» Archive for September, 2004

Blend in People, Culture, and Change – and Then a Pinch of Technology

Thursday, September 23rd, 2004 by Jonathan Spira

Earlier this week, on September 21, Basex held its 22nd Strategic Thinkers event, Managing the Collaborative Business Environment, to a full house of senior executives, practitioners, technology users and vendors.  It was rich with recipe sharing and some spirited debate about the right ingredients for creating successful Collaborative Business Environments (CBEs).

Jonathan Spira, Basex‘ CEO and chief analyst, opened the proceedings with an examination of what constitutes today’s knowledge worker and the knowledge worker’s boss.  We’ll go into detail in a future edition, but suffice it to say there are enough knowledge (or information) workers out there (more than 100 million in the U.S. alone) to make it critical for organizations to cater to their needs.  Avoiding the debate over definitions and differences, what exactly do knowledge and information workers do?  At the most basic level, they think, and generate ideas that often lead to innovations.  In the course of their activities, they create knowledge.

To accomplish their work, they require knowledge and information.  New research from the U.S. Department of Labor finds that knowledge workers spend ca. 40% of their time processing information.  And to do this they also need access to other resources such as people.  A properly-designed CBE, providing access to all of these resources in one workspace, is an essential tool for the knowledge worker, necessary to ensure productivity and growth.

The Collaborative Business Environment lies at the nexus of the knowledge, collaboration and the enterprise itself.  It supersedes the traditional desktop metaphor and brings people together – both synchronously and asynchronously – across borders.  It provides access to all of the applications, resources, knowledge, and information the worker needs.

Attendees at our Strategic Thinkers conference heard winning recipes for CBEs from knowledge leaders in business and academia.  Common to all was the focus on people, culture and change in addition to the right technology.  Barbara Saidel, CIO of Russell Reynolds Associates, stressed the importance of hiring generous people who enjoy teamwork in order to create and nurture a knowledge-sharing culture.  Lauren Steinfeld, Chief Privacy Officer at the University of Pennsylvania, emphasized the need for high-level support and involving the right people, in addition to employing the proper tools and creating effective content.  And Sandeep Manchanda, Chief Information Officer, Global Development, Marsh & McLennan Cos., framed his remarks as answers to the question “Why?”  Why is collaboration so hard? (because people are rewarded most often for individual achievement).  Why create a sense of urgency in knowledge projects? (to motivate people to act).

“So what’s the single most important ingredient,?” our panelists were asked.  The answers were illuminating: be a risk taker, be a good listener and feed back (often the most critical issue is the one least well articulated), and nurture strong relationships with the people you need to make the project successful.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Next week: a look at predictions for CBEs’ future from three visionary vendors — Cloudmark, Learning Management Systems, and Xpert Universe — who participated in our Strategic Thinkers conference.

Thanks to our panelists and all who attended.

Ellen Pearlman is a senior analyst at Basex.