Sunday, January 18, 2009

Where there is a Will, there is a Way

Today I’d like to share an experience which is a little different from the ones I shared up till now on this blog. Indeed, over the Christmas period there was a large religious event in Brussels. It was the international pilgrimage of Taizé, stopping for the year-end in Brussels. 40000 young people from all over Europe and from a variety of Christian religions converged to Brussels for a three day event consisting in prayers, workshops, meetings and being together.  We got involved through our parish as they were looking for households to provide space for the people to sleep. Speaking English, I was asked by my neighbors to serve as a translator, and having some space at home, we welcomed a couple polish people. She spoke some English and he a little German. But we got along quite well.

Taizé 2009 In pour parish, we welcomed 20 Italians, 20 Serbs (some of which actually turned out to be Slovaks) and 20 Polish people, a couple of which actually came from Ukraine and a couple other countries. A nice melting pot of languages, cultures, religious and historical differences. Reviewing those couple days, it was actually a great success, despite the difficulties in communication. People were constantly speaking in 3 or 4 different languages, with translation from Serb to Slovak to Polish for example.

Experiencing this, I was thinking back on a number of those international meetings I assisted over the years, where professional translators need to be hired, or where people expect you to speak to them in their language or will refuse to listen to you. What was the difference. here we had people from all over Europe coming with the intention to live something together. Silence, songs (and I believe, despite my awful track record in singing, I must have sang in 8 or 10 different languages over those days), and eagerness to learn to know and understand others better made the difference. And, as somebody told me, if the words could not be understood, gestures and drawings did the rest.

I believe we can learn something important from such an event. Where there is a will, there is a way. Indeed, its by being open and eager to understand the other, his/her standpoint that communication can truly take place. But how often are we blocked by feeling we are the customer and the other should adapt to us. How often are we in a one-way street. That’s our problem. So, lets take a lesson from those 40000 youngsters who are the Europe of tomorrow.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Are IT departments pushing collaboration in the cloud

I was intrigued earlier in the week by a comment made by one of my friends who is doing a lot of work in the collaboration and knowledge management area. HPIM5525He told me about the difficulties he had with the IT department and the lack of support he got for the collaboration tools we use. He made the comment “its like if they want to push us to the cloud”. That actually got me thinking. Indeed, IT departments don’t look at collaboration and knowledge management environments as being critical applications, and in times where budgets are down, where resources are reducing, the first things for which support is reduced are these. Does this actually make sense in a business environment where companies are globalizing, travel budgets are reduced and collaboration increasingly becomes important.

As the number of “Generation Y” workers (born between 1975-1995) surpasses the baby boomers, the social networking literacy increases drastically. With the IT departments not providing the appropriate support systems, the tendency is to use the social networking tools instead. Unfortunately in the current circumstances this exposes enterprises to three key issues:

  • First, the level of security of most of the on-line collaboration platforms, at least the free ones (the ones most people turn to), have not been audited. This potentially exposes company confidential information to the world and may result in competitors getting hold of key information early
  • What happens in the cloud is completely outside the company's control and makes Sarbane-Oxley and Basel 2 compliance difficult to prove
  • Third, this now puts key company information in the hands of a third party that might be subpoenaed to release the information to court without the agreement of the owner in case of a court case. Legal departments see this as a nightmare scenario.

In a cover story, titled “Innovation meets Collaboration”, AT&T describes some of the issues related with internet based collaboration, pointing out though that the gap between the companies that take advantage of the internet and the ones who don’t is widening.

As IT budgets reduce and employees look outside the company for tools to collaborate, it is mandatory that a clear approach is taken and that all implications, including security and legal ones, are reviewed prior a decision is made. Many employees today are not aware of the implications and threats caused by moving documents and confidential information to the internet. I do not advocate the status quo, but rather to approach the problem with eyes wide open. Moving forward, companies will have unhappy surprises, just make sure it is not yours.

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