In a recent post I argued that IT and Knowledge Management (KM) should merge into a combined TechKnowledgy department that would, in addition to the traditional responsibilities for managing the financial, HR and sales systems and technical hardware of the organization, take on these two important new responsibilities focused on the individual ‘knowledge worker’:

1. Social Software Applications: Development of new social software applications for front-line employees, including:

  • Expertise locators – to help people find other people inside and outside the organization they need to talk with to do their job more effectively.
  • Personal content management tools – simple, weblog-type tools that organize, access and selectively publish each individual’s ‘filing cabinet‘, as a replacement for failed centralized content management systems.
  • Personal collaboration tools – wireless, portable videoconferencing and networking tools that save travel costs and allow people to participate virtually in events where they cannot afford to participate in person.
  • Personal researching and reporting tools – technologies and templates that enable effective do-it-yourself business research and analysis and facilitate the preparation of professional reports and presentations.

PPI2. Personal Productivity Improvement: Hands-on assistance to front-line employees — helping them make effective use of technology and knowledge, including the above tools, one-on-one, in the context of their individual roles. Not training, not wait-for-the-phone-to-ring help desk service — face to face, scheduled sessions where individuals can show what they do and what they know, and experts can show them how to do it better, faster, and take the intelligence of what else is needed back to HO so developers can improve effectiveness even more.
I’ve written before about social software applications, and noted that Business 2.0 has named these applications the Best New Technology of 2003.

Now I’ve put together, in Word format, a downloadable Business Case for Personal Productivity Improvement. I’ve written this so that it can be used by both:

  1. IT/KM professions inside the organization, to get executive buy-in and resources for it, and
  2. external IT/KM consultants who want to sell this service to organizations that prefer to outsource it.

I hope you find it useful and I would welcome comments on it. I am looking to organize a virtual collaborative enterprise of IT/KM professionals interested in providing this service, so I may also post it on Ryze/LinkedIn.

What do you think — could people make a living doing this?

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  1. Rob Paterson says:

    Hey DaveYou have been selected as one of the 10 ten blogs in Canada this month Rob

  2. Dave Pollard says:

    Thanks, Rob. Look forward to your thoughts on this post.

  3. Rob Paterson says:

    Dear DavePlease bear with me. I think that you are one of the finest writers/thinkers around today but on the KM side of things I have a concern. Maybe I am misreading you?I sense that you hope that KM will enable workers to use information more efficiently? I don’t think that organizations need to become more efficient. I think that the whole idea of “efficiency” is part of our problem. It drives us to become like machines. It is in my mind the machine like culture of how we organize today that is at the dsource of our poor relationships with each other, with animals, with theland and with nature as a whole. What in nature is “efficient”? Nature is effective through having good relationships. System interact based on them. We have become so destructive because we have no sense of our relationship with the other and hence we destroy systems.My hope is the social software will be an agent of change in work culture to a place where real rather than machine relationship can thrive. I think that social softeare is very subversive – they open up relationships. They open up systems and make systems visible. I feel that the great work that we intuiitviely know is before us is to change the nature of work and how it is organized not only structurally but most importantly culturallyKM as I hear you assumes that the use of explicit information is a productive concept. We can challenge that quite easily. Firstly the explicit level for ideas etc is tiny compared to the implicit level which can only be accessed by dilaogue. Secondly really new ideas that will make a difference by definition have to be rejected by our meme immune system. We can only be moved to accept the new idea by the relationship that we have to the messenger. It is only a peer who cares for us that can break through thsi immune system. Explicit information and explicit process is not a powerful agency. True relationships are.I fear that “KM” is the coopt movement of the corporate worldthat I know repels you as it does me. I have written more here

