Technology Management Association of Chicago

April 30, 2008 at 8:45 am | Posted in Attention Management | Leave a comment

For those of you in Chicago (who don’t plan to watch the Cubs-Reds game on May 5th) I wanted to let you know I’ll be speaking at the Technology Management Association of Chicago on Enterprise Attention Management in Arlington Heights, IL. Reception starts at 5pm, dinner at 6, and the presentation at 7. 

I’ve attached the description of my presentation below.  You can find out more and register at

Enterprise Attention Management:  Addressing Info-Stress and Information Overload

May 5th, 2008

Each beneficial new communication and collaboration technology, from wikis to blogs, brings with it the burden of one more channel that information workers, already suffering from information overload, must pay attention to. This presentation describes how attention overload is afflicting businesses and how enterprises can create an Enterprise Attention Management (EAM) strategy encompassing technology, policy, and culture to improve the effectiveness and responsiveness of information workers.
Issues this presentation will address include:

  • How attention fatigue is a gating factor for collaboration and communication projects.
  • How “Attention Management” acts as a lens to understand and address these effects on information workers.
  • How to define an EAM conceptual architecture to provide a unified view across attentional technologies.

"Not as flat as it used to be": Globalization Hits a Roadblock?

April 28, 2008 at 4:29 pm | Posted in Content Management, Globalization | Leave a comment

I was having breakfast this morning before going to work to prepare for my telebriefing tomorrow on The Role of Enterprise Content Management in Content Globalization/Localization when I opened my Wall St. Journal (4/28/08 page A1; link) to read that nationalism may be thwarting globalization.  The article by Bob Davis points out that while globalization was supposed to be inevitable (hence the WSJ’s reference to Thomas Friedman’s famous globalization manifesto), nationalism and protectionism seem to be on the rise.

Trade talks are shelved.  Barriers to foreign investment are rising around the world. State-owned companies are expanding, particularly in oil and gas. Public support of immigration restriction is growing in countries from the U.S. to India.

So what do I say tomorrow about the need for IT organizations to get involved in content globalization and localization efforts?  I think I’m still on track in saying that there is a sharp increase in content globalization occurring and that IT can help.  It’s possible that some expansion plans in industries that could be brought under state control (energy and foodstuffs in particular) could be put on hold.  But for other industries, the drivers of IT involvement in globalization efforts that I discuss in my telebriefing are still very relevant.  These include:

  • Containing or reducing costs: Whatever degree of globalization occurs, there will be a need to contain globalization costs
  • Clarification of central and local control through governance: If power shifts are occurring and barriers are rising between central and local branches, governance takes on increasing importance
  • Timing/responsiveness: The uncertainty of the globalization landscape places even more emphasis on an organizations ability to react quickly to changes
  • Safeguarding brand image: Increased nationalism means increased attention must be paid to local culture and customs, so proper translation and QA processes become more important for a deeper swath of content
  • Improving consistency: As with safeguarding brand image, inconsistent translations will have increased risk of harming the brand
  • Need to handle increased complexity: Potential increases in regulation will increase the need for complex workflow that can handle documents based upon content typing

I’m not a politician or economist, so I’m (way) out of my element in predicting what effecting nationalism, protectionism, and a global backlash may have on international relations.  The article isn’t saying the slowdown is definite, but a possibility when certain threads in the news are connected.  But from an enterprise content management perspective I think the globalization storm is looking even more vicious than before.

Note: This is a cross-posting from the Collaboration and Content Strategies blog

Upcoming Telebriefing on Content Globalization

April 24, 2008 at 2:27 pm | Posted in Content Management, Globalization | Leave a comment

I have a telebriefing coming up on content globalization next week that I wanted to alert you to.  I’m focusing mostly on the role of enterprise content management in globalization and have put in a slide on Web 2.0 impacts on globalization.  It’s for clients only, but non-clients can get an introduction through my podcast series on this topic.

