Tuesday, January 26, 2010

milSuite: The Military Social Media Solution

This is a cross-post from my blog on the military Social Media tool milBook.

There was a press release on milSuite by the Program Executive Office Command, Control, and Communications (PEO C3T) on 29 December 2009. This post will provide a brief overview of the system, based on that press release.

milSuite enables military personnel (to include civilians and contractors) share ideas in online spaces set behind its firewalled network. “The milSuite application allows the professional ‘DOD’ community to share information amongst themselves that is only intended for the internal community,” said Justin Filler, deputy director of the MilTech Solutions Office, an Army organization.

It is composed of three components: milBook, milWiki, and milBlog. These applications are opening up safer avenues of communications among personnel. Previously, the department lacked a medium for employees to share official and sometimes sensitive information in a Social Networking context. “These technologies help those working on similar projects across ‘DoD’ to connect, share information, incubate new ideas, and help build the ‘DoD's’ body of knowledge and expertise, while generating organizational learning,” said Todd Miller, an Army contractor.

MilBook, which has reached 18,000 users since its inception in October 2009 is basically a military version of Facebook, and is based on the Jive Social Business Software (SBS) platform. MilBook provides several options for users who wish to share information with specific individuals. By creating discussion threads, they can exchange ideas among specific, self-created groups on topics such as Army policies. The information can either be restricted to that user or shared with the entire milBook community, Filler said. Regardless, it will always remain behind the firewall. "People across the DoD can find professional working groups on various programs and efforts and join within seconds,” Miller said. “MilBook not only connects people, it connects those people to military topics so that ideas and information are shared across the Armed Services." Presently, many of these discussions are held in e-mails, chats, wikis and blogs. However, milBook is the only tool in the department which can group these together. “Milbook fills that void that the ‘DOD-at-large’ doesn’t have,” Filler said. MilBook is also an effective tool for locating Soldiers who might have switched headquarters due to reassignment or for personnel who wish to obtain the knowledge of a subject matter expert.

Since its inception more than a year ago, the Army’s wiki or milWiki has surpassed more than 40,000 users, 10,000 pages, and 4,900 individual articles and is on target as a pilot effort to become a centralized point for updating Army field manual doctrine.  In June, the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center (CAC), at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., launched a test that allowed Soldiers and leaders to make real-time updates to the Army’s tactics, techniques and procedures (ATTP) via milWiki, which uses the MediaWiki platform.

“The purpose of the portal is to incorporate insights and lessons-learned from Soldiers and officers, based upon recent experiences in theater; but the goal is to ensure tactics, techniques and procedures remain relevant,” said Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army, during his final remarks at the LandWarNet Conference held in August in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “A Soldier redeployed from Afghanistan, for example, could access the ATTP for site exploitation operations, make changes and add new material based on firsthand experiences in the country.” With the CAC effort, wikis could virtually turn the three-to-five-year process for staffing and updating field manuals into real time, where knowledge can be shared as soon as it is entered, according to CAC officials. By using these wikis, any individual with access to the manual can immediately update each of its sections. Seven field manuals were updated during the inception. Eventually, as many as 250 manuals will be available for comment, according to CAC officials.

The third portion of milSuite, known as milBlog, allows users to share news, photos, ideas and insight in real-time, with the capability to comment on one another’s feedback. This in in addition to the blogging capability in milBook.

MilSuite is assigned to the MilTech Solutions Office, a government organization of the Army’s Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T) working in partnership with Product Manager, Acquisition Business.

There has already been some articles in the press on milSuite based on this press release. Here is a quick rundown of some of the articles:

Federal Computer Week

Technology and Science on msnbc.com



Take a look! I welcome your comments and questions.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Social Media and Collaboration in Haiti Earthquake Relief Effort

This is a cross-post from my blog on the military Social Media tool milBook.

 On January 12, 2010 a powerful earthquake shook the country of Haiti. The earthquake had a preliminary magnitude of 7.0 and was centered about 10 miles west from the Caribbean nation's capital of Port-au-Prince, the USGS said. It had a depth of 5 miles. The death and devastation of this impoverished land has been heartbreaking to watch.

I have heard many stories of how Social Media and online collaboration have been vital to the efforts to bring relief to the victims of this disaster. I wanted to connect my other posts on the different aspects of knowledge management and collaboration to a real world situation where they have been used successfully to save lives and relieve suffering.

