Policy and research that seeks to improve business activity is closely entwined with the need to understand and quicken knowledge transfer between business and public sectors and vice versa. The IEED began LEAD, a leadership programme for entrepreneurs, which gives delegates of SMEs leadership training. The programme concentrates on the business itself and personal development. Within the programme IEED began experimenting with online fora to support LEAD cohorts. Using various software tools, during 2006 the IEED began using the Sakai portal to

taupesalmonInternet and Web Development

Oct 21, 2013 (4 years and 22 days ago)

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Case Study 1. The Institute of Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development (IEED)


Introduction


Policy and research that seeks to improve business activity is closely entwined with the need to
understand and quicken knowledge transfer between business and public sectors and vice versa.
The IEED began LEAD, a leadership programme for entrepreneurs, w
hich gives delegates of SMEs
leadership training. The programme concentrates on the business itself and personal
development. Within the programme IEED began experimenting with online fora to support
LEAD cohorts. Using various software tools, during 2006
the IEED began using the Sakai portal to
manage internal cohort communication. During 2009 the Northwest Regional Development
Agency’s (NWDA) funded LEAD across the region to support a further 12 institutions to deliver
LEAD. Earlier work indicated that
the economic impact of this activity is high as estimates for
combined annual sales turnover for impacted organisations is £2.5 billion (approx. 2% of
regional GVA, Office of National Statistics, 2007 GVA report); and further expansions of LEAD into
other
regions (e.g. Welsh and Scottish variants) has begun widening the impact of the
programme.


An evaluation conducted by Lancaster University and external partner’s highlights that those
organisations that have participated on LEAD increase sales turnover b
y approximately £200,000
and expect solid growth during the post
-
LEAD years beyond what would occur had they not
participated in the programme (LEAD Evaluation). A problem that emerged due to the large
scale roll
-
out of LEAD is how to maximise the value o
f the forming networks; potentially
supporting many 1,000s of Owner
-
Managers (OMs)?

The conduit for KE using LEAD owner
-
managers is provided via electronic Sakai worksites; as
this has already proved itself to be invaluable in KE activities and e
-
community

building in
numerous ways. The IEED developed the e
-
facilitation approach adopted for LEAD, which
culminates in rapid KE between e
-
facilitators and their OMs; based on trust and enduring ‘digital
capital’. This document highlights the approaches adopted
to e
-
manage large numbers of OMs to
become part of an e
-
community of business leaders advising public sector on urgent matters of
the day, quickly, securely and efficiently; but also becoming a potent and cohesive voice for
smaller businesses that OMs can
take advantage of. This paper looks at the approaches that are
presently being applied to augment the speed at which information from smaller business
owners conveys to public sector and crucially, how knowledge from academic and the public
sector conveys

to smaller companies.


Issues Surrounding Use of Web 2.0 for Business Support operations

The advent of Web 2.0 provided unique opportunities to explore the capability of online tools to
support human communication. Since the advent of Facebook in 2004
we have come a long way
in our understanding of how people value online social environments. Yet, much debate has
occurred surrounding social networks and their implications in the work place. Social networks
supposedly quicken KE by making information of
others more accessible that therefore speeds
up information and resource discovery.
Facebook has shown us the power of online human
networking and how much people value these services.

Unfortunately however, security is
woefully inadequate among social to
ols which represents a challenge for Data Protection
legislation.

The challenge, therefore, is to provide safer or private social spaces (i.e. secure from
the WWW) to enhance KE that take advantage of social network infrastructure; without opening
up to t
he security risks they can pose (
see
http://alirobertson.blogspot.com/2010/05/rejecting
-
social
-
networks
-
as
-
good
-
idea.html
). It is difficult to assume that
public sector service staff would

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work consistently on public social networks. For instance, who owns Facebook or LinkedIn and
who may buy it in the future? Where could they move the data to avoid data protection
legislation? How will your data be accessib
le by server administrators and under which
circumstances are they allowed to view it? How are intellectual property rights assigned to
submitted data and will this change? How hackable are Facebook services and will your private
data end up Google searcha
ble because of a change in privacy policy that you did not spot? Given
these hurdles we cannot also expect private enterprise to create and share data online via these
services, and in fact, it probably isn’t legal to expect them to do so.


The problems
faced by public social networks are difficult to overcome in the business support
context as their use is likely to be in contravention to the UKs Data Protection Act. For example,
by delivering business support groups in Facebook or LinkedIn, data is aut
omatically transmitted
outside of the UK domain. If the sites contain data of a personal nature, such as photos or video,
written permission is required from those captured within the media that they agree to its
publication. Under current rules it is th
e responsibility of the data controller (usually the server
administrator) to ensure the data is not abused. It is hardly surprising that the Ministry of Justice
released a call on the 6
th

of July 2010 requesting evidence to support the need to change the
1998
Data Protection Act in light of new online activities. It shows that present rules are likely to be
out of date and that legislation is likely to change.


The CRIB project was designed to overcome security issues like these via the development of
pr
ivate social sites where access is strictly controlled within a worksite environment and data
storage locality is guaranteed by data protection registration. Using this approach, it is
straightforward to highlight to stakeholders that they own site content

and they can remove it as
needed. There are key benefits to this approach. It can be clearly identified to stakeholders that
only those registered to a worksite can view their data, but that data can be removed at any point
in time. Since data is stored
using servers based in the UK system, administrators (that is, data
controllers) must adhere to the Data Protection Act. An additional benefit is that once
stakeholders begin using the service, it is fairly straightforward to build new toolsets designed
sp
ecifically for the business support task; something that we are unable to do effectively in public
social environments.


For large programmes it is
crucial to have suitable
electronic toolsets that
allow programme
providers to manage
communication among
large numbers of people or
sub
-
groups of people of
common interest. There are
advantages to managing
large numbers of peopl
e in
this way, for instance, the
more users we engage with
the more powerful the
network becomes. In the
telecoms literature this is
defined as the network

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external effect where 1 additional person added into a network raises the value of the network to
al
l pre
-
existing and future members (Fildes, 2002). Difficulties in service delivery have occurred
however. For example, the OMs user group we serve tends to be of average age 45 and many are
not digitally ‘switched on’. Many do not use public social netw
orks or other online services and
have difficulty using basic computer services (more on this later). This means supplying a
dedicated service that must include training and facilitation to encourage use.

Online communication is multifaceted and in the c
ontext of business support often becomes
entangled with expectation of value added and simplicity of use. This should lead to new and
innovative ICTs designed to facilitate human productivity. For business support operations that
are funded by the taxpay
er, routes should be examined that enhance KE between the various
stakeholders that include the OMs, government policy makers and academics. Enhancing KE
should be set as a priority so that the impact of government support interventions reap benefits
that

go beyond the initial project costs in the form of additional spin
-
off opportunities that create
value to the economy. Although Web 2.0 tools and social networks (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn) have
gained considerable traction in providing networking and commu
nication services they face
considerable criticism, as mentioned earlier, in terms of privacy. For LEAD, OMs are encouraged
to explore difficult business issues that are sensitive to a particular business or OM, it is unlikely
that unfettered discussion w
ould be facilitated by public networks as it is not well understood
how the forming data is owned or how it may be disseminated across the WWW if public social
networks are used. The safest solution to this problem is to design a common social technology
p
latform guaranteeing data will remain protected within a specified domain (e.g. within the UK).
In an ideal world, many government support programmes would feed into the social technology
platform so that network external effects alluded to above can be m
aximised.

The power and value of large
-
scale business e
-
communities, or business webs, cannot be
understated. Had the business communities we form been in place prior to recession it would
have provided policy makers almost real time access to information

on how the rapidly
deteriorating economic conditions were impacting SMEs. Each LEAD cohort exists as a group of
25 OMs and 2 to 5 e
-
facilitators that engage electronically with the OMs to form trusting and
enduring online relationships. At present 33 coho
rts are in operation and 11 have graduated.
After graduating from LEAD, OMs leave the programme and no plan is in place to engage them
further. We were tasked by JISC (via their Business and Community Engagement Programme)
and the NWDA to evaluate mechan
isms that would engage OMs beyond LEAD graduation; leading
to a growing base of e
-
managed OMs. Sakai was chosen for LEAD due to its ability to engage
users into secure e
-
communities and also provide the Agency’s LEAD Provider Network
intranet/extranet fu
nctionality; enabling rapid communication of information between OMs and
public sector. Sakai provides the security required to engage OMs safely within the confines of
the Data Protection Act, and an array of tools (private social networking, forums, chat
,
announcements, wiki and blogs, web conferencing etc). Each cohort, over a 10
-
month period,
generates high volumes of forum traffic (average 600 posts per cohort) highlighting the value
that OMs place in using this service.


