E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

Personal KM

How Knowledge Workers Would Like to Work

Last week Steven Tedjamulia created a weblog post that I feel should be a good reference to every single knowledge worker out there. Indeed, in How Knowledge Workers Would Like to Work Steven just mentions some of the details and key findings from a set of recent interviews he has done on how enterprise level employees would like to work. I must say that I found the weblog post quite an interesting read, to say the least, as it would actually help business what would be some of the main major needs that every single knowledge worker faces at some point during their professional careers. The article itself makes up for an interesting reading, and as teaser here are some of the areas that he touches base on and that I thought about sharing a couple of comments on:

A Standardized Collaboration System: “[…]Two things upset users: (1) not having the proper tools to collaborate efficiently and (2) having too many tools that do the same thing […]” While I certainly agree with that statement it is not that easy to actually find the one and only collaboration tool that will do everything. In fact, I am not even sure that would be worth while creating it in the first place. Knowledge workers have got, all of them, different needs and requirements and as such what would work for one may not work for another. Some of them would prefer to collaborate in real-time, others in offline fashion, some using one tool and others another tool and the fact that so far nobody has come out with that killer app. to help boost collaboration could probably indicate how difficult such task would become. In fact, from Steven’s set of functionality that he suggests I am missing, big time, a few items: social software, expertise location, learning, amongst others. As I said, not an easy task, for sure. However, if we would take things from the other end we could probably be much better off. Why not, instead of creating the killer app. that does it all, we actually integrate some of the most popular tools that currently a particular business is using and provide more of a collaboration tool suite? I think that the key is more on integration of existing tools than in creating new ones on top of those already existing.

Content Management Is Equally Important: Yes, indeed, I agree with this one as well. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for any successful KM strategy is to have a content management tool suite where knowledge workers would feel comfortable with sharing their Intellectual Capital that could then be reused at a later time. All along, however, this may not have been the case since lots of companies have always placed a much heavier focus on explicit knowledge exchange than tacit. On the other hand, with the recent hype about social software this may be about to change, once again. But this time for the better. Balance would be the key.

Super Users Want Full Control: Who wouldn’t, right?

Expertise Location and Content Delivery: Ah, very good, for a minute (See above comments) I thought that Steven had left out some major key areas from Knowledge Management that every knowledge workers is fully aware of. Certainly, locating experts and delivering content in a much more personalised and effective way is something that we all know would be crucial to any collaborative efforts. First people would focus on creating the content they would want to share, then they would want to find the experts, or other knowledge workers, they would want to share their information with and, finally, they would want to get notified whenever there are changes to the content that has been made available in the past. And all of this with some nice touch on that social software items that I mentioned above as well. Good stuff!

Data Integration and Personalization: Ha ! it looks like Steven was actually preparing everything for when this would come up. “[..] Users ultimately want a dashboard that they can manage whose components can be manipulated in a portal environment. Users want a portal dashboard that can be customized and can include the content, data, and collaboration tools they need to get their work done more efficiently and effectively. [..]” Yes, indeed ! But let’s make sure we are talking about people portals as opposed to information portals.

Simulating Face-to-Face Interactions and Efficiencies: As time goes by and more and more knowledge workers start working remotely and distributed there is certainly a need to substitute that particular face-to-face contact that was there before. So having some sort of web presence at their reach is always going to be a good thing. We have seen this with Instant Messaging and VoIP but also with some other interesting offerings like Meetro and Plazes.

For sure quite an interesting article that Steven put together and with which I agree a great deal. You can see that he is up to something, even by just taking a look into his conclusion statement:

“Users want a collaboration system that they can create and customize themselves; one that provides the right data, content, and tools that will make them most effective in a virtual environment, but will simulate a face-to-face team setting; and one that pushes interesting and pertinent content to the user rather than having to be located by the user”

I am in ! Who else wants to sign up for it ? I bet I am not the only one, am I ?

