Recently in Knowledge Category

I found this slide deck via Jeff Dirks' post on twitter:  For all of us working in Information Management. Interesting post on Peter Morville's that led me to this post on Peter Morville's blog: 

"Architecture for the Information Age

Yesterday, at IUE 2009, Dan Klyn gave a talk called Now That I See It. I really wish I'd been there. It takes a bit of work to recreate the experience, pulling together the slides and the notes and the tweets, but it's absolutely worth it.

As an extra bonus, Dan has posted a short excerpt from his interview with Richard Saul Wurman. I found it surprisingly refreshing and inspiring."

Here is the post that Peter was referring to.  It is a great discussion of the importance on Information Architecture, User Experience and User interface design.  We are deeply indebted to library science for many of the concepts used today in site design.



Semantic, Structured Authoring


Semantic, Structured Authoring is an important concept in writing content for the web.

Semantic authoring has been defined as "to compose information content semantically structured according to some ontology". (If you've never encountered the word ontology before, the dictionary defines it as "the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of being".) A much better explanation of semantic authoring is "knowledge markup". Simple tags such as <policy> aren't the only way in which knowledge is categorised, indexed and labelled within XML. Tags can contain attributes (such as the id attribute in <section id="upg11">), and metadata can be stored in tags separate from the content itself (such as <author><firstname>Tony</firstname><surname>Self</surname></author>).

The most common semantic markup languages for documentation are DocBook and the Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA). DITA specifies a number of topic types, such as Task, Concept and Reference.

Within DITA, a Task topic is intended for a procedure describing how to accomplish a task; lists a series of steps that users follow to produce a specified outcome; identifies who does what, when, where and how . A Reference topic is for topics that describe command syntax, programming instructions, other reference material; usually detailed, factual material .

In Coherence Group��s business, writing structured content is important because we combine knoweldge, learning and software development in to performance support tools so that knowledge workers can avoid the integrative effort of putting this content together themselves.


The Sunday Herald - Scotland's award-winning independent newspaper reports in a recent article entitled, How the US forgot to make Trident missiles, that the �US National Nuclear Security Administration lost knowledge of how to make a very hazardous material named Fogbank.  As a result, the warhead refurbishment programme was put back by at least a year, and racked up an extras $69 million.��

.����vital information on how Fogbank was actually made had somehow been mislaid. "NNSA had lost knowledge of how to manufacture the material because it had kept few records of the process when the material was made in the 1980s, and almost all staff with expertise on production had retired or left the agency," the report said.��

This is a clear and very compelling case for knowledge management.  The NNSA says it will strengthen its �management procedures�� but knowledge is an extraordinarily costly commodity as this fiasco demonstrates.

Marwan Tarek, has provided an excellent compilation of SharePoint Performance Optimization tips in a recent blog post:

SharePoint Performance Optimizations

Guide to SharePoint Performance Optimizations

Both articles provide links to excellent resources.


SharePoint ��How we did it�� articles « Footprint of IT provides of list of �how to articles�� that have been posted on the SharePoint Team Blog.  Many of these articles have to do with plugging in other applications to MOSS 2007.  For example the articles list here offer advice on the blueWiki SharePoint Connector, the Confluence connector and connecting Contectbeam Spotlight.

SharePoint is a platform that is well suited to extensions with other packages, so these articles are extremely helpful.

Lean approaches to Software Development

This is a great little presentation on Lean Software development.  It clearly shows where  waste creeps into the development process and demonstrates how a lean approach can accelerate applications that meet customer requirements.

In a recession companies pull back from their markets, lay people off, and put aside business process improvement.  Lean Thinking offers an alternative path. Lean Thinking does not mean cutting heads to cut costs. Lean thinking means eliminating waste and non-value-added activity, and respecting people. An activity is value-added if, and only if, the customer is willing to pay for the activity, it changes the product or service to be closer to the end product a customer is will ing to pay for, and it is done right the first time. To acheive this, leadership becomes more about enabling and empowering people to grow professionally and take responsibility and pride in their work. Lean Thinking encourages collaboration between customers, suppliers, employees and management in a positive approch to efficiency that spans the value chain.

The following chart shows Coherence Group's approach to implementation of Lean Thinking. It involves specifying value from the customer's point of view, changing the culture of an organization to embrace lean principles, teaching poeple to problem solve in new ways and encourages sharing problem solving experience using knowledge management techniques.


Lean Thinking Slide-small.png

By combining Knowledge Management with Lean Thinking companies can retain their problem solving experience, share best practices and drive operational excellence over the long term.

My colleagues and I have pioneered a way of accelerating the implementation of Lean Thinking by using "Improvement Labs". In the context of Lean, these techniques encourage management and employees to pick specific improvement projects. Once you have a portfolio of projects, we design and facilitate an accelerated problem solving sessions in which participants create a solution concept, prototype new processes, and create an implementation work plan. The "Improvement Labs" solve critically important business problems while modeling lean thinking and behaviors. The projects are sponsored by management, accelerate Lean learning and are designed to achieve fast tangible results. By documenting the work accomplished in the "Improvement Labs" we create a knowledge base of solutions and problem solving techniques that can be replicated throughout a company.

