Darren Strange (Microsoft’s Office 12 Product Manager in the UK) has a blog entry describing how the next generation of Office products and technologies will change how we approach the traditional three axis of information work: content, collaboration and analysis. Historically, there have been different applications designed and deployed for each axis. However, we are now seeing solutions that span across them. For example, Microsoft’s new Business Scorecard Manager 2005 combines analysis technologies with content and collaboration technologies.

This is an important transition. As these solutions become easier to deploy and use, they will reach wider parts of an organization and open up feedback channels that should improve the decision making process. For example, business intelligence has previously been viewed as an expensive application and is often deployed only to a discrete set of users, usually managers and planners tucked away in their ivory towers. Everyone else has had to reply on published static reports that are often out of date by the time they are used. With solutions like Business Scorecard Manager, it becomes possible for everyone to access the latest available information, updated in real-time and sent to where people need to see and use it, be it the intranet, team workspaces or client applications running on mobile devices.

This transition also connects a 4th axis – productivity. The traditional three have concentrated on knowledge work – planning, discussing and analyzing (i.e. deciding what to do). Productivity (doing what has been decided) has usually existed as a separate entity. Pervasive and real-time access to information and knowledge changes this. And productivity is undergoing its own revolution. Email is being challenged by instant messaging and syndication feeds (RSS, Atom and other iterations) as the primary method for communicating. Wikis are challenging traditional content management systems as a method for collaborating and managing content. Long over due (IMHO) is the introduction of workflow as a mainstream technology instead of a niche application, (Microsoft is introducing Windows Workflow Foundation with Office 12) that should bring significant improvements to process automation and task management. XML and web services will be the glue that connects everything together.

The tools we use for intelligence and action are set to change significantly over the next 5 years. At last, the relevant technologies should start to merge into the background and become a seamless part of how we study, work and play.

More information is being posted on the web site under Systems (and its two sub-categories Intelligence and Action).

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