In my last post “Our radar has failed”, I offered the view that the current financial crisis is actually more than that—it’s a crisis in the ways we use information to make business decisions.  We’ve obviously come to another “Where do we go from here?” moment.

So, where DO we go from here?

I’ve identified four guiding principles that I believe frame a way to move ahead in the ways we use information to manage our economy and society going forward.  These are Vigilance, Integrity, Transparency, and Accountability.  (Each is first defined below using Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.)

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Our radar has failed

Once again, our radar has failed.

The current financial meltdown is much more than a serious financial crisis. It’s even more than a crisis of confidence. It’s no less than a fundamental abuse of information and its pivotal role in our economy.

When our economy started in pre-historic times, we bartered for goods and services. Then money was invented—first stones, then metal coins, then paper—and finally, ledger entries. No less an expert than Walter Wriston (then president of Citibank) said over twenty years ago that the fundamental financial resource is now information.

Modern information technology long ago dwarfed earlier record-keeping methods. A typical teenager now carries with her several times the amount of data contained in the Encyclopedia Britannica. And these technologies gave us assurance that, to paraphrase the Who, “We could see for miles and miles.” With modern technology and record keeping methods, the story went, we could undertake transactions of far greater scale, scope, and complexity than ever before. And the “systems” would warn us if anything was wrong.

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Intelligence points of pain (IPoPs)

I recently conducted a KVC Workshop for intelligence producers at SCIP08’s international convention in San Diego.  During the workshop I surveyed them about their biggest obstacles and problems in corporate intelligence.  We’ve been collecting and analyzing this kind of data now for several years—I call it the Intelligence Points of Pain (IPoP) database.

NEWS FLASH: Intelligence problems and challenges are remarkably similar across different organizations, in different industries, in different countries. Even as I compare Workshop results from different years, I find the results amazingly consistent.

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A call too late

It was a weekday afternoon in the fall of 2007.  Though sitting at my desk, I was speaking “virtually” with about a hundred other people around the world who share my interest in corporate intelligence.  Specifically, I was midway through giving a live webinar (hosted by Aurora) on the Knowledge Value Chain®.

A chat message came through on the screen sidebar from the head of intelligence at a large US company.  She said her company was planning an all-day intelligence event, and they wanted to order one hundred copies of my KVC Workbook as a discussion guide for attendees.  This was the largest single order for the book to that point, on that basis I counted the webinar as a huge success.  We left it that she’d call back the following week to firm up the order details.

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The four roles of intelligence

Here’s an excerpt from my chapter in the new book Starting a CI Function (SCIP 2008.)

In each organization, the specific mission for intelligence, and the intelligence plan that supports that mission, will vary.  However, a set of “information deficiencies” that is strikingly similar across many organizations, across all industries, remains.  These include:

  • There is too much information “out there”, and often it’s hard to find. According to the search engine Technorati, the number of blogs is now over 93 million-with 175,000 being added each day. Not all of these have business value—but a surprising number do, and should be on your intelligence “radar screen”. And it’s only going to get worse. A recent study (“How Much Information?  2003“, School of Information, University of California, Berkeley) found that worldwide information production increased by 30 percent each year between 1999 and 2002. Read the rest of this entry »

Workbook 3.2 now shipping

It’s here—the shiny (really!) new version 3.2 Knowledge Value Chain Workbook.  Our thanks to the TKA team and partners who made this happen.  Workbook designer John (“The Great”) Fantini and printer Craig (“On-Time”) Pace of Spectragraphic Inc. did yeoman service in getting this edition ready.  Mike (“Pool Boy”) Powell made extensive editorial comments, as did KVC “users” Kathy Walsh of Purdue Pharma and Stephen Lippman of Merrill Lynch.

For those of you with version 3.1, most of the changes are editorial, there is little new content this time (hence its “dot” number).

We have now shipped the book worldwide—most recently to Estonia and Korea—and welcome any feedback from those of you who have it or are using it.

 To order, click here.

TKA clinic helps developers sharpen financial focus

Financial Intelligence Requires a Deeper Look

New York, NY Arising Group, Inc. recently completed intensive exercises in financial analysis with Tim Powell of The Knowledge Agency® (TKA).

George Karshner, Executive Vice President at Arising Group, said that understanding the financial fitness of a company is essential to proper due diligence.  “Companies targeted for M&A or involved in litigation may not want to reveal their true financial condition,” Karshner said.  “A company’s public relations team may put on a happy face, but to know the true health of a company you need to look at their public filings and financial statements and understand the implications of the different business ratios,” he added.

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Knowledge management ground zero

We recently had to deal directly with a Very Large Phone Company, on whom most of the businesses in my Manhattan neighborhood ultimately rely for both their telephone and Internet connections.  In the process of getting a new phone system installed after our recent office move, my staff and I witnessed some of the most primitive “knowledge” behavior I’ve ever seen.  We noticed that, at least once a week during our ten-week (!) wait for service, a new team would arrive to scout the connections entering our new building on the street level.  Rarely the same team twice.  And each time, the team seemed to be asking similar questions about where wires came from, where they ran, and so on.  And each time (you guessed it) their report that there were not enough lines coming into the building was oddly familiar.

Our building is a 100-year-old former medical equipment warehouse in the High Line district on the Hudson River just south of the Javits Center—now a thriving art gallery district, and soon to become a thriving business district.  The building was not originally built for telephones.  As a result, connection boxes are in odd places, wires run where you’d not expect—you really have to know what you’re doing.

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The digital half-life

I had an experience recently that reminded me how fragile the Knowledge Value Chain really is.  A client had asked for information on the quality of intelligence, a topic that I’ve addressed in many talks over the years.  I looked through dozens of PowerPoint slide shows from these talks, and was printing the slides that were most relevant to his question.

Then, when looking though a file created about 12 years ago, I got an error message that the file was incompatible, and could not be opened.  I tried another file of the same vintage, and got the same message.

After some research on one of Microsoft’s excellent support sites, I’ve come to the conclusion that the software I’m using (PowerPoint 2007, which I find superior in all other respects to its predecessor) will not open the file I’m trying to access.

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TKA launches financial clinic

January 11, 2008, NEW YORK—The Knowledge Agency announced today that the new clinic Financial Intelligence:  A Value-Based ApproachTM is completed, and has now successfully completed field-testing at a major corporation.  “I’ve tried to put into a bottle those must-know things about using financial analysis to discover your rivals’ strategies,” says clinic developer and leader Tim Powell.  “These are skills I’ve developed and used every day in my work as a financial analyst, including ten years as a consultant in the Big Four firms.”

The one-day clinic is typically given at a client location, and includes practical modules that use real-world case examples.  Also included is a live exercise in which participants analyze their own company, then a major rival, for clues to the competitive dynamics in your industry.

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