris also hosts three Twitter chats, that drive engagement and new insight on the themes above, including #e20ws, #smchat, and #ecosys. You can learn more about each and when they're happening at his blog. You can also follow Chris on Twitter @SourcePOV.

What has the billions spent on ECM and enterprise search accomplished?

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John Mancini, President of AIIM, pulled out these stats on ECM, ERM, and E2.0 from the organization's variety of market intelligence reports. They got me thinking two things: 1.) we've come a long way, baby; and 2.) we've got a ways to go. Assuming these stats are accurate, what has all the billions spent on ECM, enterprise search, and the like, accomplished?
31% of organizations have 20 or more content repositories that could usefully be linked, with email as the highest priority content.
The Internet brought with it a love of data, information, knowledge, and everything in between. There was just so much of it, and the proverbial Magic 8 ball (Google-like search) made it easier than ever to find information. Boy, those were the days ...

Well, the honeymoon is over and we are no longer satisfied with irrelevant search results or mountains of information spread across multiple silos. We want more. Like less time spent looking for information that may reside in a document or with an individual.
As well as manually filing inbound paper documents, 40% admit to routinely printing newly generated office documents and emails for the purpose of filing them as paper records.
It seems to me that for the past 10 to 15 years we've all been creating more silos and ultimately compounding the end-user access and productivity problem. Billions of dollars have been invested in ECM and enterprise search, and we're slowly coming to the realization that just because you have content and data, doesn't mean you have knowledge and collaboration. (This also illustrates our "physically captured but logically lost" theory.)
In 36% of large organizations, IT is managing the SharePoint roll out with no input from the Records Management Department. A further 14% admit that no one is in charge and it's completely out-of-control.
So while we might have a long way to go before we see stats like, "98% of organizations link silos and utilize social technologies to improve collaboration," we might not be so far off as we think. Sometimes recognizing the problem is half the battle.
Over half of organizations consider Enterprise 2.0 to be "important" or "very important" to their business goals and success. Only 25% are actually doing anything about it, but this is up from 13% in 2008. Knowledge-sharing, collaboration and responsiveness are considered the biggest drivers. Lack of understanding, corporate culture and cost are the biggest impediments.
And as social media becomes a natural part of daily lives (get coffee, feed the dog, check social networking sites, empty the dishwasher, etc.) we'll see more socialization in our business worlds.
47% of 18-30s and 31% of over 45's expect to use the same type of networking tools with business colleagues as with friends and family.
Social knowledge management within the enterprise might just be the nirvana that's been culminating all these years. No more silos? Access to subject-matter experts within an organization? Enhanced knowledge retention? Increased competitive advantage? Faster innovation cycles? Improved end-user and organizational productivity via socialized content? Improved workflow? Improved organizational effectiveness? Sounds like some good stats-in-the-making to me.

Chris Jones' takeaways on learning and collaboration from latest Inmagic user group meeting

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If you couldn't make it to our last user group meeting in North Carolina, you have another chance to get the scoop. Our guest speaker, Chris Jones from SourcePOV, has shared his takeaways from the meeting and slides from his presentation on his blog.

Here are few takeaways I found interesting:
  1. People produce knowledge, not process or technology; as ‘knowledge workers,’ they do this by applying context to raw information; metadata (via tagging) continues to be a primary means

  2. Due to the flood of electronic content, the workload of knowledge workers is ever increasing

  3. Social media is unlocking many doors to knowledge worker collaboration, but proliferation of niche SM tools remains a challenge; vendors are making headway as they work toward the needed integration, a key factor in Enterprise 2.0 enablement

  4. Learning and innovation share common threads (discovery, visualization, vetting of alternative solutions), prompting the question: Are ‘learning’ and ‘innovation’ really the same thing? Or perhaps driven from the same cognitive skill base?
You can read the rest on his blog. Thanks again, Chris, for speaking and sharing your insights!


