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Limit the Triggers February 3, 2017

Posted by stewsutton in business intelligence, Collaboration, Communications, Education, Fitness, Social.
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Our brains are wired to feed on information.

So its a good idea for us to be in control of how that appetite gets satisfied and not let social media companies decide when they should tempt us.

We can start by turning off app notifications on our phones, tablets, and computer, particularly ones for live video broadcasts, whose see-it-while-you-can alerts are designed to engender a fear of missing out (they are stored so you can come back and watch later if/when you have time).

To further stem the temptations, try the social media news feed diet: Do serious work only on tech that was available before the year 2000.

Make your main work devices completely off-limits to social media so distractions aren’t even possible. Don’t log into Facebook or even install the app. (For extra help, try the News Feed Eradicator for Facebook browser plugin.)

Hide your phone when you’re working, driving or doing important socializing.

Studies have shown even the presence of a phone, on silent, can cause poor academic performance or less-meaningful face-to-face interaction.

It’s time to take your attention back!

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Realities of the New Work Environment April 15, 2013

Posted by stewsutton in business analytics, business intelligence, Cloud, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Communications, Community, Data Portability, Economics, Information Policy, Information Technology, Knowledge Management, Software.
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Trends such as globalization, economic change, externalization, and consumerization are creating  new realities in the modern information workplace.  Here are four workplace realities that are already having an effect on the way we get things done.

1. Greater Interdependence – Employees collaborate many more individuals in their day-to-day work than they did just a decade ago (typically ten or more). As a result, nearly one-half of an employee’s impact on business unit profitability comes from network performance—the ability to help others perform and be helped by others. In contrast, in 2002, nearly 80% of an employee’s impact came from individual task performance. Although network performance is vital, only 20% of employees are effective at it. The way IT supports enterprise collaboration must change as IT adopts techniques to understand and support the needs of teams and individuals.

2. Frequent Organizational Change – Clearly organizations have never stood still.  However, a majority of employees feel that the rate of change is accelerating. Since 2010, the average employee has experienced major changes including:  reorganizations, strategy revisions, or new leadership, at a cycle of roughly every seven months. This state of near continuous change shortens business partner time horizons and puts a premium on responsive IT planning and budgeting. It also undermines efforts to encapsulate business process in enterprise systems and increases the value of integration.

3. Greater Knowledge Intensity – Ah, the Knowledge Management stuff…  An increasing percentage of employees (over 80%) are conducting knowledge work that requires analysis and judgment. Knowledge work is becoming ubiquitous because of transaction automation and the emergence of “big data,” In addition, business volatility means that even when transactions remain manual, there are plenty of exceptions that require analysis and judgment to resolve. Information technology investments are already changing to reflect this trend, with more money being spent on analytics and collaboration and less on process automation.

4. More Technology Choice – It is commonly reported that a serious majority (nearly two-thirds) of employees use personal devices for work purposes.  This is huge!   However, this transition to device consumerization is only the starting point. After BYOD comes BYOI, BYON, and BYOA; bring your own information, networks, and applications. Almost one-half of all employees already use external, unofficial information sources for work purposes,  about a quarter of employees source their own collaboration and networking tools, and a fifth of employees use their own analytic tools. Although BYO has risks, it cannot be stopped. Managed correctly, it can provide faster access to new capabilities and a better fit with individual employee workflows.

New Roles within Enterprise IT April 13, 2013

Posted by stewsutton in Architecture, business analytics, business intelligence, Cloud, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Communications, Education, Information Technology, Knowledge Management, Software.
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Talent within information technology is adapting to new roles as the work environment changes over the next five years (2013 to 2017).