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Flocking away with Cardinal

If some time ago I was mentioning in another weblog post how Opera 9 was about to miss a great opportunity to join the Web 2.0 boat I guess that Flock has seized that opportunity and much more ! Yes, indeed, folks, as you have read already a few times Flock has just released their first beta of Flock: Cardinal. And lots of people seem to have been convinced about this new release, so much so that they have decided to switch over. Techcrunch, Solution Watch and specially Paul Stamatiou have already shared some very useful reviews for those folks who are new to this refreshing way of engaging, reaching out, sharing, collaborating out there in the Internet. I can certainly recommend the superb description of the many features put together by Paul. Worth while a read and a bookmark !

I was even more happy when I actually saw a couple of days ago how some of the folks that I normally follow are actually moving to Flock as well as their preferred web browser. If you would remember I actually made that move myself a few months back and up until now I do not regret it a single bit ! I just love the experience. For the last few months I have been getting more and more involved with the so-called Web 2.0 or social software movement and I must say that if there is any successful factor that I can mention that has helped me adopt quite a few of the different offerings out there that is all down to Flock itself and how it has managed to integrate quite nicely all of the different offerings that everyone would possibly be interested in. It is just superb to be able to create a weblog post, to share my favourite bookmarks online with others, to browse through my Flickr account looking for pictures I want to share, to use some of my favourite flock extensions (FireFTP, ChatZilla, Performancing for FireFox, IE Tab, GreaseMonkey, Session Manager, etc.), to read some of my favourite RSS feeds (The rest are going into Omea Pro and Newzie), etc. etc. The list goes on and on and on.

Of course, I had to upgrade to the first beta version, Cardinal, and I must say that the experience of using such a powerful web browser is even much better now. I really like how the different options have been put together in such a way that setting it up for the first time is a no-brainer and would not take you more than a few seconds to configure everything. Then you are ready to flock, I tell you. And the best thing is that once you try it out it would be very difficult that you would go back. I mean, I have always been a big Opera fan and throughout all these months making use of Flock I haven’t missed it at all as my default browser. I still continue to use of it every now and then, but as soon as I would need to make extensive use of any of the social software tools that I get to use on a daily basis I am switching over. As simple as that.

There is not much more that I can say that may not have been said before already. I can only suggest that, if you haven’t tried it out yet and have got accounts for each of the different applications I mentioned above, you should give it a try. Trying is believing, they say. So take the browser for a spin for a week, not just for a few hours, and I can certainly tell you how you will not be back to anything else that you may have been using ever before. That is how good it gets with this Beta 1. So imagine the possibilities when it goes into gold release… If that ever happens. After all, it is a Web 2.0 experience

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Bringing Knowledge, Relationships, and Experts Together in the Enterprise

As you may have probably seen already Dennis McDonald has actually created a follow up weblog post about the recent post that I have shared over here a couple of days ago around the subject of expertise location: Bringing Knowledge, Relationships, and Experts Together. And this time around Dennis explores the same topic but from a different angle: expertise location in the enterprise. Thus if you are interested in the subject I can certainly recommend you take a look and read the article because he touches base on some of the different issues from expertise location in the corporation that would certainly make you think twice about its its potential business value.

And to get things started I just thought I would share some further insights from the different sections that he touches base on hoping to be able to add some more into the overall conversation. Feel free to chime in yourself as you may see fit if you think we are missing something important on the subject.

Enterprises operate according to their own rules

I certainly agree with Dennis in this particular topic. We have seen many cases where enterprises may be a bit reluctant towards adopting some of these social software applications to help boost knowledge sharing and collaboration because they may not see the immediate business benefits or, much more importantly, they may not want to leave behind that command and control attitude. However, I have always felt that this is all down to one key important aspect of running a business. It will all depend on how open you would want to be, not only with your own knowledge workers but also with your customers and clients. Corporations that may be more open than others would probably give a much better chance to trying out all these tools than other businesses that may not be that open after all and keep innovating along the way.

The good thing is that plenty of different companies are realising about the true power of social networks to help knowledge workers connect with one another in such an environment where they could share their knowledge and collaborate with one another. Thus the time where that command and control was paramount may be just starting to fade out while more and more businesses are adopting some of those social software tools in order to become much more productive in the long run.

All organizations manage knowledge and expertise

"Management may involve imposition of constraints related to corporate knowledge that would not be found necessary, acceptable, or relevant in the context of private or public activities outside the organization"

Certainly, this has always been the case. There are certain things that you get to share outside of the company with clients and business partners, for instance, and there are things that you just don’t. That is why different company policies and guidelines have been put in place all along for most of them. However, what most companies have been doing all along is put too much emphasis on one single aspect of knowledge sharing and collaboration: yes, the well known explicit knowledge exchange. And now we are seeing how, for the first time, social software is actually trying to shift that around and bring together a much needed balance between the traditional explicit knowledge exchange and the tacit knowledge exchange, which is why social media has been very good at all along. And that is a good thing. That is the way to go.

Individuals with specialized knowledge – "experts" – play key roles in the production, management and use of knowledge

I certainly agree with Dennis in this particular thought that sometimes it is not easy to go out there and find your experts, specially in complex organisations, but one of the things that I have been advocating for, specially with the emergence of those social networks, is to actually introduce the concept of people hubs that will actual act as connectors inside and between the different social networks in such a way that they would become the visual heads behind them, that would help identify those experts within and outside the different networks, whenever there would be difficulties to find / locate experts. That way that pool of experts, or people hubs, would be the ones that would help boost making different connections in order to improve their knowledge sharing and collaboration strategies.

Relationship management and social software technologies have great potential for making the most of the role of the expert within the enterprise

And here it is where it gets a bit more interesting because Dennis just gets to share a very good example of how the focus should be placed as well on what he calls expert knowledge (i.e. Tacit knowledge) and the knowledge workers themselves, i.e. those social networks. And what he has just described over at his weblog post is just perhaps what every single corporation should embark on when getting started into implementing such strategies based on those social networks. Indeed, a Social Network Analysis. Yes, an SNA that will help businesses find where their experts are located and start building up further on those relationships across the organisation.

From here onwards you will see how Dennis just starts wondering "who is actually an expert?" and he provides some further suggestions that for the sake of this weblog post flow I am going to reproduce over here as well:

  • "Experts" need to know this is a serious venture and that they will be evaluated according to their availability and their performance as measured by feedback they receive.
  • System feedback will provide data on areas that may be collapsed or deemphasized; usage data may also provide feedback on areas that need to be expanded due to sudden spikes in demand.
  • The system may incorporate limits on the availability of key individuals (e.g., to enable them to do other things they are responsible for doing).
  • Experts will nominate other experts, and this "network of recommendations" will be available for examination during the search for an expert to call.

Well, the way I see it all suggestions are very good, although I particularly like the second and fourth ones, more than anything else because those two are the ones that would help build stronger relationships within the different social networks in such a way all knowledge workers would feel part of the larger network around the different experts,  who will then be those hubs that would connect everything else. I am sure there are plenty of other suggestions out there and I would surely be very glad to hear some more about them.

In short, we are witnessing how corporations are starting to look more and more into the role that social networks could play in order to provide some further business value by allowing knowledge workers connect with one another and shift that focus from just focusing on the knowledge to focus on the people, and as a result, the knowledge behind those knowledge workers. But always with the people playing the important role. Not the knowledge. That will come later.

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Collaboration Technologies Conference 2006 – Boston – Jun 19th to 22nd

I just found out, through Stowe Boyd‘s weblog, where he is talking about Andrew McAfee on Enterprise 2.0, about one of those events that I surely wanted to attend all along if I would have known about it well ahead of time. Alas I just found out about it today, while reading his weblog post, and I will not be able to make it since I am planning to make it to another event during the course of July, but more on that at a later time.

Either way, Stowe mentioned the Collaboration Technologies Conference 2006 and I just couldn’t help taking a look into the web site about the event itself, including its thoughtful agenda. If you go over to the site and you take a look at the more detailed agenda items you will be able to see how this is going to be one of those events worth while attending regarding collaboration, and knowledge sharing, for that matter. While going through the sessions details I recognised lots of the different folks I have been reading as part of my RSS feeds for quite some time now, thus it would have certainly been a superb opportunity to actually put a person behind the different weblogs I have been reading all along. Alas, that is not going to happen. At least, not this year. Sigh.

