Month: March 2009

The best DAM thing you’ve probably never heard of.

Rich media. Everyone’s doing it. No really. everyone.

Rich media includes all that isn’t text: powerpoint, video, photos, layouts, music. We could just call it media and include all that text stuff too.

Organizations are beginning to have lots of it. everything from logos to demos to promos to evidence. And that’s just the companies where media isn’t the core business.

“Rich” Media can’t be managed the same way as text. There are 4 main reasons for this

1. It isn’t text, so search engines don’t work very well with it.

2. So many formats – everything that creates or lets you view media has its own funny set of formats that it reads and spits out.

3. Size. These files are measured in GB more often than not. So its not that easy to just pass them around.

4. It generally takes some level of effort or talent to create any that’s any good – so it tends to be more valuable than your average email.

So  – how does one deal? This has been what I’ve been working on these last 12 months or so.

Its called Digital Asset Management. DAM, and yes – no end of bad puns here – has heretofore been the realm of the high end media company – the BBC and Fox, Martha Stewart Living and Random House, Procter and Gamble and Macy’s.

But as more media becomes more central to more companies – DAM or MAM or simply media management gets to be a bigger deal for nearly everyone.

What do you want from your DAM? 5 things:

1. Collection – it should get the media where it lives, and hide the issues of formats and sources

2. Management – metadata models, security, versioning, hierarchies and taxonomies.

3. Find – you should be able to browse and search to effectively retrieve or discover what you’re looking for.

4. Use – you need to be able to view, tweak and rally your team and systems around your media

5. You need to be able to publish and distribute it  to hundreds or thousands of people or places – probably in a different configuration each time.

How much do you need in each realm? Well, that depends on what it is you want to do with your media. But don’t limit yourself to thinking that your DAM is a fancy filing cabinet. Your media manager should connect people and media to your opportunities – publish to the marketplace, your partners, syndicators, aggregators and more.

The most important thing your DAM can do for you is support your vision of how you want to communicate with the world.

So I’ve been working on understanding that vision and moving the Open Text Digital Media Group to meet it. I hope that there are some folks in my readership who’ll be interested in sharing their media vision and talking about what it would take to make it come true.

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nothing to fear but fear itself

If people were perfect, we wouldn’t need to collaborate, just clone.

People used to think the way to be efficient was to divide and conquer. And that’s still true, but limited. The next level goes from divide and conquer to unite and conquer. What I mean by this is that each of us individually has a set of competencies, experience and perspectives, as well as inexperience, weaknesses and blind spots.

As a team united, our strengths are amplified and our weaknesses diminished. Anyone who’s ever been part of a really collaborative team will relate to the blood-pumping excitement – the “we can do anything” feeling that comes from this.

So why is it so very rare? There are of course lots of reasons of course, but I think the number one reason is fear.

A collaborative team has a fully and mutually open kimono. and we live in a society that’s been taught to be very bashful. A couple of generations of top-down management by fear have taught us that imperfections are shameful, and we should be sure to cover ours.

But if we’re constantly covering our ___’s then we are not allowing the team to work its amplify/minimize magic.

Earlier today, I took an email trail and posted it to an internal wiki. The ask in the email was some answers to questions posed in a q&a session. I was taken to task for posting it cause it wasn’t “ready” – it hadn’t been “reviewed” – someone’s going to take offence.

Ladies and gentlemen – this is what a wiki is for! Put it out rough, and let the team do its thing.

Who’s your team? Your team is the set of people that you share these characteristics with:

1. Shared goals and mission.

2. Mutual respect

3. Trust

4. A pact, enabled by the previous 3, that makes finding problems and flaws a virtue.

Traditional management by fear encourages us to hide flaws and weaknesses, because we’re punished for them, rather than rewarded for our strengths. So – instead of bringing possible problems to the table early and eagerly – where they can get be turned into opportunities and achievements, they are hidden until its so bad that they burst.

Want to be the best and the brightest team? Bring your strengths, bring your confidence, bring your flaws, and toss the kimono.

Why Transparency? 13 Risks, 27 Rewards and 5 questions.

I facilitated an unplanned session at Transparency camp a couple weekends ago. In a surge of enthusiasm I had put my card up on the board. 5 minutes before the talk was to begin, there were 2 people in the room and one left. But somehow the room was PACKED when we began what became a remarkably interesting discussion.

In the room were students, Sunlight Foundation founders and staffers, Government employees, non-profit workers, and several other citizens who cared.

The session was intended to explore this question – What is the purpose of transparency? What do we have to gain? What is the value proposition?

So we started talking. People agreed, disagreed, had different ideas, and we came up with a list of about 27 potential rewards, and 13 potential risks of transparency.

The question I posed to the room at the end of the session, and the question I pose to you now is this:

If we want to steer toward certain of these benefits and away toward certain risks,  does that change our approach? Or do we do everything we can to throw it all open with faith in the notion that good things will happen when an open foundation is laid?

I think this is a legitamate question for debate, and one I’m not decided on myself (i’m particularly adept at arguing both sides of most issues).

So here it is a couple weeks late, the transcribed whiteboard from our session. (if you want to see the board itself, look here).

