Monday, July 23, 2007

Customization and the Organization

After eLearnDevCon, I'm looking at ways to push learning / help content in ways that are more available to the end user. I like the Google Sidebar and Gadgets idea. I know how to build stuff using Google's currently available tools, but I want more.

For instance, I want to be able to push brief instructions through the Sidebar.

I also want a place to share interactive flash files without folks having to log into my Moodle server.

I'm thinking that mashup tools might help....

Dion Hinchcliffe has provided a brief review of 17 Mashup tools
. In the process, he addresses why it's been difficult to place these tools in a corporate environment (to date).

So what’s typically missing from today’s mashup platforms to make them both useful and desirable in the enterprise? While no one knows for sure, since mashups are just starting to be considered seriously in many organizations, it generally boils down to
1) deep access to existing enterprise services and data/content repositories,
2) SaaS-style Web-based mashup assembly and use,
3) assembly models that are truly end-user friendly with very little training required,
4) a credible management and maintenance story for IT departments that must support a flood of public end-user built and integrated apps, and last but certainly not least,
5) mashup products that address important questions about mashups and enterprise security. None of these are particularly easy to solve, which is most likely why mashups haven’t been most prevalent before this.

Issues 3 and 4 should not be underestimated. Especially for those of us not blessed with a computer-savvy end-user base.

I'm noticing the trend in all forms of software is towards end-user controlled customization. Ultimately, this is a good thing. But I see 2 things needing to happen before an enterprise can take full advantage of end-user customization:

1) The IT folks need to learn to trust the end-user. (Yes, we locked up end-user customization on our Electronic Medical Record because we knew support would be a nightmare.)

2) The end-user needs to take responsibility for troubleshooting his or her customized object. This means that the end-users will have to become significantly more computer-savvy than most want to. At least in my organization.....

From what I can tell, the overarching trend is a move towards more personal responsibility. It's one thing to implement a tool on an individual level. I take full responsibility for my own learning and tool implementation. And, fortunately, I'm given the freedom to do so without much gripping from management (so far). What is lost in the conversation is the amount of cultural shift that will have to happen in an organization to successfully implement these tools on an enterprise level.

Most folks are in organizations that (consciously or unconsciously) subscribe to blame-models of management. Employees are actively discouraged from taking responsibility. Way too much energy is spent CYA.

Generations of this behavior on BOTH sides need to break down to fully leverage these new technologies. Management needs to start actively rewarding initiative. Employees need to start taking responsibility for themselves and their careers.

A tough thing to teach if the corporate culture works against you.

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