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The 3 D’s of the Mobile World: Data, Databases, and Decisions

It’s been fun watching the computing world mature, from the days when mainframe computers occupied an entire operations-intensive room to the power of applications on our mobile phones. Have we finally awoken to the reality that mobile communications has caught-up with the Dick Tracy comic character and his 2-way wrist watch phone? Technology has been (as predicted!) evolving so quickly, that even professional prognosticators are merely guessing where we will be in another 10-20 years; Science Fiction has rapidly become Science Fact.

Technology & Lifestyle Morphing

Today, data intensity is enveloping our business and social worlds – from airwaves, to telephone circuits, computer cables, and mobile devices we are growing into data junkies relying on our next data fix to help us make the smallest of decisions! Our lifestyle and habits are changing radically with our dependence on technology to support our daily existence. In this new digital-centric way of life businesses that provide services and products supported by digital highways and mountains of data must pay close attention to the operation and performance of their technology infrastructure. On the other hand, consumers need to develop reasonable expectations on the value and use of the data retrieved and used. For example, do we rely completely on sourced data or attempt to balance with our lifetime of experiences and insights contained in our sensory, short and long memories?

Information is King. That was true a thousand years ago, and it is true today. It was also true that gathering information, for the purpose of making informed decisions, was and will always be the most critical success factor in almost any undertaking. Leveraging the digital environment: What has changed immeasurably today over a thousand years is the ability to find and access data. If you can access the internet from your handheld, you can access more than a thousand years’ of human learning almost instantly.

But, what do you do with it? Furthermore, how do you handle structured versus unstructured information? Can you aggregate the information as you need it? Probably not, there’s too much there. What about a web application though? There things get more interesting, because you may be able to interface with the data you want, already organized in a useful manner in a database. In effective decision making the big challenge is making sure that the data is being aggregated into actionable information and subsequently used to generate new tacit knowledge accurate, complete, and appropriate.

The astonishing acceleration of data growth and the heterogeneous character of the data mean that organizations whose IT infrastructures transport, store, secure, and replicate large amounts of data, have little choice but to employ ever more sophisticated approaches, techniques, and tools for information management, security, search, storage and database management. Add mobile into the mix and data management presents a new level of complexity for ensuring total accuracy, high level of performance and successful rendering of data and information with the different technical environments. Effective data and database management empowers business and technology executives to use current information as the basic building block of high-quality decisions.

Enterprise Data Challenges

That said, let’s talk about your corporate database and remote access. Some of your data and information is customer facing, some of it is internal-eyes only. You probably have some information that you simply don’t want accessible from a web application without VPN protection. What happens then when you have an off-site conference, sales event, or activity? And what happens when you are missing either the VPN or the internet access?

You need to give your off-site workers access to critical data in order to facilitate their decision-making processes. The ability to get the right information to the right mobile devices and mobile workers has gone from a “nice to have” to “mission critical.” We are in a whole new work environment — much different than in our grandparents’ days when the work day was 9-5 and they left work to enjoy the remainder of the day with their family. Contrast that with today’s typical executives or workers who are expected to respond quickly to after-hours calls and emails on their hand-held devices and be in a position to instantly make decisions and collaborate with colleagues!

A Typical Data Story

At a recent event on a cruise ship, it was observed that the sales staff struggling to get sales desk set up because they did not have the information they needed at hand. Customer information was missing; inventory information was missing; and the ability to connect past sales with present sales (essential for a variety of reasons) was not there. Their helplessness to process transactions on a timely basis and without correct information cost them over 6 figures in sales for the event. This is not isolated to cruise ships; outdoor events in remote locations have the same issue, no cell tower, and no internet access. Even some higher-end hotel locations may not have disabled VPN connections through their own pipelines.

There are two potential solutions to data helplessness: first, you can create the custom database access application (to your remote data) for the remote (handheld) device; second, you can put critical, selected components of the data directly on the remote device. Both cases are probably meat for a couple of additional blog entries.

Your “feet on the street” need access to the right data, right now, for two reasons: first, it maximizes sales and improves customer service and loyalty; second, if you don’t do it, your competitor will! The simple truth is that data needs to be proactively managed and accessible 24/7 if we are to reap the significant benefits from leveraging and exploiting our valuable corporate data.

In conclusion we leave all with a topical Albert Einstein quote – “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. ”

Authored by Jeffrey Garbus, President of Soaring Eagle Consultants Inc. (http://www.soaringeagle.biz/) and,

Kevin M. O’Sullivan. President of The Knowledge Compass, Inc. (http://www.knowledgecompass.com )

Synergy: Mobile Devices and Knowledge Management

Introduction

Traditionally, knowledge management (KM) in a business context focuses on offering organizations a pragmatic but formal approach to increase productivity, improve customer service and reduce human knowledge loss. Over the years, a library of KM ‘best practices’ have highlighted successful knowledge-focused implementations recognizable as both specialized standalone solutions and business systems embedded with KM functional components. However, these legacy applications, for the most part, have shown signs over the years of too narrow functional footprints, lack of real integration with enterprise-wide business systems, and weak and inflexible collaboration capabilities.

Current market intelligence reveals an outsized percentage of large and medium-sized companies nationwide still lack the capacity to supply employees real time access to corporate systems during their down time (scheduled and unscheduled) while working on company premises and offsite.

The hypothesis is that organizations generally amplify the intensity of their corporate operational and financial risk when employees are restricted by ‘location and time’ to access important information required to support mission-critical decisions. In the current economy where innovation and speed are critical strategic assets, the contours of industry are changing rapidly, demanding quicker, more insightful and effective decision-making during a 24-hour business cycle. To come to the point, the provision of employees with ‘any time access’ to vital corporate information and documents is viewed as a critical success factor (CSF) for maintaining or attaining competitive market or product advantage and market leadership.

KM & Mobile Context

A significant problem identified many decades ago during KM’s infancy was the seemingly lack of appropriate automation support to harvest and realize the full organizational knowledge-influenced value. The problem with a good number of KM solutions is that they require a focus on KM as a unique process or discipline. Unfortunately, it’s just not the way we work as our personal working activities usually involve being somewhat chaotic and unsystematic along with forgetting things.

Technology executives and bloggers alike recognize, appreciate, and believe that mobile devices provide a powerful new set of tools to extend the corporate reach beyond the traditional business boundaries of location and time based on the KM mobile synergy.

KM is re-emerging as a valuable approach to support the wide mass of mobile users who rely on these dynamic devices to support their business as well as personal decisions from the mundane to the complex.

Dynamic Mobile Environment

In recent years, smart phones have evolved from unsophisticated communication devices to powerful hand-held processors. Currently, they support mastery and recall a wide range of information that encases our work and social interactions. In 2009, for the first time ever, smart phones were reported to be used at a higher percentage for accessing and using content than for calls.

The integration of KM and mobile can accomplish two goals, that of making KM ubiquitous (moving away from the desktop) and that of making mobile computing useful (focusing on the user and assisting actively).

Currently, we are witnessing a rebirth of KM as a truly convenient and practical approach to personal KM with ‘widgets’ representing the new access points to fulfill our ‘just-in-time’ need for actionable information and knowledge. In summary, the intent of KM mobile is to enable people to do what they do best – access new and familiar situations and arrive at situational decisions in real time.

The Synergy

Knowledge in the mobile environment is created by transforming the traditional knowledge value chain into knowledge ecology. Each component within the ecology is interrelated with every other element endlessly. Knowledge creation and creativity resulting from regular use of knowledge ecology should differentiate the most innovative product development and service businesses of the future.

Within a strategic KM mobile view, organizations are involved in significant paradigm shifts from supporting sizeable investments in packaged and customized KM systems to mobile-based KM apps that make possible the real-time fusion of explicit information contained in situational mobile apps with the individual’s tacit knowledge resulting in faster and more successful decisions.

It is well understood that the best decisions are achieved by spending less time on information gathering and more on the thinking process (bringing together explicit knowledge and actionable information and combining with internal tacit knowledge).

A challenge for technology executives is keeping employees pro-actively informed of mission-critical and rapidly changing information all within a corporate control and information security approach. To address this need, companies are leveraging smart mobile devices to push critical information to employees in the field.

They send information updates (trigged by specific events or activities) to individuals and provide documents through e-mail alerts and text messages with a link to the downloadable document. Videos, presentations and audio clips are also distributed.

Given that mobile KM apps generally don’t require the employee universe to adjust their unique work habits or require significant learning curves to become proficient, they’re more likely to be accepted and used. This makes it easier for people with different roles and skill sets to use the same information in an assortment of contexts; while the same information is expected to be viewed by a larger number of people.

KM & Mobile Value Proposition

The key benefits generally realized from KM mobile use include:

• Increase relevant information and knowledge access for immediate decision-making by employees, customers, and partners.
• Facilitate collaboration and knowledge-sharing among business groups
• Retain and enrich institutional knowledge as intellectual property
• Overcome organizational and geographical boundaries to conducting business
• Shorten cycle time for mission-critical processes thereby increasing employee productivity

In conclusion I will leave all with a favorite Peter F. Drucker quote – “Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes.”

Knowledge Asset Audit

A knowledge audit is a qualitative appraisal and examination of the enterprise’s knowledge ‘health’. It is about determining the knowledge (and actionable information) required to enable competitive success of the business within its targeted markets.

A knowledge audit includes assessment of the following organizational components:

1. Mission-critical knowledge assets (tacit and explicit)

2. Organizational business infrastructure

3. Knowledge-handling business processes

4. Mission-critical decisions

4. Organizational culture and learning environments

Knowledge Asset Audit Focus

A successful knowledge audit answers the following questions:

  • How is knowledge defined in the organization?
  • What knowledge is needed to support the business?
  • Is a glut or lack of knowledge / information impacting effective and efficient decision-making?
  • Where are the knowledge assets?
  • What is the format and media of the knowledge assets?
  • How does that knowledge flow within and outside the enterprise?
  • How is knowledge captured, stored, enriched and exchanged?
  • How is knowledge secured against potential loss?
  • How is knowledge created in the organization?
  • How do workers keep their knowledge from becoming obsolete?

Knowledge Compass Approach

The Knowledge Compass Audit approach includes the below actions:

1. Conduct holistic assessment with key stakeholders to understand the organization’s business, culture, employee universe, products and services, infrastructure and processes.

  • Identify cultural underpinnings and learning points
  • Determine key decisions in support  of business requirements, objectives, and strategies
  • Identify mission-critical knowledge requirements

 2. Identify and map mission-critical knowledge flows within the organization’s business processes:

  • Chart formal and informal knowledge relationships and communication networks; highlight knowledge-centric flows
  • Confirm use and source of knowledge within processes at employee and customer touch points
  • Identify and create inventory of mission-critical knowledge
  • Identify knowledge gaps with knowledge requirements
  • Assess use and value of mission-critical knowledge
  • Identify knowledge obstacles and barriers

3. Formulate recommended actions to improve effectiveness and efficiency of knowledge handling processes.

The Bottom Line

A knowledge audit creates a powerful advantage for organizations who seek a competitive advantage. Benefits include development of knowledge-centric actions to stimulate improved creativity,  innovation and profitability. Specifically a knowledge audit provides recommendations to:

1. Leverage and exploit corporate knowledge assets

2. Enhance and improve quality and consistency of knowledge

3. Mitigate inefficiencies and duplication of current information and knowledge processes

4. Improve worker productivity with more timely access and richness of knowledge

5. Improve strategic and tactical decision-making

Taxonomy Scheme: Improve Productivity & Profitability

Taxonomies are emerging from the boondocks of biology, library science, and book indexing into a dynamic knowledge-centric world. In this environment taxonomies are being viewed potentially as the ‘silver bullet’ that will help knowledge workers find the needle in the (digital) haystack, reduce “friction” in electronic commerce, facilitate scientific exploration, and promote rich collaboration throughout the enterprise.

Taxonomy (with roots in the Greek τάξις, taxis (meaning ‘order’ or ‘arrangement’) and νόμος, nomos (meaning ‘law’ or ‘science’). has been defined as “an organized classification of a conceptual space”, in that it attempts to cover and tag all noteworthy content and artifact within a particular domain. One of the best known taxonomies is the one devised by Carl Linnaeus the Swedish scientist, whose classification for biology is still widely used (with modifications).

Taxonomy makes available a hierarchical structure for the content and artifacts, from the broadest to the narrowest allowing users to comprehend and appreciate the context of each tag as they navigate through the taxonomy scheme.

Before taxonomies become an acceptable productivity tool within a corporate setting the responsible executives need to dispel the myths and uncertainty created in part by the multi-disciplinary nature of taxonomies and the hype surrounding enterprise content management (ECM) and knowledge management (KM) solutions.

Taxonomy Myths Explored

Current myths associated with taxonomies include:

  • Taxonomies are provided only as a hierarchical list of topics
  • There is only one suitable taxonomy for an enterprise
  • Organization’s can shortcut the taxonomy development work effort by adoption of a generic taxonomy
  • Taxonomy applications (what the end user works with) must conform with the same policies and convention as the underlying taxonomy structure (how the data is stored)
  • Organizations craft successful taxonomies by investing in the end of the information life cycle (post-publication) and ignoring the beginning (content creation)
  • A taxonomy is derived exclusively from the content in a corporate repository
  • Separate taxonomies for workers and documents are appropriate
  • Personal and departmental taxonomies are not integrated with other corporate taxonomies

Organizations creating and deploying a taxonomy framework should set in motion an analysis exercise by identifying and understanding their corporate content demands, business process interactions (internal and external) and end user needs and requirements. The formulation of a taxonomy strategy will in general provide the opportunity to dispel the myths outlined above and formulate an appropriate and pragmatic taxonomy implementation plan.

