Knowledge Hub User Consultation: the importance of UI and UX

sad-happy-UXLong time readers of this blog will know that I was intimately involved as lead consultant for the local government Knowledge Hub collaborative platform, and have written much about the concepts and ideas that went into its early development. Some of which are noted here:

This is my response, to the latest Knowledge Hub consultation exercise following the recent announcement about CapacityGRID (a subsidiary of Liberata) taking control of the future development and strategy for KHub. This is posted here as an open letter, but has also been submitted to the KHub forum discussion.

It’s laudable that you are consulting with your users to identify improvements to KHub, but I wonder if this is the best way of shaping and prioritising future developments. The fundamental problem, I believe, is the inherent complexities of the user interface (UI), which creates a less than optimum user experience (UX). Building additional features and functionality on top of these shaky foundations is only going to add to the problems many users experience in finding the information they want or knowing how to engage and contribute.

Taking on board all of these new ideas and suggestions for features and enhancements from what will inevitably be a vocal minority may give you a skewed perspective on what is really important, and future problems in managing expectations where some suggestions are given lower priorities. If you get – say – 50 responses, this represents just 0.0003% of your touted user base of 160,000. Hardly a representative sample.

An alternative would be to use the system statistics to develop a histogram showing the most used features and most popular pages and then set about simplifying access and improving performance for these features and pages. This will more likely uncover the underlying problems that ALL users are likely experiencing, it overcomes the problem with skewed priorities from the more vocal users, and will hopefully address some of the problems with the UI/UX.  If anyone cares to understand a bit more about the importance of UI and UX, and the difference between the two, then read this post that I produced during my time as lead consultant for the KHub, which also contains lots of useful reference links to good UI/UX practice. It’s difficult to relate anything in this post to what was actually delivered – especially the business scenarios.

Key point here is that it’s not about what the technology can do; it’s how you use it.

One last point, as you are probably aware, I collated and curated a fairly substantive response, on behalf of the “Knowledge Hub Advisory Group”, to the original consultation when it was announced that KHub might close down. This group acted as a steering group during the procurement and early development stages of KHub, but was disbanded by the new project team shortly after I left the project. I managed to get many of the original members together for the purpose of the consultation exercise, and have yet to see any response or even acknowledgement to this input – formal or informal.

I’ve pulled out two of the many recommendations from this group, which I think are still relevant to this latest consultation, and once again relate to UI and UX, as follows:

1. There is significant anecdotal evidence that users find the current system difficult to use and lacking many of the features of the legacy CoP platform (e.g. tools for Facilitators). The user experience is further complicated by the lack of integration with other LGA products and services, such as esd-toolkit and LGInform. Currently, if you use LGInform you sign in via the esd-toolkit, but if you want to collaborate or have discussions about it you have to separately sign-in to Knowledge Hub. This is despite esd-toolkit supporting relevant standards, such as OAuth and OpenID. Users would naturally like to see a far more intuitive and seamless experience between esd-toolkit, LGInform and Knowledge Hub. Porism, esd-toolkit’s technical partners, are willing to commit resources to help achieve this vision.

2. There is a need for closed, secure spaces for sharing some knowledge and data, and there is also a need for the online management of these spaces, as currently provided by the KHub support team. However, the online field is moving incredibly fast, and it may be that we need to put more emphasis on mini-Hubs and connecting different Hubs and networks. It doesn’t make sense to have a local government-only space nationally when locally the reality is lots of different partnerships and networks across sectors, and with citizens, on the lines that Lambeth and others are developing.

I hope this helps inform this latest consultation, and it would be useful (and courteous?) to get some feedback on this occasion.

Steve Dale

(Image source:

Posted in Communities of Practice, Knowledge Hub | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

I’m Becoming an Anachronism (according to Google)

Another one bites the dust (to the tune of song by Freddie Mercury, of course). I’m beginning to wonder if the way I use social media is becoming anachronistic, i.e. I seem to be out of step with what I assume must be the majority of users who have found no use for Google Reader, Google Sidewiki, Google Notebook, Google Labs, Google Answers, and now the latest to be consigned to the Google Graveyard – iGoogle.

