Friday, February 17, 2006

Adding a links section to my blog

I've been envious of all the blogs that have links sections. Since it didn't come with my Blogger template, I was at a loss. I finally went to the Blogger help page and found some code that could be added to my template. Being HTML challenged, I asked my web master for help and in 5 minutes I've got a links section. Now all I've got to do is populate it.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

RFP on organization development to implement knowledge management

The Awwa Research Foundation, is pretty unique in KM. Not only are we implementing KM for our organization, we also share practices with peer organizations (drinking water research organizations), and we sponsor research for our customers, water utilities.

Our board of trustees just approved the 2006 research agenda, with 38 projects valued at $22M. Request for Proposals (RFPs) for projects will be available by March 31. Of particular interest to KM folks are:

- Organizational Development Needed to Implement a Knowledge Management Strategy at Water Utilities (#4003).

- Workforce Planning for Water Utilities - Successful Recruiting, Training and Retaining Operators and Engineers to Meet Future Challenges (#4005).

Both these projects are will be open for competitive bid. The RFPs and guidelines for submitting proposals will be available on AwwaRF's Web site by March 31. Information on ongoing and completed AwwaRF's KM research can also be found our web site.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Revisiting the why (the vision)

Last week I spent two days in supervisor training. One key point that was stressed is to clearly define expectations, an action plan around those expectations, and revisit these expectations and actions at a set frequency.

I immediately start thinking how this relate to knowledge management (KM) and in particular our content management system (CMS) implementation. In developing our CMS we spent a ton of time working with management and users to define the business need, define the vision, set the expectations and develop the implementation plan. Since that time we've implemented the system and done a lot of training. However, we haven't revisited the vision or more importantly all the cool applications that will be available shortly (i.e. the value to the users). In being wrapped up in the doing, it's easy to lose sight of the why.

The take home message is after launching a great idea (or possibly a mediocre idea) don't forget to go back periodically and revisit why the idea was launched in the first place. Do this not only for management, but also for folks doing the work.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

CMS - Laying the Foundation

We're about a year into our content management system (CMS) implementation and there are questions on what benefits we have had. In thinking about it, I can honesty say, as of today there has been very little apparent benefit. We have got the system up and running, organized files, migrated them into our system, digitized reports, and most importantly have not crashed our business processes in doing so (the last is probably the most important). The benefit has been in laying the foundation. From this foundation we can now build the house.

I just left a meeting with our IT folks. There was a lot of excited conversation and plans for the near-term implementation of workflows, external document sharing, and web content management (both for the intranet and internet sites). We've also had discussions on long-term items like customer information systems, business process management, and file retention management. The fact that we built such a strong foundation allows us to consider or move forward. From these items, we'll see the benefits of the CMS.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Enterprise content management

Systems should be transparent to users. Users should go to one interface to accomplish everything they need to do. Easier said than done!

About three years ago at KM World I heard the first description of an enterprise content management. It was great to see a diagram that showed the linking of document management, imaging, records management, web content management, customer relationship systems, etc. Since that time, it seems that this term is being considered a given. An article by John Harvey in this month’s AIIM magazine, stated at “almost all of you reading this understand that enterprise content management is an umbrella term of many technologies.”

At this year’s KM World conference I heard a lot of discussion that the layers you add on top of the system is what adds value (another way to describe ECM). Yair Dembinsky’s presentation was one of the best examples what he called network-centric CM.

A few of our staff members just returned from Stellent’s Cresendo conference. One of the first comments that I heard was “in organizations where the CMS really screamed, it was because the systems were integrated.” At the conference, one CMS manager kept raving about the web team that was using the CMS data. He stated that the CMS was the foundation and his goal for CMS to have the best information (organized, have good metadata, etc.). The web integration was what made all his efforts worth while.

An issue I heard that was discussed was legacy systems. If you could start all over, you’d probably have different systems all that easily integrate with each other. In reality, you have what you have and to change systems requires a lot of time and money. Therefore, the focus needs to be on integrating the systems that you have. Changing systems, while not unheard of, should be part of a long range plan.

A good article on enterprise thinking is posted on James Robertson’s site, Column Two and entitled, Grand enterprise projects: why are we wasting our time?. The article questions grand enterprise efforts and recommends, “instead of trying to eat the elephant whole, perhaps the better way is to take one bite at a time? Individual business units are not well-placed to solve many business problems. A centralised team of skilled (and resourced) project staff can do much to quickly develop small but useful solutions.”

This is interesting thinking as we are getting ready to develop our organization IT plan. My take home from this is to think long-term (the fully integrated enterprise system), but to approach this as a series of steps that allows you to keep your business running, while making needed business improvements. The key to integrating your systems is integrating your units and people.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Implementing keyword tagging - Part 2

It's all about process - Most of our research staff are engineers, so when we rollout our keyword process, we received a lot of detailed questions, many of which we hadn't considered. So we went back to the drawing board and further defined the process. It never ceases to amaze me how many details are involved with even the simplest of processes. However, not addressing them can bring the best laid plans to a screaching halt.

One of the more interesting twists in this latest revision to our process is that project managers (PMs ) will conduct the tagging for our next go-round of projects using a paper form. The paper form will be reviewed and then given to an administrative assistant to enter into the CMS. While contrary to our goal of doing everything electronic, using paper will save PM's time and be easier to implement.

A key lesson here, "remember the goal is to make the process as easy as possible. To accomplish that, use whatever means works the best." Of course, this doesn't preclude us for developing and implementing an electronic process in the future, which I hope is sooner rather than later.