  1. Collaboration and Social Media Evangelist – Responsible for understanding drivers of collaborative behavior and creating, managing, and developing a collaboration and social media strategy.   The person is likely to have a background in business, marketing, communications, or behavioral science, such as anthropology, organizational behavior, or psychology; more likely to be found in a consultant or other specialized role than in a corporation.  Their job responsibilities include:
    • Analyzing user behavior to understand workflows and collaboration needs
    • Establishing collaboration and social media strategy
    • Encouraging adoption of relevant collaboration and social media tools and techniques
    • Advocating for adoption of collaboration tools
    • Creating and delivering end-user awareness and training programs
    • Establishing collaboration and social media usage policies and procedures
  2. Information Insight Enabler – This role helps the IT organization drive employee productivity and help with equipping employees with competencies and not just tools.  They are responsible for supporting business unit heads, service managers, and knowledge workers with insight, business intelligence, and management reports for effective decision making.  They are likely to have a background in market or financial research or in analytics or statistics.  Their unique key responsibilities include:
    • Understanding the decision-making process and the workflows of business unit heads and service manager
    • Identifying knowledge worker’s information needs
    • Representing information in a user-friendly manner
    • Identifying trends and patterns; generates insight for business units and senior leadership
    • Developing frameworks and processes to analyze unstructured information
    • Performing market and customer research and analysis, and creating dashboards and scorecards
  3. Cloud Integration Specialist – This role assimilates cloud services—for both Applications and Infrastructure—into the existing IT environment.  They have experience in developing, deploying, and maintaining integration solutions; most likely to come from EAI or middleware implementation background, such as EAI/Integration developer.  Key responsibilities for this role include:
    • Collaborating with business unit leaders, service managers, and technology brokers to evaluate new cloud service offerings and determine integration needs
    • Coordinating with enterprise and information architects to ensure new cloud services align with technology roadmap
    • Working closely with business process analyst to ensure integration activities improve business processes
    • Coordinating testing efforts to identify and resolve any cross-functional integration issues
  4. User Experience Guru – This role collaborates with service managers and end users to understand and improve user experience and workflow for new and existing applications.   They are likely to have a specialist background in behavioral science, graphic design, or product design; more likely to be found in a consultant or other specialized role than in a corporation.  They will design and configure user-centric interfaces for in-house and cloud applications, allowing end users to access, visualize, and navigate information and analytics with ease.  Some of their key responsibilities include:
    • Analyzing business and functional requirements
    • Creating user-centered design
    • Improving the user experience
    • Visualizing and presenting information in a user- friendly manner to end users
  5. Technology Broker – This role is responsible for managing spend with all providers in a given category, such as Infrastructure or Applications.  They are likely to have a background in sales or business development at a technology service provider; alternatively, may have a procurement background or extensive experience managing programs that relied on external providers for delivery.  They will introduce new technologies and vendors to business units, the services group, and the remaining IT organization.  Their key roles include:
    • Understanding business needs and translates those into technology capabilities
    • Identifying new and existing technology offerings available in the market or in house
    • Negotiating contracts and manages relationships with multiple vendors for a category of IT spend
    • Creating and maintaining a catalog of technology services
    • Defining service level agreements to monitor vendor performance
  6. End-to-End IT Service Manager – End-to-End IT Services Packages all the technologies, processes, and resources across IT needed to deliver a specific business outcome while hiding technical complexity.  They are responsible for defining and delivering end-to- end IT services and is the primary owner of one or more services.  They are likely to have experience in IT service delivery, direct business engagement, technology sales and marketing, and financial plan development; more likely to be sourced from account manager or business relationship manager, solutions manager, architects, or infrastructure manager roles.  Responsibilities for this role include:
    • Collaboration with IT–business relationship managers to develop the end-to-end IT services strategy
    • Developing annual IT service delivery plan and negotiates delivery expectations with business partners
    • Providing information to business partners about service improvement opportunities and collaborates with them to drive down business costs and effectively support business capabilities
    • Guiding the service review process to drive continuous improvement efforts for services

Knowledge Management Updated February 1, 2013

Posted by stewsutton in business analytics, business intelligence, Collaboration, Communications, Knowledge Management, Software.
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Knowledge Management has undergone a significant change of emphasis over the past several years. We have moved beyond the days when KM was centered in the design and deployment of content management solutions, the fanfare around launching communities of practice, and the practical benefits of sharing lessons learned. The emphasis today is a complete reformulation of how we can extract value from information. The new intersecting themes generally include “big data”, “business analytics / business intelligence”, “social”, and “mobility”.

