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Posts Tagged ‘Knowledge Management’

It’s Knowledge Management, Jim, but not as you know it

March 19, 2015 1 comment

LibraryA recent conversation with a colleague sent me searching back to my archives for a conference presentation I did nearly 16 years ago. The subject of the conference was on the impact of Document Management as an enabler for Knowledge sharing in the enterprise.

Driven by three different technology sectors at the time, Document Management, Search and Portals, Knowledge Management was all the rage back then. No good deed goes unpunished, however, and after several massive project failures and even more non-starter projects, Knowledge Management lost its shine and became a dirty phrase that no self-respecting consultant wanted to be associated with.

Why did Knowledge Management fail in the ‘90s?

They say 20:20 hindsight is a wonderful thing… Reading again through my slides and my notes, made me realise how different this market has become since the late ‘90s. There were a number of factors at the time that made sure that Knowledge Management never took off as a viable approach but, in my view, two were the most dominant:

The first one was the much used phrase of “Knowledge is power”. Leaving aside the fact that knowledge in and by itself very rarely has intrinsic value – it’s the application of knowledge that creates the power – the phrase was quickly misconstrued by the users to mean: “I have knowledge, therefore I have power”. Guess what? Who wants to dilute their power by selflessly sharing out knowledge? Not many users felt altruistic enough to share their prized knowledge possessions, their crown jewels, for the greater good of the organisation. “As long as I hold onto the knowledge, I hold on to the power and therefore I am important, valuable and irreplaceable”. Nobody said so, of course, but everyone was thinking it.

The second one was the incessant focus on the information itself as the knowledge asset. Technology was focused almost exclusively on extracting tacit knowledge from individuals, encapsulating it in explicit documents, categorising it, classifying it, archiving it and making it available to anyone who could possibly need it. There were two problems with this approach: The moment tacit information became explicit, it lost its owner and curator; it also started aging and becoming obsolete. Quite often, it also lost its context too, making it not only irrelevant but often dangerous.

Why are we talking again about Knowledge Management in 2015?

The last decade has brought a silent cultural revolution on knowledge sharing. We have all learned to actively share! Not only did we become a lot less paranoid about sharing our “crown jewels”, but we are all actively enjoying doing so, inside and outside the work environment: Wikipedia, blogs, Twitter, self-publishing, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, SlideShare, Open-source, crowdsourcing, etc., all technologies that the millennium (and the millennials) have brought to the fore. All these technologies are platforms for sharing information and knowledge. The stigma and the paranoia of “Knowledge is Power” has actually transformed into “Sharing is Power”. The more we share the more are valued by our networks, and the bigger the network grows the more power we yield as individuals. And, surprise-surprise, it’s reciprocal! The bigger the network we create the bigger the pool of knowledge we can draw upon.

What couldn’t have been envisioned in the late ‘90s, or early ‘00s, is that by 2015 the knowledge power would be contained in the relationships and the connections, not in the information assets. Not just connections between knowledge gurus inside an enterprise, but amongst individuals in a social environment, between companies and consumers and amongst professional organisations.

Social Media and Collaboration environments have proven to us that the value of sharing knowledge is significantly higher than the value of holding on to it. We may or may not see the term “Knowledge Management” resurrected as an IT concept, but the reality is that knowledge sharing has now become an integral part of our daily life, professional and personal, and it’s not likely to change any time soon.

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Seven even deadlier sins of Information Governance

October 7, 2012 3 comments

Devin Krugly published a very interesting blog/article, describing the “The 7 Deadly Sins of Information Governance“. I enjoyed the article, and I can’t find anything to disagree with, but I have to admit that it left me wanting… The 7 sins presented by Devin are well known and very common problems that plague most Enterprise scale projects, as he points out within the article itself. They could equally apply to HR, supply chain, claims processing or any other major IT implementation. Devin has done a great job of projecting these pitfalls to an Information Governance program.

For me, however, what is really missing from the article is a list of “sins” that are unique to Information Governance projects. So let me try and add some specific Information Governance colour to the picture… Here is my list of seven even deadlier sins:

Governance needs a government. Information governance touches the whole of the organisation. It touches every system, every employee and every process. Decisions therefore that govern information, must be taken by a well defined governance body, that accurately represents the business, compliance, legal, audit and IT, at the very least. You cannot solve the Information Governance problem by throwing technology at it. Sure, technology plays a key part as an enabler, a catalyst and as an automation framework. But technology cannot determine policy, priorities, responsibility and accountability. Nor can it decide the organisation’s appetite for risk, or changes in strategic direction. For that, you need a governing body that defines and drives the implementation of governance.

