Archive for November, 2010
by Bill Ives
Here are my notes from a great workshop, Designing Social Search in the Enterprise, led by Thomas Vander Wal at KM World 2010 and Enterprise Search Summit 2010. Thomas is the Principal – InfoCloud Solutions, Inc, and someone I have been following on Twitter for some time. So I was very interested in both the topic and the presenter. Here is the session description.
“One of the biggest problem on today’s websites and intranets is findability. Even as large companies have scaled up their investment in search and intranet development, one key ingredient is missing: the people. People are social, and people leverage social strategies to find information all the time-at work, with colleagues-to solve real problems. How do we add this social element into enterprise search systems? How do we know what to look for in search tools, services to add into the mix, and or design elements that will make an impact?
Our experienced designer frames these relevant models of social search and walks though how to think through the problems to get to a more optimal solution. This will also include the potential benefits as well as the pitfalls that come along with some popular solutions (as well as how to counteract those pitfalls). You will learn to think and design through the considerations to augment findability with social search within the enterprise. He will discuss the tools necessary to understand search design, the benefits of social search, and how to work though real world problem sets interactively in the session, so those in the session will come away with the ability to apply what is learned to their work environment.”
Thomas began by saying that he avoids fuzzy terms such as community, expert, collaboration, and trust, as they are hard to define. So I guess I will not talk about building trust within communities to enable collaboration J. I certainly agree that these terms can lead you down blind alleys. A Google search on any of the tem shows the broad range of interpretation they can generate. I especially agree about the term expert. I generally feel that anyone who calls themselves an expert, has indicated that they are not one.
Enterprise search is problematic. It was an issue before social tools and has the potential to only get worse now with the new silos brought by some social tools. People cannot find stuff that they believe exists. One reason is that search often lacks the feedback element. Thomas mentioned two researchers, Marti Hearst and Bynn Evans, that have worked in social search. Thomas said he used some of their framing in his session. He now went through several types of social search.
There are several types of social search – friend/colleague filtered social search. Yahoo MyWeb 2 was an example but it is no longer available. There is a problem with this approach since personal networks may be narrow.
Social ranking is another type of social search. Digg, StumbleUpon and delicious are examples. The problem is that segmentation can be difficult.
Multi-person and collaborative search is a third example. System that support shared screens, such as Google Wave, is an example. The problem is that tools are limited. Google Wave is another tool that is no longer supported.
A fourth example is collective search such as Google News and Twitter trends. It can be used for exploratory search but the crowd is anonymous and cannot be filtered. There are also issues around shared vocabulary. One issue that Thomas found is fear of embarrassment because you are exposing yourself by using it.
Another example is massive scale Q&A tools such as Quora. It can be useful for handling difficult search problems but the problem now is that tools are limited, especially inside the enterprise.
Thomas discussed ways to fill in the gaps in social search. He offered four types of InfoClouds. Personal InfoClouds addresse the intranet. He used this concept to cover attracting things to your screen so they are available as you work. Then Thomas covered the concept of a Global InfoCloud, a larger set, but still within the enterprise. Then the External InfoCloud goes outside the enterprise. The Local InfoCloud completes coverage of the gaps. Information is often structured differently in specific locations such as a packy in Mass and party store in Michigan as a place to buy beer. The Local InfoCoud can have many components such as colleagues, social software, and portals.
As you use the other InfoClouds, you place content in your personal InfoCloud. Looking back at my days within a large consulting firm I can see how these work together. My hard drive was my personal InfoCloud. I looked to the other three for stuff to put in it, but I largely relied on personally stored content. The trouble was it was hard to search, as well as organize.
Thomas now looked at several tools, beginning with SocialCast. It is an enterprise micro-blogging tool that I have covered a bit (see Socialcast Adds Sharepoint and Outlook Integration, New Features, and Enhanced Metrics). They have a new tool called Reach. It drops micro-blogging streams within work tools. I like this as aligning social tools with work processes is generally a critical success factor. You can also save conversations so enterprise search can find them, another good idea.
