Month: January 2014

Marketing strategy versus technology – should be a virtuous circle

Scott Brinker has another must-read post. I excerpt parts of his post below so I can expand on it a bit but you should read his full post along with the comments.

In his post Scott explains he is responding to statements made in a podcast by Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose. After linking to the podcast and agreeing with much of what they say Scott makes three points:

  1. “Marketing technology is not just about efficiency — it’s about experiences.
  2. The relationship between strategy and technology is circular, not linear.
  3. Marketers cannot abdicate their responsibility to understand technology.”

and mentions the one quote he really disagrees with (emphasis is Scott’s):

“Figure out your process first. And then get aligned with your internal IT guys to figure out what it is you exactly need to facilitate. Because that’s the only thing that technology will ever, ever do. The only thing technology will ever do is facilitate a process that you have more efficiently. That’s all it’s ever going to do.”

That is a pretty strong recommendation for option A in Scott’s illustration below.

strategy technology circular

Scott Brinker – strategy and technology are circular

I want to make three points:

  • The fact that the relationship between technology and strategy is circular – that they have to inform, influence, and advance with each other – is true of all enterprise applications and for all functions and has always been true.
  • If you replace “technology” with “data” or “big data” or “analytics” the points that Scott makes are equally valid. (For a different take on this see Big data and decision making: data vs intuition.)
  • Technology is not just a set of product features. The features are possible because of creative combinations of underlying software concepts, programming languages, data structures, and architectures. Without some understanding of the underlying fundamentals it is natural to think product features define software capabilities and thus to limit insight into strategy possibilities. Marketers (or other professionals) with little to no technical background can compare feature sets and build strategies that match, or build strategies and look for the set of already existing product features to match. Each of these illustrate what we might call the bad kind of circularity (as we mean when we call an argument circular) and they handicap innovation. The good kind of circularity is a strategy/technology dialog of what ifs, informed by what might be possible, not by what is already known.

It is both natural and common for consultants to overemphasize option A, because way too often option B is overemphasized at the expense of option A by both their customers and technology vendors. Good consultants spend a lot of time and effort helping customers overcome an under-appreciation or political deprecation of the importance of strategy. But all of us need to be careful not to suggest either linear false choice.

Enterprise Search Europe special discount

enterprise search europeLast May I was delighted to participate in Enterprise Search Europe in London. There I found a committed contingent from companies seeking search solutions, entrepreneurs, and search technology integrators. They were there to share common enterprise experiences with search technologies and implementation issues. Usability, specialized business use cases and leveraging search results in business intelligence were the three areas I found most engaging. Missing from the audience was a group that belongs at this meeting: content managers. Among them should be expert taxonomists, metadata specialists, and information architects responsible for the many repositories that go into quality enterprise search deployments. Take advantage of the opportunity to pick up the great expertise that you will have access to at this meeting. I am happy to extend a 20% discount code to the meeting, so please consider using it. Apply MOULTON20 in the priority code field at online registration, which you can find at the conference site: http://www.enterprisesearcheurope.com/2014/ .

Findability Issues Impact Everything Work Related

This should have been the last post of 2013 but you know how the holidays and weather (snow removal) get in the way of real work. However, throughout the month of December emails and messages, meetings, and reading peppered me with reminders that search surrounds everything we do. In my modest enterprise, findability issues occupy a major portion of my day and probably yours, too.

Deciding how important search is for workers in any enterprise is easy to determine if we think about how so many of us go about our daily work routines:

  • Receiving and sending emails, text messages, voice mail,
  • Documenting and disseminating work results,
  • Attending meetings where we listen, contribute, view presentations and take notes,
  • Researching and studying new topics or legacy content to begin or execute a project

As content accrues, information of value that will be needed for future work activities, finding mechanisms come into play, or should. That is why I probably expend 50% of my day consuming content, determining relevance and importance, deciding where and how it needs to be preserved, and clearing out debris. The other 50% of the time is devoted to retrieving, digesting and creating new content, new formulations of found material. The most common outputs are the result of:

  • Evaluation of professionals who would be candidates for speaking at programs I help organize,
  • Studying for an understanding of client needs, challenges and work environments,
  • Evaluation of technology solutions and tools for clients and my own enterprise,
  • Responding to inquiries for information, introductions, how-to solve a problem, opinions about products, people or processes,
  • Preparing deliverables to clients related to projects

Without the means and methods of my finding systems, those used by my clients, and those in the public domain, no work would get done. It is just that simple.

