Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Relationship between knowledge management and information management

For those of you having a holiday season, I hope you are enjoying it. Although I am working this week this time is very precious for me. There are no customers calling and no one is asking me a million questions so I get time to catch up on reading, strategizing and getting energized for the new year.
Part of the reading catchup took me to this listing where Liz Orna posted this description about her thoughts on the relationship between KM and IM. This is an SLA listserv so these people work with information everyday and I figured she knew a thing or two about it. Here is her post. It made sense to me and gave me a way of looking at both the relationship between KM and IM and the longevity of KM when coupled in this way with IM.

" is right to say that 'knowledge is a process and a way of life, not
represented by a db. So, the combination of IM and KM works for me, but not
KM by itself'

KM got overblown because there wasn't enough thinking about what
constitutes the knowledge that needs to be managed, how it differs from
information, and where the two are interdependent.

The distinction and the interdependence lie in the fact that knowledge
lives inside individual human minds. Only human beings can know, and what
each of us knows is invisible and inaccessible to other human beings until
we've turned it into another form - which we call information - and put it
into the outside world. Once it's there, other people can get at it, assess
whether it's useful, and, if it is, transform it back into knowledge inside
their own minds.

So each of us has to be the knowledge manager of our own knowledge. If we
understand that, we can then define what KM in organisations has to do.
Its role is to:
support individuals in managing their own knowledge;
minimise the intellectual and financial costs to them and the organisation
of contributing their knowledge to the organisation's information resources;
promote knowledge exchanges under conditions of mutual trust;
help individuals and the organisation to define and keep their knowledge

KM can't fulfill that role without IM, which has the essential complementary
job of:
acquiring, storing, co-ordinating and making accessible information to
maintain the knowledge the organisation needs;
providing new information resources to meet changes in the knowledge needs
of the organisation;
managing the information that emerges from knowledge exchanges
using the ICT infrastructure innovatively to support interactions among
people about knowledge, and the finding, diffusion and communication of

Those roles mean that KM and IM have a shared territory too; it includes:
organisational policy and strategy for using knowledge and information to
support business processes; the value added by using knowledge and information
monitoring changes in the internal and external environment for K and I
implications bringing the results into central strategic decision making.

Liz Orna

Unfortunately this post was not carried any further.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Role of Blogs in Knowledge Management and Communications

Bill Ives recently presented on the Role of Blogs in Knowledge Management and Communications within the Enterprise at one one of my KM community meetings. The presentation was excellent. I recorded it and am sharing it with you all. To get the presentation you must register on the KSN - there is of course no charge to register. If you are already a member please contact me to find out how you can attend these calls for free.

Here is a brief description of what the call covered:

"Blogs are hot, but what do they really bring to business communication and knowledge management? How are successful early adopters using them? These are questions the presenter asked 70 well-known bloggers at firms ranging from IBM, Microsoft, Yahoo!, and SAP, to many small businesses in a variety of industries as part of research for his new book, Business Blogs: A Practical Guide. The combination of accessibility, transparency, and archiving that blogs provide has the potential to enrich business communication. This session summarizes the insights gained from the interviews and addresses the use of blogs for knowledge management, as well as internal communication and collaboration."

Here is the link: to the registration which will get you to the recording and the powerpoint.

Also, I apologize to those whose questions I have not yet answered. I promise I will report on other measures I use for the KSN.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Measuring the effectiveness of portals

The last quarter of 2005 is about to start and like last year I am starting to panic about measures again. Before I know it the ill fated e-mail will come from my boss saying "lets sit down and review your annual performance" which in my world equals word-to-word as "the performance of your site."
No sweat! This year I am not as unprepared as last year. And this is because of many factors some of which I will discuss as I explain to you what I have in place.
First - there are two major components of my measurement scorecard. 1) Impact on Revenue, 2) Increased site activity
This post will cover the 1st measure.
Strangely enough in my case the impact on revenue is the easier one to calculate. Be warned! it is a primitive method used very infrequently these days, its called "talking.":-)) In the past we had always focused only on the customer...lets get the information from the customer. Here is my lesson learned. The customer's response was always circumstantial, sometimes accurate but usually it was a narrow answer like " I thought I could benefit from the study topic." or "the KSN will be a good resource for the company."
Here is what we did this year to get a better sense of the customer's reason to buy.
We put together a small survey with one or two questions and NOTE - instead of asking the customer we ask the account managers. There is only one main question. What factors do you think influenced this customer's decision to buy an APQC membership? The options we gave them are our major product areas such as KSN, OSBC, Events, Consortiums, and Consulting. The account managers are given a 100 points. They divvy up the 100 points between these product groups. The logic behind this is that the account managers are the ones that have been courting the customer for a while, they have proposed all our products and services and we hope that our members find each and every one of them valuable but there is always one that triggers the decision. The account managers weight that point the most heavily.
We follow exactly the same process for renewing members. If an account manager has been doing his/her job it means they have been in touch with the member regularly. They know what the member(s) has been involved in and they know whether or not that member is going to renew next year. Having them fill out the same survey for their renewals tells me how valuable the KSN is in impacting a renewal and it tells my boss how much his account managers know about their customers. Pretty cool! huh!
We started this in January this year and I am pleased to say that the KSN has consistently stayed over the 50 point mark. Isn't that incredible. Of all the members that have signed on and of all the members that have renewed, on an average the KSN has impacted 50% of those decisions.
My goal this year is to finish collecting this data for the rest of the year and then make a business case that says if the KSN impacts membership revenue by 50% - don't you think my budget should reflect the same:-)) Of course I don't want 50% of the revenue as my budget I just want to have a solid basis for saying give me more money so I can improve one of our most important products.
I hope that some of you can adapt this to your organizations and use it to monitor impact on revenue. If you all have any questions, feel free to write. Any suggestions to add would be greatly appreciated.
Activity measures on my next post. Stay tuned....

