Sophia, AI and the importance of curation: KIM is safe (for the time being)!

I’m lucky. I get to travel to some of the most interesting places on the planet and experience different cultures. These last few weeks for example I’ve been on a book / Masterclass / conference trip to Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and SIngapore.

Book launch hosted by Petronas KL

More on the issues that arose around KIM accreditation and the outcomes from KM Asia in separate blogs.

Over dinner in Hong Kong I got to talk about “Sophia” the locally based Hanson Robotics model that controversially has been given citizenship of Saudi Arabia. While hugely impressive and a major advance in sensory technology two quotes about Sophia stuck with me:

Why are we humans obsessed with creating life forms in our own image?” and

“Dogs are able to sense what their master’s mood is. Imagine if we could replicate that in Sophia?”

“Km has gone thru peak of inflated expectations which AI is now going thru”

This was one of KM Asia’s Day Two Chair Les Hales opening remarks.

It’s a good backdrop to focus on the ever increasing clamour I sense around the use of AI / machine learning technology to improve effiiciency and outcomes, reduce headcount +/or free up time for more added value work. In the Masterclasses and presentations I suggested AI is addressing 3 questions on expertise, transactions / news and process:

I noted there has been a lot more in the way of measurable progress on transactions / news and process enhancement than on expertise. In his presentation at KM Asia, Eric Chan of Hutchinson Global Communications showed examples of a couple of regionally based organisations who now used Chat Bots

His examples above which focused on the process question confirmed the widely held assumption that many industries are ripe for disintermediation by AI technology. I noted a couple of his comments:

“Replacing customer service agents by chatbots powered by AI. Achieves 9/10 satisfaction and not subject to selective memory and

1/3rd of work can be done by machines = disruptive stress”

What was really interesting about the Chatbot example? How the difficult customers (the ones who shout) get routed thru to a human!

So where does this leave Knowledge & Information Management? Actually not badly if Eric Hunter’s comment is to be believed:

“The rise of newer forms of technology is challenging the way codified knowledge is managed leading to the need for KM professionals to work with new types of colleagues such as business process improvement specialists and AI providers.”

Note the use of the phrase to work with not be replaced by. Here’s why I believe this to be the case.

The importance of Curation (…ate #7)

One of many positives to emerge from every stop on my Asian adventure was a reaffirmation of the importance of curation, a term Patricia Eng and I described in our book thus:

#7 Curate: So much of what passes for Knowledge Management is about creating and storing content and making it available for reuse. It’s more than the role formerly undertaken by Information Professionals and Librarians, here we are talking about being a custodian of organisational knowledge and organisational knowledge bases.

Technology has for some time been knocking at this door.  Indeed companies like Profinda have made significant strides so it was fascinating to read this very well written piece on Microsoft’s evolving Yammer strategy by Antony Cousins, Director of Customer Success which reflects my ongoing concern that Technology is not Knowledge Management:

Lost knowledge. With the same room structure as Yammer, there will be popular generic rooms where far too much is shared, too little is relevant to users and, should they ever want to find that document or that chat thread which was relevant to them, good luck. It’s lost in the never ending deluge of chat never to be seen again. If we can’t easily find previous answers and solutions or reference points, we’ll be as doomed on Microsoft Teams, as we were on Yammer, to ask the same questions over and over or worse, repeat the same mistakes…. So, in general, well done Microsoft for making things that were quite easy about 6% easier. Now can we please focus on the really big problems still faced by those of us trying to resolve the collaboration problem for big business?

I continue to argue that one of the key aspects of the role of KIM’ers is acting as Curators of organisational knowledge as well as signposts / navigators. In fact this was the premise behind my Masterclasses in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur and the need for those skills:

KIM’ers have to be good at understanding technology and its implications for the business. But they are one of the few groups organisationally who see across silos and should be able to analyse business needs!

And finally

My concern is that organisations increeasingly see technology in its new guise as KM and are jumpiing on the bandwagon to put social tools behind the firewall expecting staff to find the expertise / historical knowledge automatically. In previous pieces I’ve argued that assisted search is still important.

I can also see a shift towards HR / Talent Management as the logical resting place for the discipline where the driver is one of mitigating the risk of knowledge loss when people leave.

But I still see in the short to medium term at least a need for what good KIM’ers do.

Overcoming the “How can I ask without looking silly?” barrier: KM Legal Europe

January in Amsterdam has become a bit of a tradition as is leading the opening session at KM Legal Europe.

My brief was to replicate 2016 and provide a stimulating opening. I was delighted with the enthusiastic response and the level of interaction that occured over the two days expertly led again by Chair Raffael Büchi.

So what did I see and hear (and learn), and where is Legal KM one year on?

What trends did I see?

The ‘big’ trends for me were:

  • A headlong rush into document automation. “Automating the drafting of legal documents” = intelligent workflow with knowledge embedded that reduces duplication and saves time. 50% of the room said their organisation was engaged in some form of document automation. And its easy to see why its appealing. One statistic that was shared: a saving of 200 lawyer hours a month from 1,150 templates automated. Interestingly this presents a great opportunity for KM’ers with Document Automation installaton experience. Not enough experience vs. too many installations. Importantly another value of Doc Auto: Training young lawers – gets them up to speed quicker as questions it poses makes them understand.
  • The ongoing challenge of getting adoption for the plethora of KM related initiatives: As one speaker suggested, the key is getting them set up yourself f2f. Don’t subcontract to IT. And ‘Celebrate’ use. Communication needs a good narrative to motivate people and get engagment. F2F meetings vital. Brand it as your product; Use advocates (Butterfly effect); Get testimonials.
  • How often reporting lines change for KM’ers as their sponsor moves on. Few I spoke to were on the Managing Committee, many had seen their sponsorship downgraded.