Yes, I’ve used them all, and in some cases (Reader and iGoogle) have devoted considerable time in personalising the interface, carefully selecting the content sources and widgets that would enable me to quickly tap into the topics and conversations that I’ve chosen to follow.

So I assume the rest of the social-media-verse operate in an entirely different way to myself. Presumably relying on serendipity to find the useful nuggets amongst the cacophony of noise on the InterWeb. How quaint. Seems like I’d better haul myself into the 21st century and hope that the “thirty-things-you-wished-you’d-known-at-school” from Buzzfeed or the “top-10-people-who-have-nothing-interesting-to-say-but-you-ought-to-follow” from Mashable just happen to be the things I should be looking at. Don’t you just love evolution?!

As a reminder – here’s what we (correction “me”) will remember with affection:

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Making The Most Of Online Information 2013

The countdown to this year’s Online Information Conference has begun, and with an anticipated 400 delegates from over 35 countries, and a line-up of internationally renowned keynote speakers, it promises to maintain the benchmark it has set for itself in becoming the year’s premier event for information professionals.

The event runs for two days on 19th and 20th November at the Victoria Park Plaza, London.  Key learning opportunities from this year’s event include:

  • New strategies for using social media to collaborate and build relationships.
  • Making sense and creating value from Big Data.
  • New methods and business models for e-publishing.
  • How to create and structure content for a multi-device, multi-platform world.
  • New and emerging business models for open data and open access.
  • Keeping up with developments in search technologies.

See the full agenda for Day 1 and Day 2, and a short video of last year’s event.

bizzabo logo

There is also a great opportunity to network before, during and after the event with the fantastic Bizzabo event app. Available to download for iPad/iPhone and Android devices, it will give up-to-date information about the conference proceedings and enable users to share their experience, arrange meetings and discover new friends via its integration with the professional LinkedIn network. Details about the app on the Conference website or read a review of the app on Techcrunch.

I’m looking forward to meeting as many people as I can at this year’s event – either in person or via the app. If you want to make the most of the conference experience, I highly recommend downloading and using the app….now! Happy networking!

(Steve Dale – Chairman Online Information Conference Committee)

Posted in Information Management, Knowledge Management, Online Conference | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

In the Future, Only Rich People Can Afford to Keep Their Emails Secret

See on Scoop.itData & Informatics

“If you’re seeking a service that’s super secure, all-encompassing, and easy to use, the best choice would probably be to go outside the U.S., where legal measures could make it more difficult to access data. But you’ll have to pay a hefty price for it.”

Stephen Dale‘s insight:

On the back of the Edward Snowden revelations, more of us are becoming aware of the level and degree of Government/State digital surveillance, and whilst we can accept that there are legitimate reasons for this, e.g. to gather intelligence  of terrorist activities, there is the inevitable concern that this data (our data) may be misused, misappropriated or even sold to third parties. And not forgetting the private sector, where emerging social analytical tools are being used by marketing departments to track our digital trail.

This article reinforces the view that there may ultimately be two classes of consumers using the internet; those who can afford to pay a premium to remain protected and private and those who cannot.   A whole new economy of companies who provide anonymous search, super-encrypted email and document sharing, and protected document storage etc. are blossoming.  Are we approaching the point whereby the Internet will become like an airplane with first class and economy seats? I’m beginning to think so.

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Social Network Analysis: making invisible work visible.

Social NetworkEveryone is talking about the enormous benefits to be had through collaborative working and better employee engagement. Industry analysts report a 25% improvement in organisational efficiency when companies successfully deploy a collaboration platform. Whether it’s social media or social collaboration, organisations are striving to deliver better value through a more connected workforce and closer engagement with customers and stakeholders. The term ‘social business’ nicely sums up this important development. The paradox is that organisations continue to allocate a significant proportion of their IT budgets on communications infrastructure and ‘social software’ and virtually nothing on systems and tools that can analyse how effective this investment is.

While companies know that social networks are important, most managers don’t understand how these networks really work. These social networks don’t appear on any formal organisation charts, yet can significantly affect performance and innovation. The problems is, how can leaders manage what they can’t see?

