The Reconsideration of Email as the MVP of Knowledge Assets

CohenEmailMVP.jpg

Just send me an email

“Don’t call it a comeback I been here for years… ”   We haven’t gotten to the point in business where any other form of communication has eliminated email.    It doesn’t matter what business you are in email is still a heavily used resource.    I know of small companies with movements to eliminate the use of email or they push to only text or IM, tweet or something else.   If someone needed to get a hold of them or they want to know more about their business there is a good chance that somewhere there will be an email involved.

There is a lot of use of email today for the purposes of national security and threat risk reduction (example using metadata to find Paul Revere (http://kieranhealy.org/blog/archives/2013/06/09/using-metadata-to-find-paul-revere/)

Email with consideration of other collaboration and enterprise content management technologies can be a powerful business tool.    Here is the hook for you.. .below you will see a visual representation of my email exchanges over the past 8.2 years from my personal email account.   I am not sharing the “who part” but if you look at the connections, the colors and the size of the circles, you can determine a person or group of people that I have chosen to communicate with often and in addition, save those exchanges because they had some long term value from my perspective.    If you want to see yours and you are not afraid to share some data go here https://immersion.media.mit.edu/

Email Pattern

What good is this to me or you?

Why email and not other social platforms?

What information would we look for?

How hard would it be to make something like this become a reality?

Communication Patterns | Context and Information

Everything that we do in our working lives creates a real time concern for “the right information at the right time.”   There are plenty of things I need to know later that I don’t want presented to me now and that I don’t want to filter through.   While some things are random, there are great opportunities for business hidden in plain sight in patterns!

Companies today are using email meta information for all sorts of activities.  A Forbes article http://money.cnn.com/2013/10/28/smallbusiness/data-mining/ which tells a great story of using predictive analytics based on external email traffic to increase revenues.

I am suggesting that we consider INTERNAL analytics coupled with current KM practices!  What if….

  • You are trying to figure out something that happened years ago but the people or person who were involved have long since retired or moved on?
  • You are trying to figure out the source of certain information.
  • You are trying to figure out who influences certain information.
  • You are trying to find information but you only come up with documents and charts that don’t tell a story.

In email people are sometimes forced to provide context.  As a matter of fact, a lot of times if someone sends an email message without context, they will get a response from the receiver (s) with a question about what they are sending.   We would see that as a pattern in the form of an exchange based on time, people, subject etc.

Example:

Jane work for a parts manufacturer and was just promoted to Production Distribution.   She is taking over a job held by the famous Bobby D, he has been with the parts company since day 2.  He has used his parts distribution and customer pricing excel sheet since he was able to convert book to electrons.   Jane recently learned that Bobby D had some written notes about his tool but nothing that could help her really understand what he does with it.

How would a Knowledge Manager or Knowledge Transfer expert deal with this situation?
What would Jane do if she didn’t have a KT plan or a person to help her?

What if Bobby D passed away?  What options does Jane have?

Thankfully Bobby had thousands of email exchanges with customers and internal pricing and distribution team members.   Analysis could reveal the most critical exchange requirements from internal to external sources and could inform leadership and Jane on what would be needed to perform the required tasks in order to get Jane working without Bobby!

It is safe to say that over the years customers or internal staff had questions on how pricing was accomplished or what process was used.   Using analysis we could see exchanges and present word clouds or and other forms of information to infer relevance.

The use of emails as a knowledge asset opens up the possibilities for answering questions related to current concerns!

The reasoning behind a focus on email is because it already exists.  Side note, gasoline was a waste product that Rockefeller figured out how to reuse http://www.attendly.com/rockefellers-unconventional-approach-to-getting-rid-of-waste/.

Email is archived and buried in the sand like a waste product instead of the valuable commodity that it is!   Organizations are concerned about introducing new technologies to drive communication and sharing but they are sitting on a gold mine of information that they have accumulated about their business over the course of time.

If used in conjunction with current knowledge management efforts, email can be one of the best and most powerful tools in the corporate business intelligence arsenal.

The Ultimate MVP

What would the ultimate toolkit in KM look like?    Regardless of what the news may say, knowledge management and the practice of information exchange is still heavily linked to email.   Instead of rejecting email as old technology and something we should look to get away from, we should look to email as a bright spot for communication and knowledge transfer and leverage it to help bring out the best information for use with our work force and our business!

If you disagree, let me know.. I am open to learning!!!

Didn’t Bobby work in accounting in 95′?

Here are some links that may be of interest..

http://www.connectedaction.net/nodexl/

http://gephi.org/

http://www.cai.sk/ojs/index.php/cai/article/viewFile/154/130

http://homes.cs.washington.edu/~jheer/

http://www.cs.umd.edu/hcil/emailviz/