Archive for May, 2009
by Bill Ives
Yakabod has been providing knowledge management solutions since 2003. It was founded in 2001 by CEO Scott Ryser and CTO Scott Williamson and first focused on web applications. I recently spoke with Scott Ryser and Chris Coleman, their EVP for Marketing. The firm is headquartered in the DC area and their main clients have been in the US Federal government’s intelligence community.
Yakabod’s flagship product is the Yakabox™ Knowledge Network. It is built to meet Protection Level 3 standards for software used in the U.S. Intelligence Community. It is a secure knowledge-sharing system that enables organizations more control over their content and allows for secure collaboration, both internally and with their business partners. I feel even more importantly it provides the users with great control and flexibility in how they manage content relevant to their work. It is activity based rather than based on taxonomies and file structures isolated from daily work processes. With the release of Yakabox 3.0 they are plan to engage a broader market outside the intelligence community.
Scott and I discussed the importance of activity based knowledge management. I was already onboard with the concept, as all the successful KM systems that I have seen have been work process-based, rather than standalone knowledge repositories. Scott pointed out that 80% of knowledge management efforts fail primarily because of cultural barriers. I believe this and I imagine most of these failures are not work process centric.
Scott mentioned that with transactional applications you can force people to input data as part of their job. However, you miss the large amounts of useful unstructured data around these transactions. If the system for unstructured data is not part of the work process it is hard to get people to engage. A knowledge system that is aligned with work transactions is more likely to pick up this content.
As McKinsey wrote a few years ago, the real value in companies is now in the interactions rather than the transactions, but IT has largely supported the latter. Now more investment needs to be made in supporting the interactions and making them accessible. This is the goal of Yakabox.
If you make the knowledge management system aligned with work processes you have gone a log way to handling the adoption issue. Next, you have to add value to the work process. Yakabox makes the user the center of knowledge sharing and enables them to find content useful and relevant to their work. You can designate content as relevant on a 1 to 5 scale. These ratings drive other relevance algorithms and the systems learns from your actions.
Scott said that when they added the relevance engine to the system, adoption exploded. People now had content come to them that was helpful and spent less time looking for stuff. You can also tag it and make comments for others to see. Yakabox provides fine-grained control over who can see these comments and ratings so people are less hesitant to share, knowing that this information goes to a selected subset of the broader audience with the organization. Scott said that these controls help to build trust and people frequently expand who can see what they do as this trust develops. This way silos can be broken down piece by piece.
The system integrates four applications—collaboration, social networking, content management and search—on one secure platform. It is delivered three ways: an appliance (bundled hardware and software installed behind the client’s firewall), on-site subscription (no hardware/software purchase), or hosted (SaaS with no per-user fees).
Scott gave me a tour. You start with the Activity Viewer page and content is organized around your activities. The top of the widest column contains the “road blocks” you are responsible for. These are the items where your team is dependent on your actions to move a project or initiative forward. Underneath the roadblocks are items organized by recency. Since your rate items on a 1 – 5 scale you can also filter them down by only showing items that meet your designated criteria. You can apply this rating scale to content, people, blogs, and any other item within the system.
For each item you can learn more about the people or topic. You can leave a comment and go to the profile of each person involved. You can go to the home page of every person to see what each is doing. These home pages are not limited to people as you can go to the home page of document and see all the actions around it. You can also see the objects that are generating the most activity.
There is a Twitter like status update field where you can answer the question, “what are you doing that matters.” I think that within the enterprise status updates like this work better within a system such as Yakabox, than as a standalone application like Twitter. I feel the opposite about the Web where I think Twitter status updates work better than those within a system like Facebook. You can set up a TweetDeck like interface to see the actions of people you want to follow and apply the 1-5 rating scale to determine the number of people you see at any one time.
There are robust access and dissemination controls over content. They can be role-based or individual-based. You can add filters to the search function to look at things such as only documents, only people, or even only documents by a certain person. You can add a “see also” link to provide access to additional material related to any content. This allows you to first narrow down and then expand the content you look at while keeping things relevant.
Yakabox also provides a blog tool where you can post in the context of the complete system. The same access controls can be applied as well as the search and relevancy filters. There is also a calendar with these same filters. In addition to the features that come out of the box you can add more. I think that Yakabox provides the right balance of control, features, relevance, and ease of use for an enterprise 2.0 style knowledge management system. It will be interesting see how it does in the broader business market.
by Jon Husband
Basically he takes it apart and discusses how and why Google Wave could be an order-of-magnitude leap forward in enabling effective collaboration.
In other news, I’ve heard this past week that Microsoft will plug in, or layer over, Sharepoint with the old Lotus collaboration application Groove that helped bring Ray Ozzie to Microsoft.
Given these developments, one could not be blamed for assuming that collaboration will be THE fundamental core design principle for the knowledge workplace of the (near) future.
Yesterday’s Google I/O keynote highlighted the power of HTML 5 to match functionality long experienced in desktop applications. This morning, Google plans to announce an HTML 5-based application – still very much in the early stages of development – that represents a profound advance in the state of the art.
Lars and Jens Rasmussen, the original creators of Google Maps, will take the stage to unveil their latest project, Google Wave. As Lars describes it, “We set out to answer the question: What would email look like if we set out to invent it today?”
That is exactly the right question, and one that every developer should be asking him or herself. The world of computing has changed, profoundly, yet so many of our applications bear the burden of decades of old thinking. We need to challenge our assumptions and re-imagine the tools we take for granted. It’s perhaps no accident that this project, carried out secretly at Google’s Sydney office over the past two years, had the code name Walkabout. That’s the Australian aboriginal tradition of going off for an extended period to retrace the songlines and learn the world anew.
.At the moment I don’t have anything to add to Tim O’reilly’s analysis. Read the rest of his comprehensive exploration of Groove Google Wave here …
by Jon Husband
(cross-posted on the author’s Wirearchy blog)
After a recent discussion with a wish-they-were-a-client, an interesting and stimulating conversation yesterday with Dr. Anne Marie McEwan of The Smart Work Company in the UK, and reading this comprehensive blog post this morning by Dave Pollard, I settled in for a bit of think and now some writing.
In writing about the emergence of both wirearchy and Enterprise 2.0, I have often commented on and called for the re-design of the ways we carry out knowledge work. I still think it’s useful if not necessary, but I am no longer convinced (I think) that it need be approached in apprehensive ways as potentially traumatic or wrenching for a given organization.
I, and many others, have made this essential point often:
What Intranet designers and managers fail to appreciate is that the principal way people share information and build useful knowledge (italics my addition) hasn’t changed in centuries — people get it through real-time conversation with people they respect and trust. This gives them comfort that the content they’re given is current and authoritative, and through the conversation they can also appreciate the context behind that content, and ask questions to make it more useful to them.
The principles of organizational development (OD) recognized long ago that most people like working and want to make their contributions to purposeful getting-things-done … and also recognized that one of the critical issues in helping organized social systems of on-purpose people (organizations, enterprises, etc.) was going beyond the strictures of over-rigid organizational structures and management methods towards treating with the essential human component of organized activity exactly as if “most people like working and want to make their contributions to purposeful getting-things-done … “.
Even after 3 years or so of discussion about Enterprise 2.0 challenges (often focused on obstacles presented by organizational structure and culture, a plethora of calls for ROI justifications and case studies showing that there’s real and tangible value, worry about loss of efficiency and so on), I remain surprised that there hasn’t been more enthusiastic take-up.
After all, I think it’s clear that now the tools, services and understanding of the dynamics are advanced to the point where it’s apparent that people connected online can and are mimicking closely the way(s) people have always exchanged information and built knowledge. If I were an organizational leader, I’d make it a priority to experiment with, implement and embed in an organization’s regular practices this now-accessible new way of working.
However, many organizational leaders remain skeptical, having been weaned on efficiency-driven objectives, measurement and micromanagement techniques. These controlmeisters are missing the point, I think. After business processes have had the bejesus engineered out of them and all the objectives, measurements and milestones are in place, the people and how they work … individually and together in groups … remain as the most important, and most complex, variable.
I think knowledge-workplace guru (deservedly so-labelled) Dave Pollard has done us a great service by clarifying that the tools and services know available are there to support more effectively how people have always (and will always) exchange information and build useful knowledge. He tends to build lists and decision grids (with every other blog post, it seems .. thanks, Dave, for doing what few of us can, at least consistently). With this most recent presentation (A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO IMPLEMENTING WEB 2.0 (AKA SOCIAL NETWORKING TOOLS) IN YOUR ORGANIZATION ) he offers a path to clarifying and understanding what might best support a given organization’s quest for greater effectiveness. At the end of today’s blog post Dave states:
This presentation has suggested an approach you can use to gently move your organization from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0, without a lot of expenditure, other than in energy to actually talk to the users (not the suppliers) of information and connectivity tools in your enterprise. In the process, I think you’ll find some ways to reduce the cost of maintaining legacy sites and systems that no longer provide value, get yourself some recognition as a shrewd and focused innovator, and have a lot of fun helping the people in your organization to work a little bit smarter.
