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How CPG can drive collaboration across PLM with Social Knowledge Networks

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The consumer goods industry is rapidly moving to more a collaborative business model. R&D, sales, and marketing professionals are increasingly using, sharing, and collaborating on volumes of data to drive innovation and better understand their customers.

They need to be able to quickly connect with not only colleagues, but also with information about their products and consumers to make fast and accurate decisions across every stage of their product lifecycles.

That's why we're profiling the consumer goods industry next in our Vertical Views series. We've put together highlights from our notes on the industry's knowledge needs, based on our interactions with companies in the space.

We've also assembled key points to help consumer goods professionals understand how they can use Social Knowledge Networks (SKNs) to manage their knowledgebases, bring disparate information together, and collaborate across departments and production sites. Peer into what we've learned, and let us know your impressions and ideas.

Consumer goods at a glance

The recession continues to be a challenge for most markets, including the CGP industry. With more consumers cutting back spending, companies must increase efficiencies across their supply chains. Companies are focusing on reducing costs, enhancing supply chain visibility, and improving risk management programs.

Other issues facing the industry include hot-button topics such as product safety and product recalls. Companies must get their arms around ever-changing legislation and regulations, ensuring they comply with new requirements and policies.

The green movement is pressuring companies to incorporate sustainable business practices into their operations. Consumers are increasingly seeking out and buying products that are organic or environmentally friendly. However, companies must also adhere to the FTC's green marketing regulations, which prohibit deceptive advertising and labeling of green products.

How do you define social interaction?

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Remember when social media was just Facebook? Yeah, it feels like ages ago! Now we have social media so ingrained in our lives, it seems many of us don't go more than five minutes without updating our Facebook statuses, connecting with someone on LinkedIn, tweeting the article we're reading (or blog post from Inmagic!!), uploading a video to YouTube ... You get the picture.

It was only a matter of time before social media would spill over to business. And spilled it has. But the enterprise is swimming in cloudy water. We're continuing to sort out new terminology and language, and determining what it means for business and why we should care.

Jacob Morgan made a good point about this on Customer Think the other week. "At conferences now we’re starting to hear the new social CRM and social business terms thrown around yet those terms are still being used to describe the same things that the 'social media' folks have been saying all along. Social business, Enterprise 2.0, and Social CRM are not evolutionary terms, they are evolutionary concepts and strategies."

He went on to define terms including social media, social business, social CRM, and Enterprise 2.0. His definitions are worth a read for anyone in the social media space. However, there's one thing I differ on.

Jacob seems to divide social interaction into two worlds: customer interaction (social CRM) and employee/partner interaction (E2.0). But I don't think this reflects the reality of how business operates. Internal collaboration and external communication are not always mutually exclusive. I explained my reasoning more in a comment, so flip over to catch it after you read Jacob's article. Hopefully it will bring some clarity to your understanding of social media for business.

How to prevent brain drain at your organization

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Knowledge transfer and knowledge retention continue to loom large for many organizations. Baby boomer retirement and ongoing staff reductions are pressuring organizations to shore up their knowledge management strategies.

If you're looking for advice on how to establish and/or improve your knowledge transfer and retention system, a good place for reference is this article by Sandy Lesko-Mounts in the spring issue of The Leading Edge (scroll down to page 4).

She identifies some of the common challenges organizations are facing with their current KM systems, and outlines steps for building the right knowledge retention strategy for your organization. "The goal of knowledge management is not to manage all knowledge, but to manage the knowledge most important to the organizations." she writes.

Sandy also cites some examples of companies that are successfully retaining knowledge today, including MRA. The company is using Presto to manage its knowledge assets. Some of the key features it's taking advantage of are Presto's tagging and commenting functionality, Google-like search engine, and user access tracking.

That's all I'll say here. Read about the complete details on MRA, as well as many more insights into transferring and retaining knowledge by hitting the article. To access it, open The Leading Edge's spring issue and scrolling down to page 4.

Microsoft vs. third-party apps

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With Microsoft SharePoint 2010 out of beta, companies including Google and Cisco are pushing their competing products -- Google Docs and Cisco Quad, respectively. Chelsi Nakano covered this on CMSWire last week.

But as some SharePoint users are taking a hard look at the Microsoft stalwart, direct replacements are not the only thing they're paying attention to. They're also looking at complementary, third-party applications as ways to get more out of their SharePoint investment.

That's something we see surfacing consistently in our conversations with customers and prospects. We've been continuing to add tighter SharePoint integration capabilities into Presto, so that companies can better share and collaborate on knowledge assets using functionality not available in SharePoint.

I left a couple other thoughts on this in the comments under the article, but rather than rehash them here, flip over to CMSWire to catch them. What are your thoughts on Microsoft vs. Google and Cisco, and Microsoft vs. third-party apps?

