Pushing the Envelope: From CMS to KCMS #KMWorld

kmworld-socialSpeaker: Laurie Nelsen, Sr. Manager – Ontologist, Mayo Clinic

[These are my notes from the KMWorld 2014 Conference. Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]

Session Description: Mayo Clinic’s delivery of high-quality, affordable healthcare depends on integrating knowledge to promote innovation across patient care, research, and education. Providing the best current health information and services requires an agile and responsive content management ecosystem for creating and managing content as well as meeting the emerging needs for the delivery of “smart” content. The Clinic’s solution was to extend traditional CM technologies with a semantic services layer to support standards-based knowledge interoperability within and between organizations. Nelson shares the technical architecture and design choices made to build and deploy its Knowledge Content Management System (KCMS). KCMS’s solution to the problem of knowledge integration and flexible access is twofold: First, it utilizes the capabilities of the CMS to author, manage, and deliver the information. Secondly, it tightly integrates the CMS with a semantic services layer that provides the intelligence that enables users to find the right information, no matter who authored it or how it is stored.

NOTES:

  • Start by defining the problem: Content management system (CMS) technology provides content, authority and delivery functionality, but is fundamentally different than vocabulary and annotation (tagging) management technology, which provides the semantic context of the content to support findability.
  • Then learn to tell the story well: Create success story about how the problem could be solved and then told it, over and over again. Their story illustrated “semantics in action.”  (For an example, see their MayoClinic.com guide on Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Their approach: Their approach involved creating a pattern with a semantic overlayer to the content manager. This could be used to create one or one thousand disease guides. They were also able to replace manual links with new dynamically generated links that were organized by the semantic layer. As a result, the organization banned all manual links.
  • Vocabularies: While they try to use as many of the standardized vocabularies, they found that there were not great standard patient-facing or consumer-facing vocabularies. So they had to create those themselves. They have a series of ontologies: people, organization, medical condition, clinical studies, etc. Once they started identified the connections among these ontologies, they found powerful relationships.
  • Next stage: They are working on integrating their systems into a single system. They have learned that innovation does not end with implementation of the technical solution. You need upgrades and you need to continuous improve. They also need to find and tell new stories.
  • True adoption is a really long process: you need to keep nurture the tool and you need to keep telling potential users about how it works and how it can help.
  • Understand and exploit your tools and systems: Why drive a Honda when you have a Maserati in the garage?
  • Biggest Lesson Learned: It’s really about the story. Read The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling by Stephen Denning.
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Steve Jobs and Legal KM

Tribute to Steve Jobs 1955 - 2011 The day after Steve Jobs died, a knowledge management colleague at another law firm asked why a man who had such a profound influence on technology had seemingly little influence on legal knowledge management.  That stopped conversation for a moment.  Tongue firmly in cheek, I countered with the proposition that if Steve Jobs had turned his attention to legal technology, it would work a great deal better and be easier to use than it is.

All joking aside, my colleague’s question started me wondering about Steve Jobs’ legacy with respect to knowledge management.  After a little Google research, I must admit I haven’t found anything that Steve Jobs said directly about knowledge management.  However, I have found lots of things he said and did that legal KM should not ignore:

  • Focus on Simplicity. Steve Jobs was famous for his commitment to simplifying tools and processes. His drive to eliminate fussy, confusing buttons from the cellphone led to the iPhone. Stephen Wolfram says that Jobs stood out for his astonishing clarity of thought.  He “took complex situations, understood their essence, and used that understanding to make a bold definitive move, often in a completely unexpected direction.” Sometimes lawyers and legal KM professionals can make the error of over-complicating matters.  Steve Jobs would not approve.
  • User Experience Trumps All. Cliff Kuang, writing for Fast Company, said:  “Jobs may not be the greatest technologist or engineer of his generation. But he is perhaps the greatest user of technology to ever live….”  In short, Jobs was a “user-experience savant.” Kuang continues, “It’s not that Jobs doesn’t think like a consumer–he just thinks like one standing in the near future, not in the recent past.” Even if you don’t have someone like Steve Jobs in your firm, you can achieve better results by listening carefully to your internal clients.  Steve Denning argues that even with Steve Jobs’ famous aesthetic sense and conviction about what the customer wanted, Apple listened to its customers very carefully.
  • Plan Early for the Next Improvement. The launch of a system or application doesn’t mark the end of the project, it’s just the beginning.  Cliff Kuang describes how this fact has become reality at Apple:  “[Jobs] has taught his entire organization to play in the span of product generations rather than product introductions. Apple designers say that now, each design they create has to be presented alongside a mock-up of how that design might evolve in the second or third generation.”  Now contrast that with the plausible view that nothing much new is happening in legal knowledge management.  Things would be different in legal KM if Steve Jobs were in charge.
  • Knowledge Sharing is Essential for Innovation. There is a famous story of the visit Steve Jobs paid to Xerox’s R&D facility.  Daniel Stuhlman recounts it in the following way:

    The computer mouse and the graphical interface were invented at Xerox’s research center. Steve Jobs went on a tour of the facility and was able to get enough ideas to create a new computer software system that eventually led to Mac OS and Windows. Xerox was never able to capitalize on its own discovery. Steve Jobs did not steal an idea, he took a great idea and developed it. I wonder if Xerox had a knowledge management problem or was Steve Jobs a gifted visionary?

If you are wondering what law firm KM might look like had Apple taken an interest in it, look no further than Apple’s 1987 Knowledge Navigator.  I bet the lawyers in your firm would kill for a system like this.

 

[Thanks to Ron Young for reminding me about Knowledge Navigator.]

[Photo Credit: Cornelia Kopp]

 

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Coalition of the Willing

Lawyers in most firms are given a lot of freedom to decide how to manage their own knowledge. In fact, it’s a rare law firm that can demand that its lawyers handle their knowledge in a particular way. For many, the battle began and ended with the document management system. At this point, most firms with document management systems have persuaded their lawyers to create and store documents primarily within the DMS. This has the signal benefit of ensuring that the firm’s work product is located in one place.  The problem, of course, is that while you can require that documents be created within the DMS, it’s much harder to get lawyers do anything more than the most rudimentary profiling of their documents.  As a result, it has until recently been extremely difficult to capture much metadata regarding a document. What’s changed? In part, it’s that lawyers are beginning to learn the value of metadata to assist in the document searches they do every day.  In addition, new document management systems are more intelligently designed and allow simpler filing of documents, coupled with the ability to let new documents “inherit” metadata from the folder in which they are placed.  Couple this with the metadata extraction capabilities of some work product retrieval systems, and the burden on the individual lawyer to create metadata is lightened considerably.

So the good news is that after nearly 20 years of document management systems, we’re finally getting to a point where the technology allows them to work more seamlessly and intuitively for lawyers.  This should encourage greater use (and more rewarding use) of the DMS by lawyers. The bad news is that relatively little of a firm’s knowledge in contained in its work product. What’s your strategy for dealing with that problem?

Unless your firm is run by Attila the Hun, you won’t be able to compel lawyers to share their knowledge via a central repository or medium.  Further, you will run into the problem observed by Steve Denning (see The Economic Imperative to Manage Knowledge) regarding the behavior of “experts” with respect to their knowledge:

As preliminary efforts to establish what the organization knew were launched, it started becoming apparent – to the surprise of many – that the organization did not know what it knew. Inquiries as to the cause of the hesitancy revealed that even the experts were not sure of what they knew. The experts even contested whether they were responsible for sharing their knowledge. They often contended that their job was to meet with their clients and deal with their needs, not sit in an office in headquarters and assemble best practice manuals.

What’s the solution? If you can’t compel sharing, you’ll need to coax sharing.  The best way to do this is to work individually with your experts to identify their personal knowledge management challenges and then find ways to address those needs in a manner  that results in a solution that is satisfactory for that expert AND yields rich material in a selectively shared content repository. Notice, that I used the words “selectively shared.”  Unless you can promise some measure of control over the knowledge, you’ll have a hard time winning the cooperation of your experts.  They will undoubtedly want the freedom to gather and organize the content as they see fit — not as necessarily as the IT department dictates. The key here for technologists and knowledge managers alike is to provide very lightweight systems that provide the individual flexibility cherished by experts. One obvious choice is the range of Enterprise 2.0 tools now available, but I could imagine implementing some firm-wide systems in a way that encourage personalization, sensible organization and sharing rather than the unmanageable wilderness currently found in everyone’s favorite content repository — Outlook.

One challenge is that your work with these individual experts will result in information silos.  However, you can go some distance in managing these new silos by ensuring that the content can be shared easily. Then, see the good that happens when your intelligently-designed system interacts with what Dave Snowden observed as our basic tendency to help in times of true need.

The bottom line is that you have to build a coalition of the willing — willing experts, that is.  Once you’ve helped them organize and find what they know, they’ll be better equipped to share that with others.

[h/t to John Tropea for pointing out the Steve Denning piece]

[Photo Credit: lumaxart]

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