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 )
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.
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.”