Blog for the June 2018 seminar in Leeds.

In June 2018, NetIKX held a seminar led by NetIKX in cooperation with ISKO UK.  We were proud to have a meeting outside London to offer more to our members.  Our main speaker, Ewan David, Talked about a particular aspect of the electronic medical records system.  He hoped that future development in this area would be based on open standards.  Conrad Taylor contributed an interesting overview of background information highlighting that information and knowledge are central to the practice of medicine.  This means that for modern medicine there is pressure to use digital systems to improve patient care and increase knowledge sharing.  But the application of computers to health care and patient records is complex, involving as it does confidential patient records.

Ewan David has been active in health informatics for over 35 years. He is an independent consultant, both with NHS bodies as well as on the industrial provider side. He has also been the chair of the British Computer Society Primary Healthcare Group.   He is now CEO of Inidus a new company committed to delivering a secure cloud-based platform for health and social care applications.  He advocates an approach that seeks to end vendor lock-in in order to liberate data.

Digital technologies have delivered transformational change in banking, finance, travel and retail, do there appears to be a big opportunity to the same for healthcare.  However progress so far has resulted in data silos.  The GP practice has a system; the hospital site could have many systems, storing data in proprietary formats making it difficult to share data between them.  Once systems are in place there is a heavy penalty in terms of time and focus that makes change unlikely.  The vendor market for big hospital system is dominated by four American companies.  The picture is similar in the pharmacy sector, and also maternity systems.  There has been no significant new entrant to the UK digital health market for 25 years.  As a result there is very little innovation and this blocks transformational change.  The technology and business models are locked into the last century and there is little motivation to change.

Ewan believes there is a need to move to Open Platforms.  This would make the data that healthcare applications need available in an open, computable, shareable format.  The information needed is data about an individual patient, medical knowledge and information about resources available to call on.  What any clinician does, and therefore what supporting applications need to do, is to combine these kinds of information so that the patient’s health issues can be diagnosed, and a course of action chosen within the constraints of the resources available.

There are barriers to entry to the healthcare technology market – regulatory barriers and issues of privacy and clinical safety.  The commercial environment is difficult for new entrants to the market.  Using open platforms could open up to new suppliers as you work with a vendor neutral information model and clear standards that any application will comply with.  This allows purchasers to move between vendors without the need to transform the underlying data.   Some experiments have been done so far.  One by Moscow City Council and another with Leeds in the UK. Using open standards has allowed more involvement from the people who know healthcare intimately – the practitioners. The benefits of the system is that work can be done on limited areas and then combined rather than producing an overarching system that attempts to do everything.  Components of the system can then be changed much more easily, removing one of the major barriers to innovation.

After this important talk, we moved to discussion which was lively and enthusiastic.  The discussion ranged from how patients could be involved in producing appropriate records, some of the useful innovations recently seen in healthcare systems and the relevance of anonymised research data.  We considered the road that would be needed to move towards more flexible and appropriate systems.   Ewan summed up the successful seminar by reiterating that a more open system is what is needed and that most in the health service agree it makes sense.  However, it is likely to be a slow process to persuade the major vendors to commit to progressively opening up the data.  But hopefully commissioners will have some leverage over the vendors and change will happen.

This blog is an extract from a report by Conrad Taylor.
For the full report please follow this link:  Organising Medical and Health Related Information

NetIKX Blog for September 2017: Lesson Learning

It was a full house for this seminar with Chris Collison – a very popular speaker who has presented to NetIKX on a variety of topics in the past. Lesson learning is an important issue for practitioners in all sectors (even the freelancers among us!) and Chris drew on a wide variety of examples, including the Olympic Games, which has a long history of making good use of lessons learned in order to ensure smooth handover from one team to the next. Chris also pointed out the dangers of assuming that once knowledge has been captured and stored, it is accessible to those who need it – ‘not hiding’ is not the same as sharing! The system will fail if there is no reuse. Documentation is important, but so are the people processes, for example the observer programmes and secondment programmes in the case of the Olympics. People issues can stifle the supply and sharing of knowledge, even if all other processes are in place.

Among the suggestions made for improving the process were using an outside facilitator to free up the project team to focus on their work, using the ‘five whys’ technique and ensuring that you ask the right questions to establish context and surface the high/low spots over the timeline of the project. It is important to package up what you have learned in a user-friendly way: there should be an intent to educate. Connecting the ‘learning loop’ is key and there is a valuable role to be played by communities and networks. You can find more information about organisational learning and the importance of getting lessons learned right on Chris’ website at

As usual, the breakout sessions were invaluable for participants to discuss our own experiences of lessons learned (or in some cases, not learned) and both positive and negative experiences were shared. Many thanks to Chris and to all who contributed to making this such a successful event.