At the tail end of my previous mainstream management consulting I found myself caught in a paradox more-or-less of my own making. I loved the opportunities to act as a skilled tailor or architect, helping client organizations to understand issues from within their own context and that of competitive external markets, and designing a path to addressing those issues effectively. At the same time, I loathed working with the same tool-kit and the same rapidly-getting-tired methodologies that were by and large derived from the core industrial era assumptions about efficiency and the structure of work. I thought too much and too hard about the bind that placed me in, and so had to move on … deciding I wanted to belong to the future and not to the past.
However, today as a recovering mainstream management consultant (you’re always recovering from addiction, they say) I’m inclined to suggest that we do not look for recipes or checklists or established homogenous models of how to carry out Implementation 2.0. I’m inclined to say “let’s get on with it”, we still need to address a business purpose or organizational mandate and mission, set objectives, make intelligent decisions about what to measure and how, but for goodness sake let’s use the tools, services and dynamics of purposeful exchange that are available and on offer.
Another deservedly-labelled knowledge-workplace guru put it thus:
The 100% guaranteed easiest way to do Enterprise 2.0?
GET OUT OF THE WAY
KEEP THE ENERGY LEVELS UP
Yeah, you have to read the whole blog post, not just the section headlines above, to grok what Euan’s on about.
But .. Dave and Euan’s points are similar. The way(s) of working on offer today are more “natural” than ever, because people can share more easily and effectively.
By and large, adult people will stay on purpose and will want to get things done so as to contribute more effectively to goals and mission. A leader or manager’s job is to make the goals and missions clear, help them resonate with why people are doing them, and treat that complex variable called people as responsible adults who want to be effective and get things done.
As they say in Quebec with that charming no-”th” accent … that’s it, that’s all.
by Celine Roque
Unlike desktop applications, web apps run from servers far away from our computers, and to access them we need to use Internet browsers like Firefox. The problem with Firefox is that it was designed for viewing web pages, which it does very well, but not for running applications. If a web app running inside a tab were to freeze, for example, other tabs would also stop functioning and eventually crash, causing you to lose valuable work.
In its own way, Google Chrome was engineered to prevent these types of crashes. Mozilla’s Prism extension for Firefox uses a different approach to make web apps run separately from the browser for added stability. They are treated to work as virtual stand-alone applications, reducing the load on the browser itself and improving performance. Aside from this, Prism takes things even further to make the web app experience feel as familiar as possible.
Accessibility. Shortcuts can be created for web apps on the desktop or the programs folder like other desktop applications. They can also be accessed from the system taskbar or dock.
Start-up. For web apps that you’d like to be always on call, you can use prism to have them run automatically whenever you start your computer.
Minimize to tray. You have the choice between making the applications minimize to the taskbar or to the system tray for a more uncluttered view. Notifications pop up here when you have new emails or other alerts.
Links association. Prism enables special links to treat the web app as a normal application and open it instead of a browser. For example, mailto: links could only open desktop mail clients, but with Prism it can now be set to launch web-based mail clients like Gmail.
Others. Among the nice enhancements brought by Prism are font control and private data clearing for each window.
Mozilla’s Prism comes in two forms: a Firefox extension and a stand-alone program. Each has a short video demo and can be downloaded now for free on the Prism site.
by Bill Ives
Wrike provides online project management. I have written about them before (see Wrike: Online Project Management for the Rest of Us). They are releasing several new features, including task discussions, Windows Mobile and Outlook add-ins, that are designed to better help manage multiple projects.
Wrike’s Intelligent E-mail Engine™ allows you to create and update tasks and projects, as well as upload files via e-mail. Wrike’s Outlook add-in provides a two-way sync for the user’s tasks in Wrike and in Outlook. The email-integrated task discussions allow teams to add comments to tasks and projects not only online but also via e-mail. Wrike automatically identifies the task by the e-mail subject, then extracts the user’s comment and adds it to the task discussions. Outlook add-in instantly synchronizes user’s tasks in Wrike and in Outlook so users have a complete picture of their to-dos in both applications.
Windows Mobile application allows synchronizing user’s tasks in Wrike with the built-in Tasks application on user’s Pocket PC or smartphone. Now, they are working on Wrike support for BlackBerry and iPhone.
Intraday tasks scheduling allow managers to build a precise project plan and streamline their resource allocation. Their Flexible Structures™ feature lets you create folders inside of existing folders and include one task or folder in several different folders. This allows you to get a picture of your projects from the perspective of every department, every client, etc.
