David Skyrme Associates



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No. 7: December 1996


Knowing What You Know (David Skyrme)
Knowledge Management 96 - Review of the Conference (Debra Amidon/David Skyrme)
Knowledge Management in Practice - A New Report
Internet Access - The Free Commodity? (Ian Fantom)
Watch Your Language! (Isabel Willshaw)
End Piece


Welcome to Issue No. 7 of I3 UPDATE, a free newsletter for those interesting in gaining insights into the trends and implications for enterprises and individuals of the emerging knowledge based, globally networked economy.

At the bottom of this edition you will find important information about leaving and joining this list. We hope you enjoy this UPDATE, and welcome comments, contributions and feedback at david@skyrme.com.

David J. Skyrme
Managing Editor

Knowing What You Know

David J. Skyrme

It is not surprising that many organizations start their knowledge management initiatives with 'knowledge mapping' or the creation of 'knowledge' (data)bases. They simply don't know what they know. Let me give you two examples from my own experience in the last two weeks.

  • Five people from one organization attended a conference; most did not know the others would be there (good luck to the conference organizers for applying the 'divide and rule' principle in their marketing)
  • Four different attempts (through the most logical routes) to find out more details about some good things reportedly happening in knowledge management in this company, failed to connect me to anyone who knew what was going on.

Contrast these with two other companies, where different contacts had been made, and each contact immediately knew who else I should be talking to (or had indeed talked to). The former companies have not developed knowledge management to a stage where they know what they know, and therefore save money or give better customer service or gain other benefits. The latter two have, and are featured as exemplars of good practice in the forthcoming report from Business Intelligence 'Knowledge Management in Practice' (see below).

The Right Knowledge, in the Right Place, at the Right Time

In a nutshell, this is what good knowledge management is all about. And for many it was Knowledge Management 96 held in London from 3-4 December (see below).

  • The right knowledge is usually in people's heads; some (the explicit knowledge) may be in databases, but much is (in the words of Bob Buckman) "between the ears and behind the eyeballs".
  • The right place is the point of action or decision - the management meeting, the customer help line, the design teams whiteboard and so on.
  • The right time is when you (the person doing the work, or the team in a meeting need it)

Consider the latter point. How often has information or knowledge been PUSHED at you even you don't need it - paper, emails, training. Then later, when you do need it, you vaguely remember seeing something relevant but can't find it. One survey indicates that professional workers spend ten per cent of their time looking for information they know is somewhere. And if what you want is in people's heads, and they're not always around (increasingly likely in organizations that operate globally and around the clock) how can you tap into it, when you need it?

Doing IT Better

One way is to encapsulate as much relevant (i.e. high pay back) knowledge in an explicit form. This is often the role of databases. But by the time knowledge gets encapsulated into a 'database' it is, as its name implies, closer to data than knowledge. Users therefore need to enrich that data with context and meaning, and one way of helping this is through providing 'pointers to people'. IT indeed has an important role to play in this process. One model I have found that helps me develop solutions for different situations is the three level groupware model of communication, coordination and collaboration. For each of these modes of people-to-people working, we need to use the most appropriate technologies effectively. Here is an outline of what I mean.

Communication - email for one-to-one; distribution lists for small group communications; list servers for larger groups or where the small groups are dynamically changing. Use of latest email software with incoming mail filters and standard reply messages help make this process more productive. Communications is also enhanced by higher 'bandwidths', using diagrams, image, voice as well as text, and increasingly video conferencing (especially at the desktop)

Coordination - this is where some form of process software (e.g. workflow), shared information base or forms software can usually help. Using Intranets, for example, allows everyone working together to see the most current information, even work in progress. By giving individuals the opportunity to create their own pages, the Intranet is rapidly becoming a quick and popular way for organizations to discover what they know.

Collaboration - at this higher level the interaction and relationship between people is deep and more regular. The IT support tools aid parallel processing and real-time interaction. Technologies include desktop videoconferencing with shared documents and whiteboards, meeting room systems, and virtual conferences. As always, the key to success is not the technology but how it is used, especially in the group rather than one to one situation. Openness, sharing, trust, reciprocity are some of the essential ingredients.

Starting with communications and working up, these are the practices we are learning to apply more effectively in European Telework Development (ETD) - a pan-European initiative that involves seven main partners and over 30 other organizations or individuals across the European Union. To work together effectively across time and geography boundaries, we must make the most effective use as possible of these different mechanisms. More importantly we must learn from each other, and give each other feedback, since we are working across different national and organizational cultures.

Push vs. Pull Strategies

On top of these three modes you do need to consider the use of pull vs. push strategies. A little bit of push (emails) helps give people background context, but you do have to have mechanisms (like filters) to avoid information overload. Generally more important, though, is having 'knowledge on tap' or 'just in time' knowledge through a pull strategy. It is the development of pull strategies that we have found to be a distinguishing characteristic of those organizations who are the furthest ahead in "knowing what they know". Such strategies need good information management (of the library/information science type), new organizational structures and new knowledge roles and skills, amongst others (these findings are explained more fully in the forthcoming report). But perhaps above all, it needs new ways that each of us as individuals work and handle information and knowledge, a skill that few of us were taught, and, if we were, will need to be completely and continually relearnt as the technology evolves and changes.

As the momentum of knowledge management continues, it is no understatement to say that we all live in very interesting times. If we are smart (which we all are!), we may know what we know (which certainly gives individuals an edge over some organizations!), but we need to learn what we need to know - a never ending challenge for us all.

Email: david@skyrme.com
Web Address: Knowledge Connections (David Skyrme Associates) http://www.skyrme.com

Knowledge Management 96

Debra M. Amidon and David J. Skyrme

Organised by Business Intelligence and cosponsored by Fast Company ("the hot new business magazine for the new economy") Knowledge Management 96 brought together experts and practitioners from around the world, to share their knowledge, to discover new insights and generally to continue what for many is an exciting journey of discovery. We heard many interesting presentations coming from a wide range of perspectives - for example, Hirotaka Takeuchi contrasting the Western and Eastern approaches; Peter Matthews from Anglian Water on their transformation from a regional public utility to an innovative company with a world-wide outlook, Hubert Saint-Onge outlining the ways to develop tacit organizational knowledge. It is impossible to do justice to the scope of the conference in this short article, so we shall focus on two aspects - the Business Intelligence 1996 Knowledge Management Awards and some overriding impressions.

The Business Intelligence Knowledge Management Awards 1996

Introducing the awards David Harvey, Founder and Director of Business Intelligence, described his pleasure at introducing the awards, whose purpose was threefold:

  1. To publicly celebrate the achievements of practitioner who have made an outstanding contribution to the emerging discipline of knowledge managements
  2. To promote better understanding of knowledge management by making the achievements of the winners known to a wider audience
  3. To stimulate wider discussion of the extensive range of issues that knowledge raises for business and the economy.

There were five awards, in different categories as follows:

The Business Intelligence Knowledge Management Research and Development Award 1996
Gordon Petrash, Global Director of Intellectual Asset Management, The Dow Chemical Company
For outstanding contribution to the development of new thinking and practices in research and development. Particularly cited were Dow's active management of their patent portfolio, resulting in considerable cost savings and license revenue generation, and the IAM management framework they have developed and applied.

The Business Intelligence Knowledge Management Implementation Award 1996
Dr William Miller, Vice President of Research and Development, Steelcase

For outstanding contribution in integrating research and practice. Particularly cited were Steelcase's research methods, including behavioural research and close customer involvement, resulting in award winning products. They were recognised as having changed from a company focused on office furniture to one focused on making "smarter places to work".

The Business Intelligence Knowledge Management Leadership Award 1996
Robert Buckman, Vice Chairman of the Board, Buckman Laboratories

For outstanding leadership in the development and application of new practices. Particularly cited was Buckman's personal drive to create K'Netix, the Buckman internal network, that enables extensive knowledge sharing across the company. Bob Buckman himself is an active user of the network and demonstrates leadership qualities of vision and leading by example.

The Business Intelligence Knowledge Management Breakthrough Award 1996
Leif Edvinsson, Director of Intellectual Capital, Skandia Assurance

For outstanding contribution and pioneering work in the development of new accounting measures. Particularly cited was the Skandia Navigator, a tool for measuring, managing and growing the intellectual capital of the firm. This has been widely acclaimed, setting a new world-class benchmark among the prevailing conservatism of the accountancy profession.

The Business Intelligence Knowledge Management Awareness Award 1996
Tom Stewart, Member of the Board of Editors, Fortune

For outstanding contribution to communicating new thinking and best practice to a wider audience. Particularly cited was his seminal article "Brainpower", published in 1992, and more recently the Fortune cover story of 3 October 1993 "Your Company's Most Valuable Asset: Intellectual Capital".

Lasting Impressions

This was not the first conference on Knowledge Management, and looking at the 1997 conference calendar certainly not the last. However, it is likely to go down as the conference that stood at the turning point between the emergent pioneering phase of knowledge management and the serious exploration phase. It was particularly valuable in bringing together multiple perspectives from many different types of company in different countries. During the concluding session Bill Miller reinforced many of the feelings of the delegates when he reflected this turning point by saying that in one sense it was not new, but the strategic holistic view of it was. It was something fundamentally different and not a passing fad. The five lasting impressions this conference left with us was summarized by Debra in her concluding remarks to the conference delegates:

1. It brought together the 'three generations' that are needed to create the future - the novices, experts and veterans.

2. It is work in progress - this conference helped many delegates discover that "we were already doing it", but generally only in pockets, and not at the strategic level integrating activities across a broad front. Much of what has been done has also not been made explicit. This conference has helped people realise the importance of "making the implicit explicit". We are creating something new together; we are all on a long journey that may never be finished.

3. The power of face to face contact - many of the leaders had not met face to face before; they invariably reported value from other leaders working in complementary areas. In the words of knowledge management - it raised the whole dialogue between them from one of explicit knowledge (their previous papers, presentations) to the tacit level of knowledge exchange.

4. The leaders are learning - even those at the forefront of the knowledge management movement (such as the award winners) all feel they are only just 'starting the journey'. Knowledge leaders will never stand still, they interface extensively with their environment (as at this conference), they are assiduous learners, and they strive to continually build on their existing successes.

5. Together we are developing a Community of Knowledge Practice - bringing together complementary competencies from every part of an organization. Knowledge management is not something that resides in one discipline. It involves active learning and developing new practice by crossing these boundaries.

The conference demonstrates once again that the Momentum of Knowledge Management is well underway. In a future newsletter we shall give some insights, based on the ENTOVATION Knowledge Innovation model, of where it is heading. In the meantime, keep sending us your inputs or contribute to one of the existing forums on Knowledge Management as outlined on our Web pages.

Note: Those who were not at the conference can purchase proceedings and transcripts from Business Intelligence.

EMails: Debra M. Amidon (debra@entovation.com); David J. Skyrme (david@skyrme.com)

New Report - Knowledge Management in Practice

Authors: Debra M. Amidon and David J. Skyrme
Publishers: Business Intelligence Limited

Research is almost complete and writing well underway for a ground breaking report on the state of practice of knowledge management to be published in early 1997. A dozen or so case studies, interviews with lead practitioners and experts, and a combined Business Intelligence/Ernst & Young survey covering three continents provided the raw material for the analysis on which this report is based.

The report's main conclusion is that effective management of knowledge will be a core competence that most organizations will need to develop to succeed in tomorrow's dynamic global economy. Many examples were found of companies who had achieved business growth, reduced costs, faster time-to-market, innovative products and services, through the systematic application of knowledge management processes. Few companies, even those ahead of the field, yet have in place on a large scale, management processes and tools to create and harness knowledge in a systematic way - its identification, classification, sharing and exploitation in products and processes.

Among the key findings of this report:

  • Turning implicit knowledge into explicit knowledge and vice versa are the key processes of successful knowledge leverage. An example is articulating implicit knowledge in a form that can be transmitted and diffused through human and electronic networks.

  • Knowledge creation and development processes are complex and do not lend themselves to highly structured engineering approaches - it's not about databases, it's about making sense of the environment, and using the power of people's minds

  • Developing measures of intellectual capital and measures of value of knowledge in use is the area of largest concern by most companies. Traditional accounting metrics need supplementing by new measures which are being piloted in companies like Skandia.

  • Technology, particularly through collaborative networks, such as the Internet, Intranets and Lotus Notes, has proved an important enabler. However, turning such an infrastructure from an information one to a knowledge one, needs proactive management. Connecting people to each other is as important as connecting people to databases.

  • The most important factor in creating knowledge value was to create an effective knowledge infrastructure - with knowledge leadership, developing knowledge roles and skills, and creating a culture of knowledge culture, with openness, innovation, learning, inquiry and dialogue as its foundations.

  • No department has a monopoly of knowledge, or knowledge about knowledge. Successful knowledge leaders come from all backgrounds. Their common characteristics are good conceptual capabilities, effective communicators and extensive networkers.

The report contrasts the leaders and laggards and identifies criteria likely to lead to successful knowledge management.


Chapter 1 - The Momentum of Knowledge Management
Drivers behind the knowledge management movement

Chapter 2 - Knowledge Leadership
Setting the direction and gaining commitment

Chapter 3 - The Measurement Gap
The baseline for improvement and adding value

Chapter 4 - Value Adding Processes
Leveraging your knowledge potential

Chapter 5 - Creating A Collaborative Culture
Cultures for creating and sharing knowledge

Chapter 6 - Roles and Skills for the Knowledge Age
Knowledge competencies for sustainable success

Chapter 7 - The Technology Infrastructure
Technology infrastructure and enablers

Chapter 8 - An Agenda for Action
Lessons from the Leaders

- Bibliography/Notes
- Glossary
- Consultancy Profiles
- Case summary chart

Further information and details on how to order this report can be found at the page featuring the report whose title is Creating the Knowledge-based Business.

Internet Access - The Free Commodity?

Ian Fantom

Will access to the Internet eventually be free and universal? One man who thinks this will be the case is Michael Branagan, previously managing director of Indigo (http:www.indigo.ie), who left the company in July this year. Indigo, based in Dublin, and giving local access in Dublin, Cork and Belfast, is offering a whole year's access for 1996 with no monthly charge, just an initial sign-up fee of UKP 30.25 for registration and software.

Last year Pipex offered a 90-day free service, hoping to catch the Christmas market. Access was via a freecall number, but the software package required had to be purchased at a cost of UKP 99.

Meanwhile, Texnet, a new ISP expected to go live in the UK this September, was promising access for only 2 per month - and not just on a trial basis - though software was to be provided as shareware. Not surprisingly, the marketing manager of Demon, dismissed the pricing as an "April Fool's joke".

Other companies, too, are undercutting Demon's 'tenner-a-month' policy. Last year Global Internet in Fulham announced a charge of UKP 7.50, with local call access, and Enterprise, of the Isle of Man, offered UKP 8 per month. Cosmos Bulletin Board in London offers a range of possibilities. E-mail connectivity costs UKP 4 per month, whereas full access will cost 9 per month for private subscribers, with discounts for students and pensioners. Businesses, however, are be charged at UKP 11 per month.

Free e-mail connectivity is provided by Juno (http://www.juno.com), who gain their income from e-mail advertising. E-mail connectivity, however, is already available free on a number of bulletin boards. Archimedes users, for instance, will be familiar with the Arcade bulletin board, which is free and offers free Internet e-mail access, though for most people not for a local telephone call.

Perhaps more significant than the monthly charge is the cost of telecommunications. In May this year, Planet Internet became the first ISP to launch Internet access with no phone charges, by introducing an 0800 network of dial-up numbers http://www.uk.pi.net/. (Update - this link is no longer active)). The phone charges were described as "one of the biggest hurdles to going online" by Steve Nicholson, managing director of Planet's holding company KPN Multimedia UK.