Knowledge Compass Taxonomy Approach

The Knowledge Compass Taxonomy Development approach includes the below activities:

1. Define a domain(s) for taxonomy use throughout the enterprise

2. Identify and assess corporate systems architecture with planned taxonomy use

3. Conduct analysis of current content and user business requirements

  • Content sources and uses
  • Internal and external touch points within business processes
  • Key decisions points within business processes

4. Formulate goals for taxonomy development and deployment

5. Develop taxonomy design and system requirements

6. Create vocabulary of terms, hierarchy of categories, and thesaurus

7. Create navigation tools based on taxonomy structure

8. Create forward action plan for taxonomy development (or sourcing) and implementation

The Bottom Line

The benefits of a successful developed and implemented taxonomy include:

  • Time and effort savings
  • Streamlined business processes
  • Improved enterprise data and information integration
  • Faster searches and navigation and increased productivity
  • More highly leveraged knowledge and skills
  • Improve employee productivity and thereby influencing profitability

KM Vision & Blueprint Approach

Leveraging corporate knowledge is a key competitive advantage for success in the current environment. The scope of implementing a successful knowledge management (KM) program involves almost total change in the manner employees, business processes and technology interact with each other and is influenced by corporate culture and personality.

The first steps to institutionalize KM as a ‘way of working’ consist of (1) crafting a KM Vision and (2) creating a KM Blue Print of the key business and technology components that need to be developed and/or changed within the organization.

Topics that are typically addressed and answered within this approach are as follows:

  • What knowledge is needed to support the business model and strategy?
  • What knowledge is available, and where is it located  and what is the media type?
  • Are there any gaps in mission-critical knowledge ‘needs and sources’?
  • How does knowledge flow among and between the organization, business partners, and customer processes?
  • Are there significant impediments (cultural, system, and process) that prevent the free flow and sharing of mission-critical knowledge?

KM Convergence & Alignment 

Successful KM depends on coordinated convergence and alignment of leadership, culture, learning, technology and knowledge-use issues, including:

  • Strategic connection between social capital and knowledge sharing
  • Capacity of knowledge workers and work teams and communities to collaborate in knowledge creation, transfer use, and enrichment
  • Methods and processes to enable the discovery and sharing of tacit expertise
  • Role of knowledge to enable improved decision-making
  • Alignment of KM strategy and vision with corporate business and technology strategies

Knowledge Compass Approach

Knowledge Compass helps clients create their corporate Knowledge Management (KM) vision and craft a KM Blue Print within a structured and time tested approach, as outlined below:

  • Conduct a holistic review to understand the organization’s business, (market, products, services, customers, and partners) culture, employee universe, and infrastructure to identify the ‘breath and depth’ of current corporate KM competencies and propensity for successful future use
  • Map current knowledge handling infrastructure and processes and compare and identify gaps with a KM best practice knowledge-centric environment
  • Identify corporate mission-critical (explicit and tacit) knowledge assets – location, media and use
  • Plot current knowledge use and future plans with TKCI’s best practice Knowledge Management Maturity Model.
  • Construct actions to eliminate knowledge handling weaknesses, exploit and leverage positive knowledge handling activities and decrease time to move up the KM Maturity Model’s ladder
  • Develop customized Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to monitor ongoing KM implementation performance levels

The Bottom Line

A successful KM Vision & Blueprint project helps companies re-frame their business for increased value, and create innovative strategies for significant organic growth, diversification, divestment, industry consolidation and new venture pursuit with the introduction of successful knowledge management initiatives.

As a takeaway of this service, clients receive an executive report highlighting recommended KM initiatives with supporting ROI and risk analysis tailored to their unique strategic and technology conditions with a customized metric set to measure on-going success.

Attachments to the report include a customized KM Vision Statement and KM Blue Print that have been agreed with the client.

Confucius Quotes on Knowledge and Philosophy

This is one of a series of Knowledge Compass articles that present quotations of important authors and thinkers that have influenced culture, business and world events over the years in both modern and ancient times.

This article includes Confucius quotes that focus on knowledge and philosophy.  

