Can Knowledge Management be solved in the Cloud?

Service Knowledge Management System (SKMS) (ITILv3): [Service Transition] A set of tools and databases that are used to manage knowledge and information. The SKMS includes the Configuration Management System, as well as other tools and database. The SKMS stores, manages, updates, and presents all information that an IT Service Provider needs to manage the full Lifecycle of IT Services.

One of the most vexing problems facing organisations for years has been knowledge management. In the past, the task of capturing, organising and disseminating valuable information so it could be properly utilised by end-users and business executives was an herculean effort that produced limited results. Today’s cloud computing movement offers exciting opportunities to remedy those age-old challenges.

While the ideal of effective knowledge management has been high on most organisations’ priority lists for years, the pressure to successfully address this issue has never been more acute. Today’s economic uncertainties, escalating competition, declining customer loyalties, and an increasingly dispersed workforce are all driving organisations of all sizes across nearly every industry to seek new ways to address their knowledge management requirements.
Compounding this challenge is the limited success many organisations have achieved implementing business intelligence (BI) and analytic tools to guide their day-to-day activities and long-range initiatives.

basefarm-can-knowledge-management-be-solved-in-the-cloud

Troublesome Trio

Past efforts to address the knowledge management problem were stymied by technological, financial and organisational obstacles.

On the technology side, traditional on-premise content management and database access products were often too complex and complicated to deploy and administer, and they were too inflexible to meet the fluctuating needs of corporate end-users and executives.

The technological challenges translated into significant planning, design, implementation and operational costs which created financial hurdles that were too high and derailed many knowledge management projects.

More importantly, many organisations found that their people didn’t want to share information they thought was essential to protect their jobs or too time-consuming to funnel into a corporate database. No matter how powerful a knowledge management solution an organisation sought to deploy, this behavioural problem was often too much to overcome.

Now, people share everything via today’s social networks. Information-sharing has become second-nature in our personal and professional lives via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Yet the use of these online services as business tools has typically evolved outside the realm of traditional enterprise applications. As a result, many organisations are still grappling with how to integrate the information and harness the insight being generated by these services into their corporate operations. They are also trying to develop the appropriate policies and procedures to protect their proprietary interests and adhere to the compliance requirements within their industries.

Today’s cloud computing alternatives are beginning to untangle these issues.

Different Strokes

First, they are reducing the technical challenges by eliminating many of the system requirements. Second, they are offering more scalable and secure solutions packaged in a more elastic and economical form. But most importantly, knowledge management is becoming an embedded “feature” within other primary enterprise applications. So, knowledge management isn’t a separate entity, but an added capability within an enterprise application.

Salesforce.com’s Chatter capability is the clearest example of this new approach to knowledge management. It applies the Facebook motif to an enterprise application. It takes a familiar user interface and functionality and embeds it into a corporate system. As a result, end-users are given a tool they enjoy using, and corporate executives are able to leverage the information that is gathered to make better decisions.

The obvious benefits of this approach will be tempered in the near term by a series of practical issues. Data migration and integration will remain a key challenge. However, the “lines between the dots” are much closer together in a cloud computing environment than in the legacy, on-premise world, making this task more manageable.

As the challenge of capturing and disseminating corporate data is overcome, another question will confront IT and business decision makers: Which BI/analytic tool(s) will enable corporate executives and end-users to quickly and easily manipulate information to generate the right insights to make better decisions and improve their operational effectiveness?

How to outsource your mission critical services in a secure way

Today more than 30 000 sites are hacked everyday*. It means that they get hacked, modified or alerted by someone placing hidden viruses, which are then transferred to the computer or device who visits the site. The numbers are breathtaking and the trend suggests that the numbers will increase to 40,000 per day by years end. With this in mind, let us simply conclude: most companies today are like a swiss cheese with hole in it. Therefore it is a good idea to outsource your mission critical services to a hosting provider that has the best defenses in place.

As Dante already said in the 1200th century; “there are circles of hell”. That is why the first question we ask to those who want to outsource their mission critical services: “What are your security needs – really?” Are you a hot dog stand or a Fort Knox? Security officers often want to turn a hot dog stand into a fortress if given the chance. While developers can turn Fort Knox to an open hot dog stand, without knowing it. So, how do you outsource your mission critical services in a secure way?