Blog by Carlin Parry.


Blog for the May 2016 seminar: SharePoint

If your Organisation uses SharePoint, or is thinking of doing so, the May NetIKX seminar was just what the doctor ordered!

The first speaker was Nathaniel Suda and his talk followed this format: first he discussed MicroSoft’s Sharepoint road map, then he looked at probable future trends and finally gave some examples of SharePoint in action. All of this was accompanied by a rather fine set of slides.  He explained that he himself not only works as an implementer for SharePoint, but also has a role providing feedback to MicroSoft so that they are able to learn from user experience.

He asked the audience to identify which of us are currently using Sharepoint and what they were using.  There was a variety of users of different versions, and also many people who were not in organisations that use SharePoint and were just wanting to learn more about it.  He certainly helped us understand the different versions available and how they interrelate.  The trend has been towards Cloud and on-line versions, but he explained that the hybrid model which gave users a choice whether to go for more cloud would still be available for a while.  Although Cloud was gaining ground with users there were no plans to shut down other versions yet. He believed that integrating the different options within the various versions was an appropriate strategy.

He identified new trends, for example different options you could choose to add to SharePoint.  One of his examples was ‘Delve’, a system that identified who each user worked with regularly so it could customise views to match this.  No longer would a worker be hobbled by the organisational organogram. Collaboration would be supported on a much more practical basis.   MicroSoft’s vision was that the most recent version of SP would form a foundation, on which many more functions could be built.  The exciting prospect of more integrated systems and innovative new applications was the hope for the future.

He then drew on his wide experience to discuss individual cases that he had worked with, so we could see the different ways that this one software could be used.  It was a valuable talk that gave us an idea of a vision and road map that the powerful minds at MicroSoft are working towards.

In contrast Cerys Hearsey had her feet firmly on the ground, looking at the practical problems of implementing and managing the potential of a SharePoint system. A hugely enjoyable speaker who also had knowledge that gave us a glimpse into the difficulties as well as the successes of organising and setting up organisational wide collaboration systems.  Hearing her gave comfort to those of us who have struggled with SharePoint.  It is not necessarily simple!  But she had a clear and optimistic message.  The system can provide amazing potential to users, but not without having clarity in what it is supposed to deliver and how it needs to be managed to allow real people to extract the benefits identified.  The software in use would only be as good as the care and capability with which it I introduced.  It is essential to be clear about the precise benefits required, how the system can deliver them and the user behaviour required to harvest these benefits.  Out of the box was not necessarily wrong and some customisations could be more harm than good, but tailoring how the system is used to match the way people work has to be considered before the release starts.

It was a long hot afternoon, but hugely worthwhile. After learning so much from the two speakers, we settled down to our syndicate sessions, where people share information about their organisations’ experience.  It is wonderful to share with others doing similar work to you or to learn from people a little ahead of you.  At the end of the meeting everyone gave feedback on the meeting and the response was enthusiastic.

If you work with SharePoint or your organisation is thinking of moving this way, don’t plough ahead all alone.  There is so much useful experience out there.  For only £60 you can access NetIKX members and their insights, as well as a large store of information from other past events.  Oh, and as a bonus, members can attend all the other meetings we hold for the coming year.  Hope to see you at a NetIKX meeting soon!

Lissi Corfield

Blog for September 2013: Embedding knowledge capture & retention

On Wednesday I had the pleasure of meeting and listening to Karen McFarlane who is Head of Profession, Knowledge & Information Management (KIM) for the UK Government’s Civil Service. I’d been invited as a guest by NetIKX as a precursor to a talk I am giving there early in 2014. And with due permission (Karen’s ‘day job’ is quite sensitive) I posted a few Tweets on what I heard which you can find on their twitter feed for the event #netikx63.

The Knowledge Council – setting frameworks and strategy for the KIM Profession

Karen outlined the work that has taken place over 18 months at the Knowledge Council to develop a framework and a new Government Knowledge & Information Strategy (GKIS). Her aim is to ensure people in KIM roles have KIM qualifications with good succession planning. A profession (currently 1,000 people across government are considered KIM professionals) that will attract and maintain talent and create an environment where KIM civil servants can move across roles equipped to do so.

These comments (which I am paraphrasing) stood out:

There is a real concern about loss of knowledge when people leave which is why a lot of effort has gone into building a knowledge harvesting toolkit for the KIM community….

