Tag Archives: information

In Memorium Carl Frappaolo

Carl_FrappaoloLThe Information and Knowledge Management worlds suffered a devastating loss this week. Carl Frappaolo died on Sunday, March 17th after suffering a series of strokes over the previous days. Carl’s untimely passing (he was 59) has left me stunned and in pain, but also deeply appreciative and grateful for having had the chance to work and enjoy life with him.

I first met Carl in 1999, when I interviewed for a job at the Delphi Group, which he had co-founded a few years earlier. Our initial meeting, which was scheduled for an hour, expanded into a conversation that lasted well over five and a half hours. When I left his office that day, I had no doubt that I very much wanted to work for and with Carl. Such was the immediate and overwhelmingly positive effect of his large personality.

I reported directly to Carl during just my first two years at Delphi, but he mentored me throughout my employment there and beyond. In fact, on separate occasions within the last month, I sought out Carl’s guidance on a professional matter, and he presented me with a potential business opportunity. I knew I could always turn to him for not only advice, but also for active assistance.

To say that Carl was a mentor is actually an understatement, because he treated me almost as if I were his son. I was always overjoyed by the pride he displayed when I performed well. On one occasion, I failed a potential client (and Carl, by extension), leading to Carl being so intensely disappointed in me that neither he nor I ever forgot the incident.

After hours, Carl was a delight to be with. I have many fond memories of eating, drinking and laughing with him , mostly while we were on the road serving a client or working a Delphi event. Carl nearly always had a joke or an entertaining story to tell. I will forever remember the two exhausting, exhilerating weeks we spent together in Western Europe, where we worked very long days on behalf of our client, but found time to have fun later in the evening or on a rare day off. Perhaps the best stretch of that trip took place in Milan. Carl always openly and enthusiastically celebrated his Italian heritage, and he was literally in his element while we were in Italy.

Carl was a remarkable man, in the truest sense of the word. The purpose, commitment and tenacity he exhibited in his professional life were exceptional, as were his compassion, caring and desire to help. While the intensity with which he thought, spoke and gestured could be almost frightening at times, few doubted his good intentions. Those who had the privilege of knowing Carl well also saw the other end of his emotional spectrum. Although he was usually boisterous, he could also be very calm, quiet and contemplative.

In fact, Carl was a bundle of contradictions. High strung and easy going. Profound and vulgar. Deeply serious and (more frequently) smiling and laughing. A very active and competent speaker, but also one of the best listeners I have ever encountered. Someone with many insightful answers, but also an unparalleled ability to ask the right questions.

I have learned so much from Carl over the last decade plus. Anyone who is at all concerned with Information or Knowledge Management has. His too-soon passing leaves an enormous hole in those fields and an even bigger void my life. Goodbye, Carl, and thank you for the genuine concern and compassion you displayed to me and everyone you encountered. Thank you for teaching me so much about consulting, business and being a good person. Rest in peace.

If you knew, met or were otherwise impacted by Carl, please consider remembering him by making a donation in his name to the Italian Home for Children, located in Boston.

Thoughts on the 2011 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium

This entry was cross-posted from Meanders: The Dow Brook Blog

The annual MIT Sloan CIO Symposium was held earlier this week. I live-tweeted heavily from the event, but also wanted to share some thoughts in this more structured blog post.

CIOs are, as a whole, a conservative group. They are attuned to identifying and minimizing risk in their organizations’ information environments. Most CIOs experiment with emerging information technologies while observing what other, more progressive, organizations do with those same tools. Once the majority of CIOs in large companies are comfortable embracing a new technology, the market for it rapidly expands.

Speaking with and listening to a number of CIOs attending the MIT Symposium made one thing clear — markets for technologies enabling more agile business decision making at a lower cost are about to explode. Most of the CIOs in attendance agreed that they must implement cloud, mobile, social, and analytics technologies now to support rapidly evolving strategic imperatives in their organizations. The mantra “do more faster and at lower cost” surfaced in nearly every session I attended.

