2nd Community of Practice Meeting

February 23, 2007

As part of my new role in KM at my company, I’ve been trying to develop a Community of Practice for one of the company’s strategic initiatives. I wrote about our first meeting back in January, so to continue here are the results of our second meeting, held this week. Though the audience was smaller, due to the time selected and members vacations’, the meeting itself was a small success. This CoP consists of members from North America, Europe and Australia. So there is no time that is best for everyone. Our first meeting was North America and Europe friendly. This second meeting was North America and Australia friendly. So most of the European members were not able to join, thus less attendance. At least I hope the timing was the reason and not lack of interest. Like the first meeting this was conducted via WebEx. Unlike the first meeting, there was a one PowerPoint with the meeting’s agenda and I acted as more meeting facilitator (think ToastMaster), and did little formal speaking. The agenda was simply:

  • Introduction of new members
  • Progress update on some of the knowledge assets that members were working on
  • Review of items in the Donation Box
  • Discussion on 3 topics

There were 2 new members, the total now stands around 16 participants from the 3 continents. So I had them introduce themselves to the group.

Part of the CoP goals are to create recommended practice (not best practice, since there is no such thing) guides. There was limited success updating an existing guide and members provided technical review of the content. A new guide is also in the works and some members are creating the content, and others have volunteered to review. Hopefully a reviewable version will be completed prior to the next meeting. This was the extent of the progress update.

The Donation Box review simply looked at the contents of the Donation Box and asked the member who submitted something to talk about it. The Donation Box is a simple file repository that members can upload any document they have created that they think is worthy of additional review and that the content should be shared. I can’t take credit for the name, but I thought it was a great name for what it was.

Prior to the meeting I had discussed with a couple members about topics they could talk about and generate group discussion on. So during the discussion section it was simply a matter of handing over the ‘floor’ to each member to lead the discussion. While the discussion did not solve all of the issues touched on, it was detailed, collegial and open. Several follow-up items came out of the discussion and hopefully will lead to some solutions.

Lastly the call was recorded so that those who did not attend could listen to the playback. I provided a time index so members could skip to the section they wanted too. In listening to the playback I did find I need to speak up more on the calls so I am better heard (sigh, one of my personal improvement goals). Also it is possible to track the amount of times the recording is played back so I will report on that in the future.


RSS & Reading Blogs

February 16, 2007

If you’ve found that you like to read blogs, except you can’t always find the time to go visit all your favorite blogs. Well one answer is to get a feed reader or other blog aggregator that will get the most recent posts from all your favorite blogs and either put them on a single webpage or will email you the latest entries.There are many aggregators out there, I think the most popular is Google Reader and there are some that plugin to your favorite browser such as Sage for FireFox.

However, if you are inside a company firewall and there are internal company blogs you like to read, some of the external readers such as Google Reader or Yahoo may not work. Also if, like me, you spend the majority of your day in Outlook, then finding a reader that plugs-in to Outlook can be useful. I have found, and use, RSS Popper. Which is free and adds another folder in your Inbox to collect the various blog feeds. It also works great with internal blogs and external blogs.

You can get feeds from a blog by subscribing to the blog’s RSS / Atom feed. Using RSS Popper to subscribe to a blog’s feed is a simple matter of copying the RSS link and pasting it into the correct RSS Popper field and clicking OK. You may have seen Atom on a blog page, it is just another method that a blog author/ blog site can use to syndicate their blogs. Both RSS and Atom are transparent to you the reader and as a reader, you only care about the RSS/Atom link. The feed for this site is: http://feeds.feedburner.com/kmapprentice

So go out and start gathering your favorite feeds into your favorite feed reader.

Knowledge Management & Social Media

February 9, 2007

I recently joined the CPsquare community. They advertise themselves as “…the community of practice on communities of practice”. Today was my first taste of the community as there was a conference call to hear and discuss:

Comm.unities.of.prac.tice 2.0; How blogs, wikis, and social bookmarking offer facilities that support learning in practice in communities of practice.” Martin Kloos’, Masters Thesis in the Business Information Systems program at the University of Amsterdam.

