The Business of Government Hour

 

About the show

The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The executives discuss their careers and the management challenges facing their organizations. Past government executives include Administrators, Chief Financial Officers, Chief Information Officers, Chief Operating Officers, Commissioners, Controllers, Directors, and Undersecretaries.

The interviews

Join the IBM Center for a weekly conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business.

Morgan Bantly interview

Friday, August 10th, 2001 - 20:00
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Morgan Bantly
Radio show date: 
Sat, 08/11/2001
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Morgan Bantly
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Arlington, Virginia

Thursday, August 2, 2001

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers and the co-chair of The Endowment for The Business of Government. We created The Endowment in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. Find out more about the Endowment and our programs by visiting us on the Web at endowment.pwcglobal.com.

The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with government executives who are changing the way government does business. Our conversation today is with Morgan Bantly, knowledge management coordinator in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Welcome, Morgan.

Mr. Bantly: Hello.

Mr. Lawrence: And joining us is Miriam Browning, principal director for enterprise integration in the Office of the Army CIO. Welcome, Miriam.

Ms. Browning: Good morning.

Mr. Lawrence: Let's begin by finding out more about your agencies. Morgan, could you tell our listeners a little bit more about the VA, its roles and responsibilities?

Mr. Bantly: Well, the VA consists of primarily three major aspects. One is -- and they all are involved in providing benefits to veterans, either cemetery benefits, benefits, such as compensation and pension benefits, housing loans, education loans. And then the bulk is health care services that we provide.

Mr. Lawrence: And I know everybody could describe the Army, but perhaps you could talk about its official responsibilities?

Ms. Browning: Officially, the Army is charged with safeguarding our national interests in war and peace. This is basically a nonnegotiable contract with the American people, grounded in the Constitution.

Just to give you an example of the size of the Army, we have an annual budget of over $74 billion; approximately 1.5 million people; and we have over 180 installations worldwide.

Mr. Lawrence: And how about your careers? Miriam, perhaps you could begin by telling us about your career.

Ms. Browning: I began with the Army over 30 years ago. Actually, at Fort Ord, California, during the buildup of Vietnam. I have worked mainly with the Army, but also at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta; the Department of Energy, and the Department of Defense, Office of the Inspector General. I was also very fortunate to work 2 years as the director of the Center for Management Information at the National Academy of Public Administration. So I've had a broad spectrum across both government and in a nonprofit organization.

Mr. Lawrence: And in those different jobs, what type of positions did you hold?

Ms. Browning: Predominantly jobs in information technology and business management.

Mr. Lawrence: Morgan, how about you?

Mr. Bantly: I had -- I started out working for the Department of Veterans Affairs about 20 years ago as a medical illustrator and ended up moving up through the organization in terms of managing a graphics illustration department and then managing both graphics illustration and video production, and we were producing linear video products, as well as satellite broadcasts. And then I started -- added to those responsibilities managing new media, which includes web design and CD-ROM production. So a whole gamut of media-related products for education and communication.

And in the course of that, eventually moved up to managing one of the sites that provided those services for the Veterans Health Administration, as well as overall VA, and then was involved in a lot of business reorganization activities within our organization.

Mr. Lawrence: Now, your title is -- you're described as the knowledge management coordinator. What are your responsibilities in terms of knowledge management?

Mr. Bantly: Well, the organization that I'm in directly within the VA is the employee education system, which is the main educational arm of veterans health administration and the VA. There is a smaller unit within Veterans Benefits Administration that's responsible for education. But we're -- we consist of approximately 300 employees in the employee education system. And we, about a year ago, recognized the value of knowledge management and decided that we wanted to pilot some activities in that area so that we could demonstrate the value of that to Veterans Health Administration and the VA. And we created a position of knowledge management coordinator, and I was selected for that position.

And in the past year, I've been working on three initiatives with three different communities within Veterans Health Administration to establish knowledge management strategies.

Mr. Lawrence: Miriam, how about you?

Ms. Browning: Knowledge management in the Army is in the office of the chief information officer. And basically, knowledge management in the Army is about transformation and change. So it includes not only the traditional knowledge management aspects of collaborative computing and collaborative systems, but it also includes changes in governance, in infrastructure consolidation -- we have a major effort to do that for our IT infrastructure -- as well as building up our Army enterprise portal, which is Army Knowledge Online.

