Bert''''s Bonsai, Other Subject

Case Study 1: Bert’s Bonsai (BB)
Bert’s Bonsai is a small company, started by a retired plant scientist, which sells Bonsai plants, tools and materials to cultivate them, and literature in book and magazine form. They were an early adopter of electronic records, and are still happily using an Amiga-based picture-and-text database for their plants from which they produce a catalogue they send round to the local gardening and florist shops as well as mailing to the special interest groups. Their mailing list is also maintained on the Amiga.

Bert’s Bonsai has now been bought up by the proprietors of a garden-supplies franchise. The franchise have been advised by their (overworked and unenthusiastic) IT staff that the material currently in electronic form is next to useless, and it would be best to start again; this has led to some legal dispute between the former owners of BB (who point out that conversion between digital formats is always possible) and the purchasers (who have to rely on their staff for opinions). The director of the franchise who organised the deal would like to know why BB can produce better catalogues and mailing list on a 25 year old Amiga than his staff can with a 2 million dollar IT budget.

The immediate challenge is to incorporate the plants and tools components of the stock into the greater franchise stock-lines with minimal fuss, and convert the mailing list and distribution list into the franchise’s own versions. This also includes getting a web-presence for the new (combined) catalogue as well. The director in question wants to improve the current cataloguing and mailing practices to be at least as good as BB’s. The IT staff are resentful and look to be uncooperative.

To Do:

Answer all of the questions below, for both case studies.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Present your report for each case study in its entirety – i.e. answer questions 1-5 for Case Study 1, then 1-5 for Case Study 2. It makes it much easier (for both you and me) to see the issues and solutions for each organisation, and to follow your reasoning.

Preliminary investigation

1. Carry out the preliminary investigation of the organisation and yourself in relation to it, as follows:

a) Give an initial appraisal of the organisation’s aims and preparedness for a knowledge audit. In your assessment, consider specifically whether it is:
as discussed in Topic 6. Note that while you should consider the items in the checklist in carrying out your appraisal, you do not need to address each of the items in detail here.

b) Give an assessment of your own preparedness in undertaking the knowledge audit for the organisation. In carrying out your assessment, make use of the issues of expertise, ontological structure, background knowledge, opinions and prejudices, and tacit components of knowledge, as discussed in Topic 6. What areas of knowledge do you need to research to bring yourself up to speed?

c) Give your assessment of whether it is worthwhile proceeding with the knowledge audit, based on your findings above.

Assuming it is worthwhile proceeding with the knowledge audit (hint: it is worthwhile for each of the organisations!) continue to the next part of the assignment.

Knowledge Audit

2. Commence the knowledge audit by identifying the knowledge gaps and blockages in the organisation, as follows:

a) Consider each of the ten checklist issues listed, and assess from the case study whether the organisation addresses them well (needing no further attention), adequately, or whether there is a problem. Justify your assessment in each case. Take some time to do this part of the assignment thoroughly.

b) Where you consider that more information would be needed to properly identify the knowledge gaps and blockages, outline your strategy for finding out this information.

c) Include a list of sources you have consulted in carrying out your investigation so far (for example: books, journals, Internet sites). Give the complete reference using Chicago/APA format.

3. Summarise the organisation’s KM goals, and state which issue you consider to be the organisation’s most pressing problem in achieving their goals, explaining your reasons.

Fixing the Knowledge Gap: Planning

4. Now commence the ‘Fixing knowledge gap’ phase by identifying the broad nature of the solution required, as follows:

a) Wherever you have identified the organisation has a problem in the checklist of issues, suggest the nature of the solution required to address the issue (bridge the knowledge gap). This solution needs to be in broad terms only: you are not recommending particular vendor products as yet. (See the section ‘Hints: how to go about the research’ for some pointers.)

b) Include a list of sources you have consulted in carrying out your research for this stage. Give the complete reference using Chicago/APA format.

Fixing the Knowledge Gap: Solutions

5. Having identified the knowledge gaps and broad plan for fixing them for your chosen organisation, now proceed to recommend a solution it can implement.
a) Briefly describe the extent of IT infrastructure (hardware, application software, operating system, networks) already present in the day-to-day running of the organisation. (Some of this information may be stated in the case study, for the remainder you should make an educated estimate and explain your reasoning.) This infrastructure is what your proposed solution will have to work with (by building on/ extending/ replacing).

b) Summarise the requirements for a Knowledge Management System for the organisation, and create a list of suggested software packages that will build on the existing infrastructure and assist the organisations in reaching their KM targets. Use the hints in section ‘Hints’ in your research.

c) Describe any potential problems that could arise with implementing your solution in the organisation. What would you do to avoid or minimise these problems?

d) List the sources for your solutions. Give the complete reference using Chicago/APA format.

Some hints on how to go about the research

There are three areas that you should make sure you take into account in answering the questions above.

Further examination of the area (subject, discipline, industry) in which the organisation operates
• Are there particular sites or organisations mentioned in the case study which you should investigate?
• Are there international professional organisations involved? Do they have an authorised code of practice, recommended software, preferred format for data or images, a common recommended term-set? Remember, if there is more than one international body involved, then there may well be more than one set of recommended terms (eg in the field of Computing, both ACM and IEEE serve as international bodies, each with their own suggestions).

Investigation of potential solutions

The investigation of potential software solutions must involve what is common practice in the industry. Consider the following questions:

• Are there dominant market leaders in information provision? Do they set the standards, or offer facilities that reinforce other standards? (For example, booksellers these days cannot ignore Amazon, EBay, Abebooks or Alibris – but how should they fit their practice in with these giants?)
• Are there dominant software systems? If not, is there already a solution that is freely available that makes use of standard productivity software?

The solution within the context of the organisation

It is important to understand the placement of the solution within the context of an organisation:

• Is the organisation paid or voluntary – and what effect does this have on the KM solution?
• Staff preparedness: are there continuing education or professional organisation courses that can get staff members to be more up-to-date with their peers?
• Interaction with other organisations and potential clientele: Are there conferences? Trade shows etc
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