Jun 6, 2011

Social Collaboration and Fighting Information Overload

While I have often talked about the use of social technologies to connect employees with other employees in organizations, it needs to be recognized that collaboration in organizations need to happen between employees and other groups of people like partners, customers also.

An effective collaboration tool would also look at building communities in the "extended enterprise" - like a customer of ours who have 50,000 employees and external partners connected with each other. 

It's also notable, that while younger generations take to social networking in the workplace, there are many who still are more comfortable with email. A social collaboration platform must be inclusive, connecting both these groups - bridging the gap between the social intranet and the desktop.

Many people are talking about how the activity feed is going to become the new center of serendipitous discovery and connections within organizations. However, activity feeds are like rivers. Step away from it once, and you can  lose something important. Gartner had a blog post on the same issue, called Activity Streams overload.

Which is why, the concept of "pinning" becomes critical. It alerts the individual of changes and updates to the groups/communities/documents/business records he/she is interested in following more than others. In facton The App Gap blog, Bill Ives posts on how the concept of pinning will help reduce information overload:
Enterprise 2.0 is about making interactions appropriately transparent and accessible. Qontext has added a new capability to promote this transparency and access. They call it “pinning.” It is somewhat like tagging but different. Instead of putting a tag on an activity, you pin the activity to a record. It is the opposite of categorizing email, for example, where the receiver puts the tag or category on the item. The pinning is done by the system as content is created to connect it to its context. Once an item is pinned, you can easily go back to the source and see all the accumulated context.
This is a great way to address the content overload issue. As more social content is created within the enterprise through the various tools, there will be a need to filter the fire hose. Qontext takes a different approach by allowing you to view contextually relevant information without having to determine manual filters.

So while collaboration depends on conversations and communities, remembering that business is also about getting things done, information overload needs to be contained so that people get the information when they want and which is useful for them