» Archive for the 'Knowledge Economy' Category

Information Overload Awareness Day

Thursday, July 9th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

“What can we do to call more attention to the problem of Information Overload?” is a question I hear almost daily from managers at companies who have recognized the extent to which the problem impacts their organizations.  As of now, I have a much better answer than I previously had: participate in Information Overload Awareness Day, a new workplace observance that calls attention to the problem of information overload and how it impacts both individuals and organizations.

Yes, you can wear a button or a T-shirt (we’ll have those next week) but that’s only the first step.  On August 12, the day we’ve set aside to focus our attention on the problem, we are holding an online event that will permit us to do a deep dive into different ways that Information Overload is adversely impacting knowledge work and knowledge workers while also spotlighting possible solutions to help managers and policymakers cope with loss of productivity.

Information Overload describes an excess of information that results in the loss of ability to make decisions, process information, and prioritize tasks.  Organizations of all shapes and sizes have already been significantly impacted by it; according to our research the problem costs the U.S. economy $900 billion per year in lowered productivity and throttled innovation.

The event features a variety of speakers including noted authors Maggie Jackson (“Distracted”) and Mike Song (“The Hamster Revolution”), executives from such companies as Dow Jones and Morgan Stanley, a CIO from the U.S. Air Force, and Nathan Zeldes, president of the Information Overload Research Group and the former executive in charge of addressing the problem at Intel.  (I’ll be there too, of course.)

While a few people put their heads in the sand and say this is not a real problem, the costs are quite real and the problem is only going to get worse.  By 2012, the typical knowledge worker will receive hundreds of messages each day via e-mail, IM, text, and social networks.

Simply put, companies need to focus on what can be done to lessen information overload’s impact right now.  We’ll look at the latest research and solutions and cover areas including managing e-mail, calculating Information Overload exposure, improving search, and managing content, just to name a few.

The cost of the event is $50; attendees who promise not to multi-task (i.e. IM, e-mail, or text) during the event will receive a 50% discount.

Companies are invited to sponsor Information Overload Awareness Day by enrolling as Designated Sites.  This allows all of their employees to attend at no charge and demonstrates their commitment to helping solve the problem.

Tweet this: Information Overload Awareness Day Aug. 12; event to present latest research and solutions; http://www.informationoverloadday.com/

Jonathan B. Spira is the CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Nortel to Liquidate Assets, Sell Wireless Unit to Nokia Siemens

Friday, June 19th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

Nortel Networks, one of the oldest companies in the tech sector, will liquidate assets and sell its CDMA and LTE Access units to Nokia Siemens for $650 million.  Nokia Siemens is a joint venture of Nokia of Finland, a company founded in 1865, and Germany’s Siemens, founded in 1847.   The joint venture is acquiring a unit that manufactures CDMA mobile technology, a system used by several U.S.-based mobile operators including Verizon Wireless and Sprint.  The deal gives Nokia Siemens a significant customer base in the U.S., something that has eluded the company up until now.

Nortel said it was in advanced talks to sell other businesses and that it was applying to have its shares delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange effective June 22.  Nortel filed for bankruptcy-court protection in January and has been attempting to sell its assets since then, having amassed almost $7 billion in losses over two years.

The company has a colorful history dating back to its founding in 1895 as Northern Electric and Manufacturing, a supplier of phones and other devices spun off from Bell Telephone of Canada.  It started looking into ways of using fiber optic cable in the 1960s at which time it also began designing digital telecommunications equipment.

In 1976, the company changed its name to Northern Telecom and announced Digital World, a family of industry-leading digital telecommunications products.  The DMS-100 became a mainstay of telephone company central offices (it could handle 100,000 subscriber lines without breaking a sweat) and the DMS line contributed greatly to the company’s profits for 15 years.

In 1998, with the acquisition of Bay Networks, the company changed its name once again, this time to Nortel Networks.  It gained prominence in the late 1990s as a manufacturer of fiber optic gear used to transport massive amounts of data over the Internet but was also one of the first casualties when the telecom bubble of the time burst, sending the company’s market capitalization from $398 billion (Canadian) in September 2000 to $5 billion in August 2002.