Leading up to this new arrangement of priorities, KM bounced around in the past several years seeking to find itself as the rapid technology changes in mobile platforms and across consumer-based social platforms took center stage. This caused the KM emphasis to drift toward “collaboration” things – after all isn’t sharing knowledge through collaboration what its all about? Community models for knowledge stewardship have fallen out of favor while crowdsourcing of answers has increase in popularity. The practical difficulty is that running a business, engineering improvements to complex operational procedures, and designing and manufacturing of precision equipment cannot be directly guided by the wisdom of any crowd.

And while the phrase knowledge management has often been met with resistance “I don’t what someone managing my knowledge…”, the new KM emphasis has oriented itself to offering value to the business and to the individual creators and managers of knowledge across the workforce. Consider for a moment this simple ten-step framework that illustrates the intersecting themes of knowledge and information management today…

1. Identify a relevant “structured” data source associated with our business
2. Repeat #1 multiple times, not really knowing (just yet) the intersecting relevance
3. Prepare the data sources identified in #2 so that they may be “accessed” and integrated
4. Connect results of #3 by using software to analyze and discover “features” in the data
5. Overlay social graphs, geo-mapping, and other information sources to illuminate findings
6. Clarify and contextualize these findings, draw conclusions, and propose business changes
7. Implement business changes and monitor #5 to assess the impact of business changes
8. Make necessary adjustments based on #7, and return to #1 to discover more relationships

Using tablet-based computers will expand the scope and impact of business intelligence throughout business.

Using tablet-based dashboards will expand the scope and impact of business intelligence and business analytics for both strategic and tactical value

Knowledge Management is becoming a more refined and mature information science. The tools for business are enabling broad and sophisticated analysis of data and application of business analytics by individuals that have line-of-business accountability. From middle management to executives, a new landscape of configurable mobile dashboards that encourage experimentation and insight building are emerging quickly. Big data is being gathered everywhere. The interface methods are being dramatically simplified. And mobile (tablet based) interfaces are being quickly formed, refined, delivered, modified, and shared among co-workers at various levels. Knowledge workers today are more skilled within business intelligence and business analytics.

It is a very interesting time.

Too much digital (pods, pad, phones…) bad for you? January 2, 2013

Posted by stewsutton in Collaboration, Communications, Education, Humanity, Information Technology, Learning, Social, Wisdom.
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The brain retains a certain amount of plasticity throughout life — more specifically, the way we think can be reshaped. Thus, if the brain is trained to respond (and enjoy) the faster pace of the digital world, it is reshaped to favor that approach to experiencing the world as a whole. Soon, it comes to crave that experience, as the body increasingly craves more of anything it’s trained to respond to favorably.

The problem it seems is in relationship to deep-thinking critical thought that accompanies the reading of a longer narrative. The slow contemplation of ideas, concepts, possibilities, and consequences derived from consumption of material composed within a longer narrative may be an endangered species if there is an an attractive, visually appealing, shallow construction of “similar” material competing for our limited attention.

So can the rush toward mobile digital content consumption be a threat to our ability to think properly? Clearly there are examples of where the digital mobile world is introducing positive benefits to education and the workplace. And while some would favorably represent the actions of content skimming and filtering made possible by mobile devices, favorite apps, and a nearly infinite Internet-based “library”, the very action of rapid movement through content is what serves to rewire our brain.

So maybe its better to lay off the “apps” on our mobile device and take the slow road of thoughtful consumption via eBooks and similarly formatted content.