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Finally, a face to face meeting

Some of you may remember my ramblings about wanting to try out a face to face meeting for my KM virtual community. Well that has finally happened and I have put together my first Wine N Cheese get together for my Houston members. About 10 people are signed up and although it seems small I am actually happy that many more did not since I wanted to keep it small so I can really get to talk to most of these folks. Its being held on October 5th at our campus in Houston.
If your organization is a member of APQC and you would like to attend please let me know. If you don't know whether your company is a member or not, check to see if your company name is on this list.
There is no charge, its just an informal get together being held for local Houston folks.
I will definitely keep you posted on how it goes because I think face to face meetings are very important for communities to bond. I know that there are many very successful completely virtual communities out there but I strongly believe that if those virtual communities were given an opportunity to meet each other they would have an even stronger bond and maybe be more successful.
Please feel free to share your thoughts with me on this matter.
take care

Rita scared the life out of us and then just whizzed right by

Hi all,
Wanted to let you all know that all is well here at the APQC. Since Hurricane Rita kind of decided to leave us alone and only bestowed some heavy winds and rains on us we are generally ok.
I of course was one of the "evacuees" you saw on TV. It took me 16 hours to get to Dallas. The first 6 of which was spent trying to move 4 miles ahead. I can walk a 15-18 minute mile so that should give you some perspective as to how slow it was. But I was in it for the adventure so I hung in there, did not run out of gas, and got to Dallas at 1:00 am in the morning after which I think I slept for two full days. Or at least it felt like that.
Coming back yesterday was half the time. Still 2 1/2 times what it takes normally but when you spend 16 hours on the road going in, 8 hours coming back all of a sudden seemed not too bad. Its all a matter of perspective.
Hindsight, should I have stayed. Of course, but then hindsight is always 20/20:-)
It was one of those damned if you do, damned if you don't situations. If I had not left and something major had happened to Houston everyone would be like "you were warned, why didn't you go?" and now because I left I got comments like "we knew nothing was going to happen, we were the smart ones, we stayed."
Funny part is when I spoke to my friends in Houston (from Dallas) they were dying of boredom. Everything was closed, they couldn't go anywhere, some ran out of food because they ate all day since they had nothing better to do, and of course no stores were open to replenish supplies. Those who stocked up on DVDs were probably smart.
I of course was having a good time in Dallas visiting friends and I even went out to the lake and got some sun. So something good usually comes from hardships and I am thankful for that.

I want to thank you all for reading the blog and thinking of me during these trying times and I will add a separate post on other activities going on within my community and my Web site later today.
take care

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Hurricane Rita and new uses of Blogs

Hi all,
I think I have been jinxed by the rain bug. I went to India last month and got stranded in Dubai for two days because the Mumbai airport was flooded. Being there during heavy downpours was not much fun either but I made the most of it. If I ever figure out what is blocking my ability to post pictures I will post some pictures of my trip to the Taj Mahal and some glorious palaces in Jaipur.

So I come back and Katrina hits. More rain and as you know a major impact on Houston due to Louisiana's evacuees.

Well we are still reeling from Katrina and now Rita is about to hit Houston. I wanted you all to know that we are going to be closed here most likely starting tomorrow.

But here is the interesting part. My IT folks came and said, hey Farida! your blog is the only offsite Web site we have. If our servers are down can we use your blog to post messages to our employees. There is a unique use of a blog (offsite one), used in cases of emergency:-))

So, I am hoping all will be well and I will be back here Monday smiling but just in case its a while before I can write, its been great writing and I plan to pick it back up as soon as things smooth over.
You all take care and please bear with us if we end up using this site as our means of communication.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Copyright and Ownership Issues for Blogs

Hello all,
Recently someone had brought up the issue of "what the company you work for owns" in terms of "the work you do." My team member Anne forwarded me this very interesting post on her Bus-Lib listserv about blogs, intellectual property rights and copyrights. I think its valuable for us bloggers to know some of this.

The Editorial by Lesley Ellen Harris in Volume 2005,
Issue 1, The Copyright & New Media Law Newsletter,
deals with copyright ownership in blogs - it is
reproduced below. For further information on this
print newsletter, see>.

Editorial - Copyright Ownership in Blogs

The Internet continually forces us to test the
application and flexibility of current copyright law
to new modes of communications and media. The Internet
has already spawned debate and lawsuits about
hyper-linking, P2P file sharing, and the removal of
copyright management information and technological
protections. A newer Internet activity, blogging
resulting in Weblogs, is now being discussed in the
copyright arena. A blog is basically a stream of
consciousness discussion available to the public at
large. Individuals keep these blogs on every topic
imaginable. Blogs are original material, and once they
are fixed in some form, saved digitally or in a print
out, they are protected by copyright in most countries
around the world. In fact, they would be protected for
50 to 70 years after an author's death - much beyond
the life of any blog itself.

Blogs are becoming more popular amongst professionals,
and certain employees are even encouraged to create
blogs based on their work. This raises interesting
issues concerning copyright ownership in the blogs. If
an organization requires blogging as part of the
duties of an individual, it is likely that the
employer owns the content in the blog, just like the
employer owns other copyright-protected works created
by that employee in the course of employment.

However, if the blog is initiated by an individual
though it may discuss work-related issues, outside the
scope of his employment, who owns the content in the
blog? This is comparable to the situation where a
professor writes a book related to, but outside the
duties, of his instruction. This is often a gray issue
in the academic world. University policies that
specifically deal with such issues can help clarify
the situation. Also, a professor approaching his
university prior to writing the book, may be able to
clarify the situation, prior to a confrontation.

Many companies have yet to develop Weblog Policies,
similar to their other integral policies. Thus,
employees who discuss work-related activities are
generally held to the rule of "good taste" in their
discussions, and of course, not spewing any
confidential information. As is the case with many
Internet-related activities, would a written Weblog
Policy contradict the free flowing nature of
information in a blog, and perhaps weaken the
effectiveness of these blogs?