So, what came at me in December that made the cut of information to be made findable? A lot, but here are just three examples.

Commentary on metadata and taxonomy governance was a major topic in one session I moderated at the Gilbane Conference in Boston, Dec. 3-4, 2014. All of the panelists shared terrific observations about how and why governance of metadata and taxonomies is enterprise-critical; from one came this post-conference blog post. It, Taxonomy Governance, was written by Heather Hedden, author of The Accidental Taxonomist and a frequent speaker on taxonomy topics. The point here: when you engage in any work activity to consistently organize and manage the professional content in your possession, you are governing that material for findability. Anything that improves the process in the enterprise, is going to be a findability plus, just as it is for your own content.

Also in December, the Boston KM Forum hosted Allan Lewis, an “informaticist” at Lahey Health in Massachusetts; he is responsible for an initiative that will support healthcare professionals’ sharing of information via social business software tools. As a healthcare informatics professional, working with electronic clinical data sets to better codify diagnostic information, Allan is engaging in an enterprise-wide project. It is based on the need for a common view of medical conditions, how to diagnose them, and assign accurate classification to ensure the best records. Here is an issue where the quality of governing rules will be reached through consensus among medical experts. Again, findability is a major goal of this effort for everyone in a system, from the clinicians who need to retrieve information to the business units who must track cases and outcomes for accountability.

Last, from among the hundreds of information resources crossing my desk last month came one, a “Thank you for donating to the Wikimedia Foundation. You are wonderful!” You might ask why this did not simply get filed away for my tax return preparation; it almost did but read on.

Throughout the year I have been involved in numerous projects that rely on my ability to find definitions or explanations of hundreds of topics outside my areas of expertise. Sometimes I use known resources, such as government agency web sites that specialize in a field, or those of professional associations and publications with content by experts in a domain. I depend on finding tools at those sites to get what I am looking for. You can be certain that I know which ones have quality findability and those with difficult to use search functions.

When all else fails, my Google search is usually formatted as “define: xxx yyy” to include a phrase or name I seek to better understand. A simple term or acronym will usually net a glossary definition but for more complex topics Wikipedia is the most prominent resource showing up in results. Sometimes it is just a “stub” with notations that the entry needs updating, but more often it is very complete with scores of links and citations to help further my research. During one period when I had been beating a path to its site on a frequent basis, a banner requesting a donation appeared and persisted. As a professional benefiting from its work, I contributed a very modest sum. When the thank you came, I found the entire correspondence compelling enough to share parts of it with my readers. The last paragraph is one I hope you will read because you are interested in “search” and probably have the knowledge to contribute content that others might search for. Contributions of money and your knowledge are both important.

It’s easy to ignore our fundraising banners, and I’m really glad you didn’t. This is how Wikipedia pays its bills — people like you giving us money, so we can keep the site freely available for everyone around the world.

People tell me they donate to Wikipedia because they find it useful, and they trust it because even though it’s not perfect, they know it’s written for them. Wikipedia isn’t meant to advance somebody’s PR agenda or push a particular ideology, or to persuade you to believe something that’s not true. …

You should know: your donation isn’t just covering your own costs. The average donor is paying for his or her own use of Wikipedia, plus the costs of hundreds of other people. …

Most people don’t know Wikipedia’s run by a non-profit. Please consider sharing this e-mail with a few of your friends to encourage them to donate too. And if you’re interested, you should try adding some new information to Wikipedia. If you see a typo or other small mistake, please fix it, and if you find something missing, please add it. There are resources here that can help you get started. Don’t worry about making a mistake: that’s normal when people first start editing and if it happens, other Wikipedians will be happy to fix it for you.

So, this is my opening for 2014, a reflection on what it means to be able to find what we need to do our work and keep it all straight. The plug for Wikipedia is not a shameless endorsement for any personal gain, just an acknowledgement that I respect and have benefitted from the collaborative spirit under which it operates. I am thanking them by sharing my experience with you.

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