Web 2.0 is fueled by user generated content (UGC) ans, logically, it should be the same within companies. It’s obvious : when connecting people to information and connectiing people through information is a driving principle, it’s easy to undersand that the existence of a published and shared information is the key to the new form of interactions companies want to make emerge.
Here’s for the “expert” side. Because, on the enterprise side things are not that simple. I’m not talking about creating and using contents, I’ talking about the concept of content itself.
It’s said that employees generate lots of contents. That’s true. That they will generate more and more contents. That’s true too. That they must be encouraged to generate and share even more contents. Why not. That companies have to imagine all this amount of information to understand how it’s important to switch to cloude computing. Certainly but..
Contents are like discussions : they are words companies may not understand and that may worry many managers.
It’s a misunderstanding that has to be vanished because the substance remains true. Two apects have to be taken into consideration : formulation and organization.
Let’s put ourselves one second in a manager’s shoes. Everyday he’s asked to do the impossible, he feels light fighting against a non-reactive machine and employees that are overwhelmed by work. Imagine what he may think when someone tells him about the “incredible chance that all the contents his staff will generate represents”. He will answer that his staff is not here to generate and spread contents but to work. If the example of internet is used to convince him, he will have the impression that his department will be turned into a leisure center. That’s one of the examples that show that web 2.0 logics have to be translated when it comes to import them into the enterprise.
Contents first. This notion means nothing for companies. They can understand it in a top-down mode (communication dept. produces contents…) but they can’t when the producer is the employee. Employees don’t produce contents but information. Information is business connoted, contents sounds more like having YouTube inside the firewall.
Content and information. Must we come to the conclusion that contents and information are the same things ? Not at all. An information is something that meets a given need atÂ a given moment for a given person. Context is key. On the contrary, enterprises use to think that what does not meat thoses criterias is useless and that its generation is wasted time. That’s when contents look like those we know on web 2.0 : generated, shared, but without knowing who will use them and for which purposes. Neither when. When it’s impossible to predict who will use something, when and what for, enterprises often state this somthing is useless.
If contents that have the same characteristics as information don’t make problem, it’s important to be aware of the others. So the point is to know in which measure they can become information and, consequently, be considered as useful and productive by enterprises.
From contents to information. The idea according to which something that doesn’t meet a need at a given moment for a given person may not be totally useless is more and more admitted. Such things may be used later by someone the “producer” don’t know, for a problem that has not been identified yet etc… We all know the consequences of not taking this into consideration : reiventing the wheel, losing time while what one needs exists but is not accessible. Content generation being an “unique” act while the need it meets can repeat many times, avoiding what is considered as a waste of time a fortiori causes many wastes of time a posteri.
The equation is simple : it’s about making it possible for every content to become information, that’s to say to find a need. If not the “Employee Generated Content” won’t create any value. It will be a huge information capital, a pool of value but an unexploited pool. So it will be useless.
A matter of attitude and middleware. It may seem obvious but it implies that some determined contents (best practices, solutions…) are generated and shared (in the current state of the art, we can explore information systems but not people’s brain). It also implies that the systems hosting all these contents are used. A collection of best practices that no-one consult has no value. So this reflex has to be acquired, in order to gather needs and solutions at the same place.
Then comes the middleware question. It’s both about people and software. Software first. Some times ago I explained this by talking about marketplaces and pipes delivering the right information to to right people in push mode. John Chambers recently said that the future is not about people searching for information but about information that finds people. Now tools exist that perfectly match this kind of needs, from publishing tool to RSS feeds and semantic search engines. But it will be about people to because bad habits won’t disappear easily. Change may be mde easir by social networks that connect people not because they declare being friend or contacts but because they share the same concerns.
The power of employee generated conted is not enough to convince companies. They also want to know the mechanism that will turn contents into information in order to understand EGC is not bringing either facebook or facebook inside the firewall but using people’s knowledge to improve business performance. Both contents, tools and good practices are needed.
PS : I deliberately chosed not to mention the hypothesis of managers preventing their staff from creating and sharing contents because it may generate value elsewhere in the organization and may be seen as misappropriation of resources. It’s about indicators and evaluation and I already wrote about that earlier. And I will go deeper into that in the upcoming weeks.