What does this mean for enterprise software providers? First, their offerings must be architected and include functionality to support multi-tenant cloud hosting and delivery, mobile access, social interaction, and the identification of patterns resident in large data sets. These capabilities are quickly becoming table stakes necessary to successfully compete in the enterprise software market.

Second, we are about to see a new, large wave of investment in enterprise software. The combination of the business imperatives noted above and pent-up demand from the last few years of recessionary cost-cutting focus within enterprise IT departments has led CIOs to declare that now is the time to retool, if it isn’t already too late. Hubspot’s CEO, Brian Halligan, noted during the opening keynote panel that cloud and mobile “are not the future”; they are technologies we all should have adopted two years ago.

Comments from various CIOs attending the event underscored the limited ability that enterprise software providers have to enable signifiant, beneficial transformation in the way their customers run their businesses. Many panelists noted that they already have helpful technical tools in-hand, but that they aren’t being used to optimal advantage because of existing cultural and leadership roadblocks in their organizations. On the subject of leveraging big data, Rob Stefanic, CIO at Sensata, presented supporting examples from work they’ve done with their customers. Many organizations they’ve worked with collect voluminous amounts of data, but do little to make sense of it, much less adjust the business accordingly. He also spoke of one customer that had a handful of employees doing potentially meaningful analysis of operating data, but no one else in the organization was aware of their efforts or the insights generated. Stefanic neatly made the point that pattern mining and recognition is a big shift for his organization and it’s customers, which will require changing from a reactionary culture to one that values the ability to predict the future with reasonable accuracy.

In the end, there were few new ideas presented at the 2011 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium. Instead, I left the event with a sense that there will soon be a large increase in spending on next-generation enterprise software, but that investment will be largely wasted, because the buyers won’t be able to make the systemic cultural and organizational changes necessary for the new tools to make a measurable difference. The missing piece for success is experienced management consultants that can help organizations review and revise their core beliefs, behaviors, and policies to really transform how they operate. Until that void is filled, vendors will sell more software, but organizations will continue to realize minimal benefits from investments in those tools. Even if normally conservative CIOs support their use.

Filtering in Social Software: Protective Bubble v. Serendipitous Awareness

Bubble Boy DavidThere was an interesting conversation on Twitter yesterday about the personalization of information via algorithm-based filters. It was started by Megan Murray, and Thomas Vander Wal, Gordon Ross, and Susan Scrupski quickly joined in with their viewpoints. Rachel Happe and I were late to the conversation, but we were able to interact with some of the original participants.

.The gist of the conversation was that some consumer social services (i.e. Facebook, Google Search, Yahoo News) have gotten rather aggressive about applying algorithms to narrow what we see in our personal activity streams. As a result, we aren’t able to see other information that might be useful or entertaining in our default view; we may only digest what the algorithm “thinks” is important or relevant to us. Or we must switch to a different view to see additional information (e.g. Live Feed v. News Feed in Facebook). Even worse, in some cases, the other information is simply not available to us, because the service doesn’t provide a way to override the algorithm that excluded it.

It was also noted in the Twitter conversation that the current crop of enterprise social software lacks sophisticated personalization facilities. In fact, it works the opposite way of consumer social services; the entire activity stream is usually exposed to an individual, who then has to narrow it by manually selecting and applying pre-defined filters. IBM, Jive, NewsGator, and others are beginning to use algorithms to include certain status events and updates in the stream, and to exclude others, but their efforts will require fine tuning after organizations have experimented with these nascent (or yet-to-be released) personalization features.

The default view of an enterprise activity stream should be highly personalized to the context in which an individual is working (e.g. role, business process, location, time, etc.) Optional views should allow individuals to override the algorithmically chosen results and see information relevant to a specific parameter (e.g. person, group, application, task, tag, etc.) Finally, an individual should be able to view the entire stream, if he or she so desires.