Questions

  • Why should we care?
  • Is transparency an End or Means?
  • What is the question that Transparency answers?

Risks

  • Unintended negative consequences (we don’t know what we don’t know)
  • Loss of context for data
  • Safety concerns
  • Loss of control
  • Second guessing
  • Efficacy of and compliance with policy
  • Time and Opportunity costs
  • Narrow vs. Broad Interests
  • Security Concerns
  • Showing vulnerabilities to enemies
  • Priority management
  • Complexity
  • Informing our enemies

Rewards

  • Efficiency
  • Credibility
  • Insight
  • Competitive achievement
  • Marketplace of ideas
  • Innovation
  • Reform
  • Buy-in
  • Participation
  • Understanding
  • Integrity and accuracy of info
  • Accountability
  • Equal Acess
  • Reinforcement
  • Safety (food manufacturing problems)
  • Anxiety Amelioration (people know what’s happening)
  • Knowledge of Who is responsible.
  • Equity and Fairness in representation
  • Opt-in customization
  • Government becomes source of info to support my needs
  • Education
  • Public Engagement
  • 17K Government workers gain the benefit of 300MM citizens
  • Enrichment of Public Information
  • Agency Identity
  • Regulatory improvements
  • Dialog

enterprise software has 5 years to live.

In five years, enterprise software will

-Be as easy to use as consumer software

– engage the workforce

– be flexible enough to meet emerging needs

– let IT teams focus on the needs of the business instead of the needs of the software

– be almost unrecognizable by today’s standards.

Microsoft, EMC, Open Text, a gagillion other enterprise software companies are out there telling companies how they’ll solve all your nastiest business problems, making you efficient, secure and compliant.

Here’s something that few of these companies are even trying to offer you (though there’s a group at open text that I know of that is moving quickly in the right direction)

1. Workforce engagement. Most enterprise software is so horrible to use that people only use it because they are forced to. This is not entirely the fault of these enterprise companies, but they aren’t solving the problem either – or at least not effectively.

2. Agility. The vast majority of enterprise software is extensively and gruellingly integrated and customized so that any change to it in response to changes in the business or new technologies or what have you, is a whole project that needs to be planned and budgeted.

3. Simplicity. Enterprise software requires sometimes extensive training to install maintain and use. Few if any users understand the full capabilities.

The companies that are beginning to make a difference (37 signals, some groups w/in open text, rumors of others) share some things in common:

1. They design for the people who use the software. The number one most mind boggling thing that I see in enterprise software are requirements docs that make no reference to who’s using them and what they want to accomplish. I see lots of details about file management and security and such, but in the end its darn difficult to ascertain what it is the product is meant to do.

2. They solve specific problems for specific people – they aren’t infinitely configurable “platforms”. They  don’t try to be everything to everyone. This is scary for them. If you’ve always tried to be everything to everyone, then narrowing that down feels like a very big risk. But its the only way to actually serve needs of real people. This means that much enterprise software is actually more platform than product. Doesn’t do much out of the box until you’ve invested 6 months or more “configuring” it.

One of the most exciting things about Enterprise 2.0 is that its creating an entirely new generation of enterprise software demand – one that comes with higher expectations for usability and integration with existing systems.

Me likey.

Why collaboration inside Govt can work

The government is not much different from any other large enterprise. It is so big, and so old, that sometimes things are done in ways that can appear silly. Anyone who’s ever worked for a company with more than a couple hundred people in it should be able to relate to this.

Processes and infrastructure get built to scale, then there’s a point at which they don’t scale anymore.

So there are a couple of resons that I think the government is ripe to adopt new collaboration tools on a massive scale.

1.  Collaboration is the new scaling mechanism.

There comes a point where being isolated and self-reliant, either as an individual or as an agency, just doesn’t work anymore. The government is facing big time challenges, and we’re all depending on it to make progress. And the people inside the government (I’ve met some, they’re awsome) for the most part are ready and willing to rise to the challenge. That means they know they need to change, and will adopt what appears to work. There’s a growing field of evidence that collaboration works.

2. Collaboration is infectious.

When good collaboration software catches on, is spreads like wildfire. ASpace – the intelligence community’s facebook like community tool was originally launched to 100 users. By invite and request alone, it has grown, in five months, to over 6400 users – that’s about 64% penetration. Nobody insists that they use it.

NASA’s pilot program in collaboration was a resounding success, with 82% saying it made communications easier and more efficient. So they’re rolling out more of it.

DoD is looking to launch a similar project.

So – my bet. Collaboration will be widely adopted inside government because its necessary, and participants get immediate direct benefits from it, including finding information and expertise, having theirs recognized.

Only 2 things stand in the way. Fear and bad technology. The bad technology should be on its way out – there are enough good ( and by good, I mean usable, well-designed) products out there and on the way (ask me about BlueField going into beta shortly) that people won’t stand for garbage anymore.

Fear is a bigger issue. But as collaboration is shown to improve results, and thereby status, i have great hopes that as people LEARN the cultural ins and outs of real collaboration, this barrier too shall fall.

of , by and for the people again.