Huge people challenges and opportunities

In the last few days and in various meetings I have had, it has clearly reinforced the challenge of getting people on the bus with software and information management initiatives.

Nowhere is this more difficult than in the growing beasts that are international companies. No longer does the mantra apply “think global, act local” explicitly in relation to software and systems, as organisations seek to refine the best of the knowledge they have into common ways of doing things.

So, there are some barriers to break down:

  1. Not invented here. Obvious enough problem… but confounded further with Point 2.
  2. The system we use was invented here, in fact, I invented it…. compounded further with…
  3. I like the way our company did things before the takeover…. compounded further with…
  4. Those guys are in another part of the world, and they think differently to us (these types of cultural differences are very real)

For more reading, see my post on people, process and technology.

The Next Wave in Personal meeting Business Computing

Last week I met Michael Grey, Supply Chain Evangelist for Dell. We were chatting about future technologies given the incredible leaps that have occurred in computing over the last 30 years, with significant waves of change including:

  • widespread use of mainframe computing
  • proliferation of desktop computers
  • ubiquitous internet
  • Web 2.0 / mashups versus SOA – to allow the connection of web based software to share data in a secure manner

With all this change I was interested in what was next.

One of the points he raised was the issue of people becoming far more attached to their own computer than wanting to use a company one (which typically would be inferior to their own personal machine).

It raises a whole heap of issues:

  • Ability to provide support for multiple machine types (various manufacturers and editions of software)
  • How to maintain a Standard Operating Environment – an SOE reduces risk and cost in support
  • How to limit the company from risk should someone’s computer have pirate software or songs, or illicit material
  • Does setting up VMWare cut it? (VMWare is virtual machine software – basically like running a clean install of all software and documents. You then have two versions of an operating system on one machine. Also really great if you want to run two operating environments eg Mac OSX and Vista).
    If a company turns a blind eye to other information on a computer, is the company at risk?
  • Is the individual at greater risk as a result of connecting to a company environment?

In some respects, putting an appropriate policy in place can work provided it is audited regularly for compliance. And automated tools can validate the legitimacy of information held on a laptop, and most likely companies will stipulate that the individual warrants that everything they hold is legal.

Without automated tools to validate the legitimacy of information held on a laptop, it is unlikely that a policy will be enough. Most likely companies will stipulate that the individual warrants that everything they hold is legal – but active checking on the compliance with policy, and records that indicate as such, are likely to be mandatory. The only other alternative is a blanket no – not something that today’s breed of knowledge workers from all generations like to hear.

Either way it is new ground.

So, what should you do?

1. Define where the highest levels of demand for connecting personal machines are
2. Identify and develop a policy and get explicit signoff
3. Put in place auditing measures
4. Trial and monitor

If you have been through something like this or are about to, please post a comment and let me know your views.

Are Directors distracted by compliance?

I recently attended a workshop held by the Australian Institute of Company Directors that was discussing the challenges of compliance, particularly related to the continuous disclosure legal requirements of Australian companies. The intent of the requirement is to ensure continuous disclosure to ensure an equally and adequately informed stock market.

A case study was presented of various situations in which a company might have disclosure issues and when to disclose. For example, a heads of agreement is at a draft stage – but commercially sensitive. Any information made public about the deal may actually kill the deal – but legally the company is required to release a disclosure statement to the share market. How do you do that appropriately?

In speaking to various directors after the event, I posed the question that the very high bar set in meeting compliance requirements might be distracting directors from the core job of creating value for shareholders and continuing to innovate. One of Perth’s leading directors agreed, and also expressed concern that high caliber people will be less likely to pursue directorships. Another indicated that it was his view that most boards worked out how to deal with compliance quickly, and were then able to get on with the job.

Unfortunately the minority of companies that perform poorly and unethically tend to create problems for everyone else. I sense that compliance is imposing too much – however, perhaps it is a necessary evil to protect the interests of shareholders and business partners.

Strategy – bringing online and offline together

Richard Koch and Peter Nieruwenhuizen have written an enjoyable and practical read on strategy as it applies to business. It asks 10 key questions that are the useful questions that need to be answered when taking over or trying to get the better out of a business.

The questions are:

  1. What business are you in?
  2. Where do you make the money?
  3. How good are your competitive positions?
  4. What skills and capabilities underpin your success?
  5. Is this a good business to be in?
  6. What do the customers think?
  7. What about the competitors?
  8. Should you do something else?
  9. Who are we? What will we do?
  10. How to raise profits quickly?

Each of the chapters looks at a question, and then details how to answer it, with two case study examples.

One of the neat ideas that they have applied to this is that they have developed their own software – which is a neat way of extending the capability of the book, and to get people to visit the www.simplystrategy.com site. In my view I confess I didn’t find the look of the software compelling, and the site left me a bit flat – but the book is an excellent read and I heartily recommend it. The way to use the software is described throughout the book, however it is not pushed on the reader. It is clear that the authors have used the tool as a part of the strategic engagements they have led.

As an alternative, you might like to take a look at www.planhq.com

Obviously derived from BaseCampHQ heritage, it provides an approach to developing a traditional business plan. Like so many Web 2.0 sites, free trial for a month is available.

Happy strategizing!

People, process and technology – enter Enterprise 2.0

I’ve got to say I have an interesting concern – but a sense of delight at the possibilities – about the speed and capacity of change of Enterprise 2.0. Let me explain…

In the world of application development, there is a serious and mounting argument from the rapid development / iterative prototyping camp versus the waterfall (requirements, design, build, test, deploy, support) purists. When it comes to applications that affect corporations – that is, across the enterprise – I am a firm believer in the latter.

Iterative development is great when there are only a few people involved – or a small point solution that only affects a few people. When you start getting more people involved, the challenges go up.

The challenges include:

  • People – commitment to using a new process and a new underpinning system – and a common way of doing so
  • Process – is the process we are using common to all? Do we all do our own thing?)
  • Technology – solid analysis of the problems and a clear view of how to resolve them with technology

Now with Web 2.0 / Enterprise 2.0, the beauty is that these applications are breaking new ground in making the process neatly tied up in the applications and making it really simple for people to follow the process without having to think too much about it – or having to refer to training manuals or help guides. However, the ease of picking one up, configuring them differently according to different needs – but at the same time missing the opportunity to apply them consistently is the challenge.

The takeaway points to consider:

  • If you are going to go for a Web 2.0 application, do document your processes and make sure people apply it consistently within the organisation
  • Software developers can learn from the myriad of Web 2.0 projects smart ways of developing inviting interfaces and very simple and fast sign up and use approaches
  • The next raft of successful enterprise scale applications from the Web 2.0 environment will make a dent on traditional software only when sold, implemented and supported like enterprise software

All comments welcome!

Is Web 2.0 creating innovation – or is it happening because of it?


Isn’t it an exciting time to be alive? There has never been such a volume of innovation – or information for that matter. And by the time you finish reading this post, there will be plenty of others you can also dig into.

Right now we are seeing innovation in so many areas – biotech, renewables, medicine, engineering. Technology underpins the capacity to innovate – and Web 2.0 is also a seething hotbed of new ideas with a new commercial bent. But is Web 2.0 the source of innovation, or is it happening because of the innovation around us?

Well, both are true – but the demand for technology tools to help us collaborate continues to grow.

Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 – Collaborations new frontier and its profound impact on information management in your enterprise.

There is a great deal of hype and mystique surrounding Web 2.0 and myriad of 2.0 terms that now exist as a result, such as Work 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, Office 2.0 and so on.

The hype is as loud and as significant as the last dot com boom where 2.0 has replaced “e”.

However, what is different today is that this revolution is focussed squarely at collaborative technologies and information sharing, as opposed to primarily transaction exchange of the dot com era.

Are you in a capacity to provide a leadership role in the emergence of Web 2.0? For it is as certain as night follows day that your staff are using these technologies without you knowing or seeking your consent – all in the name of getting the job done quicker.

Over the next series of posts I will outline the following:

  • Outline the facets of Web 2.0 and compare and contrast to dot com
  • Explain some of the technologies that underpin Web 2.0
  • Show you some great tools you can take advantage of new technologies
  • Explain a myriad of terms used including RSS, Mashups, Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, blogs, wikis and you show you tools such as 37 Folders and tagging approaches
  • Outline how you can start to incorporate these types of tools and approaches into your Information Management Strategies
  • Outline some of the moves the larger vendors are taking to support these types of collaborative technologies

Could this be EDRM nirvana – an opportunity to tap into content – or is the animal out of the cage threatening everything done before it?