Managers may implement collaborative technologies with the vague notion that they will help employees interact more seamlessly and that this will improve the quality of their work. They may plan culture change programmes or apply KM techniques to create “learning organisations” in the hope that promoting open and honest conversations will lead to innovation and performance improvements. Or they may establish communities of practice with the intent of promoting knowledge creation and sharing as well as improving the quality and efficiency of work.

Sometimes these initiatives have the desired effect, but the results are not always positive. Organisations can get bogged down. Decision makers can become so consumed that most of their employees cannot get to them in time to seize opportunities. And individual employees get overloaded with email, meetings and requests for help, to a point where their own work, job satisfaction, and even health are affected.

It seems odd that we’ve accepted this state of affairs for so long, perhaps partially driven by the hype around enterprise collaboration systems that will instantly unlock the previously suppressed creative forces within the organisation. Managers need to take a more targeted approach, based on information about how work is really done within their organisation. The power of a network perspective, whether applied to a group or an individual, lies with the precision this view offers. Managers who target strategic points in social networks can quickly increase an organisation’s effectiveness, efficiency and opportunities for innovation. In networks of any size it is not possible for everyone to be connected to everyone else, nor is it desirable. An indiscriminate increase in connections can be a drag on productivity. A crucial benefit of network analysis often comes from discovering excessive relationships. The discovery can help managers develop ways to alleviate over-burdened people and decrease time-consuming connections.

What else can network analysis reveal? The detail is in the attached paper, but the following is a brief summary of what a well-informed manager could glean from a network analysis approach:

  • Bottlenecks – individuals or groups that provide the only connection between different parts of the network.
  • Number of links – insufficient or excessive links between departments that should coordinate effectively.
  • Degrees of separation connecting all pairs of nodes in the group. Short distances transmit information accurately and in a timely way, while long distances transmit slowly and can distort the information. This can also show the number of nodes that an individual would have to go through to get an answer.
  • Isolation – people that are not integrated well into a group and therefore, represent both untapped skills and a high likelihood of turnover.
  • Highly expert people – that may not be utilised effectively.
  • Individuals whose potential departure might result in the loss of unique knowledge to the organisation.
  • Organisational subgroups or cliques – can develop their own subcultures and negative attitudes toward other groups.
  • Emergent leaders and informal experts.
  • Linking patterns amongst blogs.
  • Emergent communities.
  • Tracking growth of on-line communities.
  • Staff movements and location (e.g. for optimising office use). ‘What if’ analysis can be performed to predict the outcome of your organisational and social change initiatives.

Find out how Social Network Analysis (SNA) can make the ‘invisible work, visible’ (see attached PDF). Having a better understanding of how your networks work is the first step in achieving more effective collaboration and improving workplace efficiency.

I’ve become convinced that how networks work has become an essential 21st Century literacy. Harold Rheingold.

Image courtesy of higyou (Shutterstock)

Social Network Analysis Proposition

Posted in Communities, Knowledge Management, Social Network Analysis, Social Networking Tools | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Bullish on digital: McKinsey Global Survey results | McKinsey & Company

See on Scoop.itThe Social Web

CEOs and other senior executives are increasingly engaged as their companies step up efforts to build digital enterprises. A McKinsey & Company article.

The latest report from McKinsey on the state of digital enterprise (Social Business) offers some interesting insight on trends, as follows:

56 percent of businesses survey say digital engagement of customers is at least a top-ten company priority, and on the whole respondents report notable progress since 2012 in deploying practices related to this trend.

Companies have been slower to adopt digital approaches to engaging their own employees, suppliers, and external partners. Executives say their companies most often use online tools for employee evaluations and feedback or knowledge management; smaller proportion report more advanced uses, such as collaborative product design or knowledge sharing across the supply chain.

Significant growth in the company-wide use of big data and advanced analytics, used to improve decision making, R&D processes, and budgeting and forecasting.

40 percent of respondents say their companies are either incorporating digital technology into existing products or improving their technology operating models (for instance, using cloud computing).

31 percent say their CEOs personally sponsor digital initiatives, up from 23 percent in 2012.

30 percent have a chief digital officer (CDO) on their companies’ executive teams, a sign of the widespread awareness that these initiatives are important.