Characteristics of a Distance Education Learner December 7, 2012

Posted by stewsutton in Communications, Education, Information Technology.
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The following are some common characteristics that must be considered in planning educational services to the increasingly mobile and schedule-compressed learner…

  • Distance Education students must coordinate the different areas of their lives which influence each other: families, jobs, spare time, and studies.
  • Distance Education students reasons for taking courses may be motivated by obtaining a degree to qualify for a better job, to just take courses to broaden their education without interest in completing a degree.
  • In Distance Education, the learner is usually isolated. The motivational factors arising from the contact or competition with other students is absent. The student also lacks the immediate support of a teacher who is present and able to motivate and, if necessary, give attention to actual needs and difficulties.
  • Distant Education students and their teachers can often have little in common in terms of background and day-to-day experiences and therefore, it takes longer for student-teacher rapport to develop.
  • In Distance Education settings, technology is typically the conduit through which information and communication flow. Until the teacher and students become comfortable with the technical delivery system, communication will be inhibited.

Are the Economics Viable? December 23, 2011

Posted by stewsutton in Communications, Economics, Education.
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There are enormous changes taking place in many businesses and across multiple markets.  One need only look at a newspaper article or magazine or web-based media to see this rapid change.  However within the rush to become more cost effective in how we execute our business, we should also carefully consider the implications of making reductions – sometimes significant reductions in areas that appear to be non-essential.  Even that phrase non-essential has a rather strange ring don’t you think?  It sort of implies that when we are doing good, we can waste resources in areas that are non-essential and its only when things get tight, we must be realistic in our allocation of resources.

At some level its as if we need to go on a resources diet based on a season or two of overindulgence.  This is a cycle that seems to repeat across all industries and throughout history.  We never seem to learn from our past – even with its record being so clear.  A couple of examples come to mind that will illustrate the poorly planned cutting taking shape within two distinctly different industries.

The first example is within the banking industry.  One of the nations leading banks is making some dramatic adjustments to its allocation of internal resources (in the form of staff reductions) where the role and function of this staff is directed squarely at the quality of the banks communications.  That is to say, in the spirit of increasing the potential for more profit, the bank is going to reduce the clarity of its customer communications.  Now this is the sort of stuff that typically does not make headlines and it certainly would not be a candidate for communications to the customers of the bank – ironically because those individuals will no longer be there to write this correspondence.  Some would argue that smart people in the bank’s workforce will just add corporate communications to their list of existing tasks, but when was the last time you considered that your bank’s correspondence was not long enough – too short a narrative to really matter.  The well known objective of writing the short letter requires work – no matter what the profession.  So the customers of this bank can soon expect to see some longer letters, or if the letter is short, it may lack some clarity in its intended purpose.

Another example of misplaced economic choices is within the collective set of campuses that comprise the University of California system.  Once considered an incredible value, now each dollar spent on a UC education is increasingly consumed by layers of administration that seek to assure that the delivery of education meets all of the criteria set by another group of administrators.  Gone are the days when the educational dollar paid for faculty, facilities, and supplies.  We now live at a time when the layer upon layer of politically correct bureaucracy takes priority to that service for which the bureaucracy is subordinate.  Its not the quality of what we teach and the value of that instruction in relationship to a persons skills and value to an employer upon graduation – but rather the more important priority is that we have internal reviewers, compliance administrators, and a significant percentage of the university budget directed toward being compliant to a way of delivering education.  This overhead raises educational expenses and take the attention away from learning.  So students get less value and it costs them more. Where is the sound economics in that prioritization?  And could sound economics even be possible within an educational institution where the administrative component setting the priorities would need to diminish itself to achieve a more effective solution.

Other businesses are going through similar difficulties.  Many organizations will make strange choices when confronted with reducing budgets and increasing operational costs.  Will R&D be sacrificed because its benefits are not immediate?  Will processes be restructured in a way that diminishes a connection between the provider and the customer of the product or service?  Will we rely too heavily on technologies like social media to establish and maintain a connection where other options should be given priority?  Keep your eyes on the choices taking shape in your workplace and speak up if things seem to be drifting away from basic common sense.  Everybody has potential to offer perspective on the more viable solution that follows sound economics.

Corporate IT Trends December 9, 2011

Posted by stewsutton in Collaboration, Communications, Information Technology, Social, Software.
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Does this look like the correct ratio as we trend into different tool sets within corporate IT?  What do you think?  Leave a comment.

Trends for Corporate Information Technology

Suggested Trends for Corporate Information Technology

A Simple Social Web Architecture June 30, 2011

Posted by stewsutton in Architecture, Collaboration, Communications, Information Technology.
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The web business of today has a small number of key components. Each of these components surrounds the unique business offering creating a scaleable structure that can be replicated and managed with integrity. This simple model addresses some of the key components in most web-based businesses of the post 2010 timeframe. While not referenced specifically in this diagram there are other components that can weigh heavy in the design of the business system including the mobility strategy. But for now, lets consider four components that surround the core business offering and enable it to function as a modern web-based business.

Interface — Building an interface that makes sense is a concept that has emerged with the consumerization of information technology. It’s hard to believe that in 1997 the company called Apple computer had a stock value of about $3.50 per share and was on the verge of bankruptcy. In just a few short years a steady march of products would begin to turn the fortunes of that company and introduce to the world the very definition of consumer-friendly information technology. From iPhones to iPods to iPads to the new iCloud, Apple’s innovations in consumer information technology have educated the world and have set the bar on what people expect in their user interfaces (whether on mobile devices or via their computer web browser). Today Apple’s value is over 100 times that of the company that almost did not survive in 1997. The interface of most consumer information technology has been influenced heavily by “iDevices” and this creates expectations in the design of new products and services on the Internet.

eCom — In the early days of Internet eCommerce, some different companies emerged early with differentiated offerings. Having an ability to remain adaptive and agile to customer needs while staying ahead of the competition was the formula for several early offerings like Yahoo Stores. The eCommerce systems of this early stage were custom built solutions that were largely oriented to providing “shopping cart” services to web-based merchants selling online. The eCom solutions of today are much more sophisticated. They allow much more flexibility in integrating transactional processing to take money in many different forms for services rendered.

Social — Social computing is a key part of many business strategies and operational models and it is segment that integrates crowd-sourcing, network effects, and friend relationships into the business model. The social component is how many web business achieve their scale and market capacity. It will become increasingly unique to see web-based businesses that have strong consumer-relationship ties expand to large market shares without a well-planned social strategy.

CMS — Whatever the business, there is unique “content” that must be managed. This content could be pictures, videos, text, audio files or any combination of interesting digital assets. Its the content that is unique to your business that needs to be managed and at a level above the traditional database service. That is where the “CMS” or content management system comes into action. The purpose of a CMS is to make the management of the businesses online digital assets much easier. It addresses the presentation, arrangement, and permissions associated with these assets. As the business grows, keeping the expanding collection of digital assets under control is where the CMS really earns its value.

Event Networks October 15, 2010

Posted by stewsutton in Collaboration, Communications, Community, Information Technology.
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The buzz continues within the enterprise around blogging, microblogging, and wiki’s. Now we are seeing a compound buzz (if there is such a thing) in relationship to how all this works nicely as a coordinated set. There are several commercial products out there that were built in the “suite” approach for that very reason. IBM Connections, the latest release of Microsoft Sharepoint (SharePoint 2010), and Jive to name a few. There are also open source software “suites” like ELGG that one can consider also. So what do all these suites do that is so interesting?

What the current crop of “suite” approaches in the social software / social media / social computing arena are pointed at is the gold mine of enterprise event streams. Getting the population off their further entrenched addiction to mobile email and out into open aggregated communications channels where these communications in combination with their enterprise activities (events) are also recorded and routed into event channels is the new frontier.

Placing these event aggregation tools in the path of work is essential. It allows us to more efficiently share expertise and to discover expertise when needed. As the push and pull toward these event networks becomes more commonplace, then our collective efficiency may further improve quality and performance in wiring the right information to the right person at the right time for the right reasons.