And like the Veterans Administration, we also started off about 3 years ago with several pilot projects which have come to fruition and have proved very beneficial in terms of knowledge sharing and bringing the Army into the Internet age.

Mr. Lawrence: What set of skills do the people have who are doing knowledge management in the organizations?

Ms. Browning: I would say the first skill is probably organizational and political savvy. You really need to know the organization, what areas should connect, what areas are ripe for change -- that's probably the most important skill.

The second skill would, of course, be organizational and interpersonal communications. And probably the third skill would be strategic and revolutionary thinking, because knowledge management can really be used to transform and to change how an organization does business.

Mr. Bantly: I would agree with all of those. And in addition, I think for enacting a knowledge management strategy, working with people -- the ability to work with people and create a sense of commitment and enthusiasm and clearly communicate the goals and final vision of what you're trying to achieve, so you can bring that into action and accomplish that -- along with, you know, some technical knowledge, because there's technical issues involved, as well as some librarian knowledge, in terms of taxonomy and control vocabulary, and project management skills.

Mr. Lawrence: I'm surprised it took so long to list technology, given the backgrounds you both describe. Was that intentional or --

Ms. Browning: Probably not intentional, but technology is not the dominant skill in knowledge management. It clearly is an enabler, because you have to have not only a good infrastructure to be able to collaborate and to share and access information across an organization. But first and foremost, the organization needs to focus on where it wants to go and how it wants to change and then apply the technology.

Mr. Lawrence: How would you describe the development of knowledge management? As you went through the skills there, sort of skills we've heard before, but now they've been collectively organized in this new discipline, I might suggest. How do you describe the development of knowledge management?

Ms. Browning: It actually is a -- the Army knowledge management team is composed of many, many types of skills. Many that we have mentioned, plus financial management skills, human resource skills, in addition to the project management technology skills. So on any single day, on Army knowledge management, we have a group of people with that blended skill set working together.

When we first started knowledge management, it was more about providing knowledge centers. The Army has over 30 knowledge centers. Some of them have won national awards. But as we expanded that to become more enterprise-wide, to develop our portal to bring in new governance ideas and to bring in new ideas about consolidation, we expanded, not only the scope of knowledge management, but also we expanded the types of people that we need to run this -- this is a major transformation in the Army.

Mr. Bantly: I think in general, knowledge management evolved because there was a recognition in the intellectual capital that organizations and corporations had that really wasn't being tapped. And I think one of the areas of focus in knowledge management is capturing the knowledge and experiences of employees that they get on the job, that help them accomplish their work.

And when you normally think of people retiring and the organization losing the corporate knowledge that those people have, that corporate knowledge is what we're trying to capture through knowledge management strategies, and make that knowledge available for everyone within the organization.

Mr. Lawrence: Which of the positions you just described when you were going through your careers best prepared you to be a leader in the knowledge management area and why?

Ms. Browning: I think the positions that have best qualified me are those positions where I sat high in the corporate headquarters -- that is, the Pentagon, and you could look out across the Army and see the interactions and see how the organization really works.

And I've had several opportunities -- one, when I was a very junior civil servant in the mid-seventies, I was fortunate to be part of a think tank under the Army vice chief of staff of the -- the vice chief of staff of the Army. And he let all of us in his little think tank walk around with him all the time and see how decisions were made at the three- and four-star level. That gave me great insight into how the Army operates: what are the informal processes, how people get things done. And basically you learn that the skills which are really important, of course, are knowledge of the subject areas, a high degree of integrity, common sense and just good communication skills.

So I think that early knowledge of an organization can help you craft a knowledge management program, because it is not about technology, it's just not about library science, it's not about project management. It's about all of those.

Mr. Bantly: And I think, from my point of view, having a background and an experience in providing education and learning for employees, we were able to see some of the gaps that existed from the line workers in a variety of areas, whether it was clinical or administrative. And to get a good understanding of the need for knowledge sharing that exists within the organization. And not just knowledge sharing within certain areas of focus, but knowledge sharing across communities and from high levels of the organization to low levels of the organization.

Mr. Lawrence: It's time for a break. That's a good stopping point. Stick with us through the break, because afterwards, we'll come back and we'll find out how technology supports knowledge management. This is The Business of Government Hour.

This is The Business of Government Hour. (Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and our conversation today is with Morgan Bantly, knowledge management coordinator of the Department of Veterans Affairs and Miriam Browning, principal director for enterprise integration in the Office of the Army CIO.