Information does not mean data. I have talked about this in an earlier blog (Data Governance is not about Data). We often see Information Governance projects that focus primarily (or even exclusively) on transactional data, or data warehousing, or records management, or archiving, etc. Information Governance should be unified and consistent. There isn’t a different regulator for data, for documents, for emails or for tweeter messages. ANY information that enters, leaves or stays in the organisation should be subject to a common set of Governance policies and guidelines. The technical implementation a may be different but the governance should be consistent.

It is a marathon not a sprint. You can never run an “Information Governance Project”. That would imply a defined set of deliverables and a completion point at some specific date. As long as your business changes (new products, new suppliers, new customers, new employees, new markets, new regulations, new infrastructure, etc.) your Information Governance needs will also change. Policies will need revising, responsibilities will need adjusting, information sources will need adding and processes re-evaluating. Constantly! If your Information Governance project is “finished”, frankly, so is your business.

Keep it lean and clean. Information governance is the only cure for Content Obesity. Organisations today are plagued by information ROT (information that is Redundant, Outdated or Trivial).  A core outcome of any Information Governance initiative should be the regular disposal of redundant information which has to be done consistently, defensibly and with the right level of controls around it. It is a key deliverable and it requires both the tools and the commitment of the governing body.

Remember: Not who or how, but why Information Governance projects often get tangled up in the details. Tools, formats, systems, volumes, stakeholders, stewards, regulators, litigators, etc., become the focus of the project and, more often the not, people forget the main driver: Businesses need good, clean and accessible information to operate. The primary role of Information Governance is to deliver accurate, timely and reliable information to the business, for making decisions, for creating products and for delivering services. Every other issue must come second in priority.

The ministry of foreign affairs. The same way that a country cannot be governed without due consideration to the relationship with its neighbours, Information Governance does not stop at the company’s firewall. Your organisation continuously trades information with suppliers, customers, partners, competitors and the wider community. Each of these exchanges has value and carries risks. Monitoring and managing the quality, the trustworthiness, the volume and the frequency of the information exchanged, is a core part of Information Governance and should be clearly articulated in the relevant policies and implemented in the relevant systems.

This is not a democracy, it’s a revolution. Implementing Information Governance is not an IT project, it is a business transformation project. Not only because of its scope and the potential benefit and risk that it represents, but also because of the level of commitment and engagement it requires from every part of the organisation. Ultimately, Information Governance has a role in enforcing information quality, regulatory and legal controls, and it is contributing to the organisation’s accountability. The purpose of on Information Governance implementation is not to ensure that everyone is happy and has an equal voice on the table. The purpose is to ensure that the organisation does the right thing and behaves responsibly. And that may require significant cultural change and a few ruffled feathers…

If you don’t already have an Information Governance initiative in your organisation, now is the time to raise the issue to the board. If you do, then you should carefully consider if the common pitfalls presented here are addressed by your program, or if you are in danger of committing one or more of these sins.

Looking for Mr. Right – Revisited

I was reading a recent article by Chris Dale, where he gave an overview of Debra Logan‘s “Why Information Governance fails and how to make it succeed” keynote speech. It’s difficult to disagree with most points made in the session, but one point in particular caught my attention. Chris transcribes Debra’s thoughts as:

“…we are at the birth of a new profession, with hybrid players who have multiple strands of skills and experience. You need people with domain expertise, not just about apps and servers but data and information. The usual approach is to take people who already have jobs and give them something else to do on top or instead. You need to find people who understand the subject and teach them to attach metadata to their material, to understand document retention, perhaps even send them to law school to turn them into a legal/IT/subject matter expert hybrid.”

In parallel, I have also had several conversations, recently, relating to AIIM‘s new “Certified Information Professional” accreditation (which I am proud to possess, having passed their stringent exam). It is a valiant attempt to recognise individuals who have enough breadth of skills in Information Management, to cover most of the requirements of Debra’s “new profession“.

These two – relatively unrelated – events, prompted me to go and re-discover an article that I wrote for AIIM’s eDoc online magazine, published sometime around June 2005. Unfortunately the article is no longer online, so apologies for  embedding it here, in its entirety:

Looking for Mr. Right

Why advances in ECM technology have generated a serious skills gap in the market.

ECM technologies have advanced significantly in the last ten years. The convergence of Document/Content Management, Workflow, Searching, web technologies, records management, email capture, imaging and intelligent forms processing, has created a new information management environment that is much more aware of the value of information assets.

Most analysts agree that we are entering a new phase in ECM, where medium and large size organizations are looking to invest in ECM as a strategic enterprise deployment in order to leverage their investment in multiple business areas – especially where improving operational efficiencies and compliance are the key drivers, as these tend to have a more horizontal appeal across the organization.

But as ECM technologies are starting to become pervasive, there is a lot of confusion on the operational management of these systems. Technically, the IT department is responsible for ensuring the systems are up and running as optimally as the technology permits. But whose responsibility is it, to make sure that these systems are configured appropriately and that the information held within them is managed correctly as a valuable asset?

Think about your own company: Who decides how information is managed across your organization? With ECM, you are generating a virtual library of information that should be used and leveraged consistently across departments, geographical boundaries, organizational structures and individual responsibility areas. And if you include Business Process Management in the picture, you are also looking for common, accountable and integrated business practices across the same boundaries. Does this responsibility sit within the business community, the IT department or as a separate internal service function? And what skills would be required to support this?

There is a new role requirement emerging, which is not very well defined or understood at the moment. There is a need for an individual or a group, depending on the size of the organization, who can combine the following capabilities:

  • identify what information should be managed and how, based on its intrinsic value and legal status
  • implement mechanisms for filtering and purging redundant information
  • design and maintain information structures
  • define metadata and classification schemes and policies
  • design folder structures and record management file plans
  • define indexing topologies, thesauri and search strategies
  • implement policies and timelines for content lifecycle management
  • devise and implement record retention and disposition strategies
  • define security models, access controls and auditing requirements
  • devise schemes for the most efficient location of information across distributed architectures
  • devise content and media refresh strategies for long-term archiving
  • consolidate information management practices across multiple communication channels: e.g. email, web, fax, instant messaging, SMS, VoIP
  • consolidate taxonomies, indexing schemes and policies across organizational structures
  • etc.

And all of this, for different business environments and different vertical needs with a good understanding of both business requirements and the capabilities offered by the technology –  someone who can comfortably bridge the gap between the business requirements and the IT department.

People who can effectively combine the skills of librarian, administrator, business analyst, strategist and enterprise architect are extremely rare to find. If you can find one, hire them today!

The closest title one can use for this role today is “Information Architect” although job descriptions with that title differ significantly. More importantly, people with this collective skill set are very difficult to find today and even more difficult to train since a lot of “best practices” in this area are not established or documented.

This is a wakeup call for universities, training agencies, consultants and people wanting to re-skill: While the ECM technology itself is being commoditised, more and more application areas are opening up which will require these specialist skills. Companies need more people with these capabilities and they need them today. Without them, successful ECM deployments will remain difficult and expensive to achieve.

The more pervasive ECM becomes as an infrastructure discipline, the bigger the skill gap will become, unless we start addressing this today.

Apart from feeling slightly proud that I highlighted in June 2005 something that Gartner is raising as an issue today, this doesn’t reassure me at all: 7 years have passed and Debra Logan is (and organisations are…) still looking for Mr. Right!

I am happy that Information Governance has finally come to the forefront as an issue, and that AIIM’s CIP certification is making some strides in helping the match-making process.

But I really hoped we would have come a bit further by now…

Lawyers are from Mars, Technology is from Venus

September 16, 2011 Leave a comment

I spent two excellent days last week at the Legal Week’s Corporate Counsel Forum, where I’ve met several new and interesting people and learned an awful lot of things I didn’t know.

But I left the conference very frustrated.

The forum audience comprises primarily senior lawyers: General Counsel and Heads of Legal departments. The topics covered were as wide as crisis management, ‘moral’ compass, employment, Bribery Act, ‘Tesco’ law, cross-border teams, intellectual property, competition, etc., etc. Fascinating subjects, some of which admittedly I knew nothing about and learned a lot. It gave me a small insight into “a day in the life of a General Counsel” and the sheer volume of diversity that they have to be knowledgeable about, deal with and protect themselves (and their company) from.

And in 8 out of 10 conference sessions I wanted to shout: “There is a solution that can help here!”.