Why is the latter important? It introduces serendipity into the mix. Highly personalized information views can increase productivity for an individual as they do their job, but at the expense of awareness of what else is occurring around them (I wrote about this earlier this week, in this post.) This condition of overly-personalized information presentation has been called a “filter bubble”. The bubble is a virtual, protective barrier against information overload that is analogous to a plastic enclosure used in hospitals to shield highly vulnerable patients from potential infections.

Organizations must consciously balance the need to protect (and maximize the productivity of) their constituents from information overload with the desire to encourage and increase innovation (through serendipitous connection of individuals, their knowledge and ideas, and information they produce and consume.) That balance point is different for every organization and every individual who works in or with it.

Enterprise social software must be designed to accommodate the varying needs of organizations with respect to the productivity versus awareness issue. Personalization algorithms should be easily tunable, so an organization can configure an appropriate level of personalization (for example, InMagic’s core Presto technology features a “Social Volume Knob” that allows an an administrator to control what and how content is affected by social media. Different kinds of social content from certain people can carry different weight or influence.) More discrete, granular filters should be built into social software so individuals can customize their activity stream view on the fly (I made that case, just over a year ago, in this post.) A contextually personalized view should be the default, but enterprise social software must be designed so individuals can quickly and easily switch to a different (highly specific or broader) view of organizational activity.

What do you think? Should personalization be the default, or applied only when desired? What specific filters would you like to see in enterprise social software that aren’t currently available? What role does/could portal technology play in the personalization of organizational information and activity flows? What other concerns do you have about information overload, filter bubbles, and missed opportunities for serendipity and innovation? Please weigh in with a comment below.

This entry was cross-posted from Meanders: The Dow Brook Blog

Image © 2003 Texas Children’s Hospital

The AIIM Community: Status Quo Prevails, but Change is Happening

This entry was cross-posted from Meanders: The Dow Brook Blog

I attended the AIIM Info360 Conference and Expo last week, in Washington, DC. It was my first AIIM event in 9 years. I had stayed away intentionally, because AIIM and the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) community had stagnated. Business and technology were changing, but the AIIM community remained fixated on things like document capture, storage, output, and archival. Sharing of, and collaborating on, active content was largely ignored.

Lately, I’ve been signs of renewal from AIIM’s leadership and staff, including an active, purposeful embrace of collaboration and social computing as important components of information management. (For example, AIIM published a paper on Systems of Engagement, authored by Geoffrey Moore, in January and a Social Business Roadmap in conjunction with last week’s conference.) So I thought it would be good to attend the event after my long absence, to learn first-hand whether or not change really was occurring in the AIIM community. The verdict:

Parts of the AIIM community remain deeply rooted in the past. The members who are trying to become more current and relevant are so busy talking about business and technology trends that they’ve lost focus on solving specific business problems.

First a word about the part of the community stuck in the past. Wandering the conference show floor made it crystal clear that the majority of the software and hardware vendors present were there to sell to the legacy AIIM crowd. I saw booth after booth touting imaging and other capture hardware and software, management solutions for electronic (and paper!) documents, and industrial-strength printing machines and software. Enough said.

The show floor did include a few vendors addressing the minority of the AIIM community interested in moving toward more lightweight, collaborative content management practices. Included in that group of vendors were Box.net, EMC/Documentum, Microsoft SharePoint, and NewsGator.

One other thought about the show floor: the Web Content Management vendors were noticeably absent. It seems that they’ve moved on from the AIIM community, probably for a variety of reasons. I hope they will come back soon and try again to push the conceptual boundaries of content management in both large organizations and small-to-medium businesses.

The keynote speeches and the few breakout sessions I attended were more visionary than the majority of the exhibits. Keynoters reported on high level trends affecting how businesses create, consume, share and generally manage content. The vendors who had bought keynote spots also presented visions of content management that made their respective, revised market strategies seem irrefutable.

