Thursday, June 23, 2005

Cleaning up the ROT

I'm moving my files to the temporary directory in preparation for the CMS. With the deadline being July 1, I better get started.

My job is to clean up the ROT (redundant, outdated and trivial files). Since I've been with AwwaRF for over 17 years I've got a lot of ROT. Some files can't even been read by current software.

Some observations from this process are:

1. The need for a good naming convention and file structure - I have to go into a lot of files to see what they were all about.
2. The need for version control - It's amazing how many outdated versions I have.
3. Redundant material - I found the same file in many locations
4. Finding gold - In reviewing old files, I found a large number on my past journeys with the organization. Some example include information on the barriers to the implementation of research, surveys, analyzing benefits, and thoughts on the mission of our organization. Many of the items have been accomplished, but a few still need to be addressed.

Completed key items, now I can enjoy my vacation

I'm getting ready for vacation and doing a lot of last minute wrap-up items. Many of the items that have been flux are being wrapped up. These items were:

1) We have come to agreement with our sister organization on how to scan legacy final reports. With all the go-aheads obtained, we can now start the 3 month process to get 90,000 pages from over 450 documents into electronic form. We still need to have some business decisions made, but we can get the process underway.

2) Agreed on the design of a new bulletin board for the web site. In one side discussion, we discussed ways to increase the content in our calendar. Another side discussion, that I need to follow-up on in coming weeks is the need to develop information reporting criteria for our partnership projects. What once was an occasional item has now become a large part of how we do business.

3) We just completed a beta-testing of our scientific keywords. This was an extremely valuable exercise and the results will be used by the team in the next two weeks to revise our keywords. We also discussed tagging all our projects and we're on target to have this completed by the end of July. This feedback decided the outcome of the war, peace at last!

4) Our communications and research staff are working together to develop a communications plan for a project that will have high interest to the public. The need for this was identified in one of our unit sharing meetings but getting to the planning took a lot of prodding. Everyone is now on the same page and happily working together.

5) Staff are migrating files to the temporary directory, prior to migration into the CMS. The deadline is July 1, and it seems like the majority of folks are complying (even our senior managers). I just better get done by the end of the day tomorrow or I'm in big trouble.

It's great to head out on vacation with things seemingly on a good path. Of course all hell will break loose while I'm away. I just hope it's all resolved by the time I return refreshed.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Clarity of the relationship

We just got approval to move forward with a joint program with our sister organization to begin the scanning of legacy reports. Our goal is to make reports published prior to 2003 available on the Web.

The biggest stumbling block in getting the process moving forward had little to do with the scanning of documents, it was recent changes in our publishing agreement (which didn't apply to this project). The challenge was to keep the discussion focused on the task at hand, while finding a way to address these concerns.

It became very apparent that what's needed was a clear definition of the connection between the two organizations. Different individuals were operating on different assumptions about the relationship. Conflicts occurred because individuals, while operating in good faith, were trying to achieve different objectives.

To address this we will promote a senior level discussion to define our relationship. Items to be included are what's the driver for cooperation, how does this match with the drivers for each organizations, how should we share information between the organizations, ...

Once we came up with an approach for addressing the relationship, agreeing on the task at hand was simple. On accomplishing the task, you'll just have to wait ...

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The e-mail merry-go-round

It's amazing how one e-mail can all of a sudden becomes a storm of e-mails. It's fun (or painful) to watch how responses cascade and how different people react. Some respond to all while others only to the author, some give lengthy responses and others only one sentence. Often times messages begin crossing in cyberspace. The worse part is that the original intent often gets lost, words get misinterpreted, and the solution gets farther away. To then get back to the problem, you have to first massage the hurt feelings before getting everyone back on the same page.

I've written in the past about this, but since it seems to keep coming back, I'm going to discuss this again. Some keys for e-mail:
- Break the chain of e-mail exchanges: Instead of responding to a message for the second, third or 10th time, pick up the phone or walk over to the person
- Start the message with the outcome you want: i.e. for review and comment, FYI...
- Don't copy people you don't want to respond
- Watch you're tone, conversely be careful of interpreting the tone (computers don't have body language)
- Avoid negative responses or attacks in an e-mail: You'd be more hesitant to confront them in person, so don't fire away from the safety of the itnernet.
- Take a breath and reread - Before reacting, reread the e-mail before responding. Try to see where the other person is coming from.
- Remember an e-mail is not a true conversation. You're missing 90% of the information which usually comes in body language. In reading e-mail you often replace that 90% with your own feelings.

I'm now heading to a meeting to resolve the problems that occured from the last set of e-mails.

Monday, June 20, 2005

KM World Presentation

For the second year in a row I had an abstract (below) accepted for KMWorld. My presentation will be on November 16. Its really fun to talk about how things really work. Most of the other presentations talk in glowing terms about the technology, where I will focus more on the people aspects of implementation along with seeing how technology measures up to expectations.

From planning to reality: Implementing content management

In March 2005, the Awwa Research Foundation began implementing the Stellent content management solution. This implementation represents the culmination of a two-year organizational readiness effort and is considered a key component of AwwaRF's knowledge management initiative.

This presentation will provide "real-world" advice in preparing an organization to embrace content management. Practical tips and lessons learned will be provided on obtaining staff and management buy-in, understanding business needs, and developing practical system requirements. Moving from design to reality will also be discussed, with issues such as training, migration of files, and implementation of the metadata model.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

A great report from the annual conference

I read the article about blogs in USA Today, so from now on I only going to say nice things about the wonderful people I work with.

For the past 5 days I was in San Francisco at the AWWA annual conference. I had a chance to talk with a large number of our customers, researchers and board members. There was a lot of validation that our KM program was on track. Our ad-hoc board committee met (our new executive director also attend) and were very excited about our progress. All our activities got a thumbs up and they were impressed with the progress of our implementation. They even mentioned that they'd prefer that we do things right, even if it meant pushing back the schedule. That's always good to hear (of course I'm not going to mention this to staff). Our CMS and KM efforts were also mentioned at the full board meeting and during our subscriber breakfast. I'm not sure if I like being that visible, but at least they said good things.

Our consultants from ComTech conducted a beta-test of our keyword structure. We had 100 stakeholders spend 5-10 minutes providing feedback on our structure and proposed keywords. The exit reviews that I conducted were very favorable, with folks liking our structure and appreciated being asked. Of course the hat we gave them for taking the survey also helped. I'm looking forward to the consultant's report next week. Of course the challenge will be how our team chooses to deal with the feedback.

There's a lot of excited about knowledge management systems within water utilities. Two of our large customers are using Documentum. I've arranged to visit one and learn more about their CMS and KM initiative. One utility executive talked excitedly about linking their GIS system to document management. Even being on the other side of the country he was able to pull up a map of his distribution system, see what type and size pipe they had, and read notes about that area that had been written in the past 40 years. What I found most interesting was senior managers (typically from a water quality/ engineering background) talking about KM and CMS. This just shows how visible these activities are becoming.

I initiated a number of discussions on developing a water-XML standard. I was surprises at that the level of interest both in the US and from some of our international partners. Of course, they left it up to me to get it moving forward.

Finally I heard our program being recognized in a few technical presentations. It's really good to hear outside organizations citing our efforts as the model.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The joy of metadata

Someone left a photocopy on my desk. Highlighted in yellow was the quote, "taxonomy is not a science, it's a war." So true, so true...

We're in the process of finalizing our taxonomy. The majority of our items were quite easy and basically followed the Dublin core. Everyone could agree on items like author, date, etc. Our largest challenge came with scientific keywords. We view this as providing the largest value to our customers.

We formed a team to accomplish this task. The team painstakingly evaluated each word, looked at current keywords searched on the web, had others in the organization evaluate the words and came up with final list. A recommendation from the team was to have this list evaluated by our customers. To accomplish this we hired consultants to conduct the testing. Yesterday, our consultants presented the test plan to the team. I was surprised by the resistance of some team members to the test plan, especially those components that could provide unsolicited input, i.e. not being directed by team's current list. The concern, justifiably, is that this input may reveal major changes to the classification system. We're also on a tight timeframe with the need to begin using this in early July.

In hindsight, it would have better to have built this evaluation much earlier on or had this in the assignment to the team. Live and learn...