AI driven expertise & profiling: hype, hope or déjà vu?

May was a busy month. Apart from helping establish then launch a real estate and mortgage business (Bees Homes) I was in Lisboa for Social Now and London for KM Legal UK.

I attended both in the expectation of learning more about the onrush of Artificial Intelligence and its implications for the Knowledge Management profession.

Specifically, I wanted to see how the encouragingly styled Talent and Knowledge Matching / Profiling systems might tackle the challenges of knowledge loss when people depart, of onboarding when people arrive and identifying / ranking expertise that might otherwise be opaque when pulling together teams.

It’s not a new topic: back in the late 90’s I was Business & Strategy Advisor to Sopheon PLC when we acquired Organik (a technology for identifying expertise) and built systems for US Insurers looking to establish the best teams for clients based upon expertise. We never cracked it even though we knew what the issues were (usually motivation)!

Seeking answers at SocialNow Lisboa while Keynote speaker Ellen Trude watches.

Armed with a list of ‘use cases’ I’d worked on with Martin White I set off in search of answers to these questions from both vendors and KM practitioners?

  • Onboarding: A new employee with many years of highly relevant experience joins the firm. How long will it be before their experience is ranked at the same level as their predecessors?
  • Legal: Is the profiling process compatible with the provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation? The thoughts of the Information Commissioner on this are worth a look. Profiling & Automated Decision Making
  • Functionality: Do they offer the ability to present a list of people ranked by expertise?
  • Language: In multinational companies where it is especially difficult to know all the experts, how does the vendor coppe with the fact that documents, meetings and social media traffic will be in local languages?
  • Chinese Walls: How does the application cope with expertise gained on projects that are secure, a common issue in law, finance and R&D where walls need to be erected to prevent commercial information being divulged>
  • Testing: What User Testing is undertaken with a client before signing a contract to verify that the profiling system works?

So, what did I discover? Thierry de Bailllon in his closing Keynote put it very succinctly but with a caveat:

Embrace or die? 88% of technologies already include AI.

Self reinforcing bias?

it’s not Enterprise Social Networks (ESN)!

This Twitter exchange between Ana Neves and Luis Suarez prompted by a question I posed of the Workplace (Facebook at Work) team following their presentation is revealing:

May 12 there’s been a few questions about expertise location 2017 I don’t remember that being the case in previous years #SocialNow

May 12 Well, I think people are starting to understand how critical it is to know who is who within the org beyond just content, right?

Replying to totally! It surprises me it took so long. It’s amazing the role #ESN can have in unveiling that expertise #SocialNow

On the surface the case for ESN is compelling. Yet the majority of vendors at SocialNow focus on information exchange and conversation rather than the capturing and cataloguing of it. One,@mangoappsinc, had a neat tool (they won the “coolest app” prize) with the ability to upgrade comments from threaded discussions and posts to create ranked knowledge resources from the mass of information and conversation.

So, ESN can show who has answered what question, conduct searches across conversations and in many cases act as a project management tool, the new Facebook at Work (Workplace) now allows the creation of documents for example.

Provided the application is linked to HR systems it is possible to retrieve profiles and see what expertise an individual might have. As one vendor (@OrangeTrail showcasing Facebook at Work)) who uses bots to generate responses put it:

‘Questions’ is the key to find experts as people don’t keep profiles updated.

I concur and they are great facilitation platforms though with advanced features that will suffice for many. Yet I left Lisboa though feeling organisations will need to rely on assisted search for some time if they want to take a deep dive into expertise

know what you don’t know

Peer Assist “Problems” for discussion

So onto London and KM Legal UK. An interesting Day One ended with a psuedo Peer Assist in which AI was raised a lot.

One observation (facilitation tip): the session failed to commit the ‘owner’ of the problem to action so as a result the feedback loop to plenary became a series of “we said this.”

Again, as in previous years I felt the focus was on operational tools and techniques which means that KIM Professionals in Legal are more at risk from the onrush of technology.

