» Archive for the 'Knowledge Management' Category

Information Overload in Government: $31 Billion Spent Managing Information

Thursday, February 19th, 2009 by David Goldes

If you’ve ever wondered what the typical government worker does in the course of his workday, it’s a good chance he spends a lot of time filing, deleting, or sorting paper and/or digital information.  According to research released today by Xerox and Basex, based on a survey conducted by Xerox and Harris Interactive, 58% of surveyed U.S. government and education workers spend nearly half of the typical workday doing just that.  Our research found that the effort to manage information costs local, state, and federal governments a minimum of $31 billion per year.

Today, with cutbacks in services looming if not already in place, tackling the problem of information overload is a good place to start eliminating some of these costs.  Taking such steps will speed up work processes, reduce stress levels, and save time and money.

The survey itself was quite revealing.  57% of those surveyed said that not finding the right information was more frustrating than being stuck in a traffic jam.  38% said that they had to redo reports or other work as a result.  24% said they later discovered they had used the wrong information in preparing their work, and 37% agreed that their organizations are drowning in paper (yes, paper: 50% of the processes of those surveyed are still paper based).

If you are curious about your organization’s exposure to Information Overload, visit our Information Overload Calculator.  The calculator allows you to estimate the impact of the problem on your own organization.

So far, well over 5000 people, in industries ranging from advertising to zoology, have determined their exposure.  If you haven’t yet put a dollar value to your exposure, please fasten your seatbelt and try it yourself.  You’ll be glad you did.

David M. Goldes is the president of Basex.

Enterprise Social Networking: Some thoughts from the Online Community Unconference 2009

Thursday, February 19th, 2009 by Cody Burke

Last week I moderated the Social Networking in the Enterprise session at the Online Community Unconference East 2009 in New York.

The theme for the session was Social Networking in the Enterprise.  We discussed trends in social networking that are both internal and external to the enterprise.  In attendance were over 15 knowledge workers from a variety of organizations including Crowd Fusion, IBM, Leader Networks, Leverage Software, McKinsey, MediaVision, Ramius, SAP, Social Intent, Symphonic Consulting, and Time among others.

Here is what we discussed.

Despite the proliferation of social networking, many organizations remain clueless in this area.  Ultimately most companies want to use social networking to improve collaboration and knowledge sharing but they are not sure as to how to proceed.  In addition, many organizations feel pressured to use public social networks for marketing purposes, but they typically do not have a clearly defined set of goals in mind.

It is also important to recognize that building a social networking presence requires a lot of work behind the scenes.  Just because everyone else has a corporate Facebook page does not mean that it is right for your company.  Clearly, more thought needs to go into the benefits of developing a social networking presence in the context of an organizations identity and its own requirements.

One thing was clear (at least to me), companies that develop social networking tools for the enterprise will need to educate decision makers about the benefits of social networking tools in order to gain traction in the marketplace.

Another interesting topic was that of expertise location, something Basex has reported on extensively.  Many knowledge workers experience difficultly in finding subject matter experts, i.e. a Russian speaker or someone who understands how to deploy a specific software solution, and view social networking tools as a possible solution.  Another interesting trend is that some companies are considering deploying fairly sophisticated social networking tools although they have not yet deployed fairly basic community and collaboration tools (such as instant messaging).  That type of leap may not work very well for their knowledge workers.  Social networking tools add an additional level of complexity that some may not be quite ready for.

In terms of knowledge sharing, we heard that many knowledge workers are still information hoarders and have not learnt that there is tremendous value in sharing information with colleagues.  If an organization can’t get past this obstacle, it will not be able to compete successfully in the knowledge economy, where knowledge sharing is, of course, de rigeur.

The foregoing was just a brief overview.  As with most good discussions, more questions were raised than there was time to answer them, but the quality of both people and ideas that were present was refreshing, and we at Basex look forward to continuing this conversation.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

Google Glitch: Human Error the Culprit

Sunday, February 1st, 2009 by Jonathan Spira
The Google warning Saturday morning

The Google "warning" Saturday morning

A glitch in the Google search service caused the company to warn users – including me early Saturday morning – that every Web site listed in the results could cause harm to their computer.

