The cost of managing your content vs. same-old, same-old

Fig1CmapAboutCmaps-largeThe high cost of creating a management framework for content becomes quickly apparent. The effort, which can be messy and frustrating, requires not only a lot of an organization’s internal time and attention but also a fair amount of help from outside consultants. Just doing an initial inventory and creating a governance structure to move forward with proves painful, time consuming and expensive for many organizations.

The irony of course is that the cost of doing nothing — just letting everyone continue to write Word documents, PDFs and PowerPoints and make rapid e-learning courses on an ad hoc basis (again and again, based on the same or very similar content) — often proves far higher to the organization than the cost of change.

However, the cost of doing nothing, unless you audit it in sophisticated ways, is invisible. The wasted time, mistakes, duplication of effort and poor quality output don’t come out of anyone’s budget. The inefficiency is personal to employees and not counted anywhere as the organizational expense it is.

The larger and more sophisticated the organization, the greater the cost discrepancies become over time. When scope is understood to include communication and training around company policies, procedures, product and service documentation, work instructions, regulatory requirements and quality assurance processes (let alone topics like sales, marketing and investor relations), then the cost of doing nothing and the risks associated with doing nothing (or not doing enough) start to get high.

The risk and cost curves associated with not putting together an enterprise-wide content management framework trend up over time. The associated efficiency curves trend down.

At some point the lines cross.

As a training professional you would ideally have made your move before the lines cross. That’s the hope anyway. However, it is rarely the case. As a practical matter, it is only when senior management start to see the cost of content chaos that something happens.

Organise your content; there may be a need for librarians

If Only . . . Cover

The extended quote below is from a great book, O’Dell and Grayson’s If Only We Knew What We Know: The Transfer of Internal Knowledge and Best Practice:

“For example, a manager who has just tried out a new sales technique has “tacit” knowledge of it. If he writes it down and posts it on his company’s intranet site, some of that knowledge has become captured and “explicit.” Next, another sales manager reads the description and uses the technique on her next sales trip (hence turns it into “tacit” once more). Knowledge has been captured, exchanged, and created (see Steps in the Knowledge Transfer Process, below). The learning process hence involves the continuous “intersection” of these two knowledge types and a never-ending, closed-loop transformation process.

“Other organizational experts, such as Leif Edvinsson of Skandia, further divide commercial knowledge into individual, organizational, and structural knowledge. Individual knowledge is solely in the minds of employees. Organizational knowledge is the learning that occurs on a group or division level. Structural knowledge is embedded in the “bricks” of the corporation though processes, manuals, and codes of ethics. At any one of these three “states, the knowledge can be either tacit or explicit.

“Knowledge is broader than intellectual capital (IC). Whereas some writers have chosen to expand IC to include practices and processes, in its purest form, IC refers to the commercial value of trademarks, licenses, brand names, formulations, and patents. In this view, knowledge-as-intellectual-capital is an asset, almost tangible. Our use of knowledge is broader: we view knowledge as dynamic — a consequence of action and interaction of people in an organization with information and with each other.

“Knowledge is bigger than information. Our organizations are awash in information, but until people use it, it isn’t knowledge. While you can’t have too much knowledge, you can certainly have too much information. Indeed, many organizations have already discovered that information, carried faster and in greater volumes by electronic media, leaves employees overwhelmed, not overconfident. Fumbling rather than focused. Paralyzed rather than proactive.

“Hence, our simple working definition: Knowledge is information in action. In the organizational and commercial context of this book, knowledge is what people in an organization know about their customers, products, processes, mistakes, and successes, whether that knowledge is tacit or explicit.”

The value of your personal networks

Networks of PeopleGreat quote today from Stephen Downes via his email alert and website Stephen’s Web:

“Your network gives you ideas, not answers, and people who follow only the gurus tend to be . . . followers.”

Love him or not (and I do love him — unapologetic straight shooter that he is), Stephen is worth listening to. He always has something to say.

In this post Stephen takes issue with Seth Godin’s latest bloggy channeling of (I think) Richard Florida, who is in turn promulgating somewhat academic theories around the idea of urban elitist perfectibility in real time and in real places whereas Godin thinks it’s at least partly an exercise that can be carried out individually and online.

Downes thinks Godin is drinking Kool-aid, several flavors in fact.

Whatever you think of the positions, the conversation is key and provides a much needed context for all of the talk in the performance support world about social media and learning.

No answers from me — just questions . . . like:

    Do we really need or want employer-mediated social networks at all? Do they really add enough value to justify the effort?

    If the answer to the questions above is yes, who owns the network — HR, IT, Corporate Communications, Sales? And why?

    Should we be trying to make employer-mediated social networks persistent or should we allow them to come to life and die off as needed and used?

Our beginnings never know our ends

The main part of the mechanismIt is a truism of IT development that the use cases for which developers create solutions almost always end up changing, often before the development project is even finished. Then clients “bend” the software to entirely new uses or implement the software in unimagined ways. I’ve come to appreciate that making software is a lot like sailing — dynamic, which is to say sometimes exhilarating, sometimes frightening and changing all the time.