For example, you could apply this approach to supplier relationship management (SRM).An Improvement Lab could focus on how to minimize transactions across the supply chain, how to select the best supplier, or how to collaborate with suppliers to eliminate waste. Suppliers could, in fact, be included in the problem solving exercise. Highly focused Improvement Labs demonstrate how to apply Lean Thinking while solving a real work problem.

Building a Knowledge Sharing Culture

Building a knowledge sharing culture requires that you involve business users in development of your knowledge management solution early and often.  Here are some suggestions based on my experience:

You can  begin to get your business users involved in the building the knowledge management solution by having them  help to identify the documents or other content that has the most value to the business. I recommend that you have business users participate in creating and applying the metadata or taxonomy that will apply to the documents. The more precise you get in describing content, the easier it will be to find later.  By getting the community of users involved early you can begin to explain knowledge management to them.  The early participants and adopters can act as evangelists later. With user feedback you can identify and tag the most valuable material so that when users perform a search it appears at the top of the results list.

There are other ways to begin to build the culture of sharing.  You will need to explain to your business users:  "What is in it for me".  They need to understand in a profoundly personal way how they will benefit from the KM initiative and how their work will change.  This is usually done with anecdotes about a success that resulted from sharing knowledge.  You can find examples of when your company performed the best; when everything worked just right, and ask people how it felt when that happens.  Most of the time, the best practice involves collaboration, working as a team, and sharing knowledge to win new business or deliver a high quality product.  The KM solution will enable the company to function like this more often.  The objective is to find a story you can tell about knowledge sharing that is very positive and attractive. People can then begin to imagine how knowledge sharing will help them with their work.

In addition to working with the business users, it's critical to have visible top management support.  This will not require much of top management's time, but they will need to demonstrate their enthusiasm for knowledge management frequently.  They need to be convinced that this is an initiative that will create meaningful results in the business and they need to lead in that direction.

I recommend communicating frequently to business users, explaining the KM planning and rollout and how it will benefit their work.  Don't overpromise, but keep them well informed.  Show them example screen shots of the search page, or other functionality that will make their lives easier.  You can use "use cases" or scenarios to demonstrate how people will use the new tools.  This process of building actual scenarios that explain how users will search and apply content is very powerful.   

IBM's Enterprise Tagging Service social software saves $4.6 million a year

Tagging content in a company's intranet has becoming an increasingly important functionality, although the return on investment has not been clear.  IBM's case study suggests that tagging has already yield some monetary benefit.  Here are the results that IBM reports:

  • "The Enterprise Tagging Service in IBM aims to provide an alternative approach to helping people find information compared to traditional search engines. Search based on keyword analysis often relies on a taxonomy that is rigid due to the way the software performs its structural analysis of web pages, identifying and classifying the keywords. Social tagging allows people to add human semantics to keywords that they define that sometimes can amount to finding a resource faster based on what people think is relevant.

  • IBM's ETS cost $700k to develop and deploy across the worldwide intranet as a sidebar to a number of key web properties: traditional search engine results, top content pages, and web applications like the IBM internal social brainstorming tool, Thinkplace. As a service it can really be added to any internal page. Readers can tag any page with the widget, look up tags they contributed, find others who have used the same tag, and certainly find other relevant resources by that same tag. The ETS tool was based on the Lotus Connections Dogear software.

  • The ETS team instituted a survey to ask users how this tool helped them. What they found was amazing when you look at it in context: the average person saved 12 seconds, across the 286000+ searches performed through ETS each week. This sums up to 955 hours saved each week across the company. In terms of cost savings, it amounts to a rough estimate of $4.6 million a year, in terms of productivity gain. The reusability of this page widget also resulted in $2.4 million in cost avoidance (reimplementing this for each site)".

Knowledge Management Strategy

Making decisions about a knowledge management strategy that will deliver improved sales, innovation or delivery performance requires an appreciation of the value that can be created by this kind of improvement initiative.  Companies frequently diminish the value by arguing about what knowledge managment is or is not.  Knowledge sharing that produces business results is ineluctably tied to business process.  In fact, I would assert that knowledge management has no real relevance outside of business process.

To improve the performance of a process you need to understand the individual worksteps plus the information and skills that are required to be execute effectively.  Ask yourself: Is all the information required to do the job provisioned to the employee or do they have to do research in order to complete the task?  If research is required, are their job aids that can help them accomplish the task?  Is training available for people who don't have enough experience.  Knowledge Management seeks to provision the employee with all the information, content, perspective, and learning required to create value.  Mapping critical content to a business process enables knowledge workers to increase productivity and improve the quality of their work.

At Coherence Group we combine access to knowledge, learning and methods  to enable knowledge workers.  This requires adjustment to some business processes. It also requires an implementation of electronic support systems that help get employees find and apply the information they need to effectively execute their jobs.

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