Facebook's Timeline: do they know what they have?
How many times have you thought to yourself, "did I send that email on Monday or Tuesday? Was that before or after we talked on the phone? Did I post that file after the status call or before? When did I chat with that customer?"
Now go to your Facebook page and look through your Timeline. Wouldn't it be nice if you had a work timeline? You could see what you did in what order going as far back in time as you need. This isn't like your calendar, although that would be in there. This isn't like going through your email history to see what you did and when, although that would be there, too. This is a consolidated e-work history. No need to look up file dates and times to see when you saved it last. No need to research your own email "Sent" folder to remind yourself the order of your work day. (Does this sound crazy to you? Then you have never had to bill your time to 5 different projects in the same week.)
Granted, Facebook's release of Timeline has not been well received so I understand your initial thought, "Why take a bad idea from my personal life and bring it to work?"
where this idea shines
As someone who has spent most of his adult working life parsing work hours into tasks on a timesheet, I may be more excited than most for a central repository of my work history. But I don't think that the consulting and support professions are the only ones that could really benefit from a work Timeline. The classic hourly billing professions (lawyers, accountants and their plethora of underlings) working their multiple client loads and varied billing systems could find a Timeline to be the ideal place to verify and account for their daily work. Even small independent contractors could use a timeline for keeping track of which clients were worked and in what order.
This would be a disruptive innovation for many small application players. Microsoft has spent decades fostering a third-party developer ethos that makes a living polling Office products for this kind of data. But those products tend to show your calendar and associated documents in one place. They have no ability to show your online activity, voice calls, Instant Messaging history and document versions in a linear way.
Just to validate myself a bit, I polled a small grouping of professionals about this idea. Each one thought it had value, although I did have to explain the concept of a single social collaboration portal for the workplace. Each had examples of how such a tool would have made this or that project better. One thought it would be a good way to show his boss how overworked he is, another could have used it a few years ago to back up conversations they had with a conveniently "forgetful" client. But I think my wife had the best comment: "Nobody is going to want their boss looking at their every move." Ah, there's the rub.
In my next article I'll look at the ups and downs of a possible enterprise timeline tool, and who could bring it to a workstation near you.
image © mipan Fotolia.com
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