Retro Enterprise 2.0 - Email Lists + Platform + Governance

By John Brunswick posted 09-18-2010 14:10


Want to find excellent examples of Enterprise 2.0?  Turn back the clock and focus on one of the most commonly used communications mechanisms in your organization - email.  Mailing lists are not flashy or fashionable, but have provided community sourced solutions for organizational challenges for years.  How is that these services, predating the commercial internet that users know today, could provide so much value in much the same way that state-of-the-art tools today hope to?  Is there a way that we can take the existing mailing systems and enhance their value, given all of our recent social computing innovation?

One of the biggest issues with Enterprise 2.0 is creating and executing strategies that foster its adoption.  A large portion of this battle is due to the following attributes, which mailing lists have innately solved most of for years.

  1. Relevancy - email lists are opt-in by default.  The people posting to them might not know each other personally, but they at very least have shared interests that a sense of community will be generated from.
  2. Context - email on a mobile device used to be a luxury, today it is essentially ubiquitous functionality in organizations.  This means that mailing lists place communications directly within the context of a daily activities that a user must perform.  It is as though our mobile devices have in a way become personalized dashboards to our enterprise.
  3. Consumption - mail lists let users get the information in a variety of formats, namely digest and as available.

The list above is compelling, providing significant return on limited investment.  Given the innovations around social computing, how and where do additional value and Enterprise 2.0 principles come into play to support better use of an already solid system?

Adding "Enterprise" Management and Value

  1. Platform - mail servers are a critical artery within the enterprise, but not the ideal place to store all mail communications related to a list.  Let the mail servers continue to be a vehicle that provides all of the benefits mentioned above, but standardize on a forum technology that can house the actual contents of the various mail exchanges.  Many mature technologies exist to do this and support corporate directory services, profiles from these services, and mailing addresses for various places within their discussion taxonomies.  Platform should also provide robust search capabilities on top of the mailing lists contents, allowing information that exists in the past, but was essentially hidden, the ability to help users within similar questions and interests in the enterprise.
  2. Consumption 2.0 - the above enhancement will also allow for the mailing list data to be accessed via RSS, REST and other technological standards - making it truly open for integration with other enterprise systems.  This enhances the value of the platform tremendously, giving organizations the ability to repurpose the information in any conceivable way to support their business.
  3. Retention Management - what can be done if particular discussion threads are not accessed for more than X amount of time.  Should a business owner for that particular portion of the platform be notified to help escalate the question?  Should the material be archived?  The power of mail lists are tremendous, but it is critical to ensure that content maintains high quality levels.  Enterprise retention management rules can enable organizations to perform this maintenance on content with as little manual effort as possible.
  4. Enterprise 3.0? - technologies like Tacit software and others are able to take the mail lists contents and begin to implicitly find experts for various subjects within an enterprise.  Mailing lists are ideal places for users to solve problems, highlighting expertise.  It should be possible to formalize the recognition of this expertise and make it available externally from the mailing lists.

Mailing lists are an excellent way to add value to your organization's problem solving capabilities.  With software vendors making a concerted effort at perfecting social networking technologies for the enterprise, there are many possible ways to enhance what exists today with the mailing lists, making further use of the already tremendous value that is being generated today.

#E-mail #maillist #enterprise2.0 #governance