Time for reflection and innovation
At the start of my career the two most technically sophisticated elements in my organisation were an IBM Selectric golf-ball typewriter and a high-pressure diecasting machine that was the first in the world to have real-time printout of all the parameters of the process on very long rolls of paper at 500 millisecond intervals. Fast forward to 1982 and I was demonstrating the Sony golf-game demo for the Phillips Laser Disk player to the combined Boards of Reed Publishing and International Printing Corporation. The first question came from the CEO, Les Carpenter. He asked why I was demonstrating a golf game when neither of the two (linked) companies published a golf magazine. That was the moment when I realized that relevant content was everything and that managing the change from print to digital was going to be a challenge for many years to come.
Although there is much talk about the rapid change of technology I have not seen that in my two decades of working as Intranet Focus Ltd. Web technology has improved but is still fundamentally HTML and search technology is primarily based around BM25. In 1999 the IT leaders were Apple, IBM, Oracle, SAP and Microsoft, and only Amazon and Google have since joined this cluster at scale.
When I look back at well over a hundred projects the common element has been persuading organisations that information is a business-critical asset and needs a level of understanding, support and investment commensurate with this importance. I can still recall one client where more human resource was devoted to the daily topping up the handwash in washrooms around the world than was allocated to assessing the enterprise search logs. The identity of the client may be in my autobiography, but don’t hold your breath.
In line with so many of my consulting colleagues around the world I have had to sell a project before taking the financial rewards. For twenty years cash flow has been sanity and profits have been vanity. I’ve now decided, with the agreement of the shareholders of Intranet Focus Ltd., to take a sabbatical to the end of the year and decide how best to catalyse and then support organisations in their quest for information and knowledge management in the decade ahead. Over the last five years I’ve partially developed many product and service ideas but have never been able to carve out a long-enough period between client engagements to work the best of them up into commercial offerings.
It will also give me time to revisit many the nearly 3000 research papers I have collected (1000 just on search!) but never got around to reading. I also hate to admit it but my collection of search research is one huge list of files! Time for some information science skills to be applied. I also need to update sections of the Intranet Focus website.
So for the next couple of months there may be fewer Tweets, my response to emails may not be as prompt and I may not be present at seminars and conferences. You will probably see more blogs as I use them to help focus my perspectives on current issues and future opportunities. On 6 January I hope that all this thinking and planning will show that the spirit of innovation is still alive and well in Intranet Focus Ltd.