With ownership comes the issue of who may authorize
reproduction of the content in a blog. Generally, only
the owner may authorize others to reproduce a work.
Would this be an organization or an individual? Or
should the whole notion of obtaining permission in
relation to blog content be mute, since the whole
point of the blog is for as many people as possible to
access and read it? The blogs by Sun Microsystems
employees at take what I call a
compromise position. These blogs are subject to a
Creative Commons License. Thus, the blogs are
protected by copyright, however the rights are
conveniently set out in a hyper-linked license and are
broader than those rights attached to most
copyright-protected works.

To date, there are no lawsuits relating to ownership,
reproduction or re-distribution of the content of
blogs. This in itself may be helpful for organizations
and individuals who are determining "policies" in this
area. And for those bloggers who want their content
read as widely as possible, they are free to put a
statement on their blogs to the effect that the
content may be freely used without permission.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Are blogs another way to publish content?

The people from the blogging survey asked this question of me via e-mail. Read my answer below. I would love to see you all add to this answer with your thoughts and ideas.

Question: Please rate your blog's impact on the following factors in your company.

Another way to publish content and ideas was the top answer to question eight in survey.

Do you think this answer means that companies did not have the place to publish certain ideas and content, or that a blog is just another place to publish the same type of content you might publish on your corporate website?

Answer: If I had to pick I would say the latter for sure. But the reason why organizations could use another publishing medium is in part due to saturation of existing media and in part due to a change in how we work. An analogy that best describes this is television. Product companies have realized that the effectiveness of their television advertising has dropped considerably. Are people watching less TV? I wish! The availability of on demand television through Tivo and DVRs have led to a drop in "commercials" watching. People record their shows and fast forward through the commercials. So product companies have had to think of other ways of getting the message out and an example of that which everyone recognizes is the partnership with TV shows like The Apprentice. Pontiac sold more cars and Burger King sold more burgers because the show used those products in their competitions.

On a similar note, how we work has changed. We are more collaborative now than ever before. We have access to more information, we have access to higher data speeds, we need more information these days to deal with the global environment than we did before. These changes are leading to the search for more effective means of communicating and blogs is one of them. Its low barrier to entry and ease of use makes it an easy tool for people to collaborate and share. In my opinion Web sites and Intranets are still effective mediums for sharing information but I think they are not getting the credit they deserve because people may been jaded from past experiences of sites that were either not populated with content or stale sites where content never changed.


Monday, July 11, 2005

Results of Blogging Survey

Hey all,
The final results of the blogging survey held by Backbone Media are published. There are some lessons learned for corporate blogs that are worth reviewing. You can access the survey here.


Thursday, July 07, 2005

Employee Intellectual Property Rights

Hey all!
Comment posted yesterday..

Farida wrote: "..but at the end of the day you still "work" for the company and everthing you do and accomplish belongs to them."

I think this is an underlying assumption that is not necessarily "true." Is it possible that everything you do and accomplish does not belong to "them?"

To address this question that someone sent it yesterday I did some research so as to have my facts in order. I agree with your comment...I did make an underlying assumption but it was based on my knowledge of employee intellectual property rights since I am in an environment where our knowledge is the organization's intellectual capital.

This blog for instance is a good example. No one at APQC puts any effort in this blog other than me. I rarely even use APQC physical resources (explicit content written by me or others in the company) when writing this blog but my experience comes from working with APQC customers. So I consider this blog to be APQC intellectual property and if I leave APQC I would leave the blog behind and start a new one wherever else I go.

Anyone, if I am mistaken about this assumption please speak up.

So back to the research...I looked on the SHRM Website for some guidance and in an article called "Whose Knowledge is it anyway" from their October 2001 issue they state, and I quote:

"The U.S. Copyright Office defines work made for hire as “work prepared by an employee within the scope of employment; or a work specially ordered or commissioned in certain specified circumstances. When a work qualifies as a work made for hire, the employer … is considered to be the author.” Recent court cases in this area, including the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision in The New York Times Co. v. Tasini (No. 00-201), have focused primarily on freelancers and could have been resolved with sound employment contracts."

I interpret this legal jargon as "if you create something when you are employed by a firm and that something is within the parameters of your daily job, then it belongs to the firm."

So having said that, I must mention that this article had a few other interesting points. One was that of the future struggle that employers are going to have with this issue of intellectual property because some employees are starting to get creative and their creativity is making money for the company but the solutions are outside the norms of intellectual propoerty.

For example, Fortune magazine recently reported that several Wall Street brokers had set up a web site outside their firm to attract and advise clients. The initial reaction would be that this was a clear violation of Securities and Exchange Commission rules, the site should be shut down and the employees fired. But are not such enterprising employees what you want? What if the top 20 percent of salespeople at a company had their own web sites? Who owns the customer relationship—the employee or the firm? Remember, all of these employees are working to enhance the bottom line of their employers. For all those “customer-centric” companies, is this not the exact behavior you want from your employees?

The article then goes on to mention that because of these new ways of working (Web sites, employee-owned businesses) HR is going to have to reformulate the old rules of work product ownership in order to encourage employee creativity and increase employee retention.

I think that's exciting stuff. As I mentioned this information came from the SHRM site at There are two articles I referred to, one titled "Whose Knowledge is it anyway" and the other one is called "Inside Job in the same edition.
If this topic interests you and you have a SHRM membership check these out.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Happy July 4th

hello all,
Before leaving for the weekend I wanted to wish you all a very happy July 4th, that is those of you living in the States and have the day off of course.

I wanted to bring up a couple of things that you might want to think about or review if you have a moment this weekend.

1st, we are getting ready to kickoff a consortium study on "KM across the Value Chain," the delivery model is just like the one I did on CoPs, remember went on site visits and reported to you all. If you are interested in participating in this study please check out this proposal. The study has a cost associated with it but if its something you are battling with in your organization its well worth it.

Also if you have feedback on the scope don't hesitate to write and I will send it to the project team.

2nd, this whole discussion we have been having on funding models for communities. I have requested one of my writers to take all that discussion, get some material from our past studies and create a short white paper on it. If any one would like to contribute to the creation of this white paper please let me know.

That's it. I'm off now, I hope you all will have a wonderful weekend.
take care

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Funding for Communities of Practice

Recent question to Dinesh,

Thanks for the insights about joint funding. What about the community of practice members donating money to fund their own endeavor?

Or, what about the members creating a parallel funding organization?

Farida's Comments

I am sure Dinesh will reply to this question, so thanks Dinesh. Just a couple of comments from me.

Members donating money to fund their own endeavor would surely in my opinion be a community with a cause so passionate that members would be willing to put money into it themselves. In that case I would think it shameful for an organization that does not recognize that passion and provide for the community.
On the bureaucratic front however I am not sure how that would work. Especially if the community is related to your job and you get paid to do your job and you in essence almost paid the company back to be part of a community? That would somehow not work out in a large organization especially with the finance side.
We have seen many instances where members put in their time and effort at no extra cost to the organization. They meet with their communities for dinner and pay themselves and spend the evening with co-workers. That could be considered funding a community in a way but when it comes to needing actual dollars to do something, a specific project I don't see how the "membership funding" would work.

A parallel funding organization would hold all the same opportunities and barriers as Dinesh has described. We come back again to the fundamental point of funding=ownership. Whoever that parallel organization is, would want some ownership in the outcome of the community. If that is mutually acceptable by the community, the funding organization, and the host organization then its possible to make such a model work. Again that follows the same scenarios as Dinesh has described.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Have any communities been funded from external sources?

"In your studies of Communities of Practice, have you ever seen an informal community generate funding outside of the formal organization?

In other words, when a community of practice gets to a point in its growth when it needs resources to continue to develop, are there options outside of fighting for funding from the traditional sources in the organization? "

Farida's comments

In my research so far I have not seen any communities that have been funded using external sources. One of the main reasons for that in my opinion is that the information shared inside communities is sensitive to some degree. Members of a CoP where trust is securely established will share their dirty laundry in hopes of being helped by their peers. The very notion of going to an external source for funding would mean that the funding source would own some of the community or at least some rights to it and that may not be in the best interest of the organization.

For example, Fluor Corporation always gets inquiries from its customers wanting to know if they can be part of Fluor's communities or if they can get access to data and Fluor has decided against it since the information shared in their communities is what gives them the competitive edge.

What I have seen are "shared service" models for communities. Chargebacks are a means of funding and several organization go that route. The Core CoP group is self sustaining in that it stays in business if it can provide value to its customers through the implementation and support of communities.

To Dinesh, thank you for your valuable insight. I am sure my readers are thrilled.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Jamming communities under the radar

"When APQC goes into organizations to study them, who do you talk with? Who do you spend the most time with? Is it the formal organization to include the CoP function people? Or, do you talk to the community of practice leaders who are passionate about the practice that they are part of and are taking action to improve?

Because your entry point into the organization is the formal organization and the CoP function people, you may be skewed from the get go towards the formal interpretation of reality.

I wonder what would happen if you conducted a clandestine study of the most JAMMING communities of practice--communities that the formal organization might not even know about. "

Farida's comments:

You all are making me so happy by responding to my posts. We may have hit upon something with this topic.

To address your questions - You are absolutely right! We do go in through the formal organization and we do talk to the people "in charge" of CoP implementation whom I will refer to as the CoP Core Group. But....
Very rarely have I come across an organization where the management team sat down and said "Hmmmnnn....let's develop a CoP strategy. You, you and you, go forth and make CoPs." The reality has typically been that informal communities that have formed over the years suddenly come upon some innovative idea (process or product) that ends up saving the company money. All of a sudden they get management attention and a manager's first thought is "how do I replicate this?"
That's when CoP strategy happens and the people who were successful in their first CoP typically get "promoted" (I use the word loosely) to become part of the CoP Core Team or to lead it.
Having said I also admit that there are companies that sit down and say lets put a CoP strategy together. These companies are the ones that move cautiously when new approaches surface. Their management is searching for improvement approaches, maybe they participle in one of our studies or attend a conference, hear about CoPs and they go back and look for them in their organization. Now here's the point of contention.
Do they find jamming communities "under the radar".... they might, depending on your definition of jamming. If the communities are jamming because they just enjoy each other's company then yes one can say that they stayed under the radar. But if jamming means that the CoPs' interaction positively benefits the organization then I don't see how they could have managed to stay under the radar for long. In this day and age management is looking through a magnifying glass for opportunities to cut costs and increase revenue.

In both our studies during site visits we talk to not only the CoP core group but also to community members and leaders. In the latest study we actually created a separate survey for community members and leaders only. No core group. We asked questions like does your CoP help you in your work? Do you get other tangible/intangible benefits from it, does your management recognize your contribution? Etc. The survey was anonymous and we had over 600+ responses from 8 partner organizations.
In a nut shell CoP members and leaders thought their communities were Shangrila. Everything was wonderful in their world. A few responses were along the lines of our management does not recognize our efforts, or our CoPs are not as well aligned to the organization as we would like them to be, but by far majority of the responses were POSITIVE.
Well you can interpret that however you want, either its true or not. Because of the subjective nature of the survey we had never intended to make the survey public or make any deep conclusions based on it. It was just shared among the study participants. But I just wanted to mention that we look at all angles.

So last but not least, if there are jamming communities under the radar I am sure they would not want to talk with us because they would certainly lose their "ghost" status and suddenly become visible to the world.

Do communities of practice HAVE to show tangible value in order to be funded?

Hi all,
Thank you to the person who responded to my posting and provided their point of view. I truly value your interaction.

The issue you speak about,

"What if formal structures have actually begun to prevent the organization from achieving its purpose? Even great leaders atop the formal chart can't seem to overcome the inertia. By bringing the informal social systems like networks and communities of practice under formal organizational control, we actually limit the
power of the informal to make a positive difference for people and society."

is the one that forward thinkers are now concerned about. It seems that in our wonderful capitalistic economy every time something innovative is discovered, especially innovation that leads to returns, corporate capitalism is just waiting there to absorb it into the mainstream. And I agree with you, sometimes that kills the effort completely.

So at one end we could say finally KM and CoPs are becoming part of mainstream and being realized as value add activities, but on the other hand the very nature of CoPs is such that if it loses its edge when it gets absorbed into mainstream.

I am sure this is not a debate anyone can win per se, just an articulation of different points of view.


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Is structure harming communities?

Hi all, this comment was posted on the blog and I think its a great discussion topic so I wanted to answer it on the blog itself as a primary entry.

"I'm wondering if you agree with the APQC KM Roadmap to Success idea that the culmination for org KM is institutionalizing KM. I am particularly interested in your thoughts on institutionalizing communities of practice.

Remember Etienne Wenger and William Snyder's HBS article in 2000 called CoP: The Organizational Frontier? In that article they describe the managerial dilemma of supporting CoPs without destroying them. I loved the story of the farmer who killed the golden goose to get at the gold.

I'm wondering if we are not heeding Wenger and Snyder's warnings. If the formal organization coopts informal social systems, aren't they killing the golden goose?"

My thoughts

In our earlier study on "Building & Sustaining Communities of Practice" this concern is exactly what we had articulated in the closing section of the report. That is, if organizations start managing communities heavily then they will lose their sense of being a community and start feeling like another business unit.

I have thoughts that go both ways on this argument. In our recent study on CoPs what was clear among organizations was that communities had to display tangible value in order to continue to be funded. This begged the argument that expectation of tangible value meant imposing a structure on the community and many organizations have in fact done that. So if I follow the "purist" thought process that a community is a group of individuals that come together because they want to and not because they have to then one can assume that in this new structured CoP there will exist both types of individuals. Most of them hopefully will participate because they want to, because they see the inherent value to their jobs and their lives but there will also be some that will join because they have to due to management visibility. Does this intermingling then of voluntary and involuntary membership change the fact that it is still a community? I am open to anyone who wants to comment on that. My thought is doesn't. Maybe its a modified community structure but the base goal of the community is still the same. That is, to share knowledge that others want.

Where the analogy of killing the golden goose is concerned, we do find communities that die as a result of increased management attention but in most cases if the community is in fact the golden goose then management finds people who are willing to commit to outcomes to start up a community. In such cases the people who did not want the management attention shy away from the community and those who can handle it participate.

Another interesting change among our partner organizations was the recognition that CoPs could in fact take many forms. There are groups of people who just want to meet and talk and not worry about outcomes. For them the converstaion is enough. In such cases management says "its ok to continue to do that, just don't ask us for money, because if you do then you have to justify the expense." Then there are groups of people that don't mind the outcomes and want increased visibility in the organization. Just the fact that they have structured outcomes does not make them any less of a community. They are still like minded people, they still like talking to each other and sharing, the only difference is they are taking their knowledge sharing to knowledge creation and dissemination that impacts the organization's botom line.
So organizations are starting to understand both these types of communities and are supporting both of them.

I hope I have provided enough information to your comment. I thank you for taking the time to respond to my postings.
take care

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


Hi all, I subscribe to John Patrick's blog (I have added his blog as a link on mine). He is President of Attitude LLC and former VP of Internet Technology for IBM. He travels a lot and writes very interesting excerpts on his travels and thoughts about technology. So after hoarding my knowledge about his blog for this long I am shamefully now sharing it with you.
My impetus to do so is based on the topic for today. Patrick has an interesting entry about "phishing" especially the ones that seem they are coming from eBay or Paypal. I know I receive at least one or two a day, threatening e-mails saying that unless I verify my account with eBay it will be suspended. And believe me its difficult to delete those without hesitating and thinking they may be valid. Rest assured they are not. Patrick has done a great job outlining the issue so I am including a link to his blog entry on the topic.

Phishing - Part 4

As always comments are most welcome

Friday, May 27, 2005

Memorial Day Content

Its a three day weekend here in the States. Yeah! I am so excited. I can't wait to get out of here and be gone for three days. I know a lot of you feel that way too so I hope you relax and have a wonderful weekend.
Couple of things before I go. A lot of you have visited the KSN and some of you have even registered. For those that have I am looking into repackaging some of the content and selling it at a package price. Don't know all the details yet but we are starting to explore the idea of selling the content in small chunks to non members. What I would love to hear from you on would be ideas or links to other sites where you have purchased piecemeal content from and liked the experience. Please let me know, it will help me get a feel for how to go about putting the content packages together.

Second of course I cannot leave you without content to read for the weekend. Here are a couple of interesting pieces we recently published on the KSN. Enjoy!

How Blogs can help KM
The 10 most wanted motivation killers

Have a safe and enjoyable weekend.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

May 2005 KM Conference Presentations

Hey all, remember I said I was in St. Louis at my own KM Conference. We had some really exciting speakers and we finally have the presentations posted on the site. Of course its nothing like being there but for those of you who weren't there, I hope you decide to attend next year.

You don't have to be registered to view the presentations but if you do register on the KSN at Register Now send me an e-mail and let me know, I will send you a surprise gift in the mail. Promise!! its useful.

