Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Enterprise 2.0 tools for projects

I originally posted this as a comment on one of Andrew McAfee's blog posts, then realised I should be putting it on here, too.

I've been trying to get a project team to use E2.0 tools recently. It's been harder work than I expected. We've been using Google docs to hold project documentation. This includes a spreadsheet that is the project plan. I had to switch to Zoho for the plan, because it became too big to upload to Google Docs. So that made 2 places to look, and 2 applications to learn. I thought both Google Docs and Zoho would be 'no-brainers' to get the hang of, but some people found it difficult. And we've had glitches, both human (eg my forgetting to give the right people access to a document) and technical (a bug in Google preventing editing of access permissions).

However, despite all these issues I think we've begun to see some benefits, and no-one has refused to play ball out of our small team of half a dozen or so. It's also been interesting that, some sensitive customer data apart (which was kept off the system) there has not been too much concern about putting the project data onto third party servers.

Incidentally, the team comprises the customer for a system, the supplier, and myself as an independent project manager. The fact that we're from three different organisations made it beneficial to use SaaS platforms (no access problems), but it also meant I didn't have the power to make the choice of tools and methods a matter of diktat.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Wikis and Blogs: same but different?

It struck me today that the types of Web 2.0 tool (or at least, publishing rather than finding tool) can be roughly divided into two paradigms. We could call the first the add-a-post paradigm. Into this camp fall blogs, Twitter, discussion forums (or bulletin boards, if you're old school) and, I think, social networks. The second paradigm could be called the overwrite paradigm. It includes not only wikis but Google Docs, Zoho and online mindmapping like Mind42.

It also struck me that the first paradigm seems to be the more intuitive for most people. Or at least, it seems to be easier to get people to adopt it. Much has been written about the problems involved in getting wikis to take off. As Jay Hariani says here, "When we hold presentations with the goal of explaining to users that Word is the past and Clearspace, Confluence, Zoho, or Google Docs is the future, they often smile politely, but have trouble seeing how things might be. Selling them on the E2.0 ethos of knowledge reuse, search not store, and folksonimies takes a lot of convincing." Why this is, isn't quite clear, although I suspect it's a combination several things:
- people like to see 'their post' being responded to rather than changed;
- they might feel diffident about changing someone else's work
- they might feel an overwrite paradigm space is 'owned' by someone else in a way that they don't about an add-a-post space.

If I'm right about all this, it will take longer to see widespread adoption (assuming other things are equal) of the overwrite model in organisations than it will for the add-a-post model. The only exception I can immediately think of would be for a heavily templated or structured overwrite space which meets a clear and specific business process need.

What do you think?

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Students don't expect their tutor to see Facebook

During a drink last night with a friend who is a noted academic at London University, we talked a bit about social networking. I was interested in the extent to which university students were using Web 2.0 facilities in general as part of their studies. My friend did not seem to have deeply integrated these tools into her teaching methods, but she did remark that she had run a quick search of Facebook and found twelve of her students on there. The interesting thing was the reaction of these twelve on being told that she had done so - deep shock. She emphasised to me that her motives were strictly honorable - no dirt-digging was involved. In fact, she had been thinking of using Facebook as an internal forum for her student group, and that was the reason for checking who was on there. Despite this the reaction of the twelve could not have been stronger if she'd just told them they had all flunked their course.

This came as a surprise to me. I'd assumed that young Facebook users simply didn't care who saw what they were posting. Apparently not. If this group is representative of the whole - and, although it's a small sample, I see no real reason why not - it seems more as if they assume anyone over, say 40, either hasn't heard of Facebook or can't do a search.

Projecting this situation into a corporate context, I'm again having to revise an assumption. This was that young joiners, social networking users to a man (or woman), and of the 'let-it-all-hang-out' style to boot, would pressurise companies to change their culture, and that this in turn might accelerate the adoption of Enterprise 2.0. I now wonder if it isn't more likely that social networking will be a leisure-related medium only, as that's the way 20-somethings want it.

What do you think?