Blogger: Mike Gotta, Principal Analyst
Catalyst was incredibly busy for all of us in the Collaboration and Content Strategies (CCS) service. The customer interaction and overall conference excitement makes Catalyst a very different experience for both attendees and analysts alike. I've tried to aggregate and summarize the dialogs I had with clients over the course of the week (including ad-hoc conversations in the hospitality suites as well as meetings scheduled during the event). The priorities of the people I talked to were:
- Revisiting strategic plans for collaboration
- Best use of user segmentation models
- Applying social software to "connect the dots"
- Getting started with unified communications
Collaboration Strategy Update
Some clients I talked to are in the midst of revisiting and/or updating their strategic plans for collaboration technologies. Given major releases from both IBM and Microsoft, organizations are taking the opportunity to revisit past assumptions and re-sync with business needs. A timely presentation on this topic came from one of our clients. I consistently heard positive feedback on a presentation delivered by Craig Williams of Capital One Financial regarding how his organization approached development of a comprehensive collaboration strategy.
Purely from a technology perspective, Microsoft's Office SharePoint 2007 was a dominant topic for discussion. I also was asked three times about the collaboration value of Second Life.
Issues related to social software seem to throwing a "monkey wrench" into the strategic planning process for some clients. People were debating the business case for social software (e.g., blogs, wikis) versus traditional tools. Others were debating whether they should wait for larger vendors to deliver such capabilities or to go with more specialized vendors. This lead to some interesting back-and-forth regarding the best options to support business requirements when such action requires use of specialized ("best of breed") vendors vs. using tools from larger vendors that are delivering mediocre solutions vs. the integration and infrastructure complexity arising from too many vendors or immature products.
The launch of Lotus Connections seemed to have caused some people to pause for a moment. A couple of organizations I talked to had been constructing their own internal employee profile system but are contrasting the traditional "white pages" concept with consumer tools like Facebook as well as what IBM and others are offering.
Some of the people I talked to had not "circled around" to revisit the collaboration market for some time. I discussed the emergence of blogs, wikis, tagging (i.e., social bookmark systems), XML syndication (i.e., RSS) and social networking tools and the impact such tools are having on the collaboration landscape. My general advice was: while the scale/scope of technologies included within a strategic planning effort for collaboration has increased, the shift to prioritize organizational dynamics is critical to the overall success of any social computing or collaboration effort.
User Segmentation Models
Organizations used to segment users based on some common definitions: clerical, transactional, structured task worker, information worker, and knowledge worker. There seems to be more interest in approaching such segmentation models by role, by activity or by "pattern" (a "brainstorming" pattern implemented via tools X and Y). We tend to put people into some type of caste system and that really diminishes our capability to think out-of-the-box regarding how workers interact and network regardless of job description, process role or work activity. Classification schemes are helpful as a means to help create a shared context for how certain technologies can be applied but we need to be careful to not place people into a box that inhibits them from participating. Some of the most innovative ideas might come from people assigned the label of "structured task worker" where business or IT strategists might have inadvertently focused on "knowledge workers" for such creativity.
Connecting The Dots With Social Software
Some conversations I had with attendees involved the use of blogs, tagging and social networking strategies to help "connect the dots" between different "tribes" within an organization. These clients appeared to be more receptive to "designing systems that accommodated serendipity". What I appreciated from these conversations was the notion that getting collaboration right is less about focusing on form/function and more about designing user environments that support certain contexts and choreography across participants. Form/function doesn't go away, but we seem to be improving on our understanding regarding the role that emergence and complexity has on business activities and work practices.
Getting Started With Unified Communications
Unified Communications is a daunting endeavor for many clients. The consistent issues I heard were anchored around: how to get started, putting the program together, the technology manifest and managing through vendor agendas. Clients seemed receptive to the idea that unified communications requires some type of program management approach. There will be multiple projects spanning multiple years warranting some type of governance and stewardship over time. It did seem that the more popular "drop zones" into UC are unified messaging and VoIP/IP telephony projects. The Bank of America presentation delivered on Friday of the conference was a good "best practice" example of merging collaboration and communication trends into a unified strategy.