While implementing Enterprise 2.0 social and collaboration platforms for enterprises, this question invariably pops up: What control processes do we need to put in place?
The answer is not quite straightforward. The extraction of knowledge and its accumulation and organisation has to be as easy and seamless as possible, while the commercial realities of running an organisation dictate that processes around content and its management be laid out first, and understood by all.
The solution is something like this: While implementing social collaboration, we are not trying to establish a new process. If we were doing that, we would be partially defeating the purpose by asking busy knowledge workers to partake in, and comply with, a new process. The purpose should be to encourage the use of common Web-based collaboration tools to improve collaboration. No one can predict where and how that collaboration will evolve. Unlike other IT initiatives, if the outcome was that predictable, there might not be the need for collaboration and knowledge management tools in the first place.
So, what do we do? Start small, monitor the collaboration and wait for patterns and styles to emerge and then manage them, while still not disallowing new patterns and techniques to emerge over time. The benefits should be quantifiable and this should eventually becoming a continuing process. The possible benefits vary by enterprise, industry and unique business processes.
On a small scale, a project or an ad-hoc community of workers utilises some social collaboration tools, does their work and moves on. A human, or an automated process, can watch and monitor activity metrics according to a defined policy. Automated reports or emails are sent out during the collaboration activity on the project. If needed, the collaboration activity can be taken down and archived, or a human intervenes and changes the policy as it applies to that collaboration. The evolution of, and the direction of, collaboration activity should be discussed with legal, HR and general management. When risks arise, automated processes can be put in place to discourage the risk-prone activity, or to terminate it altogether. For example, a customer-facing forum that may divulge a company's intellectual property without a specific policy in place.
Enabling Web 2.0 in the enterprise brings multiple information management tiers along. The client is just the browser, which may be tied to an Intranet portal. Access may be governed by a policy or rules engine. Monitoring may be persisted to a database. This is an IT management hurdle as the tiers, interfaces and services that come together to provide intuitive and productive user interfaces need to be managed in a predictable but agile manner, and their security and performance assured. Again, the approach here should be to think of services rather than applications. SoA (service-oriented architecture) comes in handy and helps to organise and govern non-critical services after deployment. This also helps in the provision of usage, compliance and security reporting.
- Start small and go along with what the specific team says that they need.
- Monitor and contain the activity and risk in non-deterministic mode.
- Periodically review and organise into external and internal services that can be cobbled together to provide for future needs.
- The benefits, usage and utility of social collaboration will vary widely -- across departments and geographies, and also over time.