Conference Notes

Share2010 Session: Arvind Sampath from Sinclair Knight Merz on "Knowledge Management, Collaboration and Sinclair Knight Merz Strategy for Success"

Arvind Sampath from Sinclair Knight Merz talked about their experience with success around knowledge management and collaboration.

Key points:

  • Arvind has a background in working in a kitchen and playing in a heavy metal band. The stretch to today? Kitchen staff and a band work together to create great content again and again.
  • Key strategies for success – (a) understanding your business (the problem), (b) engagement (with stakeholders), and (c) SharePoint literacy / competence about everyone, not just in IT.
  • SKM is 6500 employees, many in Australia. Are an engineering consulting organization.
  • The SharePoint journey – started with SharePoint 2003. Didn’t do much with it. The real start was SharePoint 2007 in mid-2007. Going to SharePoint 2010 in the next few weeks. Key areas are document management, knowledge management, collaboration, and business process automation.
  • The collaboration challenge – distributed project teams, diverse disciplines / backgrounds / work processes, need to provide them with access to the same repository of information. The KM challenge – knowledge is what SKM sells, and it needs to be accessible to everyone.
  • (2003) Purchased the whole platform (“yeah, we’ll take Enterprise and BDC – give us the lot”), installed it, but then had no idea what to do with it. So trained IT. Then realized didn’t know what to do with it – so gathered requirements (“the system must support folders). Then started to build stuff. It didn’t turn out too well – too many problems: (1) didn’t understanding what we were trying to deliver, (2) had not engaged key stakeholders, and (3) did not have the skills or understanding of how to deliver it.
  • (Mid-2007) The business was sick of the hype around SharePoint – had being burning money on delivering nothing. Looked around to see what they could do – went back and spoke to people, tried to categorize what people needed (communities of practice, new Intranet, project collaboration). Created a roadmap – collaboration and KM. To deliver SharePoint better this time, established partnerships with vendors, and designed and implemented infrastructure. Started to deliver – communities of practice, Intranet phase 1, and more.
  • SharePoint was everywhere – could understand actual usage and what should be done next, active engagement with users (greater awareness of what the platform can do, promoting use of systems), literacy on SharePoint, didn’t have sufficient resources to support the demand, lacked a strategic direction.
  • Building on success – created a KM information architecture, and KM and collaboration. Engaged regional champions, standard process for delivering sites, global deployment of document management solution, and worked on increasing literacy.

1. How did you re-build your team to give them confidence that they could do SharePoint? It took a lot of time – from 2007 to early 2010. Asked vendors to teach team members particular skills.

2. The business has no confidence in SharePoint, given earlier failures. How did you re-create confidence? There was a need there – but the business had lost faith in our ability to deliver. We brought vendors in to help, but in examining the vendors through the RFP process, most of the board were made up of business people, not IT.

3. Why did you separate KM and DM? There is some overlap in places, but in some places it is different. There were arguments about making it a single project, but we ultimately decided to split them.

4. How did you decide training approach? Logistics were a key part – lots of people around the world, have to treat training as an ongoing issue (on-boarding, new project, etc.). Lots of different training approaches and needs.

5. Are you doing document control in SharePoint? No, not using SharePoint for engineering document control – it doesn’t offer what we need (transmittals, CAD integration). We purchased a third-party add-on that integrates with SharePoint.

6. How did you deal with migration of documents from file shares? Are doing some intentional migration on the Intranet. Lots of manual work, so the business have to cull the lot. For projects underway, we do not force them to migrate.

7. How do you address performance in a global setup? How to business requirements and user acceptance in remote locations? Performance – purchased network accelerators (Riverbed). But are about to put a distributed architecture in place, with a farm in LA for better support for the offices in South America. For business requirements, flew people from other places into Australia to learn their requirements.