The right E2.0 strategy for your organization

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We've talked before about how E2.0 is not just about the technology. It's not just about the culture either. And it is not just about you, or your boss, your customer, and the guy you worked with three years ago that made it big. It's about all of these elements combined.

Dennis Stevenson wrote about the "Fundamentals of Enterprise 2.0 Culture" in a recent post on the Original Thinking blog. He is correct when he says that culture and technology are not mutually exclusive entities when it comes to E2.0 adoption and use. But I disagree that one (culture) is more important than the other (technology). They are equal and necessary requirements to a successful E2.0 initiative.

For instance, some companies might be open to cultural diversity and change, which can help E2.0 flourish. But the company also needs the appropriate social technology so that it can take advantage of that culture and use it to realize business benefits of E2.0.

The social technologies that get it right will be chameleon-like in their ability to fit into any given organization's structure and culture -- whether their social boundaries are high, low, or somewhere in between. These technologies will also be adjustable, as companies figure out the right balance of social for their enterprise. Companies should be able "dial up" and "dial down" social controls as they see fit. At the end of the day, the right E2.0 recipe will be different for everyone based on these factors.

What do you think of SLA's proposed name change?

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If you haven't heard, the Special Libraries Association (SLA) has proposed changing its name to the Association for Strategic Knowledge Professionals. The organization wants to find a name that better communicates its value in the workplace.

All SLA members are encouraged to voice their opinion on the propsed name by casting an electronic vote in a special referendum that will run Nov. 16 to Dec. 9. The result will be announced on Dec. 10.

There have been a lot of discussions going on about the name change, and you can hit SLA's blog to learn how to join the conversation.

And if you want to catch up on how SLA arrived at the name "Association for Strategic Knowledge Professionals," you can check out the research the organization did.

Five reasons to socialize your knowledgebase inside the firewall

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If you're a regular reader, you probably are well-acquainted with the reasons we write about for bringing social media tools inside the firewall, and socializing your knowledge repository. ITBusinessEdge invited me contribute a guest piece on the subject, and they published it yesterday. In it I distill the five major arguments for socializing your knowledgebase:
  • Faster access to rich, relevant information
  • Consolidated information silos
  • Increased productivity
  • Reduced IT footprint and costs
  • Improved organizational effectiveness and ROI
For details of each, turn to the article.

Latest version of DB/Text Web Publisher Pro released

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For everyone using Web Publisher Pro out there, we released the latest version of the tool, v12. It's now compatible with our recently released DB/TextWorks v12. Web Publisher Pro v12 will be made available to all maintenance-paying customers through a maintenance notification. For more deets, take a look at the press release we put out.

SharePoint industry events to watch

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There are a couple of key shows coming up surrounding Microsoft SharePoint -- the Microsoft SharePoint Conference and SharePoint Connections.

Las Vegas plays host to the Microsoft SharePoint Conference Oct. 19-22. It'll be the first time Microsoft publicly shares all of what SharePoint 2010 has to offer. Almost 250 sessions are planned, covering topics including upgrading to the new version, building in it, best practices for deployment, and more. You can learn more about the sessions on the show's site. Unfortunately, the show is sold out, but you can still put yourself on the waiting list if you're jockeying for a spot.

Then it's a return to Sin City for SharePoint Connections on Nov. 9-12. It will cover both SharePoint 2010, as well as the current version, 2007. Some sessions will be best practices for SharePoint governance and design, virtualization options, and more. You can learn more and register on the show's site.

Info Pro-file: CM consultant Chris Brown talks content, context, and collaboration

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Inmagic is welcoming independent consultant Chris Brown to the team, and we wanted to introduce you to him and give you an early look into his perspectives and strategies surrounding CM and KM. Janelle and Chris caught up last week for an Info Pro-file podcast, and hit the basics, as well as the nitty gritty industry questions.

Listen in to learn about Chris's professional background in content management and the technology surrounding it. He'll be providing his industry viewpoints and drawing from his consulting experience to help shape the future of Presto.

