E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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Modern Social Software Could Be the Key to Building Effective Enterprise Knowledge Systems – Reinventing the Intranet

It looks like quite a few of the regular weblogs that I follow have been talking about this very same subject. And all of them starting after the superb article that Job Udell creating on Modern Social Software Could Be the Key to Building Effective Enterprise Knowledge Systems: Reinventing the Intranet. So I just thought I would dive into the conversation(s) as well and share my two cents worth of comments. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed Jon’s article itself, no doubt about it (I think he is on to something), but in particular I enjoyed a couple of paragraphs that were the ones that caught my attention all along:

"Shared bookmarking, coupled with tagging, is another piece of low-hanging fruit. Sprinkling Web 2.0 pixie dust won’t solve every problem, but the benefits of public services such as del.icio.us and Furl can be realized within the enterprise, too. That’s true because they benefit the individual first, and then, as a useful side effect, the community.

Given the opportunity, people will want to bookmark and tag the resources they publish internally. It’s the easiest way to create, manage, and share dynamic lists of such resources. This system pays for itself in improved personal productivity alone. Everything else is gravy, and there’s plenty of that.

Saved bookmarks chart the current and historical levels of interest in what their URLs represent, and they identify groups that share those interests. (Note that behind the firewall, bookmarks can refer to public resources as well as private ones inside the enterprise.) Tags identify sets of related resources and groups related to those sets. They also extend the metadata vocabularies that can be used to improve search"

Good stuff! I think it is the first time that I get to read elsewhere what I think are two of the most important and critical components from any given deployed KM system: the individual and the community. All along we have all been getting used to how businesses were focusing more on the business itself, including its tools, and how it was delivering the information and its knowledge without focusing on anything else, like a more active participation from its knowledge workers. And now it looks like that is about to change with the much more active participation and involvement from the individuals themselves and the communities they may belong to. It looks like thanks to this social software I have been talking about all along is going to provoke that change in the way information and knowledge gets spread around within a particular business. About time!

Up until now most folks out there would recognise how different Intranets were regulating their own content through the voices of a few while everyone else tried to digest some of it. In most cases this was generating a false sense of knowledge sharing and collaboration where only a few were benefiting from it. However, the majority of people were more keen on accumulating all sorts of knowledge snippets in their own computers because they just didn’t feel there was a need to share stuff with others. It was all coming to knowledge workers from the top all the way to the bottom in such a way that in most cases people would not need to leave their own silos.

Then all of a sudden social software, i.e. the so-called Web 2.0, comes along and there is this frenzy from most knowledge workers to start sharing knowledge on their Intranets using wikis, weblogs, social bookmarking tools, RSS / Atom feeds, podcasts, etc. you name it. All of it is there. And out of no blue you find yourself with a huge Intranet with multiple voices that is no longer controlled by just a few but by a complex network of communities that mix and mingle with each other enhancing the way information and knowledge gets spread around. And before you know it people start forgetting about keeping everything in their computers and they go crazy about sharing most of what they have using those tools. And that new wealth of information just keeps on getting bigger and bigger because for the first time plenty of businesses are benefiting from all this and start embracing social networking tools as the next best thing that could happen to them to both retain their knowledge workers and also to start building on a massive and complex KM system that tries to put everything together. And which, by the way, will succeed because those same knowledge workers are the ones keen on keeping it going. The same way they have been enjoying those tools out there on the Internet as their own Personal Knowledge Management systems to share their knowledge with others, they will continue to enjoy some of those same tools for their daily work on their companies’ Intranets.

And while I am writing all this I just couldn’t help thinking about the cultural shift that all this may be causing right now at this moment, where we go from a traditional business and its static KM system(s), where only a few get to run the show and the rest is just looking into it from an apathetic point of view without even getting too involved because of how complex it all seems, to a much more dynamic KM system(s) where knowledge workers feel that their voices are finally being heard while getting to share and collaborate therefore generating enough passion, trust, commitment and involvement to make it work. Exciting times indeed for company Intranets, but much more exciting and fascinating for knowledge workers and the communities they are a part of. And all of that thanks to this social software. Would would that thought about that, right?

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