Introduction to the Knowledge Hub

As we approach the first (Beta) release of the Knowledge Hub, a project that has consumed my very existence as lead consultant for these past 2 years, I thought I would share a presentation I put together for the Knowledge Hub Conference that was held on 1st March 2011 (yes, a month ago, but still relevant).  My previous blogs on this topic…

…will give some appreciation of the scope, scale and capabilities of the Knowledge Hub, but in a paragraph….

“The Knowledge Hub will build on Local Government (LG) Improvement and Development’s community of practice (CoP)-based approach to knowledge management. It will support multiple communities, using the best features and functionality that have evolved through the development of the CoP service. It will offer a range of free tools and services to help the sector share and analyse their data and engage more effectively online. It will provide a platform for developing and publishing open source applications created and owned by the sector.”

But even this doesn’t begin to explain what this is all about; an issue I was well aware of before the 1st March conference.  Until people are actually using the Knowledge Hub and exploring for themselves its capabilities, any text-heavy communication is likely to paint a rather abstract picture in people’s minds.

Not that a PowerPoint slide set will achieve a level of understanding that I was striving for, but based on the old adage that “a picture paints a thousand words” it’s probably as good as I can do pending users experiencing the product for themselves.

The quirky angle on this was to consider how social media and the social web is currently being used (or not, as the case may be) across UK local government and the wider public sector (target audience for the Knowledge Hub). I’m only too aware of the fact that many public sector organisations block (or severely restrict) access to social media facilities for their staff.  Even after several years of accumulated evidence of how social media and social networks can lead to greater productivity and improved learning and sharing opportunities, the word ‘social’ means ‘wasting time’ or ‘reputational risk’ to many senior managers.

In order to realise the full benefits of the Knowledge Hub, users will need to have access to the rich conversations on their particular domain of knowledge that are happening beyond the limits of their enterprise firewall. Conversations – e.g. on blog sites or Twitter – that many staff can only access via their smart phones or when they are at home.  One of the many features of the Knowledge Hub is to aggregate and connect these conversations and associate them with user profiles – i.e. users see information that is relevant to them and not so much of the irrelevant noise.

One of the other features of the Knowledge Hub is the ability for councils to upload datasets – e.g. on performance – and compare (benchmark) with other councils, thereby highlighting potential areas for improvement or savings. Is this new? No! Most of us do something similar when we’re buying products, e.g. car insurance (e.g. Compare the Market/Meerkat), who’s got the best value in terms of coverage and cost?

And then there’s the issue of how we attach value and trust to what we read. Do we always believe what is in the travel brochure, or do we check out websites such as Tripadvisor to find out what real people have to say about the hotel or resort we’re thinking of booking? Similarly for the Knowledge Hub, where we’ll be able to see peer reviews of documents and other knowledge assets, and gain a degree of confidence in using or adapting that particular policy or process.

And not forgetting our Amazon experience, where recommendations are made on what we’ve previously bought. In a similar way, the Knowledge Hub will recommend contacts, workspaces (communities) and documents based on what the user has flagged as relevant, or what the user has shared in their personal profile (e.g. expertise, location etc.).

So, most people seem to be comfortable using social web facilities and applications in their personal lives, and maybe not even realising they are doing so. All we need to do is to provide a trusted and secure environment where these same activities can be conducted in a business environment.  The real power of the Knowledge Hub is that you don’t even have to go to lots of different websites and applications – each with their unique design and interface – to find the information you need to do your job, or to do those performance comparisons or download that app you need. You can do it all in one place  – let the data and information come to you! That, in essence, is the Knowledge Hub!

Check out the slides below. The Slideshare originals include notes, which will explain why the elephant appears (a clue – it’s to do with the time, pain and anguish of public sector procurement!)

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