It reminded me of the issue Librarians faced with the arrival of end user search in the mid 90’s which finished their monopoly of being the people who found stuff in organisations.

Day Two took a deeper dive into technology and its potential impact.

AI in Legal today

This slide sets out where AI is making a difference in Legal.

I tweeted having heard Cliff Fluet’s excellent presentation:

Paralegals beware. AI is coming. Adapt or die?

And I questioned:

How wide is scope of AI? More than Doc Analysis / Creation. Opportunity to broaden knowledge base

As yet no one had focused on expertise and profiling so when one presenter cited the case where a newly arrived CEO asked the Head of HR / Talent Management to let him have profiles / competencies of the staff using their system it got my attention.

I asked whether the results the HR head gave the CEO inferred a level of expertise. It didn’t which got thinking that if the data set is incomplete and the issue of self reinforcing bias is not addressed then over reliance on one source for identifying ‘experts’ is dangerous. Imagine your career prospects if for whatever reason your name wasn’t on the ‘expert’ list given to the CEO?

and finally

So where do I see the state of expertise and profiling systems? Patchy!

Yes there are certainly companies who ‘get it’ but can they do it?

I am indebted here to Martin White who in an excellent report “People and expertise seeking – an overview” summarises the predicament thus:

The most important lesson learned is the need for an expertise location strategy that is linked into HR processes, knowledge management, training, job appraisals and social media development. Finding people with expertise is not a ‘search problem’.  Good search tools can certainly help but without attention being paid to profile quality (even if other types of content are being searched) and a commitment by employees to share their knowledge expertise discovery will not be as successful as anticipated or required.

My takeaways:

  • KIM professionals need a clear strategy (working in partnership with other stakeholders such as HR and IT) and be clear on the questions being solved by any system;
  • They need to be clear what they are getting, what’s missing and how it mitigates the potential for self reinforcing bias when they enter discussions with vendors around automating expertise seeking and profiling;
  • They need to recognise the importance of their role in facilitating the adoption of such systems and accept this is just a part of a portfolio of approaches of identifying, capturing and retaining expertise;
  • They need to be clear what critical knowledge actually is in their organisation and who is likely to have it in order to assess the veracity of the results of any pilot;
  • It doesn’t matter what solution you adopt, if your environment is not conducive to the sharing of expertise and people don’t see the value in it then save the money; and
  • In any event you cannot capture everything people know; we learn and share through stories (failures rather than successes) and those often remain hidden.

Managing networks and Working Out Loud: Collaboration and Knowledge Matchmaking skills

The world is shrinking. At any given moment I know where many of my friends and colleagues are. Technological footprints are heavy and long lasting.

This week for example I see that Arthur Shelley is in Moscow with Ron Young at KM Russia, Donald Clark is in Belfast picking up an award, Phil Hill is getting fit (ter) in Thailand, Patrick Lambe is having breakfast in Lisboa. Gregga Baxter and his wife are supporters of WaterHealth in India.

Through cultivating personal networks I also know what’s happening this week in Khartoum, Tehran, Dubai and Harare. To many that may seem frivolous information; to others (including me) its valuable and if I don’t know then I know a man (or woman) who can. Let me illustrate the issue with a true story.

the art of network management

Many years ago I was charged with setting up the forerunner of a Knowledge Management function for a financial services business in the City of London. It struck me how badly senior officials shared diaries let alone knowledge about clients.

One day I was in the office of the Treasurer of the national oil company of a prosperous Middle East country. As I was about to leave he asked me to stay for the next meeting.

In came four suited bankers. My client took the lead introducing himself and me (as his Advisor). He then asked each one to introduce themselves. And to everyone’s surprise they were from different offices and areas of the same institution. They had all flown down on separate planes to see the same client.

The Treasurer said his diary was open to meetings with the institution but not multiple visits. They lost face not to mention the cost of the travel and opportunity cost.

