205 year old organisation meets the future head-on

Coming up this week in Melbourne is the Innovating IT Service conference. The final interview in this series is with Cameron Gough, General Manager of Australia Post’s Digital Delivery Centre. Cameron will be appearing on the discussion panel and delivering one of the opening keynotes on Wednesday. He’s been with AusPost since 2012 and brings extensive experience with agile and lean methodologies to an organisation under pressure to find new ways of providing value.

 

1. As the General Manager of the Digital Delivery Centre for Australia Post, can you describe what your typical day looks like and the kinds of projects you’re involved in?

Someone recently told me that they saw my role simply as food, water and alignment.  I was at first a little offended but when I thought it through, it kind of made sense.  Most of my time is about ensuring our teams in the DDC are set up to be successful.  This means ensuring funding is in place, a healthy backlog of work exists, we have the right staff and our operating model is working smoothly.  I guess this is the food and water part.  We are heavily focused on enabling our teams to become more and more autonomous over time.  But this can be dangerous if multiple teams are misaligned in their overall purpose. So the alignment bit is about driving our strategic direction in digital and sharing this with teams to ensure we are all aligned and working to a common purpose.

On the question of projects – we’re steadily moving away from the traditional project model where we have a start, middle and an end and deliver a defined piece of scope.  The market and our customers are simply moving too fast for this model – especially in digital. Over the past couple of years we’ve been shifting to a model where we identify opportunities and allocate delivery capacity (and funding) to chase those opportunities.  The teams work in an iterative manner, deploying as often as they can, learning through customer feedback and research and adjusting course based on this.  I haven’t checked our recent mix but late last year around 75% of our work was done using some form of this model.

The work we do is surprisingly varied and quite exciting.  Around 50% of our desktop and mobile traffic relates to parcel tracking so we are always looking to improve that experience. An example is our recent roll out of MyPost Deliveries – a free service that provides more convenient parcel delivery options through parcel lockers and Post Office pickup.  This is just the start with many planned enhancements coming in the next few months.  Beyond that, we are continuing to invest in our digital mailbox, travel related products, a cool postcards mobile app, our developer centre, a parcel lodgement capability for merchants, new consumer and business portals and much more.

2. Australia Post’s traditional business model has been significantly disrupted by technology and the online economy. What are some of the unexpected opportunities that have come from that, and how are you changing the way people manage mail and interact with other Australia Post services?

Digital disruption has had a profound impact on our core letters business which has been in decline since 2008.  However digital has also been a key driver of growth in other parts of our business – especially our parcels business which has grown well off the back of a booming online economy.

I think one of the profound shifts we will start to see is a move to delivering to people rather than addresses.  This means building services and capability to deliver to the place and time that is most convenient to customers.  Smartphones and other technology leaps have started to open up many opportunities in this area.

It is hard to predict all the ways that digital will help our future business and customers and in many ways we don’t want to lock ourselves into a few narrow bets.  We are therefore taking a platform path where we expose capability through APIs and then free teams up to reimagine the experiences we can offer.  This is extending now to third parties and customers who can explore our available APIs through our Developer Centre (developers.auspost.com.au).

We’re also exploring some interesting opportunities where digital can enhance the physical experience.  For example, a more integrated in-store experience through use of iBeacons and using smartphones to streamline access to Parcel Lockers.

3. You are known as an advocate for the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). How does that differ from the Agile methods some of us may already be familiar with?

To me, Agile methods work well at a team level.  They provide a great way for a business to iteratively evolve a solution and arrive at an outcome that is a better match to customer needs than more traditional methods.  I think the mistake many of us made was to then believe we could simply scale the team model to work at a broader organisational level. The better path was to get back to the underlying principles of Lean and Agile – principles of flow, small batch sizes, iterative evolution of solutions, delivery cadence, multi-functional teams, etc – and then see how these could be applied at an organisational level. SAFe does a really good job of describing a cohesive model that aims to do just that. Using an industry framework has provided us with a common model, language and consistent base to work off.

Most large organisations are complex and achieving organisational agility spans well beyond delivery teams. There is often a desire for some level of structure and process around any new way of working before it is accepted.  Simply saying you are going to “scale agile” won’t get far as it doesn’t satisfy this need and can be a high risk approach. The structure and discipline that SAFe outlines is a powerful way to communicate a different way of working that covers how work is organised, funded and governed. It actually provides direct line of sight from portfolio planning through to the features teams are working on that will be delivered to customers. Having said that, we couldn’t say we follow SAFe to the letter. For us it is more a reference model that we have used to guide us but we are really carving our own path.

4. Gartner calls for enterprises to embrace a Bimodal approach to IT services. This combination of slow and fast development, (also called 2-speed IT), can be a challenge for large organisations. How is Australia Post managing it?

I haven’t delved into this deeply but am familiar with the idea.  I guess the starting point is to work out whether your organisation is pursuing 2 speed IT as a strategy, or whether it is a stage you go through as you change to a more nimble IT organisation.  I’m keen on the latter approach.  It is easier to speed up things in Digital relative to other parts of the IT organisation. We have invested in “cloudifying” our digital applications, automating integration and deployment capability, and building a highly adaptive and flexible delivery model.  This is paying significant dividends now in terms of delivery speed, flexibility and customer outcomes.  Moving beyond digital, our recent enterprise investments in new data centres, networks, cloud, automation and orchestration capabilities, are now supporting significant improvements in other areas as well.  We have also been working successfully to a model called “Differentiated Delivery” that provides a way to bring digital and backend teams together to deliver software in an iterative manner with all the benefits that provides.

5. Andrew Walduck, your CIO, has talked a lot about digital disruption and how this is fundamentally changing Australia Post’s business and the relationship it has with its customers.  How does the Digital Delivery Centre fit into this picture and the longer-term vision for the organisation?

Digital disruption is continuing to drive rapid changes in customer behaviour and Australia Post’s challenge is to evolve our 205 year old organisation to meet the needs of today whilst ensuring it drives sustainable growth in new products and services.  Improving the way the organisation creates and executes new ideas, whether that is from our front-line customer facing staff or our staff based in headquarters, is an important area of focus.

This results in improvements in how we serve and enable our customers and communities. One area is through our customer connect platform which is a suite of API’s and a support community that enables our customers and third parties to explore and innovate around new products, services and customer experiences. Our digital teams have been at the heart of these changes and continue to work hard to bring these and many other solutions to life.

6. If you could say one thing to prepare IT managers and CIOs for the changing paradigm, what would that be?

Disruption is happening at an ever increasing pace and it is no longer enough for organisations to respond by simply reorganising around the next set of profitable products and services.  Successful organisations will be those where innovation and adaptation are an inherent part of their culture and way of working.  IT needs to be part of this.  So if there was one thing I’d leave with IT managers and CIOs, it would be this: “build a culture and environment where the creative capacity of your staff and organisation can be set free”.

 

Cameron, thanks so much for taking the time!


The Future of IT Service Delivery

Don’t worry, it’s not another predictions post. The Innovating IT Service conference will be held in Melbourne on the 11-12 March. Gene Kim is keynoting, so of course, I’m going to be there. I was at the hotel bar, suffering oversupply-of-quality-sessions burnout at Knowledge12, at exactly the same time as the only other opportunity I’ve had to see Gene present. I will forever berate myself.

With Gene Kim presenting, there is a cohort of DevOps-oriented presentations on the bill, including an opening keynote by Nigel Dalton of REA Group, who wants to warn us that DevOps may break the business. We’ll also hear from Ed Cortis of BankWest discussing IT agility and resiliency; and there’ll be lots of talk around lean, continuous delivery and the transformation of legacy services.

What I like most about this upcoming conference are the built-in knowledge sharing and round table sessions driven by conversations delegates want to have with the attending industry leaders. It may well be a live-on-stage example of market research, but who cares? It’s not often that an IT conference allows delegates to participate in topic selection.

Early bird prices are in effect until this Friday, 23 January.


LEADit 14: Quicker, simpler, seamless

I’ve tried to capture the most distinct themes that emerged at this year’s Australian national conference for the itSMF in the title. As I predicted last year, our local industry did contract, but not in the way I expected. This year, we had one of our respected consulting firms go into liquidation, and another one acquire a ServiceNow partner. Best practices, frameworks, methodologies and vendors serving the IT service management industry continue to proliferate despite the bad juju of a quiet couple of years on the consulting front.

Just in case you haven’t noticed already, Agile is still at the top of the hype curve. We had more sessions devoted to the popular methodology than we’ve ever had. People want to move on from ITIL’s perceived bureaucracy and move more quickly. Axelos are doing their best to improve the reputation of best practice, but I think ITIL is sorely needing rebranding—Service Management Guidance, anyone? It might make consultants and managers apply more critical thought and discretion to process changes, then, which is exactly why ITIL has a bad rep. (You can pay me later, Axelos.)

Simplicity is an emerging theme this year, with a number of tool vendors jostling for the claim. The only counter to that is Cherwell who say that oversimplification of the interface makes it harder to track and push knowledge through the support workflow.

Something that was emerging last year, but is now squarely on the minds of many practitioners and boffins, alike, is service integration. The larger organisations are wondering how to go about keeping the lines of communication and expectation clear among multiple suppliers; the smaller organisations are wondering how to integrate multiple cloud and legacy systems efficiently, and leverage the data most effectively.

One other theme I haven’t yet brought up, because I wonder if I’m biased, is customer satisfaction over SLAs. The argument is that you could still have all your service levels met and still attract the ire of your customers. Conversely, you might have outages, but if you communicate well, your customers might still love you anyway. So, where does that leave SLAs when greater meaning can be found in customer satisfaction and Net Promoter Scores? What do you think?

In terms of the LEADit event itself, this year, there were more tweeters, new vendors, and a good number of international visitors. I look forward to seeing what comes from the itSMF over coming months as they look for new ways to reach a greater audience.

 

 


Pink14: was it worth it?

Pink14

I’ve heard more than once that the Pink Elephant conference was something to behold. And if I was only to go once in my lifetime, I wanted it to be this year with Canadian astronaut, Commander Hadfield, as the keynote. So, I ponied up with the outrageous fees that IT conferences can command and I’ve been asked, “was it worth it?”

As a fee-paying delegate, (rather than being there on a speaker ticket), my plan of attack was much different. With so many tracks and no lunch breaks, one really does need to have a plan of attack. I couldn’t just stroll around and visit what took my fancy at the time. I had my book and my highlighter and I had the four days mapped out. It came a little unstuck on day 3, but let’s not talk about that.

I can’t rattle off a few gems without first giving a nod to the Pinkers—the Pink Elephant consultants and staff. The annual conference at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino is just a feat of organisation. And it’s not just about the event. Each of those Pink consultants that I saw deliver presentations are outstanding speakers; Jack Probst, George Spalding, Troy du Moulin, to name just a few. They know their stuff and are true professionals.

Given my personal requirement to maximise ROI for a Pink ticket, I kicked off with a conference optimiser— Sunday afternoon tracks of pre-conference breakout sessions–to see the perennial Pink motivator Kirk Weisler. Everyone can use a good kick in the morale and Kirk’s message was a good reminder for me, as a self-employed consultant, to check in with my goals. Do the activities I do at work connect me to those goals? What about you?

A bit of fizzy rah-rah is a good way to start, but the meat is in the eleventy-billion sessions that Pink makes you choose from. (At least you can download all the session presentations for later consumption.) The Best Practices for Implementing an ITSM Tool was a lively panel discussion with speakers from Citrix GoToAssist, EasyVista, and Navvia. I was interested to hear the recommended practice with tool migration is to leave everything archived in a data warehouse and only bring across open tickets and other live data. But, as my good friend, Craig Wilkey from Attivio, pointed out—what about all that organisational learning now holed up in a bunker? Good point, sir! Perhaps the most interesting thing was the wave of discussion over social media that was provoked by David Mainville’s comment, “there IS no out of the box”. The old configuration vs customisation question.

There were industry activities involving think tanks and Axelos announcements—here’s a good rundown from Macanta—and and some well-deserving winners of awards. Oh, Attivio? Yeah, they won innovation of the year for their unified information access platform—that’s heartening for anyone who cares about knowledge management.

And what about the guy I’d come all this way to see? He did not disappoint. Talk about inspiring. Commander Chris Hadfield has been booked for the keynote well in advance, while he was still on the International Space Station. He shared his photography and experiences of living in space and learning from failure. The most significant message for us as IT people is, plan to fail. Because if you plan to fail, you’ll know exactly how to respond if it does. The whole room was mesmerised and when he finished singing Space Oddity at the conclusion of his talk, we all erupted with applause.

IMG_2424

So, was it worth it? Yes. Especially for the in-person connections that were made after having interacted with so many of these smart people online for a year or two.

Will you go next year?

Similar bat time, same bat channel, superheroes.

 

 

Other Pink14 blog posts here:

Rebecca Beach writing for the ITSM Review

Jon Reynolds (Cloud Sherpas)

Ian Aitchison (LANDESK)

Earl Begley from the University of Kentucky, writing for the ITSM Review

Chuck Darst for HP

James Finister (Tata Consultancy Services)

 


LeadIT13 conference wrap

My annual working-holiday is over for another year, with the conclusion of the itSMF’s LeadIT conference, held in Canberra. With the Under New Management sign still hanging above the Australian chapter, the event went off without a hitch and there’s a renewed sense of interest in what the itSMF can do to reach more members. New business manager, Bruce Harvey, is intending to get out and about to speak to all committee members, so I look forward to giving my two cents whenever that comes around.

Canberra were wonderful hosts for the conference and all the volunteers worked tirelessly over the three or four days to ensure all our sessions ran smoothly.

One can’t help but notice the common themes that tend to crop up through the content of any conference. LeadIT13’s overarching theme was service management in a connected world, but there was an undercurrent of disruption. While the services we support become more and more complex—with multi-vendor management and multiple user-devices, just for starters—there’s a growing sense of contraction within our industry. Yes, more with less, but even our frameworks and methodologies are beginning to shift with the rumbles. Rob England’s keynote discussed a need to find common ground between DevOps and ITSM. Dave O’Reardon brings Kanban to continual service improvement. Aale Roos provokes us to ditch ITIL processes left, right and centre. I want community management and knowledge management to come together in our business-as-usual to take advantage of the valuable knowledge of our user community. Where the agile movement is concerned, it’s not just an undercurrent, but a very strong rip. And those IT managers on the ground, who are constantly learning and iterating their checks and balances in their agile environments and sharing their stories (pardon the pun) with us, will be next year’s luminaries.

I saw a couple of great product demos in the exhibit hall this year and wanted to give a shout-out to one in particular. Early last year, I moaned all over social media that vendors with social activity feeds hadn’t built in any functionality to easily capture comments and turn them into structured knowledge for easy reuse. Frontrange’s Heat has a social service management component that does exactly that. So, thumbs up from me.

If you missed my session on community support in the enterprise, you can catch the TFT13 recording, which is only slightly different.

See you in Melbourne for LeadIT14!


Change management and knowledge management holding each other’s hand

Jeanette Allom-Hill is the Change Leadership Director for the NSW State Treasury. She’ll be presenting Change Mangement—KM’s symbiotic partner or alter ego? at July’s KM Australia Congress. I spoke to her recently about her role in the NSW state government, and from our conversation, I’m sure she’ll have loads of fascinating stories about change management in the workplace.

1. As the change leadership director of the NSW Treasury, what are your day-to-day responsibilities and what sort of change projects do you oversee?
There is a change of leadership project which is about building a competency of our leaders and that’s an executive level project, which includes having done a change competency review on all of our leaders and looking at how we get them to be great change leaders, so we have road maps for each of them around, acting as visible leadership, communication, building a coalition, all the key components of being great leaders of change, but also great sponsors of change. So that’s like a one-on-one type of mentoring role.

The organisational design role is a role that talks about how do you manage change at an organisational level when you’re introducing a complete reorganisational design, so that’s everything from restructuring the organisation and then restructuring the processes but also supporting people through things like voluntary redundancies.

The last is managing the program of work, so the role in the whole of government financial management reform. I manage the program end-to-end that manages all of the components of stakeholder engagement, change communications and capability.

2. You’ve had experience in operational, service, and planning roles across the government and private sectors, (including Microsoft and Optus). Have you found that approaches or responses to change projects differ across those sectors?
Yes, generally speaking, private enterprises seem to really understand the concept of hiring people who have change as part of their DNA very early on, and then build change as a positive experience, because they think about how that benefits a person day-to-day. So, whenever they do change they think about building on the strategies of the person’s awareness of the change, their desire for the change, and how do we get them to realise that this is the best thing for them? Whereas, the public sector are just only starting to realise that that’s fundamental. So we’re starting to do a big piece of work around the fact that the people in the new Treasury need to adapt to change—and what does that look like? How do you measure that? How do you support that? How do you develop that?

I think its been a slower take up in government than it has in the private sector, because private has been thinking that way for a long time. The great thing is that governments are now starting to think that way but it’s more of, for Treasury, it’s after 185 years of an entrenched culture and way of being that we are having to change. I think having done operations roles, and customer service roles, and then a change role—everything in the operations world is fast-paced, compared in a change world to try to, first of all, build a belief that there needs to be someone who is managing change and that the people side of all change that we’re going through is just as important as the project side and the leadership side. It’s a harder piece of work to do than it is if you’re doing an operational role, or a role that is needed as part of the functional day-to-day operation of the business.