KM Conference Presentations, May 2005

Thursday, May 12, 2005

I Blog for Knowledge

Hello all, back in balmy Houston where the highs have already reached 80+ degrees and humidity is around the same. But it's home what can I say.
I wanted to focus this entry on the topic of blogging itself. In my second to last post I wrote a bit about the issues with blogging and I want to continue that topic somewhat and also intersperse it with the increased interest in blogging as an approach for knowledge management and knowledge sharing. I beefed up the presentation that I linked to in my earlier post a bit and delivered pretty much the same message to my conference attendees in St. Louis last week that I had shared with the folks from the eGov conference.
So first of all just to give you some perspective, our conference had 285 attendees. The track that my session was held in had 4 other speakers. My meeting planner gave me a small room probably thinking, yeah she'll get 25 or so, you know some spill over from the other tracks. Was she in for a surprise? The room was packed, standing room only. That in itself is an indicator of the popularity of the topic. Very few, almost none of the attendees were small or single consultancies. Almost all of them were knowledge managers like you and me grappling with how to get people to share knowledge in the enterprise.
So blogs are starting to get some serious attention within corporations and they are looking at blogs as an approach to support knowledge sharing efforts. As you have seen in the presentation many companies are starting to use blogs effectively to share information. This trend is especially strong in organizations that have project based delivery and have project managers, teams, or people on the road delivering services.
There are a few key points I want to share with you in case you are trying to sell the concept of blogs to your company.
1) Blogs are updated frequently. Even I (delinquent as I am) try to update my blog at least once a week which means that if I were writing to share knowledge within my organization I would have contributed at least 52 content items.
2) Blogs point out the experts. Because blogs are individual opinion based, you know the material on the blog is from the blogger's brain. If what he/she says means something to you or works for you then the blogger is building credibility and expertise in the area they are writing about.
3)This I think is the key point. The blogs are not necessarily the KM tool. The RSS feed is. This was shared by Patrick Lambe from my listsrv. Think about it, he is absolutely right. If a large percentage of your employees start blogging, then blogs by themselves are no different than individual databases. The value is in having a tool that allows you to select all the blogs that you are interested in and getting a consolidated post of all the new items posted on the topics that interest you. That tool is none other than RSS.

My other topic that I covered during this session was on Wikis. Talk about open mouths. For those who had no concept what a wiki was were aghast at the idea that there are sites out there that allow anyone to edit anything on the site anonymously. "Control" is a major factor in our organizations. The whole idea of not having control over what someone posts or edits is something that will take a long time to take hold in traditional companies.
I saw a couple of optimal situations in which wikis could be used. One, they can be used in a closed project setting to discuss topics or ideas (almost like a collaboration space) but one that has a memory. Its used to house what people may learn on the project or something they need to develop. Second would be a broader application of the same concept that is using the wiki to gather knowledge from the organization. Especially in a community setting I can see the administrator putting out a topic in a wiki and everyone contributing thoughts, issues, concerns, experiences and expertise to it. Then a subject matter expert can use that raw content to build a “usable” content piece that can be added to the knowledge repository. When I use the word “usable” I am implying that the subject matter expert has vetted the information so that if someone decides to reuse or apply the ideas in the content item they know that its valid information.
So as usual my plea for interaction. If anyone has issues, concerns or thoughts they want to share please don’t hold back. Until next time, farida

Thursday, May 05, 2005

2005 Communities of Practice Study

Wow! That study ended yesterday. What a powerful session. I guess all the sleepless nights were worth it after all. I've kept you posted on all the partner organizations that we visited. What we do at the end of a study is to get everyone together in a room to discuss the findings. All the best practice partners are invited and all the companies who sponsored the study are invited. Talk about a great community, everyone comes to learn and share openly and freely their experiences good and bad, they don't hesitated to share why they fell flat on their faces when they tried certain things and how they recovered.
So here are some brief bullet points from the Executive Summary. Realize that this report is not out for another four months so what you are getting is a major early preview.

Communities are now allowing organizations to communicate and execute their strategy and refine their competencies;

Communities are being seen as providing the speed and enabling the innovation needed for marketplace leadership and positioning;

Communities are integrated into the fabric of the organization's core work and value chain;

Organizations are adopting the strategy of aligning their communities more closely with their formal governance structure;

Tools and methods of community building and management have matured and become a central competency with their own center of excellence;and

Managers, executives, and subject matter experts are personally engaged in sustaining communities.

The stories told by partner organizations were compelling and truly successful. Lots of money has been saved in these organizations by the implementation of communities of practice.
If you are considering implementing CoPs in your organization, call us. We would love to help you through this. Sorry to sound like a commercial but we have learned a lot and we can really help make a difference in your efforts at enabling communities of practice.
As always if you have comments on these very high level findings write me. Lets start a dialogue. Have you implemented communities in your organization? Are they working or not? Let me know. I love to learn.
Gotta go now or will be late for the key note who happens to be my president. You know when its the pres, you gotta be there.
Will share more later

Presentation at eGov

Hey all, reporting from the road this beautiful Thursday morning. I'm in St. Louis for our annual KM conference and just got through with the final knowledge transfer session for my study on communities of practice. So I will break up what's being going on into multiple posts or else it won't make any sense.
First, I spoke about blogs at eGov in DC. It was pretty cool, a lot of people are interested in blogs but are not sure how to work with it. I had a room full of people, at least a 100 or more and they were bustling with questions on blogs, wikis and IM, you know general real-time type collaboration stuff.
The issues with blogs in the workplace today are the same issues we were facing with the Internet. That is, oh my! this is a completely "open" medium how in the world are we going to control it. Remember that. There were discussions and fear about how the Internet would impact our organizations and that employees would spend time surfing the Internet and no work would get done. And the answer is yes, we all had to go through a few painful experiences of misuse of the Internet or rather abuse of the Internet but it all smoothed out pretty nicely.
Thats the same fear with blogs, oh my! employees are going to say whatever they want on the blogs and how can we maintain control over the integrity of the information that goes out. Like all new "stuff" this too will work itself out after faltering a bit.
The key here is that organizations have to keep their end of the bargain and not stifle expression but guide it.
Did you all read the article on Technorati. I have to say I am very disappointed with their management. Getting their employee to take down the picture on his blog when they themselves are in business purely because of blogs is a true shame. Shame on you Technorati management. If you'll would like to comment I would be very interested. If you don't know what I'm talking about send me a mail and I will find the link to the article for you.

Anyway, need to quit rambling and give you the link to the presentation at eGov. You can find the presentation here.

Monday, April 11, 2005

eGov Conference in DC

Sorry about the multiple postings today, if I don't do it right away I forget. Both Wesley Vestal and I are presenting at the eGov conference in DC on April 22nd. Wes is presenting on KM and Organizational Learning and I on blogs of course.

