Thursday, 30 August 2007

Happily surprised by OneNote

Now those who know me know I'm no fan of Microsoft and I certainly have not been convinced by SharePoint but today I saw OneNote being used by a team to capture the day to day project thoughts, decisions and activities. This was done by using OneNote in combination with SharePoint. I have to say for the day to day transient project information this was working really well. The analogy is that they used OneNote as a project notebook that everyone has access to. It was organised by work area and had sub sections, essential a hierarchal file structure. What the team loved was the ease with which they could 'drop' information into it and the ability to move away from email.
Interestingly the person showing me this admitted that this was just a glorified file share. They also thought that OneNote only really worked for the project team. For those on the outside this environment is just too unstructured, maybe a little better than looking through someone else's file share but still with a lot of the same problems.
Now I've been trying to get people to use our corporate wiki to capture their project information and my first thought was 'Wow maybe I've got this wrong and wiki's aren't what is required!'. Then I recognised that different tools are needed for the capture of different levels of information. In this example the OneNote/SharePoint combination was capturing transient day to day information very well. However to capture the more persistent decisions and to support collaborative authoring of project documents then a wiki makes more sense. Finally as the project pass significant stage gates then the wiki page or sections of it can be published into a document repository to give a permanent snapshot of the project status. This model is very attractive as it seems to offer a way to manage the different requirements associated with the capture and sharing of different levels of information. I need to remember that one size does not fit all.

Monday, 27 August 2007

A starting point

Web2.0 tools such as wiki's, blog's, social networking have changed the way we use the web. Previously to these tools content on the web was read only. You visited a site and read what was there. There was no capacity to comment on it, add content or interact in any persistent way. With the advent of Web2.0 tools we are now able to interact with the web. Blogs and wikis allow us all to contribute to the content on the web. Social networks allow us to meet each other and interact on the web. All these tools allow a two way conversation to take place and this is why we are now talking about Web2.0. All Web2.0 tools have one thing in common they are social, they enable people to collaborate and share content.
The question now being asked is can these tools that have developed on the web be used within the business environment? The inevitable answer is yes. However we are only just starting to explore how we can use these tools and how the culture that exists within our organizations affect their implementation and adoption. What works in your private life may not translate into the work place. As stated above all these tools are social, their success depends upon the adopting the right cultural attitudes. Choosing the technology and implementing it will be simple compared to the cultural changes that will be need in many organisations. For example how do you implement a wiki when a "need to know" cultures pervades? Or how do you get blogging up and running in an organisation where it is perceived, rightly or wrongly, that negative comments, even constructive ones, can be detrimental to your career? And finally how does a bottom up culture like web2.0 fit with the classical top down management culture of many work places? These question are the ones I am struggling with currently and I will be exploring through use case examples and my own experiences/thoughts on the subject. I hope you enjoy them and find somethings useful in amongst the rambling.

Remember technology is easy people are hard.