Six implications of Enterprise 2.0 for IT

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You might have caught Ross Dawson's latest book, "Implementing Enterprise 2.0." Ross is Chairman of Advanced Human Technologies, an international consulting firm, and also of Future Exploration Network, a global events and strategy company.

He's written several books on business strategy, and in "Implementing Enterprise 2.0," he covers how to create business value with Web technologies inside the enterprise.

Ross recently excerpted his book on his blog, and I'd encourage you to flip over and give it a read. He talks about six implications of Enterprise 2.0 for IT, including:
1. Increased user expectations

2. End-users are enabled

3. Heightened requirements for IT security and archiving

4. Shift to role of steward, advisor, and facilitator

5. Potential to reduce IT spending

6. Changing relationship with other organizational functions
While these are all important and relevant points, two stand out as most widespread and intertwined across enterprise organizations: #2, end users are enabled, and #3, heightened requirements for IT security and archiving.

One begets the other, and the best E2.0 applications will be able to accommodate both. Often times organizations approach these as mutually exclusive when it comes to their E2.0 strategy. Either users are freely enabled, or you clamp down security. The trick for IT is to keep the security and control as unobtrusive as possible in order to allow end-users to collaborate and achieve their daily objectives.

(By the way, I submitted these thoughts in the comments section on Ross's blog, but I haven't seen them appear, so I wanted to share them here. Sorry, Ross, if they hit your blog, not trying to copy content!)

What are your thoughts on the implications of E2.0 for IT?

Semantic Web has partially arrived

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Many Internet experts believe the Semantic Web, also known as Web 3.0, is still a decade off. And some technology professionals, such as Phil Simon, believe, "We’ll have to go through Web 2.0 to get to Web 3.0 first." I don't think that's necessarily the case. I think parts of the Semantic Web are already here.

If you're unfamiliar with the Semantic Web, let me give you a brief definition before I go any further. The technology will basically put content into context. So it's not about links between Web pages. Rather, it describes the relationships between things (A falls under the category of B) and the properties of things (like size, weight, price, etc.).

I believe the quest for content and information are fueling the Semantic Web. That's why we're seeing more and more companies using meta tags to enhance their information repositories. But meta tagging falls short of achieving the Semantic Web objective because it's not domain specific.

So what's missing still is a technology known as the "fielded wiki." Fielded wikis allow domain-specific information to be added to the system. Field + Data = Semantic Smart. The key to effective fielded wikis is adding information that can be rapidly found and easily understood by other users in the proper context.

Because language has so much ambiguity, it will take time before content is fully semantically enabled and search engines know exactly what someone is looking for. For example, if you query mercury are you referring to the element? The Greek god? The planet? The car?

Semantic Web technology will be another important piece of the E2.0 pie, letting users dynamically discover and consume information, which becomes critically important for productivity.

ITBusinessEdge notes Presto as a SharePoint integrator

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The Web has been abuzz with SharePoint news since Microsoft launched the 2010 version of its server platform last week. Among the coverage was a post on ITBusinessEdge from Mike Vizard, who put together a round up of technologies that integrate with SharePoint. He include Presto in his list.

He also pointed out, "The good news, of course, is that SharePoint 2010 will improve some of the administrative functions. But if IT organizations want to get the most out of their SharePoint investments, the time has come to consider deploying third-party applications on top of SharePoint that make the overall environment truly collaborative."

Swing over to read the rest of Mike's article, and see who else he included in his round up. Thanks for featuring us, Mike!

SharePoint 2010: More questions than answers?

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The much-anticipated SharePoint 2010 launched for business users yesterday, but many are left scratching their heads. We know Microsoft is emphasizing the three C's -- connectivity, collaboration, and cloud computing -- but those are fairly high-level objectives, leaving info pros at odds with how to best use the platform in their own particular business environment and achieve its promised benefits.

First, let's recap the challenges.

1. SharePoint is many things to many people. Are you using it for content management? Document management? Collaboration? The intent for using SharePoint often dictates the outcome, or success. The problem is, the intent often gets muddied amidst all of the different feature/functionalities available.

2. Most people know SharePoint has a tendency to generate micro-silos. And depending on an organization's governance -- which varies company to company -- some do not allow their users to open up a Team Site simply because they do not want more silos. This undermines a major perceived benefit of having SharePoint in the first place, and compounds the end user access and productivity problem.

3. People often underestimate the cost of development -- both in money and time. An organization has to weigh the cost and complexities of a larger platform deployment, in addition to committing its IT resources to providing ongoing maintenance and support.

All of this leads to the million-dollar question: Is any of this going to change with 2010? I think the jury is out, and will be for a while.