However, with that said, I am still going to keep an eye on the web site to see if some of the materials from the different panels and presentations would be made available. Lots of great topics to discuss over there, no doubt. I can see as well a whole bunch of IBMers who would be able to make it to the event thus I guess I can bug them as well to provide us with a good overview of how the event went. In any case I am hoping that quite a lot of the folks who would be going to the event of events regarding Collaboration would eventually be weblogging about the event itself. In fact, I have just been to Technorati and I can see a tag for the Collaboration Technologies Conference 2006 event that you can also subscribe to in your RSS feed client, which I have now done as well in order to get a glimpse of what is going on.

If any of you folks out there is planning to make it into the event feel free to ping back this weblog post sharing your thoughts about it from your own weblog as I am sure we would all find it quite an interesting overview of what is going on at the event. I just hope that next year I may find out about it soon enough to be able to make it to the event that time around. We shall see. For the time being time to start asking some of the participants to share with us how the event went ! Stay tuned for further updates on the subject and if you get to make it weblog about it!

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Bringing Knowledge, Relationships, and Experts Together

Earlier on today Dennis McDonald, one of the folks that I have been following up on for some time now as he always has got something interesting to say, pointed me to an interesting weblog post he created on one topic that over the course of the years I have always found fascinating, to say the least. The weblog post is titled Bringing Knowledge, Relationships, and Experts Together and you can find it over here. The post itself is worth while a read if you are interested in expertise location, one of the areas within Knowledge Management that might not have been exploited as much what you may have expected all along. However, that may all be about to change. But more on that later on in this post. However, for now I just want to touch base on a couple of highlights that I feel would be worth while mentioning from the article itself. Thus here we go:

“What I’m looking for goes beyond developing highly specialized relationships. When I have a question or a problem, I want to be able to immediately figure out who is willing, qualified, and able to help me solve it. Since problems and questions come in every shape and size, some sublime, and some ridiculous, I want my Instant Knowledge system to help me distinguish and locate an appropriate trusted source – an expert.”

Indeed, this is perhaps one of the main premises from every single expertise locator application available out there: find those trusted experts who would be able to provide you with an answer, or answers, in the shortest time possible. However, as you may have been able to experience yourself finding those experts is not an easy task. In fact, it has become one of the most difficult tasks to solve for every single knowledge worker. And why is that you may be wondering? Well, I am not really sure as I don’t think I would have the answer for it, but certainly I feel that is due most of it because of the fact that in the traditional KM systems there has always been too much focus on the explicit knowledge exchange as opposed to the tacit knowledge exchange. Yes, indeed, too much focus on the information and knowledge to be shared than in the people themselves, in helping them to connect with one another through the usage of communities amongst other types of groups.

And this is perhaps where things may be starting to change, if they haven’t done it already. Indeed, with all these emerging technologies related to social networking and social software we are actually starting to see how that focus is shifting and how experts are starting to make their way through the KM system and become those experts people have been looking for all along. So the focus is no longer in the knowledge available but also on the people behind that same knowledge. And I think that is also where the focus will shift: expertise location through social networking might be the way towards allowing knowledge workers have access not only to the information and knowledge but also to the people behind that knowledge.

“[…] I also want a system that enables me to locate information I can trust, and the basis for that trust, I think, will be based on a combination of third party validation (i.e., people who know things policing a body of knowledge) together with trusted relationships (i.e., people I know and trust).”

Yes, certainly, this is something that I have talked about several times in the past. As part of the emerging social networking tools we are actually seeing how along with them there is this increasing need to start trusting more knowledge workers than perhaps knowledge itself. This is something that most KM systems have failed to provide in the past and why I think that social networking has got a great opportunity to make it as an integral part of a successful KM strategy in such a way that through it knowledge workers would have the opportunity to help build further on their trust levels by being able to connect with others and as a result of those connections to actually be able to have access to more relevant knowledge to meet up their needs. We all know that it is easier to go and ask a question to an expert than to actually go and look for it ourselves. Whether we like it or not we are social beings and as such there would always a natural tendency for us to try to connect with others and as a result get access to their knowledge as opposed to go out there and look for the information elsewhere. But first we would need to make a connection.

