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1504.0 - Methodological News, Sep 2001  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 14/11/2001   
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MANAGING ANALYTICAL KNOWLEDGE

Late last year, the ABS adopted a knowledge management (KM) strategy to enhance the bureau's capacity to find, preserve and share knowledge. KM is emerging as an important issue for the ABS analysis program.

Our work is project based. When the ABS (through the Analysis Board) decides that a new analytical product should be prototyped or a new methodology should be developed, a project team is established; the team members are redeployed when the project is completed. During the past eighteen months, we have been wrestling with the following questions:

  • At the outset of a project, how can the team find and assimilate the knowledge it needs about the subject matter, datasets and techniques?
  • During a project, how can the team share its experiences with clients and other stakeholders? How can the team bring its problems to the attention of people (in the ABS or elsewhere) who might provide helpful insights?
  • At the end of a project, how can the knowledge generated by the team be preserved and made accessible to future analysts?

We have been experimenting with ways of capturing and sharing knowledge throughout a project's lifecycle. Many of our teams now create "big picture" documents (that outline the project's aims and plan of attack), "state of play" documents (that describe recent and impending tasks) and "road maps" (that guide the reader through the documentation of our analysis processes and outputs). Examples of these documents can be viewed on the Analysis Branch workgroup database. Some of our clients and collaborators are finding these documents very helpful; many other ABS staff are visiting our branch home page periodically to get an overview of the whole analysis program. Project teams also share their experiences through the Methodology Division and other seminar series. The branch also conducts fortnightly in-house workshops. These are not polished seminars - their purpose is to provoke lively, early discussion about projects-in -progress and to share problems and insights.

We are now turning our minds to two broader KM issues. First, how can we gather intelligence about the opportunities for analytical work that will be most fruitful for the ABS and its customers? We are scanning our ABS partners' strategic directions statements, forward work programs and information development plans to see where new analytical products or new methods might fit into the national statistical jigsaw. We are experimenting with graphical and tabular ways of presenting this information.

Second, how can ABS staff engaged in analytical work share their experiences? By interviewing staff who have led analytical projects during the past eighteen months, we are distilling their experience into a guidebook that describes a standard research sequence - from initiation steps (initial problem statement, literature survey and data census) through intermediate steps (exploratory and full-scale analyses, peer review by other analysts, and plausibility checks by subject matter experts) to wrap-up steps (negotiating the transition/ implementation plan, writing up the journal of project team experiences, and generating the nuggets of technical knowledge that will be useful to future analysts). A draft guidebook will be ready in November 2001.

For more information, please contact Ken Tallis on (02) 6252 7290.

Email: ken.tallis@abs.gov.au

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