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2007.05.04

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I think that the term governance here is meant to mean structure (a more general concept than standardization) and empowerment is freedom from that structure. In other words – Jeff is (I think correctly) calling for the enforcement of policy and procedure but at the same time allowing the worker to work the way they want. Traditionally we have used heavy handed methods to enforce policy and procedure – the result is incomplete, inaccurate information and unhappy workers. It sounds a lot like the metrics paradox to me. Collecting metrics can have a bad side effect of causing employees to “lie” or “cheat” in order to meet expectation which means that the data you use to drive your business is inaccurate and potentially misleading.

Jeff did point out that the sweet point is a confluence of governance and empowerment. The question is how do we govern and enforce policy and procedure while letting people work within the structure that works for them? It’s not a trivial problem to solve but when you find a way to make it happen, you really are in a “sweet spot” The user is productive, happy and potentially innovative, and you can at the same time manage your information and keep your CIO out of jail 

Take the shared drive concept in Alfresco as an application of this concept in action. The CIFS interface allows “Content Management” to happen (nearly in the background) while users to keep using a shared drive – a seemingly traditional unstructured approach to managing documents.

To the users nothing changes, very little structure is imposed. In the background we can create rules, policies, versioning and auditing that operate in the background – the user work the way they want to, and at the same time structure is introduced and enforced.
For example Rules, Policies, and Workflow can be configured to apply to all child folders which implies… organize this space anyway you like, create your own structure – its local and empowering – we’ll be able to take versions, extract metadata and initiate workflow regardless.

The Google Rank algorithm versus the Yahoo taxonomy is another good example. Yahoo enforced a strict structure on the user – they tried to tell us how the internet should be organized. That didn’t work. On the other hand Google relies on human behavior (creating inbound links) and scale to imply its structure. Google hit the nail on the head – Firstly, by using human behavior to organize the data they are capturing (and adjusting their view over time) the way most people think about the organization of the internet. And secondly by letting us use a free form search to get to that data.

The insight of these companies is simply, truly amazing! You can look back at it and say ‘how obvious’ but when it comes down to it, most of us tend to miss the boat.

Governance ‘v’ Empowerment? Why does a high level of governance = a low level of empowerment? Governance may be required during the standard lifecycle of a document and when it is published to a broader community they are then empowered. If it is not published for regulatory or commercial reasons then that may be a good thing. I’m really confused – but then again that probably means I’m still alive ;-)

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