While doing a search on Google at that time (yes, my work-life balance has been decimated), I noticed something funny about Google’s results.  Every result included a disclaimer that “[T]his site may harm your computer.”  Fearing a virus or other malware (although I couldn’t see how it could possibly have this effect), I tried several other computers including a Mac running Safari.  All searches, regardless of topic, computer, and browser, returned similar warnings.  In addition, although they were present and highlighted in green, the links to the actual Web sites were not clickable.

The problem seemed to last for about an hour.

Google later acknowledged on its blog that all searches during that time period produced links with the same warning message.

The warning was not limited to English

The warning was not limited to English

“What happened?” Google explained in the blog. “Very simply, human error.”  Unbeknownst to most of us, Google does maintain a list of sites that install malware on visitors’ computers in the background.

The list of sites is periodically updated and Google released an update Saturday morning.  This is where the human error comes in.  A Google employee included the URL of “/” in the list and “/” is part of all URLs.  Google caught this problem fairly quickly; according to the company, the maximum duration of the problem for a given user was ca. 40 minutes.  It seemed to impact  me a bit longer than that but then the problem disappeared.

Fortunately, I made several screen captures of the error for posterity.

Google does have a reputation for an extremely reliable service although errors do creep in from time to time.  Last month, a glitch in Google Maps sent drivers travelling within Staten Island on a 283-kilometer detour to Schenectady.

Jonathan B. Spira is the CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Clicking on a link led to this page on Saturday.

Clicking on a link led to this page on Saturday.

Lotusphere: Blue is the New Yellow

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

This week was the 16th annual Lotusphere conference in Orlando, Florida.  It was my 16th as well, although my count includes three Lotuspheres in Berlin.

As has been the custom all these years, IBM once again unleashed a flood of information, both in the general session and throughout the event.  For those allergic to information overload, Orlando was a dangerous place.

The news, from a somewhat modder, hipper, Lotus, which trotted out the Blue Man Group (one had to wonder why it took Big Blue over a decade to book them) and Dan Aykroyd to further underscore the message of collaboration and this year’s theme of resonance.  Last year, incidentally, we said that “yellow is the new black.”   Regardless of color, the tools coming from Lotus allowing knowledge workers to share knowledge and collaborate are stronger and more powerful than ever.

Indeed, resonance can be “very very powerful,” Lotus GM Bob Picciano (attending his first Lotusphere following his appointment to the top position eight months ago) pointed it out in the opening session.  When it’s working at its full potential, he added, it will “absolutely shatter windows.”

With Research in Motion CEO Jim Balsillie present, IBM celebrated the tenth anniversary of the BlackBerry mobile device by unveiling a new BlackBerry client for IBM Lotus Sametime, IBM’s unified communications and collaboration platform, that supports Web conferencing, file transfer, public groups, and enhanced presence.  BlackBerry addicts, excuse me, users, can also open Lotus Symphony word processing documents attached to e-mail or Sametime, with eventual access to presentations and spreadsheets.   They can also download, edit, and post to Lotus Quickr team software.

The new BlackBerry client for IBM Lotus Connections social software platform integrates with e-mail, camera, media player, and the browser, and supports blogs, activities, and communities.  It also supports enhanced profile information including name pronunciations and pictures.  Previously, users on BlackBerry devices could only access Connections’ profiles and tag tools.

But there was more, lots more.

Lotus Sametime
IBM also announced Lotus Sametime 8.5.  Not surprisingly, the new version sports a brand new user interface.  It also includes a tool kit that allows customers to use Sametime to add collaborative capabilities such as presence, instant messaging, and click-to-call, to their business processes.  Sametime features enhanced meeting support, including an Ajax-based zero-download Web client and the ability to add participants by dragging and dropping names.  Other enhancements include improved audio and video, persistent meeting rooms, better support for the Mac and Linux platforms, and the ability to record meetings in industry standard formats.  The Sametime Connect client includes connectivity to profiles within Lotus Connections and pictures from contacts in Lotus Notes.  Sametime Unified Telephony ties Sametime to corporate telephone systems and allows knowledge workers to give out one phone number and set up rules that allow them to be reached based on various conditions (if one is in a meeting, the call could go directly to voicemail unless it’s one’s manager, in which case it would ring on the mobile).

After a year of public beta using the code-name “Project Bluehouse,” IBM announced LotusLive.  The new cloud-based portfolio of collaboration tools and social software supports e-mail, collaboration, and Web conferencing. LotusLive is built using open Web-based standards and an open business model allowing companies to easily integrate third party applications into their environment.  Two LotusLive services are available from the site, Meetings and Events.  Meetings integrate audio and video conferencing; events supports online conferences including registration.

The IBM Web site also lists LotusLive Notes, or IBM Lotus Notes Hosted Messaging in more formal IBM parlance, but unlike Events and Meetings, you can’t sign up and start the service online.  The only button to click is the one that says “Contact Sales.”

Partners for LotusLive: Skype, LinkedIn, Salesforce.com
IBM also announced that LotusLive will support Skype, LinkedIn, and salesforce.com.  LinkedIn members will be able to search LinkedIn’s public professional network from within LotusLive and then collaborate with them using LotusLive services.  Salesforce users will be able to use LotusLive’s collaborative tools in conjunction with the customer and opportunity management tools available in the Salesforce CRM application.  LotusLive users will also be able to call Skype contacts from within LotusLive

LotusLive Engage
IBM also announced the beta of LotusLive Engage, a “smarter” meeting service according to IBM.  Engage is a suite of tools that conflates Web conferencing and collaboration with file storage and sharing, instant messaging, and chart creation.  It allows knowledge workers to continuously engage – not just for one meeting – in a community-like environment.

IBM and SAP present Alloy
IBM and SAP announced their first joint product, Alloy.  Previewed at last year’s Lotusphere under the code name “Atlantic,” Alloy presents information and data from SAP applications within the Lotus Notes client and Lotus Notes applications.

If you want to look back at news from past Lotuspheres, feel free to click back to 2008, 20072006, 2005, or 2004.

Jonathan B. Spira is the CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Information Overload: Now $900 Billion – What is Your Organization’s Exposure?

Friday, December 19th, 2008 by Jonathan Spira

According to our latest research Information Overload costs the U.S. economy a minimum of $900 billion per year in lowered employee productivity and reduced innovation.  Despite its heft, this is a fairly conservative number and reflects the loss of 25% of the knowledge worker’s day to the problem.  The total could be as high as $1 trillion.

Information overload describes an excess of information that results in the loss of ability to make decisions, process information, and prioritize tasks.  It remains a key challenge for companies that operate in the knowledge economy but it is nothing new. Indeed, it was very much on the minds of thought leaders of an earlier information age centuries ago, including Roger Bacon, Samuel Johnson, and Konrad Geßner whose 1545 Bibliotheca universalis warned of the “confusing and harmful abundance of books” and promulgated reading strategies for coping with the overload of information.
In modern times, information overload was first mentioned in 1962, in an article entitled “Operation Basic: The Retrieval of Wasted Knowledge” by Gertram M. Gross.  The problem was predicted by Alvin Toffler in Future Shock (1970), and in 1989, Richard Saul Wurman warned of it in his book, Information Anxiety.

Workers spend up to 50 percent of their day managing information, according to a recent survey conducted by Basex of more than 3,000 knowledge workers, and streamlining these processes can have a significant impact on productivity.  But determining the extent of the problem is the first step.

To help companies understand their financial exposure, Basex has created a free, Web-based Information Overload Calculator at www.iocalculator.com, allowing companies to calculate the impact of the problem on their own operations.  [N.b. Our legal counsel urges that users be seated when operating the calculator.]

Indeed, in order to remain competitive in 2009, companies will need to begin an information overload bailout, i.e. taking active countermeasures, in order to remain competitive.  Nothing is more disruptive to the way we work than information overload and we need to reverse this trend as quickly as possible.