Now the company, which dropped “Network” from its brand but not from its legal name, will fade from history following a decade of failed and expensive acquisitions.  Its strategy, which was to buy established companies, didn’t work, largely due to an inability to integrate products from the newly-acquired entities into a common vision.  In addition to the Bay Networks acquisition for $9.1 billion, the company acquired software maker Clarify and then Alteon Web Systems for a total of $10 billion in 1999 and 2000 respectively. The company’s buying spree continued with Cambrian Systems for $300 million, Shasta Networks for $340 million, all the way to DiamondWare (3-D stereo conferencing) and Pingtel (SIP software) in 2008.

Nortel’s strategy contrasted greatly with that of companies such as Cisco, which only acquired small and innovative companies at much lower cost and then successfully integrated them into the business.  Today’s Nortel is also a stark contrast to Northern Telecom ca. 1976, when it announced Digital World.

As competition has intensified from North American, European, and low-cost Asian rivals, among them Alcatel-Lucent and Huawei Technologies, the company’s shares sank into the penny range in the months prior to its bankruptcy filing.  In addition, the global economic crisis has slowed spending on the gear that Nortel offers (which includes equipment for the enterprise as well as for telephone companies).

A likely acquirer for Nortel’s enterprise unit is Siemens Enterprise Communications, which has been in growth mode since it became a joint venture between Siemens AG and the Gores Group.

Jonathan B. Spira is the CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Questions and Answers About Knowledge Management

Thursday, June 18th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

Victor, a senior manager at HP, posted an insightful question concerning the current state of knowledge management in the Basex Information Overload Network on LinkedIn (if you aren’t yet a member, and over 100 people joined in the last month, click here).

With his permission, I am reproducing his question and my reply with the hope that the discussion continues below.

“I’ve some questions about KM.  First, what is the most important function of a KM system?  The content management?  The collaboration based communication channel?  The security control mechanism?  The all-in-one portal?  The fast multi-faceted based search engine?  Now that we have a dedicated function for knowledge management and there are CKOs who are in charge of that, then what’s the core mission of it?  To my understanding it’s not only about technologies, or just setup some document management system, or an enterprise wide SNS system… Then what is our major target?  If I’m asked by the boss ‘what’s your strategic value?’ how can we answer that question?  A position or team without a clear vision and goal is worthless.  Say for IT department it is a business automation enabler, for sales department it’s the source of revenue.  Then what is the added-value of KM?  Sorry for the layman question but I’m curious to get the answer.”

Victor, to me KM is more of a discipline than a specific system.  In order for companies to remain competitive, they have to ensure knowledge sharing, knowledge transfer, and collaboration.  One of the greatest problems in this area is that individual problems are looked at in isolation, without an understanding or regard for the “big picture” so to speak.  Someone managing a document management project may not take into consideration what someone managing a new or existing search tool or workflow system is planning.

My approach has to be more holistic; I sometimes refer to it as “putting the pieces of the puzzle together” (despite the fact that this oversimplifies).  I have found that, when working with companies that are trying to answer questions similar to yours, few understand where one technology, such as content management, stops and where another (workflow, search, unified communications) begins.

To help end-user organizations better understand how to put the pieces of the puzzle together, we organized our coverage of all things knowledge-sharing and collaboration around the concept of what we called a “market supersegment,” which is essentially an amalgam of 22 markets most people think of as separate and distinct.  If you look at knowledge-sharing and collaboration from this viewpoint, you will find it much easier to address many of your questions.  Every company and CKO will have different core missions by the way.  I would surmise that the underlying commonality will be to keep information flowing and break down barriers.  How one gets there will vary greatly by organization.  You also have to take into consideration tremendous variances in corporate culture, which will then dictate how comfortable people feel about different forms of collaboration and knowledge sharing.

I hope this at least begins to address some of what you were trying to understand.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

What is Twitter?

Thursday, June 4th, 2009 by Seth Shapiro

Twitter is the mutt of all that is social. A cross between an instant messenger, e-mail client, and a social networking site such as Facebook, Twitter is a fast paced environment. On Twitter, users post 140 character updates (called “tweets”) quickly and (sometimes) persistently to their Twitter page for others to view and comment on. Users can become followers of other Twitter contributors; followers are sent tweets whenever their “tweeter” (someone who uses Twitter) updates his or her page.