System One is another tool. It has a semantic engine that structures the information as you type. It can fill in the gaps and bring up related information. You can search as you work, It also finds relevant people based on your content. Your entire document becomes you entire search engine. As you work, it searches and brings things up for your use.
The System One site says: “System One Radar tracks global information sources according to the context of your most important projects. Based on broadly definable Issue Portfolios it analyzes 80.000 news sources as well as Social Media, fully automated and in real-time, showing trends, backgrounds, relations, opportunities and risks. All visualized in a way that allows insight at a glance.” They have several tools and this is describing a Web version.
They also have a collaboration version. Here is its description: “System One Collaboration recombines the essentials of social software and semantic search in a highly integrated team productivity suite. Things that are being worked on are automatically related to all relevant resources within your company and beyond. System One Collaboration is browser based, works on mobile devices as well as on paper and is available as hosted or on-premise solution.”
James Robertson commented that these tools seem to attempting to make search support pervasive and come to your work. Thomas said that the trend is bringing these components to your existing tools so you do not have to learn new systems and they fit within your existing work processes.
Knowledge Plaza started as a social search engine and they added features over time (see my early review: Enterprise 2.0 Knowledge Sharing Platform from Knowledge Plaza). Thomas said he helped simplify their interface. It is a Web-based platform for enterprise search, social bookmarking, knowledge management, information brokerage and expert identification. It was developed by the Belgium based firm, Whatever. Nice name. There are facets, and you can search through other’s eyes. You can easily package the results and share them but it does not easily integrate into enterprise search engines.
Thomas next covered reconfiguring search with social relevance. He began with Yahoo MyWeb2 which was a bookmarking tool like delicious. You could search on others bookmarks. Thomas found it very useful as people he knew where curating for him by their own curation activities. A down side was that he could not contextualize the people, especially when they discuss off topic topics. Tagging could help here if people have the discipline to use tags. That is not a given. Some tools have auto-tagging that can help with this issue. Yahoo no longer seems to support MyWeb2. One reason is that Yahoo bought delicious.
Connectbeam is another example that unfortunately is not still around. I liked them (see Integrating Social Networking and Social Bookmarking with Enterprise Applications: Connectbeam). They believed that business networking begins around the sharing of ideas and information so they tightly integrated social bookmarking into their social networking platform. They also introduced the Connectbeam web services Application Programming Interface (API) that enables you to add full functionality of Connectbeam social software into your existing IT applications. Perhaps they were a bit ahead of their time.
Thomas next covered search across walled gardens. Enterprises create different levels of openness. Search needs to take this into consideration and honor the layers of accessibility.
Future search and follow results was the next topic. PubSub was an example of this but it is no longer around. You could get alerts on topics of interest for advanced business intelligence. Perhaps it was another company ahead of its time.
Thomas next discussed the concept of social comfort. There are three components: social comfort with others, social comfort with tools (e.g. How far is the reach of my actions?) and social comfort with subject matter (where can I talk about certain topics?). These are issues to resolve as you use social tools.
There was a lot of useful information and context in the session. Thomas has a depth of experience here. It seems that this is still a field that is a ‘work in progress.” Many of the initial tools are not around any more. Others are still being refined. One experimental tool in this space that I like is IBM Social Lens (see IBM’s Social Lens Provides Smart Content Filter). I look forward to seeing what progress is conveyed in next year’s session.
by Bill Ives
Adobe is making a major play into the enterprise application market building on their strong consumer market presence. They began offering LiveCycle in 2004 and are now focusing this platform on supporting customer experience management. I recently spoke with Nicole Kealey, Group Product Marketing Manager, Enterprise Solutions to go over their offerings in this space. She said that enterprise solutions are now the fastest growing segment of the Adobe business.
They are focusing on helping enterprise and government customers increase efficiencies and improve service. For example, enhancing customer self-service and supporting frontline customer service staff. LiveCycle is an enterprise suite that helps companies streamline human and document-centric processes. It takes advantage of the Adobe Flash Platform for the delivery of intuitive RIAs as well as Adobe Reader for rich documents. . They have been primarily focusing on the financial services, government and the public sector helping produce both B2C and B2B apps.
