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Dirty Dongles Done Dirt Cheap

Paul Bryan reported in the “Intranet Journal” last year a result of a survey where an oft heard complaint was about low usage of company portals. In his attempt to narrow the causative factors contributing to negative reviews one of the key challenges he found was “often a result of focusing on technical requirements rather than the real-life context of the system.” Sounds like another example of missing the other two elements of good KM…the People and Processes that support the underlying Technology. Give ’em a portal but don’t show them why they need it, how to use it, or help them change their internal procedures to support it. As Maxwell Smart would say, “ah, The Oldest Trick in the Book!”

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Is that a problem in your work area, are there portals at your disposal that are little understood or seldom used? Who needs these portals anyway, I have lived without them for all this time, why do should I use one now? Be it an organizational Sharepoint server, the Army’s Knowledge Online enterprise portal, or one of the communities of practice that have proliferated in the .mil domain, these online internet (or intranet) presences are something you should be paying attention to. I suggest that you may have the technology, but do your people know how to best employ them and have your operating procedures adapted to using them yet?

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I could lay out a bunch of reasons that confirms it makes good sense to use portals in your day-to-day routine and that you should enforce their usage by those you supervise. But nothing could drive the point home better than two little words I hear being mentioned all across the camps, posts and stations lately, THUMB DRIVES.

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Our dependence on removable, portable storage devices may have been under-rated, as are the many stories of failures, incompatibilities and data breeches. Did I mention that they can also transfer viruses, too? Up until recently memory sticks and external hard drives proliferated to a point of reliance. Popping in a “stick” to a USB dataport has become so routine to not only move content from one digital system to another, it has also became the de facto stovepiped data archival method.

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Meanwhile, terabytes of free (to you) networked storage, many of them accessible using only your standard login/password combination, go unused. As a primary method to transfer files and data across systems wouldn’t you rather keep it on protected networks by using portals as “virtual hard drives” instead of the risks associated with removable media? And how can you practice good knowledge management without adopting the cornerstones of  collaboration” and “sharing” when your organizational knowledge is all locked away on a hard drive that your people cannot easily get to?

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As processes are disrupted and leaders scramble to retrieve their archives and ponder how do they operate without removable media in the foreseeable future, now is the time to look close at the years of investments in portals and see
what they can do for you. If you are not qui te sure how to do this best, seek the knowledge management experts who can assist you with all three of those important areas you must consider, People, Process, and Technology. Remember, it’s the content of the machines that is so valuable…to you, your organization, and unfortunately, to your adversaries. Leaders need to best balance how to ensure access to those who can best benefit, while expecting vault-like protection from those who shouldn’t.