What surprised me?

  • The ease with which all the delegates (many in suits) enthusiastically engaged with the opening exercise I ran and were suprisingly open and candid about “what do you bring to the event?” and “what are the big issues you are facing and would like an answer to?”

  • That despite the promotional hype, machine learning engines still require a lot of manual input upfront from people with domain knowledge to get started which is why there is a growth in companies offering to do the setup work. Need to have engaged partner to drive document automation yet some lawyers enjoy drafting docs – issue: WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) is not addressed.
  • That some firms really get the value of KM. European Law Firm of Year; Swiss Law Firm of Year, UK Law Firm of Year. A Common thread? All have KM Heads who are attending the event. The European Law Firm of the Year had a Senior Partner, the Partner responsible for KM and the KM Head. They are one of few firms to have adopted ISO 9001 Quality Management -realised needed something to unify disparate offices and integrate aquisitions. The dna of the firm: based around the Practice Management System their default system (CRM plus) containing a body of knowledge on the Baltic region which can be put to multiple uses for the firm. It also serves as a timesheet for billable time. Challenge is how to replace so they embarked on a firm wide stakeholder engagement to produce a requirements specification. Note it was not seen as an IT Project!
  • The way in which the dynamic / energy changes at an event when it reverts to “Show and Tell” vs “Ask and Share” The lesson those engaged in the creating and running of events like this took away was that you need people energised from the ‘get go’ each day.
  • That many thought you could engage in Knowledge Capture via forms and macros. As I tweeted: My great fear – you don’t get critical knowledge captured by completing a form – you need to do it around events and in person!
  • That Data Breaches have become a way of life – firms need process for dealing with them as penalties are punitive.

Quotes that stuck (or got tweeted)

Machine learning needs external input to get it going, its a classic case of GIGO – Garbage in Garbage out!

AI: not magic, evolved from sophisticated search. Previously Autonomy inspired plus document automation and NLP thx

AI: when it works its looking at human processes and how to support /emulate with computers to help them make better decisions.

Choosing the right system for your firm is not an IT project, it is a deeply strategic decision – Aku

One revealing survey result from Lawyers: “How can I ask without looking silly?” – loss of face is a real barrier to adoptiion!

Adoption Tips for Sceptics: Articulate savings; Flatter Rocket Scientists and invite contributions; Ignore unbelievers who often turn when others are doing it and they feel peer pressure to join them.

Knowhow management is not a “ding an sich”, separated from other business functns. It’s just a regular part of good management.


What advice would I give Legal KM’ers?

  • Your role will involve more Curation and Facilitiation (2 of the 8 ‘ates I talk about elsewhere in describing the future role of the ‘Knowledgeur’) as the need to consolidate corporate knowledge becomes increasingly digital. Tools should be based on the strategic direction of the firm; learning (not training) sessions ensure people are versed in their use. But don’t forget one of the most important KM tools is Coffee – one new KM leader had 420 coffees in first couple of months!
  • Don’t be afraid to use external speakers to stimulate an in house response and introduce an element of competition. Round table cafes are successful in Switzerland – over food!
  • Embrace technology as it’s here to stay. Where possible use the systems already in house. Develop practice groups to help produce requirements specifications. And make sure you are clear the role each tool is playing.
  • You can achieve a lot with a little. Real change is often simple and inexpensive. In one example the PA’s wanted a practice group to organise calendars and email traffic and Intranet needed quick links. Both were low level but effective and resulted in improved productivity. Where possible use the systems already in house.
  • Be opportunistic: A Good KM /comms /engagement. The Brexit vote gave impetus to a “Hot Topic” project in one firm. By consolidating all that was known and equipping lawyers with answers the profile of the team rose. Learning: people like getting together to discuss topics.
  • KM Legal needs to be closely aligned with Learning & Development and HR. One firm developed a 1 week corporate program (mini MBA) that included KM focused on competency gaps. Their KM Committee reports straight to Managing Partner. It has teeth and includes core functions of the business.
  • Develop a suite of simple facilitation tools and techniques: One firms uses POSE acronym to drive all meetings: Purpose / Owner / Safety / Engagement. I’ve often used DEBRIEFS.
  • Become part of the business development process: Many firms now see KM involvement as important to winning new business or as part of the broader service offering.

And finally:

AI: when it works its looking at human processes and how to support / emulate with computers to help them make better decisions

I see this as being an evolution rather than a revolution. We are at Stage 3.

Stage 1 Search: Making documents, images and audio/video available and tagged;

Stage 2 Review & Connect: Analyse/summarise documents, images & audio/video push to relevant people. Identify patterns, connect; and

Stage 3 Predict & Facilitate: Using raft of data, information & accumulated knowledge to predict likely outcome & facilitate

One of the real highlights was that 20 people joined me for an impromptu conference dinner at a nearby Pho Vietnamese Restaurant. It reinforced the importance of food and drink in being lubricants for great conversations.

I took away a feeling that this question is still not being addressed satisfactorily and that firms remain at risk when people and teams leave or are acquired:

The risk of critical knowledge loss is not just about what people know, its about who they know and what networks they might know.

Perhaps AI will help in consolidating the know how of firms and hence build resilience into their models which remain vulnerable if people (and teams leave). Certainly the approach being adopted by the European Law Firm of the year of integrating CRM and workflow with precedents and transaction management is a bold step. Only time will tell if its successful and becomes the blueprint.