Organizational Transformation – a 10 year contribution

I’ve recently realized that I’m celebrating this year my 10th anniversary of PhD graduation.

My PhD in Management work lays the foundations of a structured view over organizations and their necessary evolution to adapt to a knowledge driven economy.


This knowledge has definitely become the resource for wealth creation but not as expected by most of us. Internet did its job in disrupting the previous conventions (market equilibria, legal boundaries, organizational structures), created a huge knowledge base made of people, content and their relations, and opened new opportunities for some while forcing others to adapt to survive. It’s not obvious to the majority of us, but it’s definitely a very peculiar and exiting moment of the human history.

After my PhD work, I have concentrated on the articulation of “the one and the many”, the foundations of political philosophy as well as the rise of the world wide web and its disruptive nature for organizations and management. It’s only in 2006 that I have initiated public contributions. 

The following are in my opinion the most significant contributions:


- Social Tools

This is the supporting material of a presentation I made at DocForum’s “Savoirs Réseau Partage” in Lyon in 2006. It was my very first attempt to capture what was going on at that time on the social web. It lays the foundation of my professional move from then on as I found myself repeating this presentation quite regularly and until now. In French.


Behind “Enterprise 2.0″ Performance: Exploitation or Exploration?

This is what you end up with when you try to turn anger into something positive in 2007. Having joined Headshift and the stellar Lee Bryant, I got massively frustrated with a potential client. When I read back the text, I found structure and dynamics thanks to repeating that very same sentence to introduce new points. Most importantly, the message remains valid today: organizations have to change to maximise their value creation, social computing is a contribution to their transformation.


The adaptation of organisations to a knowledge economy and the contribution of social computing in 2009

At the time I was at the National Library of Singapore, working with amazing Raju Buddaraju and Mun Kew Leong, and a very new member of the Information and Knowledge Society (IKMS). I was asked to do a public presentation as part of their activity. I decided to address both Social Computing and Knowledge Management as a way to create a bridge between the official center of interest of the Society and mine. In reality, it’s been a tremendous opportunities to articulate my ideas structured during my PhD and the ones coming after. I remember working feverishly two full nights on the presentation and giving the talk the next evening. I was both tired and liberated!


Designing sustainable online systems for knowledge communities today in 2009

This piece has been used to justify my way of doing things at the Library. I used it to convince senior management and create shared values and a methodology in my team. It’s some sort of summary of what I learned during my Headshift years. For me it’s more importantly a reality call. It marks the moment where I stop being under the influence of the ”Community of Practice” mojo and their unrealistic assumptions about life at the office. Yes, People are busy, lazy, self-centered and non-cooperative by nature … and we have to make the best of it! This newfound assumption would prove very beneficial later.


- Enterprise 2.0 Illustrated in 2009

Another piece to educate and convince senior management in a  voluntarily a visual manner of the logic behind Enterprise 2.0. It emphasizes on knowledge socialization (rather than “collaboration”) and displays the mechanisms available for that. I had fun to using Otto Neurath’s Isotypes.


- Type Attack – Crowdsourcing OCR Correction with a Human Computation Game in 2009

Before crowdsourcing got trendy to qualify outsourcing offers of some smart entrepreneurs with an online community, I had fun with a side project. It probably consumed 5 days of work all together on the NLB side, got Legal worried and proved it could work before the more traditional process took place … again. A confirmation that the way one sees the world is a strong opium for all and that influence sense making is where one needs to concentrate too to get things done. This work ultimately led to a research paper presented at the HICSS 44 in Hawaii ;-)


Making Sense of the Open Data Movement for a Knowledge Society in 2010

Working for a Digital Library helped gain a keen interest on metadata, their standards and consequently semantic computing but most importantly open data. I was surprised to discover the brave new world surfacing and enthusiastic about the rich, transverse work behind. This helped me realise the transformational force at work and its potential.


