Windows Phone 8 Summit

21 06 2012

It’s been a big week for Microsoft, first on Monday its big surprise, the arrival of Surface tablets, Microsoft’s own branded tablet hardware running Windows 8 RT or Windows 8 Pro, and yesterday (Wednesday) Microsoft lifting the covers on Windows Phone 8.

What has amazed me is that for once, I didn’t feel let down by Microsoft presentation, nor the actual products they are delivering. For my look at Microsoft Surface read here.

Windows Phone 8

So what are the big things with Windows Phone 8, and why might Windows Phone finally grab some market share?

Windows Phone new start screen

Windows Phone 8 start screen (right) provides greater flexibility to the user, and delivers more info through live tiles on the start screen than before

Well it’s been broken down into 8 areas; however I won’t run through all of them just the big ones.  Firstly, new hardware. Microsoft is actually supporting smart phone hardware that all other smart phones have, so that’s dual core technology, greater screen resolution etc. What is testament to the Windows Phone OS is that it has been quicker than any other mobile phone OS while running on hardware that really doesn’t stack up. If you have paid attention to any of the “smoked by Windows Phone” campaigns, then you will see that on day to day tasks, things that really matter, the Windows Phone devices beat all comers easily. Impressive.

The second thing, and probably the most important, is that Windows Phone 8 is running off the same core code as the full version of Windows 8. Now that may not sound that impressive, but it actually is. That means Microsoft has delivered on its one OS across all devices. From a developers point of view it means writing drivers once, it means writing applications once and then following some simple steps to quickly port to Windows Phone. In addition, Windows Phone now supports native code, which will open up the device to many more games and apps, and make life easier for people to move a game from iOS to Windows Phone for example. We must remember that Microsoft has the largest developer network out there, and all of a sudden these developers can write code that works on any device. We must also remember that Windows Phone market place (app store) is growing at quite a good rate at the moment, nothing spectacular but not bad. In recent reports and surveys we see that many app developers have been holding off for Windows 8, knowing they would have greater cross over across all devices then, and knowing they will have better features to access. This move to the one OS for all devices, though technically very tricky (lets face it Microsoft is the only company actually daring to do this) may well be the right decision – I for one can see endless benefits which will no doubt help Windows the brand. Another benefit here is re-use of code from other Microsoft applications, a great example being IE10. It seems IE10 is a bit of a new thing, and its the same IE10 engine across all Windows 8 devices – including Windows Phone 8. For website developers that makes life soooo much easier, in addition to the end user, it means a mobile browser that delivers all the features of a full fledged browser. Microsoft have worked hard here to make it the quickest mobile browser available, and looking at like for like comparisons, it is now leading the way. (Just a shame many will just here IE and groan, I want Chrome or something without using it). I personally hated IE until the release of IE9. You can’t argue with IE9, its a great browser, and IE10 seems to be now the best out there…Mind you has taken Microsoft long enough on that front!

The third thing is maps. Now Apple with iOS 6 has made a massive break with Google maps, and though Apples own app looks stunning (as to be expected) when you actually start comparing with what they did have, I fear users may be let down. Apple maps simple don’t have the same level of detail as Google maps, nor does it support different forms of transportation (so only plans journey if I am driving) and it’s not as fast. This will be a concern for many iOS users (though I am sure many will say iOS maps are much better – and that will be based on an Apple blog which shows the improved graphics etc.) I would hedge my bets that many will update to iOS 6 and then go straight to the app store and search out Google Maps and Google drive. Anyone who has spent some time looking at mapping on mobile devices and drive navigation will know that Nokia here is a very long way ahead. Even Microsoft has admitted that its own Bing maps cannot compete, so what they have done is teamed up to deliver Nokia maps and Nokia drive across all Windows Phone 8 devices. Thats a big deal, it means Windows Phone will have by far the best mapping system possible on a mobile device, it also means with the new live tiles some added richness – such as your app learning your most common routes and your live tile telling you how long your journey home will be before you even leave!

