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.

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.

A KM Definition that isn’t: KM Legal 2014 examined

This extract from today’s twitter stream on KM Legal 2014 is telling:

Just been asked why we’re not at in London – “because we went to the one in 2004” was the answer.

I was there to deliver the opening address to this year’s KM Legal event.  It was very well attended with 80% of the audience being qualified lawyers.

In truth I left feeling disappointed. Apart from an interesting perspective on the future role of predictive data delivered by Eric Hunter, Director of Knowledge, Bradford & Barthell in California much of the remainder focused on providing information rather than applying knowledge and the discussion was about Intranet implementations on SharePoint. I should point out that my impressions are based only on Day One.

In my presentation (publically available on SlideShare) I began by describing how 20 years ago I’d helped build a one screen view of all our activity and created what was effectively one of the first Intranets in the process.  Yes the solutions and reach are greater today but the questions being addressed are the same.

Its significant how many people have knowledge in their titles however almost all are involved in Operational Knowledge Management and many in Information Management.  Very few appeared to be involved in Strategic Knowledge Management which for me is surprising given that the legal profession more than many others has to be knowledge driven relying on precedent and changing judgements in order to make recommendations (legal arguments) based on personal and team knowledge and experience.

Information Management is not Knowledge Management!

Mark Gould (who was suitably voluble) summed it up thus:

Information management is important, and often needs to be better. Helping information flow is not knowledge management.

I noted the Knowledge Management definition delivered by Zurich which might work for them and meet their specific criteria but for me misses by a mile the real meaning of Knowledge Management:

Knowledge Management: ‘The efficient and effective use of information to meet the objectives of the team and businesses we support’

Where is the key bit about learning from what you’ve done before, capturing, storing and reusing the knowledge of people? What happens when people leave and new lawyers join?  Yes Knowledge Management requires good information systems to support it but there is no mention of building knowledge into the processes of the business.  Its quite ironic as in 1998 Zurich Re London hired me to help embed knowledge into their Lotus Notes systems for underwriting and decision making.

We want value add from our legal parners!

This was a cry from a few of the presenters and the logic is powerful.  If their lawyers have expertise in managing knowledge then why not tap into it and ask them to share it with the clients as part of an overall package. But that’s a narrow perspective as the conference demonstrated.  The essence of KM tools like Peer Assists is that you are bringing expertise from outside of your own industry when launching a new project. Organisations that just hire the same character types and draw from the same talent pool end up being clones! The same applies to advice.

Transparency and co-creation

Eric’s presentation struck a chord.  His premise: that the future is about opening up and co-creating with clients is spot on.  Clients at the event were complaining about opaque charging structures and archaic processes.  Eric (who is ex Oracle) noted that:

Real-time data analytics is changing business models

I buy into that argument and can see a world where more generic aspects of law are consolidated (perhaps in the cloud) and the superior knowledge hence value is priced differently. Surely the value of great legal minds is in the analysis and delivery not the curation and storage?

Comments I liked:

  • On Intranets: Bird&Bird-content facilitation role vital to look at what was best version and then use that. LinklatersWhen search works you are on your way to a winning Intranet!
  • On how to sell: White&Case- Demands for collaboration coming from clients is a common theme. Love analogy of selling processing and successful completion.
  • On the creation of  embedding knowledge into ‘Pathways’ (processes): White&CaseSubject matter pathways (a set of navigable PowerPoints) that help lawyers go thru a workflow. simplicity thru PowerPoint with embedded live links. Real business efficiency tool. pathway dependent on effective curation next step is to add on time recording and budgeting. Good for showing clients Gr8 for onboarding.
  • On what’s in it for me: White&Casepeople will only contribute if they know who is going to see information. Simplicity is best, fewer options better.
  • On what people are called: ZurichExpertise Enablement Officer, (Learning Officer, Knowledge Manager, Information Manager rolled into one).
  • On organisational values and change: Berwin LeightonPaisnerDownside of giving people ability to customise their personal home pages is that the core message / values of the firm get lost.Lewis SilkenPowerful group needed to bring about change in a legal firm? Secretaries! Administrative initiatives will fail if not involved.
  • On the future: Variousrevolution in way of working is coming with a need for a virtual digital workspace across the industry that all firms contribute to. Increasingly clients will put together teams based on the best practitioners drawn from different firms.

What I missed?

  • Any discussion around communities and talk of knowledge sharing policies.
  • A discussion on risk – none seemed to follow the example of Nuclear who have identified what critical knowledge is and tried to plan accordingly for its loss?
  • And a wide ranging debate on Twitter that brought those outside the room into it.  How can we as a KM Community preach knowledge sharing if when we are at events like this we don’t practice it?

And finally:

I left feeling that the huge challenge of breaking down silos across specialist practices in law firms has yet to be tackled effectively.  Yes the idea of common platforms is a good one but each practice area is a federated business and lawyers probably have more allegiance to their specialism than a firm.

‘What you bill is who you are’ came across as a strong undercurrent that can only be overcome by the sort of technological changes that impacted the Reinsurance Industry when Catastrophe Modelling Analytics went from being nice to haves to must haves in order to stay in the game.

If you accept the premise that the future is about co-creation and collaboration then the centralised firm structure is in danger as technology aids disintermediation.  This suggests Legal Knowledge Management’s future focus should be on competencies, skills and network management.

And just to prove that the legal profession has embraced ‘Gamification’

From Penny Newman's session on change and managing resources

From Penny Newman’s session on change and managing resources