- Collaborative Cultures in 2013

Back in France to work for two great characters, Martine Nicolas and Jean-Philippe Blanpain, I realized that Social Network was so trendy (despite being so absent in corporates) that people were missing most of the point. They were confusing the technology (say Facebook) and what you can effectively do with it (say Facebooking), consequently missing the fundamental shift behind. This encouraged me to deal with a broader picture and offered me with an opportunity to revisit various trends I followed over the last few years. In French.


- Enterprise Social Network & Corporate Transformation in 2014

“What problem is ESN a solution to?” is a straightforward description of this presentation dealing with both strategic and operational levels. It’s a short version to a presentation that proves very powerful inside my organization to engage different levels of staff and management.


- Social Business - The work ahead in 2014

“Enterprise Social Business” goes beyond social media engagement and “digital transformation” programs are not just about rejuvenating the customer relation. It’s smarter, simpler, social as the PostShift crew continues to demonstrate.


Posted in Musings

Enterprise Social Networks: a solution for management, not a problem

No matter the advanced maturing views over the benefits of enterprise social networks in most organisations these days, I still come across people making assertions that they divert employees from work.

My point today is that what they see as a problem is a solution.

A reason why people make such an assertion is that they lack concrete experience of social networks in a professional setting.
They think they know because the media are saturated with info about social media and because they may use them with family and friends. What they don’t quite realise is that social networks at work is a total different ballgame. Enterprise social networks are not technology, they are digital (yet) social environments. The technology is only supporting something that involves communication, processes and culture.
As long as they don’t dare to experiment, i.e. put themselves into a learning mode, i.e. accept they might “fail” because that’s a way of learning, then they can only have an (ungrounded) opinion. This is very true in countries like France where the education system does not seriously encourage the learning by doing.

A more general reason why people may make such an assertion is that it’s grounded in everyday reality: it is pretty common to find people purposely operating well below their capacity, what FW Taylor labels as “soldiering”.
Social networks / social media are today a great way to keep busy while operating below capacity (so was the newspaper!). However, social networks are not the cause for soldiering, but rather the consequence. In fact social networks at work are like water-coolers : social places that one can take advantage of to either get things done informally or laze formally. It’s a personal choice.
This situation creates massive opportunities for productivity and improved profitability, especially in organisations that have already streamlined their major sources of expenses (processes, suppliers, …).

Leaders know that some people purposely operate below their capacity.
They try to curb it by appealing to:

  • Emotions by sharing a vision
  • Ego by publicly forming judgements (from congratulations to admonitions) that shape a reputation
  • Fear by having the possibility to terminate a contract
  • Greed by creating individual incentives

They invented management to objectify the usage of such triggers and delegate their authority as a way to have a firmer impact in large organisations.
They welcomed FW Taylor’s “Scientific Management” as it provided an avenue to objectify the triggers through measurement.

But “Scientific Management” is arduous and costly: it takes expertise (the ability to measure), tools (reporting systems and ratios) and time (processing data).
Scientific Management has a pitfall: one can measure only what’s explicit and in an economy that shifts to knowledge as the currency for wealth creation, explicit becomes scarce and tacit mainstream.
This lead to a situation whereby:

  • Some organisations have used “Scientific Management” not as a method but as a recipe: they copy-pasted the best practices and performance indexes of others (overlooking their very contextual nature).
  • Some people have delivered through reporting systems what management was expecting, not what the reality was.
  • Most people have taken reporting as an information delivery mechanism or a communication event, not as an opportunity to improve via an informed conversation.

The deeper we entered a knowledge-based economy, the smaller the portion of business effectively managed, the more deviant behaviours became the rule, generating social discontent among employees and inefficient organisations.

A downward spiral of efficiecny

“What you can’t measure, you can’t manage”. The very nature of management is broken … and so far there has been no solution to this issue.
That’s where enterprise social networks come to the picture. Social networks fix management.

Yes, social networks empower employees in a way that can frighten management: they can voice organisation-wide, they can build a reputation based on contributions and not status, they can bypass usual channels of communication. But social networks primarily provide transparency by socialising information change: networking, contributing, commenting, updating. By doing so, they make someone’s activity visible. They consequently explicit (re-materialise) someone’s activity. They reduce the need/cost for coordination but most importantly they help monitor activity.
Social networks are the basis. The technology has massively evolved: their features are now stable, they have a full ecosystem emerging around them. Notably two elements require particular attention:

  • They have APIs to integrate with business applications such as ERPs so that they can socialise / explicit larger chunks of employee activity.
  • A whole range of business intelligence applications help monitor firmly and make better sense of individual activity thanks to data analysis (big data).

Information Architecture


Altogether, what we see emerging since last year is a full stack of tools than help management objectify the knowledge-based activity of their employees and possibly anyone who contributes to the organisation’s value chain.


This enables the rebirth of management as a mechanism to 1) objectively evaluate the individual contribution to the collective wealth creation as well as 2) profit sharing with and among employees. The principles stated by FW Taylor remain the bed rock : Management needs both measurement and ethics to fight soldiering.
However, we need to be careful and be sure we have learnt from our past mistakes: a method not a recipe, reporting is to fuel an informed conversation for commonly agreed action.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Misc, Musings

What Was the Question Again?

I’m back blogging after many months of keeping silent, for good and bad reasons.
This week-end, I finally had the opportunity to sit relaxed and rested and think again to what had kept me so busy in real life and so silent in digital life.

That questionning was triggered by two similar and consecutive requests: trainees of the compaby coming to me to identify their topics for their final paper, but more fundamentaly trying to get a sense of their action and see how to position themselves soon on the marketplace. One is interested in recruitment and wants to enquire more about the role of social networks. Another is interested in professional training but is scratching is head on the role of online communities, tablets, and gaming.
To both I gave a simple and similar answer: the digitization of recruitment/training.
My rationale was that instead of opposing classical ways of recruiting or training, it was probably more interesting and future-proof to look into how the Internet and Digital were impacting, complementing, revamping classical practices.
I was illustrating my point with examples of the time I was with the National Library Board in Singapore: service redesign and crowdsourcing of content digitization.

As this blog shows, I’m passionate about Enterprise 2.0 aka Enterprise Social Business as Jeff Dachis and his crew have renamed it.
When you take a step back, Enterprise 2.0 is all about the digitization of the corporation:
- How Internet impacts the way people collaborate – key words being enterprise social networks, empowerment, mobility, nomadism
- How Internet impacts the way corporations engage with their customers – key works being social media, ecommerce, big data, crowdsourcing, last mile, 3D printing
- How Internet impacts the way corporations engage with their partners – key words being extended enterprise
Behind are questions around business models and industrial models.

That’s for the enterprise, but the Internet impacts potentially everything and has a powerful disintermediating effect that shuffles the cards: identity, education, information, justice, democracy, diplomacy, commons, currency, piracy, healthcare, and more. When you look at who’s successful lately – as a country, as a corporation or an entrepreneur, as an employee – most of the time it’s those who have been anticipating the digitization of their world. They have been building competitive advantage attracting talents or training themselves, changing their industrial models and enriching their business models. Those who haven’t, by lack of understanding or comfort with the past, run into troubles or survive with subsidies.

Obviously, it takes more than that to be more successful. Yet, I firmly believe that the way we make sense of the world impacts the way we cope with and thrive in it.
Inquiring into the digitization of our world is a powerful way to make sense out of all the changes that most of us hardly understand, fear and try preventing. Try it and let me know!

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Musings

The revival of Peer to Peer (P2P)

Vendor Relationship Management & Federated Social Web initiatives by Markus Sabadello / @ are useful attempts to push the 2.0 logic further: . They are part of a growing movement that has a strong attention to Identity Management with ethics and personal responsibility in mind. For this purpose, they revive the decentralized / federated approaches made popular by Peer-to-Peer (P2P) before the web 2.0 rise and glory.