Collaborative Research in Bus
iness and LEAD

Results from initial surveys (WP1) show that the requirement for academics at business schools
is the need for continuous contact with enterprise for various reasons that include the
development of new theories of business practice and learn
ing how to improve business
performance by developing new and relevant programmes for OMs and their staff. Crucially,

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OMs must be engaged in such a way as to feel confident about the supply of information to
academics and government and importantly, to ea
ch other. To support multidimensional KE it is
important that trust develops between academia and the enterprises they work with. For online
activity this is accomplished via correctly e
-
facilitated programmes that develop digital capital
(
Tapscott, Ticol

and Lowy, 2000)
between e
-
facilitators and the OMs they engage with. Although
many OMs distrust governments, academia can act as the intermediary for KE between OMs and
government via the development of enduring trust between e
-
facilitators and the OMs t
hey
engage with.

Prior to CRIB, the Lancaster Centre for e
-
Science provided Sakai portal services to 3 LEAD
Programme cohorts at the Institute of Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development (IEED).
Other online technologies had been used for LEAD on ear
lier cohorts including PhPBB, Moodle
and Lancaster University’s own VLE. For a variety of reasons it was decided to move to Sakai as
the use of the other technologies gained mixed responses from delegates. The Sakai Collaborative
Learning Environment is o
pen source and free to download and use
(http://www.sakaiproject.org). It provides secure communication worksites to project groups,
learning groups and communities. Universities in the US, funded by the Mellon Foundation and
Hewlett Packard, initialised

the Sakai project in 2004. During the Summer of 2010 Sakai 2.7 was
released. Within this latest release a broad range of communication tools are available including
forums, chat, web conferencing, wiki, blogs, learning logs, announcements and mail. Ext
ernal
web resources can also be added as needed. Hierarchical security is embedded meaning that a
server can manage many independent forums of which membership is protected (i.e. people
must be added by the administrators protecting the data environment).

Member’s data is
protected within worksites such that only members of a specific worksite can access the
resources it holds. Sakai tools are integrated meaning that, for example, if a group arranges a
meeting in the web conference tool, it will set the
date automatically in the worksite calendar.
Forum posts also link to a persons profile so that people can identify with people that they are
communicating with. Although LEAD is a key user of Sakai worksites, it has also been applied to
the development
of social e
-
communities including an online community of gardeners. These
more socially applied sites are zero risk in terms of data content and are made ‘joinable’ to all
registered Sakai users if that is what the site owner wishes. This means that peop
le can browse
joinable sites and then optionally join if this is desired. Outside of worksites, Sakai users can
develop their online profiles and also select privacy settings so that private social networking is
enabled/disabled for them. This social tool
set was created for CRIB by the Lancaster Centre for
eScience to provide a space where all stakeholders can find each other, form workgroups and
communicate; beyond those already provided by LEAD. The social networking element contains
a photo gallery, a
profiler catering for academics, business people, public bodies and students. It
also contains a message service, a connections list and extensive privacy settings.

For LEAD a common structure of Sakai worksites has been formed that allows for knowledge
to
pass between stakeholders. Figure 2 provides an outline of the structure for 13 LEAD providers
(there are actually 15 in total at the time of writing) in the Northwest of the UK. The core site is
applied as a project intranet and is called the LEAD P
rovider Network (LPN). All LEAD personnel
across 15 providers and the project managers/leaders from the NWDA have access this site. In
total there are approximately 150 site members. The site is used as a core communication
platform where LEAD providers

can download up to date marketing or training materials or ask
advice from each other or from NWDA via forums. Within the LPN online videos have been
embedded also keeping providers up to date with latest events. It is important to note that
communicati
on goes beyond worksites via email alerts. For example, when an announcement is

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sent or a forum post made, its content is sent to worksite participants via their registered email
address. For busy people this is useful as it reminds them that activities
are taking place that
may be relevant to them, encouraging them to login. Additionally, there is a Users Present list in
each worksite that informs users who is presently online and accessing that worksite. This form
part of a toolset designed to engende
r a sense of community among providers and delegates.

Each provider is given as many LEAD worksites as they need. For each LEAD cohort, which exists
as a group of 25 OMs and several facilitators/trainers, a worksite is provided. The term
facilitator is
used to describe the people that keep the online communication going between face
-
to
-
face meetings. These people were given e
-
facilitation training prior to running cohorts. E
-
facilitators are able to communicate with their delegates using announcements,

or more
selectively using the mailtool, or via forums. They are also able to embed videos or upload
documentation into the worksite. The advantage of this process is that delegates get to know
their LEAD facilitators and develop the ‘digital capital’ req
uired to engage with OMs successfully.
This means that they become respected by their delegates in unique way that implies delegates
are highly likely to respond to information requests from e
-
facilitators. This means that NWDA
personnel can make informa
tion requests to delegates via their e
-
facilitators via the worksites.
Initial tests of this activity have shown that knowledge exchanges can be quite fast. For example,
during 2008 Sue Peters (Director of LEAD at the Institute of Entrepreneurship and Ente
rprise
Development (IEED)) was invited for interview on BBC Breakfast TV to discuss the impact of the
ailing banking sector on smaller businesses (see
http://www.lums.lan
cs.ac.uk/news/17271/sue
-
peters
-
bbc/

for interview). Using Sakai LEAD
forums to gather data, within 12 hours more than 20 responses from a diverse base of
approximately 60 OMs were received, providing ample data for the interview that was to be
conducted the following morning. Traditional
data gathering exercises looking at the same issues
would have taken several weeks to complete.

KE takes many forms among groups. For example, KE between academia and enterprise can be
in the form of student placements or academics supporting enterprise
activities via training. An
example of Knowledge transferred from business to university and then onto business occurred
when Lancaster MBA students contacted LEAD participants via e
-
facilitators for a sponsored
project (sponsor: PricewaterhouseCoopers) r
equesting face
-
to
-
face interviews and completion of
an online survey. This resulted in 13 interviews being engaged and a 33% response rate to the
survey. Knowledge transfers from business to university can occur also. More usually, OMs are
notoriously di
fficult to engage in research but the application of the Sakai worksites via LEAD
increases participation rates strongly. During recent evaluations conducted on LEAD cohorts 7, 8
and 9, a questionnaire was deployed within Sakai. With encouragement from e
-
facilitators via
forums a response rate of nearly 100% was achieved. An example of KE between the government
sector and business occurred when Business Link requested that facilitators advertise Alan
Sugar’s presentation to SMEs that was held in Manchester
. Advertised through IEED’s Sakai
Forums by e
-
facilitators, 8 out of 60 showed interest in participating at the event via the forum
and were able to report the day’s proceedings back to non
-
attendees via the electronic forum.
These successful KE activitie
s highlight the desire of the OMs to engage with public sector
voluntarily and it is likely that the development of a larger e
-
community of SMEs based on the
LEAD NW roll out, however formed, will provide us the platform to understand business practice
bet
ter and to inform policy. Moreover, it provides public sector a conduit to pass information to
sizable numbers of OMs. Crucially, the worksites provide a safe space where OMs can
communicate among themselves which is a further conduit for KE. For example
, delegates can
ask each other questions relating to their businesses.


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At present we service 1500 OMs via LEAD in both NW and Welsh regions and we were working
with the NWDAs Solutions for Business (SfB) leader to promote SfB activities to LEAD delegates.

Alas, SfB liquidated soon after the May election after considerable effort has already been sunk
into the project that included site and process development. The SfB site was accessible via the
Joinable sites option, which allows OMs to view content as n
eeded. Despite the changing political
landscape, we were also able to extend into the new ways of working brought about by the
coalition government. We hosted a workshop at STFC Daresbury for CRIB during September
2010. Present, were representatives of Bu
siness Link. Specializing in NHS and Government
support initiatives, they felt that the Sakai version containing updated profile was the ideal open
source solution to support Big Society issues, Local Enterprise Partnership activities and General
Practitio
ner Consortiums (GPC) formation. Usefully, because Sakai does not contain complex
licensing arrangements, it is able to flex across various stakeholders without restriction.

Earlier, it was discussed that Sakai’s latest release (Sakai 2.7) contains social
networking tools.
We intended to launch this service towards the end of April 2010. This version provides all LEAD
delegates the ability to find other LEAD delegates who have participated on LEAD or with
academics and/or trainers from any of the LEAD prov
iders. During interviews with graduated
LEAD delegates the question was posed on how they would feel becoming part of a larger LEAD
network, after all many LEAD delegates ask what happens afterward LEAD? Some interesting
responses were made. For example
, OMs tend to come from heterogeneous business
backgrounds meaning that those



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Core Management Worksites

(CMW)

Core Management members
-
NWDA, eScience, IEED


Core Worksites

Examples


-
Project Management
-
Project Marketing
-
Other sites as needed




LEAD Provider Network (LPN)

