A question was raised recently in a professional forum that I thought deserved some further discussion.  The question involved how to get executive sponsors to use “social media” for communications, and whether anyone had quantifiable data to assist with this concept.  Although it was an interesting question,  I suspect from the lack of responses that there aren’t any clear answers immediately available and that others may be posing the same question for the same reasons.

From my perspective, however, there is a fundamental disconnect between the role and function of ‘social’ technologies versus the type of service that it enables. To me, the disconnect is aptly illustrated by the confusing use of the terms ‘social media’ and ‘social networking’ – which I believe to be two different, but related concepts. 

The question would fall into what I would define as the ‘social networking’ category. If I may paraphrase: How can you use new forms of communications provided by social networking services such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. as part of your communications strategy and plan with executive sponsors?  The answer, as simplistic as it sounds, is that these channels are simply extensions of any normal communications plan, and need to be considered in the same light.  If the constituency with whom you are dealing uses these services, then there may be an opportunity to integrate those into your communications, but that’s a big IF. For the most part, most business-focused social networking activity would take place via professional-level services such as LinkedIn, with Twitter or Facebook perceived as primarily personal/recreational services. None of these, however, are designed for the type of business communications that the question considers.  Although it would be possible to create a FB page or a LinkedIn group specific to a given project, and limit access to that information to only approved members, it is much more challenging to get executives to change their habits to use it.

We can see examples of this with the challenges many companies have had introducing collaboration software (eg. Sharepoint) into their environments – even though everyone thinks its a good idea, getting everyone to use it is another matter!  If organizations have this level of difficulty getting participation within a relatively controlled workgroup (ie. employees), I don’t think there’s much chance of achieving compliance with a group of independent, external clients – unless it’s something they are already doing.

If you want to start using this type of communication technology within a business, then initially you may want to pursue social media, which in my definition is focused on promoting, marketing and branding your business/services to constituents through the use of social networking technologies.  As these technologies mature and become more pervasive in their use within business, then gradually there will be more uptake at a senior level.  For now, though, the ‘closed’ two-way communication that would be appropriate for executive clients relating to specific work does not fit into the ‘open’, one-way communications that is typical of social networking and social media interactions.

Great quote contributed by one of my sisters, which really needs no further comment:

“The art of leadership is to work with the natural grain of the particular wood of humanity which comes to hand.” John Adair

OK time for a new poll – would you use this app if it were available for your city?  Please send this to anyone you think would be interested!  If you could add your city as well in the ‘Other’ line, that would be helpful information for trending!  Thanks for your assistance.

It’s easy to talk about business/IT alignment using a lot of very nice concepts and big nebulous words like ‘governance’ ‘strategy’ ‘accountability’ ‘objectives’…and so on, but what does it really mean?  Unless the concepts can be translated into something that is practical, useful and viable, all we have is an interesting academic or philosophical discussion.  I love it when I find something that takes the basic principles of business/IT alignment and turns those into something real, tangible and practical.  Canadian company fusedlogic has done exactly that by applying their technology expertise to improve a personal and community experience: using transit.  Take a look at the new application on their site: http://www.fusedlogic.com/iphone-public-transit-application-2126/

With a growing interest in shared public transportation to reduce personal transportation costs as well as contribute to environmental improvements, one of the driving issues is timely access to bus, train and route information.  In extreme climates (whether that’s heat or cold) this can even be considered as a health issue!  fusedlogic has tapped into the demographic range and device/channel preferences to develop a new iPhone application that can access city transit information at the touch of a screen, find your routes, identify stops and even provide estimates on arrivals!  Providing this service only requires an agreement with the local municipal transit authority to share information.

Now seriously, who wouldn’t want their city to provide this?  And for cities considering doing this themselves, I have to question whether it is an appropriate use of city resources to re-invent the wheel – especially if it would only work in one city!  Every municipality should be jumping on this to provide a current, helpful citizen-centric service like this with minimal cost or maintenance required by city resources.

And if that isn’t REAL business/IT alignment, I don’t know what is!

I’ve been observing and participating in various discussions around  ‘strategic alignment’.  I have to conclude, as so many others have as well, that this term is used loosely and frequently, but seldom with any real ‘strategy’ or ‘alignment’ coming into play. Part of the problem is the inherent disconnect between traditional organizational practices around promotions, (which effectively ensure that business unit boundaries are maintained) and recognition of the broader corporate/enterprise agenda that these business units exist to support. One of the other challenges to true ‘strategic alignment’, however, is the overriding focus on short term financial performance. In economically challenging times (as now) the short term revenue/expense drivers will ALWAYS trump strategic direction. Although I can understand the mindset – ‘What good is long term strategy if you don’t have short term financial viability?’ – one could also argue that without a clear understanding of WHY the business exists and WHAT it needs to do to continue to be relevant, its financial viability is limited and temporary.

The question is: Do we as consultants and strategists contribute to the status quo in order to remain financially viable ourselves, or do we become activists for change with our clients to move them up the ‘strategy’ maturity model?

