Random Acts of IT Project Management

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Posts Tagged ‘Knowledge Management’

Alfresco Enterprise Content Management Tool

Posted by iammarchhare on 21 August 2009

At one place I worked, we were looking into some content management systems.  When I found out the licensing cost for one tool we were already using, I was pretty much floored.  The old pricing scheme was pretty high, but in order to update, we had to move to a licensing scheme that seemed pretty insane to me.

Since there already was a Microsoft license in place, the recommendation was to move to MS Sharepoint and dump the more expensive tool.   It literally meant quite a bit of conversion and testing time, though.  There was a weird path assignment for many documents, and it would have been easy to have a lot of broken links.

Well, Alfresco offers an alternative to the more expensive contenders.

Twenty years of experience drove us to believe that the Enterprise Content Management industry was driven by:

  • High Cost — Application driven purchases with a high up-front investment and per user pricing
  • High Complexity — Long rollout cycles and complexity resulting in software either not being implemented or used
  • Lack of Customer Control — Proprietary control preventing choice and ability to switch to other vendors

For these reasons the vast majority of people do not use ECM systems but instead work with shared drives and email to create, share and store content.

That last paragraph really hit home with me.  At the company I was working for (above), there were quite a few pockets of people using shared drive because no one wanted to pay for the overpriced licensing.  While an older version of Sharepoint was in place, it’s use was mostly for project work.  There really was no central schema to how to get information.

At any rate, I plan to have a further look into Alfresco.

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Perot Systems Launches Knowledge Management Portal; CMS Hosts Social Networking Webinar

Posted by iammarchhare on 12 August 2009

I’ve noticed that the few knowledge management (KM) articles received quite a few hits, so I thought you might also be interested in knowing that Express Computer recently interviewed Bhanu Potta from Perot Systems about their newly launched K-Edge portal.  The article “K-Edge leverages content management and Web 2.0 to support complex knowledge requirements” is written by Nivedan Prakash.

As a disclaimer, I have worked with (but not for) Perot in the past, and in particular with Bhanu.  I have a high regard for him and his knowledge management associates at Perot.

Speaking of Web 2.0, CMS is putting on a webinar on “Enterprise Social Software: Ready for Prime Time?” tomorrow, 13 August, at 2:00 pm EDT.  I’ve seen an increase in interest in this area for companies and nonprofits, so I expect it to be a pretty informative webinar.

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Knowledge Management: Fad or the Future?

Posted by iammarchhare on 27 July 2009

Is Knowledge Management dead or does it need to be revived and updated?

I have worked on Knowledge Management (KM), and I have to tell you it is amazing that anyone gets anything done in medium to large companies.  Everything is “tribal knowledge”, passed down orally or on scraps of electronic paper (such as emails) within each group from employee to employee.  No central person or group understands what information is needed, where it is stored or how to get to it.

The excellent PM Tips blog gave a pointer to an article on Social Computing Journal, a site which I had not come across previously.  I don’t know about the rest of the site,but the article by Dave Pollard titled “What’s Next After Knowledge Management? A Scenario” hits the nail right on the head, IMO.

Organizations are basically still organized the same way they were in 1975.  Senior Management sits back and makes decisions based upon a limited set of key information.  No one tells the boss bad news, so the boss is oblivious to front-line problems.  By the same token, employees are not privy to most of the information needed to make the top-level decisions or about what other parts of the company are doing.  Therefore, little is done to prepare employees to move up in the organization.  Worse, Gen Y is much more likely to work for numerous companies than ever before, not giving them any time to truly learn how the business operates.

The tragedy is that often neither they nor their senior managers think they need to know what the business is all about, unless and until they become senior managers themselves. So most employees spend their entire careers feeling under-appreciated, disconnected, unconsulted, and annoyed at stupid instructions and useless information requests from management. An they have a ton of very useful information about customers, operational ineffectiveness, and what’s going on in the world and the marketplace, that is never solicited, and never proffered.

KM is supposed to be about being able to find the right information when you need it.  Yet, most attempts have been fragmented and half-hearted.  Those are my words, BTW, based upon my experience, which seems to correlate well with Pollard’s stance.  There tends to be a “library management” view, a “technology project” view and a “training people” view of how KM should work.  To make it worse, though, senior management at best might view it cynically as a way to reduce costs but nothing that will add real value to their jobs.

In short:

In other words, in adding to the volume and complexity of information systems, we have added relatively little value, and in some cases actually reduced value. The reason for this is simple:

  1. We have not done anything to substantively improve the ability of senior management to manage the business (i.e. to manage cash flow, share price, risks or opportunities).
  2. We have not done anything to substantively improve the effectiveness of any of the information flows (arrows in the above diagram) that matter in organizations, or the quality of the information.

We have, in short, implemented a solution that addressed no problem. We introduced new KM tools because we could.

Ouch!  That hurts!

To make matters worse, paranoid companies actually make it harder, not easier, to find the information needed.  The needed information is usually “out there” in the wild, wild west of the worldwide web.  It may be in webmail, which I’ve seen many places restrict access to (forcing you to do stupid things like forward mail back and forth).  It may be on YouTube in an instructional video.  Pollard lists other activities that in some cases I’ve seen get restricted in the name of “security”.

So, you end up with an employee that hasn’t been around long enough to know the company, has information scattered all over, and the best they can do is scour an inefficient intranet that may or may not contain the information they need.

Yep, that pretty much sums up most large companies, I’d bet.

HOWEVER, Pollard goes on to discuss how KM will actually be very much needed in the future.  In fact, even now employees are finding ways around obstacles.  Pollard then updates the 1975 flow of information model to one that might work in the future.

I say “might” as in, companies still have a choice as to whether or not they innovate or die.

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