“[..] what implications does that hold for the educational process? Does that mean you can afford to learn less if expertise is only a keyboard away? Why memorize facts when Google is out there? Why learn long division if a cheap hand calculator will do the trick? Why continually scan increasingly lengthy and numerous data feeds if you can pick up the phone (or send an email to) a trusted expert – part of your network – to get a knowledgeable and trusted response to your question? Will this type of a system threaten existing traditional professional gatekeeping and certification processes?”

Lots of different questions in here and all of them perhaps capable to providing multiple answers in this area of expertise location. However, I think that we would be able to answer most of them, or, at least, address most of them, with something that one of my colleagues told me about some time ago: we need to start thinking that people are portals and as such we would probably need to start building systems that go around people, and with people come the different communities they belong to as well, as opposed to just information portals where there is no such connection between the knowledge and the people behind it. Take, for instance, the example behind social networking tools currently available like Ziki, Peoplefeeds or Suprglu. There you have it, your people portals available to everyone where you can access to knowledge workers, their knowledge and the different knowledge resources they use to help spread information and knowledge. And on top of it all a place where people can help build up and nurture their own social networks.

In short, I feel that expertise location will continue to evolve in KM and become as fascinating as ever. But there would be something crucial that we would need to be very aware of: expertise location without a focus on the people and the communities themselves is probably not going anywhere. It hasn’t gone anywhere thus far and it will probably remain like that till we all start realising that when locating experts you first need to reach out to them and not the knowledge they may have. That is something that will be happening later naturally. It always has.

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Personal Knowledge Management Revisited

In the past I have been weblogging a few times already about one subject that I have always been very interested in: Personal Knowledge Management. Indeed, over the course of the years, and with the emergence of social software, I have been thinking more along the lines of how knowledge workers can actually make the best of the resources out there in order to help improve the way they share knowledge and collaborate with others. Because that is actually what, to me, is PKM all about. So when I bumped into Harold Jarche‘s weblog post on PKM Revisited I just couldn’t help nodding on most of the stuff he is sharing over there.

In PKM Revisited he has just shared what he is actually doing to take one step further his PKM approach to everything. And while reading through it I just couldn’t help thinking how close I was, too, to follow a similar approach. I must say that most of the resources I get to use to organise myself and my thoughts are actually stored on the Web somewhere and along those same lines I hardly ever get to access my computer files in order to help me organise those same thoughts. That is why, like Harold using Furl, I have been using BlinkList (For Internet bookmarks) and Dogear (Both Internet and Intranet bookmarks) as my social bookmarking tool so that not only can I go and store the bookmarks of the sites I visit frequently but also I am able to share those bookmarks with those folks who may share similar interests. That way, I can help build on the collective knowledge of online bookmarks that will be shared then all over the place with those folks who have got a passion for the stuff I care as well.

Along those lines Harold shared as well how he is making use of his weblog to store some of his thoughts as he goes along and also encourages everyone to actually subscribe to a number of weblogs (He is actually making use of BlogLines for that, whereas I am using both Omea Pro and Newzie) so that you actually get an exposure of what is actually happening out there in the KM world. This follows the same trend of thought of what Denham weblogged about some time ago on KM on-line discourse. The KM conversations are getting more and more disperse and distributed so it may be a good chance for you to actually start diving into the KM Blogosphere and subscribe to a number of them and get yourself busy sharing your thoughts with others. To that effect I have just uploaded an updated version of the KM feeds that I am subscribed to at the moment. About 84 of them and growing … You can download them from the following link: elsua KM Feeds (Notice that in order to access the zipped file you would need to be a member of the KMBloggers Community). Over time and as I bump into more interesting KM weblogs I will be updating the file on a regular basis, thus you may want to take a look every now and then.

Then, finally, Harold talks about a very interesting service, amongst others, that I have been following all along, although I haven’t dived into it just yet: Squidoo where you can create your own lens about whatever the stuff you may be interested in. But that would be a topic for a future weblog post. For the time being I just wanted to also let you know that, like Harold, here in elsua, through its weblog template, you can see most of the online resources I am using at the moment to help me manage some of what I know, and why not?, share with others, and some of what I would want to investigate at some point in time. Once more. How about you? Have you built up already your own online Personal Knowledge Management system ?

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