Finally, the start screen. Metro has been highly successful and well received and many phone reviewers love the Windows Phone OS, its just a shame the public hasn’t really gotten to see it that much. That I feel is down to the historic name of Windows on a mobile and or the hardware used. I have heard many people say they wont buy a Nokia because they didnt like the Nokia they had 6 years ago….Thats not a good thing, but it does show that with some exposure and sales reps pushing the devices, there is room to increase sales drastically. Some may say Metro is too restrictive, but with the updated metro UI on Windows Phone 8, the user really can personalise their phone to a greater extent. That’s a good thing, and it means all the benefits of live tiles actually just got better. You can now see a host of information on your home screen set out how you want it. I know widgets provide some comparison to a live tile, however they are big and clunky. Live tiles in this new format have got better, with 3 different sizes allowing the live tile to show basic, medium, or highly detailed information.  See the above screen shot comparing Windows Phone 7 Metro start screen with Windows Phone 8. Remember you can configure those tiles however you want. I personally think the new home screen makes other OS home screens look rather dated and clunky. A sea of static icons is never good, no matter how much art work you put into them…

The competition

I’m not going to get carried away and say Windows Phone 8 is going to take the market by storm, simply because of the history involved with mobile, and the fact that at present, Windows Phone has around 2% market share in the US and about 4% everywhere else. That’s not good. The smart phone market is dominated by the iPhone and the multitude of Android devices, so gaining market share is going to be tough. But it seems many of the technical barriers have now gone. There will be more apps, apps that you love on iOS are already on their way, there will be more power in the hardware, greater capabilities and features you will come to expect from Windows 8 across all your devices that you simply won’t get with anyone else (be you an end user or a developer). But, and it’s a big but, users will need to know their fav apps are in the marketplace or they simply wont jump ship and move to Windows Phone. There are still apps missing re productivity, business and games that are real barriers to entry for people who have had their smart phone devices for a few years. Only once these apps are available will Windows Phone 8 be on a level playing field in the eye of the consumer.

However, on a positive note, with Windows 8 hitting PCs later this year, people will become accustom to the Metro UI, and though at first, I think many will feel intimidated by the change, I’m positive that the change will be for the better.  Once users get used to it, it makes sense they will look at Windows tablets, as the UI, the experience is the same…From tablets, we then move to mobile phones, and again, its the same UI, the same apps, the same experience. All of a sudden, life is a lot easier for the average consumer, to quote Apple “it just works”. I see this as the foundation from which Microsoft and its mobile partners can build upon and get some market traction. (As long as those key apps are there)

Business market

I must not forget that Windows Phone 8 also included a bunch of business functionality that no doubt will have the enterprise looking at Windows Phone devices. This functionality is mainly around security, but also the fact that the enterprise can get its own hub on the device, and deliver its own apps to the devices without having to go through the Windows Marketplace. That’s a big deal. Throw into the equation that it’s the same UI across all devices, that they can secure and manage all devices in the same way and Windows Phone is all of a sudden a great idea for business. Oh I didn’t mention full blown office, sharepoint or lync either.

Business may even see Windows Phone adoption as a way of getting users ready and used to the move to the Metro UI either in a Windows 8 update or more than likely, Windows 9 when it is released.

Focus

Finally I wanted to say that I’m glad Microsoft has focused on the things that its users want, and have pointed out. In the IT world the old 80-20 rule should apply to most things, and though you may not get all the functions you can get on the latest Android device or iOS 6, what you do get is 80% of those functions working a hell of a lot slicker. For almost all of the consumers out there, even that 80% of functionality is too much, with most of it never getting used.

What I found surprising this week after sitting through the iOS 6 launch and then the Windows Phone 8 launch, is how much of iOS 6 was about adding functionality that Windows Phone and Android already have, and focus on things that demo very very well, but in the real world are a little gimmicky or lack substance (though I often find this with Apple products). I have spent some time with the new Galaxy device, and what a bit of hardware and such a rich set of features. But, in doing 95% of my tasks that I use a phone for, it had me frustrated. What I would say to anyone is actually spend some time using the OSs available, find out the best ways to access facebook, twitter, news, stocks and shares, calender functions etc and then compare. Play with the devices as if you were using them on a daily basis before you judge any of the mobile operating systems available. Unfortunatly in the modern world, it seems too many people simply voice opinion not based on any form of facts. I find this frustrating, but also missleading to others. So my advice, use the operating systems for yourself before you judge any of them….I have, and though I find more on iOS and Android, I know I wont use those features. When I compare like for like with the features, apps etc that I use, I find my daily tasks etc are done better with Windows Phone.

I’m glad MS hasn’t gone into a feature race as such, rather it is focusing on what the majority of us use our mobile devices for, and made that experience better than its competitors. That’s typically an Apple trait, perhaps MS is out “Appleing” Apple….