Chris and Janelle talk about employee turnover and knowledge retention in the industry -- something many employers should be concerned about now that the economy is showing signs of turning the corner and companies are coming off their hiring freezes. Chris believes there's a big play for new knowledge management technologies, which have a major advantage over portals. He talks about how portals are primarily gateways to information, and fall short of helping retain knowledge in an organization.

But more important, however, is how these KM technologies are used. Pretty interfaces might look nice, but the key to unlocking their potential is to use them in ways that provide context to content.

"Having one storage area that people can access doesn't solve the problem," Chris says. "Because their problem is contextualized access to this information."

He shares some signature pieces of advice he provides to organizations, including not to focus on the KM technology as much as the human factor. That is, thinking about how knowledge assets will actually be used, and how they can help employees collaborate and be more efficient and productive.

The conversation also turns personal, and Janelle learns what Chris likes to read, who his favorite old Hollywood stars are, and why he loves to travel.

Upcoming user group meeting: Chris Jones presents and lunch will be served

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I always thought it was hard to pay attention to anything on an empty stomach. All you think about is food! Well, that's why we're teaming up with our partner InfoCrofters to combine our next user group meeting with lunch -- a lunch-and-learn, if you will. And the best part is, you don't have to be an Inmagic customer to attend.

The focus of this user group, which will take place on Oct. 15 in Research Triangle Park, will be on peer networking, getting industry advice and insight, and checking out the latest Inmagic technology. Our guest speaker is Chris Jones, KM expert and Consulting Principal of SourcePOV, an IT consultancy that specializes in collaborative innovation. He also hosts the #e20ws Twitter chat I told you about the other day. We'll provide lunch, light refreshments, and snacks.

Here's the agenda of the day:

11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.: Inmagic user group meeting and lunch
Connect with other Inmagic users over lunch to discuss best practices, trade tips and tricks, and discover how your peers are making the most of their Inmagic technology. (This session is open to Inmagic customers only.)

1:30 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.: Guest presentation by Chris Jones of SourcePOV
Get the inside scoop on the evolution of knowledge management when Chris Jones presents, "Imagine: A Knowledge Renaissance - Convergence in Traditional KM, Information Architecture and Library Science Fueled by Social Media." (This session is open to all.)

2:15 p.m. – 3 p.m.: Inmagic Presents Presto for Social Libraries
Learn about Presto for Social Libraries, a unique application of Inmagic Presto that brings together library workflow management, social technologies, and content publishing in a secure, Web-based environment. (This session is open to all.)

Need-to-know details:

WHAT: Lunch-and-Learn with Inmagic and InfoCrofters

WHEN: Thursday, Oct. 15 from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

WHERE: North Carolina Biotechnology Center
Board of Directors and Presidents Rooms
15 T.W. Alexander Drive
Research Triangle Park
Directions

COST: Free.

REGISTER: Pleas note, seating is limited. If you and your colleagues are interested in joining us, register by e-mail. In your message, please indicate what portion(s) of the event you're planning to attend:

* Full event: 11:30 a.m. - 3 p.m. (Lunch will be provided.)
* User group meeting/lunch only: 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. (Lunch will be provided.)
* Presentations only: 1:30 p.m. - 3 p.m.

Podcast: Pew's Lee Rainie drills into mobile, the Internet, and libraries

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There's no that doubt mobility has changed the way people access and connect with one another. Just think of how laptops and cell phones have changed our lives. But another clear demonstration of this is in the library. Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, described it this way during a recent podcast with Janelle:

"We see a lot of evidence that the life people lead in libraries is very similar to the life that people lead in a lot of knowledge-based industries. There's a flattening of organizational structure. There are fewer layers of bureaucracy in lots of places and that's a direct result of the Internet and other communications technologies that are making it easier for people to reach across departments ..."

