Cats, Dogs, and Information Management


Coleen Head ShotThe lady in the picture is my wife. I love her. I have loved her for many, many years. My wife is, shall we say, less than proficient with modern communications technology (i.e.: she’s tech-feeble). Despite how I make my living I decided I’d put up with her technical short-comings, ‘cause, love. One of the reasons for her lack of technical prowess is that she actually hates, hates, HATES social media. She’s seen some of the negative impacts that it can have, and really doesn’t have a need for it in her personal life. Well, that kinda changed recently.

For our anniversary last year I surprised her with her first smart phone (she used to have a crappy little LG thing that she could simply talk and text with). Anyways, in addition to the texting and talking, she was into using her phone for email and the camera. For most anything else internet related she used her laptop. Until last week …

I’m not really sure how or why, but she decided to sign up for Google + last week. So Google + isn’t the world’s #1 social network, but hey, she’s getting with the program. Now I should mention that we have pets; 3 dogs and 5 cats. We also have 3 kids. My wife has many, many, many pictures on her phone. Very few of them, percentage wise, are of humans. So as any slightly crazy cat lady would do, she joins some cat and dog related communities. And so begins my consternation …

I’ve been on Google + for a few years, though I haven’t really been engaged on it. I also recently killed off one of my profiles and just started to pay attention to my other one. At last count I have a staggering 1,325 profile views; the content I post is almost exclusively related to information management. She has 11,889 views over the last week+. Her content is almost exclusively cats, with the occasional dog pic thrown in. I think she’s also posted a couple pictures of her human family members. She takes a pic with her phone and posts to Google + with the app. And because she wears glasses (shhh!) and her phone is an iPhone 5C, she finds the process a little cumbersome. So I set up Box for her on her phone and laptop and I got all her pictures synced for her. She can now post as much as she wants, more easily than a few days ago. And I have inadvertently contributed to the growing proliferation of friggin’ cat pics on the internet.

Hey, I’m happy my wife is finding this stuff fun and all, but my Google + feed (or whatever it’s called) is filling up with cat pics because I follow my wife. I know there wasn’t anything about social media reciprocity included in the vows when we got married in 1988, but there probably is now and I’m not going to jeopardize things by un-following or blocking her. So I will put up with the good natured jibes about her stuff be more popular than mine (I think I’m being out +1’d to the order of 7,347:1), and with seeing cats in my feed.

It’s cool that she’s using social media and content management (though she doesn’t really know it) as a way to entertain herself. But what she and the rest of the cat-loving hoards don’t understand is that without information management, those places where they hang out and go all gaga over their cat pics would not be possible. Ironic, isn’t it? Without information architecture and metadata, all those cat pictures and videos would be mixed in with, heaven forfend, dog pictures and videos.

Oh, and I’m learning more about Google + than I really wanted to.

140404115510-crappy-taxidermy-cat-horizontal-gallery

A List – 10 Anti Predictions for 2013


Here’s a slideshare version of this post … http://www.slideshare.net/ChrisWalker7/a-list-10-anti-predictions-for-2013

  1. We’ll stop talking about social as if it’s something new.
  2. Everyone will understand the cloud.
  3. No one will buy anyone.
  4. Social networks’ terms of service will be transparent, easy to understand, and favour the user.
  5. People will stop caring about the Kardashians, Honey Boo Boo, and the Royals.
  6. RIM will be sold off in pieces, like black market organs.
  7. No one will dust off an idea from 20+ years ago, give it a new acronym, and call it new / the next big thing.
  8. Procurement departments will focus on value instead of cost.
  9. No one will sue anyone.
  10. BYOD

Pen & Notebook

Governance Sucks but Doesn’t Have To


Governance is the Super Ego to the Id of collaboration.

If you’re an information consumer or producer, governance sucks. Think about it; all you really want to do is get the info you need or pass stuff on to stakeholders. Maybe what you need is to be able to work on something as a group. You try, but you’re info-blocked at every turn. The amount of crap one must put up with in order to create or consume relevant information, or to collaborate, is enough to drive one to drink (but in a responsible manner & you take a cab home).

Let’s start with something simple … You want to create a document & share it with stakeholders. Easy, right? Not! It used to be that the biggest challenge was making sure the content was appropriate to the purpose. Now you also have to worry about whether or not the stakeholders have the rights to see the content, how long the content will be relevant for, how many copies there are (or will be), whether or not the content could be relevant in legal proceedings, and where the hell to classify it (what is this “classify” thing, anyways?”).

