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KMWorld 2010 Day Two Wrap Up

November 24, 2010

Book coverKeynote: Search Patterns: Making Maps for Knowledge Discovery

Day two kicked off with a keynote from Peter Morville, the author of Information Architecture for the World Wide Web. I couldn't agree more with his assessment of search. According to Peter, search is one of the most disruptive innovations of our time and is a difficult multi-disciplinary challenge.

The return on investment for search is tremendous. Home Depot has said that they have increased their conversion rate by 30% after investing in search on their site. Early site interfaces emphasized browse, but as the volumes of information on our sites increase we rely more and more on search. Search allows for a more iterative and interactive experience. With search, what we find impacts what we seek.

It is important to understand the words that your visitors will choose when doing a search. You also need to understand the context in which your users are searching. If the context is a real time search, you need to provide feedback such as the number of items that have returned even since they started their query. Twitter's latest search interface is a good example of showing in real time that more results are available that match your query.

One of Peter's favorite design patterns in search is faceted navigation. Faceted navigation gives the user an immediate custom map of the search results and next steps to take to clarify their results. This allows the user to construct complex boolean queries, but without having to know the syntax to do it. It really has blurred the line between browsing and search and can even be mixed with browse to allow user to drill to a certain point and then further refine their search using facets.

Enterprise Digital Strategy

The first session of the day I took in was a panel discussion about using social media in the enterprise. The session included industry professionals from Cisco, Helix Commerce, MTS Allstream and Ernst & Young. Technologies such as the Cisco Telepresence will be soon coming to the home and more and more corporations can't keep up with the consumer devices that are out on the market. Twenty percent of the workforce at Allstream have started teleworking from home. Mobility is a key factor that is changing the world, if you have a mobile device and connectivity you now have a voice that can be heard over various social media or collaboration channels.

MTS Allstream has also taken the CEO Roadshow to the next level and launched their Idea Factory site to the employees. Using this platform, employees can share new ideas as they occur, and then comment and rate the ideas of other employees. The original CEO Roadshow was seen as a one way dialog and the new Idea Factory site introduced a way for employees to have a voice for their ideas.  It also allowed others to help champion those ideas.

Cisco has also started leveraging video blogging to engage strategic alliances. They have been keeping it easy and simple.  No fancy studio is needed, as most are using cameras such as the Flip to record their sessions. Building a community isn't always about content creation, it is about curating and prioritizing content for your employees or customers.

Each of the panelists were asked who they admired, or who they thought was doing it right. One panelist commented that Ryan Air has realized that relationships via social media don't scale and that investing in social medai isn't a profitable move. Another noted that Zappo's does have a great social media strategy and it starts at the top and realizing they are really in the customer service business. Southwest also emphasizes social media and encourages all of their employees to blog because they feel that the customers can relate better to the employees as a result. Most of the panelists agreed that, at the very least, you should have an official presence on the social media channels.

Spreading Ideas, Sharing Knowledge, & Crowd Sourcing

Holly Pendleton and Giora Hadar shared experiences and observations about how knowledge and ideas spread within an organization.  The foundation of spreading an idea requires you to start with a good idea that is simple, timely, unexpected, concrete, understandable and relevant. The formation of the idea is as important as the idea itself and needs to be well-vetted.

Typically, it isn't always about the leader moving an idea forward. You need to find the early adopters and enable them to run with the idea. As the facilitator of spread you need to deal with the environment and culture, which can be very complicated things.

To help your ideas spread, you need to identify the strongest resisting forces to it and address them first. When spreading your idea, utilize stories to create stickiness. It is important that the story includes just the right amount of details and needs to be repeatable by others. Also, whenever possible, don't take yourself so seriously. You need to rise above it, look at things from the 100 foot level and have fun.

The crowdsourcing portion of the session focused on tapping into your own people. Each organization has its own lines of business, but they don't share as much knowledge as they could. We need to find a way for them to talk to each other.

Inside the current work environment there are 4 different generations that all have various ways of interacting. Currently the largest pool of new talent is Generation Y. This is a group that will find a way to change a work environment to fit their needs. For example, if you lock down their cell phone, they will find a way to work around it. The Gen Y way of thinking and operating is not always compatible with typical roles in civil service, but we need to tap into them for new talent.

Innovative Intranets: Insights & Trends

Two of the winning sites from the 2010 Intranet Innovation Awards shared their approaches to knowledge management. Richard Burdes from Airways New Zealand gave a quick tour of the features of their employee intranet that didn't focus on the typical CMS related functions, but honed in on the day to day needs of the employees. It included many workflows, such as booking employee travel and equipment requisition.

Brian Bawden from Bennett Jones, which is an internationally-recognized Canadian law firm, recently deployed Sharepoint within the organization. Interestingly enough, lawyers have been early adopters of knowledge management, but are very slow to adopt the technology. They recommended that you spend at least 20% of your budget on the user experience. The intranet they showcased looked very different from your typical Sharepoint deployment because of this investment in the total user experience.

Tackling Enterprise Search

Bo Yang from Pfizer kicked off this session on enterprise search by discussing what they have been doing as an organization to promote their internal search tool called SEEK. Enterprise search has a higher expectation than internet search. A key to the adoption of their SEEK tool internally was to not only provide a technologically sound tool, but also to brand it and then put SEEK everywhere.  They created browser plugins, private search tools, sharepoint webparts and even a Blackberry edition. SEEK also allowed for federated search across Google and Bing, making it a one-stop shop for all of your search needs at Pfizer. Bo reminded us that search isn't simply a project, as it is never complete.  You always need to meet and refine the parameters.

Patricia Kelley from Allstate Insurance shared their experiences with enterprise search as well. Internet users expect things to be simple and fast. One of the main issues that they commonly run into is that the enterprise search algorithms aren't the same as the ones used on the intranet. On the Internet, rankings are based on freshness and linking, but these may not have the same value on an intranet. Allstate has also had interesting challenges with how many potential sources of knowledge there are within their organization. They have Interwoven for web asset management, a 4 terabyte Sharepoint deployment, but they still have data locked away in public folders and even in PST files on users' computers.

Connecting People, Skills, & Experience

The Canadian and American legs of the Global PriceWaterhouseCoopers One Person Profile project discussed how they see knowledge management's role in expertise location. They had to deal with many issues such as privacy, risk and adoption of this new tool. The goals of the project were to identify skills across an organization and leverage this intellectual capital. One example was providing new hires a way to come up to speed quickly and find out who they need to forge relationships with. In their roll out of the new system they ensured that change management was an upfront component of the implementation.

Into the evening

After the sessions were over, our group continued many of these conversations in the lobby of the hotel and even at dinner that evening. We seem to be at the beginning of an exciting era of knowledge management and that was continually emphasized by the keynote speakers each day.

How do you see enterprise search changing the landscape of knowledge management? Is it possible to better leverage your intellectual capital and bring new hires up to speed quicker? Please post your comments or feel free to contact me on Twitter @calvinhp.

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