We recommend that it is best to describe the requirements at the component level and get help to see how components interact without compromise, both technically and socially. The latter is just as important because our own employees are often an organization’s biggest threat. Policies and procedures must be implemented internally and you have to create a culture with safety thinking, that understands how important this is. Our customers have a good safety mindset because they appear in sensitive industries with mission critical services, but all companies, organizations and authorities should consider and incorporate safety in their operations. To help you out a get started our VP Global Sales, Stefan Månsby, has created a small checklist with 8 tips for secure IT outsourcing for IT managers to consider:

8 tips for secure IT outsourcing

  1. Define the area/delimit – which systems etc should be included by this? For instance, is your payment platform process flow really separated from your internal systems, like e-mail?
  2. Calculate the cost to do this by yourself: X/users/month – do this to create an image for yourself, do your homework and do not lie to yourself. Also, the quotes you receive from your potential partners becomes easier to compare.
  3. Investigate possible legal challenges – are we allowed to outsource the environment, are there any legal restrictions like geographical limitation requirements that needs to be taken into consideration?
  4. What “evidence” of security experience can the hosting supplier provide you with? – you want a supplier who is just as beautiful the day after the party, someone who can keep your high standard day one as well as day 900. Look for evidence for example track record and if the hosting provider can hold the certifications not only today but after year and year.
  5. What are my compliance requirements (today/tomorrow)? – day one of our outsourcing strategy may not include security or compliance requirements, but please do assume that you one day will have to include compliance and therefore should avoid having the cost of changing outsourcing partner as your security requirements advances.
  6. How do the hosting provider handle Multi-tenancy? – how would the hosting partner isolating its different clients environments?
  7. Does the provider has its own 24/7 security organization? – secure 24/7 to handle all kind of attacks
  8. References – references are king. Look for references and compare hosting providers!

*Source: Trustwave

 

How we went from 40 to over 35 000 services

This is our story of how Basefarm went from handle the operations of 40 to over 35 000 services, reaching over 40 million end users around the world. What’s the secret behind our success?

Born out of the IT bubble ashes
When we founded Basefarm in 2000, we wanted to support companies and organizations that wanted to build their success through the Internet. We had a strong belief that Internet would still exist and it might be strange to hear that today, but after the IT bubble, no one knew what was going to happen with the Internet in the future. We also believed that Internet would be a market place for businesses in the future. It turns out we were right. In 2000, only 5% of the world’s population had access to the internet. Today over 40 % have access, and more and more services are available online for companies and the end users.

How we distinguish ourselves from our competitors
We have always had a unique profile from day one; we’ve focused on Application Management for mission critical business applications. Our other competitors usually have a different focus, they started companies that focused on server hosting. In that way you build two completely different solutions. We built everything from the principal that everything should work at all times, but you should still be able to do changes without affecting the end user experience.

Don’t be a coward, dare to be brave
We did something radical on the financial side. We focused on our customers first and the price later. By that time this was a new thinking in the IT-industry and something fascinating. We have always been brave and had the approach that you should ensure the business and the customers needs first, before you need to invest.

Always looking ahead
Today, over ten years later, we are still specialized in mission critical business applications and we see ourselves as experts within our field. There is always a need for experts and this is one of our key success factors. We didn’t wanted to be like the other start-up companies in the early 2000 that had a wider business focus. We decided to make the best butter and to accomplish that we had to specialize ourselves to succeed in our role as the technical expert.

And that’s the secret behind our success of how we have went from handle the operations of 40 to over 35 000 services. We still grow and so do our services, in line with the technical development. Today, over ten years later, new technologies have emerges on different platforms and devices, but we will always have our original approach. It’s still about passionate people, taking pride in our customers success.

4 tips to succeed

  • Everything should be recyclable
    Place everything into systems to avoid spending time manually doing things more than once. You should be able to half the delivery time when you do it again.
  • Be able to answer why something work
    If you can answer that in a system context, you can also ensure fixing something if it would break.
  • One Basefarm
    Use what we call the ”One-thinking”: one platform, one product, one responsible and one service desk to be focused on the right things.
  • Make the best butter
    Be brave and make sure you are aware of what you have to accomplish to make the best butter.

Strategic Planning: A 10 Step Guide – Part 2 of 2

In my previous blog post, I gave you a 10 step guide, an introduction to strategic planning and what it’s all about. I will now go further and explain each of the 10 steps in strategic planning.

Step One — Selection and Communication

It all starts with communication. The very first piece of information should be the announcement to all employees that the company is embarking on a planning process for the future. This memo should be sent from the President asking for everyone’s support. (A sample memo is available from stratetect@gmail.com)

The memo will likely announce who the strategy team members are and ask for everyone to congratulate them and provide input at every opportunity. CAUTION: Make sure that you have talked to any employee in advance that was not picked for the strategy team that may feel that they should have been. Once the team is announced and the process starts make sure you continue to keep employees aware of the progress and solicit their input. A minimum of a monthly memo should be issued. The strategic planning process can take from 6 weeks to 12 weeks so it is important to keep everyone informed without releasing too much detail.