Governance is all the rules, regulations, legislation, standards, and policies with which we need to comply when we create, share, and use information. Don’t misunderstand me; it’s not the results or purposes of governance that annoy me, it’s how governance is applied. The in-your-face, gavel banging, fanaticism driven approach of many of the legal, risk, and compliance crowd is the issue.

Many of these folks are trying to manage electronic content the same way that paper has been managed; that’s like trying to perform “brain surgery too, mama, with a monkey wrench” (props to those who identify the song, band, and album without using any search engines).

The Good:

  • Facilitates finding what you need when you need it;
  • Reduces legal risk;
  • Preserves history and corporate memory;
  • Secures information from inappropriate exposure;
  • Facilitates good decision making.

The Bad:

  • Increases complexity;
  • Introduces bottlenecks;
  • Prioritizes compliance obligations over getting work done;

The Ugly:

  • Turns users into Records Managers;
  • Users circumvent the rules;
  • Perception is we’re making progress, reality is we’re not.

Why There’s Hope

If everybody would just chill for five minutes, we could get this under control in a manner that makes sense and provides the benefits that governance ought to provide. Even though the same rules apply, electronic content cannot be managed the same way as physical content.

  • Users aren’t Records Managers, nor do they want to be.
  • Policies aren’t the problem, procedures are.
  • Pretending social media doesn’t exist won’t have any effect on your obligations.
  • Some governance is better than no governance.
  • It doesn’t have to be perfect, you just need to make a reasonable effort.

Most credible EIM providers (ECM for you dinosaurs) have the tools to implement effective governance in their arsenals. But don’t go to them and ask them to implement governance until you’ve actually sorted out what it is in your organization. It’s your task to develop the policies, it’s our task to advise you on how best to develop and implement the procedures.

When you and I sit down and talk about governance, if the only team you bring to the table is Legal/Risk/Compliance, I am going to shut the conversation down in about two minutes. The only way that I can help you implement governance that doesn’t suck is to deal directly with all the affected stakeholders (groups, not individuals). One of the toughest collaboration challenges an organization faces may be trying to define a truly effective governance framework that serves the needs of all affected stakeholders. If those stakeholders don’t have a voice, it’s not gonna happen.

If you’re running a real EIM solution and your users have to think about where to file content, you’ve mucked up your deployment. It doesn’t matter if you go big bucket or not, a good deployment uses auto-classification, profiles, workflow, etc. to take the governance burden off the users and put it squarely on the system. If you think classifications and retention schedules are the same thing, there’s not an EIM solution on the planet that’s gonna help you and you’re not an Information Professional.

You’ve done governance right when:

  • Users focus on their jobs, nothing else;
  • You get defensible disposition and it’s implemented;
  • People find the information they need, when they need it;
  • Information leaks are down to an acceptable level (face it, it’s not going to get to zero);
  • Your corporate counsel can focus on attacking instead of defending;
  • Social media doesn’t scare you;
  • The only people thinking about governance are those who are paid to.

The Paper Case


Some of you will remember the movie The Paper Chase, from which I unashamedly stole the inspiration for the title of this post.

Happy Canada Day

 This photo is from this CBC News article.

This post was inspired by a broadcast on CBC Radio last Sunday (July 1st). At least, I think it was Sunday. I was at the cabin for the long weekend (Canada Day) and kinda lost track of what day it was. The show was the usual fare about how book sellers, publishers, & authors have to adapt or die because everything’s going digital and there’s no room or need for anything physical or analog. I tuned out because I was enjoying my digital semi-isolation (no network at the cabin). Plus, I was reading A Dance with Dragons on my tablet (yes, I see the irony). Anyways, this is my post, not yours, so I’m okay with any irony or hypocrisy contained herein.

Many years ago, before I first held my son in my arms, I bought him a book. I wrote a note to him on the inside of the front cover. The note simply expressed how much my wife and I loved him, even though we hadn’t yet met. With ereaders and tablets being so popular and inexpensive today, would we (parents in general) do that sort of thing? I’m not so certain.