Click play for more from Lee. You'll hear him discuss his latest research from Pew Internet, "Friending Libraries: Why Libraries Can Become Nodes in People's Social Networks." It finds, among other things, that over half of Americans are using the Internet as a diversion and method of coping during the recession.

Lee and Janelle talk about information overload, and how knowledge workers are feeling more stressed about work because of the always-on connectivity of information technology.

But even though it's easy for people to look up things on the Internet these days, it's not eliminating librarians' jobs, says Lee. Patrons are still dependent on librarians as expert gatekeepers and curators of information to help guide them to what they're looking for and filter out irrelevant content.

A major trend Pew Internet is focusing on right now is mobile connectivity. Lee says: "There's tremendous excitement that started with the introduction of the iPhone a couple of years ago, and now there's a whole marketplace for smart phones. It's not clear how this is all going to sort out and it's not clear even what patrons want out of the technology. So we're in a great experimental moment and moment of uncertainty of how mobile connectivity is actually going to play out in a useful way in people's lives."

Lee is also working on a book, tentatively titled "Networking: The New Social Operating System." He and coauthor Barry Wellman, a sociologist at University of Toronto are exploring ways technology has "put traditional social interaction on steroids." It's slated for publishing by late 2010 or early 2011.

Lots of things covered in our podcast, so be sure to tune in!

Enterprise 2.0 Twitter chat tonight with tech consultant Chris Jones

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If you want to talk enterprise 2.0 with industry advocates, practitioners, (and maybe even some nay-sayers), hit your computer or mobile phone at 8 p.m. ET tonight. Chris Jones, Consulting Principal of SourcePOV, is kicking off the new #e20ws Twitter chat. The agenda for the conversation will go something like this:
  • Goals and objectives
  • E2.0 challenges of silo culture
  • E2.0 standards, alignment, and diversity of thinking
  • E2.0 engagement (n:n)
  • E2.0 SM technology (intro)
  • Next steps
The chat promises to be a good networking and connecting opportunity. You can also find Chris at his blog, Driving Innovation in a Digital World; and on Twitter @SourcePOV.

How social knowlege networks let you work out loud

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"Working out loud" is the best description of what enterprise 2.0 is all about. And I'm sort of writing out loud right now as I think about it, because the idea struck me while I was at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference earlier this year, and I've been meaning to blog it.

Twitter is a great example of working out loud. It allows others to tap into your expertise and lets you tap into the expertise of others. E2.0 is an exercise in symbiosis, where both individuals derive a benefit from the relationship. If you've ever worked in teams in math or a science lab, the key was to show your work so others could help you, and vice versa. In the end, E2.0 is a classic exercise of the sum being greater than the whole of its parts.

I think social knowledge networks embrace the concept of working out loud in the enterprise. There are just too many restrictions, regulations, and constraints within most organizations to allow a social free-for-all, or a Wikipedia-like environment where anyone can deem themselves an expert and update content. This has been the bane of existence for many social strategies.

SKNs, on the other hand, mitigate the free-for-all and allow a designated administrator to provide control over who, when, what, and how contributions are made to the SKN. This allows individuals to work out loud within the constraints of their organization's culture and processes. As a result, content and information retains its veracity and value, which keeps users and contributors coming back for more.

That which makes Inmagic different

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Enterprise 2.0 is chock-full of vendors right now. Each company is jockeying for market share, has its own take on E2.0, and is offering a slightly varied solution which will (they claim) solve our knowledge/collaboration/innovation/time-to-market challenges.

As with any market, differentiation is one of the big challenges vendors need to address and manage, which in turn helps users find the best fit for their organization. We believe it is important for us to be clear about what sets us apart from the crowd -- what we are, and equally important, what we are not. Like we've said before, there is no one-size-fits-all enterprise 2.0 solution. In a report by Gartner on the emerging social software field:

"[The social software market] … is evolving in response to the demand for a coherent way to support information creation and sharing, team communication and coordination, and communities and informal social interaction. Buyers are looking for flexible environments where participants can find and interact with one another, and create, organize and share information. The promise is one of improved "connectedness" as well as the capture and dissemination of informal knowledge by capitalizing on community involvement."

With that said, in general terms, here are the basic differentiators between Inmagic and other E2.0 vendors. We gathered this information based on what our customers have told us about their Presto implementations and our market intelligence. If you click the image, it'll open a new window where you'll be able to click on the hyperlinks in the chart. For more explanation of the chart, read on below.


Social knowledge networks (SKNs) created using Presto are differentiated because the core product capability begins with having an existing knowledge repository (or "information honey pot"). Presto then enables that content to be socialized in a controlled environment.

Why is this approach different? Because it is not based on sharing for sharing's sake. Sharing for sharing's sake will likely be the demise of many vendors because it requires mass users and frequent input to get the system going and ingrained in the everyday workflow.

With Presto, users need not engage to fill a void. Rather, the foundation for interaction centers around content. Social knowledge networks are at the intersection of content producers and content consumers. You cannot have one without the other and the SKN is the mechanism for uniting the two.

For Inmagic, it all comes back to the content. The content gives context and purpose to socialization. The socialization makes it viral and pulls in additional users. This "land and expand" strategy does not require a major cultural shift and it can function with few users/contributors and still deliver value.

But because of its viral nature, it will spread as more users interact with it. That's what gets it established and what keeps it going. It's easy to contribute content, build the repository, engage more users, and socialize more content. Soon you have your very own content-based social ecosystem.

Enterprise 2.0 no longer if or when, but how

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One of the challenges the knowledge management industry is facing right now is moving enterprise 2.0 from early adopters to mainstream acceptance. Just as Dion Hinchcliffe writes in this ZDNet article, some innovators like Andrew McAfee are firm in their conviction that enterprise 2.0 can solve a wealth of problems. Others, such as Dennis Howlett, believe enterprise 2.0 is "a crock."

Undoubtedly, it will take real success stories to prove enterprise 2.0's efficacy and benefits. And while that might take some time, I think we've at least cracked the enterprise 2.0 door open wide enough to say that it is not a matter of "if" or "when." Enterprise 2.0 is here, and it's now a matter of "how." (More on this in the comment I left on the article.)

Most companies, whether kicking, screaming, or cannon-ball diving, will adopt some form of E2.0 in their business. But how they make use of E2.0 will be the deciding factor in their success. Like we've said before, there is no one-size-fits-all E2.0 strategy. It needs to be finessed, molded, and adapted to each organization, and in some cases, each individual within that organization.

As such, and contrary to some of the E2.0 misconceptions Dion writes in his piece, it might take a long time for some organizations to figure out how to adopt E2.0. If not properly managed, it can be harmful or disrupt corporate hierarchy. Again, this goes back to the fact that E2.0 isn't a black and white solution.

Because E2.0 is still in Wild West mode, there is no right way to implement an E2.0 strategy. But the good news is, on the flip side, there is no wrong way either. Through trial and error and determining their own particular "how," companies will figure out and possibly debunk their own unique misconceptions in the process.

Meet the Team: Leah Barrett Demers

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We picked up our Meet the Team series and interviewed Inmagic's Marketing Communications Manager, Leah Barrett Demers. Listen to our podcast to get acquainted, and learn what Leah does at Inmagic, how she got to where she is today, what her favorite tchotchke is, and more.

Signal-to-noise ratio: Finding the sense in nonsense

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I just read Mike's thoughts on yesterday's My.TechnologyReview.com article, and I of course, had a few thoughts of my own. I want to elaborate on several points, so I'm posting here, where verbosity is perhaps more tolerable than in a comment on the article. ;)

I agree with what Mike said, and add:

Yes, the way the wisdom of the community must be managed inside the firewall and outside the firewall are totally different. We can agree that the goal of socialization in both environments is to create or improve our wisdom or intelligence. But to gather this wisdom, we must operate differently on the two sides of the firewall.