Well, knowledge management is a concept that's still rather new for many organizations. Can you describe knowledge management for our listeners?

Mr. Bantly: The way we describe knowledge management is that it's a blend of management practices and technology that provides a structured method to capture, organize, and share knowledge in a deliberate and systematic way to accomplish business objectives.

And one of the main points that we try to make with the people that we're working with and with our executive sponsors is that knowledge management focuses more on the flow of information or knowledge, rather than stockpiling of knowledge, because there's already a lot of information overload, and we need to make the information -- one of the goals of knowledge management is, not only share knowledge, but make knowledge easily accessible by the employees.

And to do that, we need to help filter that for them so they get exactly what they need when they need it.

Ms. Browning: In the Army, knowledge management is harnessing human capital, building and operating an Internet-age enterprise infrastructure, and effecting governance and cultural changes to accomplish mission objectives. And our main goal with knowledge management is to produce results. And the results that we are looking at are a number of classic knowledge-management pilots in our knowledge communities, in acquisition, personnel, finance, and in medical.

Another result we're looking at is our enterprise portal, Army Knowledge Online, which right now has 180,000, we are scaling that up to the full Army of about 1.2 -- 1.5 million folks within the next year.

And an interesting story is that Army knowledge management actually started with our portal Army Knowledge Online, about 4 years ago, when the Chief of Staff of the Army decided he wanted to talk collaboratively to approximately 300 of his general officers. And we developed a network for him. It was called at that time, America's Army Online. And we have an interactive network that the Chief of Staff used to effect decisions within the Army with his generals. And that reduced the time to many of our decisions on officer personnel management, on some high-level governance decisions in the Army. That was the basis for our portal. It has since grown substantially from those 300 people. And that's really one of the crown jewels in the Army knowledge management program.

Mr. Lawrence: How direct is the link between results and knowledge management?

Ms. Browning: In the Army, it's very direct. When we talk about knowledge management, we have developed a strategic plan that encompasses the goals that I've talked about -- the cultural goals, governance goals, infrastructure consolidation, the scale-up of our portal, strategies to improve the workforce -- especially in the IT area -- so we have very specific goal areas that we have initiatives linked to those with milestones and timelines. So the Army has put together our Army knowledge management plan in a very aggressive strategy to accomplish that.

Mr. Bantly: And as we both mentioned in our -- when we were defining knowledge management, one of the key points in both of our definitions was that it's linked to the business outcomes or business results and that's a really important point.

In terms of what we've been trying to accomplish through our pilot initiatives -- in measuring how effective that is in business outcomes, we found that to be actually a difficult area. And just as an example, one of the communities that we've worked with are patient advocates, who are the liaisons between the veteran patients and our staff. And the patient advocates are there to help resolve problems or answer questions that the veterans and patients might have.

And one of the things that we want to do with this initiative is to try to improve our customer service to those veterans and provide that information more accurately, more consistently, and more quickly across the organization. And when we came to trying to measure how effectively our knowledge management system was going to do that, in terms of linking it directly to customer service improvement, we found that it was very difficult for us to be able to do that because there are so many other factors that affect customer service satisfaction or perception among our veterans.

And so we had to -- you know, our goal is to try to link that as objectively and as directly as possible to the business outcomes. And that's going to be an areas where we're going to continue to have to do more work in trying to achieve that level of definite measurement.

But we're trying to do the best we can at this point in terms of measuring how that contributes to the patient advocates providing information more accurately and more quickly through this system of sharing knowledge. And also becoming more -- increasing their core competencies across the system, because they're very spread out, and administratively, they actually report to different types of organizations within the VA, depending upon how they were assigned that responsibility.

Ms. Browning: Let me cite also that, like the Veterans Administration, the Army also started off in knowledge management with several pilot projects. I mentioned one of them, our Army Knowledge Online portal. But there are two others that I think are worth mentioning because they did produce some results.

One was our acquisition knowledge center at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, which has won a number of national awards. And it is a very robust knowledge center. It has all kinds of archival capabilities, message capabilities, the ability to access subject mater experts, the ability to store information, it has instant messaging, white boards, video teleconferencing, access to documents. A very, very robust center that combines collaborative computing with access to knowledge and the packaging of that knowledge.

