Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Case for Knowledge Planners -- An SIKM Forum

This past week I was invited to present at the monthly SIKM ("System Integrators KM Leaders") group call hosted by PwC's Stan Garfield and HP's Marcus Funke.

The topic was entitled "Content Supply? Meet Knowledge Demand." It focused on the post web 2.0 imperative to get inside the heads of users on a transactional level -- just because we're selling arguments and buying rationales doesn't mean we can't be as savvy to our own internal marketing as marketers are to moving iconic shopping carts through their virtual stores. Inside the firewall what we've got to move and replenish are cartloads of content.

But in our case not only are the items intangible and instantly perishable. We also have to contend with the fact that the consumers and the producers are actually one in the same -- a fact of enterprise life forever confused by the objectification of our colleagues as the ITspeak term of users.

The talk was presented in four chunks:
  1. Voice of customer transcripts – responding to the project requirements of consultants who live in luggage, airports and client conference rooms.
  2. How to weave KM into the workstreams of our projects for minimal disruption and maximum benefit.
  3. Resulting best practices and KPIs generated from regular knowledge reporting.
  4. Slide builds around the screen interfaces reflecting workstreams supported by our taxonomy and provision policies (on supply side) and our search and usage policies (on the demand side).
Before I offer a few specifics and delve into some of the finer points I also want to acknowledge the occupational downside of dense, multidimensional polemics delivered in an impassioned drone. Only a couple of questions were asked and comments passed. The "discussion" literally touched down one hour to the moment the droning began. Hopefully the presentation will be organized well enough to attract a more open exchange than possible over one synchronous conference line (+ slide deck).

I first put forward the
Case for Knowledge Planners in an article that run this past winter in Searcher. Basically the rationale is this: Information overload may be a fact of knowledge management life. But could this be a blessing in disguise? We know it as a black hole but for the knowledge planner it can be a golden opportunity by getting to know our colleagues as well as we do our inventories. I started down the KM memory parade beginning with the seminal work Tom Stewart did by addressing knowledge capital in the pages of Fortune in the early nineties. That's when I first heard the now shopworn cliche: “I wish we knew what we know.”

But anyone with access to the usage log of your internal search tool can flip this lament on its side ..."We may not know what we know but we're completely certain now of what we "wish" we knew!"

Being able to measure uncertainty? Approximate a level of doubt? All those queries that end in no hits? Those are not errors -- those are invitations to fill in the blanks.

Another golden KM oldie goes: “right information to right person at right time...”

But what if the right information found the right person ... the timing takes care of itself? Now it’s about having that information find them because it was trapped in advance – not desperately sought the morning of a presentation. The knowledge planner is at the cross section between supply and demand, inputs and outputs, usage and provision. It is more than uploads and downloads though. It is being able to translate aggregates like search log transactions and the metadata contributors use to tag their materials into a shapable and productive outcome -- a dialog between user requests and producer responses.

Documents can do only so much. At a certain point the redundancy of boilerplate documentation must give way to less formalized materials found in social media and discussion boards. But more tacit and experiential knowledge still deserves to be tagged and archived. Last night's all nighter could be just as relevant in broad daylight many cycles from now. The most critical lesson is not to archive every stray thread from every shared curiosity but to insure that discussions and documents are stored separately. Why?

As important as it is to free users from the burden of knowing where content is stored, the ability to search for it in meaningful ways hinges on the ability to search for it in containers that separate documents from discussions. Anyone taking a serious look at how practitioners talk to their peers on email know this intuitively. There is little overlap between the knowledge transfers exchanged with colleagues and those captured in the project outputs delivered to clients.

The practical dimension is this: for your demand-side customers they should be free to search as much as your corpus as your access policies permit. The provider base, however, needs to be sensitized to the impact of where they things. If significant IP goes untagged, it will go unsearched. If an important change to a policy is buried in a folder or library, it may well go unheeded.

The fact that few organizations are structured to handle the question of institutional relevancy means that outside of email there are entire worlds of knowledge capture and discovery that fly below the individual radars of your KM system's less savvy users.

Next dispatch: The internal marketing requirements of enterprise knowledge planners.

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attentionSpin is a consulting practice formed in 1990 to create, automate and apply a universal scoring system (“The Biggest Picture”) to brands, celebrities, events and policy issues in the public eye. In the Biggest Picture, attentionSpin applies the principles of market research to the process of media analytics to score the volume and nature of media coverage. The explanatory power of this research model: 1. Allows practitioners to understand the requirements for managing the quality of attention they receive 2. Shows influencers the level of authority they hold in forums where companies, office-seekers, celebrities and experts sell their visions, opinions and skills 3. Creates meaningful standards for measuring the success and failure of campaigns and their connection to marketable assets.