Friday, December 29, 2006

Learning from the Intranet

Our Intranet is not the best organised. It can be a little tricky finding some things (like the expense claim form…no, not under procurement… no, not under finance…no, not even under forms…there it is, under HR - ?). Each department has its own section and once you get accustomed to the menu and sub-menu relationship, it is possible to learn a lot about the different functions of the company.

My wider understanding of the different teams and their functions has already started to benefit me when I attend organisation-wide meetings (to better understand different people’s perspectives on a situation) and will no doubt prove invaluable going forward as I better understand their priorities and obstacles when it comes time to gain support for initiatives. Clearly, this relationship can’t be based entirely on what I have read on the Intranet, but it has certainly provided me with an excellent starting point.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Story triggers

One of the concepts in knowledge management that interests me is that of storytelling. I haven't really written about storytelling but it’s something that I read a lot about and it is one of my issues to read more about. One of the articles that I have read recently is “Stories at Work: Story Triggers” by Larry Todd Wilson and Pamela S Daugherty (1999).

In this article they identify a reservation that I have always held about storytelling as a KM tool and that is whether it is always the most appropriate format. Many articles about storytelling would lead you to believe that it is the panacea of KM but Wilson and Daugherty’s article proposes some “triggers” that indicate where storytelling is an appropriate format. So what are the triggers?

Trigger 1 – New or unexpected situations
  • Are you working with an unfamiliar situation?
  • Are you introducing a new concept or process?
  • Do you need to communicate the latest “news” about a person, place, or event within the organisation, or to the world outside the organisation?
  • Have you discovered a better way?
  • Have you experienced an unanticipated outcome or response to something you did?
Trigger 2 – Situations that require engagement of feelings, as well as thoughts
  • Do you need to facilitate acceptance of a new person within a group?
  • Do you need to remove barriers to action?
  • Do you need to persuade someone?
  • Do you need to help someone overcome inertia?
Trigger 3 – A complex situation
  • Are you dealing with a situation that contains many variables, or variables that track along several paths?
  • Do you need to help others bridge the gap between theory and practice?
Trigger 4 – Is this a situation in which you need to help others understand “why?”

On the whole, I’d agree with these triggers as ones that would indicate an appropriate time to use storytelling as a tool – especially trigger number 2. But are there more?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Bruce, David. "Using Metadata to organise an online collection." Update Magazine 12 2006: 36-37.

Looking through my RSS (opens in new window) feeds this morning, I came across an article by someone with the same name as me. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be an article by me! I had been told that the article that I had submitted sometime ago (September or so) would be published either as part of the December or January issue of Update Magazine (opens in new window), CILIP’s monthly magazine for members. Okay, so it isn’t the Guardian but I’m pretty pleased all the same.

The December issue is currently featured as part of the main Update page: (opens in new window)

As a more future-proof link to the article, though, here is its home in the archives: (opens in new window)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Implicit Knowledge

Heard of explicit knowledge? How about tacit knowledge? If you are an information professional, the answer is almost certainly "yes"; these are pretty widely accepted and understood terms and concepts. But what about implicit knowledge? Initially, I sort of felt like I knew what this was but pretty quickly realised that it was a concept I hadn’t come across before reading "Implicit Knowledge Management: the new frontier for corporate capability". It’s an interesting article (if a little ‘salesy’ towards the end) that covers a few different concepts. One of the concepts is knowledge harvesting, the subject of my management diploma dissertation and the reason this document surfaced in an online search.

Implicit Knowledge
Let’s start with implicit knowledge. The article defines it as a middle ground between explicit and tacit knowledge; it is the tacit knowledge that can be transformed into explicit knowledge. It’s not the same thing as tacit knowledge, just captured because, as the authors point out, "not all tacit knowledge can be transfigured into implicit knowledge. There will always be bodies of know-how and experience that remain tacit."

The authors are quite right in pointing out that most organisations that claim to engage in knowledge management would point to systems or processes whose principal function is to capture and consolidate existing explicit knowledge. Few organisations (and none that I know of) are actively engaged in some form of tacit knowledge management. The closest they seem to come is the provision of mechanisms for individuals to share their tacit knowledge. This step is a big one but not the same as capturing it for use once that person has left the organisation. The goal of implicit knowledge management, according to the authors, is "to determine how much of the tacit knowledge in your organisation defies any form of codification, and to mine that which does not."

The last thing on implicit knowledge as a concept is that the authors flag it as not being an effective way to bring staff values into line with company ones. Mentoring and storytelling are highlighted as better ways of achieving that objective.

Codification of process logic or expertise
The authors also touch on the need for a codification process for organising that tacit knowledge that is made implicit. Their example is:
  • Process: an overall series of related tasks resulting in a single business outcome or product
  • Module: major sub-routines in the process, tasks grouped by a common theme – processes may have more than one module
  • Task: an individual step taken in order to accomplish a module
In addition, they draw the distinction between the "cerebral inputs" to the tasks, distinguishing between "Guidance" (how to perform a process) and "Support" (explanations as to why tasks are executed in a particular manner).

Dimensions of knowledge harvesting
The article includes three case study examples of the application of implicit knowledge management, each of which is presented in terms of eight dimensions:
  1. Focus – the rationale for the project
  2. Find – the method for locating the tacit knowledge and is ‘codifiable’ (yes, I did make that word up)
  3. Elicit – the process used to harvest the knowledge
  4. Organise – the way in which the implicit knowledge was codified
  5. Package – the format in which the implicit knowledge was shared / published
  6. Share – the method for sharing / publishing the implicit knowledge
  7. Apply – how the implicit knowledge was used
  8. Evaluate & Adapt – the assessment process used to determine the success of the knowledge harvesting project
So why am I interested in this set of dimensions? Well, I think that they could prove useful if one ever had to assemble a business case and project plan for a knowledge harvesting project. The only aspects that I think are missing from this set of dimensions are: 1) something about target audience or intended users and 2) something about specific objectives and anticipated benefits. To be fair, the audience aspect may be picked up in a few of the dimensions above and the objectives one would probably be picked up under Focus but for the sake of evaluating the success (or lack thereof) of a particular project, these things are best made explicit.

…and finally…
Apparantly, Knowledge Harvesting is a service mark! How can this be? In my experience, it’s used quite freely to refer to the exact same concept that is service-marked…hmm…

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Long Tail

I have been reading about the shift that has taken place with the introduction of Internet retailing (specifically, The Long Tail) and came across the concept of "the long tail". This is a really interesting phenomenon that defines the Internet as a whole – "something for everyone".

The long tail refers to the market for those non-mainstream products that traditional retailers cannot afford to stock. Your local Virgin Megastore cannot stock every album ever recorded; it simply hasn’t got the room to store them all. As a result, they choose those albums that they can be sure of selling at least enough copies to cover the cost of storing them. iTunes, on the other hand, just needs some server space to store its stock. Of course, there is a cost associated with this form of storage as well but it is far less expensive. As a result, iTunes can quite feasibly stock every album ever recorded (of course there are challenges associated with doing so – some are pretty esoteric for starters) but there is no disputing that they can offer consumers more choice. The market for those non-mainstream albums that Virgin Megastore cannot afford to stock but that iTunes makes available is the "long tail" and where this market becomes commercially interesting is when the "long tail" represents more sales than the mainstream products do.

Not only is Internet retailing a step forward in terms of consumer and retailer convenience, it has opened up a whole new way of satisfying each and every individual consumer’s preferences.

An interesting concept, certainly, and one with which any commercial information professional should be familiar but is there more to this idea? Could it change society at all? Ever notice how you see certain popular books being read by commuters around the same time? The Da Vinci Code is a really good example of this phenomenon. About two or three years ago, you could pretty much count on seeing one of the dozen or so people near you on the train reading that book (never mind the dozens of others you cannot see on the train who might also be reading it). These days, though, no one is reading it. It was pushed to the market through all available channels and consumers responded. So, given that:
  • less-mainstream products are just as readily available as the mainstream ones
  • Web 2.0 makes it possible for consumers to have a louder voice in recommending books/music/etc
  • Internet retailing continues to grow and the ‘long tail’ phenomenon continues to have commercial appeal
I wonder if this means that over time, we will have more diversity in society – not everyone will be listening to the same albums or reading the same books at the same time…

Thursday, November 16, 2006

PPDP-specific notes from November mentoring meeting

Coming out of my recent meeting with Karen, there are a few PPDP-specific things that I need to do / remember.

First, I need to add a few things under Training and Development Need:
  • negotiation skills
  • marketing skills
  • industry-specific familiarisation course that I’m due to attend later this month
Second, I need to be open-minded about what my proposed actions can be. They can include:
  • courses (the obvious starting point)
  • gaining experience in a particular skill
  • reading about a particular discipline or skill set
  • having conversations with people on specific topics
Finally, I need to set up my training log. If the PPDP is the theory, the training log is the practice. There isn’t really a great deal of format exerted on this log by the Chartership committee but it needs to complement the PPDP. I think that I will record my entries in this blog and tag them appropriately to identify them as being a Training Log entry. Each entry will be in response to a particular activity specified in the PPDP (some activities are longer-term ones and will end up with multiple entries against them, others (like courses) will be fixed-term activities and only have one entry against them. My proposed structure for each entry is:
  • Activity Objectives
  • Outcomes
  • Benefits Derived
  • Reflection and Analysis
I think that’s it for now. Next week I hope to spend a bit of time on my draft PPDP and given that one of the activities that will be on it is a course that I’m doing later next week, I guess I’ll be starting that Training Log not long after!

My blogroll

As I mentioned in my posting "Bye bye Bloglines, hello Blogger (beta)", I still rate Bloglines as a RSS aggregator.

The people there are working on improving things and have added various features including the ability to make your personal blogroll public.

Ideally, I’d like to have my blogroll integrated into this Chartership blog but until I figure out someway of doing that (without entering each one manually), I’ll just have to be content with a link to it:

Monday, November 13, 2006

November mentoring meeting

Last Thursday, my mentor and I had our monthly meeting. This time we talked about a range of different topics (career development, CV formats, writing for publication) but the main topic was my Personal Professional Development Plan (PPDP).

This is a document that is meant to be a roadmap of my intended continuing professional development (CPD) over the coming year. We are given a template to use for this document by CILIP and I had a quick go at filling it in but when I met up with Karen and we started discussing it, it was clear that I had hugely underestimated what was required here.

I was completing the template in a bulleted format but it seems that they (the evaluation committee) are expecting something significantly more substantial. Karen provided me with the detailed guidelines that are provided to civil servant applicants so I’m going to use that as a template.

Unfortunately, because the guidelines that I am following are quite new, there aren’t many examples out there to look at. We have agreed that I am will look into attending a Career Development Group (one of the CILIP special interest groups) sessions on the Chartership process (I have already attended one of these but it was a long time ago) and on the PPDP – hopefully they will have some useful examples for me.

Action: D – find and register for Chartership process seminar and PPDP information seminar

I also now need to go back and alter the project plan to reflect the fact that I am going to be spending a lot of time on the PPDP over the next month in preparation for our next meeting where we will have a look at my first draft copy.

Action: D – update project plan to reflect additional time required to complete PPDP

I will write a separate entry pertaining to some of the specific suggestions and conclusions that we reached regarding the PPDP itself.

Bye bye Bloglines, hello Blogger (beta)

Hooray! After a little research, I found that Blogger's beta version not only let's me update posts without altering their posting date but it will:
  • let me set the posting date (so I can restore the original posting order and dates)
  • allow me to create, assign and alter labels for individual postings
  • let me restrict the readership of the blog to a list of invited guests
This is a big improvement and I have already started playing around with the labels function. It also lets me set a template for my postings so that I can make sure that they all follow the same standards without having to remember the settings.

So much better...

Having said that, I still rate Bloglines as an RSS aggregator - it just isn't as functional as I would like on the Blog front.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Bloglines software

So that's a pain in the backside. In my meeting with my mentor yesterday, we talked about assigning categories to these entries. I have just been through all of my previous entries to give them a category only to discover that it updates the original posting date to today's

I had to go back through all of the entries and add a tag for the original posting date and do so in chronological order (I had to guess at the date for one of the entries - Project Plan - and I guessed wrong so it appears to be out of order but in reality, isn't. Grr... too frustrated to go back and fix it.

The fact that I'm kind of making up the categories as I go along (folksonomy style!) and will almost certainly want to alter them at some point in the future means that I will have to go through each entry and update it even if I have no changes to make to it, just to maintain the chronological order. This is quickly becoming unsustainable. I think that I'm going to look into an alternative platform for this blog. This one is just too limited in its functionality.

Obliquity: delivering value in a sympathetic environment

I have just read an article originally published in the Financial Times (17 January 2004) entitled "Obliquity". What is "obliquity"? Well, that was what I wanted know. Here's how the article starts:

"Strange as it may seem, overcoming geographic obstacles, winning decisive battles or meeting global business targets are the type of goals often best achieved when pursued indirectly. This is the idea of Obliquity. Oblique approaches are most effective in difficult terrain, or where outcomes depend on interactions with other people."

Sounds like an interesting take on strategy setting for businesses so I read on. It goes on to state that "Obliquity is characteristic of systems that are complex, imperfectly understood, and change their nature as we engage with them." Again, I'm interested because it shows an understanding of the concept and nature of complex systems.

From here the article goes on to give some examples of where companies have succeeded when they weren't focussed on profit and others that have failed when they were. Ultimately, though, the article is saying that companies are most profitable when they focus on delivering value to customers and not when they are focussed on turning a profit. This isn't sounding like anything revolutionary to me anymore, just good strategy setting. The reader is then presented with a life-equivalent regarding the pursuit of happiness which has been shown to be a by-product of social interactions and facing challenges that stretch us. Looking at the pursuit of happiness from a business perspective (happiness = profit), you could argue that again, the pursuit here is value to the customer (oneself) rather than happiness in itself.

At this point, I don't disagree with the article and I think that it's an interesting way of looking at business strategy but I don't feel as though I am being exposed to any novel ideas. However, the article then starts to contradict itself in a way. The first is a concession that obliquity is not a business panacea, concluding that on average, a concerted effort to achieve profit will result more consistently in the achievement of profit than the pursuit of some other goal but that those sucesses that do result from an oblique approach will, on average, be greater. This isn't shaping up to be a very sound business strategy, but wait, there's more... The next dent in the argument comes in the form of an example that argues that genes survive not because they want to survive but because they do what it is they do in an environment that happens to favour them over others. So does that mean that this on-average-greater-success is actually a result of sheer chance?

The conclusion that I reached as a result of reading this article was that the wildly profitable business achieves that profit through a combination of focussing on delivering customer value and a sympathetic environment. Well, it held such promise but in the end, right place / right time isn't a strategy that I would hang my hat on. I'll stick to delivering value to customers with a view to making a profit and the law of averages.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Company business plan

Business plans don’t normally grab the reader in the same way as an airport novel does and unfortunately, ours is no exception. Having said that, it is good to understand how/where our funding comes from (this determining who our customers really are) and to find out a bit about the other aspects of the company and what is planned for them. It was also useful to read about the priorities for my department as I could better see where some of the things that I have been asked to prioritise fit in.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Effective presentations and communication

This journal is more a record and reference for me than anyone else and as such, I wanted to include something about effective presentations. Although it isn’t a skill that is limited to the information professional’s world, it is a skill that we need and one that is relevant to developing my Chartership portfolio.

I am regularly called upon to make presentations in my current role (and in previous ones) so I have a lot of experience but I still feel like I could improve. As a result, I will almost always read an article published on the topic. In the last few weeks, I have come across a couple that have caught my attention. One was about effective presentations and the other about effective communication. In fact, once you have read about effective communication, you’ll see that in fact, good presenters are actually good communicators.

The first article (What has Al Gore and Edward de Bono have in common?[sic]) looked at a couple of presenters who the author felt were persuasive and the commonalities between their presentation styles.
  1. They both presented facts, from memory, that meant something to the audience
  2. They both told stories and included little details that added colour
  3. They both used analogies and metaphors to convey their messages
  4. They both enjoyed themselves and used humour when the opportunity presented itself
  5. The were both relaxed and confident – something that I feel I can only be when I am talking about something that I know inside and out
The second (I Don’t Think You Get My Point: the 5 hurdles to effective communication) looked at barriers to communication and identified five obstacles, any one of which could prevent effective communication.
  1. Your point must be explainable using language
    • This seemed obvious to me at first but the more you think about it, the more limited our language appears to be for the purpose of describing things that we experience (how do you recognise a good poem?). Add to that the fact that you must share a common vocabulary with your audience and the fact within that common vocabulary, there could be differences in connotation and you have a pretty limited ‘language’ to use.
    • Suggested ways of getting around this hurdle are to use metaphors and analogies (point 3 above) or to show your audience what you mean.

  2. You must be able to articulate your point clearly and persuasively
    • Clarity can be achieved through effective explanation but the real challenge here is the persuasion element. The article refers to sermonising (talk radio, the pulpit, editorials) as reassurance not persuasion as it ignores your audiences current ‘place’ in their thinking.
    • Suggested ways around this problem fall into what I would call ‘human communication skills’ – empathy, attention, openness – and practice. I think that this roughly correlates to points 4 and 5 above regarding the presenters’ disposition.

  3. Your audience must be ready to listen
    • They need to be at an appropriate intellectual and conceptual level and have an understanding of what is urgent and important before they are ready to receive your ‘broadcast’.
    • A suggested solution to this hurdle is to choose (and invite) your audience carefully

  4. Your audience must be listening
    • In my experience, they are almost certainly not listening. They may not be playing with their Blackberries (though sometimes they are!) but they are almost certainly thinking about something they have to do on the way home, a phone conversation they’ve just had or something else that is more immediately relevant to them than what you have to say. You need to get (and hold) their attention.
    • Suggested ways of doing so include the use of stories, humour and facts (points 1,2 and 3 above)

  5. Your audience must be able to understand your point from their frame of reference
    • "Frames trump facts". If your message isn’t communicated in a way that ‘fits’ with the audience’s perspective, it isn’t going to be properly received. This isn’t the same as the audience being ready to listen; this has more to do with the personal history and experiences of the audience which will colour anything that they hear.
    • The suggested way of overcoming this hurdle is to understand your audience’s frame and to explain things in their context.
So there you are. I think that both of these lists are true and when you look at them side by side, it is apparent that good presentations are actually good communications. Not that that makes them any easier to achieve!

Friday, October 20, 2006

DPA meeting

Had a meeting with the individual responsible for our compliance with the DPA. It was useful to meet him as I will need him to get involved in some of the things that I have planned regarding our e-newsletter subscribers and website users. I want to know who these people are so that I can get feedback from them on those publications that they access. I also want to be able to send them updates on our publications based on their jobs and interests.

As we should be, we are registered with the Data Commissioner and I have had a look through our registration. Looks like the plans that I have won’t require a change to the records but I’ll still need to run any DPA-related wording past this person.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Harvesting Knowledge: the exit interview

An information profession topic that is of great interest to me is knowledge retention and one about I would like to spend more time reading and thinking (Time to Think). I wrote my Diploma in Management extended essay on the topic, focussing specifically on situations of forced redundancy (with all of the additional complexities of motivation), and have been hooked on it since (helped that I aced the paper). Anyway, I now read pretty much any article that I find on the subject – especially if they pertain to redundancy situations as writing on this subject is very sparse (the focus tends to be on retirement – perfectly understandable given the developed world’s current demographics and the challenges that presents to the commercial world).

Anyway, I stumbled across an article called “Acing the Exit Interview: How to mine the data in your workers’ heads before the best ideas walk out the door”. It’s pretty brief but makes some good suggestions for getting the most out of an exit interview – something that applies regardless of the conditions under which an individual is leaving the organisation. It basically advised that:
  • the right people conduct the interview
  • you concentrate on particular employees
  • the output is readily available to users
I think that this last one particularly important but the article (perhaps due to length constraints?) misses the point of tailoring that method of making the material available to the users who require it – interactive software may be a more engaging format but if the end users really need a checklist, give them a checklist!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Creating Controlled Vocabularies

As part of the Industry Schema metadata work that I am doing at the moment, we need to create a few organisation- and industry-specific controlled vocabularies. The last time that I did something like this (establish a metadata schema for an organisation), I don’t think that we did a great job of getting the controlled vocabularies sorted out. Obviously, it was pretty easy for the elements that used external ones (like the Integrated Public Service Vocabulary or IPSV) but for the bespoke ones, we just didn’t get our act together.

So, for this one, I am going to get my extremely knowledgeable colleagues to create a starting point at our next team meeting which I will then put in front of the section heads before getting input on it from key people around the rest of the organisation. Once we have the necessary lists sorted out for my department and the organisation as a whole, I will start to get in touch with other organisations in the industry to try to achieve some convergence on this issue.

Creating the lists and identifying the elements (and creating the necessary supporting documentation) isn’t proving to be the difficult thing. It’s getting everyone to agree on a set of terms…

DITA and the Dublin Core

One of the challenges that we are going to face in this metadata project is the mapping of the DITA schema to the document metadata schema that we choose to implement (let’s call it Industry Schema).

We have a Technical Writer who is eager to introduce a content reuse policy (something very much in line with my own objectives) and would like to use a metadata architecture called the Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) to do it. It’s basically an XML-based architecture that helps organisations create technical publications without having to recreate content. If you want to more, there is a pretty good Wikipedia entry on DITA and you could check out the DITA section of the Oasis website, the organisation now responsible for its maintenance (it started out as an IBM architecture).

My problem with using only this architecture is that when it comes time to create a composite document, how you know which bits of metadata should be used to describe the document? For example, it is entirely possible that each fragment has a different Subject and Creator. When assigning these elements of metadata to the composite document, I wouldn’t use any of the Creators as the Creator for the document nor would I use all of them – they would now be considered Contributors (at least in the Dublin Core Metadata Standard) and the Creator would be (I suppose) the organisation. As for the Subject, clearly a combination of individual components about certain concepts, when pulled together, do not make up a document that is about all of those separate concepts. So we need a document level metadata schema – enter Industry Schema.

I’m thinking that by creating a document that maps the Industry Schema to the DITA Document Type Definition (DTD) that we use, we can populate the DITA architecture based on the metadata associated with the original document.

When it comes time to catalogue a composite document, we will have to do so from scratch. This isn’t the end of the world; we’d have to do so if we weren’t using DITA to create composite documents so it isn’t like we have to do more. I just can’t help but think that the DITA metadata could be used to inform the Industry Schema metadata that we choose to assign. Is there a tool that we could use?

There is no doubt an article in here somewhere on the use and application of metadata at different levels of content granularity (document versus segment in this case). I would really like to speak to someone who has done this before…

How do you metadata?

Someone needs to write a book (toolkit style) on how organisations apply their metadata schemas. Maybe I should be that person. I can’t find a good resource with which to supply my boss that will guide him through the steps that I’m about to start dragging us through. There are loads of articles and books on the ‘what’ and a growing number of articles on the ‘why’ of metadata but conspicuously little on the ‘how’. I shall have a trawl of Amazon having exhausted my usual Web resources…

Time to Think

Sometimes I think that I could quite happily study forever. I have decided that I should be starting a list (I like lists) of things about which I would like to read more. Not necessarily things that are cutting-edge, brand-new, or even about which I am totally ignorant - just things about which I would like to learn more. I might start to include 'off-topic' (non-information profession) items as well (ooh, the only thing I like better than lists are categorised lists! so sad, isn't it?).

So here's a starter (I'm not introducing categorisation at this point!) and I will stick the date at the end of the item so that new additions are more obvious:
  • complex systems and the management of knowledge within them (13/10/06)
  • storytelling as a method for conveying knowledge (13/10/06)
  • other Web 2.0 technologies (e.g. del.ici.ous; flickr) (13/10/06)
  • knowledge retention in redundancy situations (13/10/06)
  • effective presentation and communication skills (13/10/06)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Metadata Schema

One of the objectives that I have agreed with my line manager is to identify, or if necessary, to develop a metadata schema that our department, organisation and possibly even our industry, could use to organise our publications and documents.

Having had a look around, there doesn't seem to be any industry-wide schema in use and having spoken to a few key people in the organisation, there doesn't seem to be a understanding of what I'm on about let along something in use. So...

Today I have completed a draft version of our metadata schema and sent it around my team for their comments / questions / suggestions. The schema is based on the Dublin Core, DC Terms and the e-Government Metadata Standard. I'm quite pleased with it, though it still needs some work. For starters, there are at least two controlled vocabularies that I need to sort out. I might even have to create them. Hmm...although that's going to delay things a little, I suppose that, along with the final standard, it will provide me with more amunition for my portfolio!

Friday, October 06, 2006

R&D programme prospectus

In my experience, the first week or two of a new job seems to entail a lot of reading. I suspect that this is a result of a few different factors ranging from cynical ones (to keep new starters busy while those with whom they need to meet are otherwise occupied) to more practical ones (new starters – particularly in a new industry – have rather a lot of background to get caught up on).

One of the things that I read in my first few weeks was the R&D programme prospectus. The funding for the R&D programme is renewed every three years and 2006 was a renewal year. The purpose of this document was to demonstrate the value of the programme and to make the case for its continued funding. As it happens, it was successful (or I would likely not have a job with these guys).

From my perspective, it was a pretty useful document to read to get an appreciation of how our work fits into the wider context of the industry, something that none of the other inductions did.

Friday, September 29, 2006

R&D induction

This induction was a little bit like the company one but on a local scale. It was also a lot more personalised (not least of all because it was a one-on-one session) in that we focussed on my role and how it fit into the department. Having been here almost two months, now, we were able to discuss where things were going to go rather than day-to-day topics (e.g. processes). Earlier in the month, I had an induction with HR which covered a few personnel things and this department one picked up where the HR one left off as this was part of the official process that my line manager and I had not yet completed.

Like the company one, it was useful in terms of understanding the unique governance of the R&D programme (which is only managed by the company and is not funded by the company).

Chartership Group

Well, K fulfilled her action point from our meeting and got me invited to the next meeting. Unfortunately, it was roughly around the same time as my wife was due so I declined. Maybe I'm being paranoid but I was keen to be able to dash home at a moment's notice.

Well, that was a shame as she had the kid two weeks early! So now I'm a daddy (and thrilled to pieces about it) but have to hit K up for another invitation...

Publication in Library and Information Update

At my last job as Senior Information Manager for the Networked Learning Group at NCSL, I carried out a pretty hefty project of archiving some 10,000 documents. At the suggestion of one of the consultants that I employed to help with the job, I wrote a little article about the work and how we went about ‘putting theory in practise’, as they say.

The editor of Library and Information Update has agreed to publish it probably in the December issue but possible in the January/February one. I’m pleased:
  • it is something that I can add to my CV (academic institutions love seeing that you’ve published)
  • it raises my profile in the profession
  • it will contribute to my Chartership application
It may also help me get more articles published. This is something that I enjoy doing but haven’t really spent the time or made the effort to do since I was working on my MLIS.

Anyway, keep your eyes peeled for “Using metadata to organise an online collection for the education sector” in Update. Not the most pithy of titles...suggestions (you shouldn't need to read the article after reading that title to know what it's about)?

Web 2.0 and business

The concept of Web2.0, for those not familiar with the term, refers to a shift in the content of the World Wide Web from creation and publication to something more akin to evolution where readers can leave their mark. Blogs, for example, allow readers to post their comments meaning that the next time someone reads the blog entry, it is different to the last time. Wikis are another example. The best known is Wikipedia which allows individuals to update entries. I could go into the problems of allowing anyone to edit an entry – mainly authority and accuracy of the entry – but others (such as The Guardian) have already done so and done so better than I can.

What interests me is the use of Wikis in a business setting. Don’t laugh – why shouldn’t businesses use wikis? They have web pages, online purchasing, email, Intranets and bulletin boards. Wikis basically allow your organisation to generate documents in a truly collaborative fashion - a challenge with which many organisations struggle. The challenge then becomes how you protect that content with your content management system (CMS). According to an article in the August 2006 issue of Information Age, The impact of wikis on ECM systems, Gartner recommends “positioning wikis as an authoring environment only, and when the document is ocomplete a copy should be moved to a formal content repository”. While I can see the logic here, it seems to me that we’re back to Web 1.0 – create and publish.

How does a business protect content generated on a company wiki while maintaining all of the benefits that a wiki offers?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Company induction

Today, I joined a few other ‘new starters’ at a company induction. It was a chance for us to meet with one of the directors and have him take us through the company’s strategy, business plan, governance and structure. It was a pretty useful overview in that it helped me to understand how funding and reporting is arranged as well as knowing where the company is trying to go. Some of the others in the room had started this week. They seemed to be a little overwhelmed by the volume and complexity of the content of this presentation (especially around governance) and I think that it helped that I had already been here about a month before the session.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Corporate Communications

I attended the weekly Corporate Comms meeting this morning. It offered an opportunity to meet the team and to find out a little about what they are working on. After that, I had bit more of an in-depth meeting with a couple of the more senior members of the Corporate Communications team. We went over different things (publications processes, different projects that we would each like to talk about – a wide-ranging meeting that delved into some aspects of the company’s corporate communication function and just glossed over others).

One thing that I did learn is that we are no subject to the Freedom of Information Act. This struck me as odd (and frankly, a little wrong). I understand that the company, as a member-funded not-for-profit, like any other organisation that is not public, does not have to comply with FoI requests. I work in R&D, however, which is funded entirely by the government and managed on their behalf by my employer. Because the company that is managing it on their behalf (my employer) is not a public organisation, we are not required to comply with FoI requests. This seems a slippery slope to me and a bit of a loop-hole that unscrupulous individuals in government could use to spend public money, sheltered from public scrutiny. I will have to investigate this a little further to confirm whether it is indeed the case that we do not have to comply with the FoI.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Project Plan

I'm wishing that this software would allow me to assign categories to my posts. Some of them, you will have noticed, are specifically about the Chartership process, others about things that I have done or am working on which will support my application, and still others that are somewhat more information-generic.

Well this one is about Chartership process. One of my actions coming out of my first mentoring meeting was to create a timeline for this process. I have done it and I have to say, it doesn't look too gruelling (famous last words). I guess the idea is that you do work towards this goal 'little and often'.

I now need to focus on going through all of my physical and electronic files from previous jobs to identify some bits and pieces for my portfolio. I also need to set up the folders on my work PC so that I can store shortcuts to relevant pieces of work as I go along (little and often, little and often - this is going to become my mantra for this process).

Friday, September 08, 2006

First Meeting with Mentor

Well, we arranged and have now had our first meeting (yesterday) and agreed that we could work together. In the name of privacy, I shall refer to my mentor as Karen.

Karen and I went through the things that we needed to do to get started. Now I'm not the best at following protocols and filling in forms. My partner thinks this is strange given I love organising information. I guess I'm all about organising information "my way"...

Anyway, fortunately, Karen seems to be on a similar wavelength and wasn't too stressed out by the fact that I hadn't really done any of the forms that I was supposed to have done before our first meeting.

Out of the meeting came a few actions (looks I'll be a little busy):

Action: D - complete the mentoring agreement document and forward draft to K (did it this morning - one down!)
Action: D - get written confirmation of CILIP's recognition of my MLIS in order to pursue "Pathway 2" (did it this morning - two down!)
Action: D - get written confirmation of the guidelines that I'm to follow in this process (did it this morning - three down!)
Action: D - set up folders (structured according to CILIP categories) on work and home computers to capture bits and pieces of work over the next year to put into portfolio
Action: D - trawl through home computer files for suitable evidence to put into portfolio (specifically, things from last job and from Diploma)
Action: D - start a journal to capture ideas and thoughts as part of this process over the next year (hey hey - you're reading it! four down!)
Action: D - prepare a timeline (project plan?) of activity based on the requirements in the Guidelines (the idea is that as we go along, we can add the training schedule and the regular meetings that we'll be having - a picture of where we're going)
Action: K - find out about the Chartership Group at her organisation and "get me invited"

So that's it. I've got a few more things to do before this ball is well and truely rolling (setting up the folders, have a trawl and putting together a project plan) but it's off to a start - properly this time. I need to inform my employer that I'll be pursuing chartership. Normally, I would have done this earlier and in fact, I did inform my employer way back when I registered but I have since changed employers and after only a week and a half in the job, my boss went on leave for three this is all going to be a bit of a surprise. I'm not worried, though. The organsiation and my boss seem to be pretty reasonable and so will no doubt be happy to support me through the process. He's back on Monday so I'll give him a day before we have a little "catch-up".

Now that I've written about the journey to date, I'll start focussing a little more on the thoughts, experiences and ideas aspect of this journal.

Finding a Mentor

First stop, the CILIP Chartership webpages. Working as a sole professional (has always been the case for me), I really needed some help finding a mentor for this process. Fortunately, CILIP provide a list of mentors (by region) and an indication of their mentoring workload.

When I first consulted this list (back when I had originally registered), it wasn't really a helpful list. It contained name, email address and current mentoring workload. Not much there to use when selecting a mentor. My solution? I complained. I'm not proud but I was frustrated. Since then, the page has been amended to provide additional information regarding the mentors' organisations and job titles. Much better.

So how did I choose one? Well, I started by looking at the company names. I wanted someone who worked in a similar organisation under similar circumstances (i.e. not traditional library setting). Then, I used the job titles to identify someone who was not doing a traditional librarian's job. I know that job titles mean very little and that in the great scheme of things that it shouldn't really matter but... Basically, I just didn't think that I would really have much in common when it came to professional difficulties, experiences and ambitions with the "Librarian" at "Some Council Public Library".

So, having identified a few names that looked suitable, I started down the list. The first couple of emails bounced back! This was a little frustrating but I pressed on. I tried another person who already had one mentee on the go (and capacity for two more) only to be told (very politely I should add) that she already had a full case load. Hmmm... this webpage wasn't looking too up to date. My solution? I complained - again (I'm sure CILIP's Qualifications team are building a file on me). I suggested that the site ought to be updated and requested that I be sent an updated list in the meantime. Quite what my rush was after letting it sit for the better part of two years, I don't know; I guess it was just that I finally had momentum and didn't want to risk losing it!

CILIP replied promptly and I went through my selection process again and tried another name. This time the email not only worked, but the individual didn't have a full case load. Hurrah!

We agreed to meet to discuss the mentoring aspect of the Chartership process and to see whether we could work together (code for "see if we can get along").

So, with a mentor lined up (albeit provisionally), I was feeling a little more on top of things...time to set the first meeting.

First Steps

Some time ago, I decided that I really ought to get my chartership sorted out with the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP). Colleagues of mine had done it and many of the jobs that I was considering (especially those in the public sector) required it. So I registered.

At the same time, however, I also regsitered and started a Diploma in Management at the University of Leicester. Unfortunately, it appeared I had bitten off more than I could chew and as the company was paying for the Diploma, it took priority.

Now almost two years later, I have finished off the Diploma (or at least all of the requirements - I'm now just waiting for the next convocation process in January 2007 to take place) and am getting down to sorting out my chartership.

First thing to do is check which regulations I am to follow. There are some recently-introduced ones that might have come into effect after I email has been sent off to CILIP asking for confirmation.

Second thing to do is to get confirmation that my Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) from the University of British Columbia (UBC) is considered a CILIP accredited course. CILIP's website says that they have a reciprocal agreement with the American Library Association (ALA) and UBC's School of Library, Archival and Information Studies (SLAIS) is ALA accredited so should be okay...but I'd like that in writing - just in case I get to the end of this process and am held up on a email has been sent off to CILIP asking for confirmation.

Third thing to get sorted out, is a mentor...