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Email Management

[Based on an article by Robert Smallwood]

 

Twenty years ago, all documents were printed on paper. Nowadays, 60%-70% of companies' essential business information is documented in email. In 2006, the estimated amount of messages is an astounding 40 billion. An average worker receives vast amounts of email and saves them for different reasons: saving correspondences for either a database or as backup. Furthermore, the worker shares the meal by mobilizing it in the organization.

We all find saving, retrieving and sharing the knowledge saved in the email effectively quite difficult. Forwarding the messages multiplies them and loads the already overloaded email system and creates unmonitored versions of the same information. Due to the difficulty to store, manage and retrieve this information which in turn is due to the increase of transportation and the fact that email has become a central area in the organization, Email Management tools (EMM) were developed.

 

Choosing the correct and appropriate tool for managing email in the organization is critical, since the tool will serve the organization for the following years and if this job is done correctly it will save the functionaries a pain as well as loss of resources and possibly fines/jail. Proof of the importance organizations relate to the issue is the fact that these projects are funded by management rather than IT departments.

 

The basic knowledge needs related to email management are sorting, shared filing and searching. Nevertheless, these systems also provide services for managing and "capturing" messages, as well as storing, retrieving, monitoring, filtering and blocking access to them. They even catalogue messages according to data in the message's summary (Subject, to, from, cc, Time, Date). A positive side effect is reducing the load on IT.

There are various tools for email managing available nowadays:

  • The best ones implement complex business rules (what to file where) in order to maintain a shared knowledgebase with a retrieving engine.
  • The infrastructural ones interface for many email systems (Lotus, Microsoft Exchange, SunOne messaging, Bloomberg Mail, Notes/Domino etc).
  • The efficient ones emphasize storing and substantial savings instead of storing.
  • Some of the systems are designated yet most are included in wider ECM (Enterprise Content Management) systems, together with WCM (Web Content Management) systems, document management systems, BPM support systems etc.

Is this a new trend for creating the complementing systems to the ERP, this time on the softer side of information? Time will tell.

Energy group/synergy group

As part of my job, I am occasionally required to develop group workshops which are suitable for various purposes, ranging from constructing a team to initiating the activity of different functionaries. While skimming through different sources, I have founded this definition of three groups:

  • Allergy group (1+1=1): combining the two users decreases the unique value of each participator due to waste of time and energy on interests, ego and status.
  • Energy group (1+1=2): combining the users actualizes their abilities as individuals yet not their ability as a work team. This team will avoid conflict in order to maintain a functioning relationship.
  • Synergy group (1+1=3): a team in which the whole is greater than the simple sum of its parts. This group is characterized by fruitful conflicts, patience, tolerance and decision making possible only through team work.

 

The terms allergy, energy and synergy describes the differences that we view between discussion groups in virtual communities. A discussion group which would be referred to as an 'allergy group' is a group whose members are hesitant to raise a question or discussion that will somehow harm their status, since on the other side of the screen awaits a group of cynics that enjoy analyzing content and nicknaming their teammates. I have had experience with group members who stated that all participating members of the organizational forum are bored workers with too much time on their hands. This type of group will most probably not produce any impressive insights or products.

A group referred to as an 'energy group' is a group whose members all have an interest: to show-off their skills and act according to management's expectations. Group members will make sure not to risk themselves; they will participate as long as there is some personal gain involved. They do not believe the group can be used as a utility for routine work.

A group referred to as a 'synergy group' is a group whose members discuss subject critical to the professional group which employs the group members routinely. This group will conduct dynamic and updated discussions and will feature positive feedback and overall satisfaction of its members.

As consultants responsible for initiating and monitoring processes in the field of content, whether by clarifying to the community members what we expect from them as part of the process or through a process in which we locally formulate the expectations from this discussion group. It is important to know how to direct towards creating synergic groups which provide substantial benefit to the individual worker and the organization and using the aforementioned terms might be affective.

 

 

Epistemology

 Epistemology, from the Greek word episteme which means knowing or science, is a branch of philosophy that discusses human consciousness and knowledge. It deals with the essence of knowledge, its types, origins, characteristics, and limitations. The term refers to the settings in which knowledge can be created or presented regardless of the individual's personal beliefs.

In 1926, Polanyi, a (Jewish) British-Hungarian mathematician defined epistemology as: "what we know about knowledge". The Axis of epistemology is comprised from two types of knowledge: tacit knowledge and articulated knowledge (later changed to explicit knowledge), explained in the following Matrix:

 

Knows

Doesn't know

Knows

Knowledge you know you know (explicit knowledge)

Knowledge you know you don't know

Doesn't Know

Knowledge you don't know you know (tacit knowledge)

Knowledge you don't know you don't know (unknown gaps)

 

Nunka and Takauchi elaborated on epistemology in their 1995 book "The Knowledge Creating Company". In the book they describe two approaches to epistemology, western and Japanese. They define a knowledge development, according to Japanese culture which bases one of its axes on moving from tacit information to explicit information and vice versa.

Epistemology is important in daily Knowledge Management Processes and should be considered when deciding to:

  1. Knowledge Development: the process can be based on the Nunka and Takauchi approach to transforming information (tacit<->explicit), which assists in developing the knowledge.
  2. Knowledge Sharing: we must address the knowledge while considering all four panels, with their appropriate tools. The Push method, for example, assists us in accumulating knowledge which we don't know that we don't know (bottom-left panel), position transfer solution emphasize both right panels, etc.

To conclude, this term I rooted in the world of ancient philosophy yet is used in the world of current business and Knowledge Management.

Expert Map

An expert map is an online list of experts (within an organization or around some discipline) describing their abilities, skills and additional information regarding their connections. In a Knowledge Management environment, an expert map provides a profile of the employees’ expertise and field of specialty. An inquiry regarding a specific issue will provide a list of employees holding tacit knowledge and experts on the required subject.

Explicit knowledge

It is customary in the world of Knowledge Management to differentiate between two main sources of knowledge: tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is the knowledge belonging to an individual or shared by the group, while the part holding the knowledge is aware of its existence. If the knowledge is subconscious, it will be referred to as tacit knowledge. Explicit knowledge, initially referred to as articulated knowledge, is seemingly easy to manage yet is not a trivial matter since it is usually neither organized, structured or shared, This not merely a technical procedure. Knowledge holders usually face a true difficulty to place knowledge in a manner that will make its sharing and preserving easier.

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