Some companies are already doing so.  Intel, a company with 86,300 employees, sees information overload as a serious problem. “At Intel we estimated the impact of information overload on each knowledge worker at up to eight hours a week,” said Nathan Zeldes, a principal engineer focusing on computing productivity issues at Intel and founding chairman of the Information Overload Research Group, an industry consortium.  “We continuously look at applying new work behaviors that can help reduce its impact.”

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

To File or Not to File, That is the Question

Friday, May 23rd, 2008 by Jonathan Spira

A few weeks ago, we discussed the trials and tribulations that a private equity firm was having in the area of e-mail filing.  Secretaries routinely spent 2+ hours per day filing e-mail messages.  I received numerous comments from readers but Chuck Piotrowski, Corporate Records Manager at Central Vermont Public Service, engaged me in a series of e-mails discussing the pros and cons of filing messages.  This is a discussion that will continue and I’m sure other readers may wish to chime in as well.

An edited version of that correspondence follows:

I love the Basex newsletter. In the past I have been mostly in alignment with your opinions, but in this instance I am not.

I can think of at least 5 reasons to organize e-mail in a business:
1.) Collaboration – Share with those who need it and reduce redundancy.  When people leave the company they leave behind a mountain of unorganized e-mail.
2.) Business Continuity.
3.) E-discovery – who wants to wade through tens of thousands of unorganized e-mails during discovery?  Search engines are good, but they do miss a lot.
4.) Legal Retention – if you don’t organize by subject you’d have to keep all e-mail forever.
5.) Cost of maintaining info-garbage.  What costs more, backing up the joke of the day or having the employee delete the joke of the day daily?

Basex is a great resource and thanks for reading my feedback!

I don’t disagree with your points but the basic problem I have with filing e-mail is that it makes you choose one file folder (not possible to choose multiples unfortunately) and do we put that e-mail in under John Doe or Project XY?

The time it takes for the knowledge worker to think about this each time creates friction and each bit of friction slows down the pace.

All this serves to point out that e-mail as it now stands is an immature medium and that we need to find better places to memorialize important issues.

Do you agree?

I do agree with you that choosing one folder for an e-mail with multiple subjects is a conundrum.  A conundrum that the e-mail user should not be bothered with for every e-mail.  Now, it may be in Joe’s interest (or Joe’s company interest) to have Joe go through a bit of analysis upon saving the e-mail.

To your point [that] e-mail doesn’t have built in classification tools…yet, but you can make some EDMS systems demand a classification upon depositing an e-mail.   Some vendors even have “auto-classification tool” that will scan your e-mail repository and add classification tags.

15 years ago I heard “Send me an email, because my voice mail is full” and now…how many times have you heard, “If you really want to reach me, give me a call, because my inbox is too full!”

Chuck, now we’re getting onto a slippery slope, having knowledge workers start to become knowledge engineers.  Let me give it some additional thought.


Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

How Do We Know What We Don’t Know?

Friday, May 16th, 2008 by Ellen Pearlman

China, Internet Filtration Technology, and Knowledge Sharing

There are 1.3 billion people in the People’s Republic of China, more than enough warm bodies for the government to employ hundreds of thousands of full time Internet censors, which they do.  I can not be certain if this missive is being read either on line or in the transmission stage from China to the States.  All messages going out of the country are filtered for key words as are all websites being accessed.  Therefore I will omit the most heinous key words (that have to do with current world events over a major once every four years sports event occurring in this country) and talk around it as if I were being censored.  Which, in essence, I am.

This filtration is called the “Golden Shield Project”.  There are only three points of entry to the Internet from China, two in Japan and one in Hong Kong.  All the international gateways have a “network sniffer”.  These were originally manufactured by Cisco but now China’s own technology giants make the same product.  The effects of sniffer use is most evident in the handling of messages that do not agree with the ruling party’s ideology when these messages are funneled through one of the major Internet e-mail providers.