So knowing what I did I came back to London and, with the support of the CEO, developed and introduced Visit Information Centre (VIC) which showed all visits to our organisation and all meetings outside of it.  Embedded in the day to day workflow the aim was to maximise the valuable time our organisation spent with a client and make sure those in any meeting were briefed on the latest activity. Today this is or should be standard practice; then it involved a shift in mindset.

So fast forward to 12th December 16; its 2pm and I am having an exchange on Facebook with Patrick Lambe about Lisboa where he is spending a week. Concurrently I see that Ana Neves (founder and organisor of SocialNow and “Mrs KM” in Portugal) is online on Skype. I know Ana lives a mere 15 minutes train ride from where Patrick is spending the afternoon. I also know both of them well and believe they would benefit from meeting each other.

Using Messenger I hook them both up and they meet later that afternoon to discuss inter alia an idea I thought both might profit from.

meeting-by-the-tejo

Tea by the Tejo

I coined the phrase “Orchestrated Serendipity” to describe occurences such as this. I have also used the term “making correlations between seemingly unrelated pieces of information”.

In this example I have nothing potential to gain other than knowing that two people I like and respect are now acquainted so my network grows stronger.

Here’s an example of how one thing can lead to another.

an example of ‘Working out Loud’

A few weeks back out of the blue Martin White of Intranet Focus shared a draft white paper on Digital Workplace Governance with myself, James Robertson, Jane McConnell, Sam Marshall and a couple of others. His invitation, which left it up to us as to how we might respond, read:

Colleagues
The attachment is me working out loud on digital workplace governance on a Friday afternoon
Regards
Martin

Our approaches were different. Some came back immediately. Others took their time. Some used comments in Word, others rewrote paragraphs. As Martin said, “the responses always challenge your own thinking.”

I am sure John Stepper (who is widely credited with kicking off the Working out Loud movement) and Ana Silva who is a great proponent of it would be enthused.

Knowledge Matchmaking?

These two exchanges got me thinking about the way I work, the organisations I’ve worked for, the clients I’ve worked with and the networks I am involved in. I have never acted as an introductions broker seeking reward so do organisations and people see value in it?

Previously as a Senior Manager charged with developing new business, my ability to match a need with a solution was prized and rewarded even though the correlation was opaque to my bosses. More often than not the intuition paid off. But does the same apply today in a Knowledge Management environment where logarithms and Artificial Intelligence are making the correlations I used to make?

Perhaps more importantly do people in Knowledge Management have the time, the confidence and the knowledge of the business to be able to put forward ideas and broker connections?

If they do then here’s a few tips:

  1. You have to be in it to win it: if you sit on the sidelines this will never happen.
  2. Be willing to take a risk: yes you might fall flat on your face! But experience tells me that if you go the extra mile people will come back for more.
  3. Be willing to do this without expectation of reward: it’s always difficult to measure the impact in a world of KPI’s. You have to play a long game but be willing to cut if you feel you are being taken for a ride.
  4. Be willing to acknowledge the contribution of others: from personal experience I’ve found there is nothing worse than someone taking what you’ve suggested and packaging it without attribution. A photo is a great way of saying thank you!
  5. Build trust so people are willing to confide in you and trust your judgement: unless you are willing to find out about people and what they do you will never be able to make these connections.
  6. Be clear about why you are making the introduction or sharing Knowledge: I used to be in the cc camp that so many inhabit believing that by informing everyone I was covering all bases. People are too busy and ignore ‘junk mail’.
  7. Develop your internal filtering mechanism: you have to know your business and identify who is going to be a taker vs. a reciprocator.
  8. Respect the contribution people make if you ask for advice: whatever you get back from people is important. They have committed scarce time and each time you ask for a response you are drawing on your reserve of credibility.
  9. Develop a skin as thick as a Rhino: you will be disappointed when others don’t follow your lead and use the contacts or information without acknowledgement. And remember 90% of people online are lurkers so will not go public with their thanks.

And finally

To prove that this is a reciprocal situation. In August I attended an Improvisation event in Oxford. It wasn’t on my radar but Nancy White had posted a comment about it so based on her recommendation I decided to attend: As a Quid pro Quo I wrote up my experiences for the greater KM4Dev community.