One of the techniques is a Mastermind Chair; another, getting people to ask ‘what questions do you wish you’d asked…Try and identify the critical people… many departments use social media to share knowledge…

…True tacit knowledge can’t be passed on when people leave, you need a strategy to ensure you don’t get to that point…

Some organisations are now making use of Alumni networks to keep access to people who’ve left…

And finally… Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) are now sharing stories on their intranet…

She then talked about an accredited career pathway. Karen painted a backdrop wherein the topic of knowledge & information management is higher up the agenda in government than it has been for more than two decades. All of which is really positive as is the work being done with external bodies such as CILIP on accreditation and training and career pathways for KIM professionals in government.  Its impressive progress which the soon to be released GKIS will place into context.

This brings me back to the ‘capturing and exploiting corporate knowledge’ pilot we* have been running for HMRC’s businesses under the supervision of their KIM professionals, HMRC’s Pilot Programme: Setting Up and Capturing: Modules 2 & 3

Our’ delegates recognised:

  • not everyone who changes jobs or leaves has critical knowledge whose loss will severely damage the organisation.  Its important to be proactive to identify where it resides and with whom – the knowledge holder.
  • everyone is different. Each person who partially retires will feel differently about what they want to give back. Some people might initiate. Approach each person differently in order to find out how they feel about knowledge capture.

In Module 2 we looked at the setting, preparation and clarity of purpose which are all key to successful capturing of knowledge.  A key task is to think seriously about how a request for time with a knowledge holder is likely to be received.

Profiling and Archetype Mapping are used extensively in design, it is even more important when dealing with intangibles to have identified and acknowledged likely preferences of the person you are approaching?

Focusing on the individual is just one aspect of knowledge capture & retention: it’s vital to focus in addition on decisions, events and processes (documented as well as practiced) to see what knowledge is called upon in the first place and from where and then what is produced during the process.

Another key aspect is to create the right environment for the discussion/interview/observational session.  This is especially important when the intervention is to be recorded or a large response is sought.

The delegates spent time thinking about the right form of consent, how they might craft the invitation to participate and the mechanism they’d use to capture material.

Module 3 was very much about trying out. The delegates looked at:

  • Sketchbooks
  • Interviewing
  • Recording
  • Group Elicitation
  • Reverse thinking

As part of the benchmarking exercise we encouraged delegates to look at the 47 step knowledge capture process as articulated in Professor Nicholas Milton’s book Knowledge Acquisition in Practice which was very successfully adapted by John Day, at Sellafield that in itself drew on work done by Shell on its Retention of Critical Knowledge (ROCK) programme.

As in the previous modules offsite work involved listening to audios developed exclusively for this programme including a clip on Baton Passing, a technique used by the British Council adapted for their use by Professor Victor Newman.

To return to the beginning. The Knowledge Council’s focus on equipping KIM Professionals with tools and techniques in Knowledge Harvesting is admirable. Yet I felt there is a missing skill from the training ‘suite’ shown by Karen McFarlane at the NetIKX meeting, namely that of facilitation which for me is critical.

If knowledge harvesting (what I might call knowledge capture and retention) is to become an ingrained ‘way of working’ across government then people in the business need to be equipped with those skills as well. KIM professionals must have the skills to facilitate others in Knowledge Harvesting not just conduct them.

The alternative scenario is that the KIM professional gets called in to do a last minute ‘tell us what you know’ knowledge harvesting session with a prominent person and the resultant  ‘pearls of wisdom’ are placed on a database that few look at or listen to.


See this excellent blog report with illustrations at: ‘True tacit knowledge can’t be passed on when people leave…’ by Paul J. Corney on ‘Knowledge et al’



Blog for January 2013: Digital native or digital immigrant?

The first seminar of NetIKX’s new 2013-2015 programme looked at the issues we all face in a technology-driven world.  It combined two of our key themes: harnessing the web for information and knowledge exchange and developing and exploiting information and knowledge assets and resources.

The first speaker was Karen Blakeman from the RBA Information services, talking about ‘Born Digital: time for a rethink’. As Karen reminded us, the phrase ‘Digital immigrants’ can be traced back to Marc Prensky’s paper, ‘Digital natives, Digital Immigrants’, 2001. This paper is free to download and there is also a follow-up Part2 paper. Prensky made the argument that the US education system was no longer fit for purpose for a younger generation born with new technologies exploding around them.