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ECM, eDiscovery and the Social Media problem

24 02 2011

Today I read briefly that social media access may cause governance problems for corporate using such sites as Facebook. Now this could be a real big issue, especially as more and more organisations are using Social Media to not only connect and engage, but to actively interact with customers and solve customer issues even.

You can read the article here http://www.eweekeurope.co.uk/news/social-media-access-may-cause-governance-problems-21424

A simple view

If we step back and think about it, any content that we place in the public domain as an organisation needs to be discoverable, and if necessary, produced to meet certain governance rules. Now this is fine for outlets the organisation controls (their own website, published press releases etc), but what about content that was created on, and essentially resides with a third party. This is typically how we use Facebook and Twitter for example.

Now in our more traditional scenario we can have our published content stored within our ECM repository, that’s fine. But since the content was stored on a third party solution, and essentially is up there on the web, how do we ensure we have it for our records? How do we find that content again if needs be (especially if it’s now a couple of years old)

What we have to remember is that not only do we need to retain access to that content, but we also have to protect ourselves (the organisation) from that “original content” going missing. Let’s face it, as an organisation do you trust Facebook to store all of your status updates for the next 8 years? Probably not…

How we create content and how we discover it

Ideally we need to maintain a link to all that content sitting with Facebook, Twitter, mySpace or whoever. We also need to protect ourselves from that content going missing. So the real answer is to not only keep a record of that contents location (typically a URL or post ID with that provider), but also a copy of the actual content itself (in our ECM repository). If we do this, then we can discover all our social media interactions and produce them on request.

Essentially we have two options of doing this. The first is to create the content via your own software solution. If you do this, then you can take a copy of that content, store it in your ECM repository along with a link to the location on Facebook / Twitter for example. This approach ensures all content is kept and you can then take control of your retention periods that may apply to that content. The second is to constantly discover content from the source and either store links to that content, or again store links and copy that content (into your ECM repository).

My personal approach is a mixture of both of these.

The first option makes life easier for agents, it ensures they have a better view of all the content and discussions going on and allows them to quickly do what they need. It also short cuts the need for discovery while ensuring the end user isn’t getting side tracked with their own Facebook status updates (personal related content). There is also an added benefit of working this way, and that is protection of the content itself. If Facebook was hacked, and false status updates made, or status updates modified, these can be related to those stored in our secure ECM platform. This is a form of protection…The second option ensures nothing gets missed. So this is our “belts and braces” approach. From time to time a user may well interact with Twitter or Facebook directly, or via an application such as tweet deck. Now the whole holistic and adaptive approach means we need to adapt to that need, so using such tools (especially if on the move or done out of hours) needs to be expected / allowed for. Our discovery then makes sure that content is brought into our ECM repository and not “lost”. In this scenario we can also “see” status updates / tweets etc that have been made. So in the case of a “hacker” ruining our online existence, we are quickly made aware of the issue and can address it sooner rather than later. Once in the ECM platform, we can always cross check content and essentially ensure its credibility.

 

Conclusion

Governance may scare some companies into not engaging with social media, but this will be a big mistake. With social media providing so many big wins to organisations (and in some ways a necessity just to compete), it is something organisations cannot do without now. With this in mind, organisations need to adapt and understand that governance will apply to social media content, just as much as any other content, so they need to take control of it and start getting it in their ECM repositories.

The content challenge is one that is ongoing. Content only grows within an organisation and as such, social content will no doubt be one of the fastest growing areas of any company. Investment into platforms that allow management of that social content and discovery of it will prove to become more and more vital as more and more interactions occur via social media sites.

All content is the responsibility of the organisation, even if it is created on a third party environment. Organisations need to take control, ownership and responsibility for their social interactions, always, and this is easily done, if you have all your content residing in an ECM repository. The key, get all content, no matter its source and location, into your repository and you will meet governance requirements…





Adaptive Working Environment (@WE)

17 02 2011

In previous posts I have spoken about the importance of a holistic approach to delivering IT to business, which aligns IT solutions more closely to the actual needs of the business. I have also posted about the importance of being highly adaptive and flexible to business needs, which ultimately includes the needs of end users and the most important of them all, customers…So with all this in mind, Adaptive Working Environment (@WE) makes a lot of sense, if you understand what it is…

It was interesting to read Max J. Pucher post on ACM is Dead! Long live ADAPTIVE as many of his points regarding ADAPTIVE are areas I have been working in / towards for some years now. Sure the terms are a little different and even the areas are (I have come from a far more ECM orientated silo) but many of the points he raises about ADAPTIVE can be applied to not just the areas we frequent (CRM, BPM etc). My previous post touched on some of this, and I thought it was time I spoke about the holistic and adaptive concept I have been working on and off for the past 8 years now…

What’s the concept?

