I’ve been doing a few talks recently on the topic of “Knowledge Curation”, especially as it applies to models, which are, after all, just a another repository of structured knowledge.

All this has has come about because of some recent experiences with clients who have great models, but not-so-great engagement with the people who need to validate the ideas in those models.

This lead to the idea that there may be three fairly separate skills here. Two of them we know about. One maybe we dont’:

  1. Capturing the knowledge. This is a well-researched and well understood skill. Indeed, and the BA2017 conference I’ve just come from, there were loads of talks about various frameworks and techniques for capturing information. It seemed to be the dominant theme, which I found strange. The majority of BAs seemed to be nervous of skill#2:
  2. Encoding the knowledge into a model, so it can be analysed. Lots of BAs happily do (1) and (2) at the same time. When I’m interviewing a stakeholder, I’m nearly always jotting down a sketch of their domain model, at the same time as trying to separate what’s a requirement form what they think is the solution for the requirement.
  3. Presenting that knowledge back for validation. This is what I think may be the new, or missing, skill. Just taking the model, which may be a big diagram, or lots of small ones, and putting it in front of the average business stakeholder is clearly doomed to fail. They don’t know the notation, or maybe even the ideas behind the notation. (these are separate ideas: most people ‘get’ the idea of a process which has swimlanes and a flow of activities – they might not, however, understand the BPMN notation which we might have used to capture that process)

(1) and (2) are topics for another day – this article is about (3) – the act taking some complex information from a model, and presenting it back to someone so they can engage with it. ‘Engage’ might mean just reading and understanding it, commenting or discussing it with others, or approving it. In reach case, engagement is the key. We’ve probably all had the experience of submitting a document for approval to a busy stakeholder, and having it come back un-commented, but approved. A ticking time-bomb…

So I’ll get straight to the ideas which I’ve been discussing in the recent talks They are a starter set of ‘ways to re-present model information’. (in time, I’ll be expanding on each one…)

  • Context
  • Glossary
  • Provenance
  • Colour your knowledge
  • Two Ideas
  • Simplify Notation
  • Hide the diagram
  • Tell a Story
  • Compose by Aggregation
  • General to Specific
  • New metaphor
  • Humility-based analysis