It amazes me (and frustrates me!) how much of the technology that other parts of the organisation take for granted seems to be absent from the legal department. As if they are the poor relatives in the organisation. I am not talking about highly specialised legal technologies such as eDiscovery, Content Analytics or even Information Risk & Compliance Governance (although these too are available and seem to be missing from many legal officers’ armoury, but that’s another conversation…). I am talking about basic capabilities that make the daily office operation significantly more efficient:

  • Digitising paper – avoiding the costs, avoiding delays of shifting piles of paper around and the risk of losing them by accident or in a crisis
  • Electronic document repositories – managing security and access controls, reducing duplication, managing versions, allowing online access from anywhere and simple searching
  • Case management – allowing lawyers to organise their work, negotiate with third parties, monitor progress, apply rules and generate reports automatically instead of using spreadsheets
  • Email management – capturing, filtering, organising and routing emails, ensuring compliance
  • Collaboration software – communicating amongst large teams, dispersed in different geographies and timezones

The list goes on… This isn’t trailblazing, these are automation tools and capabilities that have proven their value and have been helping organisations remove basic inefficiencies, for the last 10-20 years.

I am not advocating that technology is the answer to everything. Some business problems can be improved with some common sense and a bit of reorganising. Others are far too complex to be tackled by technology alone. But there is certainly enough basic technology to make a General Counsel’s life much simpler.

One of the key messages coming out of the conference was the resource constraints that legal departments are facing. Too much to do, too little time, too few people, too much information to process, too much knowledge to upkeep, too many risks to avoid, too many departments to coordinate, too many regulations to adhere to and too many stakeholders to appease.

So why are you wasting time on menial tasks that can be simplified, automated, or eliminated by use of simple tools, instead of using that time effectively to add value to the elements of the process where technology can’t  help.

Whenever I asked that question, the answer is typically “We don’t control the budget” or “We have other priorities” or “We don’t have the time to look at new tools”, etc.

Excuses! The question here is not “have I got time to worry about technology?”. The question is “Can I afford the luxury of NOT using it?”.  If these technologies can improve the productivity and reduce costs in the operations department, the marketing department, the sales department, the procurement department, why not use them to improve the efficiency of the legal department too?

(I would love to hear your views on this, especially if you are and in-house lawyer or work in a legal department)

Tweet Jam Tarts – Revisited…

(c) dadcando.com

Last Thursday I participated in another exciting ECM Tweetjam (if you don’t know what a Tweetjam is read it here) organised by @bduhon (long suffering editor of AIIM’s publications and curator of @AIIMCommunity). I had missed the announcements, but stumbled upon a tweet message from a friend, just in time, so I jumped in.

The usual suspects participated in the discussion. Virtually all vocal participants were from the vendor community, but that is not surprising given AIIM’s make up as an organisation. Also not surprising, since the people who have opinions to share on ECM tend to be the ones that have been around this industry for a while and have seen the good, the bad and the extremely ugly (I’m talking about ECM projects here, before anyone gets offended!)

Even though you can use any twitter client to participate in a tweetjam, TweetChat was the preferred tool of the day. It just keeps everything focused and flowing but even with the best tool for the job, it’s difficult to keep up. At the peak of the discussion there were between 5-10 tweets in every 5-second refresh cycle. No chance of reading all of them, never mind responding. Bryant did his best to streamline the flow by numbering the questions but, inevitably, the limitation of 140 characters and the multiple threads of conversations/retweets/comments on each question meant that it was fairly chaotic at times. That’s not a bad thing in a tweetjam! It shows that the participants are passionate about the topic and that it’s not scripted. I’ve been in other tweetjams before, where it was obvious that the only participants were marketers with a very specific message to convey. Those tweetjams are boring!

For those interested in stats: In an hour – 977 tweets, 82 twitterers, potentially reaching 42,500 people…

It’s worth remembering though, that for every person active in a tweetjam conversation, there are several others that just listen in, monitoring the hashtag and looking for pearls of wisdom. And there were several in the session.

So, what ECM pearls did we pick up in the Jam? Here are some…

  • The never-ending saga of “is ECM the right name for what we do?” continues
  • BPM is a fundamental part of ECM, as confirmed again by OpenText acquisition
  • ECM is relevant to small organisations as much as it is to large ones
  • SharePoint is here and offers basic ECM, if implemented correctly, but there are some ‘evil’ implementations out there.
  • Operational efficiency is “sexy”… According to some at least.
  • Some of us are too old and have been in ECM for far too long…

You can read Bryant’s more detailed blog about the #ecmjam here, but I must say it was fun!

“Hey, Watson! Is Santa real?” – Why IBM Watson is an innocent 6-year old…

I love the technology behind “IBM Watson“. I think it’s been a long time coming and I don’t doubt that in a matter of only a few years, we will see phenomenal applications for it.

Craig Rhinehart explored some of the possibilities of using Watson to analyse social media in his blog “Watson and the future of ECM”. He also set out a great comparison of “Humans vs. Watson”, in the context of a trivia quiz. However, I believe that there is a lot more to it…

Watson is a knowledgeable fool. A 6-year old kid, that can’t tell fact from fiction.