LiveCycle brings together multiple solutions within one framework. This allows for cross channel integration for supporting end-to-end customer experiences. It offers a mix of SaaS and on-premise options. Three major features of LiveCycle are process automation, security and interactivity. LiveCycle also brings the ability to provide Rich Internet capabilities to BPM and the latest Gartner Magic Quadrant on BPM lists Adobe as a leader.
Nicole showed me a great example using high-end graphics and interactivity to enable self-service for auto insurance claims processing. You told the system what type of car you were driving. Then it displayed an image and you could visually define the areas in need of repair. This helps avoid confusion in claims processing as the visual image can be much more accurate than text. You could also define the accident through graphics of the street location. In addition, this interactivity is more likely to engage the users, reducing the possibility of disengagement and a move to a call center.
Adobe looked at the most common uses cases for LiveCycle and has now released Solution Accelerators to speed development in these areas. Built on LiveCycle 2.5, Solution Accelerators kick-start project planning, decrease development time for production applications, and reduce risk with a supportable and upgradable framework. Solution Accelerators also provide best practice methodologies, solution templates, and building blocks to extend LiveCycle 2.5. They take you through the first 80% of development, leaving space for some customization. The three initial Solution Accelerators are:
Correspondence Management Solution Accelerator enables business users to dynamically create personalized communications using pre-approved layouts and content to provide consistent customer correspondence such as creating a customized claims letter. You can see a sample from the financial services sector below.
Interactive Statements Solution Accelerator engages customers through communications that embed the power of personalized RIAs in secure PDF formats, including credit card statements, telecommunications bills and electronic invoices. Below is a sample from a financial services firm. Nicole showed me a lot of interactivity that you cannot see in this one image. PDF has come a long way with its increased interactivity. I wish my banks and insurance companies used these.
Managed Review & Approval Solution Accelerator can rapidly deliver solutions that enable multi-party participation in content review processes. This has been very helpful for media and entertainment companies as they review visual material. Here is a sample below.
Adobe is also enhancing its support for mobile apps. Nicole mentioned that mobile devices have exceeded laptops. Most analysts predict this as a major growth area.
They are also planning to add more social features, enabled, in part, by their pending acquisition of Day Software. This includes the ability for users to better integrate their global Web presence with LiveCycle apps. Adobe expects to add social Web content management solutions, as well as robust measurement, analytics and visualization tools into future versions of LiveCycle. These are all good moves.
I asked Nicole why enterprise apps are the fastest growing area within Adobe. She said there are several factors. First, it is new so there is more room for growth. Second, enterprise IT budgets generally allow for larger efforts than what occurs within the consumer world. Third, and perhaps most important, there is a movement toward making the enterprise IT world look and act more like the consumer world and LiveCycle is a great platform for this transformation. Looking at what they are doing with LiveCycle, I can see why this platform provides a solid means to create apps with both Web 2.0 capabilities and enterprise business requirements.
by Bill Ives
Inmagic provides Presto, a comprehensive knowledge management and collaboration application. I have covered them before here (see Inmagic Offers Social Knowledge Networks with Presto 3.3). Recently, I spoke again with Phil Green, CTO, and Mike Cassettari, VP of Marketing, about their latest moves with the release of Presto 3.5. Presto enables business users to create and manage KnowledgeNets™, Social Knowledge Networks (SKN) that are tied to a specific business objective.
I told Phil and Mike that I really like that Presto is designed to support task focused collaboration. When I was involved with the early days of knowledge management I never saw a successful implementation that was not aligned with business processes. I think KM lost some of its promise when it strayed from this goal and became more general content repositories. With enterprise 2.0, we have also sometimes lost the business task focus, especially as tools for the consumer Web are applied within the enterprise.
