Full time at the Pool

Learning Pool

2010 sees the start of a new adventure for me, as I leave the world of freelancing behind and start full time with Learning Pool – who I have been working for on a part time basis for the last six months of 2009.

I’m delighted for a number of reasons. One is the opportunity to help an established company move in new directions – more on that in a bit. Being part of something bigger is also going to really make a difference to the way I work – I’m going to have the backing of a big team of people: developers, designers, a customer support team, people who can actually manage projects properly. Anyone that knows me will appreciate what a positive thing this is!

The other key thing that Learning Pool offered me was a great working relationship with a huge number of local authorities in the UK who already have a Learning Pool product or service. My background and interest has always been more in local government and I am really excited to getting to grips with the issues facing the sector and coming up with some interesting solutions.

In terms of what it is that I am actually going to be doing, well, it’s going to pretty much be an extension of what I have been working on for the last 18 months; and indeed what I have been writing about for longer than that. Learning Pool has a great reputation at providing collaborative and social learning technology and I think there is more to be done to help councils, and other public sector organisations to become true learning organisations.

This means making use of technology like eLearning, but also the wider use of web 2.0 within the organisation – stuff like I mentioned here. There’s a lot in this, I think, mixing up culture change with innovation and knowledge management. I’m developing a model which tries to put it into some kind of context for public services, identifying:

  • Drivers: efficiency and improvement
  • Enablers: innovation and collaboration
  • Domains: culture and technology

The drivers explain what the high level thing is that needs to be achieved: in other words, doing better with less. The enablers are the things that will help this happen: a proper way of encouraging and managing innovation in the organisation, and to encourage and adopt more collaborative behaviour. The domains are where this stuff happens: getting tech that works is important, but more so is culture – both of these things must be right to ensure those enablers happen effectively.

So this isn’t (just) about tools. I’m as interested in how you can get organisations working collaboratively and innovatively as much as I am in deploying wikis or installing WordPress. In fact, I’m most interested in combining the two – here’s the tools, and here’s how to get people using them. Or, to try and put it yet another way: blogs and wikis and all that stuff is very nice, but what does it mean to a service manager?

Anyway, there is plenty more thinking to be done. I’ll still be blogging it all here at DavePress the blog, even if DavePress the business is no longer around. If you want to chat about any of this stuff and how I, and Learning Pool, can help – you know where I am.

Is government a knowledge business?

Enterprise 2.0 is a label Andrew McAfee coined to describe the use of collaborative tools within large organisations, focused on the benefits this offers to non-technical managers rather than technology-for-technology’s sake enthusiasts. In other words: blog, wikis, forums, and social networks are nice, but what does it mean for a service manager? As always Wikipedia is your friend.

McAfee’s book, helpfully titled Enterprise 2.0, is a great read. I’m halfway through it myself.

This ties into what will be a key theme for me in 2010 – that the interesting bits around social software is not the software but the implications of it: sharing, openness, transparency, collaboration, co-creation.

Dennis Howlett posted a while back that enterprise 2.0 is a crock:

Like it or not, large enterprises – the big name brands – have to work in structures and hierarchies that most E2.0 mavens ridicule but can’t come up with alternatives that make any sort of corporate sense. Therein lies the Big Lie. Enterprise 2.0 pre-supposes that you can upend hierarchies for the benefit of all. Yet none of that thinking has a credible use case you can generalize back to business types – except: knowledge based businesses such as legal, accounting, architects etc. Even then – where are the use cases? I’d like to know. In the meantime, don’t be surprised by the ‘fail’ lists that Mike Krigsman will undoubtedly trot out – that’s easy.

It’s an interesting point Howlett makes, that greater collaboration and knowledge sharing through social technology works well in ‘knowledge based businesses’ but that the business case is harder to make otherwise.

How does this fit with government and public services? It’s a complicated one because there are clear examples of where greater collaboration and information sharing would have benefits, but also there are services provided by government which have to follow strict procedure, and to circumvent that would lead to disaster.

I see a clear opportunity to blend technology to produce systems that produce real value to staff working in public services: the intranet, eLearning, collaboration tools like Huddle, communication platforms such as Yammer and more traditional forums, knowledge sharing systems such as wikis. Carl hints at this in his recent post:

the intranet is now just part of what many people are referring to as Enterprise 2.0

The focus on the use of interactive web technology has been on external citizen engagement up til now. But many of the real wins might be behind the firewall.

Is there a conversation already going on about this? If not, let’s start one. I’m tagging this post – and any other relevant ones here on DavePress – as entgov. Feel free to do the same, or if someone comes up with something better, let’s use that.

Update: John Suffolk, UK government CIO, has posted this:

So if the customer/citizen becomes the CIO what does the CIO become… time for a new TLA; How about CCO, the Chief Collaboration Officer? In our world of ever decreasing time to launch our products and services and our increasing reliance on global supply chains and a multi supplier (IT and business service) world, increasingly our roles demand substantial collaboration to get the job done.

Importance of mobile

Mobile platforms are going to be ever-increasingly important to government, not least in terms of communicating and consulting with citizens – especially in terms of engaging with the disadvantaged who are more likely to have a mobile phone than a web-connected computer.

But there is another side of this too, which is the role that mobile will play within organisations. As Oliver Marks writes on his Collaboration 2.0 blog:

The danger in this recessionary era is ironically choice: many employees have to resort to their personal mobile phones and unofficial (and often illegal) use of web ‘Software as a Service’ applications, storing sensitive company data outside the company, simply in order to get their job done. The challenges of putting together workflows which leverage the power of the new technologies is far more about motivating people to use processes mapped to appropriate technologies than the actual technology tools.

We are in a period of unprecedented change, while also fighting our way out of a deep financial markets induced recession. Companies who focus on leveraging their most precious asset – their people – and empowering them with the workflow, guidance and tools to innovate and work perceptively and productively will emerge as a more sophisticated next business generation. Those who don’t are likely to choke to death on costly fragmentation and lack of focus.

In other words, if organisations don’t embrace new ways of working and empower staff to use new technologies to work together better, the ever increasing sophistication of mobile platforms will mean staff can get on with in themselves. Not only will this mean organisations won’t make the most of this opportunity, there will be risks created by staff doing their own thing.

City of Angeles moves to Google Apps

Interesting!

Google Apps will also help conserve resources in the city’s Information & Technology Agency (ITA), which is responsible for researching, testing & implementing new technologies in ways that make Los Angeles a better place to live, work and play. Because the email and other applications are hosted and maintained by Google, ITA employees who previously were responsible for maintaining our email system can be freed up to work on projects that are central to making the city run.

By ITA estimates, Google Apps will save the city of Los Angeles millions of dollars by allowing us to shift resources currently dedicated to email to other purposes. For example, moving to Google will free up nearly 100 servers that were used for our existing email system, which will lower our electricity bills by almost $750,000 over five years. In short, this decision helps us to get the most out of the city’s IT budget.

The decision to move to Google Apps was not taken lightly. The city issued a request for proposals and received 15 proposals, which were evaluated by city officials. The top four proposals were invited to give oral presentations, with CSC’s proposal for Google Apps receiving the highest marks. This decision was reviewed and discussed by the Los Angeles City Council which, after a healthy debate, voted unanimously to move forward with Google Apps.

Here’s a video for more: