Making IT Decisions Good to Great: The Contextual Knowledge Framework

Reduce delivery time, release agreed functionality and meet business expectations

Nancy Frick | October 24, 2016

We have all heard the expected improvements that we need to support. How are we supposed to manage these complexities, keep track of change management and perform traditional requirements management all while trying to collaborate to get everyone’s opinion?  The information overload is real.

There is a saying that confusion precedes knowledge. The problem is that when our environment gets complex we get stuck until management demands answers. Then, we collect, analyze and report on whatever knowledge we have at the time. Bad knowledge turns into bad decisions.

But wait…What is bad knowledge? Isn’t all knowledge good? What really is knowledge anyway?

To explore this topic we need to understand how conversations, emails and documents are turned into knowledge so we can make accurate decisions. If we cannot analyze the words and data around us, we will not be able to take advantage of the wisdom they contain. To better understand knowledge, consider the following definitions and how they relate:screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-11-24-25-am

Typically, data is gathered and turned into information for people to consume. Yes, we have all seen it: A 100 page document that tells a lot of information or a 100 item backlog list at various levels of specificity. In both cases, how do we consume the information and understand what to do next? There are two issues going on 1) It is difficult to understand large amounts of data to determine exactly what to do and 2) Time spent analyzing all the data may be wasted due to misunderstandings.

The solution to these issues is to turn information into knowledge to achieve actionable items. Knowledge is where context is assigned to the information world. It allows people to come to the same conclusion when reading the same information. Most teams stop at information thinking that it is knowledge and hope that the consumer of the information understands and acts appropriately. Ultimately, wisdom is where decisions are made quickly and is supported by real knowledge.

Consider the following list of data points. Separately they are true but together it shows information and ultimately knowledge.

A refrigerator. You knew that, right? At some point in the sequence you correlated each line and understood it was a description of a refrigerator. From that point on each statement only added confirmation to your understanding. Each statement can also be put in any order and still at some point the pattern would be connected. Each statement is a piece of Data but the word “refrigerator” really gives the Contextual Knowledge.

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