Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Socks and knowledge

I read this blog post by Nick Milton today. He uses the analogy of the sock drawer and some images to demonstrate ways of managing content in a knowledge base. This resonates with me because I struggle to find a balance between the librarian in me (orderly, clearly titled documents, restricted structure and categories) and the focus on search as a better solution for finding randomly stored information (the mess represented in the first image).

Photo taken from Nick Miltons blog.

Nick is right - re-use is key in this debate. Project managers want to have all of their project information and knowledge in one place but our legal team want to be able to see all contracts for the agency in one place too. Do the contracts sit under the program area folders or in a Legal > Contracts folder.

I am thinking of our or electronic records management system (ERMS) at the moment, which is based on a Windows-like file structure. This structure is tight with limited ability for users to change names on files and create new ones. It works for some and not for others.

Some love the orderly approach and can find the info they need, especially the information they filed (because they thought about the detail BEFORE THEY FILED). Others don't understand why the system doesn't 'work' for them, in which they generally mean - it doesn't look like their own folder structure (folders called stuff, my stuff, more stuff etc). It takes time and some thought to work out where to save and find information and our ERMS search function is poor.

So, is it better to have a free for all, let people stick what they like, where, create folders, name folders and just provide a super dooper search function?

In our case I think the solution Nick Milton recommends and one that I agree with is a way of accessing all information around a topic (in our case a project) in one location. This becomes more of a knowledge solution - a knowledge base. For my agency this is likely to be based on SharePoint 2010.

Instead of having a folder under Legal for Contracts which holds all contracts for all projects in the agency, contracts would sit with the related project information (budgets, e-mail, presentations, agreements, publications, reports, contacts etc). It would tell a richer story around that project, provide access to reports, financials, research, people and background information. If all of the contracts are tagged as contracts a good search function should satisfy the legal and finance departments also?

Fine, I just have to work out how to do the records management, behind the scenes :-)

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Are we ready for KM?

We are considering implementing an online collaborative open source platform to replace the functions of some of our existing, more traditional platforms and systems over the next year or so. Effectively a knowledge management system (KMS).

We currently:
  • have a very customised LotusNotes database as our main project management tool
  • use e-mail to communicate with multiple project teams external to our organisation and internally
  • use e-mail and word documents to create, share and save documents, reports and forms
  • have a separate finance system and multiple excel spreadsheets in use across the organisation
  • have an internal SharePoint Intranet
  • and an EDRMS for records management
  • and an external facing website (of course)
We have information overload, duplication of information, inefficient and unlcear processes, work-arounds, poor version control and full inboxes.

Of course for knowledge management (and information management) this is a nightmare. It is also difficult and inefficient for users - our staff. They have to think about what information goes where, when does it become a record, should it be saved into LotusNotes or to the Intranet (or both)? Which version with tracked changes is the latest?

Technology is at the stage where it is fairly easy and relatively affordable to solve many of these issues and allow us to communicate and collaborate within teams, across silos, internally and with external partners. Our staff travel so they need access to information on portable devices, wherever they are. Being able to locate all they need in one place and communicate across multiple channels at the same time would be ideal.

Behind this business need and the main driver are deeper issues. We need to standardise and document our processes, promote transparency, provide accurate reporting and accountability and measure impacts. Of course we still have to consider copyright, privacy, accessibility, record keeping and other compliance, good governance and regulatory requirements. See my last post on KM v RM.

So what is stopping us? Fear of change, a fear of failing and an unhealthy attachment to personal inboxes and file structures. A culture built around personal relationships, sharing on a 'need to know' basis, individual ways of doing things, freedom of individuals to choose how to manage a project, internal silos, cultural differences and technological barriers (overseas partners), information technology illiteracy, 30 years of having done it a 'certain way' and a lack of resources.

We desperately need to change but have no appetite for it and no energy or time to learn new ways of working. Do we wait another 20 years for the next generation who will demand these changes or do we go for it? I'll let you know how we go :-)

A leader who does not allow himself time to think may turn into a thoughtless leader. Likewise, an organisation that does not allow itself time to think may turn into a thoughtless organisation.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Work in progress and 2012 so far

Wow, a while between posts! A lot has happened this year so far and it is speeding by already.

  • Agency's Information Publication Plan has been posted on our website as per the IPS requirements. 
  • Information and Records Management Policy has been updated. Waiting for sign-off by CEO.
  • Knowledge Management Strategy and plan completed.
  • Risk assessment done on an internal project management system.
  • Working groups set up for Intranet and internal project management system.
  • Social Media up and running with great results.
  • Reviewing Attorney-General's Consultation Paper on Extending Legal Deposit for impact on agency.
  • Attended NAA's Digital Continuity Plan launch.
  • Attended 3 day training on SharePoint @ DDLS
  • Uni has just started again - Knowledge Management subject this semester! Reading lots!!
  • On panel for current recruitment exercise
  • Conducted two social media sessions for internal staff
  • Involved in working group to implement smart forms for project applications
  • Started compiling monthly analytics info from website
  • Trialing Storify and other ways of archiving social media
  • Attended an info session at NAA on new GRA 31
  • Assisted external auditors in legislative compliance audit (FOI Act, Privacy Act and Archives Act)
  • Had a week of leave (to do a bit of work on my house :-)
  • Started discussions around a refresh or review of our external website
  • Not so regular fortnightly Records Management team meetings (will get onto that)
  • Took part in discussions around updating our internal Outlook distribution lists
  • Attended first Corporate Managers meeting
  • Attended several in-house 'brown bag' presentations
  • Helped celebrate a colleague's 20 years with the agency
  • Researching how to best conduct an Information or Knowledge Audit.
  • Moved 100 Recall boxes of old registry files out of a compactus
  • Completed an online survey which turned into an online article - needing corrections! Lesson learnt.
  • Various updates to website, Intranet and social media channels
  • Discussion around procedures and recording permissions and access to our EDRMS
Wowee! Good exercise to do, I used to do a similar thing as a report to my boss in my last job, weekly. This covers 2.5 months worth of work but is a good snapshot of what I do and am working on.