One of the great joys I got out of being a parent was reading to my children. I could do that with e-books, but then I’d miss the laughs of having my kids try to turn the pages with their toes, chewing on the books, and seeing the wear and tear on the books as they transitioned from infant to toddler and still read/played with the books I’d read to them in the very early parts of their lives.

As my kids got older, they received books as gifts. Many of the books, given by friends & family, had notes written inside the front covers. My kids still have most of the books, and, being the sentimental souls they are, like to look at them and read those notes. They’ll also, probably, pass those books on to their kids and point out the notes that Gramma & Grampa or Uncle This or Aunty That wrote way back when it seemed that dinosaurs still roamed the earth.

Going to a bookstore with the kids is something that my wife & I have always enjoyed. There’s just something very satisfying about seeing your children sitting on the floor at Chapters, poring over what books they’ll buy (with Dad’s money, usually) and treasure for ages. That experience can’t be replicated by scrolling & clicking through an electronic bookstore.

Real books are better than ebooks because you can share them. I received The Art of Racing in the Rain as a Christmas gift. I really enjoyed it and knew my daughter would as well. Sharing the book with her was a simple matter of just passing to her when I was done. What’s the electronic equivalent of that?

There’s a 2nd hand bookstore that I frequent near my house. It’s a great place to buy inexpensive books and to dispose of books we don’t want any more. There’s an added bonus; when I drop off used books, I give back to the community. You see, the bookstore is run by the Sturgeon Hospital Auxiliary Volunteer Association (SHAVA). I donate books, they sell them, and profits go to SHAVA. Try that with electronic books.

When I fly I am instructed to turn off all my electronic gizmos and gadgets during taxi, take off, and landing. How the hell am I supposed to read? I know, I’ll read a paperback or hardcover book.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the convenience and weight savings of electronic content on my tablet. I really do. But I’m not willing to sacrifice some of the joys of real, hold-in-your-hand stuff that the electro-gods are trying to pry out of my fingers. Think about music – digital is great, but it doesn’t sound as good as putting vinyl on a turntable (Justin Bieber excepted because he sounds like crap regardless of format).

From a business perspective, elimination of paper is a laudable, if unrealistic, goal. Assuming all the various pieces are available, any business that still insists on clogging up processes with paper ought to be forced to listen to Justin Bieber until their ears bleed and/or their willies fall off (just like Justin’s).

With all the talk about portability and mobility I figured I’d just point out that just because you can go digital doesn’t mean you have to or that it’s the best way. Of course, not all of you are in the same situation as I am, nor do you approach life the same way. That’s cool; to each her own. But, to those of you out there who have never listened to a vinyl LP or held a real book in your hands, I feel bad for you, you don’t know what you’re missing.

Gamification – Dumbest made-up word ever?


WARNING: This post contains swear words. They’re there ‘cause of my mood when I wrote this in reaction to a gamification discussion. I’m all better now, thanks. 

This was originally posted on AIIM

Of all the buzzwords & acronyms being bandied about out there, “gamification” pisses me off above all others (maybe it deserves a shiny badge). I cringe whenever I hear it or read it. It cheapens what I and others have worked our asses off to achieve in our careers. It reminds me of the fat kid in grade 6 that got a ribbon because he managed an astonishing 7 situps in 1 minute (for the record, it wasn’t me). As a professional, equating my work with games, however obliquely, insults me. Games are what I play with my friends and family.

I was raised to work hard, though I didn’t always do so as a student. At school you worked to get the grades and not spend more than one year per grade. If you were the smartest kid in school you may have gotten an exemption from finals, a scholarship, or beat up.  Professionally, you worked hard (and smart, I hope) to get your stuff done and get ahead. If you didn’t get your stuff done you were rewarded with time off ‘cause they fired your ass for being deadwood, and you deserved it. Rewarding / recognizing people for doing just enough to get from grade 3 to 4 or to keep their jobs (reward enough, I say) is sheer lunacy.

My kids don’t get rewarded for just doing stuff that’s expected of them (e.g.: cleaning their rooms, picking up after pets, doing well in school). They get rewarded for exceptional behaviour & performance; the rest is just life. I don’t get rewarded for just showing up and doing my job in an ordinary, expected way. I get rewarded when I perform above expectations. If I or my kids don’t meet expectations in our respective roles bad things happen. Such is life.

