Web 2.0 tools to improve information readiness

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Today, many opinions converge to admit two things :

• companies need to be more and and more reactive in order to run their traditionnal activities in a more and more complexe context, where foreseeability is very uncertain and where sharp competences and complex competences assembling are needed in a short range of time. Something like “special forces forces for special taks”, running in parallel with traditionnal activities which are companies common background operations.

• in order to match this need, adequate expertises and competences are needed.

We have no choice but to admit that high levels of performance are reached in legay and “institutionnalized” activities and the money that has been invested to improve many business processes often provided a ROI. Competencewise, we also have to admit they are really present within organizations. But, for what’s about building efficient adhoc self-organized teams, even if the need is identified it gets harder and harder to be successfull since more and more situations requires this way of doing things.

One reason is that what we call intellectual capital, if present, is not easily accessible and its owners can barely be identified. To improve things, experience and knowledge should be “findable” and “findability” can only come from putting it all in words because it’s (and will remain for years) the more efficient way of indexing and finding datas in an online network, the so-called online network being the only commons space shared by all employees in scattered companies. So people would be able to search the experience and, if they can’t find what they’re looking for, identify referent people they could contact and ask.

All this is nothing more than a matter of information and readiness.

On the information side, it’s about harnessing “soft knowledge”, not what’s strutured, validated and is a part of the corporate corpus, but all the micro-knowledges available in mailboxes, personal memos, and above all in people’s brains.

It implies to officialize a new source of knowledge (people) a new way to harness it that would be more like storytelling.

Some may say that if it was possible it would habe been done for a long time. But it needs appropriate tools and that’s where web 2.0 tools bring something really new. By their very nature they can harness and make all these unstructured knowledge available, ready to be used, where usual knowledge sharing tools reach their limits because they need a structuration that does not apply to this kind of knowledge and, as a consequence, are very time consuming for poor results.

Whenever all these issues are taken into account, the common weakness of many approaches is lack of information readiness, due to a lack of appropriate tools.

Let’s consider a sales team for instance. A CRM allows to answer some questions like : who ? how much ? when ? Sales methodology allow to answer (even partially) to “how”. and what about qualitative informations (arguments, context….) ? They are key to understand what happens during the sale cycle but are not available nor ready to be (re)used except by asking directly to sales people. In this case, information is given orally or by email which make it impossible for anyone facing the same situation, working on the same account to access it, so the person will have to ask again the same question, provided he found the right person to ask it to.  And when the time come to gather and organize sales best practices, better  look for a needle in a haystack
The same reasonning can apply to innovation. Companies are full of ideas. But making them identifiable et make things in order to they can be transformed into projects is another story.

In brief, without improving information readiness which is both about harnessing and availability, the biggest part of the intelectual capital is useless because not usable.

You may find this nice but need a value-oriented reasonning.

Assuming that intangible assets play their part in value creation even if lots of people don’t know how and why, after having read that, remember that intangible assets’ impact on value creation deponds on :

• alignement ; of course competences, knowledge, ideas are needed, but they have to be alignent with company’s concerns and purposes. It’s a corporate issue, for managers and HR people.

• the use of these assets in usual business processed. For instance, ideas are useless without a process in order to identify them and turn them into real projects. In other words, intangible assets are valueless if businesses don’t know how and when to use them.

• information readiness that makes the previous point possible. If there’s a business issue and is intellectual capital makes it possible to respond to it, information readiness will determine to what extent this capital is usable. With structuring top-dow tools, this might be around 20% which is far from being satisfying in a knowledge economy. To improve this rate, adequate tools and processes are needed. 100% is unreachable, but a 40 or 50%  readiness rate must be a seducing target for many businesses.

Web 2.0 tools as readiness boosters ? I really believe in that, especially since the impact on finance is obvious.