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  • 07:00:00 am on August 19, 2008 | 0 | # |
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    Evidence Based Support

    I’ve been pretty quiet for a while …mostly listening and reading with interest to ongoing discussion about KM, web 2.0 and more. . Usually I have a lot to say. But recently I just can’t get rid of the feeling that I’m simply responding to cleaver rhetoric, smart arguments, and appealing ideas with no clear evidence to support them. I continually wonder if we really do know whether any of our ideas work. Where is the evidence? I don’t mean anecdotal data. I mean real evidence, intended to prove a theory is wrong or demonstrate that a program is working.

    With this in mind, I came across an HBR series called “To make the best decisions, demand the best data”. Specifically, a paper called “Evidence bases Management” caught my attention. The paper makes an analogy between the evidence based medicine movement, (providing medical care based on clear and convincing evidence for treatments that work), with management, develop and deploying programs and strategies based on evidence for their efficacy. In medicine, the evidence based movement has had dramatic and positive effects on treatment success. But in management, the movement is nascent. Here’s my favorite quote from the article:

    “Executives routinely dose their organizations with strategic snake oil, discredited nostrums, partial remedies, or untested management miracle cures. In many cases, the faces about what works are out there – so why don’t managers use them?” (HBR, Business Decision Making, January, 2006)

    Maybe this quote is extreme. But there is truth to it and we need to change. We are responsible for significant costs in our organizations and have the ability to drive world class customer experience. So many programs in support either have mixed results or results that cannot be interpreted we rarely know what contribution we are making to our organizations bottom line. If we really want to lead our companies, to drive world class customer experiences, we need to manage based on evidence and gather data to tell us how well we are doing. We need to develop measurement programs that model our businesses and operations and tie them to business outcomes. Toyota revolutionized manufacturing by modeling errors in productions lines and developing strategies to address them. The support business is different, for sure. But is the need for clear evidence for or against what we purport to be good any less important?

  • 07:00:27 am on June 23, 2008 | 2 | # |
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    With lots of interest I’ve been watching the web 2.0 worlds evolve and gradually replace our notion of collaboration. It’s been even more curious to watch this evolution in support. We are infatuated with forums and communities – how to establish them, what to do with them, how to leverage their content, and that this is where and how collaboration happens. For sure, forums and discussion groups are places where great things happen:

    • Where questions are asked and (maybe) answered
    • Where extended discussions happen
    • Where members use the collective knowledge to make purchasing decisions
    • Where participants can become part of the social fabric and extensions of the company
    • Where the community collectively grow the extended a body of knowledge

    But this is a specific kind of collaboration. If you have to produce work … If you have a software system down, a prospectus to deliver, if you have a significant insurance payment to approve or challenge, you need tools that help you get the work done — and collaboration is a supporting activity in that endeavor. If you go into support centers that are anything but ultra high frequency centers, most of the time is spent producing resolutions to questions or problems. Communities, IM, email are not the best tools for this. We need collaboration environments that allow us to work on our problems, but support awareness and presence information, and interaction tied to the work product so we can more easily collaborate ON the work and perhaps maintain a history. The point is that while communities are empowering in many situations, the biggest chunk of time in support is spent on creating new answers and solutions. Here, collaboration is intended to support the work, not the thing we are doing.

    In the right configuration, wiki’s might be a solution. Most are text based, but a few, Socialtext and Jive are beginning to support more forms of work — spreadsheets, presentations, and code and with presence information, groups, reputation and discussions tied to the work build into the wiki. We have a long way to go, but by looking at the main activities inside support organizations, we can see what activities need to be supported and that we need to broaden our notion of collaboration.

    What is your experience? Are you using these new tools in an innovative way? Let me know…

  • 03:41:56 am on April 16, 2008 | 0 | # |
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    While meeting with the folks at Jive (very interesting company, more on that later) they pointed me to IBM’s Future trends that will drive unified communications (http://money.cnn.com/news/newsfeeds/articles/marketwire/0377261.htm).

    The IBM article was mostly about recent technology trends.  Take a look … However, I think the trend that forces unified communications has little to do with technology itself, but is related to the comfort level people have developed sharing presence and awareness info and in making the social part of their lives public. Ten years ago at IBM we proposed sharing search paths and histories to help others find similar info and all we heard were privacy concerns. Today, most of us are all too willing to share presence and awareness info and to post incomplete thoughts in the form of blogs and in forums. This intersection of social and task focus will eventually drive unification and interoperability between presence and awareness, blogging/wikis and tight collaboration on work product, that later being the most difficult problem. With regard to IBM, the interesting ones are 3 and 4. The integration of business processes (collaborative or otherwise) with line-of-business applications are key.  I’d add knowledge to the mix.

    Knowledge enabled business processes, with collaborative and social opportunities empowering the completion work product are the goal. Interoperability and open standards are simply a necessary step for all this to happen. It’s in line with Kana’s mission in our upcoming product line and what is exciting about our partnership with Jive. Kana integrates knowledge into customer experiences and business processes and Jive enables the collaboration to empower the teams.

    Thoughts, comments?

    Andrew Cohen