Some of the results or some of the metrics from there were, one, we reduced the time it took to get documents to the field; we consolidated a lot of archival information and put it in one place. As you all know, if you have a big PowerPoint briefing and send it to 500 people, you can choke up the airways. However, if you put that same PowerPoint briefing in a centrally accessible file, then you save on bandwidth and it's easy for people to understand where that is.

We also did some classic reductions in cost by the consolidation of a number of our IT facilities up at Fort Monmouth in conjunction with that. So that has been a very successful pilot.

Let me talk about a second pilot. That was in our military personnel career management system. Previously this was a very manual process. At certain points in an officer's career, he was asked to make career decisions in terms of which career field he or she would like to be in. That was done by mailing out thousands of envelopes with all kinds of questionnaires that you would fill in with a number 2 pencil. We totally automated that process. We put it up on our AKO portal. We cut the time it took, we reduced all the postage costs, but most importantly, as the officers put their information in, they could also get analytical results back that would affect whether or not that would be their final decisions.

For example, if someone wanted to be a computer specialist and they put that on in their report form, and it came back that we have many, many slots and these are all being filled, the person may say, I may want to go into another area where there's more opportunities and therefore make a separate decision. So we provided analysis, cut down the time, and it was actually a -- it's a good recruitment and a retention aspect, when our people can do that online instead of the old-fashioned way.

Mr. Bantly: I was just going to add that some of the things that we've established in our pilot have been very similar to what you've done, in terms of providing, you know, quick and easy access to information that's pertinent to the work that those community members need to accomplish. And we've provided a method also for them to contribute their knowledge and experiences into the system and a process, also, for the review of those before they're actually added into the system to make sure that information is accurate in specific areas, that it conforms to VHA and VA policy and other regulations, and that there's not sensitive information in there, for example, that we don't want to share -- for example, patient Social Security numbers or any of that information or even physician names or specific employee names. And make sure that also, descriptions of how people can do things -- accomplish things faster and more efficiently -- are written up so that they can be repeatable, and they're not, you know, missing an instruction that somebody assumes when they write it, but when somebody else reads it, they realize that there's a step missing that they don't quite understand.

So we want to make sure that the knowledge assets are really consistent, accurate and complete before they're entered into the system. And also, we have a bulletin board system for announcements so we can get information out quickly to all employees. We have an expert director so that we can connect with experts in different areas throughout the VA.

And also, there are other processes in addition to the portal aspects that we have incorporated as part of the knowledge management strategy, in terms of getting more sharing of information between people. And that is through other activities like conference calls, you know, audio conference calls, video conference calls, through satellite broadcasts and educational instruction that we produce that are distributed in that manner and through face-to-face meetings.

So we're documenting those kinds of collaborative activities that are occurring, also, in trying to measure the effectiveness of our knowledge management strategy on sharing information.

Mr. Lawrence: That's a good stopping point. Come back with us after the break and we'll ask our guests more about the challenges of implementing knowledge management.

This is The Business of Government Hour. (Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and our conversation today is with Morgan Bantly, knowledge management coordinator at the Department of Veterans Affairs and Miriam Browning, principal director for enterprise integration in the Office of the Army CIO.

One of the things we talked about in the last segment was the role of technology in knowledge management. Is technology robust enough to handle what's going on in knowledge management now?

Ms. Browning: Generally, yes, I think the technology is very good. It's a matter of making sure that you have an infrastructure that is capable of providing information access to all the members of the organization. And I think it's there, but there are a lot of areas, still, that we are working on. Let me just give you three examples.

One of the issues, of course, is Web mail. We're struggling with that right now in the Army. As you know, there's a difference between Web mail and client server mail, which is the typical Microsoft mail that you have. And the typical Microsoft mail is very robust in terms of providing you a calendar and the ability to move a document in there, et cetera. Web mail does not have that capability. And for those of you, of course, who have, you know, an Internet account commercially, you get access to people's e-mail with all the full range of functions that are there and in Microsoft you don't have that. And the technology really doesn't exist today in the commercial marketplace for a full robust Web mail.

So as we look at providing universal e-mail for all 1.5 million Army people, we are probably looking at this stage at a hybrid. Some will have Web e-mail, some will have full robust client server e-mail. So this is one technology issue.

The second issue, of course, is the last mile communications to remote sites. The Army has remote sites all over the globe. And we have very robust long-distance communications lines to the major hubs, but it's getting that last mile to the desk of the PFC in let's say, at Fort Polk, Louisiana and making that robust enough to go into the Internet and access our portal, which is an issue.

