Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Notes from KM World 05

KM World is a great place to stimulate new thoughts about KM and more importantly about the business. These notes were complied from a variety of speakers and I apologize for not giving all the authors credit.

Some of the business concepts I heard emerge this years are:

1. We’re becoming a knowledge economy and the indicators of business success are changing. (Verna Allee)
- The change is from purely financial indicators (tangible items) to intellectual capital indicators (intangibles, knowledge, etc.).
- Social consciousness is changing how a business is perceived. Investors look at the bottom-line but consumers look at “are you a good company.” Reputation is everything. Your brand is your value.

2. The value in an organization is it’s network. Content serves as the backbone, put people connections are more important

3. The highest level of customer service is tying your success in with your customer’s success, share the risk. Design products in collaboration with your customers. (Hubert Saint-Onge)

4. A knowledge strategy is a component of your overall business strategy. (Hubert Saint-Onge)
- Business strategy, why are you in business
- Customer strategy - what are you going to do for your customer
- Organization strategy - how are you goin gto do this
- Knowledge strategy - how are you going to manage knolwedge and expertise to accomlish this.

5. The model of a professional is changing. More people are working at home or on the road instead of an office. How do you make the person more effective? (Tom Davenport)

6. Managing you knowledge is key for change and innovation

Some new ideas on KM strategies I heard are:

Personal knowledge management - personal productivity (Tom Davenport). Focus on making the person more productive, recognizing that individuals are very different in habits and norms. How can you link the personal productivity tools with your KM systems? Need to develop an e-workforce program that includes training on tools.

· How to better use the tools you already have? (training on how to search, convey messages in PowerPoint presentations, etc.)
· Cultural anthropology/ shadowing/ mentoring – How does someone work, how can you help them better prepare for their job.
· Linking personal devices (Blackberry, cell phones, etc.) with organization systems.

Watching vs. searching/RSS readers (Darlene Fichter) – The new trend will to get notification of information sent to you as it is being produced. RSS readers get information that’s coming out now vs. Google searches that historical content.

Contact and the social networks are key. The person who knows is more important that the content.
- There were lots of discussions of systems that mine contact information in e-mails. Ethical issues were also discussed
- Finding the galaxies vs. stars (Peter Gloor)– Tap into the hubs of networks. Finding people who are in contact with others who have large networks.
- Most productive people have strong internal and external networks.

The value of document management systems is the layers you put on top of the systems (Yair Dembinsky). I was surprise to see the decreased emphasis on CM at KM World. It seems that CM has matured to the point where people want to talk about more exciting new ideas, with CM being a given.

Embed KM processes in ways of doing your job. Tools should operate behind the scenes. Folks are unlikely to go to another system.
· Provide templates.
· Embed training into the job
· Capture knowledge as it is created

Dialog is needed for information to be used. People don’t use information until they can talk with someone they trust.
· Plato -Text is best to capture and store knowledge. Meaning is best derived from dialog (Bill Ives)
· Collaboration is needed to add the context.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The nonsense of "knowledge management"

I just read an interesting article by T.D. Wilson a professor emeritus called "The nonsense of 'knowledge management.'" If you like to challenge your beliefs, this is a must read article.

His basic conclusion is that knowledge management is "in large part, a management fad, promulgated mainly by certain consultancy companies and the probability is that it will fade away like previous fads." He states that "knowledge can never be managed, except by the individual knower." Data and information are what is managed. He also cites inconsistencies in how KM is defined, especially in the differentiation between knowledge and information. He sees a new marketing ploy of changing the terms from information to knowledge systems. In other words, he's see the fad as using the term knowledge in place of information.

He goes on to say that KM "also shows signs of being offered as an utopian ideal." Being a past survivor of total quality management (TQM), team processes, empowerment, quality circles, etc. I remember all the excitement and promise around these concepts. I also remember endless debates over the terms and how they could be applied. Even though these terms have gone from usage, some of the "good" components are still being used today.

I agree that knowledge management is a fad and will most likely be replaced by a new term in a few years (I already see new terms emerging like competitive intelligence and business process management). However, where I disagree with the author is that I believe fads are good. Fads get people excited and energized. By having something new to grab on to, the business issues around capturing and managing knowledge (or information) are being addressed. THIS IS GOOD. There's a new energy here and new solutions are being tried. Will all these be in practice in a few years, I highly doubt it. Will some, definitely!

This article does point out a trap, the idea that KM is utopia. It's not, its just a means to the end, a better way to manage how we do business. Will I end my career in knowledge management, probably not. Will I still be using concepts of knowledge management, definitely.

As for the distinction between information and knowledge, its not important. What is important is deciding what information is needed, by who, at what time, and then making sure it gets there so it can be used.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Implementing content management (CM)

From planning to reality: Implementing content management.

The slides from my presentation can be found on the 2005 KM World conference web site.
The presentation abstract was:

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.

Knowledge management reality award

AwwaRF’s Knowledge Management Program was a finalist for the 2005 KM Reality Award, sponsored by KM World Magazine. There were 120 applicants for two awards (the other was for vendors). The reality award is given to an organization “that demonstrates leadership in the implementation of knowledge management practices and processes …” IBM was the eventually winner of the award (and well deserving). The fact that AwwaRF’s program was recognized by this leader in the KM profession speaks highly of our program.

On a fun note another finalist was Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, a law firm, that my brother is a partner with. I'm just glad that his organization didn't beat mine.

At the risk of making this post too long - I'm attached the text from our award application:

Date of initiation of KM program?

January 2003 official launch date (however, the knowledge management emphasis began in 2000)

Why were knowledge practices & processes initiated

To continue to improve customer satisfaction with AwwaRF’s research program. While having received high marks from customers on value and overall performance, there was still room for improvement on key knowledge-related performance indicators. Management and the Board of Trustees recognized this and formally approved the KM initiative in January 2003.

What were the key business results &/or organizational improvements targeted by the KM initiative?

Three customer directed indicators of satisfaction were targeted:
- Provide research results that are practical and useful
- Provide information in formats that are easy to use
- Provide cost-effective solutions to problems facing water utilities

Organizational improvements targeted included:
- Establishing an organizational culture to support knowledge management and improve sharing of information among staff and customers.
- Implementation of an enterprise content management system including document management, workflow, collaboration and web content management
- Implementing user-friendly communication tools (Web, targeted e-newsletters, etc.)
- Putting information into context by summarizing knowledge in key areas
- Improving customer feedback mechanisms
- Providing results from ongoing research to customers
- Increasing the availability of content electronically by digitizing legacy reports

Who were the champions or supporters of the initiative?

The initiative received top-down and bottom-up support. Champions at the top of the organization include members of the Board of Trustees and an ad-hoc committee of the board, senior management (with the Deputy Director leading the initiative), and the 2004-created KM Coordinator position. Bottom-up support included staff members from all levels of the organization. Key customers are also championing this effort.

What metrics or measures were in place to evaluate the program and its impact on organizational goals?

Biannual customer satisfaction survey includes questions directly indicative of the performance of the KM initiative. Key indicators have been tracked since 2000.

Web and e-newsletter usage are analyzed quarterly. Periodic satisfaction surveys on specific communications products

Targets for organizational goals are reviewed quarterly. .

Direct feedback is received from the Board of Trustees, ad-hoc board committee, customers, and staff. Surveys and focus groups are conducted as needed.

What KM competencies were developed within the organization?

o Vision – KM incorporated in the organization’s vision. Board approved KM strategy, with roll-out to staff
o Culture - Top-down and bottom up culture that supports KM. Key stakeholders were identified and champions have emerged
o Processes
- Established internal process to share knowledge
- Developed processes for multi-unit communications items
- Information modeling – Developed an information model
- Taxonomy/ classification – Developed a metadata model that included a scientific keyword system
o Technology
- Content management system including document management, collaboration and workflow
- Targeted e-newsletters
- Redesigned Web site (including a new search engine)
- Featured topic section of the web site that puts information into context
- Digitization of legacy reports and other documents

What outcomes, benefits, & impacts have been realized today?

1) Customer survey results indicated
- 27% improvement in providing information products in formats that are easy to use
- 13% improvement in performance on practical, useful results
- 7% improvement in performance in providing cost-effective solutions to challenges faced by water utilities (our customers).

2) A culture that supports KM from the top-down and bottom up
- “Our number one goal in upcoming years is providing you with practical knowledge ...” Board chair at 2004 annual subscribers breakfast
- Organizational Critical Success Factor #1 - “Creating, managing and transferring knowledge” in AwwaRF’s 2005 Strategic Plan
- Over 50% of staff participated in teams to develop the organization information model
- 100% staff participation in transferring electronic files into a newly created file structure to support the CMS

3) Increased knowledge offerings and usage by customers
- Web traffic increased by 60% in 2005
- 4 fold increase in report ordering on-line
- 15% increase in subscribers to Target Topics e newsletter

4) AwwaRF recognized as a leader in KM by the Global Water Research Coalition (peer organizations worldwide).

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Comment spammers ruin it for everybody

Blog parasites have found my site, yuk! This blog, once the bastion of pure knowledge, has been defiled.

To keep the parasites out, you must now register before adding a comment. If you have a real comment, please don't let the registration page stop you.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

CMS - continuing training

We're about three weeks into the CMS implementation. As we should have expected there have been a number of "how-do-I" questions. Our administrator is doing a good job of working with staff on a one-to-one basis, however, this is taking a lot of time. We also sent out some tips via e-mail. However, with the large number of e-mails folks are getting, the message doesn't always get out via e-mail. Other things we will be doing are:

1) A 10 minute "tips" presentation at each monthly all-staff meeting. The goal will be to show folks how to respond to some of the FAQs. Luckily our executive director has gone though an implementation before and is all in favor of this.
2) Offer a 15-30 minute session at regularly scheduled unit meetings to go over features of most interest to that group. This way we can offer more indepth training without scheduling another meeting.
3) Adding a "FAQ about the CMS" folder in our contributions folder for answers to common staff questions.

The lesson here is for a successful implementation, don't just train once and walk away. Continually train!!!!