The new release of Presto provides enhanced functionality that includes discussion forums, which facilitate topic-specific collaboration, extended single sign-on (SSO), which authenticates third-party applications, and improved overall performance optimization for large enterprises. There is also increased metrics with the Integrated Report Writer. You can set up reports to see such social metrics as top contributors, content ratings, etc. A sample report screen is shown below.
The discussion forums connect collaboration activities (e.g.: commenting, rating, tagging) to a specific process or topic, (e.g.: proposal development, sales enablement, competitive analysis), and retain discussion details, unlike email. Much of the important conversations within an enterprise get lost in email so this allows for a transparent archive to make this valuable content accessible. You can post a comment, create a reply, and tag it for easier access. Below is a sample forum screen.
The enhanced security comes through what they term “Social Security” through extended SSO. It provides striated levels of access to information based on user authorization and privileges, creating cohesive security across KnowledgeNet repositories.
There is also improved search performance for large organizations with substantial repositories (>1M records), and ingestion performance is improved for enhanced data loading. Content can come in immediately and then the metadata is added in background processing. Enhanced content relations establish a one-to-one or one-to-many relationship between Presto objects (e.g.: a contract may reference and link to multiple P.O.’s). This allows for easier content curation.
After reviewing the new capabilities within Presto 3.5, we looked at a client case example, HRPA, a Canadian HR association. Inmagic has found a great acceptance in associations and this case makes it clear why. HRPA wanted to provide greater service to its members through enhanced access to content so they set up a Resource Centre enabled through Presto. They also wanted to create a greater sense of community. Both goals are being accomplished as they have empowered users to be more actively engaged in gaining content and deciding what content is provided. HRPA was receiving massive email requests for content and operating in a reactive mode. Now they can make this content accessible through the Resource Centre, making the process more efficient for both the association staff and the members. You can see the Centre below.
HRPA staff monitors requests and adds the most common ones to the content repository. They can also offer fee-based customer research generating more revenue. Now they are looking at organizing forums around practice areas and launching subject matter expert blogs. The Centre was launched in September and the members have seen very excited about the new developments.
I like the improvements with Presto 3.5, especially the ones that address the social side of content management. With enterprise 2.0 we are seeing an increasing integration of collaboration and content management capabilities. Presto 3.5 is a great example of this trend.
by Bill Ives
Bitrix is a Russian company with a US presence that offers a number of enterprise products built on their Bitrix Framework. These include Bitrix SaaS, Bitrix Site Manager, and Bitrix Intranet Portal. I recently spoke with Stephen Ankenman and Denis Zenkin about their intranet offering. It is a robust platform of enterprise collaboration and content management that operates within an enterprise 2.0 paradigm with excellent transparency. They now have over 40,000 business users that run their intranets and websites with the Bitrix platform.
Stephen walked me through many of the features of the Intranet Portal. The dashboard is very configurable at both the individual and admin levels. You can add widgets linking to both consumer Web sites like ESPN and to internal content sources like employee profiles. The admin can select how much flexibility is available. There is a very clear interface. You can see a sample dashboard below.
Finding other employees is augmented through Active Directory and Outlook integration. Whenever an employee is connected to an item, you see the employee profile with the ability to start internal IM style chats and video chats. The IM chats are archived for future access. This is a great feature as most IM conversations are simply lost.
There are a number of capabilities that align with business functions. One of my favorites is the ability to create business process workflows. You can set up a visualization of the work process and include requirements such as multiple approval levels. It is important for enterprise 2.0 platforms to align with business processes and not simply be a utility. This feature address that need. You can see a sample process creation below.
You can also set up visualizations of your organizational structure with the robust profiles placed within each chart. Below is a sample chart.
You can set up groups for a variety of functions such as putting access parameters on a discussion or managing a project. Much of the functionality can be deployed at the corporate level and the group level. This includes calendaring as shown below. File sharing also operates this way as you can use the group function to control access to certain documents. Forums can be within a group or across the enterprise. You can participate in forums through email.