Now, it's not only an issue within the Army or the Defense Department, it's also an issue globally. I read the other day that only about 6 percent of American homes have high-speed access to the Internet. So this is something that everybody is working on. So we struggle with that, because it's an information access issue.

The third issue, of course, is information security. And that is especially becomes exacerbated with the proliferation of wireless devices. So the Defense Department continues to work on its defense in-depth strategy to make sure that we don't have any security breaches and we are also working with manufacturers with many of the wireless devices to make those devices a lot more secure.

But technology continues to evolve. I think you can start a knowledge management program clearly with the current infrastructure. The ideal infrastructure is not there, but those are issues that everybody faces for all kinds of applications within the organization.

Mr. Bantly: I agree with those, especially the point about being with access, for example, and with the security issue. For example, some of the communities that we're working with in the VA are going to require or want to have access to be able to provide access to extended community members that are outside the VA. And so there will need to be security issues around allowing community access to the information and knowledge that we've got internally. And that's -- we have people now working on providing patient record information to, you know, the patients that those records belong to so that they could access those records from outside the VA and get the information that they want to see about themselves without having to go through the VA to do that.

And that same technology or processes that are established to do that, we could apply to our knowledge management practices as well, in terms of providing that knowledge to people outside the VA.

Another issue that's related to the technology, but it's not -- I don't really see it as a technology issue at this point, and that is -- is really managing the knowledge the maintaining accuracy and currency in the knowledge. And the technology brings the knowledge to the fingertips to the knowledge, but we need -- another really major issue is to make sure that that knowledge is accurate and current.

And so there are a lot of issues around maintaining that and managing the -- that process that I'm really interested in and learning more about. And I think that the field has -- there's still a ways to go in that area.

Ms. Browning: There's also an interesting cultural aspect of information access. Typically, in any organization, there are areas that say my area and only my area can have access to this information. And if it is not a privacy or a security issue, which it frequently is not, then the question becomes, well, why can't everybody have access to it?

So it gets into the issue of knowledge is power and how people hoard knowledge. But I think one of the cultural changes that knowledge management forces, it forces us to review what kind of information we give to everyone. Again, that is not bounded by privacy or security issues.

So I think we're seeing more and more in the Army a real desire on the part of top leaders and we're beginning to see this in the middle management of people loosening the grip a little bit and providing information to the entire organization, but this does not come fast.

Mr. Bantly: Another issue related to technology, also, is establishing metatagging standards so that -- and that's the data that describes the knowledge chunks. And some of that data can describe, for example, copyright issues. So that that would enable people to determine to the extent to which they can reuse those assets in other ways. And that's an issue where, although there are standards that exist that have been developed by international standards organizations getting the vendors to incorporate standards in their products and even agreeing on standards between government agencies is still something that needs to be done.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, this was just -- you also just hinted at some of the organizational changes. Well, how does knowledge management affect corporate culture?

Ms. Browning: I think knowledge management has a good effect on corporate culture because what it does -- it evokes a different type of organizational model. One where you have more emphasis on including more people in the decision-making process, working in teams, I think that is becoming more and more the norm. Whether that's actual teams or virtual teams. Also, more of a constant learning and educating people on what are the concepts, what are we doing, what is the project management.

Within our own Army CIO office, we have started professional development sessions at our biweekly staff meetings. So not only do we find out what's going on, we also pick a topic and inform and educate people on that. So it's an opening up, if you will, of the cultural channels in terms of how we do business.

I will tell you, also, you say, well, how do you spur that on? How do you incentivize that? It was probably not a coincidence that the people during the last -- this performance appraisal cycle who got the highest awards were those people who were leaders in the knowledge sharing and in some of these changing cultural aspects. So those are the aspects and you do have to reward the people who are the early adopters and who want to do that.

Mr. Bantly: I think what a knowledge management strategy does is, it kind of turns on its side the initial tradition of having more of a top-down management approach to accomplishing business objectives, where managers determine what needed to be done and then they delegated responsibilities to others to accomplish those objectives.

And what this does, I think it brings more authority to the line workers to recognize and to advocate certain changes that meet certain goals and directives that management would identify. So the community leader identifies or sets the direction for the community. And then it allows the community members to come up with the solutions to achieve the business outcomes through, you know, to accomplish those goals.

Mr. Lawrence: Skeptics have suggested that knowledge management is difficult to implement. What have been your lessons learned that you might share with others?

