What to do with the results of a communication audit: Analysis and stuff..

ImageSo you’ve collated the surveys, transcribed the interviews and basically have a tonne of information that your not sure what to do with. What now? No don’t freak out! Everything will be ok ūüôā¬†Whilst analysis is challenging it is also fun! (yes I do truly believe that)

So where to start? First things first is to make the rules of your analysis and develop a plan. By setting the boundaries and steps for your analysis you can prevent yourself from getting trapped into the  ether of analysis. Its very easy once you start to analyse to never stop and then wind-up sitting in a corner rocking backwards and forwards asking silly philosophical questions like what am I? Am I real?

So whats in the plan? You need to examine the key trends/issues that formulated your questions and analyse the results of your study in accordance with each of those issues periodically. In undertaking this silo-esque analysis you are able to focus upon the trends associated with each issue you set out to explore. There is a danger in taking this approach of reading too much or incorrectly into a comment i.e making multiple and different insights from a comment as a consequence of your immediate focus. To prevent this its recommended that you layer your analysis on to top of each other within the one document. The easiest way to do this I’ve found is printing out the data and colour coding your comments and synthesis on the data. If you want to do this in soft copy I recommend GoodReader for the app users in the audience.

Once you’ve marked up all your data its time to find the trends in your data. You can do this by¬†synthesising the mark up/comments on the data into statements, which need to be amended and expanded upon with the addition of another subjects comments. This building upon prevents you from favouring results which you may favour because they affirm your expected outcomes. After collating all results you are left with a series of statements which encapsulate the agreements, disagreements, trends and beliefs of your user group upon each issue of your communication audit.

Stay tuned for recommendations and how to implement those changes through organisational change.

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Elements of a communication audit

The uniqueness of organisational culture and information behaviours prevent a step-by-step approach being provided (and be wary of them if they are proposed). The two key elements of a communication audit are identifying the mediums for communication and how they are perceived by their users. These two elements can then be split into the following stages:

– identifying the mediums of communication

Рunderstanding the perceptions of the media within the members of the team 

Рidentifying the responses within the organisation to these communications be them actions  or inaction

– identify the reasons behind the individuals preferred communication medium

ImageIdentifying the communication mediums  and understanding the perceptions

When examining the mediums for communication the scope must be as wide as possible because, whilst many decision makers within organisations may not like it, valuable communication occurs on both official and unofficial channels.

Once again taking a little dig at McLuhan the questions asked of organisation members when starting a communication flow audit should not be limited at first to what medium they get their information from but rather what information they are given and what information they need to seek out. Once you find out what information is valued ¬†it is a question of the information gap. Why do they seek out that information? Why is it important? Why is the other information not meeting their needs? The effect of these questions it to provide insight into an individuals communication practices and their perception of a medium for they may be receiving the information they require however it is received upon a devalued medium and automatically disregarded for a more ‘authoritatively’ regarded medium.¬†

Identifying the responses to communication

This stage is difficult to undertake without a clear understanding of the multiple communication channels within an organisation. The reason being that invariably there is a cross over of information. When this cross-over becomes an expectation it may have an effect upon the actions of the individual, for example action is only taken once the information is relayed through a certain channel or not until both channels relay the same information. 

There are other impacts upon action and inaction to communication such as individual strategy – a person have their own stategy’s for relaying information to other staff or their staff, they may have expectations regarding others taking action. The possibility of these should also be explored.¬†

Identifying the reasons behind the individuals preferred communication medium

An broad scope must be given in seeking out answers to this element including: a lack of training for using a particular medium, an absence of leadership support, engrained user preferences, organisational/team culture, individual preference. 

Hope this helps and ensures a broad scope is taken in your communication flow audit. 

Next post: So you’ve done the interviews, collected the surveys, what now? Analysis!

Communication and the importance of auditing communication flows

In our post industrialist society information is currency. Subsequently, effective communication as the primary means of transferring information, should be a dominant concern for decision makers within all organisational contexts. As identified by Nelson;

“organisations are built on a foundation of communication; communication is the physical and mental network that ties everyone – both within and without the organisation – together”(1)

Because of this importance the manner in which communication is undertaken within an organisation needs to be assessed and reassessed for like with all other practices and behaviours within an organisation communication is continually evolving. Unfortunately for us communication audits are not something that can automated. The specificity and uniqueness of  situations (organisational or otherwise) result in the necessity for individual case-by-case consideration of communication flows.

So what does a communication audit actually involve? Well in addition to a holistic perspective to ‘what is communication’ there must be a wide consideration as to what may impact, be it positively or negatively upon communication including the inherent effect of organisational culture, procedure, information behaviour as well as team structure and dynamic. Like with all things in the ‘social science’ field this process is highly HIGHLY subjective and subsequently it is not recommended that it is undertaken by individuals in the same position or if a team is geographically distributed by members all from the same location. But what advantage does a communication audit serve? e-fortier.net define communication audits as;

It is a complete analysis of an organization’s communications -internal and/or external – designed to “take a picture” of communication needs, policies, practices. and capabilities, and to uncover necessary data to allow top management to make informed, economical decisions about future objectives of the organization’s communication¬†(2)

Blocks or contractions of communication within an organisation can prevent it from taking advantage of opportunities and the knowledge/experience of its members for people cannot contribute ideas, suggestions or pass on valuable knowledge if they are not aware that an issue/project has arisen. Thus communication audits serve not only to examine what good (and bad) communication practices take place within an organisation but also presenting organisations (if acted upon) with the opportunity to take greater advantage of the experience/knowledge of their members. 

Next post: Elements of a communication audit. 

(1) Nelson (2005) Management Bible, John Wiley & Sons Incorporated. 

 (2) http://www.e-frontier.net/archives/what_is_a_communications_audit.html 

As defined on Wikipedia

I just started reading a report on legal project management by Scott Preston and Ryan McClead (see embedded report below). The report itself is an interesting read considering the lawyer mindset on project management and how it should be improved. What got up my Librarian Goat was the first sentence:

Project Management, which has been around since the 1950s, is defined on Wikipedia as ‚Äúthe discipline of planning, organizing, motivating, and controlling resources to achieve specific goals‚ÄĚ.

“As defined on Wikipedia??? AAAAAHHHHH! Be gone thou abhorrent plague upon my librarian sensibilities!” said the 1950s Librarian living inside me .

The 25 year old Librarian living and breathing in 2013 has a different thought – how can something be cited as being authored by an entity that doesn’t actually exist and if we are citing something that doesn’t actually exists is that all that bad?

As what is unarguably the most successful crowdsourcing project ever created, Wikipedia serves facilitate information equality, providing access to all irrespective of the readers economic facilities – provided (of course) that they have access to an internet connection. Is it really bad that there is no author?

In my job you have people asking for books by the names of the authors, “I need Dal Pont/Ford/Riley/Cheshire & Fifoot/Jacob’s”. ¬†How long is it going to be before references such as the Australian Constitution as edited by 217.61.50.56 and PalaceGuard008 are common and accepted? ¬†I guess this post is an open question rather than anything…

 

 

Big data, big deal?

Defining “big data” is as difficult to define as knowledge. Why? Because it means different things to different people. According to IBM in its report¬†Analytics: The real-world use of big data:

“big data has been used to convey all sorts of ideas, including: huge quantities of data, social media analytics, next generation data management capabilities, real-time data, and much more” (http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/gbs/thoughtleadership/ibv-big-data-at-work.html¬†).

Irrespective of the name you give this rose it presents opportunities for organisation to uncover detailed information on their organisations online/electronic behaviour. But is tracking the clicks the answer for libraries seeking to understand their users?

Answer – yes and no

Big data can assist in libraries bridging the information gap between what users say they do and what they actually do. It can assist in tracking task paths and activity trends helping you eradicate dead ends and confusing navigation paths from your intranet or web site.

This is all valuable information however it cannot be employed as the sole means of understanding your user group because you can’t gauge everything from the stats. Talking to your users about what they do, what they use and most importantly what they want is invaluable not only with respect of building relationships but also in assisting you to understand the trends. When it comes to stats there’s an ever-present risk of reading too much into a series of tends or getting it disastrously wrong.

Libraries should consider harnessing the big data that their clients are creating when using their products however the essentials of user focused design cannot be thrown aside. REMEMBER TO TALK TO YOUR USERS!!! 

I have collated below a series of resources on big data for those who are unfamiliar with it:

IBM Analytics: The real-world use of big data: http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/gbs/thoughtleadership/ibv-big-data-at-work.html 

Mike 2.0 Definition of big data –¬†http://mike2.openmethodology.org/wiki/Big_Data_Definition

European Commission – Big data at your service –

https://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/news/big-data-your-service

McKinsey & Company Global Institute – Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition and productivity

http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/mgi/research/technology_and_innovation/big_data_the_next_frontier_for_innovation