Crack That Whip: The Disconnect between IT and Business Managers

April 29, 2011

Today I witnessed an interesting conversation and realized the importance of the Information or Knowledge Manager within an organization.  In reviewing some technical documentation, it was obvious that the documentation had not been updated until the current client had actually requested said documentation.

A bit of scramble later and it is noted that there is a single author who had then been replaced.  Makes for an interesting divergence on succession planning for persons responsible for documentation processes. I’ll stick with the cracking of the whip.

A non-technical person was in the room as this issue was being discussed.  The question:

You mean the engineers don’t document how they fix things?

A librarian, an engineer, a coder and a project manager all laughed outloud.  Organization’s do not stay on top of their documentation.  Why?  Because the engineers are doers, they fiddle and then fix.  Rarely do they even remember in five minutes how that fix came to be.  Documenting that process then becomes difficult.  Especially if there is not a knowledge manager in place to monitor, maintain, and remind the technical writers that this must be done regularly.

Business mangers think its done because its a process and should be done. IT thinks I fixed it what else is there.  The need for a liaison between the two is critical.  A qualified Knowledge or Information Manager is a perfect candidate for this role.  They can crack the whip and explain to both parties the whys and why nots of documentation updates.

If your organization is not using a qualified Knowledge Manager to bridge the gap, you could be making a big mistake.

Practical E-Discovery Preparation

January 4, 2011

Now don’t excited – I’m not providing the ultimate answer  – at least not in this space.  However, I will give you some things to consider that might prove useful in terms of cost containment and being ahead of the curve . Before we start talking about the solutions, let’s discuss why e-discovery needs some practical solutions.

  1. U.S. Litigation, specifically discovery costs continue to grow.
    “Specifically, the Searle Survey found that average total outside costs of litigation per company rose 73% from $66 million in 2000 to $115 million in 2008, representing 9% growth per year. “(A Toolkit For Change: How The Federal Civil Rules Advisory Committee Can Fix A Civil Justice System “In Serious Need Of Repair”)
  2. U.S. costs are disproportionate to non-U.S. costs.
  3. Discovery is inefficient.

Now I want to concentrate on #3.  Inefficiencies drive me crazy.  And there is always a way to increase efficiency.  In e-discovery, the vendors are improving their ability to cull out the non-relevant documents.  But that is still not enough.  I think getting in front of the problem will be the key to improving inefficient e-discovery processes.

There was quite a bit of research last year based on surveys that pointed out problems and lots of possible solutions were discussed.  In late 2010 I began noting that one solution, which Answer Maven firmly agrees with, was being proffered: eDiscovery should be a part of business process.

Of course that is easier said than done.  That’s where practical preparation comes into play.  You may wonder what on earth you could do to practically prepare for e-discovery, well that’s an easy answer and a complex application.  It’s content or records management plus.

Many businesses have responded to Sarbanes-Oxley by putting in place records retention policies but rarely do those policies reach into data mapping and content management protocols; especially for small to mid-sized businesses.    That’s where the complexity enters.  It’s not a single department solution.  Collaboration is a necessity for content management and you need the right leader for this type of project.

Source: EDRM Projects:

The Forbes 200 companies may be ahead of the curve by having e-discovery processes in place.  Unfortunately, mid-sized businesses who have the need but not the means are the ones still being caught off-guard by the necessity to respond to a discovery request.

So, I’ll let you think about that a bit before coming back to discuss ways to solve this problem preemptively.

Constance Ard January 3, 2011

Content Management and E-Discovery – Can get along

November 19, 2010

There is well-known idea throughout the “industry” that the E-Discovery and the Content Management folks just don’t get along. The reasons are pretty simple. The content management folks say if an organization has a proper content management solution in place then there is no need for an e-discovery solution. According to the e-discovery folks many content management solutions are not robust enough or are simply not designed to address e-discovery effectively. These both seem to be good arguments, but in fact the sides are coming closer and closer together. As companies merge and products are bundled more and more content management solutions and for that matter e-mail management systems are incorporating e-discovery solutions in their products (hello, Exchange 2010).

On the other side of the coin it seems that a major advantage of having an e-discovery solution in place is better overall content management. When installing an e-discovery solution organizations may begin to view the issue of “content chaos” in a different light. Instead of a headache that needs to be addressed someday in the future issues such as managing e-mail as a record, over-flowing and unstructured data on shared drives, content classification schemes, and the like are pushed to the forefront.

So it seems to me that these days’ e-discovery and content management solutions share much in common. That is not to say that one or other take care of all your needs. Different businesses will require different solutions and some may require several (enterprise search anyone?). However, it does seem like both side of the CM/ED schism are closer than they may think and both will help users get a better grip on managing “content chaos” and reducing potential liability.

