Knowledge Management

July 1, 2008 at 10:03 pm | Posted in Knowledge Management | Leave a comment

Knowledge Management (KM) is a vitally important discipline and it happens to be something that I am particularly interested in. But before we can explore this subject in depth we need to understand exactly what KNOWLEDGE is.

I have come up with this explanation to define knowledge:
Data is a by-product of the business process.
Information is data placed in context.
Knowledge is information that can be used.

I know that there are many different explanations for knowledge but this short summary should suffice.

So why manage knowledge in the first place?
Well it simple. You’re in business because of what you know. Plain and simple.
You can do what you do and offer what you offer because you – and those that work with you – have a key skill set that allows you to undertake your daily tasks – and charge for it!
Now if one of those key knowledge holders suddenly became unavailable – due to illness, resignation or some other unforseen reason – would you be able to access that knowledge in a timely and affordable manner?
Also, KM really helps new employees to ‘hit the ground with their feet running’ so to speak. To quickly catch up and answer some of the more common questions effectively.

One of the most import things to understand about Knowledge Management is that it is not an I.T. discipline but rather an H.R. discipline. In fact it is more of a ‘corporate culture’ paradigm than anything else. A company could have all the appropriate KM tools in place but if the end users don’t see the importance of fostering KM it will all come to naught.

The first step to creating an effective KM strategy is to draw a Knowledge Map for your organisation.

Knowledge map:

  1. How does knowledge enter your organisation?
    New Employees.
    Customer feedback.
    Books.
    Training/Courses.
    Research/Articles/Magazines
    External Consultants …
  2. How does knowledge move within your company?
    Blogs.
    Emails.
    Internal Library.
    Meetings.
    Training …
  3. How is knowledge stored/accessed within your company?
    Wiki.
    Intranet.
    Internal Library …
  4. How does knowledge leave your organisation?
    Resignations.
    Equipment failure.
    Forgetfulness …

Once you have established the basic flow of knowledge withing your organisation you can take steps to manage it.

As stated earlier it is imperative that you understand that it is a ‘culture’ thing. At my wife’s current place of employment they have a knowledge management system that is so complicated to use that no one ever does. You first need to logon, then navigate through a maze of categories, then tick boxes and descriptions etc all of which make it a prohibitive exercise.

So what can we do to encourage a corporate KM culture?
Incentivise! Eg: …
– Give free movie tickets away to someone and their partner to the person  whose submission is selected on certain criteria.
– Perhaps once a month give away a free lunch to someone who reviews a selected  submission into the KM system.
– Offer cash bonuses to employess for valuable information provided during an exit interview.
( The importance of exit interviews and their proper management is a very important facet of KM and needs more space and time than this blog allows )

 So remember, identify your knowledge ecosystem and incentivise a KM culture within your organisation and you will reap the rewards.

Microsoft Solutions Framework

July 1, 2008 at 1:58 am | Posted in Development Management, Project Management, SDLC | 2 Comments

When it comes to managing I.T. projects it makes sense to learn from a company that has been doing it for 3 decades.

Microsoft have had the opportunity to develop software solutions on a scale that cannot be touched by even its closest competitors. And over the years they have refined and harnessed this experience into a solutions framework and made it available to the rest us.

What is the MSF?

Microsoft® Solutions Framework (MSF) is a deliberate and disciplined approach to
technology projects based on a defined set of principles, models, disciplines, concepts,guidelines, and proven practices from Microsoft.

and …

Microsoft Solutions Framework … [is] a loose collection of best practices from Microsoft’s product development efforts and Microsoft Consulting Services engagements …MSF has been evolving … based on deliberate learning from the
successful, real-world best practices of Microsoft product groups, Microsoft Services, Microsoft’s internal Operations and Technology Group (OTG), Microsoft partners, and customers. Elements of MSF are based on well-known industry best practices and incorporate Microsoft’s more than 25 years of experience in the high-tech industry.

Microsoft Solutions Framework version 3.0 Overview whitepaper   

My take on it is that it is basically your typical SDLC dicipline with extended “soft” features added – let me explain.

 Let’s take your typical SDLC:
Analyse
Design
Develop
Test
Deploy
Maintain

Nothing new here right?
Well MS have taken this design and added some essential extras such as:
Open Communication
Learn from every experience
Manage Risk
Expect change
Shared Vision
Empower Team members
And a biggie …
Establish clear accountability and shared responsibility.

As well as adding some intermediate steps eg:
Analyse
         MSF: Envision
Design
Develop
Test
       MSF: Stabilise
Deploy
Maintain

Another useful tool that the MSF employs( and something I haven’t seen many other companies focus much on ) is end user experience.
“Yes Yes,” I hear you say, “we have been doing this all along, nothing new here.”
Well maye. But the fact that they have formalised it and made sure that it is another check box that gets ticked makes it really useful in my opinion.

The MSF also includes a list of roles and assigns duties to them. I found this to be a very interesting aspect. In my experience roles have been pretty well defined. There is the ‘BA’, the ‘architect’ the ‘tester’ etc … but the MSF goes beyond this in that it assigns ‘groups of roles’ to ‘project goals’ – a very interesting concept that I need to spend some more time looking into.

Of course, the MSF is a whole lot more than this but it would be impossible in a one page blog to fully capture everything that is the MSF.
My purpose here is just to let you know that it is out there and that it is a great tool for managing I.T. projects. In fact I think that the MSF is the perfect marriage between Development Management and Project Management.
Why do I say this? Well for me the SLDC seems to focus soley on the ‘process’ with very little regard for the ‘team’. The MSF tries to include ALL the elements that go into successful project delivery.

The reason it is called a framework is basically because it is made up of various components that can be used individually or together to achieve the desired outcome. The MSF offers a ‘wholistic’ approach to solution delivery. A very high level breakdown would be as follows: (Taken from their whitepaper)

• MSF foundational principles.
     The core principles upon which the framework is based.
     They express values and standards that are common to all elements of the framework.
• MSF models.
     Schematic descriptions or “mental maps” of the organization of project teams
     and processes (Team Model and Process Model—two of the major defining components of
     the framework).
• MSF disciplines.
     Areas of practice using a specific set of methods, terms, and approaches
     (Project Management, Risk Management, and Readiness Management—the other major
     defining components of the framework).
• MSF key concepts.
     Ideas that support MSF principles and disciplines and are displayed
     through specific proven practices.
• MSF proven practices.
     Practices that have been proven effective in technology projects
     under a variety of real-world conditions.
• MSF recommendations.
     Optional but suggested practices and guidelines in the application
     of the models and discipline 

If you are a serious development manager I would highly recommend that you spend some time investigating the MSF. It is an invaluable tool to add to your management arsenal.

For more information please visit their site at:
http://www.microsoft.com/technet/solutionaccelerators/msf/default.mspx

 

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