Respondents said that success (or failure) of digital implementations ultimately relies on organization and leadership, rather than technology considerations. The absence of senior-management interest is the factor respondents most often identify as contributing to an initiative’s failure. [No surprises here then!]

Organizational issues hinder companies’ efforts to meet goals and see real impact from digital. Misaligned organizational structures and difficulty finding functional talent (such as data scientists or digital marketers) are cited as the biggest issues.

57 percent say their companies are up to one-quarter of the way toward realizing their end-state visions for their digital programs, and just 40 percent say their organizations’ digital efforts have yielded a measurable business impact thus far.

Looking ahead, the report concludes:

  1. Find the right digital leaders. Leadership is the most decisive factor for a digital program’s success or failure.
  2. Manage expectations. Setting the right agenda and maintaining an aspirational vision while addressing organizational, technical, and cultural challenges. Prioritize talent. Concerns about finding the talent their companies need to realize their digital goals.
  3. Technical, functional, and business skills are all critical for digital programs. Finding and hiring talent is only part of the solution; no matter where the talent comes from, development and retention are equally important in a sellers’ market.

The full report is available from McKinsey.


Posted in Social Business, Social Enterprise | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

A Glimpse into the Future of Learning

See on Scoop.itThe Social Web

Stephen Dale‘s insight:

I thought this was a great illustration of how learning and the application of knowledge is evolving – as it must – to meet the challenges of an increasingly complex and rapidly changing social ecosystem. The key point here is how we must take control of our learning, and the increasing opportunities to do so. Personalisation is fundamental to the future of learning, and learning has to be a life-long activity in order to ensure knowledge adapts to change. All of this is at the heart of "Personal Knowledge Management’. #pkm

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Posted in Social Enterprise | 1 Comment

A Radical Redesign of Apple’s New Mobile Experience: iOS 7

Apple iPhoneA slight departure from my usual “communities & collaboration” theme, but given the growing trends for mobile working and BYOD, I thought this might be relevant.

Apple likes to generate tons of hype for every new release, but the announcement of the iOS 7 beta has more than a few people talking. Apple told tech geeks the second beta version will be available for developers to examine, says PC Mag. The company claims this new iOS is the most important thing it has done since the iPhone.

Apple made its announcement at the recent Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC). Apparently there wasn’t enough time to discuss other developments, like its much-hyped Apple TV.  However, it certainly has iPhone and iPad users everywhere sitting up, as some of the new features look extremely exciting.

The Intent of iOS 7

Apple offers a comprehensive look at iOS 7 on its website, where the company discusses the intentions behind the new operating system. Apple explains the importance of design, and how the idea of design for Apple goes far beyond merely looking good. Design, says Apple, is about simplifying even the most complex things into a usable and elegant interface.

While it’s still unclear how successful the company will be in achieving this goal, those who have used the new iOS have mentioned several great new features.

Hidden Gems

  • Visible Timer: The timer everyone uses so frequently will now be visible on the lock screen function. This will prove extremely useful for those who use timers while engaging in activities that leave their hands dirty. Cooking and washing are just a few tasks that come to mind where this feature will be a lifesaver.
  • iCloud Keychain: Entrepreneur discovered that iOS 7 keeps your keychain — all your passwords and credit information — synced and encrypted across all of your devices.
  • Pinch to Zoom Video: Now, when you’re recording video on your device, you can pinch the screen to zoom on your subject.
  • Mark Messages as Read: The whole world hopes this feature will make it to the final release of iOS 7. Veteran iOS users know how annoying it can be to get 20 batch emails, for instance, and then to have to go through and select each one individually to mark them as read. It’s a time consuming and fairly ridiculous process for such an advanced system, and a change that should have happened years before.
  • Block Numbers: Call blocking has been something users have requested for years, according to Cult of Mac, and it’s a good thing Apple is finally responding. There are times when you want to block someone from calling or texting you, and now you should be able to do it fairly easily.
  • Find My iPhone: This is a feature that Apple has confirmed. The new iOS will allow you to wipe or lock your phone remotely using your Apple ID and password, and you can also display a custom message to the person who has it.

A Bright Future

The new features, both potential and confirmed, of iOS 7 are exciting. You will have to wait until Autumn 2013, however, to enjoy them.