Similarly, most of the breakout sessions I went to presented fairly high level pictures of how content technologies are evolving and where they are (or should be) headed. There were some exceptions, including a session that I co-presented with Dan Levin, COO of Box.net, on current, real-life use cases for mobile content sharing. However, sessions that focused on how the emerging breed of content management practices and supporting technologies can help solve newer (as well as old) business problems were rare.

In short, there were two conferences taking place simultaneously at AIIM/Info360. The first can best be described as representing the status quo. The second can be summed up as follows:

SOCIAL, blah, blah, blah, COLLABORATION, blah, blah, blah, COMMUNITY, blah, blah, blah, ENGAGEMENT, blah, blah, blah, MOBILE, blah, blah, blah, CLOUD, blah, blah, blah, USABILITY, blah, blah, blah…

I applaud the changes that AIIM’s leadership and some forward-thinking members of the community are attempting to make. They have to start by finally acknowledging the macro trends that are occurring, then crafting and articulating a visionary response. This year’s conference did a very good job of that. I hope that by next year, presenters (speakers and exhibitors) at the AIIM show will move beyond the high level messages and discuss how managed sharing of active content can help solve specific business problems and enable organizations to take advantage of tangible opportunities.

Data and Statistics Without Source Information Are Useless

As I was formulating my 2011 business goals for Dow Brook Advisory Services earlier this week, I wondered how many people actually bother to create, record, and monitor goals. Not vague New Years resolutions – real, specific goals. So I did some quick, non-exhaustive research, which consisted of a Google Search query. Here is what I found:

  • 80 percent of people never set goals for themselves
  • Of the 20% of the population that does set goals, roughly 70 percent fail to achieve the goals they have set

SOURCE: http://www.myarticlearchive.com/articles/7/189.htm

  • Of the 20% that do write down goals, only 20% regularly review them

SOURCE: http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com.au/Article/Setting_goals

  • 3 percent of the American population set goals consistently, and are among the wealthiest people in the country

SOURCE: http://www.ehow.com/how_4582821_set-worthwhile-attainable-goals.html

This last item led me to another, more detailed collection of goal setting statistics generated by Harvard University:

“There was a study done at Harvard between 1979 and 1989. Graduates of the MBA program were asked “Have you set clear written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” The results of that question were:

1. Only 3% had written goals and plans
2. 13% had goals but not in writing
3. 84% had no specific goals at all

10 years later Harvard interviewed the members of that class again and found:

1. The 13% who had goals but not in writing were earning on average twice as much as the 84% of those who had no goals at all
2. The 3% who had clear, written goals were earning on average 10 times as much as the other 97% of graduates all together. The only difference between the groups is the clarity of the goals they had for themselves”

SOURCE: http://www.betternetworker.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=23456

While the author of the article, Keith Aul, does not provide a source citation for the Harvard study, further quick research revealed that is was discussed in the widely-read book written by Mark McCormack, titled What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School.

I checked a copy of McCormack’s book out of my local library to see for myself how he presents the survey results and cites its source. McCormack provides neither an index nor a bibliography. I manually scanned the entire book (256 pages) to find the passage. I was unsuccessful on the first scan, so I repeated the effort, but at a slower pace and with greater care. Same result.

I had been looking at the original edition of McCormack’s book, published in 1984. I thought that perhaps there might be a later edition that contained the reference to the Harvard study. Some additional research showed that there were indeed subsequent editions. The book was reissued in 1986, 1989, and 1994.

I went back and reread Aul’s quotation of the Harvard study results and noted that the second set of statistics are from a follow-up study supposedly done in 1989. So there is no way that the study could have been quoted in the 1984 or 1986 editions of McCormack’s book, despite the legion of attributions made on the Web. It is possible (but unlikely) that the Harvard study was cited in the 1989 edition of What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School. There is a higher probability that it was included in the 1994 edition. I was unable to find a copy of either edition to peruse, but apparently they were both small printing runs, as they are not available on Amazon.com. Therefore, I do not believe that the Harvard study information is contained in the 1989 or 1994 edition of McCormack’s bo0k either. (Please let me know if I am wrong.)