Similar to other social networking sites, membership is free and the service relies solely on its users to create content and refer friends. There are myriad uses for the service and the information generated by users.  Twitter may be used by a small group of friends to keep each other updated of their physical location or be useful in a college setting to find someone else looking for a lunch date. The availability of multiple ways to update Twitter increases its accuracy.  Users can broadcast tweets from the Twitter Web site, text message from any SMS capable cell phone, or through outside applications such as DSTwitter (which allows updates from the Nintendo DS gaming console).

Twitter has proven itself effective in fields its creator Jack Dorsey never envisioned. Taking on social networking giants such as Facebook, Twitter offers something Facebook cannot: a fast paced environment where information can be shared almost instantly.  Facebook has, however, attempted to mimic Twitter with its recent redesign that has placed more emphasis on a user’s activity stream.  Using Twitter, people have reported that they are able to ask for information, ranging from a restaurant recommendation to a cure for the hiccups, and get responses immediately. Those with many followers could draw attention to a new hip gadget or poll users on their ideas of a new business proposal (with limited information of course).  Additional business uses include running searches through the tweets that are being broadcast to track conversations, gather information about products and identify trends.

The membership in Twitter may number as many as five million (it does not disclose such figures). If a company could convert a small percentage, say 4% into followers, it would have the ability to communicate with 20,000 people through tweets. Twitter makes it very easy for a company to have a dialog with its customers and business partners.

Twitter may have originally been designed to update friends and family on one’s whereabouts (founder Jack Dorsey first called the system “Status”); however, with the extended availability to tweet and to be delivered daily updates of those you follow, Twitter has become much more. It is a pool of information that anyone with a computer, mobile phone, or even a Nintendo DS has access too. Friends may use it to meet for lunch, singles may use it to find others, and businesses may use it as a means to contact those they have not yet touched.

Till my next “tweet.”

Seth Shapiro is an analyst at Basex.  This is his first Analyst Opinion.

Nielsen’s Reply-to-All Experiment

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

In January of this year, amidst much fanfare, Nielsen, a global concern whose businesses range from television and other media measurement to business publications, announced that the company would eliminate Reply-to-All functionality in their company’s e-mail client.  When I first read of this, I had to check my calendar to make sure it was not on or about April 1 and then make sure I was not reading The Onion.  Needless to say, I was somewhat skeptical.   But Gary Holmes, the company’s chief press officer, confirmed that this was in fact the new policy and for confirmation a memo from the company’s CIO, Andrew Cawood, is available on line .

The overuse of the Reply-to-All function in e-mail is, without question, a huge source of e-mail overload within almost every organization.  But there are still many instances where its use is not only warranted but helpful, including e-mail messages where only a few people are copied and a reply to all is warranted.

Instead of eliminating the button, Nathan Zeldes, president of IORG and former director of information overload reduction strategies at Intel, had a far more prosaic suggestion: move the position of Reply-to-All on the toolbar away from Reply, making people less likely to click it.  My advice is along similar lines: I would have recommended that Nielsen modify the e-mail client to notify the sender if he were about to send to more than five people and ask if he wished to continue.

Ironically, it appears that Nielsen did not actually disable Reply-to-All functionality but merely removed the button.  According to on line reports, many employees now use the more cumbersome keystroke “shortcut” or simply added the Reply-to-All button back by customizing the toolbar.  Much of the online discussion was at Techcrunch, where an article on the topic also appeared.  Posts there by individuals indicating they were Nielsen employees indicated that they were largely ignoring the policy through workarounds.

As to how the change is working for them, Nielsen declined to comment.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Information Overload – The Movie

Thursday, May 21st, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

“How does Information Overload impact you?” is a question I’ve been asking knowledge workers for quite some time.  In the past six months, I began to capture their answers with a high-definition video camera.  If you think Information Overload isn’t really a big deal, see what the people I interviewed, including senior executives from IBM, NBC, RIM, and Siemens, have to say.  The answers may surprise you.

Information overload describes an excess of information that results in the loss of ability to make decisions, process information, and prioritize tasks.  Organizations of all shapes and sizes have already been significantly impacted by information overload: the problem costs the U.S. economy $900 billion per year in lower productivity and throttled innovation according to Basex.

Basex produced Information Overload – The Movie to illustrate the impact that the problem has on knowledge workers of all levels.  From top managers to administrative assistants, to knowledge workers in the trenches, information overload has a detrimental effect on our ability to perform at our best, leading to poor decision-making, slow project completion and stifled idea generation.  By 2010, the average number of corporate e-mail messages received per person per day is expected to reach 93.  Meanwhile, individual knowledge workers lose as much as 28 percent of the day due to unnecessary interruptions.

Information Overload – The Movie is immediately available in high-definition on YouTube, Blip TV, the Basex Web site, and  the Apple iTunes store.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Lowering Your Information Overload Exposure

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 by David Goldes

Information overload describes an excess of information that results in the loss of ability to make decisions, process information, and prioritize tasks.  The Basex Information Overload Exposure Assessment service provides companies with actual measurement of the problem and specific recommendations to lessen its impact.

Organizations of all shapes and sizes have already been significantly impacted by information overload, a problem that costs the U.S. economy $900 billion per year in lower productivity and throttled innovation.  Over the past year, we’ve been working with companies to reduce information overload in their organizations and they have seen almost immediate benefits in increased efficiencies, cost reductions, and improved information flow.

Basex helped one client, a global leader in communications, recapture approximately 12 percent of time lost due to information overload, valued at an estimated $2.8 million per annum. For another client, Basex helped reduce the company’s exposure by 18 percent with a commensurate increase in employee efficiency and effectiveness, translating into an annualized savings of several million dollars.

This week, we are introducing the Basex Information Overload Exposure Assessment, a service that helps companies pinpoint opportunities to reduce the amount of information overload and simultaneously reduce costs within their organizations.  In a time of less is more, the ability to recapture what would otherwise be millions of lost dollars may mean the difference between profit and loss.

Find out more at our new Information Overload microsite.  An Information Overload Self-Assessment Tool is available to help you take the first steps in analyzing your organization’s exposure.

David M. Goldes is the president of Basex.

Encarta: 1993 – 2009

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009 by David Goldes

Perhaps not surprisingly, Microsoft announced, via a notice posted on the MSN Web site, that it would stop selling Encarta CDs as of June and discontinue the online version of Encarta by the end of 2009.

Microsoft’s move is a recognition on the part of the company that the business of publishing information has once again changed dramatically.  In the early 1990s, traditional print publishers, such as the Encyclopaedia Britannica, found in Microsoft a formidable competitor when Microsoft launched Encarta on CDs and included copies of it in Microsoft Windows.  Microsoft purchased non-exclusive rights to the Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedia, which continued separately as a print edition until the late 1990s; the company had reportedly approached Encyclopaedia Britannica first but its owner, worried that sales of the print edition would be hurt, turned down the offer.

Microsoft continued to enhance Encarta by purchasing and incorporating into it Collier’s Encyclopedia and the New Merit Scholar’s Encyclopedia.

Yet Encarta’s time in the sun was fleeting as online information resources, such as the Wikipedia, grew in size (it now has over 10 million articles in over 260 languages).  By comparison, Microsoft’s online Encarta offering currently has 42,000 articles and the complete English language version has only somewhat more than 62,000 articles and is updated much less frequently than the Wikipedia.

“Encarta has been a popular product around the world for many years,” Microsoft wrote in its posted notice. “However, the category of traditional encyclopedias and reference material has changed. People today seek and consume information in considerably different ways than in years past.”

David M. Goldes is the president of Basex.

In The Briefing Room: Skype for Business

Thursday, March 26th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira and Cody Burke

Skype is perceived as a consumer service that lets computer users make inexpensive and/or free calls to friends and family near and far.  It isn’t necessarily a service one would associate with business users; however for the past few years Skype has been moving more and more into that territory.

Josh Silverman, Skype’s president, recently estimated that 35% of its customers use Skype for business purposes in addition to personal use.  Especially in a world where distance is shrinking (along with the economy), having a service that provides local numbers in multiple countries around the world, as well as the ability to call them for pennies if not free, has become a necessity for many knowledge workers.  Business travelers, especially those who travel internationally, are also demanding more sophisticated and less expensive communications alternatives.

