Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Congratulations to us

At risk of sounding too self-promotional I am very happy to announce that Contextware was selected as a finalist in the General Business Software award category for this year's SoftwareCEO Innovation Awards.

Finalists were determined by a panel of industry judges and winners will be announced in mid-June. The awards recognize products and technology for their innovation and ability to solve buiness problems.

We're very proud to have gone this far in the process and appreciate the support of our clients in this effort.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

After Action Reviews (AARs)

After action were originally developed and practiced by the U.S. Army as a method for reviewing training and live exercises and ensuring that feedback on what worked, and what didn't made it back into the training regimen. Since then a handful of other government and some commercial organizations have adopted the process as part of their standard set of operational processes.

We're big fans of AARs because they provide a rigorous framework by which specific activities and outcomes can be measured and evaluated. We've also seen through experience how AARs can be used (stretched) beyond their original structure and purpose and can be applied to reviewing marketing programs, sales engagements, product development, litigations...almost anything.

The keys to successful application of the After Action Review process are 1) using a defined structure, templates and tools to conduct it, 2) having management buy-in that results will be reviewed and used, and 3) ensuring that the AAR itself doesn't overreach in scope or it's intended goals. It is just one piece of formalized feedback required for continuous improvement.

Contextware has taken the time to create an online step-by-step version of how to conduct an AAR. You can request access to this, by accessing the link found here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Organizing content around business processes

In January, we blogged about the intersection of process and content. There was also a link via the blog to an article we were asked to write on the topic for the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM).

We've had a few questions about this, and thought it worth a more concise explanation (in case you're not inclined to read the AIIM piece).

When we refer to "content" we are referring to the body of information informally and formally documented that is relevant to performing one's job. Content could include a presentation, a white paper, templates, forms, email messages, guidelines, photos, get the picture. This information can exist inside or outside of the enterprise. And if you pause for just a moment to think about just any one process you perform as part of your job, the types of content you might use to help you can be exhaustive.

As you've already figured out, content can be found in lots of different places. Content can also be organized in lots of different ways. Think for a moment about the way you store documents on your own computer. When you click on "My Documents" have you organized information by business unit, by project, by customer or high level function? The likely answer is that you've organized My Documents in a way that makes the most sense to you (your context), and makes the content easiest to retrieve and locate.

Problem is, there are a lot of different contexts for organizing when you take a look at an enterprise, how do you arrive at a least common denominator that is still relevant and effective. Well for most folks, that least common denominator is 'search' technology. While easy, it is imprecise and places the onus on the end user to determine if content that is returned from a search query is actually relevant.

Our argument is that content should be organized around the specific processes that your employees are expected to perform. By organizing information in this way, you proactively provide people with a viewpoint into what is precisely relevant to their jobs. And because a business processes can easily be broken down into a series of activities that comprise the process, you can organize content at an even more precise level...the actual step itself.