Outside the firewall, transparency and democracy are of the utmost importance. These two concepts deliver the trust that the data is not tainted or skewed to one perspective. Without these concepts in place, people will not contribute and community wisdom will not be generated.

For example, if reviews of a hotel can be edited or deleted by the site manager, the reviews are worthless because the scrubbed site is now an advertisement rather than a open and honest airing of opinions. And because we know that people sometimes post crazy positive or crazy negative reviews, we (the public) know that, just like in real life, we need to take the reviews with a grain of salt.

However, this transparency and democracy lead to OTHER problems. Problem No. 1: Veracity. Let's say I hate a certain hotel chain, so any time I can, I give them a bad review, even if I've never been to that location.

Problem No. 2: Gaming the system. Per the article, "If you have two or three people voting 500 times," the results are not informative. These issues decrease the signal-to-noise ratio. The signal (good content) stays the same, and noise (bad content) increases.

So while these problems damage the value of social commentary generated in public sites, they are necessary evils to ensure transparency and democracy. Remember Churchill's famous dictum: "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." (That's from a House of Commons speech on Nov. 11, 1947.) To paraphrase: Social wisdom is better than ads.

Let's turn to inside the firewall now. Within corporations, transparency and democracy move down a notch. They are important, but they are not the most important. Accuracy and trust in the data become the most important attributes within a social system inside the firewall. People are making business decisions based on the data, and if they can't trust it, they won't use the system. Therefore, veracity is job one, and gaming of ratings must be avoided.

This takes us to the social volume knob. An internally used knowledge repository should have a social volume knob. It allows the content administrator to control and maintain the accuracy of the system.

If a first-year associate can blog all day about irrelevant topics and make misleading statements, does this improve the overall quality of the system? No. If a comment contains a rumor that is known to be false, should it stay in the system? No. If a disgruntled employee is negatively ranking their boss's contributions, should we allow this to continue? No.

A social volume knob gives the content administrator the ability to edit or delete erroneous or misguided social commentary. It also enables control of who is allowed to blog (only experts please). It also provides reports and statistics on social use so we can identify when the system is being misused. And because users are logged in, it prevents gaming of ratings by only allowing one person, one vote.

The social volume knob must be used with care. If it is seen as dictatorial or capricious, it can damage transparency and democracy to the point where the system and its ability to gather social wisdom will be harmed. But used with care, the social volume knob has the opposite effect. It removes junk from the system and improves overall quality.

Remember the old adage "garbage in, garbage out." With a social volume knob, you can catch and eliminate the garbage before it finds its way into a business decision. In essence, a social volume knob increases the signal-to-noise ratio. More signal (high-quality content), less noise (low-quality content). This is the nirvana of a inside-the-firewall social knowledge application.

Two's crowd wisdom, three's just a crowd

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When you go online to look up a product and research what people are saying about it, how much can you trust those ratings and reviews? In short, "can you trust crowd wisdom?"

That's the question Kristina Grifantini posed in her article on My.TechnologyReview.com yesterday. She goes on to explore the possible distortion of online ratings and reviews, citing a study by Vassilis Kostakos, an assistant professor at the University of Madeira in Portugal and adjunct assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University. He found a small number of users were responsible for providing a large number of ratings. For example, only 5 percent of active Amazon users cast votes on more than 10 products.

After reading this though, I think the conversation needs to be different when we are talking about social networks within an organization’s firewall. In that instance, it’s not about trusting the crowd’s wisdom. Rather, it's about managing the community by knowing whose input should be trusted, along with managing and moderating the community. This must all be done in the context of how the community relates to business initiatives and the information assets of the organization.

That's where the social volume knob comes into play to moderate who has what capabilities and can provide what content. We've drilled into this on the blog in the past, and I elaborated more in my comment.

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