If anyone would like to attend the conference, eGOv is offering APQC a 25% discount. If you are interested please write me for the discount code. You can get more information about the eGov conference at their site.

APQC's Knowledge Management Conference

If you have not already registered for APQC's conference please do so quickly as it is filling up fast. We got a record 80 registrations in 3 days last week.
Its being held in St. Louis this year and is on May 5th and 6th.
You can find details at APQC's Web site. Click on the banner at the top of the page.

Communities of Practice - progress on the study

Site visits are complete and we are in the midst of writing the final report. Based on the past study, the big difference this time was the confidence factor. Communities of practice are here to stay. They are not a temporary experiment or pilot, they are recognized as organizational structures that lead to business results.

Another interesting observation was with regards to technology. There was no focus on fancy technology to support communities. Partner organizations have made investments in acquiring some missing functionality such as collaboration space (only if the community requires it) but mostly they are using their own existing systems building on capabilities to support their communities.

One dissapointing factor for me was that none of the partner organizations are actively using blogs within their organizations or within their communities to share knowledge.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Communities of Practice at the Federal Highway Administration

Hey! You know those rumble strips that are on the side of the road that wake you up when you drive off... the implementation of those are credited to communities of practice at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The FHWA is an interesting agency, in case you are wondering what the W in their acronym stands for its for Way in highway. That one got me too.
FHWA does not build the roads, they oversee the safety aspect for land, air, water, and railroads. They ensure that the nation’s transport system is safe for public use, or they oversee the safety of civil aviation, and they monitor and operate the waterways for trading. It's like that BASF advertisment that used to come on, "We don't make the product, we make the product better."

So knowledge is their only asset. They have knowledge of how to build safe roads and waterways and their job is to impart that knowledge to agencies at the local level so they can comply with the safety requirements. FHWA therefore chose communities of practice as their approach of choice to enable this knowledge transfer.

Well, they have all the good habits of other successful best practice partner organizations, such as executive buy-in, strong community administrators, etc., but FHWA has two things the others don’t have. One is public communities and two is a balanced scorecard for measuring the effectiveness of their community program. Being a government agency they want to engage their constituents and hear what they have to say and they do that through their communities. For instance there is a community that caters to people who are going to be displaced as a result of land acquisition for highways. The community gives its constituents a forum to express concerns. So FHWA has spent some time figuring out how to interact with public forums and has had to deal with educating its workforce on what can and cannot be shared on public forums.

The Balanced Scorecard approach, (they call it that and they have tried to keep the quadrants as close to the "original" balanced scorecard as possible) has four quadrants. Customer results, Business results, Initiative growth and processes, and outreach and leadership activities. FHWA captures results under each of these quadrants and tries to quantify as much of it as they can very conservatively for reporting purposes. As a result of their structured approach to measuring outcomes, communicating with senior leaders about the continued effectiveness of communities of practice has become very easy. After all if saving lives is in your mission statement, you have to find every possible means of making that happen.

Hope you all have a great weekend and a Very Happy Easter to all.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Communities of Practice at Arup Engineering

Have you heard of Arup Engineering? If not, look up the Sydney Opera House, Arup made that design happen. I don't know if it’s the nature of their business or if it’s their founder that makes Arup one of the most innovative organizations I have been to. To give you a sense of the legacy left behind by Sir Ove Arup, here is an excerpt from his "retirement" speech that is handed to every new employee walking in the door.
"There are two ways of looking at the work you do to earn a living:
One is the way propounded by the late Henry Ford: Work is a necessary evil, but modern technology will reduce it to a minimum. Your life is your leisure lived in your “free” time.
The other is:
To make your work interesting and rewarding, you enjoy both your work and your leisure.

We opt uncompromisingly for the second way.”

Sir Ove Arup’s firm belief was that his company would not make money at any cost. A legacy like that creates a natural culture of sharing and “small company” feel even though Arup is 7,000 employees strong. Its no wonder then that communities of practice thrive at Arup. But don’t get me wrong, its not all “huggy-kissy,” its still pure business. They are a highly matrixed organization just like many others today but their communities break down communication barriers and create an environment for sharing.

One of the keys to Arup’s success with communities is not just its culture but the recognition of several roles that have to exist within a community in order for it to thrive. In most organizations you will find a community leader/administrator, members, and subject matter experts. Other peripheral roles such as content manager or librarian will crop in and out as the community needs it. At Arup, roles such as political champion, activist, and technology leader also exist to ensure that the community has the support it needs to function.

An example of innovation is one of “Fire Engineering.” How many organizations can say they influenced the creation of a whole new field of engineering. Arup can. And that too with one person. One engineer who found it very important to study the “fire load” on structures pushed Arup to create a practice in that area. The idea is that buildings should be tested for fire load just as they are tested for structural load. Fire Engineering is a new discipline being taught in universities today.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Communities of Practice at Air Products and Chemicals Corporation

My next stop after Ernst& Young was Air Products and Chemicals in Allentown, PA. Brrrrr... boy it was cold. I almost lost my fingers that night. That's because I am after all a summer baby, having lived in Mumbai India and then warm Houston, Texas all my life I had no gloves with me. So of course when I had to walk outside for 10 minutes trying to find and then drive the rental car around town I sat warming my poor blue hands for at least 20 minutes before I could do anything. So much for that.
Air Products and Chemicals (APCI) is an interesting organization. They have been APQC members and study participants for a long time. Air Products is one of the largest industrial gas producers, supplying a broad range of industrial gases, mainly oxygen, nitrogen, argon, hydrogen, and helium. These gases are used in most industries, including food and metal processing, semiconductor manufacturing, healthcare, aerospace and chemical production.
Communities of Practice are the primary approach for knowledge sharing at APCI. They have an interesting model of Communities of Interest, Communities of Practice and Centers of Excellence. Each level of community addresses a particular need within the organization. This is based on their realization that even in communities one size does not necessarily fit all so they created three buckets to fit the needs of their organizations. Their advice to us was the same. Understand your organization, its culture and the needs of your employees and then design the best KM solution to suit their needs. APCI presents at some of our conferences so keep an eye out, they are worth listening to.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Ernst & Young's Knowledge Management Efforts