As I researched this, I found this article on mashable.com (the Social Media guide) that covers the 5 Social Media lessons from the Haiti Earthquake relief effort. They prominently mention the Red Cross fundraising effort using texting and Social Media to raise over $20 million for quake victims. Here are the five lessons (by Geoff Livingston):

1. Haiti Represents the Maturation of Mobile Giving
2. Online Participants Did More Than Just Give Money
3. Integration of Social with Traditional Media
4. The Story Was Emotional, but Not Fully Told
5. Immediacy and Impact Are Not the Same

There are all kinds of anecdotal evidence of Social Media use surrounding this event, but here are some numbers. This short overview by MarketingProfs shows the volume of Social Media use for the first few days after the earthquake. The Facebook group Earthquake Haiti has nearly 300,000 members, and the group Support the Victims of the Earthquake in Haiti has over 130,000 members (as of this writing).

There are many blog posts on this topic. Here is one that covers how CNN is relying on Social Media to supplement its traditional reporting and news gathering. Blogger Christian Borges wrote a post on what it was like using Social Media to get news of his loved ones in Haiti. This article in the Miami Herald also shows how Social Media has played an important role in connecting people after the earthquake.

Even Google Wave is being utilized to coordinate the relief effort. Despite the fact that it is still just a Pre-Beta system, it has been proven effective in enhancing communication. Michael Kutch and FedWave have been setting up multiple waves to support the heroes in Haiti. Michael has worked tirelessly to promote Wave as a mechanism to improve organizational effectiveness across the Federal government. Awesome job Michael!

While these stories are focused on online collaboration during these initial days of the relief effort, the challenge going forward will be using Social Media to remain connected with the people of Haiti during the long and difficult process of rebuilding their country.

I welcome your comments. Let us keep the people of Haiti in our thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

SharePoint Overview

This is a cross-post from my blog on the military Social Media tool milBook.

In this post I will provide a very brief overview of a major online collaboration system, Microsoft SharePoint, and in particular Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS 07) which is in widespread use particularly in the Army.

As usual, I gathered up many definitions for SharePoint, and then used them to derive my own:

Microsoft SharePoint is a product that connects information with people in each level of the organization. Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) is the full version of this
portal-based platform for collaboratively creating, managing and sharing documents and Web services. MOSS enables users to create "Sharepoint Portals" that include shared workspaces, applications, blogs, wikis and other documents accessible through a Web browser. Users can manipulate proprietary controls called "web parts" or interact with pieces of content such as lists and document libraries.

There are a multitude of sites, blogs, and other online resources for all things SharePoint. I found that this site on SearchWinIT.com had a good brief overview of the system:

MOSS is used by many enterprises as a content management system (CMS). Partially as a result of the tight integration with Microsoft productivity applications included in Office, such as Word, many administrators have found MOSS useful in organizing and aggregating an enterprise's data into Web-based portal with defined taxonomies that structure the information. MOSS includes additional features as an inducement for system administrators to upgrade from WSS, including knowledge management, organization of business processes and enterprise search. Both versions include support for many Web 2.0 technologies and third-party Web browsers like Firefox.
Fundamentally, MOSS provides an integrated platform for building customized Web-based applications and portals in Windows Server environments. To address the needs of remote workers and telecommuters, as well as system administrator concerns for data security, MOSS can be configured to return separate content depending on whether access is gained from intranet, extranet or Internet locations. Active Directory groups or HTML forms authentication can also be added to MOSS, granting multiple permissions to multiple parties or through alternate providers.
Users log on to Web portals to edit and create shared documents. These "SharePoint portals" are ASP.NET applications that are hosted on a server and use a SQL Server database. MOSS provides Web browser-based management and administration tools that allow users to create and edit a document or document library independently. Collaborative editing of this kind is aided by integrated access and revision controls, allowing administrators to freeze certain documents or restrict user privileges where required. MOSS also uses embeddable widgets in shared Web pages to add additional functionality. Widgets include:
  • shared workspaces and personal dashboards
  • navigation tools
  • lists
  • automatic alerts, including email and integrated RSS
  • shared calendar and contacts
  • discussion boards
Users build SharePoint pages is by combining selected widgets into a Web page. Any Web editor that supports ASP.NET can be used for this purpose, though Microsoft has released a WYSIWYG HTML editor, Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer (MOSD), that was specifically designed for this purpose.
Critics of SharePoint point out that certain features of MOSS 2007 only work with the newest version of Microsoft Office, thereby forcing IT managers to upgrade their software. SharePoint's lack of support for non-Microsoft formats, like files saved using quark or Adobe Acrobat (.PDF), is also a cause of concern for some administrators evaluating the suite as a potential enterprise-wide CMS.
The previous versions of SharePoint are SharePoint Portal Server 2003 and SharePoint Portal Server 2001. There is a new version of SharePoint due out this year (SharePoint 2010).
Here is a diagram I obtained here that offers a more detailed rundown of MOSS 07 capabilities:

This is merely a high level overview of a large, complex, and rapidly changing subject area. There is a wealth of information out on the Web, and here is the list of sources I used to prepare this post:

Microsoft Office Online (Product Overview)

PCMag.com Encyclopedia

SearchWinIT.com Definitions

SharePoint Experience Blog



As always, I welcome your comments.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Introduction to Google Wave

This is a cross-post from my blog on the military Social Media tool milBook, and also from a response to a discussion thread on the topic of Knowledge Management enablers.

I have seen many collaborative technologies over the years, but there is one that was introduced a few months ago that may provide a lot of the capabilities required for an online collaboration system: Google Wave.

My definition: Google Wave is a product that could replace email, instant messaging, and threaded discussion using a collaborative platform and an open-source protocol.

There is a wealth of information on this system, starting with the Google Wave Users Group on milBook and also on the Google Wave site. I will just throw out a few things that I have learned:

Google Wave is three things: Product, Platform, and Protocol.

Currently, the product is available in pre-beta form from Google. It will be provided by Google in a manner similar to Gmail, Google Maps, etc.

The platform is open source, and while I am not sure that the code is available yet, but when it is, you could stand up a Wave server and start using it with Google's blessing.

The protocol is the most promising part of Wave. It is set up so that multiple Wave servers can be federated (over a single port) so that there could be easily configured Joint, Interagency, Intergovernment, and Multinational (and .com) (JIIM+) collaboration. There is already a large group of Government Wave users, called FedWave, that is exploring the use of Wave in the Federal Government.

Below is a partial list all the features of Wave, but the key idea is that all waves are hosted on a server, can have multiple participants, and can have a lot of functionality embedded in them. This allows you to bring someone in and get them up to speed in a hurry, instead of trying to figure out which of the 20 emails in multiple threads to forward to them. Wave allows you to playback the evolution of the interaction, so a newcomer can see how the conversation came to be. There are multiple extensions to the protocol already, including collaborative map viewing, online polling, and many more. There is extensive search and tagging capabilities as well (it is a Google product after all...).

• Real-Time information
• Live transmission of any type
• Used as faster conversation
• Wave is used as new way of creating dialogue among group of users
• Google Wave contains gadgets and tools
• In Google wave there are gadgets like Wikify which can brings Wikipedia to your Google Wave account.
• It include tools for checking spelling and grammar
• It has a great futures like translating between 40 different languages by using Rosy Extension. • It has TWaves extension that allows the user to incorporate their tweet stream.
• It has drag and drop sharing of digital assets like photos, sound and video.
• Playback facility
• Open Source
• Easy embedding facility
• eBayBot - Search eBay in Google Wave
• Google Wave has a Public Timeline, like Twitter ( “with:public” )
• Webcam Video Chat and Much More on Google Wave with 6rounds
• Adding new people to the conversation easy
• Bloggy extension can Embeds the Wave into a blog
• Polly the Pollster : Creates any poll you can imagine I found this here.

This is a diagram of the components of a wave:

I will cover this in more detail in subsequent posts. I have a few invitations left if anyone is interested. I have been kicking the tires for a few weeks now, and I think the Google team may have created a game-changer. Now we just need to make sure our People, Processes, Organization, and Culture are ready.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Social Media

This is a cross-post from my blog on the military Social Media tool milBook. The purpose of this post is to provide a brief overview of Social Media.

Social media, online collaboration, and Knowledge Management are all interrelated, with Social Media the newest of the three. I researched several definitions of Social Media and Social Networking, and used them to derive my own definition:

Social networking is the practice of increasing the number of one's business and/or social contacts by making connections through individuals. Social media is the use of technology combined with this social interaction targeted at forming and enabling a potentially massive community of participants to productively collaborate. Social media technologies enable this collaboration and support tapping the power of the collective in ways previously unachievable, transforming people from content consumers into content producers. It's a fusion of sociology and technology, transforming monologue (one to many) into dialog (many to many).

In my research, I found a Gartner Blog by Anthony Bradley that outlined six core principles that underlie the value of social-media solutions, and, in combination, serve as the defining characteristics that set social media apart from other forms of communication and collaboration.

  1. Participation
  2. Collective
  3. Transparency
  4. Independence
  5. Persistence
  6. Emergence

Participation: Successful social-media solutions tap into the power of mass collaboration through user participation. The only way to achieve substantial benefits from social media is by mobilizing the community to contribute. You can’t capture the “wisdom of the crowds” if the crowds don’t participate.

Collective: Varied definitions and applications of the term “collective” abound and cover a wide spectrum of meanings. Here, as a core principle of social media, the use of the term “collective” is tightly aligned with its root origins “to collect.” With social media, participants “collect” around a unifying entity. People collect around the Facebook social graph to contribute their profile information. People collect on Wikipedia to add encyclopedia articles. People collect on YouTube to share videos. In these examples, as in all social media, people collect around the content to contribute rather than individually create the content and distribute it.

Transparency: With social media, it is not enough to collect participant contributions. A social-media solution also provides transparency in that participants are privy to each other’s participation. They get to see, use, reuse, augment, validate, critique and rate each other’s contributions. Without transparency, there is no participant collaboration on content. It is in this transparency that the community improves content, unifies information, self-governs, self-corrects, evolves, creates emergence and otherwise propels its own advancement.

Independence: The principle of independence means that any participant can contribute completely independent of any other participant. This is also called anytime, anyplace collaboration. Participants can collaborate no matter where they are or whoever else may be posting content at that time. Generally, there is no workflow or document check-in/check-out that can bottleneck collaboration and impact the scalability required for mass collaboration. No coordination between collaborators is required.

Persistence: With social media, the fruits of participant contributions are captured in a persistent state for others to view, share and augment. This is one of the more obvious principles. It differentiates social media from synchronous conversational interactions, where much of the information exchanged is either lost or captured, most often only in part, as an additional scribing activity.

Emergence: The emergence principle embodies the recognition that you can’t predict, model, design and control all human collaborative interactions and optimize them as you would a fixed business process. It is the recognition that one benefit of social media is as an environment for social structures to emerge. These structures may be latent or hidden organizational structures, expertise, work processes, content organization, information taxonomies, and more.

Here is a partial list of capabilities provided by Social Media technologies. Not all examples of Social Media have all of these capabilities, but a system must provide most of these to be considered a Social Media platform.

These capabilities are more oriented toward the individual users:

  • Customizable Look/Feel
  • Profile Information
  • Networking (Connections, Friends, etc.)
  • Activity Feeds
  • Private/Direct Messaging
  • File/Photo Upload Abilities
  • Search
While these capabilities are more for interacting with other users:

  • Blogs
  • Wikis
  • Discussion Forums
  • Chat
  • Calendars
  • Tagging
  • Groups (Open or Closed)
  • Rating Systems
This is merely a quick overview of a large, complex, and rapidly changing subject area. There is a wealth of information out on the Web, and here is the list of sources I used to prepare this post:

Duct Tape Marketing

Social Media Vision

Social Networking Definition from Whatis.com



And especially Anthony Bradley Gartner Blog cited above. The principles shown above are a summary of a Gartner published work: “The Six Core Principles of Social-Media-Based Collaboration” that is available to Gartner clients or for a fee.

This content is strictly my opinions on the subject. Please comment as you are so moved.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


This is a cross-post from my blog on the military Social Media tool milBook. This post will provide a general overview of some of the aspects of Online Collaboration. I have been working in the field since 2002, and have done a lot of research on the topic. Online collaboration is an enabling technology for KM. While in the past the areas of KM and collaboration were developed separately, in the future these disciplines are now closely linked. From this point forward, consider any discussion of online collaboration to include the technology side of KM as well.

Online collaboration utilizes the organization's technology infrastructure to provide a wide array of capabilities that can be used in a synchronous or asynchronous manner. Synchronous collaboration is where the participants are communicating in real-time, either by text, voice, or video. Asynchronous collaboration is where information is shared by posting artifacts or text online for other users to access at another time. Asynchronous is generally the most common form of collaboration.

Collaboration can be grouped into three major areas: Virtual Presence, Virtual Spaces and Virtual Services.

Virtual Presence allows for users to locate and determine the status of others using the network. This allows users to select the most effective means of communication (phone, email, instant messaging, etc.) depending on the intended recipient's online status.

Virtual Spaces are any network location (workspaces, web portals, or chat spaces) where users can meet virtually and share information. They can be either persistent or temporary. Persistent spaces are generally used for asynchronous collaboration in that the information will be there for other users to access for a given amount of time in the future. Temporary spaces are synchronous collaborative sessions that only exist for the duration of the event, and then are closed. Sometimes there is an option to save or record the session, and this would become an artifact for asynchronous collaboration.

Virtual Services encompass all the different collaborative capabilities that are afforded by the enabling technology. How these services are provided vary from system to system, and not all capabilities are needed by all users or organizations. Here is a partial list of virtual services:

  • Text Chat
  • Audio (Voice over IP- VOIP)
  • Whiteboard
  • Video
  • Threaded Discussion
  • Shared Applications
  • Voting/ Polling/ Surveys
  • Automated Event Log
  • Data Management
  • Bulletins/Alerts
  • Calendar
  • User Display and Customization
  • Security

While securing the online collaboration system can be considered a service, it is a vital piece of any collaborative solution. These applications tend to force organizations into trade-offs between security and accessibility which can seriously inhibit the functionality of the system. Here are some considerations when securing online collaboration:

  • Authentication
  • Confidentiality
  • Integrity
  • Availability
  • Reliability
  • Maintainability
  • Non-repudiation
  • Protection
  • Detection
  • Reaction capabilities
  • Auditing
  • Software Assurance
This is just an overview of the technology aspect of KM, which is just one component of the overall Knowledge Architecture. All of these components (People, Process, Organization/ Culture, and Technology) must fit together well in order to realize the benefits of enhanced organizational effectiveness, improved decision quality, and increased innovation.

As always, I look forward to your comments and questions.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Knowledge Management

My New Years' resolution is to blog on a regular basis. I am going to start this adventure by blogging on the three specialties of my revived consulting business: Knowledge Management, Collaboration, and Social Media.
This will be a very general overview of Knowledge Management (KM). There is a multitude of sources on the topic, but I will use Harnessing Knowledge Dynamics: Principled Organizational Knowing and Learning (2005) by Mark Nissen as the basis for this posting. This is a cross-post from my blog on the military Social Media tool milBook.

There are many definitions of KM, and I studied several and derived my own:
Knowledge Management is the art of creating, identifying, gathering, organizing, sharing, applying, and exploiting an organization's intellectual assets (knowledge in the form of insights and experiences) in order to enhance operational effectiveness, decision quality, and innovation across the enterprise. This knowledge can be either explicit (recorded) or tacit (personal know-how) and can be embodied in individuals or embedded in organizational processes or practice.

The key parts of this definition deal with the ideas that KM is an art that can enhance organizational effectiveness, and that the two types of knowledge (explicit and tacit) can reside in individuals, organizations, or practice (processes). Notice that this definition does not mention technology at all. While many Knowledge Management initiatives seem to focus on the enabling technology, the truth is that it takes a back seat to other parts of KM, namely People, Process, and Organization (Culture).
This diagram shows the four components of Knowledge Management as outlined by Nissen:

It also shows how balance and integration are an important part of the entire system.
Here is more on the components of Knowledge Management:
- People are the most important piece in the system. They create, share, apply, and exploit knowledge, and also can make or break any KM implementation. This is a critical focus for any KM practitioner.
- Process is also very important. This allows KM to become ingrained in business practices, and this allows for more consistent practice of KM so that the benefits are realized and the costs are reduced.
- Organization (Culture) provides a context for the practice of knowledge management to take place. The concept of a knowledge-based organization depends on nurturing a culture of collaboration so that the people and process can come together to realize the benefits of KM.
- Technology is the underlying platform that supports the other components of the system. While a lot of the energy seems to be tied up in the selection and employment of the IT KM solution, it cannot be stressed enough that technology is just an enabler, not the center of the KM implementation.
Above all, the benefits of Knowledge Management shown above must be identified, understood, and measured in order to justify the resources that are expended on the various components of the system. Operational effectiveness can be defined in many different ways in various contexts, but generally involves either getting more accomplished or reducing the effort and/or cost of ongoing operations. KM generally improves decision quality as improved information flow and knowledge dissemination enhances and compresses the decision cycle. Innovation is increased by KM in that the availability of existing knowledge allows for easier re-combining and creation of ideas that enable the innovation process.
This is meant to be only a brief overview of Knowledge Management, and does not reflect official Army doctrine or policy on the subject. I welcome your comments and questions.