Monitoring – how not to do it
Whatever you set out to monitor, there are various pitfalls and traps you will encounter while setting up and maintaining your CI project. Here are some guidelines to help you recognise the traps, and also some suggestions to help you climb out of the pits.
Monitoring is a means, not an end
Any monitoring activity needs to be firmed couched in real objectives. These objectives will be linked to an information need, which could be
- long-term – for example, the need to keep up to date with regulations concerning the use of chemicals in household products in order to adapt ingredients and recipes to meet changes in legal requirements
- short-term - the need to sound more convincing in front of a sales prospect next week
It is essential that the team of people who are organising and carrying out the CI activity keep focused on their audience’s activities, needs and objectives. Before setting up any new agents or projects or dashboards, think about how your actions will fit into what your audience actually really needs and not just into what you would like them to have or think they might be interested in. If, for example, your audience doesn’t have time to read more than five short pieces of information a week there is no point trying to cover all the details in your newsletters or reports. Your time would be better spent on making sure you have the most important pieces of information.
If you don’t know what your audience want, either don’t do it or better still, give them a ring and find out.
Keep in touch with your audience.
Casting your net too wide
The internet is an enormous source of information, and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger. As a result, it’s impossible to read every single piece of information that talks about your subject. There will
be some sources that provide the information in a style that is more suitable to your audience, others that give you a better insight, some that are absolute must-haves, while others are less essential to your needs. Mapping the type of sources you think you should cover and then acting on this will go a long way to help.
Define the perimeters of your monitoring activity.
Does a fish need a bicycle?
No. Fish have other needs and other preoccupations.
Your audience has needs and preoccupations too. They may not need to receive all the information you collect. Depending on their profile they may only have time to read a short summary of the information found and perhaps even a simple graphical analysis would be enough to convey the essential information to them.
One way to keep your audience satisfied, and also keep them coming back for more, is to find a way to cut through the mass of information and give them the pertinent nuggets of golden information or analysis. There is nothing more depressing for someone to receive a wonderfully presented report of 200 pages, when he / she only has time to read the cover.
Sort and analyse what you find so your audience doesn’t have to.
A round peg in a square hole
A CI team is at the end of the day a group of people (or perhaps one person) working with information. There are different roles inside a CI project, and for each of the roles it is essential to have the right fit.
Some people are better suited to reading, editing and commenting on information that has been found, while others are more suited to piloting the project and / or interacting with the people who are dependent on the project.
Choose your CI team wisely.
KISS – Keep it simple stupid
There’s always more than one way to skin a cat – not that I’ve ever tried. When working on any project there is always more than one way to do something, and there are always somethings that you could do but should choose not to do.
An enormous danger for a CI project is to try to build a large number of monitoring agents, covering a very wide range of subjects, and feeding into tens of newsletters in the first six months. These things take time, and as in any kind of project management, it is best to start small with simple pragmatic actions that will generate satisfactory results, and then use these successes to build on. Bit by bit you can create the CI project of your dreams. But it won’t happen overnight.
Digimind is a wonderfully powerful tool, with an impressive set of features of capabilities, and it will always motivate you to do more and more. Although this is a good thing, remember to keep an eye on your watch and don’t build an over complicated system that you won’t be able to manage. If you only have time to read 40 alerts a day, make sure Digimind is bringing you 40 alerts a day.
Be pragmatic and stick to the simplest solution – they are always the best.