The Role of Enterprise Content Management in Content Globalization/Localization
Globalization is profound, it’s irrefutable, and it’s irreversible.” These words, spoken by General Electric CEO Jeffery Immelt, are a clear signal that the business world acknowledges a globalization wave that is unlikely to subside. But how has this wave impacted information technology (IT)? The authors and owners of content have often been insulated from this storm, but a stark increase in globalization demands is pulling IT in. In this TeleBriefing, Service Director Craig Roth describes how enterprise content management (ECM) processes and technology, from authoring to analytics, can reduce the cost, cycle times, and inconsistencies of localization efforts.

4/29/2008 at 2:00 PM EDT / 11:00 AM PDT / 18:00 UTC/GMT / 20:00 CEST
4/30/2008 at 9:00 AM EDT / 6:00 AM PDT / 13:00 UTC/GMT / 15:00 CEST

Here’s the link to register for this TeleBriefing.

Ray Ozzie on His Personal Attention Management Techniques

April 23, 2008 at 7:54 am | Posted in Attention Management, interruption science, Microsoft | 1 Comment

Ever since I’ve had my radar up on attention management issues, I’ve noticed many interesting techniques that people use to manage their time and attention.  While I’m generally focused on how entire enterprises can address information overload (what I call Enterprise Attention Management), I’m always on the lookout for what individuals do to help manage their time as well (personal attention management).  For anyone looking for an executive level view of personal attention management, I’d recommend listening to the first few minutes of this Channel 9 interview with Ray Ozzie, Chief Software Architect at Microsoft

Ray was asked how he balances the need to span a vast spectrum of activities and the need to go deep as well.  He said (rough quotes here since I am not that skilled at transcription)

Attention management is biggest challenge of the role; the pace is fairly brutal.  At the beginning of the year I’ll plan out how many hours I want to spend in different categories: some for high level strategic things, time with product groups, and I realized you have to create whitespace because day-to-day interruptions cause you to thrash if you just deal with incoming issues.  You have to create time to think about what’s happening in the environment.

I create whitespace by going away – international travel, “think week”, and other ways.  The best way I’ve found to clear my mind is to go to a conference that’s off the beaten path or go somewhere with my wife that’s not technology related.

When I was coding I had a four hour rule that said don’t code unless you know you’ll have four hours of contiguous time because otherwise you’re just introducing more bugs.

It’s the life management equivalent.

Do You Want to Be An Analyst?

April 22, 2008 at 3:11 pm | Posted in Analyst biz | Leave a comment

I wanted to alert readers to an opening for an analyst on my team here at Burton Group in the Collaboration and Content Strategies service!  I’m open on location, but it does have to be in the U.S. (Alaska and Hawaii are fine as long as you’ll pay for us to visit you for team retreats!).  I enjoy working at Burton and you’d be joining a great team we’ve assembled here.  Let me know if you have any questions (my contact info is in the About page).

You can see the full posting on the Careers portion of the Burton Group website, but here’s a quick summary.

Analyst – CCS

The CCS Analyst is responsible for creating frameworks, research documents, presentations, and blog posts for Burton Group’s clientele. The Analyst will work with customers, vendors, industry leaders, and other Burton Group analysts.


  • At least five years experience researching, writing and presenting in one or more of the following areas:
    • Architecture involving communication, collaboration, content management, or portal systems (including enterprise, logical, and/or physical architecture)
    • Collaboration and content management capabilities of major vendor platforms including Oracle, SAP, IBM Lotus Notes/Domino, Microsoft SharePoint
    • Enterprise content management (including document and imaging management, records management, search, web content management)
    • Enterprise e-mail systems
    • Information architecture (including taxonomies and ontologies)
    • Real-time communications (including instant messaging, presence, Web conferencing)
    • Office productivity tools including document formats (e.g., XML, PDF)

Is Managing Information Overload Just Self-Discipline? No – Some People Can Actually Do Something Real About It

April 17, 2008 at 4:26 pm | Posted in Attention Management | 2 Comments

An article in yesterday’s WSJ by Lee Gomes (4/16/08, page B1, You Can Enjoy a Book On a Mere Cellphone; (Hit Spacebar Now)) has a tidy summary of a statement that tends to make me cringe:

The biggest drawback to the experience involves the sheer proximity of the Internet and the constant temptation it provides for the aforementioned thumb to wander away from the realm of timeless literary art toward a cheap, quick-information fix in the form of email or blogs. This is one of the cultural problems of our time and I don’t have much to offer in the way of solutions, save to nag everyone about steely self-discipline.

