An open expert roundtable at the J. Boye conference. Panelists included Lisa Welchman, Welchman Pierpoint; Tony Byrne, founder of CMS Watch; Martin White, principal of Intranet Focus; and moderator and conference host Janus Boye.
Here's a quick review of the discussion held at the roundtable.
Byrne: Mobile applications in the enterprise. Not just about applying a style sheet, either.
Welchman: Very excited about being able to outsource my chores! It may not be popular, but I want to say, we have a special job when it comes to privacy. I agree some things are tracked...but we know how information moves, and we know what can happen about. Those of us who create these systems have a special responsibility to users if they're that casual about it.
White: Love the democratization of information. You don't need a BlackBerry anymore. Kenyan farmers can send a mobile pic of a diseased crop to a Britain office and get a diagnosis. Privacy is hugely important too.
Boye: The actionable thing? Lisa, you say that people should stop blaming vendors...what do you recommend to webmasters?
Welchman: Stop calling yourself a webmaster for one! It's too much. Secondly, lead. Like Bob Boiko says, quit your whining and enable yourself. The leadership is in this room. As Governance Girl, I'd say, Govern. Don't be afraid to set boundaries. Reality is, most successful things have some standards. They're not too restrictive, but they are there.
Boye: Tony, what do you think about mobile?
Byrne: There's a real analytics challenge because of the differences between regions and equipment and telcos and so on. People want to access enterprise systems more readily and more accurately from where ever they are. It's largely an interaction issue. To do: don't buy software without testing it first. 2 or 3 vendors head to head. Most people spend all this money without any trial period.
Secondly, those who got religion about user-centered design, I'd encourage you to think about it internally not just externally.
Third, there may be things you can turn off or shut off to save money. A webmaster told IT to cancel a services contract on a product that worked well and was going to be sunset in a few years. He used the $40k to do a more important small project.
White: Internet managers decide what information gets where. Go back to your office and write information manager on your business cared and email that to your boss. We have got to get companies to understand how important information is to the organization. Let's get the information manager framework across!
Byrne: I'm not sure if info manager is right,. isn't it more about applications today? I think we need a term that shows they deliver services to people.
White: Well, the internet is now delivering more apps to people. So the information manager has to take that on as well.
Welchman: You have to sell yourself, and you need a title that will let you do that. But a new title doesn't change you. Are you managing information or still just thinking project by project?
Why so many CMS's?
Byrne: Why no consolidation? I think there's been a lot of demand, I think it's a regional market because companies buy locally because they are nervous about the purchase...MS has failed repeatedly in this space and that has created a huge vacuum. Verticals? I think many vendors have trained sales folk by vertical, not more horizontally. People want to integrate, but their systems tend to be very industry specific. That may bring changes in the future.
Welchman: Since 2001 Tony has been talking about consolidation. Our work is largely operational, so we look at a lot of trends. Many of us have a hard time articulating the business case to vendors. Vendors don't really do a good strategic analysis either. If one did, they might dominate the space.
White: There's no consolidation...let's take the UK. 1.8 million active companies, only 10% would be in the market. But most companies have their own home builds, frontpage and a little Plone and so on. We're nowhere near market saturation. By and large, cms vendors and search vendors don't know how to sell their product unless by functionality. They don't tell you what the benefit is, just the function. The audience doesn't really understand what a CMS or Google does.
Boye: Consolidation comes with educated buyers and good products.
How do we bring this back to the real world?
White: The problem is, don't take on the whole org, but take on a bit at the time.
Welchman: Depending on where you are in the org, if you're a tactical doer, go find a sponsor and make a sell for information management. That makes it easier to rack up wins and get ahead in the real world.
Byrne: Experiential learning is best. Break down projects into small pieces and learn from each one.
Software is silver bullet here. But you have to mix up a batch of koolaid and evangelize. How do you get the message out?
White: I read Fortune every few weeks, when i used to read success stories, 100 best companies in US, you never hear the word information. Reality is, team assembled and massaged and presented information to managers to inspire that. It doesn't make the press. We're preaching to people who just don't know.
Welchman: In my experience, people generally make relationships with people they know and like. Are you coming with problems or solutions? Do they trust you, like you, believe you? Get a positive mental attitude, figure out what you can do, and do that.
White: One of the most dangerous ideas is that collaboration will happen if we only buy the right software. Tech won't help people collaborate. Culture deals with that.
Welchman: There are people who know how to do that. Collaborate with them.
You claim you're an information manager, but how can you do this if you're only working with one channel?
White: It's not. Think of all the information outside the company coming in, not just what's already there. We might not have the right toolset. We've no idea how we got there. I'm a failed chemist. We've ended up almost by accident...we didn't set out to be a web manager...we've got to change the way we define the profession.
Boye: Tony, why is it a content management system, not an information management system?
Byrne: It's a cms, not a information management system, since when the web hit there was already document management. Data management was the other thing you had. It's a real divide though. Even so, it may not matter in the long run.
Boye: What's plan b if this doesn't work in the real world?
Byrne: Sometimes people break their neck and it doesn't work...i tell them, move on.
Welchman: I have the same answer. If you keep feeling angry and useless, move on. It can damage your group.
White: We may need to report to someone with more clout in the company. Communications and so forth may not have much impact. We need a report that has impact on the bottom line.