This week, Skype launched the beta version of Skype For SIP, a new offering that connects to corporate phone systems that support Session Initiation Protocol (SIP).  SIP is the prevalent open standard for business telephony networks and supports “sessions” in an IP network.  A session could be as simple as a standard phone call between two people or it could be a multimedia, multi-party conference call.

Skype For SIP will allow users of SIP-enabled phone systems to use Skype to make calls from a standard office telephone, instead of requiring the user to plug a headset into a personal computer.  The service supports calls placed to any phone number, be it landline or mobile, and also supports  inbound calling and the establishment of local numbers, available in many regions around the world, that then connect into the corporate telephone system.

Skype clearly recognizes that corporate voice traffic is a serious business where it will compete with traditional carriers as well as newer Voice-over-IP providers.  Along with some strategic rebranding on the Skype for Business Web site (a very serious darker blue and grey color scheme has replaced the bright blue and cloud theme of the consumer site), the SIP integration will open up myriad potential applications for the deployment of Skype in the enterprise.

Skype is already integrated with Digium’s open source Asterisk telephony platform, which allows Asterisk users to make, receive, and transfer Skype calls from within their phone system.  Skype For SIP for business makes it possible for any SIP-based PBX system to integrate with Skype features.

Skype sees SIP for business as a major component of its strategy to attract corporate customers in addition to individual business users.  In order to fully develop this channel, however, Skype will have to form partnerships with telephone system providers in the SMB market.  It plans to certify partners to sell and support Skype business offerings although details on this front have yet to be released.  For the large enterprise space, should Skype choose to solicit business there, the company will need to develop a corporate sales force as well.

Regardless of how it is achieved, support for business users will be crucial and Ian Robin, head of sales and marketing for Skype For SIP for business, told us that, insofar as individual user support is concerned, he is aiming towards being able to support business users in their native languages anywhere in the world quickly and efficiently.  It was only 19 months ago that Skype went dark for two days for almost all of its users  and the company clearly wants to avoid such a repeat performance when it is offering services in the enterprise space.

Jonathan B. Spira is the CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex. Cody Burke is a Senior Analyst at Basex.

In the briefing room: Smartsourcing with the Mechanical Turk

Thursday, March 19th, 2009 by Cody Burke

Smartsheet Smartsourcing is a new offering that provides on-demand access to virtual workers who can be employed on a task-by-task basis.

Amazon.com originally developed the Mechanical Turk for use in projects for the company’s e-commerce site.  It was so well received that the company then decided to open up the service beyond its originally intended in-house use to external customers.  Unfortunately, many potential users were turned off by an unfriendly user interface,

Enter Smartsheet.  The company’s management recognized that the existing Smartsheet collaborative spreadsheet product could serve as an easy-to-use interface to the virtual worker cloud.

Here’s how it works.  From the Smartsheet interface, users enter a detailed description of the task and indicate how much they are willing to pay for it (rates can be set anywhere between $0.01 and $5.00).  They then select parameters such as a due date, number of workers, and the minimum approval rating of workers that will be accepted.  The rating is a percentage that reflects any time that workers’ work was rejected by a user.  Paying more and accepting only higher ranked workers should result in higher quality output.  Smartsheet links the request with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, connecting the user to the virtual workforce, which then picks up the task and completes it.

Smartsourcing seems best suited for research, transcription, image tagging, copywriting, and other discrete tasks that can be broken out and are simple and clear in nature.  For example, we used Smartsourcing as a kind of brainstorming tool to solicit examples of an information overload problem.  The service did work and we did get a few usable results. In hindsight, our query may not have been the best use of the system, perhaps due to the difficulty of explaining exactly what we were looking for.  In Smartsourcing, the final work product is largely dependent on the clarity of the query.  Tasks that can be communicated clearly, such as filling in cells on a spreadsheet, or developing lists of contacts with biographical information, are well suited for Smartsourcing.

With this new product, Smartsheet is offering organizations new ways of managing work by allowing them to outsource tasks that are time consuming and of lower value than other work.  By allowing knowledge workers in an organization to focus on higher value work, Smartsourcing ultimately allows managers to deploy resources more intelligently and maximize the efficiency of knowledge worker assets.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.