If you want good reading on collaboration, Martin and Luis Suarez have been exchanging comments on a fascinating blog post from Luis: “Stop blaming the tools when collaboration fails”.

A book on the sunbed, KM Manager’s critical ‘ates and getting social in Lisboa

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks that began with a vacation in Cabo Verde on an island called Sal (Salt in English-which sort of gives away the terrain). Then a week in Lisboa at the annual SocialNow event, a unique gathering where social enterprise software vendors present their products to an invited evaluation panel representing the management of a fictituous company Cablinc.

a book on the sunbed

Cabo Verde was chosen as the vacation destination for two reasons: it is a former Portuguese colony and my wife (who is Portuguese) and I are trying to visit all of them to see how much of the culture and governance structures remain; and it seemed like a good place to wind down and catch up on book reading.

Without the necessity of a daily commute and the reading time a long journey creates I find the virtual world gets in the way of paperback reading though sitting under a sun umbrella reading a book on KM Strategy might not be everyone’s idea of relaxation on vacation!

Here’s a very abdriged review of my vacation reading list:

  • The Kind Worth Killing: A clever tale, well written with a twist that starts at an airport, the author keeps you Holiday Readingin constant anticipation and it kept my interest throughout.   Great for a 5 hour plane ride.
  • The Girl On The Train: Took a long time to get going (rather like the train system here) switching back and forth among characters.  Ending was well crafted if you have the patience to get there.
  • Relationology: Essentially a business book (101 tips) about managing relationships with stakeholders. Admired the discipline behind the networking approach and how the author has turned his theories into practice for the good of others but felt it devalued the human element of meeting people by making it a very structured process.  Did like suggestions about having groups of mailing lists and being upfront about why you are meeting/calling.
  • Engagement Manifesto: A book that triggered a lot of thought with good tips and approaches. Made the most notes (7 c’s of change, 5 elements of change and ‘The Five Monkeys’ experiment about resistance to change as its “the way things are done around here’).
  • Knowledge Management (KM) Strategy: The book sets out a good, structured and thorough approach and I liked the suggestion that organisations should give primary focus on critical knowledge and strategic knowledge areas when developing their strategy.  I felt though the chapter on KM Technology could have benefited from more visualisation of where the tools fit and what they look like (a picture being worth a thousand words).

KM Manager’s 4 critical ‘ates

While reading the Engagement Manifesto with its 4 of this and 7 of that my thoughts turned to engagement in a KM environment. I’ve been arguing for some time that facilitation is a core competence for all KM Managers. And I think there are 3 others. So my 4 critical ‘ates are:

  • Investigate: Are you putting a buring fire out / solving an immediate business need (operational KM) or is this driven by the vision from the top consisent with the organisation’s stated business direction (Strategic KM)?
  • Negotiate: Up front you need to agree what the scope of your role is and to be tough negotiating what success and hence measures will look like.
  • Facilitate: So much of what a KM Manager does involves facilitation and another sub ‘ate, Navigate. You will become the hub knowing who to go to to ask if you don’t know yourself. You have to facilitate connections, meetings, interactions, events and communities. It requires resilinace and a lot of social skills.
  • Communicate: Senior KM’er’s tell you to devote at least 30% of their time to communicating what you do and getting feedback – its not just about broadcasting it’s about collaborating. Have the KM Elevator pitch always with you. Let all your stakeholders know what you are doing and why.

Which leads me nicely onto Lisboa and the 5th edition of SocialNow.

getting Social in Lisboa

From left, Luis Suarez, Emanuele Quintarelli, Paul Corney, Ana Neves, Jaap Linssen and Marc Wright

5 vendors presented and they were interwoven with a couple of keynotes and presentation from Cablinc ‘consultants’ (see panel alongside) who focused on the business issues facing the organisation setting context for the vendor presentations. I was delighted that Eric Hunter was able to come over from San Diego to sit on the evaluation panel.

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 15.34.04

My topic was Knowledge Capture & Retention and ISO 2015. Perhaps surprisingly few in the room were aware of last year’s ISO update which for the first time included this on KM:

A fuller account of the proceedings and the twitter chat can be found at eventifer.

subway_Graphic_2015_1280pxI was really taken by the closing Keynote from Tony Byrne of The Realy Story Group who gave an illuminating talk on the landscape of digital workplace and social enterprise tools and apps. His Technology Vendors Map is well worth a look.

If this is a topic of interest I’d also point you to an excellent article from Dion HInchcliffe on Social Collaboration Tools.

As in 2015 Nooq won the ‘coolest tool’ category. Its a great visualisation tool to show what’s happening in an organisation and sits above enterprise applications.

and finally

This year for the first time there was a day of Masterclasses after the event. I was delighted to have had the opportunity to work alongside Luis Suarez (@elsua) who is a #noemail evangelist.

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 16.16.12Luis ran the morning and I ran the afternoon. His method and justification for lowering email usage are compelling and I loved this slide that shows how a social networking platform can be a lot more efficient than using email.

And now back in the UK I have a couple of week’s focusing on the next chapter of the book I am coauthoring with Patricia Eng before travelling back to the Mid East and Lisboa.

In recognition of my Dad “a lovely man”: when knowledge capture becomes personal

John Corney, my Dad, died in August a month shy of his 87th birthday. Though not unexpected the timing of it was.  I was lucky in the sense I got to say goodbye and to reflect while he was still with us on his amazing contribution to and guidance for my own life.

Dad was a ‘lovely man’ a phrase / tribute we oft heard from those who knew him and a private man. I realised as he neared the end of his life that though we were close there were so many aspects of his background that were opaque to me.

He was of the ‘old school’ a meticulous senior banker involved in international trade who passionately believed ‘my word is my bond’ and that debt is a commitment to be honoured.  He was not loquacious or a natural storyteller; instead he eschewed the limelight though he was well read, capable of deep insight and eager to debate topics he found stimulating.

For him ‘social’ was a word associated with a gathering of people not an online activity.  Though he recognised the value of the internet, Apps, Smartphones and Tablets were alien concepts to him.

What you might ask has this personal story got to do with business? Here’s how:

  • As Executor of his estate charged with carrying out his wishes I wanted to understand the thinking behind his approach to investment.
  • I also wanted to understand more about his early life and how he made decisions.
  • Dad was similar to many senior executives who are often reluctant to acknowledge that their contribution has been significant.

Perhaps subliminally I drew on many of the techniques I encourage others to adopt when trying to capture critical knowledge from people about to retire or relocate:

  • I used a timeline to look at significant milestones in his life with photos as a prompt.
  • We talked about books he had read that had helped shaped his thinking.
  • We talked about people he most admired.
  • We went through his ‘blue book’: a transactional history and ledger of all assets.
  • We sat and watched something and used that as a neutral space for a conversation.
  • I spent days ploughing through his archives.

A big regret is that I didn’t record any of these discussions but the stories and artefacts remain and I am now their custodian with a duty to pass them onto his great grandchildren so that they too can appreciate John’s legacy.

And finally

When people leave organisations after a long period legacy is a word often cited as the justification for a knowledge capture interview. What many overlook is the step of thinking up front what is the critical knowledge they are looking to surface during the process.

This mirrors many of the stories emerging from the interviews my co-author Patricia Eng is undertaking for “Navigating the Minefield: A Practical KM Companion” book which we are aiming to publish next year. Often the driver for these initiatives has been a reorganisation, takeover or downsizing; in effect a firefighting exercise.

Setting up a programme to consciously capture knowledge is expensive and time consuming: it needs a clear rationale/driver and a set of measurements to track its efficacy and value.

Knowledge Capture EventI am looking forward to evolving my own thinking when I am in Lisboa next month running this masterclass with Ana Neves. It aims to raise awareness of the importance of critical knowledge: how to identify it, how to go about capturing it and how to go about making it available for reuse.

 

Out of austerity, growth of Social and a dose of Logical Minds: insights from working in Lisboa

Royal Bullfighting Club

Real Club Tauromáquico Português, Lisboa

I’ve just spent an inspiring couple of days in Lisboa. It started well: a wonderfully productive 3 hours in the company of Ana Neves of Knowman discussing SocialNow 2015 in Amsterdam, followed by a reunion dinner at the Real Club Tauromáquico Português, (Royal Bullfighting Club of Portugal) Lisboa with a former colleague I had not seen since 1986.

The prime motivation for my visit (apart from the 25c temperature) was providing advice to a business that helps children with learning difficulties as it thinks through its future options.

economic & business backdrop

Over dinner, my former colleague, an influential banker whose ancestor discovered an island in the Atlantic now named after him, shared his perceptions of the current state of play.  Here’s my take on what he said:

…the government is doing very well but the current political structure means decisions are taken very slowly. I am an optimist by nature and see great potential in our people but our media is always looking for mistakes and bad news and never tells us about areas we are doing well.

Taken at face value this gives grounds for optimism and yet in previous conversations I discovered that the Portuguese prefer to hear ‘experts’ from overseas rather than trust their own and go overseas to make their fortunes. So for young entrepreneurs the future is bleak.

Yet Portugal is a country that ranks 25th in the World Bank’s ease of doing business ranking (ahead of Netherlands, France and Spain).

Portugal WBK ranking

Click to enlarge picture

It’s improving standing is due to a raft of measures many of which are currently subject to scrutiny and debate in parliament:

  • Portugal lowered its corporate income tax rate from 25-23% and introduced a reduced corporate tax rate for a portion of the taxable profits of qualifying small and medium-size enterprises.
  • Portugal made enforcing contracts easier by adopting a new code of civil pro-
    cedure designed to reduce court backlog, streamline court procedures, enhance
    the role of judges and speed up the resolution of standard civil and commer-
    cial disputes.

Since 2008 the government has made a number of changes to employment law. While these have resulted in increased productivity there is growing disenchantment at declining living standards and the young expect to leave when they graduate.

What does the immediate future hold?  Increased personal taxes, an increased disparity between those able to ride the continued wave of austerity and those who can’t and a desperate need for investment for young start up businesses.

Initiatives such as Cidadania, an event aimed at stimulating discussion in society around the use of new forms of communication, will help. This year’s event in Porto showcased numerous examples of how empowered citizens have interacted with NGO’s, Government and Public Administrations. Ana Neves has also been running a Community of Practice for COTEC and written a guide on helping its member organisations to choose KM Tools.   Ana would be the first to admit that Portuguese organisations are not yet big on Knowledge Sharing or Knowledge Management and that community involvement in social tools is in its infancy. But interest is growing!

LogicaMentes (Logical Minds)

Autism strikes without consideration of ethnicity, gender or financial background. It is a developmental disorder that affects the way people interact with the world and other people.

Each child or adult with autism is unique and, so, each autism intervention plan should be tailored to address specific needs.

The UK’s NHS notes:

Some types of intervention can involve hours of intensive work, and this is not always possible for many families because of the practical, emotional and financial commitments necessary.

Treatment is based on the assessment of the physician carrying out the examination and frequent case assessments with the team thereafter.  Treatments now take place in the home, at school and at clinics like LogicaMentes.

Much is written and there are countless online sites providing guidance, advice and online collaboration to parents who often find this a very difficult condition to live with.

images.livrariasaraiva.com.brThere are a variety of treatment methodologies, LogicaMentes bases its on the book written by the clinic’s co-founder, Claudia Bandeira De Lima.

They also use a wonderful iPad application developed by a member of their team that enhances the learning experience for children. Already it has paid off: the app has facilitated communication between a mother and son where previously his condition has precluded any. Small but significant steps!

App

Resource management, records management and cash management are core competences as are the ability to share knowledge among the team and manage a diverse group of stakeholders (parents, schools, doctors).

It is a priviledge to have been invited to help the team and to be working in Portugal.