Web sites are also filtered to varying degrees.  The simplest way this is done is with a DNS (Domain Name System) block that doesn’t let the request for information get through.  However, if you do manage to get the site, it may return with a “connect reset” or “site not found” message that is indicative of the second level of blocking.  Then there is the “URL Roving Keyword Block” of inflammatory politically incorrect terms that change depending on the political winds.  Lastly there is the page content blackout, as occasionally happens to CNN or the New York Times if the government does not like the information on their pages.  It recently happened when the female third most important politician in the States met with a politically banned person of note.

Part of the rabid patriotism in this country is heartfelt, and part of it is through direct and intentional manipulation of state media.  Unless I supply my Chinese friends with information they tend to be rather uninformed about the world events that tarnish the image of their country.  This leads to the question of how do you know what you don’t know?  The simple answer is that you don’t.  I mention specific events concerning world news to friends, and they are shocked.  They had no idea.  Even people who work high up in cultural and ministerial positions are unaware of the extent of manipulation and filtering of their own private data.  Such data manipulation is apparently no longer confined to the theoretical, it is a fact of life.

Other knowledge sharing “problems” can crop up in China that would be unlikely elsewhere.  One friend in a sensitive cultural post had the misfortune to use Yahoo.fr (France) as her Internet provider.  When the recent tensions with that country were at their highest, none of her messages went out, a terrible situation for a person in the government who deals with time sensitive international bookings.  However, once you understand the parameters there are many shades of grey and tints of brown and blue that enable one to find cracks in the blockading walls.  Knowledge is fluid and analogies go a long way.  Human sensitivity and nuance is vast.  Cisco routers can take you only so far.  In the meantime, those in China will have to rely upon the creative use of language.  Language is poetry and as we all know, poetry can set you free.

Ellen Pearlman is a senior analyst at Basex.

Don’t Organize: Save Time and Get More Done

Friday, May 2nd, 2008 by Jonathan Spira

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the e-mail server meltdown occasioned by too many “reply-to-all” e-mail.

At the time, I thought this might be as bad as it gets.

I was wrong.

Yesterday, on a flight from London to Munich, I spoke with a person sitting nearby, the managing director of a private equity firm based in Germany.  The topic turned to technology and he asked me if I could make a recommendation to solve his biggest problem, namely the filing of e-mail.

My answer was simple: I don’t file e-mail.  I explained that our e-mail system (Lotus Notes) has full text search and that I long ago decided it was a waste of time to move my e-mail out of my inbox into folders.  I further added that the filing away of e-mail messages brings with it several problems, most significantly the choice of which folder one should use.  You can’t of course place an e-mail into several folders similar to the way you might tag something with multiple criteria.  For example, if an e-mail message could go into one of the following folders, Knowledge Economy, Professional Services, IBM, and Microsoft, which should I choose?

After further discussion, he told me his reason that the filing of e-mail was such a concern.  He recently discovered that his secretary spends two hours per day filing e-mail.  He further learnt from his secretary that she is not alone – everyone (i.e. all of the secretaries) spend ca. two hours per day in such endeavors.

Needless to say, given a decent number of secretaries in the firm and the fact that this was one of several points where their work was impacted by information overload, I was speechless.  (Yes, really, I was.)

I wondered out loud how they might get any work done at all.  Our managing director agreed with that assessment.

Further discussion led me to question whether e-mail was the right modality for the type of information exchange being conducted.  My fellow traveler will be discussing this with me shortly, I presume.

In the meantime, if you are wondering what legions of administrative assistants and secretaries might be doing that is keeping them oh so very busy, we now have an answer.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

«Hi, I’m a Knowledge Worker…» Revisited

Friday, April 18th, 2008 by Jonathan Spira

A version of my column “Hi, I’m a Knowledge Worker…” appeared as the cover story of the February 2008 KMWorld under the title Knowledge Worker: Do You Relate?.  This piece discussed the struggle in understanding what knowledge workers actually do.  Understanding this is crucial, given that knowledge workers today comprise a plurality of the workforce in the U.S.

That generated a lot of interesting e-mail from readers but two in particular were worthy of note and I am including excerpts below.

Cindy Smith holds the title “knowledge engineer” at RSMI, a professional services firm.  She works in the IT customer support area and has held the same title at three different companies and two different technology solutions over the past 12 years.

“Since my business card title says Knowledge Engineer, I usually have to explain,” she wrote “There are a couple levels of depth I use.
- It’s kind of like tech writing.
- I manage and promote a knowledge base for a corporate help desk to verify that knowledge is being consistently added, found, used, and updated.”

She notes: “I’ve tried both with my parents and all they can get out of it is I do ‘something with computers.’”

Susan Sommer is director of corporate communications at Tatitlek, an Alaska Native Village Corporation.

She wrote: “Yes, I do think of myself as a knowledge worker, though I haven’t used that particular term to describe to others what I do.  Meeting other information professionals (also a term I hadn’t used until then) at an SLA meeting last year completely opened my eyes to the field as a legitimate discipline on its own, independent of job title or type of organization for which one works.  Since then I’ve been voraciously reading everything I can on KM, ECM, etc.”

“What I learned at SLA, in fact, raised my level of awareness about my profession to an entirely new plane.  Once I started thinking of myself as an information professional instead of ‘just’ a writer (creative and technical), webmaster, project manager, and editor – all titles I’ve held in recent years – I realized how much value I add to my company and how much further I could go beyond what I was already doing.  And when an opportunity came along for me to accept a position in another organization, I had the confidence to call myself an info pro and to ask for what I’m worth.”

As for me, I have to go do something with computers now.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

The Personal Cost of Knowledge Sharing Failures

Friday, February 29th, 2008 by Jonathan Spira

Memo to Lenovo: You owe me six hours from Saturday.  That includes time I spent on the phone with your technical support staff and time spent in following their instructions.

I like Lenovo, both the company and its products.  The tech support people are generally friendly, cooperative, English-speaking, and concerned about resolving my problem.  But they either don’t have all the information they need or are leaving out key parts of the puzzle.

It started with a crash.  The ThinkVantage System Update had been running overnight but didn’t quite make it.  When I restarted the machine, the Access Connections tool that manages Wi-Fi connections wouldn’t connect to the WLAN.

I first spoke with Sainabou in tech support, who told me I should reimage the machine although I could also reinstall four files and that should resolve the problem.  I asked her about using Windows “restore points” to go back to an earlier system configuration (my attempts to use restore points had all failed) but she didn’t comment on that.

When I asked her to remain on the phone with me while I followed her instructions, she told me, in no uncertain terms, that she had already “spent too much time on this call” and needed to end it.  However, she offered to transfer me to Lenovo Experts Live, who, for a fee, would stay on the phone with me.

She also assured me that the instructions she had given me were all that I would need.

After ascertaining that Sainabou’s overly simple instructions lacked certain key steps, I called again.  The person who answered told me he couldn’t help but offered Lenovo Experts Live, again, for a fee.  I asked for a supervisor and was transferred to James Rosell, who did stay on the phone and clarify the procedures, staying on while I uninstalled and reinstalled files.

After about 90 minutes, he asked if he could call back in a short while and left to take another call.  Things were going well at that point so I had no objections.

But he didn’t call back, and since things had gone south at that point I called him.  He then provided additional instructions.

After more unsuccessful attempts at repair I decided to switch to my spare hard drive and start fresh.

But I ran into a bit of difficulty in the setup and now spoke with Warren in tech support.  He solved the problem very quickly and I mentioned to him the restore points issue from hours ago.  He told me that the restore points feature will frequently work only if the machine is booted up in safe mode.  Why Sainabou or James didn’t mention this critical information is beyond me.

Since I still had the other drive, I reinstalled it and went into safe mode and then ran restore points.  Problem solved.

Now, could I have my six hours back please?  And to Lenovo and others, please find better ways of providing your tech support staff with all of the information they need to provide all the answers, not just some of them.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.