Friday, April 29, 2005

The implementation backstep

It's been cloudy for three days. In Denver this is rare and it's really showing up in people's attitudes. While we typically works together well, there are some cranky people here today.

I'm coining today's post the implementation back step. While this should be expected, I didn't.

The past few days I've been getting a lot of pressure from managers to slow things down and also to mediate numerous little conflicts. What's happening is that the change we've been planning for is finally here (add the weather and the disruption in the force [yesterday's post] and there's bound to be trouble). People are nervous about the change, afraid for their jobs, and worried about the workload. Managers, upon hearing the complaints from their staff are in turn reacting, scrambling to get us to slow down and reduce the pressure. The involvement, consensus, and goals we built up front is temporarily being forgotten.

The silver lining is that because we've built consensus upfront, people are coming to me with their concerns instead of the behind the scenes sabotage. The challenge for me is to not take things personally and to reassure people.

Sound like fun? I'm going somewhere sunny!

Thursday, April 28, 2005

A disturbance in the force

We had disheartening news yesterday that our well-liked deputy director was not selected to replace our retiring director. With our deputy being the lead champion for the KM program, this definitely hits home. What makes matters worse is that we won't know who the new director will be for another month. Questions are swirling around in my head; Will KM remain a priority? Will the new director want to change the direction of the program? Will the new director want a new person leading KM? How are staff going to react? What am I going to have for lunch?

Being in the middle of a change effort, this uncertainty definitely causes problems. People were already being challenged with the changes being implemented. Can we keep the momentum going without pushing people over the edge?

Being the eternal optimist, I'm hoping that this change in leadership will bring a new sense of urgency to the knowledge management effort. A big barrier to change always been our organizational memory (the "we've always done it this way" and the "this can't change" syndrome). New ideas and new leadership may be what we need.

The challenge will be to keep things moving forward during this transition and period of uncertainty.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

I knew it sounded too easy

We're now well underway in our implementation of our CMS system. We've been working closely with the Stellent consultants to finalize the architecture, load the software, and configure the system. In general, they've been great to work with but as we get into the details have had a few surprises with our original design. We've also found that we need to push some items back because we just weren't ready.

We are well positioned in metadata and file structure, since we spent a lot of upfront time on these. They've gone into the system quickly. Our challenge is now is having our staff move files into our new file structure prior to batch loading them into the system. Sounds easy, but are giving this process two months. I'm waiting for the next phases of migrating in paper, implementing workflow, and changing the search on the web. All should be quite fun!!!

A comment from the CMS conference is ringing true, that people still need to do their jobs while you are implementing the new system. We're finding this a challenge as we identify things that we need to fully configure the system. As the list of things grow that we need to do, my uneasiness of about asking too much of staff grows.

We also found that for a few of our business requirements, there's still a lot of "art" involved, not out-of-the-box as I expected. Using XML is one of those challenges. With all the talk I've heard about this at conferences, we're finding that this still requires a large amount of customization.

As a friend of mine puts it, "it's all good." While it may seem overwhelming at times, we've got good conscious people working on our staff and Stellent consultants. I'm looking forward to reading this posting a few months from now when everything is up and running perfectly.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Notes from the CMS conference

Attending the CIDM “Content Management Strategies” was very interesting. Some things that peaked my interested are below. Reader beware - no warrenties on the accuracy.

- Machine aided “gisting” (with appropriate disclaimers) can be used for dynamic content. The World Bank is using this. For important content (i.e. those few pages that are used the majority of the time), translation must be done by humans. Text in graphics is a large challenge.
- Metadata and logic for search is different for different cultures
- The largest number of sales of PCs and the greatest utilization of Web search are from China.

Topic mapping and search
-The first level of search on a web site is the tool bar and other menu systems (often designed by programmers).
-Keywords are high maintenance and users must know the list to search. Key words don’t capture the relationship between topics.
- Ontologies – Relate subjects on the topic level and can capture the relationship between topics. A link for more information is

On CMS implementation
- Keep in mind the need to meet deadlines, while learning new tools
- Outsource or have a dedicated team do the conversion into the system, this is a one-time event, so don’t waste time training a lot of people.
- During the implementation, focus on training not process re-engineering.
- For those resisting the change, try to determine what is causing their fear and address.

Collaboration and workflow
- In many cases collaboration and workflow are just new models for pushing a document around.
- Where knowledge comes in is capturing the collaboration and the context of comments.

XML and document components –
- 90% of content is already in other documents
- The challenge is in linking the document components.
- Defining dependencies is important – for example changing data in one document may affect 10 documents. Do you need to allow folks access to the previous versions?
- This still seems to be an art to me, with folks understanding the challenge, but requires a lot of programming to solve.

DITA – There was a lot of discussion on DITA. Can say that I really understand it yet, but here’s a link:

Friday, April 15, 2005

Changing my thinking about documents

I just returned from an epic journey to participate in a conference on CMS. Scheduled to fly out of Denver during the middle of a blizzard, I arrived in Baltimore at 1 a.m. a day and a half later. I still haven’t caught up on my sleep, so this entry may be a little foggy.

There was a comment at the conference that really made an impression on me, “we need to rethink the concept of a document.” The author was discussing XML and making the point that instead of thinking in terms of a document, we need to think in terms of developing reusable components. In the past the goal was the document, not the content itself and how it was going to be used. There was one statistic that 90% of all content gets reused.

Technology and the internet are changing the way people use information. The ability to easily search and find the needed information is as important as the content. Short summaries or in document navigation facilitate use. Reusing content for the Web or a variety of print products has huge value gains for organizations.

For my organization, the gold standard has been the final technical report which can range from 100-1000 pages. We consider this to be our primary knowledge product and go through great pains to ensure that the documents are complete and each section receives the same level of effort. As a project manager, I always wanted to ensure that important knowledge was not lost. However, in producing these large documents, was knowledge lost because it was too difficult to find the small nugget of information that was needed? Is there a way to “chunk out these documents” to make it easier to find the needed information? Does the time it take to produce these make them obselete? We recently heard from our customers that they often get interim results in papers and presentations, by the time the report gets out it's old news.

I'll think more about this question after I get some sleep.

Friday, April 01, 2005

User friendly information

I just returned from vacation in the Florida Keys. Prior to my trip I searched the web for information on what to do, where to stay, etc. While there is a ton of information out there, it seemed that the information I really wanted wasn’t available. I had to wade through multiple sites to find little nuggets of information. Upon arriving, I asked questions to every local I met. I received all sorts of advise (most not what I was interested in) and occasionally got some really valuable tips. We kept getting handed a brochure from the local tourist board that really didn’t have information I wanted. The last day I was there, I stumbled on a great book with things to do in the Keys. It was hidden on a bottom shelf in a gift store, don’t figure…

Finding useful information is a real challenge. Finding information in context of my questions is harder. Finding it with one click of the button is impossible. You would think that an area that makes it living on tourists would have information catered to tourists.

This gets to the challenge of presenting user friendly information. Presentation of information should always address user questions. Not just to address their questions, but their real desires. For example, for a hotel, what I really want to know is what it would feel like to be there. How to give a user the feel for this is the challenge.

In today’s information age, it still takes a lot of time to gather information. Wouldn’t it be great to call one person who could give you all the details you need to plan your vacation? For our business, we always hear about the need for a “help-desk” or the need to synthesize information. Same concept…

Finally, if you want to learn, what I learned about my vacation, you better give me a call, because it’s not captured anywhere. The challenge of tacit knowledge, need I say more...