3. You’re also the Chair of the Community of Change Professionals for the NSW Public Sector. In what ways has the group improved the practice of change management in the NSW State Government?
We were established in December 2012, so we are half way through our first year. The core areas that we’re working on, and we had lots of really good small wins, but the big areas that we’re working on is obviously being able to build a network of Change people in the NSW Public Sector, so that junior people have access to senior people and resources and best practice information. They can also network with their colleagues, but they also have an ability for career development and opportunities, including a model that we’re put in, which is around mentoring specifically for change people.
Some of the runs we have on the board at the moment are obviously we’ve done some networking events to allow people to make connections at work together. We have a knowledge base where people can go and get information around change and pull resources from other people and colleagues across the NSW Public Sector, and that therefore drives that consistency in our approach. We try to strengthen best practice change leadership and change management capabilities, so what we’ve done is we’ve actually got all the senior people in Change, so directors and principal advisors, and we meet every month and talk about what we’re doing to try and strengthen our impact in the public sector—how we can work collaboratively, to work as a group, but also doing tactical things like developing the service offering section to the agencies, which is things like, if you want to hire a change professional, come to us and we will give you a selection of position descriptions, tell you what skills they need, we will help you interview them, we will put them in the mentoring program and we will also provide them with access to a knowledge base that gives them consistent information.

4. That sounds terrific! Is this sort of community a practice something that is rolling out in other parts of the government?
Yes, definitely. I go out and spruik it a lot. There’s currently a community of finance professionals that’s been going for 4 years and that’s chaired by as someone who actually works for me and we’ve actually, in the meantime, established a community practice for HR professionals, for IT professionals and we are just about to launch Legal. The model that we’ve used is now being used in different areas of the NSW Public Sector. I’ve gone to Victoria and Canberra to speak about this and the states are very, very interested in picking up the model and extending across their states as well, because the benefits are huge. It came from the Schott review. Kerry Schott did a big government review about a year ago now. A whole section of the Schott Review talks about communities of practice and the benefits that they can bring to the NSW Public Sector, and we really should work together to establish as many as possible to strive for those benefits.

5. Can a change manager make a great knowledge manager, and vice versa? Or do you think these are discrete skill-sets that complement each other?
It is my personal opinion—and I have had people who have done knowledge management for many years—I fundamentally believe that a change manager should have a really diverse mix of skills to really be effective in the business, and knowledge management is one of them. They have to be holding each other’s hand. It’s like saying you’re doing change without comms or you’re doing change without an HR understanding. You absolutely have to have an understanding of knowledge management and that the effect that it would have to not use a change management approach when you are doing knowledge management would be diabolical, as one could say. I think that they absolutely should be integrated. When you are talking about a skill set, you can’t say that one human being has a complete skill set, but I think what’s fundamental to Change people is they understand the role that they play in knowledge management and knowledge management people should understand the role that Change and change management has to play in knowledge management. One without the other is only 50% success.

6. Looking back on the work you’ve done internationally, have you found some cultures more adaptable to organisational change than others?
Absolutely! I spent pretty much six months living across Western Europe. I came with the perception that particular cultures were going to be more difficult than other cultures and that perception was 100% wrong. When I went into Germany, I found their level of structure, their level of discipline, their level of delivery that was so high, that it was one of the easiest implementations I’ve ever done. When I went to France, the culture, the lack of structure, it was the hardest migration I did. It wasn’t just language barrier, it was—and I don’t think people understand, and which I didn’t until I spent a lot of time overseas—is to absolutely understand that culture is so important to actually drive any type of change. You have to understand how that culture thinks and what they do and what their disciplines are and what they think works, and what their hot buttons are and desire points, and that’s even harder to do in a non-English speaking culture because you’ve got everything else on top of understanding the ways that people think. But there were definitely some cultures that far outweighed others when it came to delivery.

7. There’s no doubt that the introduction of a knowledge management program requires an amount of cultural and organisational change, if you could give one piece of advice what would it be?
I think when you look at what knowledge management is, the key words in the definition of knowledge management say “enable adoption of insights and experiences” and I just think of that word enable—that’s Change language. You absolutely have to understand that knowledge management is about people and if you are going to be successful in anything that you do, you need to take people along the journey. If you are going to get people to change what they do with the process, they way they think, what they do to get their information, what they are used to every day, and you’re asking them to do something differently, you absolutely have to embed and understand those people and build their desire to come along that journey with you. If you don’t apply fundamental change management principles to anything or knowledge management or anything else like that, people will not come on the journey and change will not be sustainable. For all of us, in every piece of work that we do, and knowledge management being one of them, we want that change to be sustainable and we want people to adapt their behaviour to use the system differently, to step up in things they are doing. In order to do that, we have to apply basic principles around people, which is what change is.

Thanks to Jeanette for taking the time to share some of her experiences in change and knowledge management. You can read more about the KM Congress on these two posts.


KM Australia Congress 2013 – An interview with Simon Cheng from Ernst & Young

Simon Cheng is the knowledge leader for Ernst & Young’s Transaction Advisory Services in the Asia-Pacific region. He’ll be giving his session, Why should your CEO care about knowledge management?, on the second day of the KM Australia congress. The programme brings together lots of interesting speakers and case studies from a range of industries and sectors. In this interview, Simon talks about knowledge management in a global accountancy firm.
 
1. You’ve been at Ernst &Young for many years and, in fact, started out as a Tax Manager there. How did you find yourself in a knowledge leadership role? Were you identified as having an affinity for KM or did you forge a path?
At the time, it certainly felt as if I was forging my own path as, arguably, I fell into a KM career by accident.  During my time in tax, I did not envisage myself leaving.

However, in 2005, our knowledge team in Hong Kong started to expand its operations and actively recruit within the organisation for people interested in a rotation to a knowledge role.  At that time, I had a very limited understanding of KM but was loathe to turn down an opportunity to learn something new.  During my initial talks with our CKO, he was able to paint a vivid picture of what the knowledge team was trying to do and the value that they were trying to bring to the business.

I was sold.

Our vision of bringing together our people’s shared knowledge and experience, of enabling them with the right content, tools and experience so that they could be responsive to our clients; of empowering them with the insights that make a difference in the market – all of these combined to open my eyes to a world that I had never previously imagined.  It was this vision which prompted my move away from tax and into knowledge.

With a bit of hindsight, I believe I was probably destined for a KM role eventually.  Even during my time in tax, I had been involved in non-client facing projects related to improving our workflows and transfer of knowledge.   I didn’t recognise them as KM projects then but they would lay the foundation for my eventual journey into KM.

2. What sort of issues does knowledge management inside a large accounting firm address?
On a broad level, some of the issues faced are:

Diverse service lines (audit, tax, transaction advisory services and advisory) – Our service lines are very different from each other. Then, within each service line, we have numerous different service offerings. The issue is that each of these service offerings has very differing knowledge needs. As you can imagine, trying to manage these diverse knowledge needs so that we can share across the organisation using a common language and common tools requires an approach with high flexibility.

Hundreds of communities (geographic areas, industries, sectors, service lines, account teams) – One of the biggest benefits of a community with a shared interest is the ability of members of that community to connect with each other with a shared culture and language. However, when communities overlap, we have to look out for any issues around sharing cross-community in terms of culture, language as well as convenience.

Constant change and growth in the market – It is widely acknowledged that the one constant in our current market is change. From a KM point of view, this means that our KM approach, tools and processes must also be constantly reviewed to ensure that they are still relevant and providing the right information and insight to our practitioners to enable their service delivery.

Staff who are highly mobile and remote and who collaborate across the above communities – It goes without saying that all of the systems and tools that we set up are worthless if our people don’t have access to them. The nature of our work means that our people need to be able to access our repositories, our communities and our working papers even while on the road. This is particularly problematic given the stringent security requirements resulting from our handling of sensitive information. Then factor in other concerns such as legal and privacy issues which vary from country to country and you very soon find yourself dealing with very pragmatic issues beyond the realm of “pure” KM.

A significant proportion of our population is recent graduates, who are accustomed to new technologies such as social networking techniques – The explosion in popularity and influence of social networking has been amazing to see. Naturally, we need to cater to the requirements of our users in terms of how they share knowledge. However, while social networking has opened up new avenues to drive knowledge sharing, the challenge is in finding the right balance between the push-pull strategy given the new tools available to us.

3. KM is often touted as a way of gaining a competitive edge. Is this part of the pitch to a CEO, and do you think the message needs to be different across the government, NFP and private sectors?
KM as a competitive edge is always included in the pitch although we may not always specifically label it as such. Instead, we try to focus on the strategic goals the business is trying to achieve and identify how KM can be used to help the organisation achieve those goals. In this sense, it is not KM itself which is the competitive advantage but KM matched with the right organisational strategy (although it is worth mentioning that KM can also be used to help define the right organisational strategy).

I believe it is this practical approach to demonstrating the value of KM which makes KM equally relevant regardless of whether you are working in government, NFP or the private sector.

4. Often there’s a groundswell for knowledge management at the lower, operational levels of the organisation, but that group hits a wall where they may need more budget, resources, or even just an emphasis on strategic importance from higher up. What’s been your experience and do you think KM initiatives can be grown from the bottom-up in this way?
Leadership support is a key requirement for any KM initiative to succeed.

This is based on my own experience in implementing KM initiatives as well as being echoed by our people who, in their feedback to us, indicate that visible leadership support of the KM initiative is important to their own adoption. From a practical point of view, the challenge becomes one of placing ideas generated by the lower, operational levels of the organisation in front of leadership.

