I3 UPDATE / ENTOVATION International News
No. 35: December 1999
Page Impressions: Making Your Mark - David Skyrme
A Virtual Knowledge Officer - Debra M. Amidon
1999 MAKE (Most Admired Knowledge Enterprise) Winners
Spanish Edition of The Ken Awakening
Snippet - i in the Sky
Welcome to the final edition of I3 UPDATE / ENTOVATION International News for this millennium. We offer no special reflections on the past and future. Technology is moving too fast for any long-term predictions, but human nature which is at the heart of knowledge sharing has probably not changed much during the last millennium, though with bio-engineering may do so in the next. We did note the millennium clock of a well known Swiss company which promises to be Y3K compliant. As well as the usual hour and minute hand, it has a year hand that tracks around a spiral scale which has every year from 2000 to 3000 marked. What an heirloom for future generations of your family, if still works in 3000! Not to forget that the ever precise Swiss are not celebrating the new millennium until one year from now.
So much of reflections. In this edition we continue with our 7Ps of our Internet marketing with the 4th P - Page Impression(s). There is also an excerpt from a forthcoming book chapter on the history and evolution of the ENTOVATION Network, and news of the Spanish translation of 'The Ken Awakening'.
We wish you the very best for the coming holiday season, a stimulating time at the turn of the millennium and we look forward in 2000 to keeping you informed of the best insights into the evolving knowledge economy.
I3 UPDATE is also available by email. See the administrative information page for how to join or leave the mail list.
David J. Skyrme
David J. Skyrme
The Internet brings new opportunities for marketing goods and services, and especially knowledge-based ones. Every day we read about some new dot com business, a big-name web site launched with great fanfare and see hoardings and adverts urging us to visit such-and-such a site. Our earlier feature (I3 UPDATE / ENTOVATION International News No. 31) highlighted the role of portals. However, the average web-site, that is used to support and enhance the main business, cannot pour in the resources to maintain an extensive portal, but nevertheless has to make a good impression on its readers so that they return - again and again. This 4th P of Internet marketing is about how to make a good impression.
Style over Substance
We make no apologies for reiterating the fact that many corporate web-sites over-emphasize expensive graphics at the expense of content. Perhaps this is what the consumer market expects - go to a site like Ford http://www.ford.com and you surf through Shockwave animations, get guided to the glossy images Ford want to show you, but have difficulty in finding technical information that you seek (Ford seems to work in its geographic empires and the UK site does not even offer a Ford-wide search facility). Business executives and professionals seek relevant and helpful information. However, that does not mean that you have to present it at paragraphs of dense text. Add suitable images and diagrams when they help, and provide a good layout. But the key is to give users focused and relevant content to help them DO something. Therefore when putting your pages up, do not -as many sites do - be producer centric - (you can often tell a firm's organizational structure from the menu headings on its web site!), but help the user work through their problems and questions.
In a recent workshop we found that most professional users had very similar views on what makes a good or a bad site. The sites that engaged them (and you have to do this in the first 2-3 seconds before users click onwards and away):
- Had interesting content - relevant to their needs
- Were quick to load - gave you text to read even if all the images had not loaded
- Were well designed - limited but effective use of graphics
- Encourage interaction - perhaps through use of a drop-down list, or entering some details that were used to guide them through potential pages of interest
- Had helpful links
- Were easy to navigate.
An example in the consumer field of something that fits the bill, have a look at the Orgasmic Wine site (http://www.orgasmicwine.com). Yes it uses Shockwave animations but it quickly engages you and guides you according to whether you are a novice or expert. The three elements of making a good impression are
- A Look 'n Feel appropriate for your target audience
- An Information Architecture that groups information logically
- Navigation Aids to help users find their way around quickly
Look 'n Feel
The site should reflect your kind of business. If you are selling professional services, then your look 'n feel should be professional. If you are packaging your knowledge as publications, then you should have sample pages that look similar (you might even use PDF format so that the screen image is the same as the hard-copy). If you have multiple lines of business or both consumer and business-to-business products you should seriously considering having separate sites each with a distinctive look 'n feel. Other key elements of look 'n feel are:
- Context Setting - it should be clear where you are on every page, and where pages fit into the whole. Hence an important rule is to have meaningful headings and sub-headings. Readers may have been directed from search engines and a detailed page may be the first one they see. Don't as often happens, leave them wondering if there are any more similar - even better - pages on your site.
