Tax, tax, tax

Interesting – or may be worrying is more appropriate – article in today’s Sunday Times about record tax levels. Mr Brown’s budget next week may ead us into the highest tax regime on record. Tax revenues will total £490 billion this year, up from £271 billion when Brown took office – equivalent to a rise of £9000 for every houshold in Britain.  The worst of it is, we all know the money is being poorly spent – particularly on public services. No wonder then that regions have sufficeient funds to keep re-inevting wheels – e.g. the Regional Improvement Partnership, funded by the ODPM at a cost of several million pounds to set up a series of new web sites with all the supporting infrasatructre they need. Clearly this is going to deliver real and tangible benefits to us poor citizens!

The Dissident

The last leg?

Not much to say today really. Have spent the day putting the finishing touches to the KM Strategy paper for my (public sector) client. Not quite sure that local government is quite ready for collaboration across the sector for identifying best practice. They seem to be wedded to the ‘silo approach’ to sharing ideas and expertise – i.e. lets go and build ourselves yet another web site for ‘Improvment Initiatives in the South West’. I didn’t think my ideas for cross-region collaboration were that radical….but clearly they are!

The Dissident

More writing

Another day spent writing a report to enable the KM Strategy project to proceed. When I look back over the past 8 months, I think I’ve spent about 80% of that time writing reports and proposals. There has been some limited movement forward on the initiatives I’ve been pushing (primarily Information Management and Knowledge Management), but the effort has far exceeded the rewards. I’ll plod on for a while with this next paper – due to go to Management Team on 22nd March. If no movement after that, clearly I’ll need to go to ‘Plan B’. Right….what is Plan B? Better write another paper describing Plan B….

The Dissident

One step forward, two steps back?

Feeling somewhat frustrated. Having spent the best part of around 4 days pulling together a compelling case for a new KM strategy for the client, with full budgetary breakdown for the duration of the 3-year programme, I was (a) not invited to the Management Team when it was discussed on the agenda and (b) later advised that they couldn’t agree the strategy without me being there! I’ve since been asked to revise the proposal and make it look like its not going to cost anything (bit of smoke and mirrors here I think).

I haven’t given up yet. Will spend another 2 days glued to my PC and see if I can hide the costs of the programme as I’m required to do. If I look back over the past 7 months, I seem to have spent my whole time writing papers for various ‘important’ groups. This seems to be the  way of things in  the public sector – all paper and no decisions. I can see where the money is going – maybe should have bought shares in a paper-pulping company or something!

The Dissident.

New KM Strategy for public sector – Outline

The following is a briefing for a new approach to ‘KM’  in that I’m attempting to get Local Government to buy into. These concepts are not new to the provate sector, but seem to be fairly radical ideas for the public sector. Will report later on whether this strategy takes hold.

Knowledge Management – Connections not Collections

What is KM?

KMis about enabling people to improve how they work. It involves capturing,creating, distilling, sharing and using know-how in order to help individuals,teams and organisations improve their performance.

We need to embark on a new approach to knowledgemanagement that will realise a step-change in localgovernment improvement over the next few years. The key emphasis is on connectingpeople with similar needs and objectives and facilitating a far morecollaborative approach to developing efficiency and performance solutions. Theapproach requires the development of social networking techniques rather thancompiling collections of best practice case studies and success stories. Thesecollaborative networks are commonly referred to as ‘communities of practice’(CoP).

Definition of CoP: ‘…a group of people geographicallyseparated who share learning, knowledge and advice about a common interest orpractice.’

The role of networks and communities

The r ole of CoP and networks in localgovernment will be key going forward. Perhaps the most consistent of KM successstories in large privat sector organisations has been the evolution of CoP as the primarymechanism for learning, knowledge sharing, and helping between people whoperform the same role but in different departments (or in this case localauthorities). This project will be looking to support the development andmaintenance of healthy CoPs and networks across the local government landscape,as a key tool in self-improvement.


What might the future look like?

In 2009, sector knowledge will be owned and maintainedthrough properly resourced communities and networks. These communities will berun by trained facilitators, which will connect community members (localauthority employees) to the knowledge they require, in order to solve immediateorganisational challenges. Local Government will play a key role in supporting andnurturing these communities, as well as acting as a key first point of contactto search for knowledge and expertise. It will act as a knowledge broker forall local authority employees.