The key, my fellow planetarians, is to set the expectations early and define what one need do to earn the rewards / recognition. Apparently, doing the dishes does not automatically entitle me to “get some”, but if I don’t do them it’s automatic that I won’t? WTF is that about? Anyways …

I have no objection to reward & recognition schemes. In fact, I’ve received and doled out plenty of recognition (the positive kind) over the years. Rewards / recognition have been tangible (e.g.: bonus $, raise, promotion, time off, gift cards) and intangible (peer/client/manager figurative pats on the back). Most people, me included, are happy to receive them. But we’ve generally received them because we’ve performed exceptionally or taken on additional responsibilities. I can’t recall one instance in my career where I’ve given or received a reward for simply doing my job. It’s just not something that makes any sense to me.

Like I said, rewarding / recognizing people for exceptional performance or taking on additional responsibilities is fine. In fact, it’s a freakin’ critical thing to do because it helps to motivate people and keep them interested in their work. It can also help motivate the unexceptional to become exceptional. I truly believe that it’s a necessary thing to do and that it benefits all involved.

One of the areas that [the word I hate] is being linked to is social collaboration (which also sucks ass as a term because how the hell are you gonna collaborate if you’re not being social), especially as related to identifying experts. It works like this:

  1. Say something not completely stupid.
  2. Someone, who may or may not be stupid, rates your stuff (or gives you a badge or a cookie or a pin, who cares?).
  3. Someone else sees the rating, and being equally as stupid, or not, bugs your ass for your opinion or for help.

Uh, WTF? I do good work and get “rewarded” by more people bugging me? What kind of psycho place is this?

Identifying experts is good. It helps those seeking advice by providing resources to tap. It helps those providing advice by making them think a bit more and pushing them to be better (and the ego stroking likely doesn’t hurt). But calling it [the word I hate] does everyone a disservice. Experts have worked extremely hard to get where they are, and many truly enjoy what they do and helping others. The folks looking for advice are likely stuck on something that may or may not be hugely important. I’m not certain that anyone involved wants their situation or efforts equated to playing games.

When I write a post I don’t write it to garner likes, +1’s, follower, or increase my Klout score (Klout is Krap, IMO). I write because I have something to say that I think and hope will benefit someone, or at least make them think. If someone provides positive feedback I appreciate it. If someone provides negative feedback I appreciate that too and try to be better the next time (unless they’re just being a dick). If someone reaches out and asks for advice, an opinion, or help, I provide it gladly with no expectation of getting a badge or biscuit. I do it because I am social just like every one of you reading this. Sometimes I write because I get pissed off and need to get something off my chest. On those occasions feel free to ignore me, just like my wife and kids do when I go all bat-shit crazy over something.

As a consumer, I love [the word I hate], but prefer to call it loyalty rewards or some such. I like going out and spending money on stuff, getting points, and using the points to get more stuff for FREEEEEE!!! I also like discounts, upgrades, and complimentary in-flight hookers (not available on domestic flights). But when it comes to me spending money that I’ve worked hard to earn, don’t equate it to playing games.

I’ll give [the word I hate] a little slack on social media & social networks. Earning “stuff” on Facebook (was thoroughly disillusioned to learn that “poking” wasn’t nearly as exciting as I’d imagined) games, Foursquare, Klout, …, doesn’t bug me, mainly because I don’t take them all that seriously (like I do my work & my family).

[Added 2012-06-20 …

On the corporate side, there’s a few areas where I think [the word I hate] is apt:

  1. Projects requiring participation of people that have “real” jobs;
  2. Organizational change management;
  3. User adoption.

When you pull staff onto a project they’re still typically expected to do their day jobs. They’re also generally not used to working on projects; there’s a huge change in dynamics from doing an operational role (e.g.: claims processing) to being the subject matter expert in JAD (Joint Application Design) sessions for a new claims system. Doing something as seemingly insignificant as awarding a prize for the best project name can reap huge dividends.

Organizational change management and user adoption are other areas where it pays to “play”. Adapting to new tools and methods is not easy for most people. Even if people hate the tools and methods they’ve been using, they’re used to them and some really are resistant to change. Providing people with goals, tools to reach them, and incentives for reaching them is a good thing. [The word I hate] won’t make the transition any easier, but it ought to serve to get the participants more involved and also provide them with a way to measure their progress.