There is a good blog post, The Harvard Written Goal Study: Fact or Fiction, that chronicles the unsuccessful effort the post author, Sid Savara, made to find a copy of the study on the Web. Yes, unsuccessful. Savara could not find a copy of any such study via Web research. Nor could I. Not even Google Scholar had a clear reference to the research.

Things get even worse. Savara also discusses a similar, apparently fictitious study conducted at Yale University in 1953, the existence of which was denied by Yale in the following FAQ on its Web site.

“It has been determined that no “goals study” of the Class of 1953 actually occurred. In recent years, we have received a number of requests for information on a reported study based on a survey administered to the Class of 1953 in their senior year and a follow-up study conducted ten years later. This study has been described as how one’s goals at graduation related to success and annual incomes achieved during the period.

The secretary of the Class of 1953, who had served in that capacity for many years, did not know of [the study], nor did any of the fellow class members he questioned. In addition, a number of Yale administrators were consulted and the records of various offices were examined in an effort to document the reported study. There was no relevant record, nor did anyone recall the purported study of the Class of 1953, or any other class.”

It seems that both the Harvard and Yale studies, which are frequently trotted out as evidence for the power of setting and writing down goals, are in fact non-existent. Urban legends.

As if that is not shocking enough, note that all of the other goal setting statistics that I cited at the beginning of this post had no source attribution in the blog post from which I pulled them! They were prefaced by meaningless phrases such as “studies show” or statistics prove”.

I originally intended this to be a post about the power of goal setting, but, in light of the discoveries made during my research on the topic, I have decided to make a different point:

It is very difficult to use statistics to support an argument when the data is of unknown origin and its validity cannot be proven.

The amount of data which is generated and made available for analysis is growing exponentially. Yet, that data and the related statistical insight derived from it is utterly useless if the source is not properly documented and cited. Keep that in mind the next time you hear a business colleague, partner, or supplier present a statistic to justify their position.

I would be remiss to close this post without presenting a solution to the problem to which I’ve drawn attention. There are three things that each of us can do to ensure the credibility of the data we make available and the results of its analysis:

  1. Always document the source of any data when it is generated, so those analyzing it can provide a proper source citation
  2. Never generate statistics from a data set without knowing its source
  3. Never cite statistics that are not accompanied by a definitive source citation

If we do those three things, we will be able to have confidence in the data and statistics we are using to make business decisions. If we do not do them, then we are only fooling ourselves when presenting or consuming raw data or “polished” analysis.

LinkedIn Signal Demonstrates The Power of Role-Based Activity Stream Filters

LinkedIn today announced Signal, a new feature (currently in beta) that lets members see an activity stream that combines LinkedIn status updates and Twitter posts from other members who have opted-in to the feature. LinkedIn has licensed the Twitter firehose to incorporate all of its members’ tweets into the site, not just tweets with the #in hashtag embedded, as is current practice.

While it is hard to imagine anyone other than corporate and independent talent recruiters will make LinkedIn their primary Twitter client, Signal does have an element that is worthy of emulation by other social networks and enterprise social software providers that incorporate an activity stream (and which of those does not these days!) That feature is role-specific filters.

I wrote previously in this post about the importance of providing filters with which individuals can narrow their activity stream. I also noted that the key is to understand which filters are needed by which roles in an organization. LinkedIn apparently gets this, judging by the screenshot pictured below.

LinkedIn Signal screenshot courtesty of TechCrunch

Notice the left-hand column, labeled “Filter by”. LinkedIn has most likely researched a sample of its members to determine which filters would be most useful to them. Given that recruiters are the most frequent users of LinkedIn, the set of filters displayed in the screenshot makes sense. They allow recruiters to see tweets and LinkedIn status updates pertaining to LinkedIn members in specific industries, companies, and geographic regions. Additionally, the Signal stream can be filtered by strength of connection in the LinkedIn network and by post date.