  4. Dave Pollard says:

    Rob: I’m with you all the way. If you will forgive me a bit of business-speak let me explain. PPI has two ‘customers’: (a) the front-line people who need it to be effective (and who are currently frustrated by systems that give them almost nothing useful), and (b) management of these organizations who will insist on efficiency improvements before they will pay for PPI. I deliberately chose the term ‘productivity’ as a surrogate for both terms.I have spoken to both front-line workers and management about PPI and it is the former who are most enthusiastic about it. They simply want to do their jobs better, and they believe PPI will help them do it. So PPI will make them happier, more confident, and improve the quality of their work. Perhaps even to the point it will prevent their jobs from being ‘offshored’, though that is not its function. And because PPI has to be done face-to-face it can only be done locally, so the people who provide the PPI service will be local.Don’t worry — I haven’t been coopted. I have other things up my sleeve to combat the evils of corporatism, as my ‘world of ends’ post I think indicated. And in the meantime I believe anything that makes the life of the front-line worker more humane and bearable is a good thing, and PPI I think will help. Even if it does have to be sold as an ‘efficiency’ booster to those that have to pay for the program.But you’ve got me thinking. To use an analogy, is making factory farms more humane until we can get rid of them helpful or harmful to the cause? Not sure…

  5. Jon Husband says:

    Hera hear to the both of you. The nature of “work” will. I hope, move further and further away from Taylorism and towards dialogue – “what do we need to do and how do we need to do it, now, to get this or that done, to serve needs and wants.The trouble today is that it has all been streamlined and encased in “electronic concrete” in the service of efficiency, whereas a better goal might have been integration so as to allow more time, flexibility, randomness, care, respect and reciprocity.Given that the “electronic concrete” will continue to exist – there’s an industry selling that to industires, after all – should we not, through Dave’s personal productivity ideas, be trying to make the “mass customization” of work come to life…allowing people’s hearts and minds to be engaged while they are working in and on the large integrated IT systems, using those systems to better serve their fellow human beings, not only the profitability goals of the corporations?

  6. Dave -I was just discussing this with a colleague of mine, who believes that the entire technology basis of knowledge management is in the process of evolving into much more flexible, inuitive and contextual systems he calls “Intelligent Content Services.” In his view, all of the KW services you talk about will, in 3-5 years, be integrated into powerful middleware suites that automate many of the “gateways” (e.g., improperly-constructed search queries, islands of data in disconnected repositories, poorly-understood practices for collaboration, etc.) and make access to critical information much easier and more contextual for knowledge workers.Key quote from his report: “Intelligent content services potentially mitigate the need for search and other forms of delivery by creating an environment that “makes sense” of content independently and proactively of human activity, then associates relevant content with work environments.”I think the widespread adoption of this kind of technology would mitigate many of the KW productivity problems and frustrations you mention.

  7. Dave Pollard says:

    Rob: This is, as Shakespeare would say, ‘devoutly to be wished’. My concern is that no matter how smart it is, middleware can’t ascertain context. Every human has his/her own set of mental models and semantics. There is huge signal loss as it gets ‘codified’ or ‘made explicit’ (written down), and further huge signal loss as the readers attempt to ‘translate’ it to their mental models and semantics. That’s one of the reasons ‘best practices’ databases never lived up to their promise. It’s also the reason why intelligent agents haven’t worked, and why “intelligent content services” is a pipedream. That’s why I’ve been advocating decentralized, personal content management, pulling knowledge back from context-poor central repositories to personal content repositories (weblogs +) where there is at least some chance of getting the context and reducing the signal loss. The author can provide context better, faster and more effectively than any database, and you get to the author using Social Network Apps. Search engines are great for finding information, next-to-useless for finding knowledge, and middleware ain’t going to change that.

  8. I’m not so sure, Dave. If the system can learn the inter-relationships between people, the kind of content they produce and the kind of content they consume, it doesn’t seem such a big step to boil that information up into a metadata store that transparently applies a set of personalized filters to every search. There will always be certain kinds of content searches that are too ideosyncratic or ad-hoc to be simplified, but if you apply a series of 80-20 rules, I think it’s possible to limit the need for human intervention only to those situations where it really adds value.

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