Innovation is important to Ernst & Young and we have adopted various programs and tools to drive the generation of ideas from our people. For example, within Transactions Advisory Services, we use a global online innovation platform to capture ideas from all levels of the organisation with people having the power to vote for those ideas which resonate with them. These ideas are monitored by the Innovation Advisory Board, which has the authority to take the best ideas and turn them into real projects (with an invite to the original idea submitter to take part in developing that idea to fruition).

5. Do you think some industries, more than others, have a propensity for good knowledge management practices, and why do you think that might be?
I don’t think that any particular industry is better suited for good KM practices and in fact, am constantly amazed at where good KM practices spring from. Even if we were to only restrict ourselves to looking at award winners, you can see a wide range of different industries represented in the annual global and regional MAKE awards where, for example, previous winners have come from consultancy firms to consumer product companies and from both the private and public sector.

6. What do you think are the important qualities for a knowledge leader to have?
Team building – In many ways, this is a critical skill and applicable from the very start of the KM journey all the way through to the end. At the start of the KM journey, it is important for the knowledge leader to build a good rapport with the business leaders so that the business issues can be understood. Even after the KM project is approved, actual implementation invariably requires support from different functions within the organisation (for example, even something simple like building a central repository for stored knowledge would require IT support). Lastly, building rapport with end users is important to enable the adoption of the new tools or processes and, potentially, corresponding culture change.

Communications – While linked to team-building in some ways, this skill is important enough to warrant separate inclusion and covers many aspects. Firstly, active listening is important so that you are addressing the actual needs and issues faced by the business. In addition, the knowledge leader needs to be able to communicate the vision that KM is trying to achieve and drive the messaging around new tools and processes. As you would expect, good presentation skills are invaluable.

Project Management – Ultimately, it is the ability of the knowledge leader to deliver actual results which will determine whether KM is adding value to the organisation. And when it comes to implementation and delivery, project management skills are critical. While it’s naive to pretend that every project will end on time and within budget, good project management skills will give advance warning of potential pitfalls and surprises while giving leadership confidence that you are able to keep things on track.

7. Can you share your best tip for anyone who may be about to pitch a KM strategy to an unsuspecting manager?
Don’t sell KM – sell a solution to a problem the manager is dealing with.

 

Thanks so much for your time, Simon. Find out more about this year’s KM Australia congress.


KM Australia 2013

Coming next month is the KM Australia congress. Held at Luna Park’s Crystal Palace function rooms on July 23-25, the congress will be featuring some great international speakers and interesting workshops. In fact, if you’re interested in learning more about Knowledge Centred Support, Simone Moore and I will be conducting a workshops in the afternoon session on the 25th. If you’re a knowledge manager, KCS is a methodology you can apply to any support situation to speed up resolution, bolster self-service, trim costs, and keep knowledge flowing between customers and operational staff.

It promises to be another great few days of learning and networking with other passionate KMers. This year’s Chair is Cory Banks, and I asked him what he expects the hot topics for 2013 to be.

“There are two sides to this. There is what I believe people want to know and what people need to know. I think people will want to know more about how to use social technologies to enhance knowledge sharing in organisations. I think in the current economic climate, people need to know how to communicate the value proposition of KM in their organisations context, focus on how it relates to business performance (bottom line) and how to get closer to the business through good stakeholder engagement and knowledge brokering.”

The format of the KM Australia Congress is conversational. The speaker presents for 20-odd minutes, and delegates at each of the round tables have an opportunity to discuss the content and how it applies to themselves. The presentation closes with each table presenting their feedback and then some Q&A with the speaker.

“The KM Australia Congress is a great opportunity to practice what we preach regarding learning and transferring knowledge. You only get so much from a ‘talking head’ standing up the front of the room and telling a story.
Far too often, a person with responsibility for KM in an organisation ends up in a team of one, without any peers or colleagues to collaborate with, bounce ideas off or learn from. The Congress is the biggest annual gathering of KM practitioners in Australia from across industry and around the world. It is a fantastic opportunity to hear from the speakers, but also tap into the experiences of fellow practitioners through conversations. The format allows for this conversation to take place and hear a number of different perspectives, rather than just the view from the podium.”

I enjoyed the format last year, and I think I retained more because of the discussions. When you’re there to participate, you’re less inclined to zone out and play with your smartphone. And you’ll be able to do something new at this year’s Congress, while you’re hovering around drinking coffee and scoffing pastries. I asked Cory to tell us what will happen in the KM Conversations.

“This year we are looking to focus some of the background conversations that would normally take place during the morning tea break. This is being done by assigning an experienced facilitator to a table to take the conversation down the rabbit hole around a topic.”