The activity stream of every enterprise social software suite (ESS) should offer such role-based filters, instead of the generic ones they currently employ. Typical ESS filtering parameters include individuals, groups or communities, and workspaces. Some vendors offer the ability to filter by status as a collaborator on an object, such as a specific document or sales opportunity. A few ESS providers allow individuals to create custom filters for their activity stream. While all of these filters are helpful, they do not go far enough in helping individuals narrow the activity stream to view updates needed in a specific work context.

The next logical step will be to create standard sets of role-based filters that can be further customized by the individuals using them. Just as LinkedIn has created a filter set that is useful to recruiters, ESS providers and deploying organizations must work together to create valuable filter sets for employees performing specific jobs and tasks. Doing so will result in increased productivity from, and effectiveness of, any organization’s greatest asset – it’s people.

Enterprise Social Software and Portals: A Brief Comparison of Deployment Patterns

In my last post, I examined whether or not Enterprise Social Software (ESS) is the functional equivalent of enterprise portal applications as they existed ten years ago. My conclusion was:

From a functional perspective, ESS is quite similar to enterprise portal software in the way that it presents information, but that does not tell the whole story. ESS lacks critical personalization capabilities, but provides better collaboration, process, publication and distribution, categorization, and integration functionality than portals. In my judgment, ESS is somewhat similar to portal software, but mainly in appearance. It makes more functionality available than portals did, but needs to add a key missing piece – personalization.

In this post, I will focus on the observation that ESS resembles enterprise portals in another regard – how and why it is deployed.

Enterprise v. Smaller Deployments

Portals were initially marketed as a tool for enterprise-wide communication and interaction, with each internal or external user role having its own personalized set of resources available in the user interface. While there were some early enterprise-wide deployments, portal software was deployed far more often at the functional level to support specific business processes (e.g. sales, procurement, and research portals) or at the departmental level to support operations.

Enterprise social software has also been touted as most valuable when deployed across an organization. However, like portal software, ESS has most often been deployed at the functional level in support of activities such as marketing, customer service, and competitive intelligence. As a result, the promised network effects of enterprise-wide deployments have not been realized to-date, just as they were not with most portal deployments.

Internal- v. External-Facing Deployments

Most early portal deployments were internally-focused, as shown in this InformationWeek summary of market research conducted in 2001. Not only was there a smaller number of externally-focused deployments, mixed-audience deployments did not begin to appear until the portal market was extremely mature. ESS deployments have followed this same pattern, and we are just now seeing early efforts to blend inward- and outward-facing business activity in common ESS environments.

Internal Use Cases

Portal software was often deployed in response to a specific business need. Among the most common were:

  • intranet replacement/updgrade
  • self-service HR
  • application aggregation
  • document/content management
  • expertise location
  • knowledge sharing
  • executive dashboards

ESS has been deployed for many of the same reasons, especially intranet replacement, application aggregation, expertise location, and knowledge sharing.

External Use Cases

Portal software was deployed externally to provide self-service access to corporate information. In some cases, access to selected application functionality was also provided to key business partners. Retail and B2B portals enabled customers to purchase goods and services online. Process acceleration, revenue growth, and cost reduction were the key business drivers behind nearly all external portal uses.

ESS doesn’t seem to have the same goals. I have seen some, but little, evidence that external communities are being leveraged to accelerate business processes or reduce costs. Peer support communities are a good example of cost reduction via ESS. The goal of most outward-facing ESS deployments seems to be customer engagement that translates (eventually) into increased innovation and revenue for the deploying organization.


ESS deployments today strongly resemble portal projects that were undertaken ten years ago. Few, if any, ESS deployments have been enterprise-wide. Instead, ESS is deployed to many of the same department and functional groups, to support the same business processes, and to drive many of the same business results as portals were a decade ago (and still are.)

What does this commonality with early portal deployments mean for ESS? I will examine that in my next post. Until then, I would love to hear your reaction to what I have presented here.