While Mr. Gomes is referring specifically to the itch to check email or blogs, I’ve seen the entire attention management issue framed this way as well: that information overload and info-stress are like the weather in that everyone likes to talk about it but no one ever does anything about it.  Why waste much time talking about the dangers of our always-on, go-go culture if all you can do about it is nag people to buckle down and change their behavior?

I can understand that the average information worker feels that dealing with the overabundance and addictive nature of information (just as with food) is a matter of self-discipline.  But there are a handful of people in any organization that can take action to impact the productivity and stress of hundreds (sometimes thousands) of information workers.  I’m talking about CxOs and the IT owners, stakeholders, and champions of attentional technologies.  Cornering the folks in the corner office about Information Overload can pay dividends.

Enterprise Attention Management (EAM) pulls together the various puzzle pieces involved in the information overload issue and lays them out in a conceptual architecture that provides a view (a cross-section really) of the myriad technologies and processes involved.  Once laid out in this fashion, EAM can be applied to a specific organization’s situation.  For a demo of how this works, see my entry that applies the EAM to personal attention management and then think about doing that for the organization as a whole.

If you’re one of that handful of people I mentioned, you can take real action – actually do something about information overload for scores of people in your organization.  For example, if you’re the owner of the e-mail system, you can enable filtering rules, teach people how to use them, or place them on your list of evaluation points for an email product evaluation as your situation warrants.  If you’re a CEO or head of a large division you can lead by example in how you send out and accept communications (e.g., using appropriate channels, not accepting electronic interruptions during meetings, demanding full attention for short periods of focused collaboration).  If you’re in a position to roll out RSS technology you can accelerate its entry into the organization.  These are just a few examples.  Each is only a small piece of the puzzle, which is why the EAM conceptual architecture is important for laying out how all of these pieces interconnect.  And how they apply to each organization is different.  But only when they are laid out in the context of attention management can strategic direction become evident.

(Note: This is a cross-posting from the Collaboration and Content Strategies blog)

The Economist Examines Digital Nomads

April 15, 2008 at 12:11 pm | Posted in Attention Management, Information Work, interruption science | Leave a comment

I’d recommend anyone interested in the cultural aspects of attention management to check out the special section in this weeks Economist.  In a bit of sociological research equaled only by Jane Goodall and her chimps, Andreas Kluth, San Francisco correspondent for the Economist, studies digital nomads and describes what makes them tick.  You can hear an interview with Mr. Kluth or check out the first article here, which has links for the rest in the series. Subscription may be required.

Hammers, guns, and Blackberrys are simply tools that surface the desires of the people that wield them, so the series correctly bypasses a discussion of the specific technologies used by digital nomads.  Instead he focuses on a wide array of topics about the culture of digital nomads, the work they do, and why they act as they do. 

The summary article at the start of the issue has a great description of the dangers of continuous availability and partial attention: “the old tyranny of place could become a new tyranny of time, as nomads who are “always on” all too often end up—mentally—anywhere but here (wherever here may be).”

About the prevalence of nomadic work among knowledge workers, he writes:

James Ware, a co-founder of the Work Design Collaborative, a small think-tank, says that nomadic work styles are fast becoming the norm for “knowledge workers”. His research shows that in America such people spend less than a third of their working time in traditional corporate offices, about a third in their home offices and the remaining third working from “third places” such as cafés, public libraries or parks.