P2P was killed by the music & media industry for the wrong reasons: comfort and refuse to reinvent itself. Web 2.0 remained centralised, transforming consumers as authors, but not owners. This opened doors to appropriation of personal data by Corporations, which found here new avenues for making profits.

But this has not closed in no way the gap between Physical & Digital in terms of individual responsibility. Instead, this generated the privacy issue.

So, no matter what was said 10 yrs ago to kill it, see how this revival of P2P is to bring responsibility and ethics on the Digital side of our lives.

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Misc, Musings

Open Data: How change in politics may change the Market of Data

In a previous post I have written that the open data and reform of public service initiatives are creating a market of data. Such a market is like any other market. It is very much influenced by the personal ideological background and agenda of people in command. In the particular case of the market of data, because it is both burgeoning and strongly related to public service information policies, the political decision makers are very influential. So what happens when a new Government / Administration takes command? That is what might happen in the UK in the coming days, so it is an appropriate time to elaborate on and discuss it.
As Lee Bryant wrote, from the government’s perspective there are four main reasons for doing it:

  • Transparency and accountability
  • Empower citizens to drive public service reform
  • Unlocking social and economic value (Taxpayers paid for the data)
  • Help (National) research and technology have a leading role in the next generation Web

Those objectives are very high level and consequently pretty much consensual. Chances are that the open data initiatives continue in the UK, no matter a change in Administration.

That does not mean however that a market of data is proof or resilient to politics.

At this stage, most issues surface at the initiation / adoption stage. What looks desirable in countries with a liberal and democratic tradition may well be a problem in countries with different traditions. Government transparency and accountability is a double-edged sword for governments that have – for good or bad reasons the point isn’t here really – contributed to fabricating a different image of their action and/or society than reality. These people can legitimately fear social if not political unrest after releasing open data, since they potentially open the door for enabling an adjustment between what is said and what it is, by citizens.

So if we look back at the four main reasons, we might classify them by degree of desirability by both liberal and democratic governments and less or non liberal and democratic governments.
Desirability by type of Government

If no termination is foreseeable, changes may however happen at lower levels or on different grounds.

If the objectives are consensual, the practicalities of implementing them are subject to change depending on the personal ideological background and agenda of people in command. To illustrate the point, one may refer to the difference of understanding between Conservatives and Christian Democrats in Europe or between Republicans and Democrats in USA of what is the role of State in relation to a “market”. One can anticipate potentially changes at the following levels or grounds:

  • Transparency and accountability
  • Empowerment of citizens to drive public service reform
  • Unlocking social and economic value
  • Help (National) research and technology have a leading role in the next generation Web
  • Influence of the government on the issue of the Market of Data
  • Change in the locus of decision making

Transparency and accountability

The process of selecting the data make available on open data platforms has been questioned by many. Behind the availability argument, a political agenda has a clear role to play as it is always important for a government to look nice. Shortly after a period of transitions between two parties at government, it is not rare to see new data popping in to justify future policies and undermines the previous team.
A possible consequence of a change in government may therefore be a change in the process of selecting the data made available.

Empower citizens to drive public service reform
What does “empowering” mean? It’s good to have people manipulating data to present different perspectives, but then what? Is there any channel inside the public administration to effectively make an impact? Do we rely on (social) media to relay, broadcast and thus lobby for a change? Appreciation of anticipated effectiveness may vary between different people.
A possible consequence of a change in government may therefore be a change in the feed-back process implemented to effectively reform the public service.

