Sometime ago, Dina Mehta and I had met a large Indian company who wanted to make their Intranet more effective, and making the various teams more productive. These notes, made by Dina, capture what would be the ideal information workspace:
We asked the question – what is the dream system you desire – and that was really interesting. What it revealed is the need is not as much for a Content Management System as much as it is for a system that allows them to dialogue and converse effortlessly and seamlessly, brainstorm on ideas and projects, in a manner that is as ‘face-to-face’ as possible. Here’s the gist of what an employee told us :
I know X is not here in my office (in Mumbai) but in another city. I want to be able to talk to her, as if she’s in the same room as me. I want to be able to feel all the nuances in talking with her – its got to be touchy-feely and not a cold email or a phone call where I know the time ticking away means my bottomline suffers.
Underlying what this employee told us is her desire for flow. Easy, hassle-free, inexpensive flow. Flow that allows a dialogue as if the other person is right there with her.
One of the key requirements – really a very simple one to have, but something so sorely left out in the current system, is a presence indicator. Much like in current IM systems – telling us who’s available, who’s logged in and therefore present in the office, who I can ping for a query, and ensuring that a response is received. In the case of his organisation, currently, they’d send an email, wait for a response, followed by more emails as reminders, and finally in sheer frustration, pick up the phone and make a call – which can be expensive if outstation (as is the case very often in their line of business) and does not always ensure that they will get a response – what if the person is away from the office?
Tied into this requirement for presence indicators is the need for ‘real-time’ ‘live’ communication. This is where voice applications, small cam shows, conferencing facilities would be useful. Skype with its conferencing facilities has really shown its possible to do this with terrific quality. Combine this with some of the ‘soft profiles’ that make a person far more approachable than just another colleague, like those on Ryze or Orkut.
And finally the need for collaboration spaces – where one can play around with Wikis and Blogs. Not having to rely on a whole host of asynchronous emails – or bothering to archive them systematically – these tools can do that automatically for you. And more food for thought pinging its way in through RSS in Newsreaders.
Picture this scenario – you have a project on and are racking your brains about how to approach it – you check your presence indicator – see who’s available – ping them with a request for conferencing – hitch up the webcam, enable voice – and bingo – in minutes you have a virtual team ! Record the conversation, take notes on the wiki, synthesize it in a team blog which has comments enabled, feed in current thinking on the topic from your newsaggregator, and you have real flow. And, ridiculously easy group-forming to borrow a wonderful phrase from Clay Shirky.
We arent there yet, but getting close. A combination of new technologies are coming together to make it easier for us to work together in groups be it in the workpace or among friends and family.
Tomorrow: India Action: Create Contentrix
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