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Monday, August 07, 2017

The CKO of Microsoft Services Has a Surprising Perspective on Knowledge Management

I recently had the opportunity to interview Jean-Claude Monney, for a project I was working on for USAID.  He is the CKO of Microsoft Services, the largest Division of Microsoft with over 22,000 people. One of the questions I asked him was, Do you know of research completed or any underway that demonstrates the value or effectiveness of KM to the larger entity – the society, the organization or the project?” 

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His surprising answer was, “Everyone talks about effectiveness as if it’s thae holy grail.  It’s the wrong question! KM is key to providing insights, for example, on how to improve sales and marketing, but KM is not the one to define benefit. You can’t measure the ROI of knowledge.  Like his unique position on effectiveness, Jean-Claude has atypical views on the familiar KM maxim of People, Process and Technology.

In terms of People he says KM should be focused on the changing context of work. Where we used to talk about blue collar and white collar, we now need to add “no collar.”  “These no collars are those contributing knowledge on platforms like Stack Overflow, they are software programmers that work freelance and get engaged as contractors. There is a movement happening between full employment and contractors. Contractors/freelancers want quality of life, they want to go on vacation when they want and to do the kind of work they like. The social context is changing. We need more research to understand the social context of the worker, for example, what are the legal aspects of who owns the knowledge? “Taking a job for 30 years is gone – it is the past”. He notes that most customers that Microsoft works with, have a 2020 project to think about how the Digital Workplace will be changing the way they work.

A second People issue that concerns Jean-Claude is that KM should focus on how individuals can rapidly grow knowledge and skills to move into a new task. He notes that the world is embarking on an effort to drive in apprenticeship, so people can be employable in two years.  He sees on-going learning as the new normal and uses himself as an example. He explains that although he just hit retirement age, he can talk machine learning with any 30-year-old engineer because he is continually learning. People should not be so busy at their jobs that they do not make time to continue learning by reading, talking to colleagues, and reflecting on actions their team has taken. He is grateful that Microsoft has embraced a growth mindset culture that leads to a desire to learn and see failures as essential to mastery, find lessons and inspiration in the success of others and embrace challenges with agility.

In terms of Process Jean-Claude thinks that most of the current KM processes are shallow. He explains that at Microsoft they have engineered the three processes of 1) creating knowledge, 2) reusing knowledge (embedding it in daily work processes), and 3) harvesting, curating and growing knowledge. But under those three are 18 sub-processes, each of which is measurable. He says process must get to that level of detail to be effective. The KM principle he supports, is not only about sharing, it is also about the programmatic application of shared knowledge where the processes define the trust level of that knowledge. 

In terms of Technology, Jean-Claude says we need new research on how AI based technology mixed with cognitive science and neuro science, are impacting knowledge work. He points to law firms that are increasingly replacing paralegals with AI, what he calls “knowledge augmentation.” For example, AI is a better way to update expertise finder systems, because the rate of technology change is so fast that individuals won’t go back and update their profile with “I learned this yesterday.”  He explains that new expertise finders will capture the employees' digital footprints, for example, if an employee has written a white paper or acquired certain expertise during a project, the employee’s profile will be dynamically updated.

Another example of the use of AI, coupled with the knowledge of cognitive science and neuro science, is in healthcare. He explains AI-based cognitive services can detect emotions in the faces of people to learn about how they are feeling. There are translation services and speech recognition that could be used if the patient and healthcare worker do not speak the same language. Today, the free Skype translator version offers simultaneous voice translation in 8 languages, and the text translator is available in more than 50 languages for instant messaging, you can experience it in this video. And he notes that audio, text and video could be used to mine a knowledge base of healthcare conversations between doctor and patient using the new Video Indexer Cognitive Service from Microsoft.  As an aside, Jean-Claude said he was horrified at with how the Ebola crisis was managed – another place where AI and KM could have been helpful.  “Given that humans are the most important part of KM, we need to translate the academic principles of cognitive science and neuro science into real life knowledge management.” 

He believes we need more education on KM at all levels and has joined the Columbia University faculty where he will be teaching Digital Transformation, the Digital Workplace and KM at the Information and Knowledge Strategy (IKNS) Masters in Science Program.

Finally, on an encouraging note he explains that he has been invited to share Microsoft Services' KM initiative at industry events like a Keynote at the World Bank's bi-annual Knowledge Sharing Conference and with more than 100 companies in the last 2 years.  He believes that the interest in KM is springing up in all industries. And with the accelerating advances in AI and Cognitive systems, KM will become an expected managerial capability, like finance, operations or HR.

from conversation matters

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