-
NWDA, eScience, 13 service
providers


2
-
Way
Communicatio
n between
NWDA and
pa
rtners

Provider

1

Providers 2 to 12

Provider

13

Provider
Worksite


13

Core membership

-
Provider 13 trainers
-
eScience Support


Cohort

13, x1

Cohort

13,x2

Provider

13
Sandbox

2
-
Way Communication
between NWDA and
Providers

2
-
Way
Communicatio
n between
cohorts and
providers

Expanded
View of
Provider 13

Figure 2: LEAD Provider Network


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OMs within LEAD cohorts are likely to be operating very different enterprises. As the body of
LEAD delegates grows it becomes possible to develop special interest groups (SIGs) about
specific industry needs or about mi
nority issues (e.g. dealing with cloud technology; managing
trade contracts with India). OMs agreed that this would be useful. The social networking
element of the portal will allow the formation of SIGs as individuals of common need, as
determined by se
mantic search tools or by manual implementation, can occur. Groups of
delegates can be formed however needed. For example, post conference it would be possible to
add conference attendees into discussion groups to keep the debate moving after the confere
nce
has closed. Of interest, some providers have begun applying the portal as intranet for their
organizations; often to centralize documents and to keep marketing literature to hand. Some
providers have developed worksites for their coaches. Some have al
so asked that we
amalgamate their existing LEAD cohorts to extend communication into a larger group with
common e
-
facilitators.

Dealing with Problems of User Acceptance

We have learnt a great deal regarding user acceptance issues. LEAD Entrepreneurs tend t
owards
being middle aged and moderately educated and this defines an issue of user acceptance and use
of ICT generally. It is commonly found in the literature that ICT acceptance declines with age and
educational attainment (Brown and Venkatesh, 2005). F
or entrepreneurs of smaller businesses
this issue can be quite acute, as good entrepreneurial skill does not naturally imply good IT skill.
Robertson, Lockett, Brown and Crouchley (2007) show that if entrepreneurs have a poor attitude
towards computers th
at it can have a direct impact on final ICT adoption and usage within the
company. In terms of LEAD delegates, adoption of Sakai for intra
-
meeting communication shows
up as those entrepreneurs using the forums consistently well and those that clearly disl
ike the
activity of using online communication services. On 2 occasions drop in sessions were arranged
for those delegates that were not managing online activities well. This unique opportunity to
explore peoples’ attitudes towards technology highlighted

multiple emotions limit use. These are
fear of technology, frustration towards technology and lack of desire to learn new technology.
Although the meetings were targeted towards Sakai end use, with some probing it became
apparent that emotions focused t
owards Sakai were also felt when using other online
technologies. For example, 1 delegate highlighted that his secretary handled all email
correspondence as he felt frustrated trying to learn new technologies such as email. Others could
not relate to com
puting technology or felt privacy was being impinged upon by using online
services. After 1 hour of additional training approximately half of each group felt more
comfortable in the environment and were more willing to participate online. It should be no
ted
that younger generations, typically students, require no forward training to use Sakai. Recent
studies conducted at Lancaster show that 95% of students use Facebook in various ways and are
therefore familiar with the ways of working within Sakai. Alrea
dy engaged into Facebook means
that they are also familiar with collaboration, albeit in a social way. The distinction between
older generations and their younger ‘next
-
generation’ OMs counterparts implies that current
psychological barriers will diminish

over time as present younger generations grow older

(see
http://alirobertson.blogspot.com/2010/11/inter
-
generational
-
differences
-
brought.html

for
further
discussion on intergenerational differences and how this affects technology adoption
generally)
.

A key observation from LEAD, deduced by support roles, interviews with providers and their
delegates is that final adoption of LEAD Forum worksites by delegates is strongly influenced by

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the e
-
facilitators at the providers. The LEAD Programme relies on e
-
f
acilitation teams to
encourage and train delegates on the use of Sakai. If the e
-
facilitation teams lack confidence or
experience or training people, this would normally lead to under
-
use of forums by delegates also.

Concluding Comments

During 2012 LEAD N
W and Wales will have impacted 2000 OMs via 53 cohorts. As the number of
impacted OMs increases the network that forms will become more powerful and more able to
support multidimensional KE. We hope that despite government spending cuts that expansions
o
f service will extend to new regions but also that new SME support programmes will apply Sakai
as we have done. It is feasible to link or federate different instances of Sakai so that private social
networking spans across various institutions. This woul
d mean that any institution that runs
Sakai can link their version to any other that also supports private social networking. A benefit of
this approach is that software costs are free and security parameters can be clearly defined by
server administrators
.