…]

Give me a raise or a bonus, give me a pat on the back, ask me for my “expert” opinion / advice; I’m cool with all those things if I’ve earned them. Just don’t equate what I do professionally to playing games. Maybe I’m just a grumpy old bastard. If so, I’m perfectly fine with that. It’s not the application of game theory I hate; it’s the label we’ve given it. When applied to so many aspects of our lives I find it diminishes us, our efforts, and our accomplishments.

Note: none of this applies to people who actually play games for a living. E.g.: Bowling, darts, pool. I don’t care what channel they’re televised on, they are not sports.

BYOD – Run What Ya Brung


This was originally posted on the AIIM Community on 2012-05-30.

In the interests of full disclosure; I use a corporately issued laptop, a self-provisioned smartphone (employer pays service), a self-provisioned tablet, and a personal laptop. My tablet, while being hugely convenient and making my life easier, is not necessary for me to live or work. This post was written using my personal laptop and tablet. I used MS Word and OnCloud to write it. The Word file is stored on Google Drive. Yeah, I believe in BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). I also think the cloud’s a good thing.

One day I’d really like to see what percentage of the overall workforce really needs to bring their own device to work, or would even benefit (need vs want) from doing so. 9-5ers, bank tellers, receptionists (can we still call them that?), gov’t front counter staff, fast food employees, gas station attendants, call centre staff, billing clerks, accounts payable clerks, refuse collection agents, … these and a whole bunch more jobs have no stake in BYOD.

Anyone whose work ties them to a desk, executing fairly structured tasks can get by quite nicely with whatever hardware their employer has plunked down for them (assumes that HW and apps are suitable for the job). Oh, they may want to bring in their tablets or smartphones, load up on apps, and do their work from the sidewalk while having a cigarette. But I really don’t give a rat’s ass and neither should you. Can you honestly tell me that someone who processes invoices is going to benefit from being able to do so on a tablet instead of on a PC? I thought not.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not diminishing the value of the jobs that people do or what they contribute to their organizations and/or society at large. What gets me is this whole consumerization of IT thing that’s going on. The next time you hear “I have such cool gadgets at home, why can’t I have them at work?”, consider this answer; “YOU DON”T BLOODY NEED IT!!!”. You know what they need? They need the right information, proper training & support, a decent organizational culture, paths for self-fulfilment, and recognition that what they do means something.

On the other hand, there are many job functions that can definitely benefit from BYOD. Most of you reading this are probably in one. I’m in one of those roles, but there’s still lots of stuff that I need to do at work that can’t get done on my phone or tablet. When I say that, I mean it’s either just not possible or so cumbersome as to be not worth the effort. Taking meeting notes, writing docs, & emailing are all pretty good on my tablet, a little less so on my phone. Running demos, drawing diagrams, entering timesheets, and doing expenses just can’t be done. That does not mean I will give up my tablet or phone. Hell no! What it means is that unless my job changes I am going to have to be content with running multiple devices to get my job done. Oh, I could just go back to using only my laptop, but that would be silly.

Assuming BYOD is the right path …

Security and privacy are major concerns. What’s going to happen if someone loses their tablet or phone? What’s going to happen if there is a discovery order or FOI request and employee procured devices are in scope? Employees who use their own devices are going to be accessing & storing corporate content as well as personal content on the same device. Some of them are going to let friends and family use those devices for all sorts of stuff. You can’t tell your employees not to because they paid for the devices. What are you gonna do about it?

One of the really nice things about having a tablet or smartphone is that I can be mobile. That means that I don’t need to be connected to my corporate LAN and I can still get the stuff I need to do my work. Not all the stuff, but most of it. It’s not just content that I’m referring to, it’s applications as well. If you’re going to make a move to BYOD it’s on your shoulders to make sure that your team has access to the content, applications, and processes that they need to do the job. If your BYOD is limited to a single platform (e.g.: iOS) you may be lucky because you’ll only need to provision apps that work on a limited set of devices. If, however, you’re going true BYOD, well … you could run into some difficulty. Not only are you going to have to deal with security and privacy issues, you’ll also have to get into the app development business, unless there are already apps available from the usual sources (which I really doubt). I’ve used apps developed by organizations that theoretically work across multiple devices; many have fallen short and the user experience simply sucks. Oh, those apps you’re going to build will have to be integrated to those line of business systems your organization runs to get stuff done. Think of them as additional UI’s and functions that you’ll need to build, maintain, and support.