Part of the reason is reflective of what we see across many of our own customers and prospects, which is "let's just wait and see." They intentionally stay a release behind in order to let Gates and Co. work out issues and bugs, and let early adopters pave the way to recommended practices for achieving the advertised benefits of increased collaboration and organizational effectiveness.

This is fairly common, as many users are just recently migrating to SharePoint 2007 from SharePoint 2003. I believe it will be at least a year before the world understands whether 2010 has/will resolved any of the problems they've encountered in earlier versions.

What's more interesting, however, is not only will the wait-and-see attitude affect SharePoint sales, it will also impact all of the markets that SharePoint touches (content management, document management, etc.), as well as third-party applications.

This boils down to the classic IT decision: build vs. buy. If you decide to build your applications within SharePoint, you must ask yourself, what value does this ultimately bring? Is it worth the time and effort in the long run?

If you decide to buy a best-of-breed app, you face a different decision. In order to go down this road, you have to first put SharePoint in some kind of category. Say content management, for example. Then you need to decide which content management application would be best for your organization to use with SharePoint.

Relying on third-party applications will take it part of the way, but does not eliminate development. So either way you slice it, SharePoint needs to rely heavily on IT.

Perhaps the strongest thing SharePoint has going for it is its integration into the Microsoft Office applications, which are so deeply entrenched in enterprise organizations. But is that enough?

I think if SharePoint 2010 doesn't wow its audiences, it's going to have real problems continuing as a standard enterprise platform. In fact, I see a strong possibility of a mass migration towards best-of-breed solutions vs. the big platform sell.

Why we should kill E2.0 pilots

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To pilot, or not to pilot. That is the question.

Discussions around whether to do a pilot before deploying E2.0 technology enterprise wide have taken off lately. (See posts from Andrew McAfee and Christy Schoon.) And I think it's time for everyone to land the plane.

First, let's reframe the question. In my humble opinion, companies do not give a $&%# about pilots. (Pardon my French!) They care about achieving business objectives and finding answers to the problems they are experiencing, including growing sales, reducing costs, speeding product innovation cycles, accelerating time to market, and so on.

The real question is this: Is a pilot the best way to prove the value of E2.0 solutions within your organization? The unequivocal answer is, IT IS NOT. So I agree with McAfee's premise to "drop the pilot," but for very different reasons. (I submitted this as a comment on his blog, but it hasn't appeared yet, so I'm posting here. Apologies if it appears, I'm not trying to duplicate content! :-))

Lack of focus is the #1 reason pilots and/or E2.0 rollouts fail. Let me give you an example. I was speaking to a prospect last week and they mentioned that they went through an exhaustive selection process, purchased an E2.0 collaboration platform, and launched it with great fanfare.

The immediate result was massive usage for the first month, and then a very rapid decline in usage, so much so that the system was scrapped.

When we asked who the system was targeted at, the answer was "everyone." When we asked what the focus of the system was, the answer was "everything." Let's get down to brass tacks. The question employees face every day is, does this tool help me do my job better? If the answer is yes, then they will use it. If not, they won't.

So while the system initially generated a lot of usage, the tool did not result in employees doing their jobs any better. Did they just ask the wrong questions? Did they follow the wrong people? And if they did, whose fault is that? Without focus and direction, employees are more than likely to do something that you did not expect.

So the question still remains, does a pilot solve this problem? Stephen Jordan hit the nail on the head when he commented on Andrew McAfee's post, saying, " ... the lack of context in these 'pilot' rollouts is the real reason they seemed doom to fail." So, no, the pilot, per se, does not help this problem.

Is there an alternative? I would unequivocally say YES. It is called an initial "targeted project." The targeted project has a lot in common with a pilot. Initial cost is low, it is usually focused on a smaller set of users, it allows the organization to vet the technology and IT infrastructure issues, and the organization can learn a ton.

But here's what makes it so much better than a pilot. Rather than entering into a short-lived pilot where expectations are set for an over 50-percent failure rate, a targeted project gets much deeper commitment because a) it is not a test, it is a real implementation, and b) it is focused.

The E2.0 solution is tasked to solve a real problem and make it easier for a group of employees to do their jobs. The focus also means the implementation team knows where to invest its time and effort. If it helps the business objective, do it. Otherwise the feedback and other ideas can be attended to later.

At Inmagic we love to work with clients on targeted projects. Targeted projects fuel focus, which provides another key outcome: an objective. Meeting an objective allows you to then generate ROI, or at the very least, a metric for success, which is a lot more concrete than blanket statements like "I think we are collaborating more effectively."

So in short, I say, pilots, off with your heads! Targeted projects, take the throne!

How globalization is taking companies social

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If you work at a global enterprise, you know that capturing, conceptualizing, and communicating knowledge across borders is a perennial challenge. Your colleagues are here, your partners are there, and your customers are all over.