Mr. Bantly: I think that, just to name a few areas off the top of my head, where there's -- where there's some difficult in establishing these.

First of all, it is very important, it says this in all the literature, and from experience, it's true, as well, from what I've observed from, not necessarily within the VA, but from other organizations, is that it's absolutely important to have corporate sponsorship or management sponsorship of those activities to get the commitment of all the others to allow the -- to provide the time to support those activities.

And I think to a lot of people, knowledge management is a confusing topic, and it's somewhat an abstract topic. And they don't -- it takes them a while to understand what that means and what the impacts will have on how they do business and how they will operate, because it is a changed behavior.

And so getting that understanding to the workers that you're working with, because you work with the community members to help design the strategy for the way they would use it to accomplish business objectives, is a little bit of a challenge.

Ms. Browning: Very simply, here's some advice. First, develop your own definition and your own political ends for knowledge management. Then weave it into the fabric of the organization, especially in organizational transformation. Obtain executive support; that's very important, and it's not just, okay, we'll do it. It almost has to be a visceral buy-in, a real active buy-in by the leadership.

And then develop a strategic plan with milestones and implement for results and hold yourself accountable. So it's like many other transformation efforts. Understand where you want to go. Use knowledge management in this case. It's sort of a buzzwordy thing, but kind of use it to get where you're going and then forge ahead.

Mr. Lawrence: Good stopping point for this segment. We gotta go to a break. But when we come back, we'll ask our guests to tell us their visions for the future of knowledge management.

This is The Business of Government Hour. (Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers. And today's conversation is with Morgan Bantly, knowledge management coordinator at the Department of Veterans Affairs and Miriam Browning, principal director for enterprise integration in the Office of the Army CIO.

Well, how will knowledge management help the government with the impending retirement wave?

Ms. Browning: Knowledge management can be used to capture both the explicit and the tacit information of the workforce so that new workers coming in can shorten their learning curve. We have actually done this in the Army through the development of a template that we have used both within the Pentagon and at some of our field organizations to do that. Where you can capture lessons learned, how to get to documented sources, who are the subject matter experts, where are some -- how to define a certain process, where archival material is.

And actually, in one of our case studies, we found that we really reduced the learning curve of a typical staff officer in this office in the Pentagon from about 6 months to about 2 months. So that was -- that was very helpful. I think, though, the larger construct of knowledge management as part of transformation, no only in the Army, but within government, will also be from a long-range perspective. I think the better legacy of knowledge management, it will make the government a more attractive place to work -- being more high-tech, being more close to how business is conducted in the private sector.

So I think it's that long-range aspect of knowledge management that will prove beneficial over the years.

Mr. Bantly: I agree. I think it's -- you can see it in our organization, in terms of relatively long-term effects in terms of getting all the portions of the VA more unified and consistent in access to information that they have.

And then, also, government agencies, as well, so that we become more of one network and the work of all the employees becomes much more efficient and in accessing, you know, the information that they need, because they're sharing information rather than duplicating efforts and recreating the same kind of information in different places.

Ms. Browning: It's very much an expectation issue. If young folks know in their private lives that they can access all kinds of things on the Internet. If people know they can do that in a private sector job, the expectation is that that should be the same in the government. So I think knowledge management helps move the government toward that direction, which is good.

Mr. Lawrence: What advice would you give a person contemplating a career, whose perhaps thought about public service and maybe even is interested knowledge management -- what advice would you give such a person?

Mr. Bantly: My general advice is that they -- I think it's beneficial to have a perspective from a variety of topic areas or subject areas. Because you can bring experiences in seemingly unrelated areas -- you can bring those to other areas in more innovative ways. And I think that's a key way to create more innovation is to recognize similarities between what normally people would thing of very different areas of concern.

And, obviously, computer literacy, which I think is something that more people are getting involved with technology that's being developed. And I think communication skills is another key area in working with people.

Ms. Browning: The best reason to go into government, of course, is because of the challenging work -- there are jobs in the government that are absolutely unique and nowhere else in the world. So it's that challenging work and the ability to contribute to the nation. I think people who have that first and foremost in their minds will be the ones that really should go into government.

Clearly, also, the government is also good in terms of relative job security and benefits, so I think that that's an aspect that should be emphasized.

If someone wants to make a lot of money, I recommend that they do not go into the government. That's a personal decision. There are all kinds of people out there and, certainly, this nation holds employment opportunities for many.

