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Friday, June 13, 2008

I was reading an interesting article last night from McKinsey's which was an interview with Marina Levinson the chief information officer of Net App in California.

I'm always interested in trends in this area as I have worked in organisations where the IT function seemed to take a perverse delight in hindering and not helping the business to develop or even automate certain functions or helping us to analyse information.

It was interesting, that for the major parts of the business that had say a global aspect, that there was a key decision maker in the IT department who was allocated to cover that business.

In these days where more organisations are covering a matrix style organisational structure and project teams that form and dissolve that a key IT person who can deliver IT that helps that business improve itself and understands the type of business and the work that it undertakes would be of benefit. The hope is that they would be a partner and not a stopper.

Based on that the concept of the IT link to a large part of the business would enable that person to answer two key questions in my mind:-

' How can IT help my division to be able to collaborate effectively, to assist innovation and to capture and share knowledge with a high level of systemic reliability'

' What are your business challenges and how can IT aid you in delivering on these challenges.'

The IT person attached to the business should look to see where the capability gaps are - ie does the IT support the divisions strategic delivery plans.

They should also consider whether they should buy in IT - or if the capability exists build the software them selves.

This week, there has been a major conference on Enterprise 2.0 and I find one particular question and response of interest in the light of that conference and also from a KM viewpoint.


In the last decade, companies made major investments in automating structured processes and routine tasks. More recently, investment has supported knowledge workers who base decisions on a combination of structured and unstructured input and dialogue. How do you see this shift?


There isn’t much innovation left in the structured world. If you want to innovate, you really need to look at collaboration and the creation of communities. Businesses are not as advanced as consumers in creating these communities, but I think there are a lot of opportunities for very interesting innovation that we haven’t seen yet.

We have some of this activity happening at the grassroots level in our company, such as deploying wikis for the engineering staff. But it will become necessary to develop a Web 2.0 strategy that benefits the entire company. You have to allow some chaos at first to get people to experiment. But at some point, you have to create a framework, some kind of order. And, of course, it’s impossible to quantify the benefits right now—you just need to believe that collaborative technologies help to improve employee productivity.

Amen to that and I also see the job of the IT person to ensure that projects are delivered - one post I read last week about how to kill enterprise 2.0 in the business had this quote.

They will grind down their early adopters until they give up. I'd like to add that this can be done through the bureaucracy within companies where a good idea is lost in some Kafkaesque procedure until either the idea is lost, or takes so long the technology is obsolete.

I've put a link to Euan Semple's article here and it is interesting to read as are the comments. It begs two questions.

  • whether the majority of organisations are like this and
  • are IT departments themselves agents of change or agents of reaction.

I'd also like to agree with a comment from Steve Dale who cross posted this article. I agree with him that in some organisations the phrase one size must fit all is used.

The beauty of Web 2.0 is in it's flexibility and ease to set up and if people within an organisation are frustrated by the lack of internal solutions then they will go and find workable external solutions that are cheap enough to sneak below the budgetary radar.

Knowledge workers require IT that helps them in their job and answers the top two questions. These tools can help and support a firms knowledge management process though it is always the people first and the technology second - you shouldn't start by looking at it through a technological prism.

In the end the IT is a tool that can help you move from being an island of knowledge to an army of people who see knowledge and its use as they key weapon in your businesses future survival thorough collaborative and connective technology and person to person communities.

As regular readers will know - KM in my eyes is the convergence of people, technology and process to help the organisation meet its strategic aims.


Many thanks to Doug Cornelius and all the others who have placed their thoughts on the E 2.0 conference during the course of the week. I wish I could have been there - despite the problems with the wifi - their posts have been excellent and I will no doubt post about this during the course of next week when I've reflected on it

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