Image by William Hook pursuant to the terms of his Creative Commons license.

Posted in Mobile Working | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The Evolution Of Social Media And Its Effect On Knowledge Organisation

There has been a lot of hype around social media, social networks and social business, much of it unhelpful in getting real understanding what this is all about. For some people, “social” will always mean frivolity and time wasting. For others, social media just means marketing and communications.  Predating all of this hype, social learning networks and communities of practice have long existed as ecologies that would encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing.

Off-line knowledge sharing communities have been around since the Middle Ages, where crafts and skills were honed, and perhaps best exemplified by the many Worshipful Companies – from bakers to candle-stick makers!

The evolution of social media over the past several years has made it easier than ever before to find, connect and engage with “experts” and people with similar interests. Enlightened organisations have recognised that investment in social technologies and (most importantly) the organisational change required in order to nurture and embed a collaborative culture, can overcome the limitations of silo’d structures that have traditionally inhibited information flows and opportunities for innovation

This trend was identifies by Andrew McAfee in 2006, who coined the term “Enterprise 2.0” to describe how the strategic integration of social technologies into an enterprise’s intranet, extranet and business processes could improve decision making. This has given new life to learning, sharing and personal development. Enlightened organisations have recognised that investment in social technology and (most importantly) the organisational development that must accompany it in order to nurture and embed a collaborative culture, can overcome the limitations of silo’d structures that inhibit information flows and opportunities for innovation.  However, it’s still unfortunate that in many cases social media platforms are seen as technology projects and not as part of a wider and more embracing strategic organisational development project. It’s only when poor adoption rates become apparent that organisations begin to focus on behaviours,
education and training.

Put simply, we’re all still on the learning curve on how to build and sustain a truly collaborative culture, and must be continually reminded that technology is an enabler and not the solution. The paradox is that most collaboration projects are still IT-led and any involvement from HR or knowledge/information professionals is at best incidental.

In a broader context, the pervasive and ubiquitous availability of social media in almost all aspects of daily life, from the way we communicate, get information, buy and sell, travel, live and learn is adding to the pressure on organisations to provide a more porous interface between internal (behind the firewall) and external services. Knowledge workers are increasingly making their own decisions on what tools, products and services that they need to work more effectively and will become increasingly disaffected if these are not available within the work environment.  We’re already at the point where mobile platforms (smartphones, laptops, tablets) are outstripping sales of traditional desktops, and workers that can’t access social networks such as Twitter or Facebook on their works PC are just as likely to use their Smartphone to get access.  More and more organisations are adapting to this challenge and embracing more mobile and agile working strategies by supporting ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD), with all of the security implications this entails.

This presentation examines the industry trends on how social media and social technologies are changing the way that we generate, organise and consume knowledge, and how this is driving emergent digital literacies for knowledge workers.

Posted in Knowledge Management, Social Business, Social Media | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The 2013 Social Media Landscape [Infographic] – Brian Solis

See on Scoop.itThe Social Web

Stephen Dale‘s insight:

I’ve kept track of the various iterations of Brian Solis’s Conversation Prism since he first made this available (Version 1) in 2008. This is the latest version (Version 4) which reflects some of the consolidation and disappearance of some brands since the last version. From the article:

“For those unfamiliar with The Conversation Prism, it is an evolving infographic that captures the state of social media, organized by how important social networks are used by professional and everyday consumers. It was created to serve as a visual tool for brands to consider unforeseen opportunities through a holistic lens. Over the years, it has served as a business tool as well as art decorating the walls and screens of offices, conference halls, and also homes.

The Conversation Prism was designed to help strategists see the bigger picture in the evolution of social media beyond the most popular and trendy sites. It is intended to help in a number of ways…

1. As a form of validation to show executives that social media is not a fad and that it’s bigger thanFacebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Pinterest.

2. To motivate teams to find new ways to think about social media and explore new ways to improve experiences and relationships.

3. Provide a top-level view to help strategists study the landscape as they plan their next social media strategy.”

It is provided as a free download in many sizes and shapes here.

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Posted in Infographic, Social Business, Social Media | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments