Home > Uncategorized > Handling unstructured/conversational data

Handling unstructured/conversational data

Where formal processes don’t reach

A lot of attention has been paid to handling formal process/work-flow data. It is usually easy to retrieve data form these systems as well as business intelligence data gathered from corporate ERP/SCM systems. However business intelligence is more than these structural data retrievals, a big part of the intelligence lies in the unstructured on-the-fly conversational data, handling exceptions or areas where formal processes don’t reach. These should be an important part of the Enterprise Information Management strategy.  Emails, documents, DMS, files and file servers are usually the habitat for these type of data.

John Tropea says in Enterprise 2.0 : Harmonising formal processes and ad-hoc work

Another immediate sense-making aspect is dealing with exceptions to processes. Email is our survival tool to not only improvise, but to plain and simply do work. Same goes with MS Word and Excel…then put them together as email and attachments.

James Dellow pins this down:

“Like cockroaches, spreadsheets have continued to thrive despite the growing (perceived) sophistication of modern enterprise information system. They record data, drive barely repeatable processes, they are spread around by email systems and people use them to address problems that other systems fail to solve.”

The unsensible use of emails:

A lot has been said about the unconscious/unsensible use of email as an information bearer/keeper. We all agree that email was not made for and therefore is not a good information bearer/keeper. Still, habitually we continue to use it for that and suffer the consequences. How can we turn the NOT sense-making  use of email as an IM handler to a sense-making one? It is not easy to take people away from using emails, and perhaps that’s not even desirable. However we need to provide a better IM handler for them. It need to be “in-the-flow” like email. In fact, it need to be the email or feels like the email, or make people believe that they are in an email system.

Email still holds its merit as a notifier or as a conversational tool for restricted one-to-one interactions. But for a lot of issue raising/tracking use, we need to guide the data into a different system than a plain email system. In this case we can expect everybody to be more conscious about how and where they deposit their intelligence/information items.

Is it possible to turn the email metaphor of:

“I have a message I need to send or discuss with certain people. I write an email and address it to the people I know about it may concern”


“I have (the start of) an issue here that need to be enlightened/expanded upon by more people than myself. I know about certain people that may have viable input here, but there may also be others I don’t know about that can give valuable input. Nevertheless this thread need to be gathered/developed in one place, and we (me and unknown others) may need to find/refer to this thread of intelligence at a later stage .”

To summarize:

  1. The intelligence need to be developed/expanded upon by certain persons, but also unknown others may have valuable input to give.
  2. The information need to land/reside in one place with a unique reference that contains the (only) current/updated state of intelligence (and history of development)
  3. The gathered intelligence  to be “public” or accessible by anybody that need it. The policy: “Open if not restricted”.  Restricted data resides in restricted spaces.

The sensible solution:

This is the domain/purpose of the E2.0 system that finally will allow us to handle conversational, issue development, emergent data in a sensible way.  It will not reside in an email, it will not reside in a document. This kind og intelligence/information will develop/emerge using wiki style E2.0 collaboration tools and it will reside as Hypertext/Hypermedia (Internet/www type data). Email will be integrated as a notifier and can serve as an input giver. However all data/development will land and appear in one common store with one unique identifier/link.

Here’s an example of how this can work in real life:

Enterprise 1.0

Expert or “the one” focus


Enterprise 2.0

Collective Intelligence

Scenario 1:

  • The Leader ask the “expert” to write a suggested recommendation in a document
  • The Leader and the group comment on the document
Scenario 1:

  • The Leader puts some headlines (scope) out on the collaborative space and invite the group to develop comments/content on each item
  • The content emerges and improves as the group collectively work on the Information Items
  • The Leader observes the development and can direct/correct/adjust accordingly.
Categories: Uncategorized
  1. 2010-06-10 at 00:31

    What a great post, getting to the heart of what I think about.

    I actually did a follow-up post on the scenario you put forth.

    But is a group space to do this the solution.

    More agile is a Google Wave or Activities on Lotus Connections
    – this is ad-hoc is a more activity based way rather than based around a group…and is what the tasks feature in Outlook should be.

    I have a task, I will invite you into my activity…all done via plugins in the Lotus Notes email client.

  2. 2010-06-10 at 09:25

    Spot on, John. You have some great posts (if we can just get the time to get through them). I liked the idea about SMN vs SME which is one of the key values in 2.0 “Wisdom of crowds” (http://bit.ly/dma26d) and collective/emergent intelligence (http://bit.ly/brIl0S).

    But what we were on the cue about here is the (better) use of emails. One thing is the need to take better care of the IM part than email systems does, another is the agile/ad-hoc activity based capabilities you mentioned – even real-time callaboration as in Google Wave.

    Real time capabilities may be alright, but unless you’ve called for a meeting, not everybody may be available. However agile is important, and I think a very important feature is the IM part of it: How can I easily find info and tap into a conversation (not necessarily real time). The granularity of the info items, not just reference the whole blog post, but also chapters of it even paragraphs have their own URIs. I think this is an important feature of a good IM based, mature hypertext based 2.0 system, making real intelligence development possible. Dion Hinchcliffe I think has a very important post in “A Web-Oriented Architecture (WOA) Un-Manifesto” (http://bit.ly/7Dz6yK) where he mentions some priniciples about WOA systems (of which I think any 2.0 system should be based on); “Principle #2: Web resources are maintained in a hyperlinked fabric using hypermedia (content with non-linearly navigable embedded links). In general, URIs should favor granularity and depth in linkage instead of being monolithic”. How much easier (and more right) it would have been for me to just reference that paragraph with its own URI – like this: http://bit.ly/9aF8Bv
    (Also see the blog comments at the end that proves this point)
    As you know mature Hytertext engines like Traction Teampage does this the correct way. It’s not grown from a blog or wiki platform (actually you couldn’t telle the difference if it’s a blog or wiki – it’s both), but based on pure Internet/Hypertext principles like Dion mentions here or Peter O’Kelly’s list of attributes of a good hypertext system.

    What do you think about the importance of such principles as a basis for any 2.0 system that takes IM seriously?

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: