The Right Tool for the Job | Knowledge Management

I’ve always been really impressed with what craftsmen can make when they have the right tools.  My close friend, Mick, of Relyea Custom Cabinetry is one of those people.  As a custom cabinet maker, a big part of what he does all day is cut wood.  He has dozens of saws.  They all cut wood, but they’re not interchangeable: Mick wouldn’t use a band saw when the job calls for a table saw.

Similarly, we “knowledge workers” have lots of communication tools, like email, telephones, blogs, SMS, Twitter, instant messaging, etc.  But for some reason, we often don’t always use the right tool for the job.

Email has its place. Probably the most overused knowledge-worker tool is email.  To some, it’s like a Swiss Army Knife.  Yes, there is a saw folded up in there (it’s right next to the tiny scissors and little wrench), and it may work in a pinch, but it’s not always the best tool for the job.

Email is great.  But let’s not forget its roots: mail.  Email is faster than the USPS, but it’s not faster than a phone call, or SMS.  And more importantly, even though some people check their email every time their BlackBerries buzz, it’s not all that common: most people check their email rather than having it check them.

Time sensitivity is a factor when deciding which of your knowledge-worker tools to use.  If you need an immediate response or reaction, you’d better reach for something other than email.  An actual phone call (remember that tool?) is best because it is a synchchronous interaction: you confirm receipt and understanding of the message (can you hear me now?).  If there is a last-minute time change for an important meeting, email is not going to cut it.  You need to know that the participants got the message.

Email is the default, but not at fault. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out which tool to use.  Email is so popular that it has become the default.  This is because people are self-centered (present company not excluded).  Many people think that their emails are read as soon as they click “send,” irrespective of the time of day or night or other circumstances.  In fairness to the self-centered senders, however, we’ve brought this expectation upon ourselves by immediately responding to email at all hours.  (Do you keep your BlackBerry on your nightstand?)

So, how do we tame the tech?  Well, technology is not the problem.  We are the problem.  Email is not evil, but in the wrong hands it can cause havoc.  It is a very effective tool for certain tasks; but it’s just one tool.  And like all tools, we need to learn to use email effectively.  Tim Sanders has a blog that tries to educate people about email usage and etiquette.  Please read it.  Tim Ferriss advocates checking email only a couple of times a day.  That may be impractical for some people, but the alternative–responding to email as if it were a real, live conversation–will send people the wrong message.

After choosing the appropriate tool, Mick would say “measure twice, cut once.”  That’s good advice.  But, many of us are not as good at tool selection as Mick is.  We knowledge workers should back up a step and think twice before even selecting our tool.

Before you send your next email, ask yourself: is it the right tool for the job?  Will it achieve the desired results?  Should you call or wiki instead?  Maybe just walk down the hall and have a good, old-fashioned, face-to-face chat.

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms

Knowledge Management for Law Firms :: In case you missed it… Mar 2 – 8, 2008

Here are some of my favorite legal knowledge management & technology blog posts and other items from the week of – March 2 – 8 , 2008:

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms

Read your voicemail – SimulScribe | Knowledge Management

This is the first in a multi-part blog series test that will review various “voicemail-to-text” (“V2T”) services that are becoming popular on the web. These services work with your existing phone carrier (cell or land line, and some offer enterprise service) and transcribe your audio voicemail messages into text and deliver the transcribed message to you via e-mail or SMS so that you can read them, rather than have to listen to them. Some people refer to this as “visual voicemail,” which is also an accurate description, but should not be confused with the feature of the same name offered on Apple’s iPhone, which is great, but different than V2T.

First up, SimulScribe.

SimulScribe
simulscribe taxi

It is probably the most popular in the US. Ads for the service, denigrating voicemail, are popping up on New York City taxi cabs. There are even Apple “I’m a Mac – I’m a PC” rip-off ads found on YouTube, like this one:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVAX5OtbllU&rel=1]

Funny, but it makes the point. SimulScribe does not just display the numbers of the people that leave you voicemail, it transcribes the audio of the voicemail into text. I tried SimulScribe, and was impressed. I initially had it set to deliver the transcribed text message to my GMail address. It worked as advertised. I then added the feature that sends the message as an SMS text message so that I could read it on my phone. That didn’t work so well because one relatively short voicemail came in 5 separate text messages – but I think that is a function of the SMS (AT&T) and not SimulScribe.  For me, it is not a big deal to rely on email because I get my email on my iPhone.  The big question is: accuracy of the transcription. Does SimulScribe accurately transcribe what callers are saying? To test this, and the other competing services that I’ll write about in future posts, I left myself the following voicemail (for each, I used an iPhone, spoke in my normal tone, volume, speed and clarity):

Hey, it’s Patrick. I wanted to let you know that I am testing some voicemail to text services and writing about them and the results of my test in my blog, LawyerKM. You can read about the results at www.lawyerkm.com. If you’re not familiar with LawyerKM, it’s a knowledge management blog for lawyers and people in the legal profession. That’s it for the audio test of [name of the service]. Thanks.

So, how did SimulScribe do? Look for yourself – here is the transcribed message that I received in my email. It took 6 minutes, 34 seconds from the time I hung up the phone to the time the message arrived in my e-mail inbox.

Hey, it’s Patrick. I wanted to let you know that I’m testing the voicemail to text services in writing about them and the result of my test in my blood lawyer Ken. You can read about the results at www.lawyerken.com. If you’re not familiar with lawyer Ken, it’s a knowledge management law to lawyers and people in the legal profession. That’s it for the audio test of SimulScribe. Thanks.

So, not dead on, but not bad (I like “blood lawyer Ken”).

Note that this is not an either/or service. You can also still listen to your voicemail the old fashioned way if you want. To do so, you dial in and access your audio voicemail messages just as you do now. Unfortunately, if you have an iPhone you can’t use Apple’s visual voicemail function while using SimulScribe because the voicemail is handled on SimulScribe’s system, not AT&T’s. Another handy feature is that you can opt to have an audio file (mp3, wav, or GSM) delivered as an attachment to the email that contains the text of the message. So, you can read and/or listen to the message from your e-mail.

KM is more than just identifying, capturing, and disseminating intellectual capital. It’s also about using technology to help us do things more efficiently and effectively. V2T services are good tools to help us be more efficient and effective. Most lawyers get a lot of voicemail messages everyday. If your voicemail system is like mine, then you have to work through a maze of voice prompts and menus just to hear your messages. It is surprisingly time-consuming. It is faster to read those voicemails. Plus, V2T obviates the need to take notes from those voicemails – it already there. You can forward the message to others and save the message indefinitely. You can also access the audio and text of your messages even if you don’t have access to your email. Just sign in to SimulScribe on the web to access and manage your account.

All in all, we love the V2T concept and SimulScribe does a good job. There are three pricing options: $29.95 per month for unlimited messages; $9.95 per month for 40 messages ($.25 for each additional); and a $.35 per message option. In coming weeks, we’ll review other services and see how they compare. If you use any V2T products, please drop us a line and let us know how you like them.

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management for Lawyers and Law Firms

Best Thing Since The iPhone | Knowledge Management

Our readers will know that June 29, 2007 was a very special day for LawyerKM.  Well, mark October 26, 2007 down as another one.  Yes, today is the day that LawyerKM’s Gmail got IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol).  And that’s a very good thing for our iPhones.

We could get into all of the technical goodness, but the bottom line is this: Synchronization.  Up until now, with POP (Post Office Protocol), our Gmail didn’t synchronize.  When we deleted an email on the iPhone, it remained in Gmail and we had to go on the web to really really delete it.  (We hate duplication of effort.)  And we couldn’t tag our emails either.  Now, Gmail on the iPhone is just like Gmail on the web.  Tag, archive, delete.  Go nuts.

Here’s a good “how to” explaining the set-up procedure.

Now if we could only do something about that crazy GSM buzz

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management for Lawyers and Law Firms

Personal KM – one phone number rings all of your phones

Technology is supposed to make life easier.  Why, then, do I have so many devices?  A cell phone, a BlackBerry, iPod, laptop and desktop PCs.  Well, one thing that should help — at least with the phone part — is GrandCentral.  The most basic feature of this service is that it gives you a phone number and then offers to connect that new phone number to all of the other phones in your life.  One phone number rings all of your phones (right now – up to six phones while the service is in beta).  The service is free while in beta and GrandCentral says that while there will be a pay service in the future, it will “always offer a free version of GrandCentral, even after beta.” 

GrandCentral Forwarding

There are many, many more features of this truely revolutionary service.  As GrandCentral puts it:

GrandCentral gives you “One Number…for Life” – a phone number that is not tied to a device or a location, but is tied to you. Use GrandCentral to centralize your communication, customize how your callers are treated, and make sure you never miss a call you want to take (or take a call you want to miss).

GrandCentral will let you define which phones ring, based on who’s calling, and even let you ListenInTM on voicemail before answering the call.

You can also block calls from certain numbers, route different groups of callers to ring different phones (Friends, Family, Work or Others), switch calls between phones on the fly, record your calls, customize voicemail greetings for different callers, upload any MP3 to play as a ringback tone, and save all of your voicemail messages for life.

Just the thing for the lawyer who needs to be available whenever the client calls.   

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management for Lawyers