Least Content Denominator

By Marc Solomon posted 10-02-2011 19:15


It's 1997 and you just saw the future: your food service specials in your corporate cafeteria for the coming week.

Now it's 2004 and the read/writing is on the wall: your file server has been retrofitted into its sparkling new webified front-end.

Leapfrog to 2008 and HR's telling you that you're the boss of your own staffing profile. If it's good enough for Facebook it's a storyline that your office colleagues can swallow too.

So how do the blatantly obvious benefits of a corporate intranet become marginalized over time? How does a platform for staging organizational assets become compromised or even forfeited by the leadership vacuums, inconsistent quality, the absence of governance models, or any sense for how a user experience can lead to a useful outcome?

Let's traipse through Q-Sand, a fictional ECM that's as underutilized as it is overarchitected. Q-Sand is a corporate intranet that has outlived its use in 2012.

How’s that?

It's not a lack of resources or recognition that Q-Sand merits a lot more attention than it delivers. But that lack of focus is an unaffordable time sink anytime a user searches it to make a decision, resolve a conflict, or simply to seek some guidance.

That's because Q-Sand answers to everyone in theory and no one in practice. Q-Sand's leaders are accountable to a rigid and complex set of byzantine by-laws and industry standards. Hence every artifact in Q-Sand is as much a potential liability as a knowledge asset. Avoiding the wrong thing equates to doing the right thing when perceived risks outweigh potential opportunities.

However there's limited consensus on what details are confidential or which groups have access to what materials. Q-Sand answers to multiple lines of business. The result is that foundational details like client and author are genericized. Stripping deliverables of the accounting codes they were billed to severs the cognitive glue between past performance and future success. In effect Q-Sand adheres to the compliance regimes of the taskmasters -- not the mastering of tasks.

Some telltale signs?

·         Maddening Methods:Tools and templates are devoid of their problem-solving context. There is no "for instance" but a meager shell. My Popa Bob used to scarf down enough for the entire crew. He'd pat his belly and say, "hmmm... good to leave the table a bit hungry." Judging from the light weight of these content objects the denizens of Q-Sand are sucking down some pretty empty calories.

·         Content Fortress:All works-in-progress are sequestered to a holding tank -- there is no leveraging by cross-industry teams looking to scale their innovations in new markets. Discretion is the better part of valor perhaps. But is it too lofty a goal to service both on Q-Sand?

·         Silos for Suckers:Leaving one's head in the Q-Sand means building an outpost with no rationale navigational paths or explicit boundaries. In fact the more generalized the need, the likelier that an overlapping site exists in another outpost.

·         Waiting for Superman:A hurry-up-and-wait routine greets the Q-Sand change management core team. That's because all the tweaking and reboots await leadership approval. Leaders want results but they don't sweat these details unless Q-Sand is mission critical. Given the pre-existing issues there are plenty of work-arounds that push Q-Sand to the periphery. Besides, one can wait an entire KM career for management to turn its attention to the IP on servers, not the IP which disappears down the elevator once the project completes. 

From the Top

An intranet at its best is a roadmap to embrace unconventional approaches with structured thinking and practical problem-solving.

1) The content piece is not about compiling the inventory but satisfying the demand. It looks at all intranet users as consumers and producers who's success is keyed to how well those roles are connected through online communities: Supplier: "Here's a surplus of talent waiting to be unleashed." Consumer: "Here's the curve we're behind -- can someone come fill our knowledge deficit, please?" 

2) The process piece is not a re-scripting of mechanical routines. It's an action, not subject-based taxonomy where no objective slips by without an accompanying verb. The contextual merits of task-based searches produce plug and play examples of hybrid approaches to the messier, ambiguous end games. This is not a repeatable set of finite actions. This is the shifting set of requirements that come with the Advisory turf in professional services. Answers with a straight binary conclusion are off this grid. They already have a home -- and psst .. it’s off the intranet range.

3) The social piece is not about broadcasting one's fanciful mental doodles in the name of better teaming. In fact a little less personal input is just the kind of dialoging that separates social media from the two-way street of social business. This is an opportunity for corporate intranets to host the pay-offs of better mentoring, cross-pollination, and community outreach: the best idea wins -- not the most prolific number of posts.

Those are the high notes from the bottom-up. It's a chorus best served when users come to expect their own production patterns to service their own project requirements. Anything less direct is artifice at best.

Just remember the next time you login to your intranet: It’s as easy to sink into Q-Sand as it’s hard to escape from.



#technologyhistory #decisionsupport #SharePoint #ElectronicRecordsManagement #EnterpriseContentManagement #corporateintranet #ScanningandCapture