- Consistency - over time and space. If you have navigation icons in one part of the screen, that is where users will expect to find them on every page. Don't keep switching formats and styles and colours - use a few basic settings (the use of style sheets makes the maintenance of pages to fixed styles very much easier than using the clumsy FONT tags, so beloved by page mark-up editors. If you change your format, as you will from time-to-time, leave your URLs the same and forward people to new pages - if they have changed a lot, offer guidance as to what is different.
Above all, don't be afraid of 'white space'. Often a page leaves a better impression when it is not overcrowded with text, but has plenty of white space to guide the eye - it also provides space for users to add comment if they print it out!
Remember also that writing for the web is different than for hard-copy. Word documents and other electronic content does not easily translate over to the web environment (despite what Microsoft and others would have you belive with their "save as HTML" features. An effective web page must take account of the different medium:
- Information is typically read in smaller sized chunks
- Is read in screen sized portions and proportions (the browser controls the format, though with style sheets that is changing)
- Has rich hyperlinks to related pages
- Can be read by itself; pages can be read in any order, not sequentially
- Can be interactive and exploit multimedia.
And when we get web-enabled mobile phones and PDAs you will have to consider alternative versions for these classes of user.
Rather than simply throwing information at the first directory or section of the site that comes to mind, you should spend time developing an information architecture. This is equally important on corporate intranet sites where a common dialogue I hear is "its on the intranet (stupid)" with the response "but where?". To get your high level design, use a simple two column approach. For each audience segment, put in the first column what is they want to do e.g. learn more about XXX, make a decision on YYY. Then in the right hand column list the knowledge that they need to carry out these actions. Comparison with what you offer will indicate how well you serve different needs.
You then need to cluster this information into logical groups, ideally by user-orientation. However, since this may not tie up with your supply side (the originators) you will then need a translation map from user information needs to supplier and perhaps directory location. Often what we find is that a site can have a lot of deep information that can be organized in several different ways, according to the needs of scalability and ownership. But what is important is that there are higher level 'views' (i.e. navigation pages) of this information, mapped according to user tasks and needs.
Another consideration is breadth vs. depth of information trees. Many sites err too far on providing too many levels for the to user drill down. Humans are quite adept at assimilating 15-20 or more menu items, providing they are logically grouped. Even if you organize your information as a hierarchy, there is no reason why you cannot show parts of more than one level at the same time. There is a school of thought, that suggests that today's powerful search engines with 'relevance' ranking (e.g. Excalibur's Retrievalware® (http://www.excalib.com/products/rw/rw.html) and Verity's search (http://www.verity.com) obviates the need for a human designed information map. While this is true for some kinds of information retrieval, there are many users and many modes of retrieval where the user wants to see the information in context and have a view of what is available (as is possible through a hyperbolic visualizer such as InXight (http://www.inxight.com).
Any substantive site should certainly have a search engine, but a site has extra value when users can browse through subject categories or drill down through topics of interest. A good site will offer a variety of mechanisms, including site maps (logical information clusters), menu bars and extensive use of in page hyperlinks. Some key points to address:
- Make your information structure clear to the user; offer multiple 'views' as indicated above
- Make effective use of 'title', 'description' and 'keyword' META tags (This will help search engines)
- Use menus, side bars that give overall visual context positioning as well as expand to page specific and related topics
- On every page have some navigation links to related or similar pages (peers), as well as those up and down the hierarchy
- You could have an index or table of contents, but this is a high maintenance overhead if it is not generated automatically
- If you use frames, keep a main menu bar visible. If you don't you may need to repeat a menu bar at the bottom or provide 'To Top' links throughout your document.
A good way of testing your navigation is the 'three click rule'. Can an ordinary user, seeking specific information for the first time, find the first relevant page they are seeking within three mouse clicks? Many intranet sites fail this simple test!
Page Impressions - In for the Count
You've done your best to make an impression, but have your users been impressed? This is where the site log and its analysis is a useful tool. Go beyond the headline figure of 'numbers of hits' (which is fairly meaningless anyway, since you can increase the number of hits simply by adding more images to your home page!). What a good analysis package will show you are the number of 'page impressions' made by users. Closer analysis will reveal what pages are being read, and how users track from page-to-page. This is your primary 'hard' data to monitor from month to month, as is the number of click-throughs leading to enquiries and orders. By the way,a neat addition to a conventional mailto: link is to pre-insert a Subject line, so that (unless the user changes it), you know which page they emailed you from.