On Tuesday last week we visited Ernst & Young in Cleveland. APQC had originally studied Cap Gemini Ernst & Young in our previous study on Building and Sustaining Communities of Practice and we were very impressed by their efforts to institutionalize, to embed knowledge sharing in their culture. I wondered if Ernst & Young by itself would have continued the efforts.
I am glad to report that they have. The Center for Business Knowledge is still alive and well and in part revitalized because of recent regulations concerning audit and compliance.
Knowledge Sharing at E&Y is a mega process. This means that it gets "strategic" attention and therefore resources, and it is expected behavior of every employee. The CBK offerings are divided into "standard" and "custom." Standard offerings such as communities of practice deployment and support and technology are funded at the corporate level. If a practice area wants a custom application or solution then the CBK charges back the cost to that area.
As I mentioned earlier, communities of practice fall within CBK's standard delivery model and include chartering, planning, identifying stakeholders and deploying communities. After that the CBK takes on a monitoring role to help keep the communities focused and active.
If I had one salient point to pick out about their initiative, it would be focus. The CBK's is strongly focused on ensuring that knowledge sharing is embedded into the company culture and they do everything in their power to nudge people into that.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Communities of Practice at Fluor Corporation

Hello all, reporting from the road. Visited Fluor Corporation last week in Aliso Viejo, California. What a phenomenal place, I mean both the location and the organization. The KM team at Fluor is running and gunning with their initiative. They have a well planned strategy but more important than that is the fact that they are deploying the strategy according to the plan. I have attended many site visits in my years at APQC and if I had to pick out a couple of salient points that make these organizations stellar I would say 1) the team has passion, and 2) they roll up their sleeves and get the work done. The team at Fluor works really hard to make sure that they are providing complete support to their communities of practice. They have clearly identified roles and responsibilities in their communities and all the support staff comes through to help push, prod, pull, whatever it takes to keep the community running. Sorry I cannot share details with you until the study is released to the public. Fluor has spoken at other public conferences and if anyone knows a link to a presentation let me know and I will link to it.

I have also visited Ernst & Young and will be visiting Air Products and Chemicals tomorrow. Signing off from freezing Allentown for now.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Knowledge Management at Turner Construction

Folks, want to bring your attention to a cool article we released last month. Its about how Turner Construction Co., a partner in APQC's Integrating Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning study and the largest commercial builder in the United States, ensures its employees have access to the training and tacit knowledge they need to perform their jobs? According to James Mitnick, a senior vice president at Turner, the organization focuses on performance-based learning. Read about the learning network Turner has built to bring learning, knowledge, and collaboration together to drive the company's performance.

If you want access to more articles like these all you have to do is register on the KSN, that is my site. Remember there is no cost to register, if you are not a member you will get non member access and you won't have access to some of the members only content.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Are you a member of APQC?

If you read my blog but don't know if your organization is a member of APQC please contact me or go to my site and click on Membership and Current members. I am bringing this to your attention again because I have so many resources on the site for KM and communities and it would be a shame if your organization is a member and you just didn't know it. If your organization is already a member then there is no cost at all to access the research.
So, if you are a member, please click on Register Here on the main page and fill out the registration form and get access to the Knowledge Sharing Network. Once you are in you can click on Community space, look for the KM community and get access to all the community call presentations I have had over the past 2 years.
I just had a call today on Social Network Analysis. A very interesting approach to understanding networks within organizations. The question is are SNAs an effective means of identifying groups within an organization that are ripe for creating a community? I would love to hear your opinion on that . Also whether you agree or disagree please share with me your thoughts on Social Network Analysis. Anyone have a cool story to share of implementing or not implementing social network analysis in your organization? I would love to hear from you.

What has Farida been up to since November?

My last post was in November sometime and I mentioned something about creating a blog strategy. So here goes... I did get my blog reviewed and got some guidance on little things I can do to have my blog picked up by search engines. If you are interested contact Bill Ives (his blog is linked on mine) and get Amanda's information. If you are already a savvy blogger you probably don't need a review.

A lot has happened since November, the most interesting of which is my role in the latest study on Communities of Practice as mechanisms of organizational effectiveness and innovation. Tall order for communities eh! But why not? If communities are going to play in the main tent, then they must show ROI just like the rest of the process improvement approaches in the marketplace. Now the study costs $16,000 to participate but I already have 23 sponsors, so you know that the topic is pretty hot these days. I am not sure if everyone knows how APQC runs its studies so I will give you a brief methodology overview.
The sponsors come together with APQC and we design a survey instrument to gather information that the sponsor group is interested in. APQC then finds 10-12 organizations that fit the bill of "best-practice" organizations that matches the scope of the study. In this case organizations that have used CoPs to enable organizational effectiveness and innovation. The sponsor group then chooses 5 of these organizations to site visit. A site visit is a face to face meeting with CoP practitioners for a day (6 hours or so. After all 5 site visits, APQC analyzes the data, writes a final report and finishes the study with a Knowledge Transfer Session in which all the sponsors and best-practice organizations get together in a 2 day networking session.
So, if you are interested in joining the study don't hesitate to call. I start traveling on site visits next week and my first visit is to Fluor Corporation in Orange County, CA. Poor me, I have to go to California:-))
The remaining organizations selected are Air Products & Chemicals, Arup Engineering, Ernst & Young and Federal Highway Administration. We will have finished site visits by March 16. Phew! My travel schedule is going to be a bear over the next two weeks.

Actually I am really really excited about this study and am looking forward to finding new and innovative lessons learned from these partners. I am the acting subject matter expert on the study and have to write the final report so I am really hoping that good things will come from the site visits. And they always do so no worries.

So, I am back on track and I will be posting regularly again so stay tuned. I will keep you posted on site visits, maybe see if I can encourage some discussions of findings, and although I cannot share the final report with all of you I can most certainly share some high level lessons learned.