Category: Technology & Design

It still comes down to user adoption

Recently our business process management group (OpenText Global 360) released a survey of SharePoint adoption. It’s actually the third in a series and so some very interesting and clear trends have emerged (see the SlideShare presentation below).

It’s worth a look whether you use SharePoint or not, as the results are very similar for other ECM systems.The importance of business process management solutions to add to many of these SharePoint sites is documented (slide 29).

But what caught my eye are the results of the `What are the challenges question – the largest single challenge is user adoption (slide 16; 25% of respondents) closely followed by strategy (16%), and yet 44% of respondents have no training program! It should come as no surprise then that 63% describe the user experience as only `Somewhat adequate – requires in-house redesign` (slide 25). To me that sounds like a technologists response – if users are having trouble, then redesign the interface rather than training them! That said, most respondents describe their systems as being in the early stages of maturation (slide 49), although I suspect they believe that maturity will come with customization not user training or strategy.

ECM veterans will not be surprised by this – it is true of most implementations, irrespective of the underlying software. But one does wonder why we never seem to learn.

Fuzzy Content for Fuzzy People

Suppose you asked someone to classify some objects such as an ashtray, a painting and a sink, as either “furniture” or “home furnishing”. That would seem to be a straightforward task.

If you also asked them whether the same objects belong in a single group comprised of both “furniture and home furnishings,” you would expect that any object that they classified as either one or the other would belong in the combined or parent group. A logical disjunction. Such assignment tasks are very much like those that we require of enterprise content management system (ECM) users to assign metadata about a content (i.e. digital files) they are adding. Such metadata helps subsequent retrieval through searching and browsing, and potentially supporting dependent business processes (e.g. a triggered workflow).

There’s a problem though. Often people will not make the classification you expect. They may place an object in one of the original categories, but not the larger or parent one if it is the only choice they have! There is a tendency for people to delay making a decision if there might be an outcome they don’t know. Apparently this phenomenon has been documented over two decades by psychologists and is referred to as the ‘disjunction effect’.

I learned about this in a New Scientist article posted yesterday (5 September 2011): Quantum minds: Why we think like quarks.  The article describes one of the first observations of the disjunction effect: “In the early 1990s, for example, psychologists Amos Tversky and Eldar Shafir of Princeton University tested the idea in a simple gambling experiment. Players were told they had an even chance of winning $200 or losing $100, and were then asked to choose whether or not to play the same gamble a second time. When told they had won the first gamble (situation A), 69 per cent of the participants chose to play again. If told they had lost (situation B), only 59 per cent wanted to play again. That’s not surprising. But when they were not told the outcome of the first gamble (situation A or B), only 36 per cent wanted to play again.”

Traditionally in ECM we have held that it is difficult to get users to add metadata to describe the content they are adding; in essence that users are lazy. We have not considered that the choices presented to users, and any concurrent information presented, will actually change whether they provide the necessary data, when they provide the data, or indeed the actual values they choose. ECM taxonomies are built on the assumption that users can make logical decisions to correctly describe content. Typically we present mutually exclusive choices, often organized in hierarchical (parent-child) fashion. But as the New Scientist article notes, people employ a kind of quantum logic that allows for something to be a bit of two exclusive alternatives, and for the context of the classification (the measurement in quantum terms) to affect the outcome. As a result their content classifications are fuzzier then we expect or perhaps need.

Content is often described as unstructured information. Metadata schemes are commonly applied to impart a structured framework to manage that unstructured content, but the fuzziness of human logic may make this doomed to failure.

Enterprise Content Architecture – my take on the Metastorm acquisition

I’m particularly excited by today’s announcement acquisition of Metastorm by OpenText, but not perhaps for the same reasons as many others.What excites me is the potential of Metastorm’s strengths in Enterprise Architecture (EA) and Business Process Analysis (BPA). As noted in the release:“Metastorm is a leader in both BPA and EA as recognized by Gartner in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Process Analysis Tools, published February 22, 2010 and the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Architecture Tools, published October 28, 2010.

These capabilities play to both the ‘Enterprise’ and ‘Content’ in Enterprise Content Management (ECM).Organizations depend on a growing proportion of knowledge workers as I discussed in a previous post (Value for Knowledge Workers), but as noted in the McKinsey study I covered (Boosting the productivity of knowledge workers),  most organizations do not understand how to boost the productivity of knowledge workers or indeed the barriers to that productivity. As I noted:

“What struck me in reading the article is that while an increasing proportion of staff in companies are knowledge workers, it is not clear what knowledge work is and how to best enable it to drive productivity gains. Given that, it is hardly surprising that people struggle to define the value of those software tools best able to support knowledge management.”

Content is the currency of knowledge work. It supports the exchange of knowledge during business processes, and is very often the work product of such processes (e.g. a market analysis report, an engineering drawing or a website page). Too often in the past discussion of the value of content has centered on either reducing the unit cost of producing, finding or using content, or mitigating compliance risks created by poor content management.

This is not a new theme for me, indeed last August I expressed my enthusiasm for why Content Matters. I noted:

“It’s no surprise to people that you can understand a business by ‘following the money’ or ‘following the customer’ and that is the basis for ERP and CRM systems. On the other hand most people are only just coming to realize that ‘following the content’ is just as important, so while we’ve talked about content management for many years, that conversation is starting to be important to business.”

The potential to apply Metastorm’s ProVision tool set to elucidate and illustrate the critical role of Content to the achievement of Enterprise Goals is an exciting one which offers new value to our customers.