The Dissident

My first blog.

My first blog. Thought I’d give a try – get ‘wired up’ as it were. Looking forward to some interesting debates and converstaions. Currently working as a consultant in the public sectoe (local gov) – yes one of the thousands – so will have much to say about the rampant inefficiencies that seem to be accepted by all around me (remember I’m a tax payer as well, so I do care about value for money).

Not expecting any response; I’ll wait until I’ve composed my first ‘controversial’ comments.

The Dissident

Knowledge Management in the Public Sector

I was asked recently to provide some input to questions posed by a journalist regarding the state of knowledge management in the public sector. I have slanted my answers from a local government perspective, since this is where the thrust of my consultancy work has been focussed for the past 2-3 years. This also seemed relevant to the Community of Practice platform and strategy I developed for the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA) in 2005 and which I’m still heavily involved with. The answers are mine and do not in any way reflect the opinions of the IDeA or anyone else I have worked for in the public sector.1. Over the past few years, there have appeared to be various different knowledge management initiatives such as the KM National e-Government Project, the UK Government’s Knowledge Network and the Improvement and Development Agency for Local Government’s network for improving KM. How do all of these initiatives fit together, if at all, and why is such focus being put on this area?

Yes, there have been a number of different and overlapping KM initiatives over the past 2-3 years, and it’s quite difficult to quantify what the cumulative or aggregate affect has been on the public sector. To summarise:

  • The Cabinet Office’s E-government and Transformational Government agendas had catalysed local authorities to offer more services via technology and citizens to increase take-up of those services. The initial response, a wave of electronic document/record management (EDRM) systems, had generally led to a disorganised proliferation of web sites across the sector that complicated the sector’s ability to realise those visions.
  • The Local Government Association, the lobbying body for English and Welsh local authorities, established the strategic priority of self-improvement and regulation for the sector as an alternative to the external Comprehensive Performance Assessment inspection regime.
  • Releasing resources to the front line (The Gershon Review) launched the Efficiency agenda, concluding that the entire public sector could realise more benefits from the resources they already had
  • Sir Michael Lyons began his enquiry into the financing and future of local government, looking for evidence of efficiencies and improvement in service delivery

In this policy environment, councils were under pressure to produce and guarantee higher quality services while demonstrating more efficient use of resources. Given the perennial squeeze on [council] budgets, the only way they can realistically achieve the outcomes demanded is by adopting smarter ways of working – and hence the focus on KM.

2. Where is the public sector at in terms of adopting knowledge management systems, how high is this topic up the agenda of the average public sector IT director at the moment and why? Which type of public sector organisations are embracing such initiatives – or their own internal ones – in the main and why?

The local government sector is – arguably – well ahead of central government in terms of adopting KM systems and processes. One major initiative that has been sponsored and managed by the IDeA is the development of Communities of Practice (CoP) across the sector. By supporting communities of practice and professional social networks across local government, the IDeA is promoting the potential of knowledge management as a tool for continuous and sustainable improvement. The strategy increases the sector’s capacity to share and maintain knowledge and experience across local, regional and national boundaries and supports the development of public sector policy and innovation. Since the programme was started in late 2005, almost 10,000 users have registered on the IDeA’s CoP platform representing 410 councils across England and Wales, and over 300 CoPs are working on various policy and service initiatives. For the following is a sample of the topics and issues being tackled by by these CoPs:

Policy and Performance

LAAs and LSPs


Equality Standards

Talent Management

Community Cohesion

Adult and Children’s Services

Customer Service

Rural Excellence

Countering Extremism

….to name just a few.

3. How big is the market for knowledge management in the public sector now, how fast is this expected to grow over the next few years and why? What are the key drivers/benefits to adoption?

New technologies – such as Web2.0 – are making it far easier for people to connect and share knowledge. All the major software vendors are in this space – IBM, Microsoft, BEA – offering a variety of solutions for collaborative working. The near exponential growth we’ve seen in the take up of the IDeA’s CoP initiative is evidence of the appetite for change and innovation that prevails across the sector. Clearly the big vendors are in this for commercial reasons, but unlike the previous ‘KM wave’ of the mid-90’s, which promised much but delivered little, there is now more substance to the technology. This in turn is creating a new industry around KM, and stimulating growth in e-learning applications and professional networking. Not forgetting of course the ubiquitous social networks such as Myspace and Facebook, which some may argue are more to do with leisure activities. However, these too provide opportunities for people with similar interests to connect and share knowledge, and Facebook in particular has a growing number of groups devoted to social issues and e-learning (Examples: Gurteen Knowledge Community, Staffs University Best Practice Models for E-learning, KM-Forum).So, to summarise, the (KM) market is big and growing. The public sector has traditionally lagged behind the private sector in adopting new ways of working but Web 2.0 is encouraging innovation and collaboration (the fundamental components of KM.) and the gap is narrowing. Those who can’t or won’t engage with the technology are going to find themselves increasingly isolated and disconnected.

4 . What are public sector organisations focusing on at the moment in terms of knowledge management and why? How is this likely to change over the next few years?

As I mentioned in answer to the first question, Public sector organisations have had to react to various policy initiatives for delivering more or better services whilst maintaining or reducing budgets. The only way of achieving more from less is by working smarter and ensuring you are maximising the potential of the resources (people) you already have. This, then, is the driver for KM in public sector organisations. LAA’s provided the model for sharing best practice, providing peer support and encouraging partnerships, and we’re now seeing the creation of more extensive collaborative and professional networks, e.g. the Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnerships. We expect to see this trend continue across the sector, which can potentially deliver more cost saving and spread of exemplar working practices.

5 How hyped is the knowledge management market and how realistic are the expectations around it? What are its shortcomings and why?

I think the ‘KM’ term has been over-hyped to some extent, and as I mentioned earlier, many people remember the underwhelming KM initiatives of the mid-90’s. However, there is a real buzz amongst most people I’ve met who are embracing the opportunities offered by improved connectivity, social networking and social media. These tools and processes are creating environments for more effective peer support and enabling ‘experts’ to connect with novice practitioners. However, information capture for categorisation and reuse is a growing weakness, partially due to the growing number of channels through which information is disseminated – e.g. email, forums, podcasts, video etc. Information (from which knowledge is derived) seems far more transient and ethereal, with relevance decaying far more rapidly than was one the case.

6. What are the key inhibitors to knowledge management adoption in the public sector and why? What are the main challenges when going down this route and why?

….something here about the socio-demographics of the public sector workforce – e.g. introducing a sceptical and mature staff demographic to the concept of virtual collaboration using social computing/Web 2.0 facilities?

7. What are the critical success factors for implementing knowledge management systems? What are the key pitfalls and where can things go wrong? What best practice advice could you provide here?

Though I’ve previously mentioned the opportunities that new technology (e.g. Web 2.0) provides for improved connectivity and collaboration, the most important factor is the ‘people’. People are demanding more choice in the way they work, and we have to meet that demand. Power and control mechanisms are not effective in bringing the best out of people; they need to discover the benefits of improving their life skills for themselves. Managers have to ensure they have created an environment which supports diverse ways for learning and self improvement. For some, this may be access to online (social networking) environments; others may prefer more traditional academic-based methods. We have to understand these different needs and (as far as we can) ensure they are available in the workplace and supported by relevant policies.

8. What are the key trends in this area likely to be over the next few years and why are they important? What is the future here and how is this likely to manifest itself?

The future is a far more ‘digitally aware’ demographic. School and university leavers entering the public sector are more familiar with – and expect – access to social networks and social media applications to support their professional development and work life. Immersive technologies such as Second Life will be part and parcel of how organisations work – e.g. virtual meetings and presentations. Technology is moving faster than most people can keep up with, but the next generation of public sector staff will be more comfortable with these sort of facilities, and will find more ingenious ways of using them to improve their own development and the services provided to the public.

Social Enterprise – a business model for the 21st century

“Social enterprises are profit-making businesses set up to tackle a social or environmental need. Many commercial businesses would consider themselves to have social objectives, but social enterprises are distinctive because their social or environmental purpose is central to what they do. Rather than maximising shareholder value their main aim is to generate profit to further their social and environmental goals. We believe social enterprise is the business model for the 21st century.” The Social Enterprise Ambassadors

Knowledge workers not ready for Web 2.0 or Enterprise 2.0 tools

Technologies that are over a decade old are hampering the way that knowledge workers collaborate but there is still a long way to go before firms are brought up to speed with 21st century IT…Knowledge workers are collaborating more extensively but their businesses are using technologies that are in some cases over 100 years old, impacting the efficiency and effectiveness of collaboration, according to new research. And it could spell disaster in the current economic crisis as firms look to save costs by making their business processes more efficient.The research, which was conducted by Forrester on behalf of Adobe, showed that while 81% of knowledge workers in Europe regularly collaborate with two or more colleagues in different time zones, they rely on the telephone and email to do so. And the shortcomings of these older technologies are increasingly being recognised as 70% are looking for better speed and efficiency to improve current collaboration methods.

“The survey data shows a marked propensity among knowledge workers to stick with what they know for team collaboration despite the recognition of needed improvements and potentially better alternatives.”Tim Walters, Forrester

However, knowledge workers themselves are in danger of being left behind the times as the report also highlighted that European knowledge workers are not ready to use emerging web 2.0 or enterprise 2.0 tools – current adoption rates are just 1% for wikis and 2% for blogs, for example. The report speculates a key factor could be that the younger generation, who are leading the way when it comes to utilising these technologies, has failed to penetrate a large majority of the current European workforce compared to the US and Asia.But rather than jump in at the deep end, the survey report suggests European knowledge organisations should take “evolutionary steps” towards web 2.0. “The survey data shows a marked propensity among knowledge workers to stick with what they know for team collaboration – email and attachments – despite the recognition of needed improvements and potentially better alternatives,” said Tim Walters, senior analyst at Forrester. “The challenge for the enterprise therefore is not just to provide improved collaboration solutions but also to support workers’ current work habits while transitioning them to new and constantly evolving ways of working.”The report suggests IT departments consider a ‘design for people’ approach to support the way European knowledge workers want to work by building upon their current email-based workflow. The goal is to bridge the gap between structured business processes and everyday disparate collaboration habits. “People’s work habits and preferences need to be a top consideration when planning any business and IT endeavour,” said Mark Wheeler, marketing director for Northern Europe at Adobe.The key areas of insight include:Technology enables, and complicates, team collaborationWhile knowledge workers in Europe favour the telephone and email for collaboration, they also express dissatisfaction with current collaborative methods and a desire to learn about alternatives. Because of the overwhelming need to collaborate with widely dispersed teams, European enterprise IT managers are faced with a range of tactical and strategic issues to support the needs of knowledge workers, including the challenge to secure the content and the need to act as a business partner by improving how knowledge workers collaborate effectively through the right technology for their needs.Information gathering is a sore spot for ad-hoc collaborationWhile real-time communication may be a preferred method of collaboration, the effort to compile responses and put the data to work often creates redundancies. Without technology to extract and synthesise data collected, making sense of the responses becomes largely a manual effort that creates extra busywork without adding value. Forrester concludes that IT departments must embrace email and phone-based data collection methods that include measurable, engaging approaches that work in these environments, such as surveys or forms that help compile data, not just collect it.The bar has been raised for communication qualityAs expectations for engaging communication experiences grow, European knowledge workers find themselves increasingly needing to create high-quality, persuasive communications. Nearly half of all European knowledge workers indicate that they need to create high impact content once a month or more but 87% of European knowledge workers experience problems with the default collaboration tools they are using today. Forrester suggests that IT organisations must adopt a ‘design for people’ approach to help European knowledge workers succeed while planning for change because needs are expected to shift as collaboration tools and the enterprise 2.0 mature.Security risk of current collaboration methods underestimatedThe study also reveals that knowledge worker habits in their collaboration efforts are not aligned with enterprise security concerns. This insight confirms findings from Forrester’s 2008 Security Forum Europe, which identified that delegates overwhelmingly chose “poor protection of information assets” and “employees acting in unauthorised ways” as the top two IT threats they will face in the coming year. As a result, IT departments need to educate knowledge workers of the security risks, find tools and processes that minimise exposure of sensitive information, and reduce security risk by aligning technology, processes and people. Analysts further suggest that enterprise IT departments that can focus on how European knowledge workers want to work will look to document-level security as the means to best protect sensitive information.Read the full report:


Life and how I live it!