Pre-internet, many information professionals were using subscription databases with no graphical interfaces. A lot of asking people we knew or asking other professional institutes was done back then. In contrast a wide range of innovative, imaginative search interfaces exist now:

  • ChemSpider– a free chemicals database which lets you search on a graphic, or even draw a chemical structure yourself and search on it. “Wonderful!” said Karen.
  • Mendeley–  a useful specialist search engine to find specific  forms of information, for instance patents, hearings, television broadcasts or computer programs.
  • WorldWideScience– pulls together information from a wide range of science websites and presents them in a visually appealing way.
  • at/google60/– an amusing punch card style mock-up of what Google would have looked like in the 1960’s.

Karen believes that the ‘digital native’ or ‘digital immigrant’ labels are not helpful and “we have far more useful things to worry about”! Using Google effectively, producing good digital photos – none of this comes naturally to any of us – we have to learn. The major issue for many of us is not going to be the technical side of using technology but the cost, which could lead to poorer people and those living in remote areas being excluded. Many parts of the UK still do not have broadband.  School homework is often internet based now, with students expected to carry out research online – more difficult for children who have slow internet at home or no internet access at all.

Under new government policy rules, jobseekers will soon be forced to sign up online with a job seeker’s website named Universal Jobmatch, or face losing their benefits (see this Guardian article, ‘Unemployed to be forced to use government job website’. Those without internet can use their local library – unless, of course, the library has been closed down!

The Millennials may know how to use social media, but perhaps not in a work context. We tend to have an expectation that just by using the internet regularly, the younger generation have absorbed excellent web analysis and communication skills. This is not always the case. University lecturers often report that their students lack awareness of how to assess the validity of sources and construct their own argument in an essay. Perhaps the sheer amount of information available online has resulted in too much spoon-feeding.

Ultimately Karen believes that it’s your attitude to technology that matters, not what technology you were brought up with. It’s down to personality – your level of curiosity and happiness to explore, an individual thing rather than an age thing. This is demonstrated by an interview on the BBC website with a pensioner who enjoys gaming – ‘Computer games keep me mentally active’.

In support of Karen’s talk, Graham Coult gave us an overview of research which has been undertaken into research behaviours – “Karen was the main course, I’m the pudding”. He told us he would present a “selection, even a miscellany, not exhaustive” of relevant research, taken from Emerald and ASLIB’s database of research articles.

Social media at the university: a demographic comparison’. Alice B. Ruleman, University of Central Missouri, US (2012)

In this study, Ruleman analysed the demographic differences between faculty staff and students in terms of their social media use. She found that social media is by no means a youthful obsession, with both staff and students being active users of social media, just in different ways.

Kilian, T., Hennigs,  and Langner, S. (2012), “Do Millennials read books or blogs? Introducing a media usage typology of the internet generation”, Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 29, No. 2, pp.114 – 124. ISSN: 0736-3761.

The author of this study sought to add to the relatively small amount of empirical research done so far on the social media use of the “Internet Generation”. They found that although social media use amongst Milliennials is generally high, Milliennials as a group are not homogeneous in their online behaviour. Using a large-scale empirical study with over 800 participants, the authors identified three different subgroups of Millennials:

  • ‘Restrained’– relatively low tech savvy, low social media usage group
  • ‘Entertainment seeking’– the biggest group. Using social media for entertainment, but consuming passively, rather than creating new content themselves.
  • ‘Highly connected’– the smallest group, predominantly male, busy creating content such as blogs or videos, leading a very active digital life.

Perhaps surprisingly, ‘information seeking’ was the main reason the surveyed Milliennials gave for using social media. Facebook are planning to enhance their search capabilities through their new Facebook Search service. Who needs Google+ or indeed Google if Facebook does search? This could create a situation where large groups of Facebook users never search outside Facebook.

Vandi, C. and Djebbari, E. (2011),”How to create new services between library resources, museum exhibitions and virtual collections”, Library Hi Tech News, Vol. 28 No. 2, pp.15 – 19. ISSN: 0741-9058.

This paper discusses lots of ways to link up traditional sources using mobile technologies. There is evidence that new technologies (mobile etc) can increase use of “traditional” library services in unforeseen ways.

Graham concluded:

  • There is still a great need for a trusted intermediary such as an experienced information professional. This need has probably increased rather than reduced.
  • Lack of access to technology, and lack of skill in its use, will increase disadvantages for certain user groups.
  • Editing and curating, picking out the best quality information, is likely to become a sought-after skill as information overload increases.

(Val Skelton also wrote a report on this even in Information Today)