Wednesday 26 September 2007

Enterprise Workshop Manager - Using multiple interlinked wikis to capture knowledge

A while back I wrote a post called Organising a workshop using a wiki (Please read this earlier post for reference). The idea was to improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of running a workshop. Now for my dissertation I am thinking about the practical implementations of this type of knowledge capture in the enterprise.

Imagine your organisation is undertaking a large business requirements gathering exercise in relation to a major implementation. It is estimated that it will take a total of 70 workshops to cover all of the streams involved.

Using my proposed method, the facilitators could reduce the number of mails required to run these workshops as all details in relation to each event is located on its own dedicated set of pages.

Using links, the outputs of Workshop 1 can be referenced on the "Background" page of Workshop 3, as these 2 workshops are related. This means that the repetition of information is reduced, and less documents are required for the preparation for individual workshops. The re-use,retention and linking of valuable knowledge is increased.

Traditionally, an individual who cannot attend a workshop does not contribute (they may send someone else in their place). This can often detract from the effectiveness depending on that individuals role or importance to the topic being explored. Now, they can contribute any suggestions, questions, concerns, or ideas to the workshop wiki before the event. This helps improve the quality of what is discussed on the day, and improves the overall effectiveness of the event.

The notes for a workshop are usually jotted on to large flip-chart sheets during the workshop. These then have to be transcribed into a word document and mailed to everyone for review (at this point the flip-chart sheets we used to record what happened in the workshop discarded). Now, we can take the notes directly onto a wiki page during the workshop, and they are immediately available to all participants afterwards. They remain there for cross reference for future use.

All of the knowledge created during the 70 workshops is now held on a single, searchable repository. Each page or set of pages can be exported as PDF documents, which can be the starting point for the drafting of Functional and Technical specifications.

The method allows for many individuals to collaborate in a new way. By allowing easy, combined input to each workshop before the event, there is a reduction in time wasted on any "Surprises" on the day. It also allows for a definition of focus by providing a forum for Q&A.

Each user would open up the Workshop Manager. They will be presented with a "Dashboard" showing them all of the workshops they are involved in. They will be directed to the homepage of any one of these by clicking on its link.

I will expand this idea more in the more posts to come, but please let me know if you have any suggestions!

Monday 24 September 2007

The Knowledge Management puzzle!

I have been studying knowledge management for 21 months now, and as I start my dissertation, I am thinking about specific applications of knowledge management.

We have all heard KM being described as an "umbrella" term for many different applications of extracting usable knowledge from data and information.

In a lecture (Business Systems Intelligence) tonight, we heard the term:

we are drowning in data, but starving for knowledge!

Well, to help define what is contained under this umbrella, Lucas McDonnell has written a great post called 51 pieces of the knowledge management puzzle.

It is amazing to read down through the list, knowledge management really does transcend many disciplines and it's applications can vary widely. Maybe this is the problem for us KM practitioners?

Do we find it difficult to express the true meaning of knowledge management, and will this broad spectrum of disciplines work against us?

I do have one more piece to add to Lucas' fine puzzle:

52. Enterprise 2.0 - Integrating web2.0 tools into the enterprise in order to improve collaboration.

Wednesday 19 September 2007

Google Docs in plain english

Another great video from the guys over at CommonCraft. This time they are showing the collaborative benefits of Google Docs.

We have all experienced difficulty when mailing multiple colleagues attaching documents. Who has what version?, who is working on what part?, how many copies are there? Which one is the right version?

They put it simply:

Instead of attaching a document to an email......attach an email address to a document.

A great application of this scenario behind the firewall would be for document review and sign-off. As a software engineer in an organisation governed by SOX, we regularly have to review Technical Spec, Functional Spec, Test Plan reviews etc. However, the situation becomes a nightmare.

Consider this timeline:
  • Day 1: I mail colleagues A, B, C, & D with the document (version 1)asking them to review it and provide feedback.
  • Day 2: Person A has a comment, so I update the document and re-send (version 2). Later that day, B & C mail me with comments on version 1!
  • Day 3: D asks me to re-send the mail with version 2 attached as they have accidentally deleted it!

Frustrating? - Collaboration is not facilitated by simply using email with attached documents. As the video points out, why should we ever have a situation where there are 4 copies stored of the same document?

Monday 17 September 2007

Web2.0 - What's different this time around?

While thinking about the role of Web2.0 in the enterprise, a contact has asked the following question - "What's different this time around?"

They were referring to the language being used by vendors to sell the idea of web2.0, noting that it is very similar to the "spin" used back in the 90's during the emergence of the Internet.

This is one of the reasons I chose to tackle this issue. As I outlined in my dissertation proposal - "the adoption of web2.0 tools and methods is being prohibited by misunderstanding of purpose and lack of defined ROI for business cases".

In this context, I would say that where the emergence of the Internet created channels for business to exploit a new market with their customers (e-commerce), web 2.0 is more an enhancement of "How" organisations operate internally.

Using Wiki's, Blogs, Intranet Portals, RSS etc will not present an immediately obvious ROI like Internet Banking or Online Sales did. However, they can help empower organisations to become "learning organisations" i.e Reducing repetition of mistakes, improving knowledge retention, creating collaborative environments, and encouraging a knowledge sharing culture.

A quote I like is by Kahlil Gibran:

A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than
much knowledge that is idle.

There are also externally facing uses of web2.0 for organisations emerging (RSS feeds, Podcasting, Support Wiki's etc), and as their popularity grow, we will see more exploration in this domain.

Sunday 16 September 2007

What is Enterprise2.0?

In my last post, I shared the title of my KM dissertation - "Enterprise 2.0 – Using web 2.0 tools to improve collaboration & knowledge sharing in an organisation". So here is my first post in relation to understanding what Enterprise2.0 is all about.

I was thinking about how I would present the idea of Enterprise 2.0 to others who may not be familiar with web 2.0, social networking or indeed knowledge management. I came across this excellent presentation on slideshare called "Meet Charlie - what is Enterprise2.0?" which I think sums it up nicely:

I think my focus will be about examining the traditional methods on slide 31:
  • Outlook
  • Project
  • Excel
  • Word
  • Internet Explorer

and comparing them with the benefits of the tools on slide 32:
  • Wikipedia
  • Google Docs/Mail
  • Blogging
  • RSS
  • Instant Messaging
  • Linkedin (Social Networking)

Overall, I think this is a great presentation and helps explain Enterprise2.0 in "Plain English", a style which is proving very popular as used by the folks over at CommonCraft in videos such as:

Wikis in Plain English

RSS in Plain English

Social Bookmarking in Plain English

My KM Dissertation Proposal

I have been working on the proposal for my KM dissertation which I will be working on from now until mid-December 2007.

I have decided to focus on collaboration and knowledge sharing within the enterprise. I looked at my blog posts since I began back in April of this year, and noted that of the 27 posts, 15 were tagged collaboration and 13 were tagged knowledge sharing.

Next, I began thinking about my own work preferences and experience of working within an organisation. Most of us have to engage with others every day, but do we progressively learn from and improve on past experiences from project to project?

I like the concept of web 2.0 and how these tools are popular amongst younger professionals for interaction (blogging), social networking(facebook, myspace), and information management(RSS readers).

So, I have settled on:

“Enterprise 2.0 – Using web 2.0 tools to improve collaboration & knowledge sharing within the enterprise.”

Over the coming months I will be blogging on topics in relation to the dissertation and on peripheral matters relating to the implementation of these topics in real life. I will examine case studies and research papers focusing on the successes, failures and emerging best practices in this field.

A brief outline description for what I want to do is:

Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing are concepts which we are hearing more and more about. Web 2.0 tools are bringing people together in new ways and providing platforms for sharing knowledge and improving collaboration within the enterprise. However, the adoption of these tools and methods are being prohibited by misunderstanding of purpose and lack of defined ROI for business cases.

In this dissertation I want to explore the processes for which web 2.0 can provide improved efficiency and new ways of capturing, storing and utilizing intellectual property. Furthermore, I want to show how these tools can become interactive knowledge repositories which can make this information available to more and more individuals within an enterprise.

For me, the most important aspect of this is the sharing of information. Communication, collaboration and accessibility of the information are key to successful KM. I believe that the “freeing” of information, be it explicit (in documents, folders, intranet pages etc) or tacit (expert opinion, past experiences etc), allows an organisation to make best use of its intellectual capital.

So, I will be looking for lots of feedback and hopefully some discussion on specific areas I am studying. Looking forward to collaborating and sharing knowledge with you soon!

Tuesday 11 September 2007

Social Networking a waste of time?

We have all heard the recent bad press that facebook is getting amongst the corporate "headstones" saying that employees are costing business millions in lost time on social netorking sites.

Luis Suarez has written a great post on the this called Facebook 'Costs Businesses Dear' - Does It Really? on his blog entitled ELSUA ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez (a must read for KM followers).

He raises the great point that maybe the surveys should be measuring how much time is wasted by employees trying to find experts to get the job done?

I am not saying that all organisations should allow a free-for-all on sites such as Facebook, but I would like to know if they understand what benefits social networking could bring to their business?

If not externally through Facebook-type sites, then at least explore ways to promote social networking internally. Who knows who will meet who and spark a great idea?

Luis puts it nicely:

How much longer would the corporate world have to go further, before realising the true potential of social networking; freeing up knowledge workers to do what they do best: share their knowledge with others and collaboratively innovate. . . .

. . . .if I were running a business I know what my option would be. Encourage my knowledge workers to hang out in various social networks, dive into the conversations, use them responsibly and continue building further up on what really matters: connect with people to share their knowledge and collaborate, instead of having to struggle time and time again trying to figure out how to get the job done smarter and not necessarily harder.

The full post is well worth a read here.

Monday 10 September 2007

Improving “Knowledge Flow” within an organisation

By “Knowledge Flow” – I am referring to the speed and efficiency by which communications are delivered to the employees in an organisation.

Often, information is fed along a human chain of Executives, Senior Management, Local Management and eventually to team members. This is often determined by the scheduling of respective monthly team meetings or circulation of bi-monthly/quarterly internal magazines.

An example:
  • A new scheme for employees is going to be launched (educational/promotional) etc. It is discussed by and agreed upon by the executive team.
  • Each executive circulates this news to their senior managers at their monthly update.
  • Each senior manager then relays the news to their local team managers at their monthly update.
  • Each team manager “announces” the new scheme to their team.

Notice the emphasis on new. Depending on the circumstances, be it availability of individuals or indeed the occurrence of any of these meetings – the news could take up to a month to reach the people who it really affects. Laurence Prusak describes it as follows:

Knowledge flows along existing pathways in organizations. If we want to understand how to improve the flow of knowledge, we need to understand those pathways.

I like the idea of internal blogging to deliver non-confidential information to employees. To make it even easier, the name for your blog can be “The [YOUR DEPARTMENT NAME HERE] Blog”.

Once people get over the “new-toy” aspect of reading a blog, they will see how easy it is to get the latest news, find relevant past posts (using categories and archiving) and how simple they are to use.

The problem I see with monthly or quarterly internal magazines is that they end up in the trash, and you would be hard pressed to find that much of what it contained was remembered. In contrast, if I remember that there was a post about Career Opportunities or Training Courses recently on the blog, I can easily search for it and find what I want!

For the executives, it can ensure quick responses to queries and items to be addressed. It also provides an opportunity to link to relevant intranet pages where the full article or policy relating to the topic can be found. It acts as an information repository for all of the communications within the organisation, division, or department. This is in contrast to an email pointing to a policy document which is “buried” deep behind the intranet homepage:

Home->Division->Department->Team->Documents->Polices->Comms Policy

If we want to improve knowledge flow, then we have to ease the information load on our executives and managers (the serial forwarders) to ensure that information is communicated to employees in real time. That way we will have an environment where employees are always receiving information which is relevant and up-to-date.

As part of my dissertation I am going to examine knowledge flows and how they can be improved.