Wrike accommodates three types of users with related pricing models: “Manager”, “Collaborator” and “Viewer”. A “manager” is a power user who can use all of Wrike’s advanced features, including creating templates, using Excel export and import, building task dependencies directly on the timeline, running reports, etc. “Collaborators” can create and modify tasks and projects, using Wrike’s interactive Web site or their favorite e-mail software. They can use Wrike’s unique timeline, share files in Wrike and discuss tasks. You can mix different user types with the same organization.
These all look like useful features, especially the ones for moblie devices.
by Celine Roque
LexisNexis did an interesting survey among white collar workers, asking them about how they view various technologies and how they think these impact their job performance. It’s nice to note that using computers, Internet browsers, email and calendar programs is almost universal among the respondents. Most of them also agree that new technologies and software applications have made it easier to get up-to-the-minute information (95%), perform research (94%), improve productivity (90%), and manage information (87%).
In other areas, however, attitudes towards technology diverge based on age. The younger workers from Gen Y tend to be more liberal than Baby Boomers on Internet usage during work hours. Around 62% of Gen Y admitted to accessing social networking sites from work whereas only 14% of Boomers did so. As for browsing Internet bulletin boards and forums, it’s 47% for Gen Y versus 27% for Boomers. Lastly, 44% of Gen Y confess to going to mutimedia sharing websites like Youtube against just 24% of Boomers.
In terms of office etiquette, opinions again demonstrate a wide generation gap. LexisNexis warns that these differences in values could “contribute to in-office tensions and even harm teamwork and productivity.” Perhaps it’s not surprising that over two-thirds (68%) of Boomers decry the proliferation of PDAs and mobile phones as a contributor to the decline in workplace manners, while only less than half (46%) of Gen Y workers agree with this assessment. The same number of Boomers cry foul when other people use a laptop or PDA during in-person meetings, whereas a fewer number of Gen Ys (49%) are similarly offended.
It seems that the key here is the perception of productivity. A mere 17% of Boomers say that using laptops or PDAs during in-person meetings is efficient, versus 35% for Gen Y. Blogging about work-related issues is tolerable for just 28% of Boomers, in contrast to 41% of Gen Y who are fine with it. Almost half of Gen Y workers (47%) see nothing wrong with befriending a client on a social networking site, but only 24% of Boomers feel the same way. When it comes to befriending their colleagues on these sites, 76% of Gen Y are all for it while only 38% of Boomers think that it’s appropriate.
Where do you stand on these issues? Where do you draw the line in terms of using technology in the workplace?
by Celine Roque
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I’ve recently featured the fantastic Nutshellmail, a social networking aggregator that keeps your social media life in control. It provides a simple yet effective way to manage your various accounts by sifting through everything and sending you scheduled summaries thru email. Definitely a great idea for people who want to stay connected but don’t fancy social networking taking over their lives.
The question is, how about those for whom social networking is not a mere diversion but an essential/central component of their work? These people might need to get real-time updates to be able to respond to clients, so having scheduled daily digests just won’t cut it. A desktop application called Digsby could solve the problem. It’s an even more feature-packed aggregator – one that combines social networking, Twitter, emails AND instant messaging in one program.
With it, you can stay updated on Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, and Twitter, as well as chat with your friends on Yahoo! Messenger, Google Talk, AIM, ICQ, MSN, Jabber, and Facebook Chat. It can also access your emails so you can be notified instantly of incoming messages. It’s free to download and I’m glad to say it installed on my Windows 7 Beta PC without any hitch. Adding different social network accounts was a simple matter of providing my credentials for each. So far, Digsby has been running smoothly without any errors.
There are chat clients out there like Trillian and Pigdin, but as of now only Digsby offers social media support. When it detects new updates from Twitter, for example, a small pop-up will appear at the bottom left-hand corner of the screen, flashing the tweet for a few seconds. You can also read a list of the most recent updates for each social networking and email account:
Be careful to uncheck some options during installation if you don’t like the program to change your homepage or install any other “freebies”. This being a desktop application and not a web app, you might need administrator rights on your office PC to install it. This limitation might make this tool more appropriate for telecommuters and other mobile workers who have full control over their workstations. Some people have complained that Digsby could have been more useful had the program included RSS support, and they have a point, but maybe that’s a little bit of overkill. Anyway, I’m happy to check my feeds via Google Reader, which has a lot of great features just for RSS. Lastly, anyone’s who has tried it will know that instant messaging can be time-waster, and along with constant updates from social networks, one might lose a lot of productive hours on Digsby. As in everything else, one must practice prudence and self-restraint.