In my last post I pointed out the difference in the dynamics between Teams and CoPs.
The main defining aspect is that teams exist to do tasks.
I’m finding lots of teams want to use social tools as a space to coordinate and communicate, and at the moment all we (my work) have to offer are our CoP tools. Our CoP spaces are more designed for learning and sharing, whereas team spaces need conversations to revolve around task objects. So although our CoP space offers the tools teams are asking for like blogs, forums, and wikis, these tools are not packaged in a design for the way teams do work.
NOTE: Teams may also be interested in using a CoP space for general learning, sharing and communicating, but parallel to this they need a space to do actual work (and vice versa CoPs may sometimes want to do tasks)
Nonetheless we don’t have social team tools, so the CoP tools will have to do; in a past post I suggested some social tools designed where each task object has a conversation stream. The task object itself can have comments, but also a forum or blog post may be tagged with the object ID, so when you look at the object, not only do you see it’s own comment stream, you also see blog and forum posts that refer to it (kind of like a trackback). I believe both Traction and Basecamp do something similar to what I just explained. Lotus Connections Activities is in a similar camp, only I gather you do not so much create a space up front, instead you create a thread as you work which becomes your space. An even more liteweight than this are 9cays, and ActionThis.
It’s great that we have enterprise social computing tools like Awareness, telligent, Tomoye, ThoughtFarmer, Clearspace, Cyn.in, GroupSwim, Alfresco, HiveLive, Knowledge Plaza, Socialtext, and the rest, but we also need some tools that explicitly revolve around tasks. We need Teams of Practice tools like Basecamp and Lotus Connections Activities.
To make myself clear I’m not talking about general knowledge sharing tools like the one’s listed directly above, I’m not talking about document collaboration, and I’m not talking about my personal task management list. I’m refering to an open space where a task has a URL, and a comment stream, and other objects like documents, forum and blog posts, IM’s and emails can be associated with the task. In essence when you look at the task URL, you will see all conversations about that task no matter the format.
As at the moment the conversations of the work we actually do are in email.
You have a task, you action it by:
- emailing back and forth with your boss, then you email a team member to help you out, then another…
- all this work is distributed in a closed and distributed email system
- even the person driving the task finds it hard to keep track of all the emails (let’s not forget, this is not the only task you are doing)
- and it’s not only email, you also have to keep track of all the IM chats, files, etc…
- new people helping out on the task have a hard time knowing the history (as it’s in email silos), and you find you have to repeat yourself
One day someone else comes along to extend on this task:
- they wouldn’t have a clue where to find all the past history of that task, or that there even is a past history
- instead if you have a public task list with all the conversation around each task, then you have a corporate memory (in a linear format the makes sense)
- and the other thing is people can be aware while you are doing your task, and chime in
- also when you need help from someone half way through your task, you just point them to the space where they can catch up on the history of it
We do have task lists at work that show assigned person, status, etc…but that’s all it is, a list. It’s what you edit once in a while, once you have had lots of emails and meetings. You can generate reports from it, and it gives you a picture of progress.
The task list is great, but what is doesn’t show you is how you got to each status (all those conversations), and the latest conversation (on the pulse)…these are valuable for the task participants, general awareness for other parties, a corporate memory, and lessons for the future. It also means less meetings or asking progress, as people can find out for themselves.
At the moment I often find myself completing a task via email interactions, and then two weeks later remember to update the status for that task in the task list. The reason this happens is that the task list and doing the actual task are not integrated. We all know by email the task is finished, but someone visiting the task list wouldn’t know that (as I forgot to update it).
NOTE: I’m mostly referring to re-purposing email for transactions between task members (mostly by task object comment streams), but there will always be transactions where you have to meet, phone, IM, email with people not involved in the task, and at this stage it’s up to you to use the task space to update others about what eventuated via a blog post or a comment on the task object, etc…
This becomes the transparency of knowledgework. Knowledgeworkers are unique and know their job better than anyone else. Someone else filling their shoes don’t really know how to do the job, as there is no explicit process, it’s all about conversations. But hopefully we are coming to a place that the informalness of knowledgework can be documented as it happens, so we can get a picture of how knowledgework is actually performed, be more aware and cooperative…we are not about to video record everyone sitting at their desks, and then watch it.
|Work is conversation (that’s why we have so many meetings and so much email), the problem is the conversation that could be public is not by default.|
It seems the lastest McKinsey Report, 6 ways to make web2.0 work, has a lot of people saying “What’s in the workflow is what gets used.”…check out all the tweets. Bill Ives has also posted on these social tools being integrated into processes, he compares it to process centric KM and library centric KM.
Of course this is all about balance, if all our social tools were strictly about tasks (processes) then we’d miss out on the, social productivity, self-organisation and emergence that comes from general networking. It’s equally important that knowledgeworkers can brand themselves beyond their job description, and for them to discover, connect and help/learn from each other. And not only that but perhaps these interactions may add to new strategies. For if it’s all about aligning to strategy, then how do we cross-pollinate and innovate.
NOTE: We innovate diffusely, rather than focused…we create the conditions, such as an open social network ecosystem, and through participation and interactions, innovation may slap us in the face.
The lastest McKinsey Report is well timed with this post as up until now enterprise social computing has been perhaps vague or seems like a great idea, but extra work to knowledgeworkers; so it’s time we design these tools to do in-the-flow work, ie. revolve them around tasks. I think this will be a great boost for adoption, getting people used to working collaboratively, openly and transparently, which will then hopefully drive more above-the-flow participation. Social task tools are perhaps a better introduction to enterprise social computing as you don’t strictly require the sharing type culture, as much as you do with general knowledge sharing tools, as you are actually re-purposing what you already do in email.
|In-the-flow = Directed = Beta|
|Above-the-flow = Volunteered = Alpha|
Here’s a list of other tools that I have collected, but not looked at (this list excludes tools I have listed above)
Vignette Project Delivery (also collaboration)
[ADDED 18/03/09: Kuka Systems - Traction]
[ADDED 3/04/09: blueKiwi]
[ADDED 17/04/09: Enterprise 2.0 and the importance of Silo Smashing!]