Indigo's Michael Branagan envisages that profits would arise from publishing and technical opportunities. The irony is that a new 'bit tax' under consideration at the European Commission in Brussels may, by the time it comes in, have no usage charges to tax.

These examples indicate that Internet Access is becoming a commodity with a difference. Like all commodities the price tends to drop over time as the market develops. But unlike many other commodities, it is just one part of a larger value system - from Internet user to content or service provider. Therefore, if those who offer the commodity can also provide other services, the cost can be absorbed in the total offering. Anyone offering an Internet related service (as Internet users are already widely aware) are making attractive offers to get you hooked to their other services through such bait. Whether you bite depends on how well you have costed out the total service, and how well they have done their cross marketing plans.

The main conclusion we draw is that this is a very dynamic market channel at the moment, with winners and losers changing monthly. Just to illustrate - in the short time since this article was written just after the last newsletter - Easynet has taken over UK OnliNe, AT&T has absorbed over Planet, and Virgin has launched its service. As analysts we ignore these short term perturbations and look more deeply at the fundamentals. We will give you more glimpses of our findings in future newsletters.

EMail: Ian@mintex.demon.co.uk

Update (1999) - Free Internet access has arrived in the UK with great fanfare. See I3 UPDATE No. 31.

Watch Your Language

Isabel Willshaw

Editor's Note - This was received from I3 UPDATE reader Isabel Willshaw, in response to the feature article on Knowledge Exchange Networks in the last edition.

What I notice is that you talk about Knowledge Management as a thing or as something abstract. What I talk about is relationships between people, and how we carry around our own personal capital (our knowledge, skills and talents and our personal networks). When you tap into (or buy into) a knowledge worker's time you are accessing a unique and vast reservoir of information and contacts which that person filters and customises uniquely to help you achieve your goals.

The knowledge worker can choose to make that available as an exchange with colleagues in the knowledge market - it's an exciting activity, builds new knowledge, confirms one's self esteem, you get valuable nuggets in return etc. or can sell it for a fee.

I think most organizations and many clients underestimate the value of that particular, highly refined combination of knowledge, talent and contacts, and I hope that through your activities and through BrainPool and other networks, we can raise awareness of that.

Some of the language - intellect, capturing knowledge etc makes me uncomfortable. In my opinion nobody these days can *capture* people, and therefore knowledge. People will only exchange knowledge and create intelligence if they want to/ choose to. It's about people first, and what gives them joy - it's not first and foremost about knowledge. We're all highly skilled at putting in 'pretend' knowledge, but we only make relevant and timely knowledge available when we freely choose to do so - or am I living in a different world?

Hope you print this, from a fellow knowledge exchanger,

Best wishes, Isabel.

Productive Connections
Edinburgh EH10 4JH
Tel 0131 229 1576
Email: isabel.willshaw@brainpool.co.uk
Website - http://www.brainpool.co.uk

Footnote - BrainPool connects people who are exploring new ways of working and new ways of being. Based in Scotland, it is an evolving learning community with members in several countries.

Reply from David Skyrme

Thanks for this reminder, Isabel, that knowledge exchange is not something abstract, and does indeed involve human relationships. In many endeavours the social exchange is as, if not more important, than the economic one. Those organizations who excel at knowledge management tend also to be the ones that value individuals and give ample scope for personal development and fulfillment. Unfortunately, some others do view people as 'labour for hire' and view knowledge as something that can be extracted and put on a database!

End Piece

We hope to have a report from ONLINE 96 in our next newsletter. Also the ENTOVATION Review of 1996, the year on the net, and other reflections on developments in 1996. Please keep your comments and contributions coming.

© Copyright, 1996. David Skyrme Associates Limited and Authors - All rights reserved.

This newsletter is copyright material. In the interests of dissemination of information, forward circulation is permitted provided it is distributed in its entirety including these notices, that it is not posted to newsgroups or distribution lists and that it is not done for commercial gain or part of a commercial transaction. For other uses please contact the publisher.

I3 UPDATE is a publication of David Skyrme Associates Limited - providers of market studies, consultancy and strategic advice in knowledge management, knowledge networking and collaborative technologies.

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