I would also suggest that people interested in the government pursue some of the higher-level skill sets, such as, business skills and leadership skills. Because in the information technology area over the years, more and more of the technical skills will be outsourced. We have seen that trend in the Defense Department for decades, that will continue. So that we will need people in the government who are generally very highly educated, who understand business, the organization, and the leadership skills so that they can manage contractors, manage large horizontal projects, not only within their agency but, as Morgan has mentioned, across agencies. So we're looking at some really, really high-level skill sets and some absolutely fascinating work.

Mr. Lawrence: How do you think knowledge management will evolve in the next 10 years at each of your organizations? What's your vision for the future of knowledge management?

Ms. Browning: I think a lot of knowledge management tools and processes that we have right now will become embedded in normal business processes. Very similar to business process re-engineering. You know, in any process re-engineering endeavor, you can include knowledge management components, such as lessons learned, or best-practices, access to subject matter experts, knowledge templates, common archives, et cetera.

So I think that will become part of how we build applications, how we do business. I think that it will become common place.

Let me add one more item too. I think one of the -- some of the cutting-edge areas in knowledge management will be in the use of intelligent agents. We see them already on the Internet. Agents that help us make decisions. Agents that are intelligent agents that are embedded into how we select things and actually how we buy things on the Internet. You can weave those into how we perform processes and how to reduce the cycle times.

I also think that you will probably see a blossoming of some of the newer management concepts in the federal government. More self-service applications, you know, people can do more things online. There is still a gap between government and the private sector, in terms of simple things, like access to your benefits. Filing travel vouchers, it varies by organization. But in the private sector more and more of these things are absolutely automated.

I think you'll see more virtual teaming, more knowledge repositories, more knowledge portals, so there really will be a blossoming of a knowledge generation, not only in the government, but in the private sector.

Mr. Lawrence: Do you think our concern for privacy will impede knowledge management? It seems as though we're always walking a fine line between having a lot of information to do the things you just described, but yet not wanting to have a lot of information out there?

Mr. Bantly: I think the desire to -- for the access to information, actually, is going to drive knowledge management more than impede it. And I think that it will help others focus on defining how they can provide, you know, what the limitations will be to providing certain information -- allowing certain information to go to people that need it and keeping, certainly, private information private and only available to those who should have access to that information.

Mr. Lawrence: And how are the economics of knowledge management working out? Often the benefits are long-term and the costs are immediate, and that sometimes limits people's desire to go forward with things.

How are the economics being worked?

Ms. Browning: That's a classic technology problem, and I think one of the best things to do is what both Veterans and Army have done, and that is to start small and demonstrate with pilots. In other words, you need to put in a strategic long-term program, but as you're doing that, you must have some very short-term pilot projects that can produce results and that can gain organizational commitment to continue.

So that's typically how you go about instituting a change using information technology.

Mr. Bantly: I think a key part of that is identifying the communities and the goals that you're trying to accomplish through knowledge management. I think some things can be much more easily and directly measured. And I know that in some corporations, for example, some have set a limit to actually working on a knowledge management project. They won't work on one unless they can expect to receive a profit within 6 months from that initiative. And I've -- I'm familiar with cases where that's occurred and they've been able to demonstrate that profit through measurable, you know, through measurements.

I think within our initiative, that it's going to require more of a long-term effort to see true benefits because a lot of this is through organizational change. And we need to develop this and establish this more strategically across the entire organization.

So to see larger benefits, it's going to take a longer time before that's actually realized. I think in terms of trying to achieve the executive sponsorship to establish or continue to provide initiatives that use knowledge management. I think, like Ms. Browning, was saying, that, you know, you just need to identify ways in which you can accomplish that quickly and then be able to verify that so you can demonstrate value and continue to go forward with those initiatives.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, this is a good stopping point. Miriam and Morgan, I want to thank you very much for joining us this morning. This has been a great conversation.

Ms. Browning: Thank you, Paul.

Mr. Bantly: Thank you for inviting me.

Mr. Lawrence: This has been The Business for Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Morgan Bantly, knowledge management coordinator of the Department of Veterans Affairs and Miriam Browning, principal director for enterprise integration in the Office of the Army CIO.

To learn more about the programs and research, visit us on the Web at endowment.pwcglobal.com. And at this website, you an also get a transcript of today's fascinating conversation.

See you next week.

Morgan Bantly interview
08/11/2001
Morgan Bantly

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