Thinking Out Loud: Using Social Network Analysis to Transform Organizations

tavern-586323_1280I haven’t thought this all the way through, and there are a lot of people (Jon Husband, Harold Jarche, and a guy I had beer with on Monday who is the founder of Simplexity Systems and the inspiration for this post, for example) who are way more knowledgeable about Social Network Analysis (SNA) than I am. I’m really just riffing a bit here.

Monday evening I had beer with a couple of people, one of whom I’d just met (thanks for buying, by the way). His official title is something like Manager of Enterprise Architecture, but his real mandate is to shake things up and make some changes for the good of the organization (a client of mine, BTW). Anyways, after a bit of chit chat, and my two companions finishing up with what they were talking about before I got there, the conversation turned to the topic of Social Network Analysis. What the heck is SNA? Well, my very simple understanding of it is something like …

Analytics and algorithms are used to mathematically prove the strength of relationships between nodes (people) in a network. For example; by examining aspects of an email chain between multiple people it is possible to map the relationships between the various participants and to see how strong those relationships are. One thing that’s really cool about the whole SNA thing is that it not only measures the numbers of emails flying about and their sources and destinations, it also measures and evaluates elapsed time. What’s missing (or we just didn’t talk about it) is the sentiment of the relationship, since the analysis is focused on emails going back and forth and not the content and tone of the emails.

Before I forget … you ought to check out Wirearchy for some more in-depth stuff about SNA and how it can be applied …

Anyway, after chatting for a couple of hours, and the conversation being cut short (babysitters, feeding kids, family nonsense) I went into head scratching mode for a bit. I started thinking about other types of connections that could be mapped, using SNA principles. Could we map relationships between people and content, and then make inferences about those relationships? Could we make suggestions about potential relationships? For example, could we make inferences and suggestions about a relationship between two people (content author and content consumer) based on the consumer’s relationship (activity) with the author’s content, even though the people may not know each other? To what end would we apply these insights?

I also started thinking about what would happen if we added content and semantic analysis to the mix. Could we draw conclusions about the tone of the relationships? Could we figure out if a relationship between individuals was positive or negative? What else could we infer about the relationship?

What if, instead of looking at relationships between individuals, we aggregated the findings to look at relationships between departments in an organization? Could we identify relationships and dependencies where we previously assumed none existed? If we could, could we also then use this information to restructure certain elements and systems in the organization? In effect, could we use the combined results of Social Network Analysis, Content Analytics, and Semantic Analysis to tear down silos and improve information flows, thereby positively impacting the organization? My gut says we can.

As I said, I know very little about SNA though I am convinced that if it were applied in concert with other analytic approaches there’s a lot of good stuff we could do. For the moment I’d really like to spend more time with my new drinking buddy, some wine or beer, and a whiteboard to learn more about this whole Social Network Analysis thing.


#5Thoughts – CIP Nouveau

duck-416972_1280Prompted by the twin posts (do some scrolling and read in chronological order) from Jesse “Mr. CIP” Wilkins and the near death of the CIP, I figured I’d lay out a few thoughts … and here’s my post from when I learned of the death of the CIP (a week before its revival).

  1. I was really pleased with the reaction of folks that hold or intend to hold the credential. Almost as pleased as I was with AIIM’s about-face regarding its death. A passionate, engaged group of stakeholders coupled with an association that listens is a pretty good thing, I think.
  2. Testing for the CIP needs to be supplemented. The current multiple choice / fill in the blank stuff is okay, but I would really like to see it supplemented with at least one case study type question. A properly crafted case study is a better test of being able to pull the knowledge elements together in a meaningful way. The current test, IMO, can be passed simply by preparing enough and being able to memorize and regurgitate. Yes, I appreciate that this would require a lot more effort and expense to create and then mark. In my head I’m thinking that elements from, and the approach of, the Uniform Evaluation for (formerly) Canadian accountancy students has some merit.
  3. 1,000+ CIPs in just over four years is a pretty good accomplishment.
  4. I don’t know how, but the CIP needs to be better marketed to those outside the AIIM community. Are educational institutions a potential avenue to explore, if not already exploring? I dunno. I will, however, jump in and help out if I can. Over the past year or two I’ve noticed (imagined?) a decline in the promotion of the CIP from AIIM. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this was a factor in the plug pulling.
  5. If the CIP is going to thrive going forward, it’s going to need a concerted effort from AIIM, CIP holders / candidates, and CIP beneficiaries (orgs that use information – all of them!). If the primary short-term focus is on generating revenue via the CIP rather than growing the CIP and its acceptance / importance, the CIP is likely doomed (again, sort of). I do appreciate the rock and hard place this places AIIM in the middle of. If the CIP is to realize its potential we’re all going to have to pitch in and get creative about how that’s going to happen. As far as I’m concerned I think it’s something worth pushing forward with.

CIP No More – Meh

No CIPBefore you read the rest of this post, I’ll ask that you read this post about how and why I finally obtained AIIM’s Certified Information Professional certification.

When AIIM made the “exciting” announcement about the demise of the CIP (read it here) I was a tad irked. Though I had no stake in putting the CIP thing together, I did think that it was the beginning of a really good thing. The CIP was going to be to Information Management Professionals what the PMP is to Project Managers and the CBAP was intended to become to Business Analysts. It ought to have been on the path to being the certification obtained from understanding and being able to apply a body of knowledge about how to manage information so that organizations could perform better and minimize information related risks. Given time to mature, the CIP could have become the standard against which all of us who consider ourselves Information Professionals would be measured.

But, boys and girls, that ain’t gonna happen. AIIM has pulled the plug and the CIP is D-E-A-D, dead. AIIM had their reasons to kill the CIP, which I won’t go into here. What I do want to get into a bit here is the compensation offered by AIIM, for me losing my CIP certification.

Though I haven’t yet received my official “Merry Christmas You’re No Longer a CIP” letter, I do know about it, and I do know that I get to choose one of three AIIM Master Certifications to replace the CIP. I can elect to become and AIIM ECM Master (done it, earned it), ERM Master (done it, earned it) or a BPM Master (haven’t earned it). Of the three master certificates being offered the ECM Master is, in my opinion, the most valuable. It’s not valuable because having ECMm after your name gets you a higher salary or a better job; it’s valuable because of what you need to do to get it. You need to attend a course, write an exam, and write a case study. The exam and case study are for all intents and purposes a regurgitation of the course materials. The attendance with other real life people, however, is the real value and the real learning. The same goes for the ERMm and, I assume, the BPMm.

So AIIM, you wanna give me a XXXm thing for taking away my CIP? Keep it. I don’t want the certification, I don’t need the certification. What I want from obtaining the certification is what I learn from being there and experiencing the process. To be honest, even having the CIP didn’t mean that much to me. The CIP represented the potential future of the Information Professional; that, AIIM, is what you’ve jeopardized.

2015 – The Year in Review

Jeep Snow DriveA few things before I get started:

  1. This post is not strictly related to Information Management, but I’ve got nowhere else that I post, so, it is what it is;
  2. This will meander and be disjointed;
  3. This post was partially inspired by Michael Wekerle (from an exchange we had on twitter – image below) and Jennifer Langston.


Wek and Walker

It’s December, the last month of the year depending on what calendar you follow. This post is bit of a retrospective of a, for me, less than stellar 2015. That said, I’m justifiably optimistic that 2016 is going to be better.

The tweet exchange pictured above got me to thinking about how I got to where I am professionally. To make a long story short:

  • Around 1987 or so I finally decided I wanted to be a chartered accountant;
  • Couldn’t afford full time school, so went at night after work;
  • My Cal II mark was below the cut-off for year two university by two (2) friggin’ percent;
  • I bailed on university and focused on work (IT support at a public accountancy firm);
  • Found I liked IT and in 1991 went to one of those tech type schools for a year (one of the firm’s partners warned that there might not be much of a future in IT);
  • Went back to work and found I like the business side of IT better than the tech side;
  • Went back to university at night (while working and raising my first son);
  • Graduated in 1996 with a certificate (bachelor’s w/out the fluff)
  • Fast forward to 2007 and I got into all the joy that is ECM (finally found my calling at 43);
  • More education, but this time from a variety of sources including professional orgs, peers, industry experts, vendors, … you get the idea;
  • Attained some level of respect and credibility in the Information Management space, gotta keep learning to keep it up.

I offer up the above for two reasons: 1) it kinda supports some points made in the twitter exchange, and; 2) it relates to the professional (financial, really) debacle that 2015 was for me.

The economy in Alberta has been horrible since the price of oil has taken a nose dive. I won’t get into details, but it ended up costing me a few projects and a lot of money. Fortunately I was able to get some other pieces of work, but they didn’t come remotely close to making up for the revenue I lost due to cancelled projects. While this work related mess is happening, there’s some pretty significant upheaval starting in my personal life. As is often the case, family finances are a contributing factor.

It was pointed out to me that had I made some different career choices years ago, we may not be in this mess. Sure. However, had I made those choices (get into being a PM or into a technical role – neither of which I have much of an aptitude for or desire to do) I likely would have been fired multiple times, and I certainly would be a miserable bastard coming home from a job I hated.

Whatever … I’m not getting into too many details here – way too personal unless we’re sharing some pints. 2015 didn’t turn out like I’d expected, so I focused on learning and proposing projects that made sense under the current economic conditions. Is someone gonna bite soon? Dunno. I’ll hound them.

2015 pretty much sucked, professionally and personally. There was one exception, of a personal nature, that was unexpected, makes me extremely happy, and for which I am grateful that I recognized and acted upon. Things are looking up, though. Closing out 2015 and starting 2016 look like the corner’s been turned. No guarantees, but I’m optimistic.

Here’s some things that I’ve learned, or re-learned, over the past year. Some of them are things that others have said.

  • I have a really good, supportive network of friends, colleagues, and peers;
  • Don’t be so tied or dependent on an outcome that you can’t continue if it doesn’t happen;
  • If you can’t accept or deal with the consequences, don’t do it;
  • Barring a fatality, there’s nothing I can’t or won’t recover from;
  • Just get back up and keep pushing;
  • It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, despondent, discouraged, whatever for a few minutes but no more;
  • You are responsible for you;
  • If you’re not willing to be part of the solution, don’t whine to me about the problem;
  • Every day, week, month, and year is another chance for your optimism to be justified;
  • Whether it’s professionally, personally, or romantically, be smart enough and open enough to recognize the opportunities in front of you. Then act.

Anyways, that’s it. To you and yours, whatever you do or don’t celebrate at this time of year, be healthy, happy, and safe. Not just now, but, you know, the other 11 months of the year as well.

ECM as Strategic Platform – Not a Tech Issue

photography-371215_640In this CloudPro article, Aaron Levie (Box co-founder and CEO) asks about content management “Why is this one of the only categories of technology that hasn’t actually been approached as a strategic platform for the entire enterprise?” Levie also suggests that organizations view content management systems through a similar lens as they do with ERP and CRM systems. That is, have a single system and manage it as a strategic platform for the enterprise. I both agree and disagree with Levie.

We both believe that content management systems need to be managed as strategic enterprise platforms. And I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to infer of Levie that he would agree with me and others that information be managed as a strategic corporate asset. There might be a contretemps over where (type of system) content to be leveraged as an asset should reside (I don’t care where it is, I just want to leverage it), but I think it would be a minor niggle. I think where there would be more palpable disagreement is over whether or not organizations ought to consolidate content repositories or not. As far as I’m concerned, it depends. (I’m a consultant. What did you expect me to say?) There’s a whole mess of stuff to think about when considering repository consolidation, and this isn’t the post to go through it.

Aaron and I are going to disagree over his points about viewing ERP, CRM, and ECM through the same lens. He says we should, I say we can’t. The issue is one of understanding. If I go into any organization that uses ERP and CRM systems, they know the point and value of those systems. The high level business processes supported by ERP and CRM systems haven’t fundamentally changed in decades. ECM systems are completely different. They are built to support all processes and no processes. I.e.: they’re a blank canvass, a few tubes of paint, and some paint bushes. If you’ve got the right people, rules, and tools you’ll end up with a masterpiece. If not, well, you won’t.

The value proposition and strategy for ECM has to be crafted to the stakeholder. I cannot and will not give the same message to someone from HR as I will to someone in Field Services. I may use the same platform and even the same content, but stakeholder context is going to drive the conversation and implementation. And that’s a huge problem. ECM as a concept is too big and complicated. So stop talking about it. Talk about business opportunities and challenges; talk about transformation and innovation.

So, back to Levie’s comment/question about strategic platforms …

He’s obviously biased and I’m on his side but, been there, done that. In the majority of implementations that I’ve been engaged on, a strategic platform approach is precisely the approach we took. The technology involved didn’t really matter (If you really care, the techs involved included Documentum, Alfresco, Oracle, SharePoint, FileNet, and OpenText). It was all about the mindset and having the right policies, procedures, and people. It also helps if the technology has open API’s and makes integration as simple as possible.

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