Data is dispersed amongst your shared network drives, bottled in silos, and stored within your team members, making it difficult to share and collaborate on information. And you're hitting the limits of traditional enterprise content management and enterprise social networking tools.

This is the nut of the latest article I contributed to ebizQ. I won't recap it all here; instead I'll refer you to the article to get the full scoop. Swing over to read about how some global organizations are getting their arms around these challenges, and using Social Knowledge Networks to break down information silos and gain global views of their intellectual property.

Inmagic is Big-Easy-bound for SLA 2010 with iPad giveaway at our booth

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Just as we're settling back in after our time in Washington, D.C. for CIL 2010, we're starting to prepare for SLA 2010 in New Orleans in June. Social Knowledge Networkers never sleep!

We'll be exhibiting at booth #412/414. If you're planning on attending, we'd love for you stop by; check out Presto; and just chat about Social Knowledge Networks, Enterprise 2.0, or whatever's on your mind. And if that doesn't entice you to come by, how about this? We'll be signing folks up to win an Apple iPad. That's if we can pry it out of the hands of our marketing team, including me. ;-)

I'm always impressed by our giveaways. We've given away a few Kindles, which I thought were great. And now I think we've topped that with an iPad. We might have a few other tricks up our sleeves this year, and we'll keep you in the loop on our SLA ramp-up. Last year, we literally had tricks up our sleeves with magician Josh Norris at our booth.

We're looking forward to a great show in New Orleans. I'm really excited to hear the opening keynote from James Carville and Mary Matalin. And there promises to be plenty of meeting, greeting, networking, and learning, as always.

I strongly recommend attending SLA 2010 if you're an info pro. We always learn a lot about the current state of the special library industry when we go, get new ideas, and meet peers and colleagues from around the space. If you haven't registered yet, you can register online.

Hope to see you there!

Social Knowledge Network deployment secrets of the trade

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Experience is one of the greatest teachers. And that holds true when it comes to deploying Social Knowledge Networks (SKNs). Our next user group is focused on shedding light on the lessons learned by us and our customers who've implemented Social Knowledge Networks.

We're holding it in Toronto. But don't count yourself out if you're not in the area! We're offering two options for all Inmagic users to attend: Come in person, or join us via GoToMeeting. More details on registration and attendance are below.

Leading the user group will be Inmagic partners Andornot and Phipps & Associates, along with one of our customers, Melanie Browne, Information Specialist at Maple Leaf Foods. It will be an educational, interactive session. And best of all, light refreshments will be served. :)

Here's what we have lined up to make the user group worth your while:
  • Learn how Melanie Browne implemented a very successful Inmagic SKN at her innovation center.
  • Connect with peers to discuss best practices, tips, and tricks for deploying SKNs.
  • Get the latest information to help you maximize your investment in Inmagic products.
  • Take a sneak peek into our product development road map.
Ready to go? Here are the logistics you need to know:

WHAT: Toronto Inmagic User Group Meeting

WHEN: Thursday, May 13th from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

WHERE: Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP
1 First Canadian Place
Toronto, Ontario
Please check in at the 63rd floor reception

RSVP: Seating is limited. Please send an e-mail to Jennifer McNenly at jmcnenly@osler.com to reserve your spot. If you'd prefer to dial in via GoToMeeting, please let Jennifer know when you register. She'll provide all the details you'll need to get connected.

We look forward to seeing you on May 13th!

Enterprise 2.0 best practices vs. recommendations

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"Are there best practices for Enterprise 2.0 adoption?" That's the question Bill Ives asked recently in an article on Content Management Connection. Your gut reaction might be, well yes of course! But hang on there for a moment. Let's think about it.

As Bill wrote, the traditional idea of best practices conjures up the notion of "static, fixed, inalterable, unmodified, unbeatable, perfect." But aren't today's E2.0 and KM concepts much more fluid than that?

Rather than think of best practices in the traditional sense, why don't we call them "high-quality suggestions," or "practices to consider," or simply, "recommendations?" Your best is not necessarily my best. E2.0 means something different to each business's needs and requirements.

However, I don't think that means we should not aggregate our findings and share them with the community. We should still look at best practices and cherry pick what's best for us. In our experience, we've found some consistencies in E2.0 adoption that keep surfacing among our clients. We've written about some of them on our blog in the past, and we're working on publishing more of them in a white paper. Keep your eyes peeled for that.

Bill also quotes the German sociologist Georg Simmel in his article. "Nothing more can be attempted that to establish the beginning and the direction of an infinitely long road. The pretension of any systematic and definitive completeness would be, at least, a self-illusion. Perfection can here be obtained by the student only in the subjective sense that he communicates everything he has been able to see."

This is a very long-winded, but accurate revelation to an old adage: Trial by fire. And I think that's the case with E2.0 adoption and best practices, too.

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