Obviously a good Internet marketer will supplement the hard data with other types of survey, such as online questionnaires, user observation and focus groups to find out what kind of impression they are really making.
We hope that by using some the ideas in this article that you will make a good impression too.
PS. These practical hints are more fully explained and explored online in the course Marketing for the Internet, that I run for Aslib, London. Forthcoming dates (2000) - 21 February, 19 June, 13 November. Details at: http://www.aslib.co.uk/training/607.html
Update - Other articles in this series The 7Ps of Internet Marketing cover Portals, Packaging, Positioning, Progression and Payments.
Debra M. Amidon
It was 1983. A $13.2B Fortune 50 company with 120,000 employees had asked us to scout, finance and transfer worldwide knowledge into their company to yield new products and services in the marketplace in advance of their competition. We accomplished this through the Office of Sponsored Research that funded 240 projects in 100 worldwide universities. We managed liaison relationships with over 50 research consortia ranging from a $10,000 research center affiliation to the multi-million dollar investment in the Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation (MCC) in Austin, Texas. The business agenda was one of organizational learning, not technology development. The skills required for success were based on relationships, partnering and strategic conversations. We called it “Virtual Research & Development”, our global network of expertise.
Even then, we realized the base of knowledge did not reside inside the firm. Creativity and new ideas often came from alliance partners, customers and even competitors. We knew that there were connections that needed to be managed and not left to serendipity. We used the term “virtual” to capture the essence of our objective an international innovation infrastructure within which ideas were created and put into action to produce marketable, products and services in advance of the competition. This was our innovation strategy. In organizing the staff, we made several planning assumptions, one of which was that networks will link science and society in ways yet unimaginable.
Evolution of the Network
The ENTOVATION Network has grown to include over 5000 people in 60 countries. Network growth has occurred in five phases during which the role of virtual CKO as changed as well.
1. Defining distinctive competencies (1993-1994). We defined distinctive competencies and make the network international in scope. We established a Website and our list of e-mail addresses was converted into an electronic dialogue, one of the first in the knowledge field. Here the CKO role was one of research and crystallizing the various facets of the evolving knowledge profession.
2. Structuring the Network (1995-97). We realized we needed to better structure to the network, as a holonomy, and define the purpose and a set of principles to guide our action. The network had 2500 people in 40 countries. As the CKO, now the role was to identify pockets of expertise from around the world who were both researching progressive methods as well the leading practitioners who were practicing knowledge techniques with significant bottom-line results.
3. Sharing the Wealth (1998). Now we sought to share the wealth, position our view of the knowledge economy in a way to promote further dialogue, and enhance visibility through the Network and the knowledge press. The role as CKO was essentially that of a managerial architect, tasked with articulating the evolving vision and framing the dialogue both electronic and face-to-face. The author also served as the community conscience to maintain a code of values, ethics and standards to emulate.
4. Transforming into an Innovation System (1999). We’ve sought to transform the innovation system, by featuring top colleagues on the Website, overhauling the Website, and serving in an advisory capacity to the World Bank. Again, the author’s role as CKO has been to maintain the expansion process into countries not yet represented on the organization’s map. There is significant interest from Latin America, Asia and the Middle East developing nations.
5. Leveraging Collective Competence (2000 and beyond). As we look to the future we will be hosting a global knowledge management roundtable and participating in research on using the architectures, methodologies, and research-to-date from participants in the Network. The author’s role will be to shift to one of training and mentoring the trainers, developing the standards for a certification program, and assisting nations transforming into knowledge economies.
Lessons Learned: The Network in Retrospect
In a recent professional meeting, a newcomer in the knowledge field asks, “Are you based in the United States, the United Kingdom or Canada?” The confusion is understandable since the headquarters are in Massachusetts, the Website - until recently - was based in England and the Banff Centre in Calgary, Canada will conduct our research agenda. Our experts come from all over the world. Therefore, it matters not the base operandi of the Chief Knowledge Officer for such a worldwide virtual laboratory of ideas. With such advancements in computer and communications technology and the fact that quality expertise has no boundaries of national origin, the network can function and quite well, wherever there is a phone jack.
On the other hand, one of our primary assumptions is that the network is both technical and human. One cannot underestimate the value of face-to-face communications, even brief interactions. There have been numerous occasions when presentations and even entire conferences have been planned without the principals meeting one another except by phone or e-mail. However, relationship or social capital, which may be the lynch pin to a successful future, is enhanced when people are afforded the time to share, without technical limitations, their values, operational standards and aspirations. We can take a look at the evolution of the Network and evaluate some of the forces that were enabling growth and those resisting factors inhibiting progress.
What Went Right?
- People were ready for a positive, constructive change beyond downsizing. People know intuitively there is a better way to operate even if they cannot define it precisely.
- There was an increasing receptivity to advancements of and experimentation with technology.
- The quality of the intellectual capital especially the collective wisdom was unsurpassed. There are many people entering the field. However, much of the material in publications and the Web are not of much value. Sifting the chaff from the wheat is essential. ‘Knowledge about knowledge’ may be the most valuable expertise of all.
- There ensued an inevitable realization in the value of knowledge innovation. To date there have been two distinct communities: the innovation community and the knowledge management community. Most major research efforts are discovering the focus must be the innovation process.
- Good people surround themselves with other good people, so the referral network was exceptional.
What Went Wrong?
- Articulating progressive concepts is the easy step, but having managers put the concepts into action is another. Many decisions were made on moving the mission versus making a profit. Sometime, it may have been the wrong decision.
- Volume of activity on the Website and e-mail was unexpected. This is in terms of the activity on our own site as well as the increase in sites that provided competition. We also underestimated the degree of innovation in the Internet requiring significant investments to improve market image and services.
- Building credibility as a virtual network is difficult in contrast to the established major consulting firms.
- Managers are still seeking the quick fix and best practices rather than understanding the fundamental changes required and the need to establish standards.
- Reciprocity doesn’t come easy because of a basic competitive work ethic. Virtual reliance upon others for building substance is risky to say the least. One is always subject to their priorities. Worst, one is vulnerable to others taking your ideas and moving them into competitive products and service if proper legal agreements are not in place.
In the beginning, we wondered how to tap into the combined insights of worldwide experts from diverse backgrounds. The answer was simple; let’s query them. The ENTOVATION Network is one example of how a community of experts can respect the competencies of one another, learn from a diverse set of perspectives, and contribute to a common language and a shared vision. It is not perfect, few enterprise are. It capitalizes upon the best of what a knowledge economy will afford - flexible, fluid relationships, contributing toward the common good. Amidst the complexity of the knowledge era, we must both simplify and magnify our relationships. No longer are finances the scarce resource to be managed. It is how we choose to spend our time, in communication with whom and to what end. If a virtual Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO) is the one who exercises leadership without authority; then the onus is upon each of us to architect our time with one another face-to-face as well as remotely with meaningful dialogue. As the Virtual CKO for ENTOVATION International, the author has been a privileged participant in the evolution of the knowledge movement worked with many at the heart of the knowledge management movement.
These excerpts are from the chapter 'A Virtual Chief Knowledge Officer: Leading through Strategic Conversations', Debra M. Amidon, from the forthcoming (May 2000) book "Knowledge Management in Practice: Chief Knowledge Officers and Chief Learning Officers", ASTD (American Society for Training and Development). For publication details, contact Dede Boner (Email: email@example.com)
Information Supplied by Rory Chase, Teleos
The winners of the 1999 Most Admired Knowledge Enterprises (MAKE) study, conducted by Teleos in association with The KNOW Network, have been announced. The top five companies recognized for their world-class efforts in managing knowledge, leading to superior performance are: (1) Microsoft, (2) BP Amoco, (3) Xerox, (4) Buckman Laboratories and (5) Ernst & Young.
To select the Most Admired Knowledge Enterprises, senior executives at Fortune Global 500 companies and a panel of chief knowledge officers and leading knowledge management practitioners were asked to nominate companies and rank them against the eight key knowledge drivers of outstanding performance. The winning company in each knowledge performance category is:
- Success in establishing an enterprise knowledge culture BP Amoco
- Top management support for managing knowledge BP Amoco
- Ability to develop and deliver knowledge-based goods/services Ernst & Young
- Success in maximizing the value of the enterprise¹s intellectual capital Microsoft
- Effectiveness in creating an environment of knowledge sharing Xerox
- Success in establishing a culture of continuous learning Microsoft
- Effectiveness of managing customer knowledge to increase loyalty and value Nokia
- Ability to manage knowledge to generate shareholder value Microsoft
Rory Chase, managing director of Teleos, states: "Companies are becoming increasingly aware that managing knowledge is the key differentiator when competing in today¹s global markets. The 1999 MAKE companies are recognized as winners in this race to deliver knowledge-based goods and services."
An executive summary of the 1999 MAKE study, including comparisons with 1998 MAKE winners, is available by contacting E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional information, contact Rory L. Chase, Teleos, Tel: +44 1234 314197, Fax: +44 1234 308824, E-mail: email@example.com.
Just published is the Spanish edition of 'Innovation Strategy for the Knowledge Economy: The Ken Awakening'. The translation was undertaken by Gerardo Calderon Malagamba , Director General of Intracorp S.A. de C.V., Mexico who writes in the foreword:
"Knowledge Innovation is an enabler to the Spanish speaking community, not only to achieve parity with the dominant global economic leaders, but also to leapfrog them quickly without going through management fads. Why? Because it is quite different to capture knowledge, and then try to manage it, than to capture and deploy knowledge in a strategy defined explicitly to innovate Debra's proposal.
Knowledge Management places knowledge in a static context while knowledge innovation fuels action. With Knowledge Innovation, organizations compress the time frames between ideas and action by developing a profound understanding of the why, how and when of new opportunities.
The concepts presented in this book is a real opportunity for our entrepreneurs, industrial associations, people responsible for educating our children, bankers and the investment community, to synthesize Knowledge Innovation with the unique advantages of our culture to influence the global knowledge economy. Our Latin culture allows us to quickly comprehend the importance of her concepts. We have a great opportunity. We are accustomed to playing more than one role in our organizations, something that is not the norm in developed economies - and necessary in an innovative organization.
Lets take advantage of this and leapfrog to become world leaders in our respective industries. Because all of this, we decided to participate in this Spanish edition, wishing from our hearts that this book will awaken The Ken of Latin America and Spain."
For ordering details please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
i in the Sky, edited by Alison Scammell, Aslib, ISBN 0 85142 431 7
i in the sky is a collection of essays by over 40 experts, including leading writers Charles Handy and Don Tapscott, giving their personal vision of the future of information. Information as a phenomenon pervades all areas of life and its evolution has consequences for everyone. Many of the papers have central themes such as the future of computer intelligence, library and information services, interactive Internet marketing, and networked learning in higher education.
One paper links the technology enabling remote and online communication to the deconstruction of the corporation and the rise of flexible working. Other papers deal with scholarly communication, smart houses and intelligent appliances. Two of the chapters are written as fiction, one by contemporary fantasy writer, Lise Leroux, who paints a menacing vision of human error in a tale of virtual reality. David Skyrme's contribution is "Information's Golden Age: Substance with Style?" which foresees the emergence of different knowledge clusters and access methods according to individual life style and consumption preferences via themed areas in cyberspace.
It is available through Aslib (http://www.aslib.co.uk) or Portland Press (Email: email@example.com). Discounted to Aslib members.
23-25 January 2000. The 2nd Annual Braintrust International, 2000 Conference: Advancing Your Knowledge Management Practice for Measurable Business Impact. It claims "not the usual cast of characters" but "fresh perspectives from organizations that are in the trenches, ‘doing' knowledge management on a daily basis". Scottsdale, Arizona. IIR.
25 January, 2000. What Knowledge Strategy for What Cost, First Annual Conference - Knowledge Management: Improving Human and Corporate Performance sponsored by Les Echos and Euriware, Paris.
For further details, contact: Emmanuel Fenet (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Update - postponed until 1 March.
28 Feb - 3 March, 2000. 2nd Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning Conference, London. A bevy of well known speakers including Drucker and Nonaka. Linkage International.
© Copyright, 1999 David Skyrme Associates Limited and Authors - All rights reserved.
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I3 UPDATE / ENTOVATION International News is a joint publication of David Skyrme Associates Limited and ENTOVATION International Limited - providers of trends analysis, strategic advice and workshops on knowledge management
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