Come Together


Like Adam said to Eve; “Stand back, I’m not sure how big this thing’s gonna get.”

Over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking/ranting/blogging/tweeting about unstructured content, social business, systems of record (SOR), Systems of Engagement (SOE), mobile stuff, and the whole thing about going paperless. What I’ve concluded is that it’s all seemingly one big inextricable mess. It really isn’t, though. I think the key pieces are Systems of Record/Engagement (SOR/E) and interoperability (CMIS, Integration for the smarty-pantses reading this).

Regardless of what some want / think, we’re not going to ever be 100% paperless even though it makes lots of business sense. The uproar over the mobile thing is a temporary distraction caused by all the new devices we have at our disposal to create “stuff” and interact with it.

SOR/E’s and interoperability are where it’s at. However, you first need to understand that a system of anything is not a tool. D’uh. A system is the combination of the processes, people, information, and tools that are used to get sh*t done!

A system that includes laptops, tablets, smart phones, and mainframes is every bit as valid as a system that includes pens, paper, and abacuses (abaci?). The key is to combine the various system components in a way that achieves an intended outcome. Unintended outcomes of a positive nature (serendipity, opportunity) are welcome. Unintended outcomes of a malevolent nature (issues, but you better have a risk management plan and understand the difference between issues and risks) are not.

Mobile devices (Ha! My brain is mobile and goes where I go. Does yours?) and mobile content are today’s red-headed step-children. But that’s only because they’re relatively new concepts (aside from cell phones and txt msgs) and we haven’t really figured out how to manage the content they produce, consume, and interact with (Actually, that’s crap; devices don’t do content, people do).

In his AIIM white paper, Geoffrey Moore gets one thing kind of right: “Clearly, systems of engagement need to operate on top of and in touch with our existing core systems of record.” I’d state it a bit differently; SOE’s extend the possibilities and reach of SOR’s. SOE’s and SOR’s need to be merged in order to achieve true Enterprise value.” (That’s why I came up with SOR/E’s).

I think he (Geoffrey Moore) also gets one thing dangerously wrong, though I don’t actually think it’s intentional. It may just be me, but I get the prickly feeling that when he refers to system he actually means tool (e.g.: PeopleSoft, Siebel, ACT!).

What if we were to take a different look at things? What if, instead of systems of records and/or engagement (you’ll notice the intentional lack of capitalization) we looked at them as layers; as in an n-tiered architecture? Is the engagement layer really anything more than what the user sees/uses? Isn’t the record layer merely the database / content repository? Are devices really anything more than elements of the presentation (think User Interface) layer (a.k.a. the Engagement layer)?

SOR/E's

By the way, I am not using the word “records” in a Records Management (ARMA, CRM) way here. Records really ought to be thought of as transactions.

Why did I use the Aerosmith version instead of the Beatles original? Watch it and figure it out.

9 Comments on “Come Together

  1. You had me nodding my head in agreement, until the last paragraph, where you contradicted yourself: If “system is the combination of the processes, people, information, and tools” – which I totally agree with – then you can’t describe these systems as an n-tiered architecture. That’s a solution!

    Semantic comments aside, I think the key message here is valid – we are talking about “Systems of Record AND Engagement”. It’s not an either/or and it’s more evolution than revolution.

    I have another bone to pick with Mr. Moore’s thesis, but that’s a subject of a separate blog… Thanks for getting my grey matter going this morning 🙂
    George

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  2. Hi George

    I’m kinda thinking about system and solution as the same concept, but I could have been clearer. However, the tools that comprise the tiers are still only part of the system.

    Cheers!
    Chris

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  3. Chris,
    I was looking at the image in the post and not quite able to make out the various aspects of the engagement layer but that is a great way of looking at it. With (i) so many sources of information and commentary and (ii) so many locations or devises that people use as part of their workflow a central challenge is awareness. Awareness is a broader, general purpose approach to making sure that people have knowledge of the unstructured info and insight that is relevant to the work they are doing and the decisions they are making. The goal is to provide very personalized experiences and to deliver that in the normal workflow of the user. This augments not replaces other approaches to the engagement layer.

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  4. Hi Charlie

    What I was trying (badly) to convey was the idea that people engage (interact) with information in a variety of manners. It could be walking past an ad on an LCD panel somewhere, using a phone, working on a tablet … you get the idea. Furthermore, just think about the various ways that information is presented to people, hopefully tailored to the way they engage.

    Hope this helps / clarifies.

    Cheers!
    Chris

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  5. Chris
    While you werent referring to “record” in the truest sense of the word, one of the issues that we do have, and the RM profession hasnt quite got to grips with yet is that records have multiple contexts; they exist as evidence and they exist as Information at the same time; hence they appear in your SOE and your SOR.

    Splitting these out and getting academic doesnt actually help matters either; users dont care so system designers shouldnt really care. Users interact with data/information to do their jobs and through an interface that helps, not hinders them. We shouldnt be putting up barriers at the engagement or record layers, controls should be embedded, out of the way as a natural part of the process; not a special “system” that gets in the way.

    Good post

    Like

    • Hi Paula

      You’re correct; I am not looking at records from an ARMA or ISO15489 point of view. I am looking at records from a more holistic point of view. Frankly, I think the ARMA and ISO15489 centric views of records are likely more hindrance than help currently. As far as I am concerned, records are always information, and sometimes evidence; it depends on what the records (regardless of sense) are needed for.

      To be very clear, in my opinion the RM Professional is merely another class of user that needs to engage with information in a way and using tools that will support their goals. I.e.: RM Professionals need to be supported by the E in SOR/E.

      Cheers!
      Chris

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  6. Chris,
    I was looking at the image in the post and not quite able to make out the various aspects of the engagement layer but that is a great way of looking at it. With (i) so many sources of information and commentary and (ii) so many locations or devises that people use as part of their workflow a central challenge is awareness. Awareness is a broader, general purpose approach to making sure that people have knowledge of the unstructured info and insight that is relevant to the work they are doing and the decisions they are making. The goal is to provide very personalized experiences and to deliver that in the normal workflow of the user. This augments not replaces other approaches to the engagement layer.

    +1

    Like

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