Over  the coming weeks, I’ll be bringing you interviews with some of the Australian speakers who are involved with knowledge and change management in a variety of sectors.


This revolution will be televised

TFT12 banner

Just when I thought this year’s speaking topic had been retired, I am back like John Farnham. (Australians will understand that reference.)

The conference industry is about to be disrupted; as if social media wasn’t enough. IT conferences have traditionally been the purview of managers, CxOs and others with corporate memberships. They’re expensive, and often involve travel and accommodation to boot. All that is about to change.

Starting on the 5th December at 10am Auckland, NZ time, the world’s first online IT conference will begin, following the sun with 8 speakers in Australasia, 8 speakers in EMEA, and 8 speakers in the US. Here’s the full breakdown.

It’s free, streamed live to YouTube via Google hangout and doesn’t even require registration. (Unless you’d like to be informed of event news via email. Do that here.)

You’ll be able to interact and contribute to sessions just like a regular, in-person event.

I’m honoured and excited to be taking part in such a ground-breaking event along with some fantastic speakers including Amber Case, Karen Ferris, Rob England, Matthew Hooper, and more. For a reminder of what I’ll be speaking about check my events page. This is an opportunity for those practitioners in the hot seats to get their hands on the kind of thought-provoking and useful information that has only ever been available to those with a couple of thousand dollars to spare.

After all, just about all of us are working in some form of IT these days; we should ALL be able to access the content that helps us do better at it.


Swarmconf 2012 wrap

I’d happily find any old reason to visit Melbourne, but this year’s Swarm conference promised to be a good one. I’ve been helping founders, Venessa Paech and Alison Michalk, put the concept of an Online Community Managers conference in front of more eyeballs, and I’d already known Alison through her professional forum moderation roles in the past. The opportunity to meet in person was something I’d already been looking forward to, but Swarmconf gave us all the opportunity to hear from established Community identities including Laurel Papworth, Yammer’s Global Head of Community, Maria Ogneva, and HuffPo’s Community Manager, Justin Isaf, amongst others.

It was certainly the most comfortable conference I’ve ever been to, complete with hammock, beanbags and in-room coffee cart with baristas; and being at Hub Melbourne’s co-working office, there’s plenty of power for laptop and phone charging. But despite the hipster environs and the hipster-gourmet catering of Kinfolk Café, the functions community managers perform aren’t just the purview of, well, hipsters and their start-ups. There were delegates from “stodgy” financial institutions, “conservative” motoring organisations, other large corporates, plus a healthy representation of not-for-profits and consultants.

Kicking off the event, Maria Ogneva took us through the cast of characters that make up a community and busted some myths common to enterprise social tools.

Maria Ogneva busts community myths

Photo credit @hughstephens

She also highlighted the potential $1.3 trillion in value from untapped internal communications.  We were then onto Huffington Post’s Justin Isaf, who explained how, aided by technology, a team of 28 moderators working 6 hour shifts from home (or anywhere), 6 days a week, pre-moderates 9 million comments a month. Think about the maths on that. Phenomenal. Justin believes in moderation for the safe environment it provides for community participants

The future of the internet

The future of the internet, according to Justin Isaf. Photo Credit @SocialMediainOz

After morning tea academic, Matthew Allen, presented his paper Is There Room For Community in All These Social Networks? As the “person becomes the portal”, we no longer go to Facebook; it goes wherever we go. And so it was good timing that the next speaker, David Hood, concentrated on the always-on nature of our modern lives. Those with community management roles are nourishing their communities often at the expense of their own time to reenergise.

As we moved through the afternoon, Laurel Papworth warned us of the coming “shitstorm”, where community management as an emerging profession will need to navigate legal decisions and changing paradigms. One of the problems is our inability to define the role of community management. As Craig Thomler revealed from a recent industry survey, people identifying themselves as community managers are doing a mix of marketing, PR, moderating and social media management.

These are the comments that have resonated the most since Swarmconf—the emerging nature of community management and its ill-defined parameters. There’s no doubt an industry body will need to form as legal rulings around social networks begin to impact companies and communities in new ways.

In knowledge management, communities of practice are part of the toolkit, but as a greater percentage of employees work remotely, our CoPs will be formed online via company forums or other enterprise social tools. And, as ITSM advances to promote more self-service, the vehicle on offer may well be a self-help forum. Therefore, understanding the functions and concerns of community management comes under the umbrella of KM and, for that reason, I highly recommend future Swarmconf events.

More details

Storify threads by Matthew Cox and Hugh Stephens.

Official Swarmconf blog.

Laurel Papworth’s 9 Step Social media Strategy


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