Miller Montague November 17, 2010

Mindmaps and Other Ways to Think

October 26, 2010

Content management is often about more than the creation.  It is also about the comprehension and application of the information that will be used. Just as everyone learns differently it becomes important to have different methods to seek and create information. I’m very textual – often if I just write or type something it will be in my head. However, if you show me an exploded diagram or a visual representation I struggle to comprehend. Mind Maps are different.

Mind Maps allow me to shift from text to graphics in a way that works for me.  Other innovations in visual representations and content creation are starting to hit the scene. One such innovations is TrailMeme.

Will graphics overcome the barriers to finding relevant information?  Probably not but these innovations may give content creators and information seekers powerful options that overcome the limits of two-word searching.

Constance Ard October 25, 2010


Open in the Enterprise

October 25, 2010

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of Open.  Specifically I’ve been immersed in the concepts of Open Source Search and Open Content.  I recently  published an article in Online about the Open Law movement.  Just a few short weeks ago I participated in the Lucene Revolution and I’m currently in the final steps of providing some content management structure to an organization that is committed to open content.

All of this openness truly presents a challenge.  Open content is a great ideal but without proper structure and maintenance it becomes open information overload rather than information access.  I appreciate the Open Source and Open Content movements.  Making accessible publicly funded content beyond the gates of the power house commercial vendors is a worthy cause.  Combine that with the genius of Open Source search technology and you are well on your way to creating an affordable solution to age-old problem of finding what you need.

Notice that I say affordable.  In my recent immersions in the OPEN world, I have come away with the distinct impression that there is much to be done still.  Open Source Search solutions offer great alternatives and if you pay money they will work on a problem for you.  If however, you wait for the community solution your enterprise may fall behind in getting what it needs with the Open solution.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t pretend to know all the ins and outs of how open source code companies offer up their products and solutions.  But I did learn at the Lucene Revolution that the community is passionate and talented and limited.  I say limited because as we all know money talks.  If you are paying for a solution, you will, in all likelihood get a solution.  When the closing panel at the Lucene Revolution discussed the weaknesses of Enterprise search solutions, Mr. Dosher of Exalead missed an opportunity to talk about the responsiveness to customers.  Of course that is a shaky argument, we all know that if the fix you need isn’t in the current development track you will wait but at least you will be soothed into knowing that it will be in the next cycle.

Is there a way the Open Source community can you provide that same assurance?  I’m not sure but I think so, especially as they work out their business model kinks

In the meantime, you need working solutions now. A few suggestions to help you provide structure and improve your enterprise content management as you wait for the provider solutions and these are yours for the open taking:

  • Define and communicate the purpose of your content solution
  • Know exactly what you want the system to do and keep it focused
  • Establish an overall owner – this is a great task for an information professional or librarian (in some circles these folks are one and the same).
  • Establish some gateways – Not all information is worth storing.
  • Know and understand the existing features of your chosen solution and train everyone

These may seem simple on the surface but when it comes time to execute you may find they require more thought than you first assumed.

Constance Ard October 24, 2010


Solutions: The Answer Maven Way

September 15, 2010

So today, the news is hot off the press release that Answer Maven has expanded our services and formalized a partnership that we know will bring you solutions.  With that expansion and partnership comes a new website.  I’m excited to make this announcement because I’m well past  (and I’m looking for wood to knock on right now) the 18 month window in which most new business ventures fail.

Now failure isn’t all bad but I much prefer to succeed.  Miller Montague did the design and content uploads for the new website and as he worked through everything my faith in having Miller as a consulting partner for Answer Maven was newly affirmed.  I have little patience and less talent for that type of project.  I can give you content but don’t ask me to make it look good.

The good news is, that with Miller on board, Answer Maven can delve into the hot topic of e-discovery with someone who has a strong technical knowledge as well as the content management experience.  Miller and I have similar backgrounds:

  • Former law firm librarians
  • Current Independent Information Consultants
  • Content Management & Project Management Experience

We knew that our networks, our interests and our experiences would be good complements to each other and that we would be able to offer our clients excellent service either as a team or individually.

Miller has more passion for some of the law firm services than I do and I think he knows my passion is truly with the Project Management side of the business.  Together or separately our solutions will serve information companies well.  We are currently working on a proposal for some CLE programs for the Fayette County Bar.  Once that proposal is finalized and, we hope, approved, announcements will be made here on the blog and on our new site.  We both enjoy research and we love finding ways for our clients to apply social media into their own business strategy.

We are currently working up a menu of training sessions that might be of interest to law firms.  As always, our services are truly designed to fit our customer’s needs and desires.  If you need assistance with any information related business problem, we are happy to help you find the right solution.

Constance Ard, Owner Answer Maven

Author’s Note:  My blog is a marketing venue and while most of the time I prefer to share usable information that will allow you to apply my thoughts and solutions to your problems I do step out boldly on occasion to sell my consulting services.  Now is one of those bold times.

Map it Out.

August 20, 2010

I have been thinking about processes for content management and how even small changes can make a difference. However, sometimes even the suggestion of a small change in the “way we do business” is met with resistance. I have heard more times than I can remember “this is the way we do it and there is no need to change” and “if it is not broken why fix it”.

The problem with this is, that in some cases, processes are broken or inefficient it is just that no one has taken the time to map out the processes. This does not necessarily mean you need to run out and buy some type of workflow mapping software. Sometimes you can just start with a basic graphical representation of a process.

Pen and paper are powerful problem solving tools.

That means taking pen to paper and drawing it out. I did this once with the process of responding to a proposal for an IT solution. After about 20 minutes my little map of what I thought was a fairly simple process looked like a street map of DC. The main point is that what I thought was a simple process was in fact filled with inefficiencies and duplication and I would have never thought about it until I sat down and just mapped it out.

Miller Montague August 18, 2010

Fishing for the Future

August 17, 2010

Today, I’m going to get away from content management and taxonomy for a bit.  I want to talk a bit about productivity.  Since launching Answer Maven just over two years ago, I’ve been busy building the business.  As any self-employed person will tell you, to do it right, you will work harder than you ever did in a 9-5 job.

A lot of my days are 18 hour days with about 14 of those being work hours.  Not every day.  I am continuing to finesse the work-life balance.  At my latest birthday I received from a dear friend a fly fishing kit which included rod, reel, and immediate necessities.  I also received from another near and dear person, a day-long fly fishing class.  For years I had gotten away from one of my old leisure activities for a lot of different reasons.

Earlier this spring, I restarted this old habit.  For me, it is definitely more about the process than the catching and that’s a good thing.  When I first began my business, I worked part-time for a company and did a lot of driving in that position – that was a good time to think.  I’ve now replaced the drive time thinking with fishing.  Now, I’m not equaling the think time by any means, but I’m also not getting paid to fish.  (If only I could!)

What I have learned over the past few months is that a few hours of quiet time fishing allows me to wipe the slate clean or muddle out a problem while not really “working.”  When I was a law librarian, I would grab some BNA Tax Portfolios to file for while working to solve a problem, or if it was a particularly nettlesome situation I would grab the USTR.  I must say, I much prefer the fishing solution.

So, the conclusion of this personal productivity post is that as I continue to work on building Answer Maven into your content management or information management resource, I will fish for the future.  As I fish, I may not catch the big one but inevitably, I will find the Answer.

Muck and Mire: Consequences of Not Managing the Information Gap

August 9, 2010

Taxonomies are just one component of good content management.  And content management is only a single component of knowledge management.

There are many good reasons for both knowledge and content management in business today.  Sometimes it is more effective to explain the consequences of poor content management than the good reasons for it when building  a business case for implementing new processes.

Per AIIM’s Enterprise Content Management three major consequences of poor content management processes

  • Loss of customers who don’t find information when needed
  • Loss of productivity  because employees can’t  find information when needed for daily activities, crisis and even collaboration in a global environment.
  • Loss of institutional knowledge because there is no documentation of who did what, when, how and why?

Retaining customers and decreasing the costs of work are two critical factors in successful business.  If a business can implement information processes that increases findability and decreases looking then they have more time for business activities such as  critical analysis and research and development,  These are the activities  that will allow the company to strive forward rather than spin their wheels stuck in the muck and mire of information mud.
Constance Ard

Taxonomy: Bridging the Information Void Between Creation and Use

August 4, 2010

OK, so now you are beginning to  think about taxonomies in a different light based upon our  discussions this week:  The New Hip and The Backbone.  You may even be thinking about  ways  that  a custom taxonomy could be helpful to you and your own organization. However, getting from thinking about the benefits and implementing a custom taxonomy is a big jump.  Maybe less of  one if you have a forward thinking content management strategy in your business.

However, many organizations still lack such policies and strategies (shameless plug warning: which the professionals at AnswerMaven will gladly help you develop).  Return on Investment (ROI) of a custom taxonomy can be hard to explain to management that has limited exposure to information management. Remember to include these four ways that a taxonomy will help support your organizational activities: (Vernau, Judi. (2005). The Business Benefits of Taxonomy. as you build your case for this efficiency tool.

  • Searching – help improve search results and browsing
  • Re-purposing of content – items are easier to find and item can be recombined
  • Unifying language across organizations – everyone is using the same names for the same items
  • Future-proofing knowledge held in the business –  If someone leaves the organization you know where to find their intellectual material.

Hopefully this has helped some with bridging the gap between the need for and the implementation of a custom taxonomy in your organization.  Questions abound, when a need arises there are lots of vendors ready to jump into the water and bring you to shore.  Building a bridge between your information creators and your information users with a relevant taxonomy and other appropriate tools may just be better than a rescue.

Miller Montague


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