When Watson played Jeopardy!, it ranked its possible answers against each other and the confidence that it understood the questions correctly. Watson did not for a moment question the trustworthiness of its knowledge domain.

Watson is excellent at analysing a finite, trusted knowledge base. But the internet and social media are neither finite, nor trusted.

What if Watson’s knowledge base is not factual?

Primary school children are taught to use Wikipedia for research, but not to trust it, as it’s not always right. They have to cross-reference multiple research sources before they accept the most likely answer. Can Watson detect facts from opinions, hearsay and rumours? Can it detect irony and sarcasm? Can it distinguish factual news from political propaganda and tabloid hype?

If we want to make Watson’s intelligence as “human-like” and reliable as possible, and to use it to drive decisions based on internet or social media content, its “engine” requires at least another dimension: Source reliability ranking. It has to learn when to trust a source and when to discredit it. It has to have a “learning” mechanism that re-evaluates the reliability of its sources as well as its own decision making process, based on the accuracy of its outcome. And since its knowledge base will be constantly growing, it also needs to re-assess previous decisions on new evidence. (i.e. a “belief revision” system).

Today, Watson is a knowledge regurgitating engine (albeit a very fast and sophisticated one). The full potential of Watson, will only be explored when it becomes a learning engine. Only then can we start talking about real decision intelligence.

Social Amnesia – What’s your social identity worth to you?

I had the unfortunate experience of losing one of my Social Media accounts recently. And as per the popular song… You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone!

I like Social Networking: Even if I haven’t quite eschewed email and my C: drive, I rely heavily on my social network for information, for feedback and for personal communications. My 350 carefully vetted Twitter followers, my 150 Facebook family and friends, my 100 LinkedIn business contacts and University alumni, my 50 RedBubble artist friends and the dozen subscribers to my WordPress blog, make up most of my social network.

It’s not a huge network, but it’s mine, it is personal, it is relevant and it is important to me. Whether I like it or not, it also defines my public identity, to a certain extent.

So what happens when disaster strikes? What if all that was wiped away?

Louis Richardson very eloquently describes a new Information/Knowledge Management environment that centres around the individual and his social network rather than information collected in documents. (“People-centric vs. Content-centric” http://bit.ly/gU5Skf). AIIM (by voice of Geoffrey Moore) similarly describe the transition from “Systems of Record” to “Systems of Engagement”. (http://www.aiim.org/Research/AIIM-White-Papers/Systems-of-Engagement)

Both of these highlight the fact that my social identity is now a more important asset than the collection of knowledge artefacts that live on my hard disk and get backed up regularly.

I have no backup of my social identity!

Within my work environment, people will look to my social community profile, to understand who I am, where I come from and what my interest and expertise is, based on my profile, my tags, my network contacts, my blogs, the communities I belong to, the bookmarks I shared, etc

One day my public profiles (through a weird upgrade bug) got wiped clean. My profile was blank, my identity was gone! I was no longer an opinionated thought leader and social media zealot, or helpful ECM advocate with answers to questions. I was another blank profile with just a name.

Rebuilding that identity is not easy. Not only it takes time and effort, but trying to remember what was there to start with, is a nightmare. Who was I connected to? Which communities did I belong to? What tags did people assign to me? More importantly, how long will it take for my profile to “mature” to the same level of trust and credibility that it carried before?

Thinking about this, I realised how much I’ve come to rely on social media. Facebook and LinkedIn are my address & phone lists and birthday calendars for friends, family and work colleagues.  My on-line calendar is also my diary and meetings history log.  My blog site contains most of my innovative thoughts & nuggets from the last 3 years. The people I follow on twitter are my market intelligence engine. The people that follow me, are my influence sphere.

If these accounts were to suddenly disappear, I will have lost not only years of investment, but my social identity and my social memory. And that would cost me time, it would cost me operational efficiency, it would cost me credibility, it would cost me competitiveness, and it would cost me personal angst. It will ultimately have an impact to both my work and to my private life.

How do I protect this identity? Some tools, like Facebook, have their own mechanisms for taking a backup copy of your profile data. Did you know that? When was the last time you took a backup of your Facebook account? Other third-party tools (e.g. http://www.backupify.com) will backup and restore multiple public profiles from different tools. They are commendable, but not complete. And how many of us actually use them?

Take a step back: Imagine for a moment that your Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts are wiped clean. Imagine that your blog has no entries. In the people-centric world of social networking, what impact will this Social Amnesia have to your business and your personal life?

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