Will This Product Make the Portal More Functional?

With slight editing, this question was posed to me this morning.  The product in question was an RSS service, of questionable value on many levels.  For one, employees are not blocked from using their own RSS feeders, so those who are interested in using this capability are already doing so.  For another - and more importantly - I have a real problem throwing more technology at a workforce who has yet to fully appreciate the value of social software to their work processes and knowledge needs.  Their leadership talks of "facebook in the enterprise" and "social computing" but does not themselves use any tool that can be considered in this space.

So what is their interest?  Why consider the investment?  I don't honestly know.  Perhaps they believe that seeding the garden is useful, although the endless business case and ROI conversations that accompany any IT investment belie this.  Perhaps they read HBR and other business magazines that indicate all the cool companies have them.  But filling the enterprise with vendor fairy dust does not result in "Enterprise 2.0," anymore than wearing scrubs makes one a doctor.  Whatever is driving this interest along Mahogany Row, it is not emerging from informed concerns regarding their workforce productivity and satisfaction.

I will try to advise first principles:

* Focus on what we're trying to accomplish with information technology.  

* Get people who manage corporate information to take their responsibilities to the employee seriously.

* Provide a garden of tools and suggest usage.  Watch usage patterns, encourage and broadcast success.  

* Listen.  Change your mind when proven wrong.

* Connect all employees to enterprise applications - don't allow yourself to decide the "20% who can't get past client firewalls" to no longer matter.  

* Provide an open environment so that employees can find and use information that may not be Corporate, but which may be relevant at the point of decision. 

* Never decide what should be relevant for them.  "The right information at the right time to the right person" is not something you engineer, but enable.

There are more, but I'm rattled today.  Days like this make me want to close the laptop and take out the bocce ball set.  While we try to make progress, I'm reminded the snake oil salesmen remain and proliferate.  As do the ingenues to tend to their sirens.