The strategy team should include a senior accountant, and should consist of between seven and ten members. Team selection should be based on competence, integrity, work ethic, leadership skills, and future growth potential within the Company.

The team will formulate and present the strategic document to the President/CEO and the Board of Directors. It is critical that all employees are empowered and encouraged to communicate their ideas and issues with any member of the strategy team. This process ensures accountability and ownership of the strategy at every level in the organization.

Step Two — A Vision for the Future (The End Game)

The Vision for the Future (End Game) in business is simply defining what winning the game in your business is really about. What does winning mean. Just exactly what do you want your company to be when it grows up? Ask yourself the following questions from the perspective of looking five to seven years into the future.

  1. What markets should your company be serving five years from now?
  2. What products should you be distributing?
  3. Who are your primary competitors?
  4. What are your strengths?
  5. What are your competitors’ strengths?
  6. How has your marketing strategy changed?
  7. What are your core competencies?
  8. What is the size of your revenue stream?
  9. How is your revenue stream segmented?
  10. Do you have a Human Resource Development plan?
  11. The CEO/Owners should create the “Vision for the Future” (End Game) for presentation to the strategy team.

Step Three — Preparation

Running a strategic planning process is not just designing a template and having the team members fill in the gaps. On the contrary, it means carefully coaching the management team through a thinking process.

Often, the actual strategic plan is even less important than the development and growth of the team members participating in the process. The strategy team should be trained on the process you intend to follow in developing the strategic plan. Once that is competed the CEO/President should present the vision of the future with copies for everyone and then excuse himself from the meeting to allow the strategy team to tear the end game apart and put it back together.

The President will have explained that they have the right and the obligation to challenge the end game if they do not agree with any part of it. However, any challenge to any portion must be accompanied by alternative recommendations. The concept is to finalize a “Vision for the Future” that everyone owns.

Step Four—- The SWOT analysis

The team will conduct a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis to identify critical constraints and potential opportunities for growth.

Step Five — Developing the Critical Core Initiatives from the Vision for the Future

Critical core initiatives are over arching initiatives that are found within the Vision for the Future. An example may be defined as a human resource initiative for becoming employer of choice. There are many independent action steps (Strategic Implementation Plans – SIPs) that will be required to accomplish the Critical Core Initiative (CCI). They may include training, education, leadership development, compensation and benefits etc.

Identifying the CCI’s first is necessary to move on to the next step which is creating SIPs for each CCI.

Step Six— Prioritize the CCI’s and identify individual SIPs for each CCI

A Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) is a set of tasks that supports a Critical Core Initiative and therefore creates fundamental change in the way you do things. SIP work deals with long-term improvement and change, balancing concern for today with concern for the future and is a fundamental task of managerial decision-making. Work against SIPs deals with improving things for tomorrow.

Each Critical Core Initiative is supported by a set of SIPs that contain a sequenced set of tasks, schedules, and named responsible individuals. The creation of SIPs indicates that the chosen area is one that provides a high payoff in terms of innovation and managed change.

Step Seven — Assign sections of the strategy template to be completed by different team members

Developing the strategy document from team homework assignments completed over the previous weeks is a matter of following the template that has been modified to meet your specific company needs.

Step Eight — The accountability process

The key managerial tool to ensure steady, consistent progress on SIP tasks is the formal Operational Review Meeting (ORM). This is the foundation to insure that the strategic plan is successful. The ORM is held monthly. The purpose of the ORM is to:

  • Clearly understand the status of your key initiatives.
  • Keep executive focus on strategic, rather than just urgent, issues.
  • Facilitate communication and support throughout the executive team and the company.
  • Formulate emergency responses to company-wide threats or opportunities.
  • Leverage all appropriate company resources while maintaining proper accountability for performance.

The ORM should be attended by members of the Strategy Team, executive management and other senior managers. It will follow a formal agenda and discussions will be driven by two objective measurements: performance of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and progress of SIP task completion. SIP and action item owners will be held accountable for achieving the desired results by the due date indicated on the plan. The entire team will be held accountable for meeting SIP goals.

Step Nine — Developing the presentation for approval

The strategy team will provide the strategy document to ownership at least one week in advance of the formal presentation. Representatives of the strategy team will present the plan and defend it from a considered corporate challenge. The purpose of the challenge is to ensure that the plan is well thought out and based on a realistic assessment of the company’s risks and constraints.

The presentation will also demonstrate the degree of commitment and ownership by the team. The objective of the meeting is to formally endorse the strategy for the company. If necessary, the team will revise and re-present the plan to obtain ownership approval.

Step Ten —- The Roll Out Process

After formal acceptance, the President and two to three strategy team members should schedule meetings to introduce the strategy to the entire management team and all other employees, thus formally launching the strategy. This should be a big deal and should be completed as quickly as possible. In person presentations by executive management and strategy team members is highly recommended. Strategy Development Overview Strategic planning is a management tool. It is used to help an organization clarify its future direction – to focus its energy, and to help members of the organization work toward the same goals. The planning process adjusts the organization’s direction in response to a changing environment. Strategic planning is a disciplined effort to support fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an organization is, what it does and why it does it, with a focus on where it wants to go and how it is going to get there.

Discipline is a prerequisite to this process because it requires laser like persistence to result in a productive strategic planning initiative. The process raises a sequence of questions that helps planners examine current reality, test assumptions, gather and incorporate information about the present and perform trend analysis on the future industry environment. The prioritization of initiatives and SIPs is an essential step. Although your strategic plan will cover a five to seven year period prioritized SIPs are worked on during the first twelve to eighteen month period based on bandwidth and resources while other CCIs and SIPs are deferred. It is much more effective to completely finish three or four SIPs pertaining to one or two CCI’s than to work on ten or twelve SIPs and accomplish nothing.

Fundamental decisions, actions and choices must be made in order to develop a plan that provides the roadmap to the future. The plan is ultimately no more, and no less, than a set of decisions about what to do, why to do it, when and how to do it.

Strategic Planning: A 10 Step Guide – Part 1 of 2

Strategic Planning

So what is strategic focus?

Leadership models and new business models are key ingredients to success in this new, socially driven and aware business age. Any successful model is built around servant style leadership with a focus on strategic thinking by harnessing the creativity and innovation of the employees.

The vehicle to accomplish this is the strategic planning process.

Strategy serves as the organization’s compass and roadmap to future success. Strategic thinking must be clear and communicated effectively throughout the organization.

  • It is not something you can leverage with technology.
  • It isn’t something you will find in the latest business manual.
  • It is embedded in the minds of the management team and most of our employees.
  • It is our employees who are on the front line and know what is really going on with our customers and markets.
  • It requires effective leadership to release the power of the employees in building a strategic roadmap to the future.

Defining objectives and developing initiatives and action plans to meet those objectives is the basis of strategic planning. However, it all starts with an end game, a “Vision for the Future.”

Strategic planning is a management tool. It is used to help an organization clarify its future direction – to focus its energy, and to help members of the organization work toward the same goals. The planning process adjusts the organization’s direction in response to a changing environment.

Strategic planning is a disciplined effort to support fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an organization is, what it does and why it does it, with a focus on where it wants to go and how it is going to get there.Fundamental decisions, actions and choices must be made in order to develop a plan that provides a roadmap on “How to get there from here.” The plan is ultimately no more, and no less, than a set of decisions about what to do, why to do it, and when and how to do it.

The scope of the strategy development process for any company is dependent upon individual business needs. The strategic planning process is a time and resource-consuming endeavor that involves many people in the organization. This process includes both tactical and strategic application.

The Ten Step Process

Let’s identify the steps first and then we’ll discuss each one in a little more detail. I cannot emphasize enough that the true value of a strategic plan is not in the document itself. It is in the process of creating it, involving many of your employees from the bottom up. This empowers them to be more effective and better-informed leaders, managers and decision makers.

  1. Select the strategy team and send a company wide communication
  2. Create a Vision for the Future (End Game)
  3. Preparation —– Secure an off site location for the kick off meeting which includes training the team on the strategic planning process. Purchase a strategic planning template, download one from the web or e-mail stratetect@gmail.com for a generic sample.
  4. Complete a SWOT analysis. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats)
  5. Identify the critical core initiatives that are necessary to support the vision for the future and to achieve its objectives
  6. Develop strategic implementation plans (SIP’s) that support the identified critical core initiatives
  7. Prioritize the CCI’s and SIP’s based on the biggest impact on the bottom line in the shortest period of time. Modify and complete the document template to fit your company strategy
  8. Develop an accountability process based on a structured monthly strategic review
  9. Develop a presentation of the strategy for approval by the CEO, owners or Board of Directors.
  10. Develop a Roll Out Strategy to explain the strategic plan to the entire company.

In part 2, I will go into details about implementing each of the 10 steps.