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Using digital solutions to capture, curate, protect, and analyze vital data

October 15, 2020

By Gus Sukkurwala

Digital knowledge management solutions make it easier to capture data in the field, manage it digitally, and share it with project partners

Knowledge is a valuable resource for any organization. We live in the Knowledge Society. We succeed or fail based on the knowledge we possess and how it is used to benefit ourselves and our stakeholders. Capturing, curating, protecting, analyzing, and using knowledge is vital to continued growth. How can an organization use digital solutions to accomplish this?

I specialize in digital knowledge management and using it to address the challenges of knowledge management. What is digital knowledge management? It might surprise you, but when I think of digital knowledge management, it makes me think of a recent trip to Sorrento, Italy. I visited a restaurant that served North American food. I may have been in a coastal town that boasts some of the best food in the world but, at that moment, I felt like a plain old Club Sandwich. I even asked the owner to customize it with fried chicken. The chef had all the ingredients on hand and so, voila! The perfect lunch to satisfy my craving for food from home.

Using digital knowledge management solutions (DKMS) provides more than speed and efficiency. It helps the team capture “lost knowledge.”

What on earth does this have to do with digital knowledge management? Think about it. If that little restaurant in Sorrento hadn’t had the ingredients on hand, I wouldn’t have got my sandwich. Sure, I could have visited grocery stores and tried to assemble the different parts of the sandwich myself, but I wanted my lunch right then. When it comes to gathering information for projects, this is exactly what many organizations experience: different sources, different format, different owners. By the time you access the information you need, it may be stale, or it may not be what you needed in the first place. Technology helps us bring all the right pieces together—just like a sandwich.

What sort of knowledge am I talking about? Well, let’s consider a simple project as an example. Let’s say you’ve hired an environmental consultant to report on soil and water samples on the site where a new energy project will be built. It’s imperative that you have the right information to inform your project decisions and meet all the relevant regulations. But waiting for a consultant’s report to get an update on the project takes time. Traditionally, consultants in the field use plain old pen and paper and spreadsheets to gather data. Once the data is acquired from the field and laboratory, the consultant prepares a report and presents it to the client at some point in a pdf or hard copy format.

Our work is no longer about a “deliverable,” a static report the client receives with no insight into how it was generated.

Digital knowledge management solutions (DKMS) make it easier to capture data in the field, manage it digitally, and share it with project partners. Today, we’re using dynamic mobile data collection systems, customized knowledge management portals, public websites, public virtual engagement platforms, and many other tools to meet our clients’ needs.

Using DKMS gives us so much more than speed and efficiency. It helps us to capture what I call the “lost knowledge.” This is the knowledge in people’s heads, or in people’s emails, or the great idea brought up at a meeting or jotted in a notebook that never made it into the final report. Eventually, the project is closed, the emails deleted, the notebooks go into storage, or a team member moves on. All that knowledge is lost. We have changed that.

Now, when data comes in, it’s not on a spreadsheet that someone reviews. Using our digital tools, it can be saved on a platform that even the client has constant access to. So now, all reviews of the data are documented and can be seen by the entire project team—including your client. Now, instead of waiting for the finished product—a report—the client can live the project with the consultant. They know when the sampling has been completed, they know the quality of the data, they know when the lab data arrives, and they know when the review process is happening. Thanks to these digital tools, the client can even comment before a report is finalized.

DKMS makes it easier to capture data in the field, manage it digitally, and share it with project partners.

We have elevated the paradigm. Our work is no longer about a “deliverable,” a static report the client receives with no insight into how it was generated. With digital tools, we’re now working on a project together. We’re curating all the valuable knowledge from every step of the project, with nothing being lost or relegated to the appendix of a document that will sit on a shelf. Emails, papers, reports, the ideas in people’s heads—we can distill all of that into a single space where the knowledge can be easily absorbed and analyzed. It’s a dynamic set of tools to help us make real-time decisions.

So, what does this brave new world of digital knowledge management tools look like? These mobile data collection systems, custom and off the shelf databases, and knowledge management portals are available in multiple platforms that we can tailor to a client’s needs.

To learn more about knowledge management portals, look for my next blog in which I’ll explore how we’re using these portals to help clients with virtualized project management.

  • Gus Sukkurwala

    Gus specializes in information services, addressing the business needs of Stantec from an information management perspective.

    Contact Gus
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