Before I tell you about the meeting, I’ll talk about the Social Media I used in the meeting. The community hosts its conference call using Skype. This was my first attempt at using the service and I found it to be quite good.  I did purchase a USB microphone/headset for ease of use, however the Skype call was free. The CPsquare folks also have a chat session hosted on their servers during the conference call. The chat is then posted to the community discussion forum. And during the conference I was emailed a copy of the presentation. Though I later found it was posted to the site, newbie mistake, but John Smith was kind enough to send it during the call.

The call itself was interesting as Martin talked about his research and the conclusions he drew, that certain Social Media are more apt for building and developing CoP than others. Martin’s work uses Etienne Wenger‘s work on Communities of Practice as support for some of his findings. Etienne was actually on the call today and provided some additional insight and thoughts on Martin’s work.

Just as a brief sidebar. I’m not sure about you, but if I was presenting my work and I knew the person whose research I had used as support or reference was going to be in the audience; I would be pretty terrified.  Ok, back to the conference call.

Also on the call was Eric Sauve CEO of Tomoye: The Community of Practice Company. Not much to say about Eric, but I am intrigued by his company and what their services are about, given my last post on KM services.

I unfortunately missed the last CPsquare event which they took into Second Life and discussed its uses for CoPs. Hopefully future CPsquare events are as interesting as these last two.

Knowledge Management as a Service?

February 9, 2007

One idea I’d like to discuss/research further is the possibility of starting out a KM project as an internal service. Much like you would hire an external consulting company to come in and provide you or your company a service. Is it possible to treat Knowledge Management as such? The main difference is that there is a certain group in your company that provides the KM consulting services instead of an external consulting organization.

One of the many problems with getting KM started in any company is that it is very difficult to properly quantify the the success of the KM staff and their contribution to the overall health of the company. I think that KM as a service could help to solve that problem.

By providing specific services to an internal group, with a defined scope, explicit responsibilities, and tangible KM deliverables it may be possible to begin to understand how much it costs a company to deliver those knowledge assets. Like any other professional service, you could track KM staff utilization, the mix of services that are offered vs what are ‘bought’, and the needed areas of expertise in knowledge for your specific company.

You could argue that such a model would not work on a large scale for an entire company. Afterall isn’t KM for everyone at the company. However, I think if you are now starting out on a KM path for your company it would help if you focus on a certain subset of the company, make it work there, quantify the costs associated, then attempt it for other groups, all the while trying to reduce costs to your customers, improve service and keeping your eye on the big picture of KM strategy at your company. So that all these smaller projects eventually fit into a larger strategy.

Some offerings an internal KM Service group could provide include:

  • Best Practice Capture – Here the KM group would work with a specific part of the organization to capture best practices from its SMEs. As part of the agreement/contract/SOW the SMEs would be identified, the area of focused defined, the duration set and the output of the content agreed upon.
  • Community Building – The KM team provides a service that helps to nurture a new Community of Practice. By providing the framework and necessary people to run the community for a limited period of time. The ‘customer’ would then assume ownership of the community at the end of the contract, or let the community end if it was only needed for a short period.
  • Taxonomy Definition – The KM team would work with the customer to help them define and develop their taxonomy of knowledge assets. By doing this on a group by group basis, the KM team eventually has the whole company’s taxonomy.
  • Knowledge Repository Definition – Capturing the needs that the knowledge repository must have to support the customer’s business processes. Helping to define, structure and rank those needs in the platform definition.
  • Knowledge Repository Implementation – Once the definition is complete, providing the necessary oversight to implement the knowledge repository, using new or existing infrastructure.
  • Training – Work with identified SMEs on developing specific training to the customer. Providing training on the tools and processes for knowledge capture and sharing within the customer group.
  • Level Up Capture – Working with the internal group and their customers to understand the gaps of current internal group services. Capturing information as part of regular internal project reviews to feedback into the design process to fill those gaps and move up in the service chain.

The associated costs for the KM team could be charged back to the internal groups or just tracked as part of the KM evolution at the company.

Why not just get external consultants? Why have an internal KM group at all? I think that if KM is integral to the company’s success it has to be owned within the company. Parts of the KM process can be out-sourced, external consulting can be used to build the KM team and execute its go to market strategy. But someone must have responsibility for it, and focused on KM at all times. Otherwise it will get lost in the day-to-day of the business. IMHO.