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What got me involved

Back in 2007 when I was engaged in the Oil & Gas industry on off-shore construction projects, it struck me how current tool set/environment was not optimal (to say the least) for the way we worked. Let me illustrate with 2 examples:

emails flow in

  1. When an engineer left the project, it was a headache. How do we preserve his/her work. How can the one taking over quickly find the history of all issues and cases this previous engineer had been working on. Even though documents and reports were found in our common DMS, still a lot of history and development was buried in his/her email box.  Sometimes we ended up making a copy of this email box available for the new engineer, but it was still a challenge finding the right information. Emails are not good information handlers. I thought: “There must be a better way”.
  2. In Invitation to Tender work and for other main activities/milestones in the project, often a group of people often had to work on the same set of documents. Challenges with locked documents, messy “Track-changes” content and the like made for the conclusions: “This sort of  office productivity tools are not made for collaborative content development”.  There must be a better way.

Then I came across Peter O’Kelly’s post of 2006 and made this extract:  Whatever happened to the Web?.  O’Kelly said:

A funny thing happened on the way to the web. Hypertext, a model for fostering collaboration and content management by flexibly working with information items, essentially took one step forward and two steps back. Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), introduced with the World Wide Web, has become the global standard for hypertext content….

The print-centricity dominating most personal computing platforms and tools has also hampered hypertext during recent decades. Although Vannevar Bush eloquently articulated his vision for a much more effective way of working with and collaborating through content more than 60 years ago, today’s most widely deployed platforms and tools are still dominated by conceptual models based on a foundation of digitized file cabinets and traditional documents.

This is all about to change, as the rapid growth of blogs, wikis, and other market dynamics are helping information workers to more fully exploit the advantages of beyond-the-basics hypertext along with compound and interactive document models……

Hypertext is simply a better form-follows-function fit (than print-centric approaches) for the way people actually think and work. Compound documents facilitate focusing more on information work than on disparate technologies and tools, and foster more effective content management. Interactive document models are used to automatically and unobtrusively offer supplemental resources and actions in context, providing opportunities to more effectively leverage tools and metadata without disruptive context shifts.

Then I read the ideas of pioneers like  Vannevar Bush, Doug Engelbart and Tim Berners-Lee . “This must be the answer”.  Posts like The Ideal Collaborative Workplace and  The collaborative work – the nature of, current status and the ideal and question/answers blogging continued here: Enterprise 2.0 and the collaborative workplace

In the same period I came across this evaluation in Infoworld which, in competion with Confluence and Socialtext stated: “Traction TeamPage clearly placed above the others with its superior ease of use and query ability that presented each user with just the knowledge they need”.  Which was also confirmed by this post by Michael Sampson: Traction TeamPage: The One System to Rule It All. Teampage with its unique information handling abilities has lots of potential.

Better combining the dynamics of people engagement with proper information handling, is the basis for effective collaborative enterprise environments, possible with current technologies. We must grab hold of real business challenges like the one listed at the start of this post and design accordingly. Just mimic consumer social tools designed to entertain directly in the enterprise will not be the right approach.

What do you think – have we come any further in practice solving the issues mentioned at the start of this post and which current technologies do you think most elegantly solves this?

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