Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Creating the in-house information commons – creating the networking resource mix that supports your needs

Posted in business and convergent technologies, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 9, 2010

This is not strictly speaking just a Green and sustainability oriented posting but I find myself writing it with environmentally oriented and Green and sustainability focused organizations in mind. My basic topic here is one of technology enablement, and in developing and using technology options that are cost effective for you and your organization, while serving to multiply and expand the scope of your mission effectiveness. Information technology provides such force multiplier capabilities and it is often possible to find and develop suites of resources that connect together and work in synchrony with each other, and that also work in synchrony with your organizational strategy, planning, operations and priorities, and in support of your mission and vision as well.

Social networking per se is an obvious point of entry for this, and so is the development and maintenance of a sharable information resource base, whether that is in networking connectivity or development and sharing of white papers and other vetted and branded content – which may be developed at least in part through crowd sourcing.

LinkedIn, Facebook and a wide range of other online social networking sites can be an effective starting point. They are available as turn key solutions from a wide range of existing public-facing web sites, and if you use the services these organizations provide you do not have to pay for or go through the learning and development curves needed to build your own in-house. You can set up specific branded groups through these and other social networking sites. Ning and several other generally available online resources allow you to set up both specific special interest groups and also more proprietary profile-based social networks as well. This means you can manage both the social networking resources you offer your networked community members and the general public visibility that these resources would have and for both members and non-members.

I have written of these and related issues and of using social networking tools per se (with Twitter and others included) throughout my series Social Networking and Business and I refer to that for the connectivity and networking side of this discussion. In this posting I want to focus more upon shared information content and shared computational and information processing capabilities, which I add can include both more centrally published and more collaborative and crowd sourced contributions.

When these types of community-supportive resources are developed and offered strictly within an organization, we are discussing internal information architectures and Web 2.0 and interactive Intranets. When this type of information sharing capability significantly expands out beyond any single set of organizational walls and structures then terms like cloud computing become relevant, and here that can be accomplished by accessing a third party cloud solution or by building and maintaining an in-house or proprietary cloud computing service as a strictly in-house private cloud.

Any choice of that sort had to be viewed as a trade-off between costs and learning curves on the one hand with both initial and maintenance costs of all sorts, and customizability on the other. Security and confidentiality concerns can be important there too as a part of your basic due diligence in determining what would work best for you and for the community you would reach out to. I add here that Amazon and their Elastic Cloud (EC2) solutions and a number of their competitors do offer significant security and confidentiality capabilities too, and that these service providers usually allow for customization, though it is always important to find out what they would do in that direction and what it would cost – both up-front and as extra maintenance fees. Still, cloud computing is becoming more and more commoditized as a third party provided utility that it makes sense to outsource to, just as most organizations now outsource their web development to specialist businesses and their web site hosting as well.

If there is a single take-home lesson I would convey here, it is that effective due diligence as to what your operational capabilities should be, should include careful consideration of your information and its shared production and distribution, and both within your organization and in collaboration with the communities you serve and connect to. Look at social networking and both for identifying and connecting to members of your target community and for developing more effective ways to share specific information with them – and them with you. Every Green and sustainable, and other mission and vision driven organization should be looking into cloud computing as a way to augment their social networking reach, and with more information-rich social networking apps if nothing else. And this type of review should be part of your core ongoing due diligence effort and both to insure that you are tapping into and utilizing the best resource mix for you and your organization, and that you keep this as cost-effective as possible, with newer more functionality-rich options often coming with lower per capability costs.

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