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KMWorld 2016 recap-making connections, sparking innovation

This article appears in the issue January 2017, [Volume 26, Issue 1]
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Attendees at the KMWorld 2016 conference in November in Washington, D.C., were treated to a rich array of workshops, sessions and opportunities for both structured and informal interactions. In addition, 30 vendors in the Enterprise Solutions Showcase offered attendees the chance to get caught up on the technology and services that support knowledge management.

The conference kicked off on Monday, Nov. 14, with workshops that ranged from beginner-friendly KM 101 to advanced topics such as complexity-based design thinking. Practical sessions on intranet development, search solutions and SharePoint tips allowed attendees to zero in on topics of particular interest. Change management, innovation and risk assessment were among the KM issues addressed in the workshops.

Taxonomy Boot Camp spanned two days and provided introductory sessions such as Taxonomy and Facet Analysis for Beginners as well as advanced topics such as Cognitive Meets Technology, in which Daniel Mayer, CEO of Expert System Enterprise, explained the role of cognitive technology in supporting efficient taxonomy development.

Auto-classification was featured in a number of sessions, including discussions of how it is used in conjunction with taxonomy to improve findability. Lila Lee from Consumer Reports described how her organization aims to improve the user experience by leveraging auto-classification.

“We had disparate content and data systems and silos of unleveraged content,” Lee reported. Bringing together people from different subject matter areas, “we were able to reconcile multiple vocabularies,” she said. “However, we realized everyone’s tagging skills and perspectives varied widely, so we also decided to move auto-classification up to a ‘must-have’ feature in the software we selected.” The final outcome was a more consistent process for tagging content and data and a taxonomy that will allow for more relevant and effective search results.

More sophisticated search

In the three-day Enterprise Search and Discovery portion of the conference, presenters consistently pointed out that search, a mainstay of knowledge management for many years, has undergone a fundamental change. The days of search being limited to keywords or even concepts are long gone, and what used to be search is now a much more sophisticated solution good not only for locating but also for interpreting information.

Some analyst firms have changed their terminology, referring to “insight engines” rather than “search technology.” According to Laurent Fanichet, VP for marketing at Sinequa, such solutions allow communication using natural language and provide a conversational interface; they consider contextual information in their analytics and their responses to users; they take into account the history of user interactions, thereby adapting and learning; and they take in new data sources continuously rather than being static.

In the opening keynote of the SharePoint Symposium, Tony Byrne, founder of the Real Story Group, voiced his thoughts as to whether SharePoint has reached its peak, as Microsoft commits more deeply to its Office 365 cloud-based environment. “SharePoint may have peaked,” said Byrne, “but it will stay relevant into the 2020s.” He likened Office 365 to a toddler—a mix of the delightful and the frustrating. “SharePoint in the cloud is now less of a platform and more of a product,” Byrne explained, “which makes it easier to use in some ways but also less customizable. This could change when the ecosystem of third-party software for Office 365 catches up.”

The main conference included three tracks that focused on major themes such as KM strategies and practices, the digital workplace of the future, and KM tools and techniques. Building a KM culture, the role of KM in fostering innovation and social collaboration were also addressed, along with learning and change management in organizations. Trends in enterprise content management and a panel discussion on cognitive computing provided insights on key technologies that sustain knowledge management initiatives.

The future workplace

In her description of the workplace of the future, Cindy Hubert, executive director of client solutions at APQC, cited figures indicating that more than 50 percent of the world’s population now consists of digital natives. Mobility is important to that group because they want to be able to access things—their friends, their bank accounts or directions to a destination. People need information in real time, at the time that an incident is occurring.

Hubert cited five forces that will be important in the future workplace; they included personalization and machine learning, as one might expect. However, a characteristic that kept coming up in the research of APQC’s 2015-2016 KM Advanced Working Group is trust. “Nothing worked well if it did not deal with trust, whether in data, security or business operations,” she said. “It may be the most valuable global currency of our times, because it is what underlies such innovative new businesses as Uber and Airbnb.” The platforms associated with those activities have brought new levels of community ratings, and people rely on them. Reputation management will be increasingly important, given the ease with which information—whether positive or negative—is transmitted now.

Challenging 10 of the basic assumptions of practical knowledge management, author and speaker Stan Garfield took a contrarian approach to such concepts as benchmarking and maturity models. “Benchmarking encourages us to be average, to just do what everyone else is doing,” he maintained. “Each environment is unique and should not be compared to others to measure its success.” He cautioned against collecting metrics for the sake of metrics, saying that instead, organizations should use measurements to take specific actions. Finally, he said to avoid “corporate-speak buzzwords,” which he referred to as “jargon monoxide.” In short, beware of such phrases as “strategic transformation.” The well-attended session was a testament to the participants’ desire to view KM issues from any and all perspectives.

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