Another nice thing about BYOD, depending on your perspective, is that lotsa people have their favourite device(s) with them pretty much all the time. That means they can respond to stuff from bed, the beach, while watching TV, while watching the kids at the playground (saw this woman almost get smoked by her kid on a swing while she was occupied with her iPhone – yes, I would have laughed), what/where/whenever. It’s really cool that you can get someone to respond at anytime, but remember that YOU ARE INFRINGING ON THEIR PERSONAL TIME. Granted that it’s likely their fault because they’re using the same device to watch Formula 1 videos on Youtube and respond to RFP’s but you can’t do anything about it because I bought the device so there. Nyah. Nyah, nyah! Sorry. Anyways, there are times that folks need to respond immediately, and BYOD certainly facilitates this. But, there are also time when folks need to chill without worrying about work. You’re the boss so I expect you to set the right tone and provide the right example.

So what’s my point? BYOD is a good thing in the right circumstances. Refuse collection specialists won’t benefit, but knowledge workers and field staff likely will. It’s also a pretty safe bet that if you allow your people to work with tools that they actually like and see as cool, they’ll be a bit happier and maybe even a bit more productive.

BYOD is appropriate based on the role, not the organization. In my job as a consultant it’s perfectly reasonable to allow me to use whatever device I choose. However, the same can’t be said for the people that process invoices, even though they bring as much value to the organization as anyone else. Have at ‘er and consider the following before going all BYOD:

  1. Are devices your major issue? You’re freakin’ lucky if they are. Most orgs have way more serious stuff going on than what can be solved by allowing someone to do their job on a tablet.
  2. Can you secure your stuff properly? My wife doesn’t want to see quarterly sales projections and my boss doesn’t want to see my wife & I [fill in the blank with whatever you want, you dirty devil, you].
  3. Do you want to get into app development? You do? How many platforms & form factors & screen sizes/resolutions do you want to develop for? Oh, and support? And maintain?
  4. Privacy. Closely related to the security thing. Yes, they are different. Go look it up if you don’t believe me.
  5. If you go BYOD, can your users still access everything they need to do their work?
  6. What’s the impact to employee working hours going to be? They’ll have the gadgets with them 24/7, will you expect them to be available/reactive 24/7? Shame on you if you will.

I’m not saying that BYOD is a bad thing, just think about it a bit before you commit.

Big Data Needs Solid Requirements


Big data is too big for most organizations. It’s not because there is too much raw material to deal with, nor is it because of a lack of applicable tools. It doesn’t even have anything to do with the inclusion of unstructured data (which doesn’t really exist but that’s a topic for blog posts that I’ve already written). No, big data’s too big because of what’s possible.

The possibilities to slice & dice are virtually endless. Numerical data is bombarding organisations from within and without. Text based data (I’m calling it data because until it’s put in context it’s not really information) is being generated almost at the speed of thought, in quantities heretofore unimagined. Every transaction, every search request, every Tweet, and every Like generates an entry in some repository that organizations may or may not be aware of, have control of, or have access to.

That all sorta sucks, but …

But what really sucks is that organizations jump onto the Big Data bandwagon with not an iota of a clue as to what they want to do with it. Boys and girls, Uncle Chris is gonna try and wise you up.

Like any other project that involves expending time and money, you need to know what you want to achieve when you’re done. E.g.: Many years ago I worked on a service management reporting project for a big organization providing managed network services to an even bigger organization. It came down to this … approximately 17,000,000 rows/day of raw data were collected, $pooploads/mo of revenue depended on meeting SLA targets, unmet SLA resulted in pooploads-alot being lost. The specific metrics and their data sources were identified prior to spending a dime on tools. My point is, you need to figure out what the business requirements are. That was true in 2002 and it is true today.

Much has stayed the same, and some has changed over the last 10+ years. We’ve even got some new stuff we can play around with thanks to social media, text analytics, sentiment analysis, etc. But knowing at least a few of the questions we’re trying to answer, before actually doing something, is still a valid and necessary first step.

It’s really cool that we can now ask “How does [demographic of choice] feel about our support organization?” in addition to asking about how many units of blue-widget-A we sold last quarter in the mountain time zone north of the 49th parallel. But before we ask the question we need to know to ask it and we need to know what we’re gonna do if we don’t like the answer (we should also have a social media strategy in place). We also need to know niggling little details like where the data is, whether or not we can access the data, and whether or not the data is reliable (whatever that means). Oh, we should also have some sort of governance in place to deal with all that personal and payment data we’re collecting, storing, massaging, analyzing, and interpreting to generate more profits than ever before.

