Brass Tacks Questions & Answers

Below is a transcript of the questions and answers that were received both during the webinar and in follow up e-mails to attendees. Some questions may have multiple responses from different presenters.

Q:  How did you get the top management buy in and how did you make your economic case for knowledge management? How much value does it add to your organization? 

Alex Linthicum: This is a great question. We have usage statistics for our communications articles and for the various page within our knowledge management platform which are showing very strong year-on-year positive trends. While these indicate usage, they still don’t tell us quantitatively how improved knowledge sharing translates to helping us meet our mission. We conduct annual internal surveys which can help us capture this, but the results are more subjective.

Molly Johnson: For Dewberry, the two tactics driving the intranet purchase and implementation were championed by the CEO; however, the team performed comparative research on other system features and made a formal presentation to the enterprise application steering committee before receiving formal approval. We also felt that cultural buy-in and support was needed among our regional leadership, so significant effort was made introducing them to the system (from presentations at meetings to one-on-one phone calls.) The intranet team reports back to the enterprise application steering committee biannually. Value is demonstrated anecdotally against our goals for the intranet.

Kathy Schumann: For Mead & Hunt, the value-added piece was simply qualified by the level of use/ease of use of the new platform. Honestly, we took a chance on a opportunity based on trusted feedback from our technical staff who had seen the new platform in a testing phase. I am sure there were numbers discussed; I wasn’t privy to that info, but user experience carries a high weight when it comes to purchases around here. Knowing that people will engage (the information is only as good as what you put in it) is critical to justifying the purchase. Management easily supports system and process changes that engages our technical staff. We knew we would have to convince some people more than others, but general acceptance in the system was solid.

Shellie Glass: We have various levels of buy in, and it depends on who are commander is. Our culture changed when people saw the value of things like chat rooms and how in shortened response times. We showed success with this small method which made the case for further implementation easy.

Q: How do you guide knowledge management implementation in a culture where knowledge is power?

Maureen Hammer: This happens in every organization, so the first step should be to figure out where people are feeling the most “pain”, and a knowledge audit can help with that. You need to demonstrate that you know what you are talking about, that you have a solid plan, and lastly that you will measure whether or not it was successful. For example, we noticed that our right-of-way section had a pressing need, given the amount of people lined up for retirement and the fact that there is not a traditional degree one would receive to enter the field; it’s a discipline that many often “pick up” while on the job. We demonstrated that the institutional knoweldge that these employees held was able to speed up project delivery times and lower project costs. Using this, we were able to persuade the chiefs of the departments of this need and made the case for a KM implementation.

Q: We have a significant number of people who work in the field; have you utilized mobile strategies to serve those who don’t work in an office environment?

Alex: Not corporately. Some of our divisions have been experimenting chat-based communications tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams that show a lot of promise for employee engagement, quickly sharing ideas, and sharing knowledge in a public forum. These all work seamlessly across desktop clients, browsers, and mobile devices. We are investigating incorporating one of these platforms into our operating environment.

Molly: Yes, Synthesis has an application (IOS and Android) that supports delivery of most of the intranet features, including project,  employee, and client information as well as the social stream. We have promoted and continue to promote its use to help our field personnel (e.g., surveying crews) feel more connected to the information coming from their “home office.”

Kathy: Interesting question in that I just had this discussion this week with our HR team. We haven’t actively promoted the app in awhile, so we decided to make that part of our new employee orientation, as we are hiring a lot of field staff at the moment. It’s interesting to hear the challenges of our field staff. We are exploring a texting system for “need to know” company news (items with deadlines, etc) and will promote the app for general participation in our social streams. I anticipate getting more creative when it comes to asking field staff to share lessons learned and other efficiencies that could benefit staff across the country.

Q: What is the role of Knowledge Management in relation to IT and emerging information management?

Maureen: I have headed KM programs that were based out of IT, and I think the biggest help there is to sit down the sketch the information needed and draw up what you want to happen. Sometimes those folks are very good at responding to peoples needs, but not organizing or drawing up plans. Content and document management, and making it freely available goes very far.

Shellie: I’d like to emphasize the importance of having a librarian on the team. They are trained to organize information, and I’ve found that having someone with a library science background has proven very valuable for a number of reasons.

Q: What is the percentage of time you gained by using chat room vs traditional text message or e-mail?

Shellie: I would say for us, often working in emergency situations, e-mail has been a single point of failure. On the other hand, the chat room allowed us to have many people communicating at the same time instantly; we noted something close to an 80% improvement by using chatroom vs traditional text message or e-mail.

Q: What is the difference between information and knowledge?

Shellie: In the Department of Defense, we address that specifically. We wanted folks to realize the difference between data, information, and content. The data is the bits and pieces, and out of these bits and pieces you can get chunks of information. Content and knowledge come out of when there is  a need for specific kinds of information. If you imagine a triangle, content and knowledge would be at the top while information is the lower level and data makes up the bottom base of everything.



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