Knowledge Management Institute

Collaboration is Fundamental in a Mobile-First, Cloud-First World

Collaboration is Fundamental in a Mobile-First, Cloud-First World

Oct 15, 2015   |  By
Rebecka Isaksson | Director, KM Programs - Microsoft

 . . . and an essential driver of Business Transformation!

I had the great opportunity to sit down with two CxOs from a European police organization a couple of weeks ago. The topic for discussion was to share experiences and discuss the common challenges and opportunities, that the business transformation of moving into a Mobile-first, Cloud-first world creates.

This was a 2.5-hour discussion, in a casual setting, with no slideware. My favourite kind of meeting, as there is no technology to hide behind or slides that create unnecessary barriers, for a free-flowing conversation and open dialogue.

So what can a Professional Services organization have in common with a police force, you may ask? Quite a lot actually, as it turned out. I am sharing some of the topics and questions we discussed below, as it builds upon a previous blog post, by adding more perspective and detail to those initial high-level points.

We had agreed on the following talking points beforehand:

  • Business Transformation to a Mobile-first, Cloud-first world
  • Project Management, processes & methodologies
  • Change Management, progress tracking and success metrics

The world is transforming rapidly & we need to transform with it! As touched upon in my last blog, most companies and corporations are facing an environment and market pressures, where productivity gains and cost reduction (hard savings/gains) by streamlining the organization, no longer does the trick. We need to find other ways to improve productivity and maintain/grow margins and actively driving Knowledge Management (‘KM’) is one area, where many organisations (unknowingly?) are sitting on large unrealized potential gains.

The rate at which the business is currently changing, means we need to shorten Time To Decision and Time To Execution/Release, substantially. The traditional waterfall-approach no longer scales and the search for the holy grail that is perfection, is starting to undermine ROI and consume margins faster and faster. So we need to work smarter as working faster isn’t a realistic option in most cases.

Here are some things to consider, when trying to help your work-force work smarter:

1. Agile methodologies There are great advantages in running agile projects but there are also challenges as with any approach as one size never fits all.

  • Simplicity and flexibility – as you run short development sprints, test, release and adjust, you can better incorporate user experiences from an early stage. It allows you to start simple and add complexity as needs arise and business requirements are identified.
  • Incremental documentation – not necessarily less documentation, which many think is the case, but it is different from the traditional approach where documentation is created up front. There is a risk that development starts going in circles, unless requirements and decisions, including business reason for making them, are well documented and structured.
  • Better user experience and easier adoption – assuming that users are involved from early on, as it enables you to ‘start small’ (or keep it simple) and add functionality as needed rather than design the entire solution before test/release.

2. Project Structures   Not only how a project is structured and scoped is essential but so is how it is governed. For larger project initiatives it may be much better to break projects up in smaller chunks and coordinate through a Program Office or PMO. Orientation should be by business owner/area and aligned with all up company strategy. This puts additional pressure on governance and best practice is to have each Business (process) Owner/Business Decision Maker represented in a formal Steering Group, with the objective to make business-based decisions and prioritisations between projects as applicable.

This applies to waterfall, as well as agile projects but the traditional multi-year waterfall projects should be avoided, as the changes in the business environment/market are so many and so fast, that in most cases running 2-3 year long projects doesn’t work. Neither do monolithic-style SW implementations, where development goes on for years before anything is actually released to the end users by the way…

3. Business & Solution Requirements  Teams need to be able to quickly and effectively connect, and easily collaborate on documentation and other content, to keep up the pace. By re-using knowledge and content, quality can also be maintained/improved, in spite of the faster pace, and avoid endless review cycles and revisions. 

Another area which is absolutely critical is to capture and manage business requirements, as most users are becoming much smarter, hence pickier, by the week. At the same time documentation of requirements need to be balanced with the shorter lifecycles and shorter Time To Release, so the traditional 120 pages long Vision Scope, may not be ideal, although a high-level scope and shared vision is critical.

Technology is transforming even faster – “I can’t keep up….!”  But it is not only the speed of change that is adding pressures on our organisations. It is also the growing complexity of the environments and eco-systems we operate in (I will intentionally exclude financial- and market pressures for sake of simplicity and focus on topic). Everyone can no longer be an expert in everything, so we need better ways to connect people and information, as to leverage the experts in our organisations wherever they may be located.

You may think this is where the sales pitch comes, pushing Office 365 and SharePoint Online for effective collaboration? But it is not. I am focusing this piece solely on the people and process dimensions of KM as a vehicle for Business Transformation; not the Tools aspect. Implementing a KM solution, is our own experience 80% about People and Process and a mere 20% about Technology/Tools.

Shifting your organization to a true Knowledge organization, is a cultural change effort – not an IT project, or even a process implementation. It’s a cultural shift which requires every single individual in the organization to adopt some new mind-sets and leave some old behaviours behind. Here are a few:

1. Knowledge is no longer power – knowledge is a commodity and information hoarding no longer puts anyone at an advantage. Collaboration and knowledge sharing however, does.

2. Perfect is the enemy of good  - A common mind-set is that any document or artefact (solution) has to be absolutely perfect, before it is put in front of the intended audience/end user. Wrong! Users bandwidth is shrinking as fast as our bandwidth and most would rather get something fast that is continuously improved, than get nothing for 6 months. The more people who can review and provide structured input, throughout the process, the better the outcome and quality of end product but it is key to organise all input well as to avoid chaos

3. User centric approach - This is an absolute must in a day and age where, at least in the US, the Millennial portion of the population has now exceeded the Baby Boomers. The requirements on speed and ease of accessibility across any device or platform, is therefore becoming more and more critical, as user behaviours start shifting towards Mobility and Cloud as primary choices.

It is hard managing this type of intangible changes – like mind-sets and principles – that a cultural shift requires. And it is even harder to track progress and measure business impact as data is correlative, as opposed to causal, at best. Hence the need for many of us, as well as our Business Decision Makers, to start acknowledging and accepting that perhaps not everything can be tracked by hard numbers?

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Your comments are as always very welcome!

PLEASE NOTE: The views and opinions expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.


Rebecka Isaksson is a thought leader and influencer with 15+ years experience of successfully driving Change Management and Operational Excellence multi-year programs, internally and as Management Consultant for many multi-national and global Enterprise Customers. 

Rebecka may be contacted at:  rebecka.isaksson@microsoft.com

 

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