I have approval from the university to share the following Open Letter from the President of Athabasca University to all students.  If you are concerned about how Canadian copyright legislation may be revised and potentially restricted through the current review, please make your views known at the government discussion site noted in the letter.  Please respond to the poll as well: http://suzviews.wordpress.com/2009/08/22/polldaddy-poll1903932/

August 2009

Open Letter to All Students,

The Government of Canada has launched a nationwide consultation on copyright modernization, which ends on September 13th. The government is currently preparing new copyright legislation that is anticipated for delivery this fall, which could resemble Bill C-61, which died on the order paper during the last Parliament. If you are interested or concerned about copyright reform please visit the copyright consultation website at http://copyright.econsultation.ca/.

Universities have an interest in protecting copyright as producers of intellectual and creative content and also in fair dealing as researchers and teachers. So, we do support legislation that both protects copyright owners from infringement and protects the rights of educational users. However, any legislation similar to Bill C-61 will have profound negative effects on researchers and educators as well as the general public. There were five substantive issues contained in Bill C-61, which were of concern; noncircumvention measures, format shifting, contractual over rise of fair dealing, statutory damages, and destruction of content. We have provided a briefing note on these five issues that you could raise.

It will place Canada at a disadvantage internationally and will even more significantly marginalize e-learning and distance education. E-learning institutions now reach over 20 million learners per year with Canada as a recognized world leader in telecommunications and learning. This legislation could well end our ability to contribute to building Canadian and overseas learning communities. Countries with wiser copyright regimes that promote educational use will catapult ahead of Canada. No longer will we be internationally competitive because of the restrictions contained in the legislation. We need to seek balance between the protection of rights, the rights of learners, and our international competitiveness in distance and e-learning.

I would like to request that you contact Hon. Tony Clement, Minister of Industry, Hon. James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage, and your Member of Parliament to raise your concern about this potential legislation. If you are not aware of your Member of Parliament and require their address, you can obtain this information on the Elections Canada website http://www.elections.ca or at http://www.parl.gc.ca. A list of contacts and their addresses (pdf) is available if you choose to raise your concerns further.

Please inform us by email (copyrightlobby@athabascau.ca) of any correspondence you send to the federal government.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Frits Pannekoek, PhD
President
Athabasca University

Related Documents: Copyright Legislation Overview (pdf)

It’s time to move on from business/IT alignment to a more coherent enterprise. -John Gøtze

I found this quote from the recent EA Conference in Toronto rather interesting, and thought I should do a little research into it. Unfortunately, it is presented in the conference notes in a stream of ‘general comments’ and without context, which makes it difficult to interpret accurately. The source, John Gøtze, is the International President of the Association of Enterprise Architects, and he is highly credentialed and respected in the field.

It didn’t take long to discover two interesting points:
• Gøtze has a separate web-site and blog called Coherency Management
• Gøtze has just published and is actively promoting his new book called – you guessed it – Coherency Management.

[Just a little aside…look at the Winnipeg connection on the book website: “We will use the coherencymanagement.org website not just to promote the book, but also to be a platform for continued dialogues about coherency management and for publishing further studies. We’re especially interested in relevant case studies, and have published one such: Neil Kemp’s interesting case study about Winnipeg Fleet Management.” ]

Fair enough – Gøtze is marketing a new product and trying to distinguish it from other ideas and products at a professional conference by introducing new terminology. One might question whether it’s totally appropriate for the President of a professional organization to do so at an international conference of that association. In those circumstances, it can be difficult to separate the personal agenda from the official role, but the truth is, it happens all the time. (Hmm…probably another future blog here on governance and role separation…).

It is well known – and broadly supported – that a key purpose and mandate of EA is to contribute to the alignment of business and IT. The intention of EA, as first developed by Zachman, was clearly to provide a framework for addressing the growing gap between business needs and direction, and the black box involvement that had become technology services. This revolutionary perspective called for IT to consider business services and programs as the guide to technology services and programs. Well intentioned, but perhaps because it started with the IT focus, EA has remained firmly fixed within our culture as an IT activity. Gøtze comments on this, stating that “the EA profession is mired in a technology paradigm that grossly undersells its capability to bring coherence to the entire business.” There’s that term again: ‘coherence’. So what does Gøtze mean by ‘coherence’ and how is he defining it? Is this something fundamentally new, or just a new buzz-word to throw into the EA/IT jargon to spice it up a little?

There’s a detailed definition on the Coherency Management website, but it seems that the coherency issue revolves around what we have traditionally referred to as Knowledge Management and Business Intelligence. Gøtze observes that business is currently in a period of ‘incoherency’ due to information overload: “This period of incoherency starts with the recognition that we simply have too much information to process. One might say that that the unintended plague of the information age is …information. Not information in and of itself, but rather, incoherent information.” In his definition ‘Coherency Management’ is intended to architect order and structure around the definition of, and use of, business information.

So how does this relate to business/IT alignment? I’m still not sure but we can take some guesses. Business/IT alignment is the recurring priority for business executives in multi-year surveys and is not going to go away. One element within the concept of alignment is information management, which is also a pressing business driver for change. EA can address a small area of IM, by developing and standardizing data/information architecture, but without the context of business architecture, technology architecture and application architecture, this will do little to address the KM/BI issues. Although I admire Gøtze for trying to come up with a new way to encapsulate the issues around enterprise information, I’m not sure that introducing new terminology is the way to do it, and I’m having a difficult time seeing how ‘coherency’ replaces ‘alignment’. Whether or not an organization practices ‘Coherency Management’, there will continue to be a need for Business/IT Alignment.

Note: Quotes from John Gøtze web site: http://coherencymanagement.org/coherency-management/