Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Making Web 2.0 Work @ Work

A recent article at CIO Insight indicates that increasing the use of Web 2.0 collaboration tools faces several important obstacles. Among all respondents, 17% cite the lack of "adequate management support" as a barrier. The article implies that the use of blogs, wiki's and social networks by management would inspire their use down the chain of command.

I agree, to a point.

Senior exec's don't have enough time to dig through a detailed post and reply chain to find the information that is critical to their work. The more fundamental issue l;es with middle managers' ability to communicate effectively up the line. In other words, if you want an executive to read your blog, make it worth reading. I hope I'm not violating that rule with this blog! If the wiki contains important data, presented in a way that facilitates executive decision-making, then the senior leaders will come back to it.

But let's not get to too disappointed if it takes 5 or 6 more years before these become commonly accepted work tools. We would be well-served to remember that all of these tools compete with email for attention. And it seems that email is still winning.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Are CIO's innovators?

An analyst at Forrester indicated in a recent interview that the reason why CIO's struggle with innovation is because the business doesn't have the proper respect for their role. So let me see if have this right... CIO's aren't innovating and it's the business people's fault.

In my experience, innovation gets supported (funded) when it means real profit change for the firm. The reason why most IT projects end up focused on operational efficiency is because potential cost-savings (resulting in profit increase) are most easily demonstrated and understood.

No projects get off the ground without incremental IT funding. There's too much to just keeping the lights on for a CIO to divert maintenance resources to new work. So these "innovation" projects that seem to top the CIO priority list must compete for resources with projects bubbling up from the business community. This is as it should be. If the CIO cannot present a case for their innovation efforts that represents a better opportunity than other projects, then those projects will appropriately be placed at the end of the line.

So who bears the responsibility for that? I say that it is the CIO's responsibility to demonstrate the benefit of their innovative ideas.

Credit where credit is due: Interview excerpt with Bobby Cameron, Forrester Research. From CIO Insight

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Who needs CRM??

It's time that we accept the reality that most sales people don't really need a CRM system. The truth is that the people who benefit most from the use of such systems are managers. They get the visibility into sales activities that helps them plan and adapt to market conditions. But the sales person on the street can be successful with a pen, a notebook and a phone. Anything more than that had better be easy to use or it will stand in the way of sales effectiveness. If sales people perceive the CRM system to be a hindrance, they won't use it. And if they don't use it, the firm's leaders never reap the rewards of their investment.

Remember that, because it's almost impossible to mandate the use of a CRM system, perception is critical. In reality, a system might be fast, intuitive and have all the information a sales person needs. But they must believe that it will help them sell more and sell faster before they will adopt it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Web 2.0 vs. the lawyers

The threat of litigation is as strong as ever. And yet, I still find executives who demand an exception to reasonable email archival and purging policies. In their minds, these policies make good business sense and should be followed by everyone else. But for them, it's imperative that they hang on to those emails from 5 and 10 years ago. Even the headlines of old messages coming back to haunt even the most sophisticated of firms doesn't seem to deter them.

And as if this wasn't enough, we now have the amazing new capabilities represented by Web 2.0 to keep corporate counsel up at nights. Rogue blogs, archived instant messaging, unmoderated wiki's and even social networks are ripe for discovery.

Even though each of these pose a litigation-related risk, they are still worthwhile for the growing firm. But the rules need to catch up to the technology... again. Retention policies need to be written and applied to blogs and messages. Wiki's need rules to govern their use even inside the firewall. And Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and the host of competing social networking sites need to be accounted for in HR policies. Some areas to think about include...
Explicit mention of those tools in anti-defamation clauses
Usage during business hours and from the corporate network
Customer and Vendor contact

Have you thought about these issues?
Do you have a handle on the impact of an event using any of these tools?

A few hours and a few dollars now is a worthy investment for any firm that wants to be big enough to be someone's target.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

What happened to convergence?

A few years back, there was all this talk about converging technologies. The television and the personal computer would morph into a single device. The wireheads didn't realize that consumers didn't particularly like the idea of sharing the same machine... if the big game is on but the kids need to do their homework, who gets to use it?

But mobile phones and PDA's have converged into the "smart" phone... with the earliest versions stretching the definition of "smart" to new levels. As a business tool, they've become darn-near indispensable, with ubiquitous access to email, web, messaging, calendaring, and yes, even making phone calls. Even so, it turns out that some of the more sensational, entertainment-oriented features are not getting the traction that some predicted. Is access to your fantasy team lineup so time-critical that you'll spend airtime doing it from your phone? Will you really trust the selection of restaurants you see on that little screen?

I've used Google maps on my old Palm Treo 650 and have found it to be very valuable. And when I need something to read, I'll punch up a couple of different web pages and suppress my impatience while they load. (Why isn't optimized for mobile access? Am I missing something?). Games seemed to have found a new delivery medium... do you remember the very first hand-held electronic football game?

So I guess convergence took an unexpected turn, driven (no surprise) by revenue generating activities. What'll happen next? Will GPS finally become an affordable add-on to mid-market devices? Will Sky Caddie offer a downloadable app for a smart-phone? What will be the next big need that gets fulfilled by a portable, hand-held device?

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Power of Software Development

According to a recent survey, when asked to consider what they want from solution providers, 17% of IT executives indicate a desire for Software Development Services. This is almost double the percentage that report wanting Project Management services (9%).

This suggest two important trends may be surfacing.
First, many organizations are starting to view technology project management as a required corporate competency. If they aren't getting these services from solution providers then they are expecting their internal staff to lead software initiatives. Thus, they likely building up and staffing in-house project management offices accordingly. Thus, the proprietary "project management methodologies" that professional services firms & divisions brag on will have less value in the marketplace than they did just a few years ago.

Second, these IT executives realize the power of true customization. Notice that they are not looking for configuration services, but for Software Development. I'm pointing out the obvious when I claim that there is a huge difference between the two. But developing new custom applications against core operational systems brings the data collected in those systems out into the open. It opens up new avenues for accountability and quality improvements, processing time reductions and cost-savings. In the hands of a skilled product development team, this kind of information can improve a firm's competitive profile in weeks instead of years.

Credit were credit is due: eWeek Channel Insider