8 years ago, myself and a colleague had the idea of delivering a single platform for ECM, CRM and BPM. This isn’t that radical really, but the concept was to ensure that it was a single platform, no silos loosely related requiring integration, rather a single platform that delivered these functions.  We also wanted the platform to be as highly flexible as possible, allowing end users to change its structure, change classifications and even definitions of processes / work that had to be done. That concept started its life as project workFile, which has since become a company in its own right. The concept itself has gone through iterations too, with new “terms” being used to describe our big idea, new methods and even new approaches to delivering on that concept. But the concept has remained, a single, highly flexible platform that looks at a business problem in a holistic fashion.

Now Im not saying this is something unique, and there are vendors out there with the same holistic approach.  But what I spoke about many years ago, and what the drive is at workFile now, is an Adaptive Working Environment (@WE), which is more than just an adaptive mindset, or an adaptive holistic approach to CRM, or BPM or whatever…

The Adaptive Working Environment drive if you like, is to embrace both adaptive and holistic thinking fully. So thats in terms of a single platform, how that platform is architected, integration capabilities and delivery through a single extensible user interface. With the areas I work in that means a single platform for adaptive ECM functionality, adaptive CRM and of course Adaptive Process Guidance (APG) in place of traditional BPM.

But an Adaptive Working Environment (@WE) needs to be more; it needs to make life easier for the end user in terms of human computer interactions, so to do that, a single user experience is required. When I talk of a single user experience I mean this to be delivered through a single application, not multiple applications accessing the same platform, but a single application delivering a single user experience. That single application also needs to provide integration possibilities, have extensible capabilities so that other solution screens can be built, and delivered, via that single interface. How much simpler is that for the end user?

But we still need to do more to be completely adaptive to the business needs. We need to be aware that business will have many more applications and solutions running, many of which may need to be integrated with either tightly or loosely. That integration should be made as simple as possible, and as flexible as possible. With this in mind, the @WE (Adaptive Working Environment) needs to be built completely on a Service Orientated Architecture (SOA). A good SOA coupled with an extensible user application, provides the maximum flexibility in integration requirements.

With this kind of thinking we are delivering an Adaptive Envrionment for users to work within (hence Adaptive Working Environment). This environment empowers staff fully, it allows the business to utilise their users brains as assets, and it ultimately leads to a more efficient business that provides great customer services.

 

Can @WE be used for other silos?

Well I have termed @WE for the areas in which I have been working in, so that’s the adaptive holistic approach to CRM, ECM and (in my case) APG. We also use the term to convey other important points, such as being built soley on a SOA, and providing that single user experience that is highly extensible. 

However, the point is to be holistic and adaptive to your approach to whatever, and taking that as the point, then Max’s definition of ADAPTIVE is what we / you are embracing. As I said, we use the term @WE to describe not only our “concept” but in many ways how that concept is implemented (built on SOA, single extensible UI). 

I would argue that any platforms that embrace ADAPTIVE thinking (not necessarily related to ECM, BPM, CRM etc) can be termed ADAPTIVE, perhaps we should ask Max. I would agree though that if they are adaptive, holistic and then implemented using nothing but SOA and deliver a single extensible UI, then they are an @WE…

 

The key @WE elements to remember

To deliver an @WE, IT solution providers need to carry out the following, which will align their platform far closer to the actual needs of business:

  • Embrace a holistic stance / approach (address the complete business problem)
  • Embrace complete adaptive capabilities
  • Build their  application on a solid SOA, providing clear integration possibilities
  • Deliver the option of a single user experience that is extensible to the possible integration needs of the business

If IT does this, then we are delivering Adaptive Working Environments to the business and end user…





Framework, solution, or both…

21 01 2011

This week I read an interesting blog post on Case Management with it concluding that most Case Management platforms are more frameworks than workable solutions. The solution is effectively provided by the Case Manager reseller, either as their own system/solution, or as professional services with the solution being customised to your needs…To be honest, this is true of many “silos” out there, and there is nothing wrong with it. However, businesses should understand that more often than not, the solution they actually purchase is indeed a framework, the solution part comes later…

In this post though, I want to look at how you can deliver a solution and not just the framework…Or even better, deliver both as a vendor…

Why not a solution from the vendor

Well it can be very hard to put together a solution that fits and works well for all. It is easier, and in many ways makes more sense to build a robust framework, and ensure a solution that meets the client’s needs is built using that framework. There are many benefits of working this way, many of which include greater control, integration possibilities and a real sense of ownership of the solution.

Let’s also think about the complexity here for vendors. Most vendors will specialise in a particular silo, be it Case Management, BPM, CRM, ECM etc. This means their framework is built to solve that business need. Even vendors that provide multiple silos, they still focus on each silo individually. The problem arises at the business end, as that business need in the real world works hand in hand with other silos. Effectively, what is a silo vendor, cannot provide you a real workable business solution, as they only provide a part of one. This means it is down to resellers to put together “best of breed” solutions for example, and develop that solution for the business – integrating the different silos needed…

The problem I have with this approach is that integration is time consuming, can be very costly and in the long term, can cause issues with finger pointing between systems and silos. All of these are potential problems, but none the less for many projects out there, they are real issues…

We are being sold Solutions all the time

It’s true that many vendors will claim they are selling a complete solution, that you can use their system out of the box almost straight away…But in my experience, this isn’t quite true. You can use their out of the box experiences, but end users will find them clunky, and probably will hate them. Which means you end up having resellers or professional services build software on top of the framework, that meets your needs…

Also look at the solution you are being sold, how much “coding / configuration / professional services” do you need to get to a finished solution? I think it’s a few man days…

All this being said, there are complete solutions you can purchase out there, think small scale, like SAGE line 50 for example, thats a very workable solution for many SMEs. The issue here is that with bigger organisations, or more complex needs, the solution starts to show a lot of weaknesses, you can’t do with it what you quite want, you can’t integrate it, you can’t have a third party add in new windows to the UI etc etc…

Holistic solutions can help

Holistic solutions and a more holistic approach ensure your vendor is dealing more closely to your actual business need. This means that the framework delivered will be fuller, and as such, makes it easier to build a workable solution, without integration points and lots of professional services…

Vendor delivering both framework and solution

One of the big things I am working on with workFile and the workFile Vision product is framework for delivering full solutions. That may sound like classic IT vendor talk, but what I am trying to achieve is a platform that can deliver a complete out of the box solution that is a good end user experience, but also provide the flexibility needed in todays world, to allow resellers to extend the UI and core platform to meet even more needs of the customer.

So how are we doing this. Well firstly, we have a complete holistic approach now to things, there are no longer silos within workFile, rather workFile is a single platform. This means the workFile framework incorporates all of these traditional silos in one place (ECM, BPM, CRM etc). Secondly we have identified the difference between framework and solution and as such, split the user experience into its own framework, separate from the actual platform framework…

The big benefit here is a separate framework for delivering solutions built on the workFile platform. The UI framework allows us to deliver a rich and complete solution to a business. But it also allows resellers / integrators to modify and hook into not just workFile, but also its native UI. This means no additional software needs to be written on top of something, rather it is written within the UI framework, speeding up development and providing a far better end user experience.

You can even take it so far to use the workFile Vision UI framework without using the underlying workFile platform, if you wanted to. By working in this way, workFile delivers the frameworks, the solution, and the extensible capabilities to allow it to meet pretty much any business need. The end result is solutions that fit the business need more closely, solutions that can grow and evolve with the business and solutions that are easier and more empowering to end users to use…





Why BPM, ECM and CRM struggle with Social Media

26 11 2010

There are a number of reasons why individual projects struggle with social media, hell there are many reasons why organisations continue to get social media “wrong”, but in this post I want to look at why these three “silos” fail to get to grips with social media….

Very much individual silos

Now this may at first not seem to be a bad thing. But when you think more on the subject you start to see issues. There are big areas of cross over amongst these three, massive even, yet they still are considered individual (and they should be for the time being, because almost all vendors see these as single silos).

Social Media though is very flexible, and the end user (customer) expects to be able to interact with the organisation via Social Media (especially Twitter and Facebook), and what’s more they expect whoever communicates with them to understand their “account”, or “details”. But this form of interaction within Business at the moment still wants to be highly structured. The comment may be viewed as content, but the process that may be kicked off by that interaction is very much in the BPM world of things. So immediately you have twigged that all three, ECM, CRM and BPM are required to deal with a single interaction…

So the first big problem here is that ideally, each “silo” (BPM, ECM, CRM) should know and understand what I term as CCS, and in this case of the other silo as well as itself.  CCS being “Content, Context, Status”. As individual silos though, this is hard to actually do. Sure we can put together some costly integration, but this integration is at certain points and offers certain information, so does this type of integration understand CCS?

Too structured too rigid…

Let’s now through into the equation that all three, ECM, CRM and BPM are very rigid. ECM requires that you know the type of content and often that you state its “type”. However, social media means we could be talking about anything, so a tweet could go over any number of “types” within our ECM platform, or it may warrant a new type, a new classification. This is where we have an issue, ECM is too rigid to adapt to the new requirement, that our agent has discovered there and then. This leads to a hell of a lot of content being dropped into rather large, and not that useful classifications, probably “Social Media” as its type…Great use…But this is nothing compared to the issue we now find with BPM…

BPM enforces strict processes on our agents, they follow (almost all vendors do this) a flow chart approach and as such, means we cannot move away from that process. How frustrating is that for an end user? Knowing that something different needs to be done, but having to allow the social interaction to trigger off a very strict process flow which could be completely wrong…

Finally CRM. Our CRM silo is often at this stage completely unaware of anything at all. If it is integrated it may have a “tab” for “Corres” which means a big old list of correspondence with the customer that is documented. That’s fine for 10 years ago. But now imagine the number of “corres” records stored that may make up a rather simple interaction between the customer and your business. You could have any number from 1 or 2, up to hundreds, and that’s just on a single topic being raised via social media….

The solution?

Here I have a couple of pointers for a far better solution….

A Holistic approach. As a business, demand a holistic approach, not just for social media requirements (though it serves as a great example of illustrating the problem), but in general. With a holistic approach, the solution delivers far more accurate information to the agent. It empowers them with all the information they need. Think of all the customer information they may need to have to hand to understand the customer, all the related content, the context and of course the status of the interaction. Now think of the variety of work this form of interaction could generate. What the problem could be? Is it a problem or a serious complaint? If a complaint, what areas of the business does it relate too? (The potential for work is huge, which leads me onto my second pointer…

Adaptive work processes. Note I haven’t said BPM here. BPM I feel is far too restrictive (based on the version of BPM put forward by most vendors and BPMS as a practice). However, we are talking about processes that the business executes. In this situation the agent needs to understand what process to kick off. However, it could be a brand new one. In this case that agent needs to be able to identify that processes, the work that needs to be done and then, kick it off.

Single Silo for ECM, BPM and CRM. As a business, a great opportunity arises to use vendors that provide a single silo for ECM, BPM and CRM. Not only does a single silo provide a far better solution to deal with Social Media, but it provides a far better solution full stop. A single silo will understand CCS at all times, be you in a process, simply looking at content or reviewing customer details. A single silo also simplifies the agents experience, while delivering flexibility to them to allow them to do their jobs. There are of course other big benefits, think of savings on licensing, think of savings on administration and think of savings made on integration costs / development / that classic which so many vendors term as config (which is development).

Conclusion…

Social Media has shown a real weakness in the way we currently structure a business in terms of delivered IT. We use IT now very much on a “product” basis. Business purchases a product for x, a product for y and if x and y need to talk, look at integration. However, a bespoke solution would have been better, one that incorporated x and y…But bespoke just isn’t something business wants to hear (probably because they cost more and because businesses have been burnt with bespoke development in the past)

…The solution is for “products” to deliver more and merge x and y itself. A break away from single silo approaches is required, and ECM, BPM and CRM are very obvious silos that should all be as one, the social media problem illustrates a bigger issue…





workFile Vision. A change in direction

12 11 2010

Today’s post is very much centred on Business Process Management (BPM), Enterprise Content Management (ECM), Customer Relationship Management (CRM)…

 Some of you may keep an eye on the news from my company, One Degree Consulting. If you have, you will know that our workFile ECM & BPM side of the business (platform) will be going through a transition phase in the coming weeks and months. We have effectively torn up our existing road map for version 2.0 of the workFile Vision product, and put together a new one. This new one with some big, well massive, changes to how we see the future of IT in business, the future for business solutions, the future for SMEs access to solutions and consequently to the Vision solution itself…

In the coming weeks, workFile and One Degree will publish more information on the changes, and the effects these will have on the Vision suite, and how these big changes will provide benefits to business.

In this post though, I want to give a quick outline to what some of these changes in thinking are, what the changes are in the Vision product, and what the drivers are that led to this drastic new thinking…

Single Silo…That singular degree of separation

workFile is, if you didn’t know, an ECM and BPM platform. However, it also allows records management and with that, the ability for CRM to an extent. Other business focused modules are built on top of the records management capabilities. However, all of these are very separate modules and silos, only aware of small fragments of data that can be shared between the two, effectively linking that content and making it of bigger use to an end user…

So what’s the big idea? Well the big change is to move away from a multiple silo approach, and to bring these different elements closely together, effectively delivering a single silo solution for ECM, BPM, CRM, Records Management, and dynamic content processing and capture. The CRM module will be a thing of the past, and a dedicated customer focused section of workFile built (not on top of Records management functionality not seen as a separate module).

In essence, ECM, BPM, CRM etc will become modules of the past, superseded by a new way of looking at how we work as individuals, teams and as an organisation, and also how your organisation communicates and engages with its customers…All of these elements seen as one…

So how do we achieve this with the new version of workFile Vision?

Through state awareness, user empowerment and adaption. The concept here is to ensure true state awareness between the user, the customer, the content and the process. BY process, I don’t mean a rigid path, which work must follow, rather a process guide, which is highly adaptive to the content needs, the needs of the customer and the needs of the user.

In addition, the singular UI and underlying capabilities of workFile – to allow real team working on items of work, makes life a lot easier for the agent to collaborate and process their work. This may not sound like anything that new, but it supports newer ways of working. We have a vision that people will work more as teams on individual pieces of work, effectively pulling together on items of work, not in a collaborative fashion but in a real sense of working together. This is a big move away from BPM and Case Management as it is today, with the concept that we work as individuals and move work along at the centre of work / process thinking.

Max J Pucher has a great article on the future of work, in which he talks of users “swarming” to do work. In it he also states that by 2015, 40% or more of an organisations work will be non-routine, which is currently at 25%.  Take the time to read his blog, it is very informative… Have a read of his article, http://isismjpucher.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/the-future-of-work/ )

More than a single silo…

A single silo that supports content, customers, additional records and the process information is the best approach. In addition, interconnectivity and multiple feeds of data will mean not only will users need greater perceptive skills, but their software needs to be able to deliver this to them in an easy to identify and work fashion.

workFile though provides real flexibility in terms of content, status and structured data. This allows the flexibility to teams to create new structured data records on the “fly” and in essence joining them directly to their work (which could be content based, customer based etc.) This may all sound complex, but essentially it is quite simple…Its how we would naturally work without the rigidity of structured processing…(BPM).

Distribution…

Though we are moving to a single silo, this doesn’t mean a centralised solution. On the contrary, we believe that departmental distribution is key to freedom and success. So workFile will support a greater level of distributed processing, with departments being able to create their own content guides, their own process guides, rules etc. But, this doesn’t mean we are allowing duplication. Commonality between departments will be identified and illustrated, and wherever applicable (and suitable) shared between them.

It’s a team approach

Working in “swarms” sounds quite fun, but in essence it means tightly knit teams, working together quickly and efficiently. Traditional BPM presumes we work on pieces of work as individuals, then move it along to the next person. Sure occasionally we will allow “branches” in the processing, or splitting of items of work, but it doesn’t support multiple people working on the same piece of work at the same time. So, with this in mind, Vision 2.0 will support a more team approach to working, and will ditch the rigidity of its traditional BPM platform, which was used for defining how users work.

Social Media

While social media is taking off, organisations either see this as some wonderful marketing tool or as something they need to get control of. However, social activities and social media sites, conversations etc are becoming increasingly part of a team’s working day. These conversations and interactions aren’t carried out at a set time, they aren’t structured in their content and don’t form strong ties between you as an organisation and your customers. In addition, they are often disjointed, with an organisation not being able to tie social media engagement with a customer, to a customer record for example.

So the trick is to ensure interactions can be processed by the right people, that the right people provide good information, and that Social Media is seen as a form of engagement and conversation, not just free marketing. In addition, the content generated from these interactions allow a flexible way of working, after all, the customer may send requests that don’t follow a strict pattern, and as such, the user must be able to facilitate these requests flexibly. This content should also be recorded and brought into the solution, so that other team members have all the information they need to help….

workFile will become a lot more social, interacting with typical social media websites, and allowing users the freedom to interact in an expected fashion.

Flexibility, adaption and yet accountable

Organisations and management want to have full control, however, if they do, things become too rigid, too centralised and ultimately inflexible. So, the solution is to trust our workers, to empower them and let them do their jobs. Sure we need to ensure quality, service level agreements etc. but this can be done through guidelines and empowering users. Accountability will always still be there, with solutions recording all interactions and use. But the point is, the user has the power to process the work how they wish (to an extent obviously, certain rules have to be in place for compliance).

The big winners of Vision 2.0

So who is workFile Vision to be aimed at? Well the big winners at first will be SMEs, simply because workFile is used mainly by organisations that fall into the SME category (with the odd exception). The new version will be able to drive the cost of IT and these types of solutions down for SMEs…

However, larger organisations can easily benefit from this new way of thinking and working. If anything, while SMEs will see benefits due to a smaller investment, larger organisations will not only share in this benefit, but will also see dramatic increases in productivity and efficiency. All of this with the reduction in administration and licensing costs…..See, we didn’t call it Vision for nothing.

Finally, a change in name…

Finally, the workFile ECM & BPM platform name will be no more. Though Vision is the product suite, both the terms ECM and BPM will be replaced from the workFile company name. Why? Simply because workFile will offer a lot more, and it deserves a new description of what it delivers…The marketing people can think of something I am sure….





Fileshare with Search? No way, ECM delivers

10 09 2010

I have written a number of posts on ECM savings, why organisations should utilise ECM, how ECM and BPM together deliver a more streamlined working environment etc. however, in this post I am going to compare ECM strategy to simple file shares and search engines.

Why you may ask, well it’s because many business managers and even some in IT, believe that they can maintain content by simply using server file shares and some form of search engine.

Now let’s keep this question in mind and think of your organisation. Often with ECM and BPM technologies we become too abstract, too conceptual and because of this, business may miss our point or simply fall asleep (can’t blame them for that one). So try to think of your organisation and the way in which you work, the content you have and the people that need access to it.

ECM in your organisation

Think what sort of content you have and the volume you have in your organisation. Are we talking electronic documents such as those from Word? Are we talking scanned files? Presentations? Marketing material? Video? Audio? My list could go on…Let’s now think of a way to find those files? A simply file share will be impossible, and to look through a massive list of files brought back based on simple metadata or via some files content just won’t do the job. It’s alright for a couple of hundred files, but an organisation will have thousands, millions and for larger SME’s millions upon millions of files. File shares and searches in this fashion just won’t deliver the results, nor will it scale with your business. Also there is the cost, would the cost of such a search engine and file share deliver any real big differences? NO…

ECM will help you structure and assign metadata to files, it provides you with numerous ways of finding that content, numerous views, and numerous security models and can support any form of digital format. It can also take care of simple workflows such as publication while managing strict and useful version control. In addition, ECM will scale to meet your business needs and ensure your workers can access the content that your organisation holds, allowing your workers to work more efficiently and with all the information to hand, just when they need it….

How does ECM fit in…

ECM is not just a piece of software; it is a complete strategy (as well as technology) for managing the creation, storage, use and disposal of information / content. No doubt your organisation will have many different forms of information created in various different ways for different audiences. Because of this they will have different attributes, different security needs and different lifecycles. Also keep in mind that many different content types may cross different boundaries, for example marketing documentation may be used for print, it maybe a business document and or may also form web content.

ECM will ensure you take a holistic view of managing both structured and unstructured content. Because you need to have structures, policies and procedures to deal with your content, ECM ensures you meet a number of compliance regulations no matter what industry you are in. It maybe a little more “overhead” but the rewards far outweighs the effort.

If we believe that staff members need the right information at the right time, then the most important factor to facilitating that is information and knowledge management. The way we deliver this is through ECM.

What else can ECM deliver?

So what else can ECM deliver that file shares and Google like searches cannot? Well we have touched on a few, namely security, lifecycles etc.  But also keep these in mind:

  • Records Management – managing structured information from other systems
  • True version control – being able to quickly view previous versions of files and potentially role back to older versions
  • Audit – Being able to see everything that has happened to that content
  • Web content management – maintaining your online presence
  • Social Media outlets – bringing together your use of Social Media and the information it may hold
  • Complex metadata rules – Allowing you to assign complex metadata to any form of content
  • Content that triggers processes (active content) – Content can trigger business processes, or become a part of simple or highly complex business processes. ECM and BPM seamlessly integrate
  • Distributed access – being able to access that content anywhere in the world via simple interfaces that still maintain the highest level of security

 

Quick conclusion

ECM out performs file shares and Google type searches in every which way you can think of. Sure you may need to think about creation of content and metadata more, but the rewards of doing this are there right across the business. The default strategy within a business should not be “let’s share files on the server”, rather it should be “let’s get our ECM approach together”.