I’d like to end today’s sermon with another little story …

Back in 2004 I was a project manager at a municipality. One of my periodic tasks was to compile the results detailing uptake of certain web-enabled municipal services related to planning and development. Each month I would get the results from the various sub departments, enter them into my fancy-schmancy reporting tool, compare the numbers against the projections, and then present them at a monthly meeting. We used a standard red-black-green thingy and it was all so easy. Easy until the dude in charge asked me if they were supposed to do anything about the red (bad) numbers. My question, and the take-away from this anecdote, to him was “If you’re not going to address the issues highlighted, why are you spending time and money on this?”

Big data is full of big possibilities. However, before you jump in make sure you have a plan. Understand what it is you’re trying to achieve. Have a plan for how you’re going to react to negative results as well as positive. Know that you won’t figure it all out on your first attempt, but that’s okay because a cool thing about analytics is that the more you play, the more you learn and then you discover more possibilities.

The bottom line is that if you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish or what questions to ask, it makes no difference if you’ve got a couple gigs of data or multiple petabytes of data.

Customer Experience – Gotta Do Better


Originally posted on AIIM

Many, many years ago I lived not far from the hardware store that used to be here. (My favourite barber was in the same complex. They let you smoke, served espresso, and had a pile of out-of-date Penthouse.) I really liked that hardware store, but abandoned it when one of those big-ass, everything-under-one-roof, meg-gigantic (by Canadian standards) box stores opened up. I remember the excitement and anticipation leading up to the grand opening (actually, I don’t, but this story wouldn’t be nearly as compelling if I didn’t embellish just a wee bit). It mattered not that the monogigantilithic store was a further 8 minutes away. It was worth it! We were going to have every conceivable hardware, lawn care, renovation, major appliance, and home improvement item known to human-kind under one roof. At prices that can’t be beat. Well, bugger that!

It seems that this retailer forgot to include a couple of key items: product knowledge and customer service. Oh sure, you could ask a staff member (in 1 of Canada’s official languages) where an item was and they’d send you off in the right general direction. You could even ask them product oriented questions and if they’d read the correct documentation you’d likely get a reasonable answer. But what you couldn’t get (as a standard practice) was that feeling that you were valued as a customer and, more importantly, as a person. How could this be fixed? you may well ask. Easy …

I returned to the more expensive, closer to my house hardware store. You see, when I went in wondering about paint choices and application techniques they talked to me. Hell, they even listened to me. When my wife and I bickered about paint or whatever, the staff provided the voice of reason and helped us make the right choice for our situation. When I returned they knew me enough to ask about how my project, whatever it happened to be, turned out. They offered crappy coffee and a human touch. I was even able to chat with other customers.

What does all this have to do with customer experience today, you may ask? Everything. We’re still people who like to connect with other people. There’s a certain humanness and sociability that we look for in our lives. Certainly we sometimes like the convenience of online shopping in our (or our partner’s) underwear from the comforts of our homes, but I like to believe that we still want and need that contact with other people.

I’m not for a second saying that we need to replicate that intimate experience online (except for certain sites of an adult nature); it’s impossible. What we need to do is redefine how excellent customer experience is delivered online. We need to understand that true customer experience involves multiple channels, without the customer having to repeat themselves again and again and again.

I’m going to close with a couple of examples from a big name retailer. They’re two stories about two very different experiences, make of them what you will…

Back in December my wife and I went Christmas shopping for our daughter. Our daughter is a voracious reader, who turned 12 years old earlier this month. We wanted to get her some books that were a bit different from her usual fare. Kerry (the staff member whose name I remember because she was really cute) spent several minutes with us asking about our daughter’s preferences and our thoughts on what we felt were appropriate topics for her to read. Kerry made some recommendations that proved to be spot on. Well done, Kerry!

Same retailer, different channel … To date I’ve purchased about $300 of ebooks from this retailer. One of the things I like is that they make recommendations about what I may like to try next. What I dislike, vehemently, is that they keep recommending titles that I have previously purchased. Repeatedly.

Do you see my point? Do you feel my pain (uhm, irritation is probably more accurate)?

%d bloggers like this: