KMWorld 2011 Conference Notes

I was fortunate enough to attend KMWorld2011 in Washington D.C. this. The line up of speakers was impressive and from all over the world. Here is a brief summary of my take-aways from the conference.

1. The same challenges are being addressed regardless of the industry or location in the world.
The World Bank, The Singapore Air Force, the U.S. Forces, SNC-Lavalin… you name it, they are all trying to get a handle on how to leverage the knowledge and information within the organization to improve outcomes.

2. Collaboration is not the end… it’s a mean’s to an end – from Sameer Patel’s Presentation. This is a very good point. I spend a lot of my day talking with people about collaboration – “we need a collaborative environment” (it is a big discussion in the SharePoint community). The reasons that are touted for collaborating are generic… it will improve productivity, it will________ fill in the blank. But within a business context, What are they trying to accomplish through collaboration? Providing the technology is the easy part, getting people to buy into doing their work differently is the hard part. This challenge of getting people to participate in wikis, community of practices, or working collaboratively on a deliverable was repeated again and again. There were sessions on how to keep people engaged. The reality is though, it is hard to be engaged if it doesn’t have anything to do with my work, my incentive package, etc.
– Take away: Build it into the business process and tie incentives and performance to the usage of these features.

3. Organizations have a knowledge-challenge on their hands. The baby boomers are retiring – 10,000 per day for the next 19 years I believe. That could have a staggering impact on an organization. Couple the retirements with the Gen X, Y and Z:) penchant for moving between employers and a company has a big challenge to keep, use and build on the knowledge assets in an organization. Fluor, an international engineering firm, is doing a great job of career management within it’s core knowledge-base. A complete career path has been identified for engineers within the field of engineering – They can obtain increasing responsibility and challenges, commensurate with pay and benefit increases without having to move into the management field. A clear benefit for those who don’t want to move into an managerial role. Another example leveraged retirees knowledge through Ideagoras – putting a challenge out to the alumni community and paying for the most effective response. The implementation of the response is then done by employees.

4. Innovation is rarely a big bang, usually it is an incremental change to something that achieves a better outcome. To achieve a better innovation outcome, a structured approach, that is never-the-less agile, is required. Almost sounds like an oxymoron, but by using a structured approach to guide the innovative process, buy-in from senior management is higher, it allows for incremental changes to ideas to be applied as they get tested, and it allows activities to be stopped before there is too much investment of time, money and reputation.

5. People don’t like the term Knowledge Management – you can’t manage knowledge. But what you can do is support knowledge-sharing.

6. Business-led structuring of information at the enterprise level is the next big wave of activities within organizations. There is, and has been, a lot of work being done on information architecture around a targeted solution. I believe the next wave will be a broader adoption of an enterprise information architecture – led by the business and not the IT sector.

7. KM, Enterprise 2.0, Digital Workplaces/Workspaces… KM, enterprise 2.0, digital workplaces, etc. are all terms being bandied about.  Some of the concepts seem to be overlapping, so are they  complimentary, are they different? In my opinion, KM is the conceptual framework that is being realized through the tools and the techniques provided by enterprise 2.0 practices and digital workplaces.  To increase adoption, terms have been created that audiences can more easily relate… and in my opinion, there is nothing wrong with that.

But the best part of the conference for me was the ability to speak with people whose work I read and respect.

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PSEngage.org – Weaving a Tapestry of Ideas and People

On November 22, 2011 at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa, there is going to be a very interesting conference taking place called PS Engage 2011.  As it says on the homepage

PS Engage is about weaving together a more connected public service by providing a forum where engaged government employees can share, learn and connect with each other.

I’m not a public servant, but I work with a lot of them and I have to say the ones I work with are very dedicated people trying to do their job and deliver value under some difficult circumstances.  But that’s not what interested me… it was the line-up of speakers  that caught my attention. These are people that are innovative, bright and have a positive, but realistic outlook on how to manage during changing times.  And change is what I do and what I bring to an organization, so how could I pass this up?  I couldn’t – so I volunteered.

My contribution to the conference is to interview and write a blog post on the speakers.  The first blog entry is posted at PS Leader  and through Thom Kearney’s blog NuSum and is a summary of the interview questions that Andy Jankowski, the Global Director for Intranet Benchmarking Forum, was kind enough to answer.  Andy will be speaking about the shift from traditional intranet and portal environments to digital workplaces, so our questions revolved around the differences between private and public sector organizations and innovation.  But interestingly enough, some of his greatest insight into the personal challenges of piloting through change comes from his past time of competitive cycling.  The parallels he draws between racing as a member of a cycling team and managing through change makes for interesting reading.

We will be posting more PS Engage 2011 Speaker interviews as they occur, so please check back to the PS Leader  and NuSum blogs regularly.

I”ll leave you with a parting thought from Andy: “Time is a man made concept.  If you are creative, there is always time.”

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Enterprise 2.0 Conference – Boston 2011: Resource Materials

I have a confession to make – I was not at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston last month -I monitored it from my desktop.  And while I wish I had been there, and am building it into my conference budget for next year, I was still able to ‘participate’ in the event remotely because of:

1) Advances in technology that made it possible to broadcast in real-time over the internet;

2) A conference organizers’ mindset that provided access to the broadcast for free;

3) the generosity of many of the presenters to make their presentations available on-line for free after the conference; and

4) the wonderful people who used Twitter or who blogged the nuggets of wisdom and learning they took away from the event.

These are the four elements of the 2.0 universe that opens peoples minds to how things could be in their own enterprise.

And how did I come across all this wonderful material?  Through Twitter and the people I follow.  By following the hashtag #e2conf I was able to find the link to the on-line broadcast, and access the presentations and blog posts.  As a way of passing on the value, please find below a short list of good resources related to the conference.

Information Week: The Brainyard – Basically the Enterprise2.0 Conference portal containing many of the conferences speaker videos, presentations, etc.

Cisco interviews and presentations

Technorati’s summary

Sameer Patel’s take on the conference

Cecil Dijoux’s good summary of the conference

Bill Ive’s notes from the conference.  Bill wrote in near real time and was also the resource that pointed me to the Jim Worth’s contribution.

Jim Worth‘s wiki compilation of the conference materials available on the web… from Twitter streams to blog posts.  A great compilation

 

 

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Enterprise 2.0 and Compliance Environments – Are they mutually exclusive?

If you’ve been following my twitter stream @IM4WARD you will know that I’ve been following the Enterprise2.0 Conference in Boston very closely.  A good summary of the sessions is provided by Bill Ives and by Cecil Dijoux among many others that I will summarize in a separate post.

One of the key questions that comes up in all enterprise2.0 discussions is always around adoption – how does e2.0 get traction within an organization?  What are some of the obstacles and how can they be overcome?  The standard ‘overcoming’ responses are provided – demonstrate a return on investment, go for low hanging fruit (fix a known issue), change the compensation incentives, have patience and look for small wins, etc..  But the key message is always that the one of the primary roadblock to enterprise 2.0 adoption is the middle manager.

While the business value and return on investment are certainly key factors that have to be addressed, according to some of these articles, fear of loss of control, position, authority, relevancy and job are the primary reason why middle managers are not jumping on board adoption.

Greg Lowe in his blog post Developing the Social Management Team provides another perspective that I found refreshing:

“To be honest, at first, I used to think that Middle Management was the enemy (as depicted in the slide below). But, the more I analyzed the situation, I realized that there are very valid reasons why this group in the organization was not happy and they were completely justified in their thinking. The main reason comes down to focus. As a Manger, Director or Vice President, you are responsible for your team executing, on-time, a set of deliverables. All of these new inputs and information can be a huge distraction. We are totally changing the way communication is being done and information is being shared without giving management the tools and skills necessary to lead and manage in this new paradigm.

Greg goes on to provide suggestions on how to bring middle managers around to adopting 2.0 practices by addressing each of the constraints (real or perceived) a middle manager faces.  One in particular caught my attention and that is the issue of compliance.

Compliance is not a feel good activity.  It can have serious and sometimes costly repercussions if compliance cannot be demonstrated.  Employees resent compliance activities, often seeing it as a waste of time; while managers have to monitor and report on compliance activities. Compliance is the stick while enterprise2.0 is the carrot for managers.

In a web2.0 world, compliance can be a secondary thought and those working in compliance within an organization are not often included as team members in enterprise 2.0 projects.  As a result, tools and methods are not developed for these enterprise2.0 projects that would provide the managers with the information they need to meet their compliance obligations.

To increase the speed of adoption, I would suggest including a compliance resource as a full-time team member on any enterprise 2.0 project.  This person’s role would be to identify all compliance elements for each initiative and find, with the rest of the team, creative solutions to meeting the initiatives overall objectives.

So is Enterprise2.0 and Compliance environments mutually exclusive?  No – it’s just enterprise 2.0:)

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Information Architecture in an Multi-Cultural World

In a my March 5 Post on Search and Information Architecture I discussed the issue of culture on designing websites and information architecture.  Over the last few months I’ve been researching this topic more and had an opportunity to interact with Jeff Parks, an information architect and user experience specialist based in Ottawa.  Jeff pointed me to an interesting podcast, Design Research Conversation from the IxD (Interaction Design) 2010 conference.   In this podcast, experienced UX designers discussed how culture and multi-culturalism can impact web design.  They concluded that design should start from the commonalities – focus on building bridges and then address the exceptions as you refine.

In an interesting blog post from Thoughtfarmer, Five lessons learned from cross-cultural networking they identified the usual issues of language, interface design issues around colour and imagery, as well as privacy to be factors to be take into consideration, but they also mentioned performance – something I hadn’t considered.  (I’m not sure that ‘s necessarily a cultural issue, but it can be just as much of a deal breaker as the others.)

The issue of language and translation of terms in the Thoughtfarmer blog post was what caught my interest.  Using the literal translation instead of the more commonly accepted terms is a cultural pitfall.  A good argument for the development of synonyms for multi-cultural sites.  You want the user to be pointed to the right information regardless of the language, jargon or slang used.  However developing a list of synonyms can be time-consuming and costly and can go out of date quickly.  A better method maybe the way Google developed their spell-check feature.  According to a special report in the Economist on Managing Information, Kenneth Cukier recounts how Google built their spell-check feature: They measured the click feedback from users who clicked on a correctly spelled option to replace a misspelled word.  It didn’t cost Google additional monies to develop and they were able to continuously improve their spell-check feature.  This approach  – present a set of options – record the response – re-use the response, is now being used by other companies to improve their language services. (BTW It’s worth reading the whole article to see how Google developed their translation service.  There is also a podcast that accompanies this special report that consists of a number of different articles.)

I believe a variation of this approach could be used effectively for developing synonyms for websites.  Not only does it identify the most frequently used terms for a concept, but combined with other information about the user (particularly for internal sites) it would be possible to identify culturally relevant terms.  Culture in this case also relates to areas of expertise, such as communications versus research. Creating a culturally relevant list of synonyms could then be used as a resource within the organization for tailoring communications to specific audiences, etc.

So, conclusions? – Look to users to provide insight, automate where possible and…. test, measure, adjust/re-use.

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The Usefulness – Uselessness of Directions

My family and I have recently returned from a three week trip through England, France and Wales. It was the plane, train, car, bus and metro experience that meant we spent a lot of time navigating.

The metro and systems did a great job at providing ‘You are Here’ information that once above ground gave us context for getting to our destination.

The road signage, Google directions and local automobile association maps were a completely different story. Cross-referencing between the different navigation tools was confusing, while foliage-covered signs added to the challenge.  Add in age-related sight issues, unwritten rules of the road (motorcycles using the centre line as their own lane) and you have the makings of a potentially stressful situation and an unhappy, cranky tourist.

This experience got me thinking that the factors that made navigating the European road system so challenging are often the same ones encountered by those using company information services – the information provided was different depending on the tool I used, signage was geared to a specific audience, age-related factors were not addressed, and the placement of signage was often not easy to find (behind foliage, on buildings, etc.).  So, the next time you’re looking at providing information services to internal or external clients, find out more about your audience – look at the demographics, look at previous experience, etc. before designing a solution that is tailored to your perceptions.

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Search and Information Architecture

A colleague sent me a link to a very good on-line lecture by Peter Morville that was sponsored by Library and Archives Canada.  Peter has written a number of books about search patterns and information architecture;  all very good reading if you like this topic.  At the end of the lecture a question was raised about the influence of culture on search patterns and the impact this would have on an information architecture.  Unfortunately, while Peter thought this was a very good question, he wasn’t able to provide an answer.  If anyone else has experience in this field it would be great to hear what you have to say.

The second item that sticks in my mind about this lecture was a comment near the end regarding the evolution of tagging and how folksonomies may replace the need for formalized information architecture – let the end-user define the architecture through tagging.  I thought a lot about that and then realized that while that might work from an outward facing perspective, an organization still has an obligation – whether dictated by law, or to minimize risk – to apply an internal information architecture.

I recently saw an article (and do you think I can find it again?:)) that stated that the focus on user experience (UX) was being taken too far – that web teams had to remember not to promote UX to the point that the purpose of the site took a backseat.  It brought back to me a number of discussion I’ve had with development teams around the value of SharePoint sites.  For the development teams it was about the value of collaboration, and adding any document management or recordkeeping architecture or metadata would  inhibit the effectiveness of the tool.  End-users wouldn’t use it, etc.

Information is faceted and as a result we now talk about faceted search to meet the needs of the various stakeholders in using and managing the information produced.  From the presentation by Peter Morville and the work I’ve done with information management, I am coming to the conclusion that whatever architecture is developed, it has to enable the flexibility to support how users organize information (folksonomies) as well as more structured architecture approaches to meet compliance requirements – and the two do not have to be mutually exclusive.  In fact I believe that is the biggest challenge for IM professionals – finding the commonalities, balancing the competing elements and brokering a well formed solution among the delivery team.

As a small aside, has anyone tried Diigo?  It is a bookmarking tool that allows a user to highlight the paragraphs of interest within the site and store the highlighting with the bookmark.  Wish I was using that when I saw that article on UX mentioned earlier in the post:)

Posted in Information Architecture, Information Management, Search, User Experience | Leave a comment