Confucius Profile:

Confucius was a teacher, scholar and political official whose observations on Chinese literary classics developed into a pragmatic philosophy. The teachings of Confucius presented a utilitarian approach to social harmony and defined moral obligations between people and social enironment.

Quotations;

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”

“When you know a thing, to hold that you know it, and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it – this is knowledge.”

“You cannot open a book without learning something.”

“Ignorance is the night of the mind, but a night without moon and star.”

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do.”

“Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous.”

“Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.”

“The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.”

“If I am walking with two other men, each of them will serve as my teacher. I will pick out the good points of the one and imitate them, and the bad points of the other and correct them in myself.”

“A superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions.”

“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.”

“Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.”

“Look at the means which a man employs, consider his motives, observe his pleasures. A man simply cannot conceal himself.”

When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”

“Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire.”

Knowledge Mapping Approach & Methodology

In the current unstable and recessionary environment managers are continually searching for creative new approaches and tools to improve their organization’s productivity and profitability. One approach that has proved successful and favored by many leading companies is exploiting and leveraging previously unusable knowledge and actionable information often hidden in an array of systems, activities, documents and people through-out the organization. The approach is usually referred to as knowledge mapping.

Knowledge mapping typically involves identifying, building, and making visible a knowledge store that may exist either exclusively in some form or alternatively in people’s heads. A knowledge map can also be defined as a pointer to both tacit knowledge and explicit (codified) information that identifies the value and relationship among knowledge stores, people and social dynamics. Fundamentally in a business context, a knowledge map identifies an enterprise’s strategic and tactical knowledge asset base, creates and tags with meta data, and provides pointers to precise locations within internal and external  sources.

A properly constructed knowledge map is a key corporate underpinning and driver in establishing knowledge commonality across multiple core processes and business units, customers and partners. Knowledge maps present a précis of: who has what mission-critical competencies, expertise, and know-how;  where knowledge is located and managed and; how knowledge is employed for value, transferred and enriched.

Knowledge mapping typically provides answers to the following:

  • What knowledge and actionable information is necessary to support effective, efficient, and flexible transactional processing and key decision making?
  • What is the media and format of the required knowledge and actionable information and is it easily accessed and transferred?
  • What is the location of required knowledge and information?

Knowledge Mapping Essentials

Knowledge maps include codified knowledge and actionable information and tacit knowledge elicited from employees based upon their work activities, social experiences and insights. Knowledge maps are aligned with the organization’s business strategies and are created in customized formats that are easy to understand and interpret by all intended users. A key principle of KM is that all knowledge considered as a ‘value’ must align with, enrich and support process improvement.

A knowledge mapping exercise includes identification of an organization’s knowledge and actionable information artitecture and infrastructure with the below knowledge descriptors:

EXPLICIT TACIT
Subject Expertise
Purpose Skills
Location Experience
Format Location
Stewardship Accessibility
Users Contact Address
Access Rights Relationships

Star Knowledge Approach

Star Knowledge helps organizations  structure, set-up, and carry out successful knowledge mapping exercises guided by the Knowledge Compass Knowledge Mapping Framework and their time tested methodology and supported with a powerful semantic mapping tool.

Key knowledge mapping exercise tasks include:

  • Conduct SWOT Analysis: Identify and assess the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats associated of the organization’s current knowledge handling activities
  • Document SWOT outcome actions and plans to exploit and leverage strengths and opportunities and mitigate weaknesses and threats within knowledge-handling activities
  • Identify knowledge and actionable information required to support the organization’s mission-critical transactional activities and decision-making for targeted stakeholders
  • Conduct a Knowledge and Actionable Information Audit (within tacit and explicit environments)
  • Create Knowledge Map: Document and tag all mission-critical knowledge and actionable information uncovered by location, media type, and access techniques for both internal and external sources and align with production process environment
  • Identify ‘Gap’ between required enterprise knowledge and actionable information with the knowledge and actionable information discovered in Knowledge and Actionable Information Audit
  • Create ‘Gap’ actions and plans to provide knowledge and actionable information to all targeted stakeholders as required to support their transactional processing and decision making
  • Identify opportunities, constraints and actions and plans to successful knowledge creation use and reuse.

The Bottom Line

Key deliverables resulting from a successful knowledge mapping exercise are as follows:

  • Knowledge Map Model to guide and continually improve KM-centric initiatives within the organization
  • Comprehensive Knowledge Inventory and Pointer Structure to quickly access and retrieve knowledge at decision touch points
  • Starting point for design of enterprise and business unit Knowledge Taxonomies with well written and documented meta data
  • Knowledge Crossover Method to produce new knowledge from current knowledge assets
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