I look forward to your feedback…..

Venture Capital – The E2B experience (still smelling like dot com to me)

Back in March 2000, I discussed the idea of setting up a First Tuesday group in Western Australia with Stuart Hope, then CEO of Software Engineering Australia (SEAWA). We also brought in Peter Morris of Telesis, and got ourselves underway.

First step was to review the licencing model for First Tuesday – which read something like – “bear all liability personally, but we can take your assets – database, networks, dealflow and anything else for that matter – without recourse”.

We said, “I don’t think so” and set up our own meeting group called Entrepreneurs2business. The group was established as a dynamic meeting place for entrepreneurs, advisors and investors, with a view to commercialisation of these technology ideas to bring business growth, export revenue and to further grow the technology industry in Western Australia . Nothing particularly new in these types of forums other that the financial fuel of IPO fever.

The group was founded in May 2000 and held its first event on July 4, 2000. The group went on to hold 30 events, meeting monthly using the format of a speaker with commercialisation experience sharing their knowledge with the group. First Tuesday had long since died by the time we closed E2B.

Some interesting observations:

1. In networking events like this, the VC’s lean against the bar waiting to get picked up

2. The advisors all talk to each other and tell each other how well they are doing

3. The entrepreneurs stand nervously in the corner refusing to divulge their IP to anyone

(This is a little exaggerated of course – but seeing this in action the only thing you can do to get interaction is introduce people to each other and make sure they both understand why you are trying to connect them together).

Do you feel the market feels like that again? Fueled this time by trade sale and private equity, booming economies, and escalating salaries and expectations? Smells like it to me, love to get your feedback

What? Is that a dot-com smell in the air? It’s all about eyeballs again….

The interesting change with Web 2.0 has created a sense that the internet is all new again. There are some truly amazing success stories – witness www.utube.com as the largest, most recent couple of guys and an idea turned into millions. And may similar success fall to www.wordpress.com – this is truly a great offering.

But there is something in the air that smells funny…. and it seems we have a new generation of people coming through who have:

  • Never witnessed a recession
  • Never seen businesses lose a f…ing frightening amount of money
  • Never been paid so much for so little experience
  • Starting discussing “eyeballs” as inherently adding value

Am I cynical (or jaded as it didn’t work out last time – I was supposed to be driving a Ferrari to my own private golf course right now!) or does something smell funny?

Today, as it did at the time of the crash, it stills comes down to “show me the money”. At least now, advertising models are well established and easily quantified.

What piqued me to write this was a pic of Malcolm Gladwell on the front of the Australian Financial Review with him saying that business needs to get over itself and recognise the power of snap judgements.

I have read the Tipping Point, and did find it an interesting read. Gladwell may well be onto something – and I share a view that making snap decisions in the heat of business is often very sensible. You are closest to the action, best in the position to make the decision – so you should be able to make it without having to engage in endless email / other approvals – and analysing it may make you change your mind against something that makes sense.

However I also remember vividly hearing similar tones around the time of the dot com crash along the lines of, “if you are looking for a standard business model, you just don’t get it…”. You should be very concerned if anyone wont be specific on:

  1. Who wants it?
  2. How much for?
  3. Who says so?

At the end of the day business is about the exchange of value. Part of value creation is really thinking about things.

For more about thinking, please see my posts Talk to me in numbers and 3 Reasons why smart people in organisations do stupid things

So, what do you think? I look forward to any feedback….

Your time is your life

I’m sure you have read time management and other business quotes where the dialogue starts. “imagine you are at your own funeral….”

This week I attended the funeral of a friend that died of cancer. Many beautiful things were said about his success in his career and business interests, his devotion to his family and his love of cooking – and his vege patch. He was universally liked by everyone that met him.

Tragically his decline from good health took a very short 6 months. For those people whom work tirelessly seeking a way to treat and avoid cancer I wish you the best in your endeavours.

What can we learn from this? Live life, love your family as much as you can, enjoy everything you can, and make sure you end your day exhausted not bored.