Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Data aftermath of the Ebola crisis

Occasionally it's good to listen to a case study from a different sector to your own, and this afternoon was such an occasion. We listened to Medicin sans Frontiers tell us how they've started to modernise their IT use.

MSF have 35000 employees worldwide. The bulk of them are out in the field. $1.48bn turnover. Big organisation. 15% annual growth. 90% of their budget is spent on 384 projects in 64 countries, often without Internet connection. Established in France 40 years ago by French doctors. Email was a revolution for them. Used to have cassette tapes posted to them in the field, with recordings of what to do, which could be 2 months old!

Have 5 HQs, 5 heads of ICT. Shadow IT has proliferated. Now need to get more digital. Mobile, smart devices everywhere. Many countries have jumped the PC phase and gone straight to smart phones. They are 5 years behind the curve because they liked stability. Only permitted Skype in 2014, despite being used for years. Migrating to Office 365 in 2016.

Started a knowledge management project. They have so much knowledge and experience. Joint project between ICT, general management and learning and development.

Started with small bite bite sized chunks: the Ebola review was a high priority. They were heavily involved in Ebola response. This video shows how much. And I hadn't appreciated the size of the treatment centre they built in Liberia

Pushed to their limits operationally. Imagine the effect on their meta data. They barely had time to write emails. Huge amount of unstructured information. No file structures. 500,000 unstructured emails and documents. Had to be reviewed to pull out the information. No-one had seen Ebola on this scale before.

The review had to go from launch to live in 2.5 months. Hired archivists and purchased enterprise search software, Knowliah. This was their first step into a bigroject like this. Had a full time project management and 2 key user facilitators.

 Defined a context information model with 3000 key words and 900 synonyms. did full text analysis and indexing of all unstructured info. Tagging, filtering and cleaning. Removed duplicates, out of scope documents.

Everyone underestimated complexity, including the supplier. Had issues with confidentially, where to store. Decided to build servers in house, but slow. Would have been faster if trusted the supplier. Had to get access to people's email inboxes, which included personal stuff.

Knowliah were the supplier. Asked them to do the extraordinary, adding wikis, advanced search, delete, mail conversation IDs etc at short notice.

Created an email mountain just doing the project! Email was the wrong thing to use.

They met the time and budget, but had extended scope. Went from launch to live in 2.5 months.

Now have excellent information retrieval system. For example, can now find situation reports embedded in emails and pull out health promotion presentations in all languages.

Lessons leaned:
In house project team vital
Relationship with supplier vital
Preclean documents before migrating
Knowledge management is not just about IT, but you can't get anywhere without IT
One proven project can tip the perception of a department. IT used to be the "don't go to" department. Now they are respected.

In the IT environment, they are now learning from their staff, not the other way round.

No comments: