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Email and Content Management

Seth Gottlieb wrote a good post on Email and Content Management

I never miss the opportunity to evangelize the use of our KM-tools instead of e-mail (and sometimes even verbal contact). Some effective techniques I used at work:

* Refuse to do any task colleagues sent me by email, insisting that they issue a ticket in our task-tracker instead.

* Never reply with informative emails. Rather write a wiki-page on the subject and send the link to the correspondents.

* Each time a colleague seeks to explain how something works, or teach me something, I insist that they write a wiki-page instead, and send me the link.

We shouldn't abandon email. It's a quick and responsive tool that creates alot of dialog and content productivity. KM-people know that face-to-face meetings is the best way to convey knowledge. Phone, instant messaging and even email are closer to face-to-face than a CMS.

Any company should have set conventions of how different collaboration tools are used. Here are some example keywords:

* Email: Drafting and suggestions
* Forum: Discussions
* IM/Chat/voice: Quick notifications, brainstorming
* Blogs: External presentation for promotion
* CMS: Formal promotion, customer/user documentation

One could also divide the strategy into extra (public, open) and intra (internal company biz), and perhaps even a strategy for how communication with customers are done. We use a different kind of ticket-tracker for our customer-support (OTRS) than we use for internal business tickets (Trac).


  1. Anonymous24/5/06 20:57

    As a KM practioner, I can tell you that the approach you describe above will not work in many organizations. Unless you have the support of the executive level -- refusing to respond to coworker's requests sent via email will just alienate you from them. The last thing a KM practioner wants to do is to alienate the very people we are supposed to be helping!

    Again, while I love that you post informative writings on a wiki -- trying to force a colleague to do the same in many environments will cause political problems galore. It will become a power issue and will distract from the primary purpose of KM -- to open the lines of communication and share knowledge.

    If you have executive support who can issue such a mandate -- that is an entirely different scenario.
    Similarilay, you could require your reports to submit tickets, write wiki pages, etc. However, it appears that you were indicating your equals. Since your profile indicates that you are in grad school -- I want to warn you that outside of grad school you will run into some powerful resistance and will need to choose your battles wisely.
    Strategies and approaches are one thing -- it is another to mandate practices if you do not have the power to do so.

    Without that kind of power, the best you can do is evangelize, teach, and model good information management practices.

  2. Hi Kelly, thanks for the comment. You are indeed very correct here. In my particular scenario I have the luxury of working in a very small company (4 people) where it's possible to push through conventions such as these.

    I have just finished grad school, and after the summer I will actually be moving into a much larger company where my organizational power will be considerably weakened compared to that I have now. I'll keep your advice in mind, of course.

    One other thought: Even if one had the support of the executives, trying to force people into doing KM well would probably not be a good idea. The best incentive I can think of is to have people realize that they are not only helping others, but also helping themselves when they contribute to the wiki, as well as proving their value to the organization.

    And I guess that leads back to the ye old KM-paradox: Why should I share my unique knowledge when it only serves to lessen my value as an employee?

    Wiki-contributions are more anonymous than e-mails, and people might not get the credit they deserve for contributing. I'd like to underline the functional need of a wiki to credit its authors properly, if it is ever to replace the mailing list.

    Oh, and a final side-note: Students are the _worst_ crowd to lead into doing any kind of KM-effort! There are no incentives and no interest. The only knowledge-transfer which is rewarded is the one between the student, the curriculum and the exam :)


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