Thinking about transitions

I was recently in a web conference that included a physical meeting room with some 5-6 people in it whilst others in the meeting were connected to WebEx.  Whilst no issues technically, the mix of physical and virtual, in my opinion just wasn’t effective.  Now, normally in a 100% WebEx meeting there  is an indication of identity and who is speaking.  It is a great attempt to visualise physical meetings.  Nothing new there, it has been around for ages and as a platform is brilliant.

However, when a meeting room dials in and is shared between multiple people in a room, the physical to virtual is completely lost.  Yes you can see the room speaking, but identities are not prevalent and this is a problem, especially if you are not familiar with the personnel at the other end.

This leads me to believe that we are in a transition.  I believe that transitions are short periods of time that help us evolve to better methods of achieving or goal.  They also have their ups and downs until we get through it.  Do you remember the compact disc?  That was a transition.  It was a transition to where we are now with streaming media.  It was supposed to be more durable than vinyl with crystal clear clarity in digital form.  It delivered that, but in a short period, it has been superceded by music downloads and of course the mp3 player that not only offer the supberb quality in sound and vision, but also the simplicity to obtaining content.

Obviously every transition will have a start and an end.  In this case the start is a physical meeting.  Traditional in every sense, but now as we embrace and extend globalisation and boundaryless enterprises our colleagues and more importantly the knowledge pools are being pull together from far-flung places across the globe.  Technology has allowed us to do this, but we don’t always get it right.  Admittedly the physical meeting is king, but productivity can still soar using multiparty voice and the combination of both.  I think we’ve proved that as we continue to increase the usage of online conferences.

The goal however, is to emulate the physical meeting as much as possible and that’s where video has to be the answer…for now.  Not just any video but high-definition real-time video.  It is here today, but the usage is minor compared to voice and I think that is just a matter of time before video overtakes voice on the network as it becomes more affordable and the quality increases.

So, I have to keep reminding myself, not to dismiss what we have today, embrace it and accept that the transition to video is almost here.

Wikis – An open book.

I love this post by Mary Abraham on how wikis mess with your mind.  It’s absolutely true within an organisational culture.  I’ve experienced it and I too started off with apprehension that was quickly changed to addiction.  At my previous employer wikis took off albeit a little slowly, but nonetheless ahead of most of our competitors.  The success was simply down to sponsorship from the top down.  The benefits were immediate, the knowledge and the talent in the organisation was blown open and collaboration across teams grew organically or so it seemed.

Virtual teams were created in the content and grew over time.  The fact that people contributed through their own interests was culture changing.  We took it a stage further by integrating presence into the wiki with the goal of creating a tacit knowledge base; meaning that you had the ability to communicate in real-time with contributors to extend the collaboration.

I’m now working on creating a similar platform (or repeating the success) with presence everywhere, but the technology part is easy, the challenge now is to introduce the culture of an open book into the organisation where everyone can publish, search, consume and converse.  That sounds very similar to my old boss JP’s vision of Four Pillars.

Well of course, that’s the culture I supported.

Globalise-Nation

It seems there’s a flurry of German acquisition acitivity in my reader today.  Well, not really a flurry, but certainly signs that Germany are buying anything that smells German.  Commerzbank and Dresdner is a done deal predicted back in DecemberDeutsche Bank and Postbank and now Lufthansa and SAS.  I’m sure there will be more.  My question is… are the Germans trying to reverse Globalisation?

Same old problems.

I remember back in the late 1990s I worked on a project for GE to deploy Microsoft Exchange. GE at the time made a corporate decision to deploy a single messaging platform throughout the globe to overcome what they saw as a business communication problem. They used the analogy of a representative from GE Plastics walking past the representative from GE Lighting in the corridors of General Motors or Chrysler not knowing that they were both working for the same company with the same client and not being able to share any information. They believed that working together Plastics and Lighting could benefit the customer as well as GE. The case was compelling and the sponsorship of a single messaging platform came from the top, it had Jack Welch’s buy-in!

Reading Andrew McAfee’s post today I was reminded of this age and it occurred to me that we are still trying to solve this problem but this time the technology is Enterprise 2.0 and the use of Wikis and Blogs in a bid to reduce the use of email.

His students responses, in my view, are right on the button and his dissection of the responses make perfect sense. They mention cases where Wikis and Blogs can improve the collaboration between diverse businesses and teams within many different organisations, they highlight how collaboration and knowledge sharing can improve business processes, but I still can’t help thinking that whilst technology is evolving and we have new problems to solve, we’ve not fixed the problems that existed all those years ago.

Looking at it from another point of view, maybe we are solving the problem, but in stages. Email was the first step, but we are far from finished.

Microsoft Zimbra?

I really like Zimbra’s collaboration suite.  I remember looking into Zimbra, amongst others,  a few years ago when I decided to investigate what alternatives corporate Microsoft Exchange users had if they chose not to follow the MS Exchange road map.

At the time many of the alternatives available on the market lacked mobility, archiving and Outlook integration.  These were some of the criteria at the time.

The lack of functionality is no longer the case.  Zimbra now supports true push to Blackberry devices and also incorporates archiving and discovery.  The reality of moving from a Microsoft server platform is becoming reality.

Having said all that, look a little harder at the corporate level and you’ll see that Zimbra is owned by Yahoo and there is a possibility that this could all fall under a Microsoft brand in the future.  So what will become of Zimbra or indeed Exchange (which incidental is in need of a serious overall from the ground up)?

I can’t wait, but I fear we will all have to.

Search for search

Just over two years ago, I embarked on a project to deploy an Enterprise Search engine within the bank. I may have mentioned this before.

During the period of evaluations and proof of concepts, I attended a few seminars and a couple of meetings with Microsoft who were embarking on repackaging their legacy index server as a search engine delivered with Sharepoint.

I documented my findings from these meetings along with other comparisons and conclusions from the products we looked at, unfortunately they are located on the internal wiki and cannot be referenced here. In any case,my findings were in summary, that Microsoft were making a poor and reactive attempt to compete with Google in the Enterprise. Their only hope would be to either go back to the drawing board, in which case they would be late to the market if they were to bring anything innovative to market or acquire a established Enterprise product.

That was around early 2005 and low and behold, here we are in early 2008!

Personally,I think this is a good move. Not sure about the timing commercially, but financially, yes! Let see what Microsoft decide to do with it.