Tasks are another business focused capability and task assignment allows for transparent progress to be available to the group members in the spirit of enterprise 2.0 The Bitrix Intranet Portal is designed to manage a business, making essential content available at the right levels. Stephen said that many of their clients are moving to a collaborative platform for the first time. I can see how they find Bitrix both easy to use and align with their work requirements.
by Bill Ives
This is the second in a series on an IBM social media press event I attended last month following part one posted last week. I covered a similar one in 2005 so I was pleased to see their new directions. Jeff Schick, VP social software, mentioned that IBM Research has done a study on the implications of using social and infusing collaboration into commerce experience. They are connecting social with IBM commerce software. One lesson learned for this effort was a requirement for moderation. The need emerged to drop non-constructive comments. Also there is a need for approval to share in some cultures and it can be addressed through the moderation function.
IBM’s own social media guidelines have been developed over time and they publically available are online (see: Social Media Policy Outside and Inside the Enterprise)
Jeff now sees the social concept everywhere. For example: How can collaboration be infused into product development? Into help desks? They are now working with many areas of IBM so each one does not have to create their own social capabilities.
Jeff also spoke on social analytics. It is an exciting part of the business for IBM. Information in the river of news is growing. So how to create information and attention management to do your job in this context? How can you be alert to what is useful? So IBM is focused on bringing analytics into collaboration process. For example, you can use analytics to find both good and poor functioning. Your services division revenue may be down in relation to product revenue and you can see that products people are not talking to services on leads. You can find who to offer a retention bonus in merger of two banks since he or she is a hub in connections. Atlas is the commercial name for IBM’s monitoring tool.
Joan DiMarco next spoke on IBM Research. There are eight labs with over 3,000 researchers. IBM has been granted more patents than any other company for past 17 years. The Center for Social Software started in 2008 with strong Lotus ties. It looks to customers and academics for ideas and uses a wisdom of crowds approach.
Joan mentioned some past examples of ideas to products:
In 2004 dogear – the social bookmarking tool or enterprise – was developed and its capabilities have been added to Connections. (see my post - Social Bookmarking in the Enterprise – IBM’s Internal Tagging Tool – Dogear).
In 2006 SaND and Fringe were developed and they provide connection recommendations,
In 2007 Social Blue was developed as Beehive. It provides informal workplace sharing and status messages.
The Center for Social Software does what they call venture research. They design, build, deploy large-scale systems and seed a crowd of users. Then they watch how the system evolves with usage and apply lessons to the IBM product pipeline.
There are five themes: Analytics, visualization, harnessing the network, aggregation, and social updates. Social analytics is a big push in IBM now.
Here are six projects that occur at the intersection of visualization and analytics.
Banter provides machine-learning analysis of blogs and tweets. It looks at emerging themes and tells you what tweets require action and by whom.
Twitter Backchannel provides visualization of major streams as word clouds and topic streams.
Social Lens filters your update stream to focus on your areas of interest.
Many Eyes allows you to upload data for visualization. I have used this tool and there are a variety of interesting visualizations available.
Many Bills offers text analytics applied to US Congressional legislation to make it more accessible and understandable.
SaNDVis provides visualizations of aggregated social network data.
Three projects are combinations of the themes of harnessing the network and aggregation
Answers supports enterprise question and answer sessions.
Blue Spruce supports the Radiology Theater medical research project that Francine Jacobson described.
Audrey is a personalized news service that recommends news stories and blog posts to intranet users by leveraging their social network.
This is a diverse and impressive collection of applications. In 2005 some of the social media efforts looked at supporting collaboration across business processes. This was a great goal then and remains one but it has matured a bit. Now they are looking at how to better understand and use the massive amounts of unstructured data and conversations that have emerged through social media. I think this is the next great opportunity for social media innovation so I agree completely with their direction.
IBM provided demos of these tools mentioned above, along with the latest versions of Lotus Connections and Unified Communications. Connections has added some interesting analytical capabilities since I last covered it in 2008 (see Looking Closely at Lotus Connections). You can see the social networks of participants and manipulate these visualizations to uncover patterns. In future posts in this series I will explore Social Lens, Many Bills, Audrey, and Connections in more detail.