The author differentiates nomadism from the archaic “telecommuting”:

Because it still tied workers to a place—the home office—telecommuting implicitly had people “cocooning at home five days a week”, he says. But people do not want that: instead, they want to mingle with others and to collaborate, though not necessarily under fluorescent lights in a cubicle farm an hour’s drive from their homes. The crucial difference between telecommuting and nomadism, he says, is that nomadism combines the autonomy of telecommuting with the mobility that allows a gregarious and flexible work style.

On how to make nomadic work work, he writes:

this requires “management by objectives rather than face time”. Not all workers thrive in such a culture; some prefer the structure of the traditional office. But “anyone who did well at college can work well this way,” he thinks. “The prof said ‘paper by Friday’ but didn’t care where you did it; it’s the same now.

I’ve posited some of my own theories about what drives email addiction, but the author quotes James Katz, a professor at Rutgers University, with another explanation:

This is, first, because of “random reinforcement”, the desultory pattern of rewards that comes with addictive behaviours such as gambling. A CrackBerry winnows through his e-mail throughout the day, knowing full well that most of it is chaff, but cannot help himself because of that occasional grain. The second reason, says Mr Katz, is that most people suffer from the illusion that more information always leads to better decisions, and there is always more information available on our phones and laptops.

Enterprise Communication Meets the World of Warcraft

April 10, 2008 at 8:36 am | Posted in communication, Gaming, presence, usability, User experience, virtual worlds | 2 Comments

I’m working on my Enterprise Virtual Worlds presentation and was filling in some detail on communication in game-oriented virtual worlds that I would like to share here as well. 

Enterprises are wise to look to gaming from time to time due to trends in:

  • Outside-in technology: how consumer technologies such as blogs and wikis increasingly find their way into enterprises
  • Emergent gameplay: the use of gaming technology in ways the original designer hadn’t intended
  • User experience lessons: UE improvements tend to filter from the competitive gaming market to generalized applications.  Gaming is an optional activity, so UE has to be at a high level when you want the users to pay you to use their systems rather than the other way around.

Communication is interesting to explore since the number of communication channels that enterprises use (and every information worker must now attend to) has increased a great deal over the past five years to include instant messaging, presence, websites, and blogs.  Getting enterprises used to the idea of “channels” and how to manage and select between them has taken some time and some pain.

I was quite impressed when all the methods of communication in World of Warcraft (which was released in November of 2003) are laid out. WoW communication is strikingly similar (and maybe more efficient) than enterprise communication technology in many areas.

It includes:

  • Channels: Players can subscribe to communication channels such as /trade to receive ongoing chat on the channel, or unsubscribe.  Another example is in EVE Online, which has a “newbie” channel that can put new players in touch with others taking their first steps, but can be turned off once the player is more confident.
  • Chat modes (IM): The variety of built-in IM modes goes beyond most enterprise IM implementations which rely on groups.  They are: /say (vacinity), /party (your group only), /guild (your broader community), /yell (all in larger region), /whisper (one person)
  • Presence: Friends can be selected and you are made aware when they come online/offline, and location is displayed (a feature still on the cutting edge in the enterprise)
  • Mail: Consists of normal mail, packages, and COD packages. The inbox is visited at WoW Postal Service facilities, which has the pleasant effect of isolating the player trying to accomplish objectives from the stream of email since they only check it periodically when they visit town.  Also, since email costs money to send (a few copper pieces), there is practically no spam
  • Emotes: There are over 100 emotes such as /wave, /thank, /cheer, /dance, etc. It is amazing how fluid the use of emotes gets in the real game, such that they do not feel like a conscious effort to be funny, but rather a natural way of expressing oneself in group situations. 

Governance Isn’t Maintenance

April 8, 2008 at 2:59 pm | Posted in Governance, Microsoft SharePoint, portals | 2 Comments

Web governance has been a topic of great interest to me for years now because it’s a topic of great interest to my clients.  This is why we gave governance a starring role in our new Microsoft SharePoint Infrastructure Planning and Governance workshop.

I feel that Microsoft has woken up to the importance of addressing governance when it comes to SharePoint, a piece of infrastructure that is notorious for often being deployed (or evolving) in a wildly ungoverned fashion.  But when I look at the actual guidance being published outside of Burton Group, governance often seems to just mean maintenance.  For example, this CodePlex page on Governance and Manageability is 95% about manageability in my definition.  A site recycle bin? Management.  Splitting larger databases into smaller ones? Management. Arguably some of the other items listed here could assist with a governance effort even if they are not governance themselves.  For example, usage and storage metrics reporting could be used to check against a policy that a division shouldn’t exceed 10GB of storage. 

For many years now I have been putting forth the view that web governance uses people, policy, and process to resolve ambiguity, manage short- and long-range goals, and mitigate conflict within an organization.  Technology only fits into this insofar as it supports a process that is needed to assist with compliance with the Statement of Governance.  The real value of governance is that it helps to pre-decide who wins in arguments before they come to a head (that’s the “mitigate conflict” part of my definition).  Details about how to use the admin console to check for orphaned accounts or apply a template to a series of farms are unlikely to cause frothy arguments and are best left to separate maintenance manuals that can be approved and maintained on a different cycle than the Statement of Governance. 

The reason I get picky about what is governance versus maintenance is that the documents are often created by separate people as part of separate efforts and are on different update cycles.  A governance document may state that it’s important that information on the website be kept fresh, therefore all web pages have to be updated every 180 days.  If it then goes on to describe which tools site administrators should use to run an aging tool or how to set site settings to expire documents then that information is likely to get out of date, be harder to find by admins who don’t want to sort through all the high level stuff, and make the document too onerous for non-techies.  A second reason is that governance documents tend to be lopsided if they are created by techies that like filling it with topics they know a lot about and ignoring high-level, non-technical concerns.  A third reason is that anyone who asserts that they’ve written a statement of governance that just sprinkles a few platitudes about scope, goals, and policy into a detailed manual for maintenance and manageability is going to look foolish when the groups that truly understand governance (enterprise architecture teams or other higher level governance teams that have written higher level guidance) see the results.

(Note: This is a cross-posting from the Collaboration and Content Strategies blog)

Cornering the Corner Office about Information Overload

April 3, 2008 at 9:59 am | Posted in Attention Management, Information Work | 3 Comments

On March 31st the WSJ ran an interview with Gary Masada, the CIO of Chevron, where he described information overload as the biggest challenge he faces (page R6, available here for subscribers only).  When the WSJ asked “What is the biggest challenge that you face as a CIO” he said:

Getting our arms around all the information we have.  We’re basically creating the Library of Congress every day or so, which makes finding a piece of information like finding a needle in a haystack.  Only that haystack is growing exponentially.

I’ve said many times before I think the media tends to focus too much on what individuals in a work environment can do about information overload (set aside time each day for emails, block out focused time, etc; see my personal attention management tips here) and doesn’t challenge the couple of folks in an organization that can really do something to make everyone else’s worklife easier and more productive.  These are the CEO, CIO, and IT owners of attentional technologies.

Well, hurrah for the WSJ that asked Chevron’s CIO “From a technical standpoint, what can you do to make this easier?”  Mr. Masada had a great answer:

Our challenge is to find the right search tools to help people find information.  Then there are some things we can do to make the haystack not grow so much.  We can put in place automatic-delete policies and rules that say if something is an important document you’ll retain it in a certain place and you have to tag it.  Technology can be an enabler that helps people do this.  But in the end an individual will have to do it.

Well, the focus on search is a bit narrow.  I think search is an important enabler, but there are many other parts to the puzzle as well (see my EAM conceptual architecture for a more complete picture).  But the rest are wise words to live by.  Some of the relief lies in helping to filter the information so that the amount of information doesn’t grow out of control.  While many have polarized views of technology’s role in alleviating information overload (either “the answer” or “irrelevant since it’s all cultural factors”), Mr. Masada has found the middle ground.  Good technology, applied properly, can be an enabler that allows changes that individual employees want to make or that are driven by changes in culture of the organization as a whole.  But in the end, it’s all up to people to make the change happen.

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