Unlocking social and economic value
The current preference for marginal cost in the UK is and remains a political choice, beyond the demonstration of the authors of the report. Possibility to revert to profit maximizing exists, depending on the understanding of economical value and added value to “added value” and “refined”. A marginal cost policy lowers the barrier of entry to the market, so that the market is made of actors smaller in size and bigger in numbers. Bet is made on increased volume of transactions and long term or indirect returns. A full cost policy keeps the barrier high so that the market is made of fewer yet bigger actors. That is almost the same situation as the one existing before the reform of public service information.
A possible consequence of a change in government may therefore be returning to the previous prevailing situation.
Alternatively, some may want to review the licensing models as a way to impact the commons. The current policies facilitate the accessibility and re-usability of public service information, creating de facto a knowledge commons. Depending on the licensing models that one enforces, possibility exists to create enclosures at the next level, by granting an exclusive right to license to or charge prohibitively others to use and remix. That would be the case by adopting dominant copyright and licensing models, like the one contained the US Millennium Act. A consequence is that innovation would happen at level one, but may potentially be prevented further. The fair use of the Commons is a complex issue that resonates on the digital landscape too.

Help (National) research and technology have a leading role in the next generation Web
Helping research and technology goes beyond advocacy and dataset standards, i.e. what we visibly get right now. It is known that research is siloed, as bridges are missing between public and private labs. The French government for instance was forced to create clusters to address that matter, and despite the induced cooperation remains difficult. How to effectively contribute to national benefit is a difficult topic. Findability and accessibility of datasets, by-products and skills, are significant matters that are poorly addressed at this stage, as I have already said there
Equally important is that initiating countries admittedly sit on a mass of data thanks to amazing development, stable and central governments and early attention to “heritage” preservation. However, digital is borderless – time matters, but not space – so it may well be that “not so national” research and technology entities that take advantage of open data initiatives.
A possible consequence of a change in government may therefore be finding a different equilibrium between those two seemingly contradicting issues.

Influence of the government on the issue of the Market of Data

In the USA, open data have flourished at State level before the Federal Administration embarks and plays a catalyst role. Likewise, the United Kingdom plays an important role of catalyst and example in Europe that usefully supplements the European Commission. The European Commission is effective in passing laws and directives that impact lower level of administration. States are effective in operationalising concretely those laws and directives, hence the importance of the role of the UK. However, States have enough autonomy to implement directives far later, preventing the single market and impeaching the European Commission. The Conservative Party is a long time “eurosceptic” and recently confirmed that with a strong position. Such a change would definitely has the consequence of the United Kingdom ceasing to play a role of catalyst at European level, directly impacting the evolution of the market of data not only in the UK but also on the Continent.

Change in the locus of decision making
There is a possibility that the locus of decision making changes. Currently in the UK, the OPSI is an entity of the National Archives with broad responsibilities. A new government may decide to have it closer. And for that, as France currently demonstrates, there is no particular need to formally change structures. One simply needs to double certain positions by enriching the Premier’s team.

Base of the Market of Data
A significant driver of the market of data is the reform of public service. It is a shared agenda among political parties as broadly understood as way to reduce costs and boost effectiveness. Now, when it comes to reform of public service, different political parties have different understandings. Classically, the Conservatives or Republicans understand “reform of public service” by reduced expenses, i.e. less manpower and budgets, while Christian Democrats, Socialists and Democrats understand it has maintaining manpower but focusing on co-ordination and transaction costs efficiency. How this will affect the Open Data initiatives and thus the Market of Data is a matter of a) costs of the current initiative and 2) the balance between costs and expected gains.
With these elements in mind, a possibility exists that the scope is being changed by:
Transforming public administration bodies into “trading funds” (to use English terminology), as those public, not-for-profit entities are supposed to be financially autonomous. Such a policy may well increase the commons on which the Market of Data is being built.
Pushing into the private sector certain trading funds. Such a policy may well reduce the commons on which the Market of Data is being built as, being fully for profit, some may well re-open the charging policy case by questioning marginal costs in favor of cost recovery or profit maximizing.

Shifting Base of the Market of Data

Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Posted in Misc