Your Experts and Your IT Department – Data Integrity Best Practice

ilya-pavlov-87438  Somewhere in your organization whether it’s on a mainframe, in the cloud, resident on someone’s PC or in a paper file somewhere, just about every piece of data lives, breathes and is waiting to be put to good use.

Even in the best circumstances, often your data inputs are not easily accessible or completely accurate.

As organizations begin to understand the importance of data integrity in an age where data is your company’s gold mine, it is a good time to engage your experts across the organization to verify and bolster your current information assets.

Your data adventure has a few distinct phases:

  1. Locating all relevant data for all parts of the organization
  2. Organizing and archiving it for easy access
  3. Updating as necessary
  4. Migrating everything to your most recent platform – new forms, new enterprise software
  5. Ensuring that your data migration involves people at every stage who can ensure the integrity of your data and the integrity of the way it is handled – from subject matter experts to IT professionals and archivists
  6. Analyzing information collection and storage methods so the way it is collected is consistent and can be retrieved in a logical way – this includes making sure your data fields are named clearly, your forms are clear and your files are logical
  7. Giving IT the responsibility for locking down sensitive data and making it tamper-resistant, including establishing audit trails
  8. Engaging legal to make sure you are handling data correctly in the case of any information that is subject to laws, rules and regulations – this can save you millions or even billions of dollars in fines, lawsuits and such

Your information is your organization’s most important asset. Your data tells you what you are doing right, where your problems lie, what your customers think and how your employees are performing – just to name a few items. If you have a problem or question, you already have the answers. The key to thriving is to make sure you can find what you need, when you need it, in a form that is usable.

No time is too soon to start to review your information collection, storage and retrieval practices, and establish some guidelines to make increase the value of your most important asset.

Are you engaging your experts to make sure your information is accurate?

Photo by Ilya Pavlov on Unsplash

 

Researchers: For Your Eyes Only

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Experts do research. Experts generate research papers. Those papers are referenced by other researchers. And so on. Sometimes you can get lost in the thick and sticky wickets of peer-reviewed journals searching for an arcane piece of information.

For those who live in the world of research and journal articles, you put forth painstaking and time-consuming care in finding the right papers with the latest and most relevant material to support your case. Paul Allen, the lesser-known Microsoft founder, recently put some of his considerable resources toward helping researchers enjoy a better AI-enhanced search engine. Launched in 2015, Semantic  Scholar was originally populated with 3 million computer science papers. Today, it boasts more than 40 million papers, many in the biomedical and environmental fields as well.

While Semantic Scholar has been available for two years, it caught my attention when I was doing some research for a biopharmaceutical company a few weeks ago. The Economist October 19, 2017 edition included a story that mentioned an updated version had just been launched that added 26 million biomedical research papers to its existing 12 million. I jumped on the site to test it out. What makes Semantic Scholar special, and different from other search engines like Google Scholar, is that it uses AI to search and categorize articles relevant to your specific needs rather than relying simply on rankings or citations in other papers based on your search terms.

I was looking for papers that combined two topics not commonly addressed in the same article – on the business and the medicine of a particular disease. The search netted me some good hits that met those unique criteria and sent me to the same reliable publication sources I would normally search. Overall, I had a good experience and recommend it.

From The Economist description:

Like most AI systems, the new Semantic Scholar relies on a neural network – a computer architecture inspired by the way real neurons connect to each other. Neural networks are able to learn tasks by trial-and-error. Miss [Marie] Hagman’s team [the project’s leader] wished to bend their network to the task of recognising [sic] scientific phrases and their contexts…”

To do this Ms Hagman asked four medical researchers to annotate ten entire research papers and 67 isolated abstracts, which were to serve as fodder for the training process. The annotators read the papers and abstracts, and highlighted within them a total of about 7,000 medical ‘topics’ (particular diseases, particular genes, particular proteins and so on). Between these topics they identified some 2,000 pairwise relationships, such as a particular gene encoding a particular protein, or being associated with a particular disease.

That done, they fed the results into the neural network, which, based on the context of a topic (ie, the words surrounding it in the various places it appears) and the pairwise relationships identified by the researchers, was able to find new topics and relationships to add to the hoard. The team then improved the network’s performance by presenting it with previously unseen papers to annotate, and correcting its suggestions until it was able, without help, to annotate such papers correctly. It can now identify 368,071 topics (mentioned a total of 236,979,862 times) and 6,756,863 relationships in the 38m papers available to it.

The upshot is that both scholars and laymen can pull out clutches of papers on particular topics from the database, with a reasonable presumption that those papers are the ones most pertinent to their needs.”

In my experience, that claim is true. For those whose job includes research, this tool is well worth investigating.

Have you had experience with Semantic Scholar or other search engines? We’d like to hear about it in the comment section below.

Photo by Olu Eletu on Unsplash

 

As Human Interface Rides into the Sunset, the Industrial Internet of Things Comes to Town

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The Industrial Internet of Things or IIoT is emerging as a business imperative. The IIoT is the interconnectivity of all parts of your process with a central brain that monitors business health from whether a machine is running properly to tracking shipments in transit in real time. You name it, and it can be connected, monitored, measured, adjusted, scrapped or recalibrated. All without human intervention.

Just the data derived from this information is priceless, which is why companies are jumping on board to integrate smart systems throughout their organizations.

What does this mean for Jack who ran that machine for 35 years and knew by the sound and smell whether it needed repair? Yes, it means you don’t need Jack anymore. Sensors can do that now, and probably better than Jack, because they can be calibrated to read things like vibrations and other leading indicators of trouble on that machine. But that doesn’t put Jack out of a job. Jack just needs to consider a new career in IT.

A friend who works for a pharmaceutical company has developed a sensing device to help customers monitor inventory. When he presented the concept to investors, they were excited not just about the tech behind the device but more excited about the value of the data that could be collected across the supply chain. When sensors are providing accurate feedback on a regular basis- no matter where they are installed – that information has the potential to be priceless.

In an article in IT Business Edge last week, author Carl Weinschenk discussed the results of interviews with several company exeuctives and found there is a lot of excitement about the business potential of the IIoT to eliminate waste, serve customers, increase efficiency and productivity and reduce downtime to name a few benefits. The hurdles remain, and chief among them is to find people who can operate the IIoT…it,s very clear that the great difficult we’re seeing is finding people with the right expertise…In some parts of the technology stack, it’s not too difficult (especially connectivity), but in others it’s still quite difficult, wrote one respondent.

A lot of currently embedded technology is not connectivity-friendly and most companies will require a complete integrated upgrade to take full advantage of the potential. Vendors, suppliers, and other related systems must be considered. And then, of course, there is the need to secure of all that valuable information generated by an IIoT implementation.

Just like other leaps in technology and progress throughout history, this one will take a lot of experts with different skills sets than the experts you have today. Competition will be fierce when all your competitors can make split second decisions based on real time data.

It’s time to groom the next generation of experts who will have skill sets relevant to the IIoT much the way industrial engineers of the World War II generation introduced all new management techniques and organizational structures to support the evolving workplace of the mid-20th Century.

For more information, go to the Industrial Internet Consortium.

Photo by Greta Scholderle Moller on Unsplash

From the Twitterverse: The Importance of Critical Thinking Skills

Capture Okay. I admit it. I love Twitter. I often find out what is happening in the world by following news and information threads.  See #RedSox, for example. But not this week.

The Twitterverse is teaming with inspirational quotes, opportunities to peer quickly into the minds of others (for good or ill!) and creates a place for community and conversation.

The other day I caught this quote from Einstein posted by a Boston University professor:

Told of Edison’s view that a knowledge of facts was vitally important, Einstein disagreed. “A person doesn’t need to go to college to learn facts. He can get them from books. The value of a liberal arts college education is that it trains the mind to think. And that’s something you can’t learn from textbooks.”

Einstein’s quote was never more true in this age of burgeoning information. Replace the word “books” with “the internet”, then replace the word “textbooks” with “a search engine”, and it is obvious that this sentiment is truer today than when it was spoken nearly 100 years ago.

This dramatic uptick in information is evident in the way companies choose  which information to store and transfer, and affects the types of skills and training that the modern corporation must encourage to grow and prosper. Today, a company’s money is well spent on teaching discernment about the relative merit of almost limitless information and on educating employees about the application of the relevant to the task at hand.

Translation for your corporate knowledge management plan:

1. Discern what information is critical and particular to your organization

2. Spend your finite resources to preserve and transfer that information to your employees

3. Spend the rest of your training dollars teaching people how to think, discern, and apply what they know to your challenges

Take it from Einstein.

[Thanks to Boston University Professor of International Studies Vesko Garcevic for the Tweet. Follow @VeskoGarcevic ]

 

Until Robots Make Humans Obsolete, What’s Your Plan?

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According to futurist Ray Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns, he estimated back in 2001 that knowledge will double every 12 months in this century. With such rapid proliferation of knowledge, it begs the question how long experts remain so and what bits of information are important, essential, need to be captured and carried on – or really have any value at all – in light of the rapid progress in robots and artificial intelligence.

For those of us who follow developments in the training world, you know that we are learning how to train robots.  Research is making the leap so that robots can now acquire learning that builds on prior knowledge – you know, the same way we silly old humans learn.

If you believe the future is here, you are right. However, if you believe you still have to operate in the present, you are also right.

For those of us still living in the pre-AI world, we need to continue to contend with the issues of human knowledge capture, retention and transfer between generations of workers for the ongoing success of your enterprise. What and how you capture, preserve and transfer information will change over time, which is a different discussion. For now, consider that you have knowledge under your roof that is the lifeblood of your organization today and preserving it against an imminent loss of expertise remains crucial.

Making a Plan to Retain Human Knowledge Until the Robots Take Over

If your experts flee to retirement or leave your organization for any other reason, you are still vulnerable to losing their valuable knowledge, skills and attitudes to fulfill your mission effectively, efficiently and in a cost-responsible way today.

What are you doing right now to make sure you keep your expertise under your roof even if your experts leave?

Here’s what you can do about these issues in your organization today:

  • Raise awareness. Speak to your organization’s decision makers to help them analyze their risk of losing valuable expertise
  • Get a plan. Explore methods to help you dissect your organization for areas where you are vulnerable to losing your critical experts
  • Work your plan. Identify and capture intelligence from individual experts in your organization

Think about it. Until the robots take over, you still need to rely on the humans that got you where you are.

In my book Finding Your SMEs: Capturing Knowledge From Retiring Subject Matter Experts in Your Organization Before They Leave, I lay out a pathway to dissect your organization, find your experts, decide where to spend your finite resources to preserve knowledge and explore options for preserving and transferring knowledge in an age of rapid change in technology and the way we learn.

Contact us at workingwithsmes@gmail.com to schedule a call to discuss capturing expertise as part of your knowledge management plan.

Photo courtesy of Davide Ragusa on Unsplash.

 

The Ultimate Knowledge Management CQI Process for Organizational Leaders

imagesQC7VSL6F.jpg     Knowledge management is an ongoing, living process.

Ideally, it is part of the knowledge management component of your larger business continuity strategic plan. Using the concept of continuous quality improvement, these six-steps reinforce the idea that your knowledge management process is iterative; you will revisit your decisions in the future, make new ones, and change your tactics to align with evolving business strategy.

Also, it is helpful to recognize that parts of the cycle are always in play somewhere in your organization. As you think about your knowledge management plan, consider the 6 Steps of CPI Knowledge Management framework to review the value of the assets you will dedicate your finite resources to preserve.

6 Steps of Continuous Process Improvement Knowledge Management

  1. Discover and uncover KSAs. Drill down to identify the knowledge, skills and attitudes that make your company unique by uncovering your Competitive Advantages.
  2. Categorize critical information. Distinguish among critical information that makes your company, product or service unique in the marketplace, essential information that is general to your industry but necessary to operations, and non-essential information that is nice-to-have. Identify critical KSAs for business continuity.
  3. Search for internal experts. Find your internal experts who are the keys to your success and possess your critical information.
  4. Capture and preserve critical KSAs. Work with your internal experts to capture your critical knowledge, skills and attitudes using methods that authentically capture them and preserve them in a way that they can be transferred and replicated later.
  5. Transfer critical KSAs. Choose the best methods for transferring specific types of knowledge, skills and attitudes to others, especially relying on technology that you can reasonably expect will be available and usable in the future.
  6. Evaluate and refresh. Review your current critical KSAs against the backdrop of your long-term strategic plan considering the rapid pace of change. As you identify new critical KSAs, repeat this process to capture, preserve and transfer updated assets with the aid of your internal experts.

No, execution of this plan is not easy. However, your discipline in capturing your internal expertise is the lifeblood of your current and future success.

Each of these steps is more fully explored in the book, Finding Your SMEs.  Workshops and consulting are available to help you integrate this process into your strategic plan.

If you would like a copy of the 6 Steps of CPI Knowledge Management diagram, write to me at workingwithsmes@gmail.com and I will email a copy to you.

Please comment below and share your knowledge management challenges as we are always learning together.

 

 

The World’s Oldest Profession

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The world’s oldest profession is not what you think! Training is actually the world’s oldest profession. When the first human babies popped out of the first human mamas, the mamas immediately ramped up knowledge, skills and attitudes transfer. I wasn’t there and haven’t actually seen this documented, but it is a fairly safe bet. If mama didn’t transfer her acquired wisdom to her child, the species would not have survived. And therein lies the foundation for my assumption.

You can eat this, it’s safe.

Stay away from that animal, it’s dangerous.

Put one foot in front of the other like this.

And don’t forget to put your napkin in your lap and start with the silverware on the outside of your place setting.

Mamas have been keeping babies safe and viable in their environment by imparting acquired wisdom from the beginning of time. So I rest my case. Training is the world’s oldest profession.

Extending this example, critical just-in-time information is the heart of training.

Early childhood learning is all about see one-do one: Tie your shoes by bringing this loop around.

Early childhood learning is about immediate feedback: I told you not to touch the stove!

Early childhood learning is about mentoring: Next time she teases you, tell her how she makes you feel.

Just-in-Time Learning Works

Early childhood learning relies on these strategies in the moment because they work. Those same methods have served industrial and business knowledge, skills and attitudes transfer since we hammered out the second wheel. Again, I wasn’t there but it is a safe assumption that the human who smoothed out the rough edges on the first wheel figured out a plan for replicating the process and told the next person. And it became the way it was done.

Early childhood education from mother to child is about the value of short, demonstrative, and immediate learning opportunities.

In the fashion of the watchful caregiver, the uptake of just-in-time educational videos and smartphone reminders allows employees to have tutors and mentors at their fingertips all day long. The training industry is learning how to take advantage of this development in on-demand learning. Short video and electronic smartphone snippets of on-the-job training and reminders are sophisticated extensions of the old fashioned paper job aid posted in a work station.

These electronic job aids provide heretofore impossible access to experts. No matter what your experts do for you, whether she is the best assembler on the floor or he is the best accountant in your department, make sure they are documenting their actions using short, transferable snippets because all the pieces of their aggregated wisdom becomes the bedrock of knowledge transfer.

You can build larger and more intensive learnings from these pieces, but it is important to collect these learning components in situ.

Humans learn best in the moment, when they need it. Capturing and preserving information from experts to be accessed on an as-needed basis is the foundation of knowledge transfer for your organization.

What is your experience of using JIT learning? We welcome comments below.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash by Janko Ferlic, Koper, Slovenia

 

Valuable Knowledge Worth Preserving

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From the turn of the 20th to the turn of the 21st centuries, humankind experienced the greatest leaps in technological advances in recorded history. From horse-drawn buggies to space travel, human intelligence and creativity took us from a plodding, linear existence to soaring, exponential possibilities. Books like Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock first chronicled this geometric explosion of knowledge to Peter Diamandis’ Bold and Abundance took us the rest of the way toward the melding of humans and machines to remake the humanity that brought us here.

No need to recount those books or to re-tread that ground here. Rather, recognize that the same human knowledge and creativity that got us here will get us there. So with the rapid acquisition of new knowledge – some estimates say knowledge now doubles every two years – it is important that we identify our journey and catalogue it individually and collectively.

We live in the greatest transfer of knowledge in all of human history.

The whole of human knowledge is a big bite for anybody, especially you and me operating in isolation. However, taken one person, one company, one organization at a time, we can preserve what we’ve done so we can replicate it. To many practitioners at the organizational level, that is a training function. But a full knowledge capture goes beyond the practical and immediate application of developing a training program for employees to continue best practices. Each organization has a history, a culture and knowledge that went before that may have lost its current relevance but not its importance. It is that broader vision of knowledge capture that this book addresses.

As we rapidly move toward artificial intelligence and computer-generated activities that simulate human functions, it behooves us more than ever to preserve the knowledge, skills and attitudes that makes us essentially human if for no other reason than to create an accurate history.

Having defined your vision and the mission, preserve corporate knowledge, assess your circumstance and judge the value of what you would labor and spend valuable resources to capture.

What valuable knowledge are you preserving?

Please comment below and tell us about your contribution to human wisdom.

Photo by Neven Krcmarek on Unsplash

Are Traditional Experts and NextGen Experts Different?

 john-mark-kuznietsov-174918 1950s: The astrophysicist of yesteryear studied in relative isolation, probably in an exclusive school gleaning formulae from weighty tomes speaking almost exclusively among (usually) his limited universe of peers. Very few understood or related to his comprehension of relativity.

Today: The astrophysicist delivers online classes from MIT widely available on MOOC platforms watched by your curious and precocious 12-year-old. Your son or daughter jumps on social media to post a cool link to the lecture.  Friends “like” it or comment that s/he is a nerd or a rocket scientist or give your child some other widely acknowledged nod of approval. The NextGen astrophysicist is in the flow of like minds.

Two radically different cultural and educational milieu are going to produce two very different individuals. An experience of isolation and exception versus an experience of community and commonality will affect the human personality, both how they see themselves and how they see their place in the world.

A Traditional Expert will carry the experience all his life of being exceptional, being misunderstood and being isolated from the mainstream. A NextGen expert swims in the social flow connecting easily with peers from the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and Germany.

Not All Experts are Astrophysicists

The above example is extreme. Your experts will come from all backgrounds and fields of study. Your Traditional Expert may be the nurse who has been there for 30 years, the machinist who has run that lathe since he graduated from high school or the chemist in your lab who hasn’t looked up from his beaker since Reagan left office. All of them grew up in the same environment of relative isolation and exclusivity in their domain. That is, relative to the widely available, global and instantaneous communication and education of the NextGen of experts who will carry the torch of knowledge forward.

Due to the instantaneous communication and rapid proliferation of ideas, it is estimated that knowledge now doubles about every two years. That, too, changes the nature of experts because no expert remains one for very long.  

These changes have implications for learning, teaching and working styles that impact the way you collect and transfer expertise in your own organization.

Expect a few things from  NextGen Experts:

·         knowledge is widely dispersed and they are open and generous with their knowledge

·         experts commonly explain what they know openly and share it widely

·         expertise is not exclusive

·         knowledge not widely shared is not valuable

·         transfer of knowledge is open sourced and curated

·         learning is tailored to the task, the learner and the environment in which they apply it

What are differences you see between the Traditional Expert and the NextGen Expert? Please comment below.

 

From the Mailbag: Working with Generation Z or Post 9-11 Babies Go to Work

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In this space, we usually focus on the knowledge capture part of your knowledge management plan, specifically working with your soon-to-be-retirees so their expertise isn’t lost to some golf course in Tampa. The flip side of knowledge capture is transferring that information to generations two or three removed. That brings us to the realization that babies born after the year 2000 are entering the workforce this year.

And yes, they are different.

One of our faithful Working with SMEs tribe, Hal Alpiar from bucolic Cookeville, Tennessee, sent us an article entitled “What You Need to Know About Generation Z” with seven helpful tips for maximizing your Gen Z workforce. The article is from AMAC Small Business Solutions dated July 11, 2017, and Hal popped it in snail mail along with one of his cute refrigerator magnets “Are You Breathing?”. Hal is a marketing and training guru who occasionally pitches in around here with advice and support, including his business mentoring.

Here is an excerpt from the AMAC article which you can read in its entirety at this link:

“Much as Generation X didn’t get the same attention baby boomers did, [Generational expert David] Stillman believes the current focus on millennials could leave Generation Z feeling ignored and misunderstood…Stillman says the main thing to know about Gen Z is that they’re not like the millennials.

1.       They want frequent feedback. ..Quick check-ins can be plenty for Gen Z workers.

2.       They seek security…They’re willing to start at the bottom and work their way up, as long as they can expect job security in return.

3.       They’re very competitive…Generation Z employees are more likely to prefer working on their own.

4.       They want to personalize their jobs…The more flexibility and customization your company can offer these workers, the better.

5.       They may be entrepreneurs as well as employees…The ease of starting a side business today appeals to Gen Z’s desire for financial security…Try harnessing Gen Z’s entrepreneurial spirit to create new ideas , products or divisions for your business – and rewarding them for it financially.

6.       They suffer from FOMO. Constantly scanning social media to see what everyone else is doing, Generation Z is suffused with “fear of missing out”…Gen Z may prefer trying out many different jobs or moving laterally to gain new skills…

7.       They’re “phigital”…They expect your business to have the latest technology (just like they do in their personal lives). If you’re at all behind technologically, they’re not likely to want to work for you.”

As you create your knowledge management plan and consider your methods for information and data transfer, look at your youngest workers’ styles and preferences when you shape your knowledge management plan for Gen Z.  After all, they will be fully in charge of your business by the middle of this century.

Thanks to Hal for thinking of us. If you want one of Hal’s “Are You Breathing?” magnets, email him at hal@businessworks.us and tell him you heard about him at the Working with SMEs blog.

We look forward to your comments below.