Creating a Roadmap for Management: Nick Milton

By: Yadira Y. Caro

If you are looking to know more about the field of Knowledge Management, you may often hear the name of Nick Milton. His book The Knowledge Manager’s Handbook (co-authored with Patrick Lambe), is a comprehensive guide for anyone who wants to launch an initiative or lead a program to help their organization make use of their collective knowledge for competitive advantage. He also has been blogging about KM, almost daily, since 2009.

As opposed to many others in this field, his background is not in IT. Milton is a geologist, who completed his Masters on Natural Sciences and then his PhD in Geology. Almost two decades ago, Nick and various colleagues from multinational gas company BP, launched Knoco Ltd, a management and training company focused on KM, where he is now Director and Vice President.

In this interview, Nick shared the story about this transition, discusses some of the misconceptions about KM and gives valuable resources for people in any industry.

Why did you choose Knowledge Management as a career?
I made the change to KM while working at BP. Previously I had been a geologist (which is quite a knowledge-based subject) but moved to a role in BP Norway which was called “Quality Manager;” supporting the quality of geological work. It became obvious that the quality of work was directly impacted by access to knowledge, and we build a local KM framework which was one of the first of its kind. Then when the BP central KM team was created in the late 1990s I was invited to join, which is when I formally left Geology behind as a career and moved full time into KM; initially with BP but for the last 20 years as an independent consultant. My KM career has now lasted longer than my geology career did.

There are many definitions of KM. What is your definition of KM?
My favorite definition, which is also the definition in the ISO KM standard (ISO 30401) is that KM is Management with a focus on knowledge. So its not “the management of knowledge” but “knowledge-focused management”. This at first reading seems almost a tautology, but it is really quite profound. KM is how you would manage, if you wanted to deliver the value inherent in knowledge. Then of course you have to define “knowledge”, which is where I (and the ISO standard) follow Peter Senge in saying that Knowledge is the ability to make correct decisions and take effective actions.

KM is Management with a focus on knowledge. So its not “the management of knowledge” but “knowledge-focused management”.

Nick Milton

Is there any misconception you commonly see regarding KM?
There are oh so many of these! For example: KM is a subset of Information Management; KM is information management (or content management) rebadged; KM can be solved by buying software; KM is an end in itself; KM means documenting all your knowledge; build a good KM system, and people will magically populate it. The first 2 are very common, and many times the first discussion I have with a potential client is whether they want KM at all, or whether they will be better served by improved IM or data management. The third has plagued the industry from the start – the idea that software will solve all your KM problems. Software is part of the solution, but software alone is nowhere near enough.

What significant evolution have you seen in the industry in the past decade?
In some ways the industry has not evolved at all. If you look at some of the lists of “greatest KM pitfalls” written 20 years ago, all of those pitfalls still affect KM today. However there are certainly some developments: the creation of an entire discipline for Knowledge Centered Support (KCS). This is a KM approach applied to customer support knowledge bases, which is very powerful and robust.

An increased understanding of, and set of models for, Lesson Management. These address what happens to Lessons after they have been identified, and before they become Lessons Learned. This work is best developed in the emergency services and military.

A plethora of software tools which we did not have 20 years ago. In-house wikis for example. Unfortunately the KM software space is dominated by SharePoint, which is an IM tool rather than a KM tool. At last, an international standard for KM, which should help avoid many of the misconceptions listed above.

You write multiple articles on KM. How do you select the topics for your blog?
I have been blogging for over 10 years now, with a new blog post each weekday, so have written over 2500 posts at www.nickmilton.com. I get inspiration in many ways: from articles I read online and in the press. I have a daily Google Alert for the term “knowledge management” and this often brings me new ideas. Also from questions people (and clients) ask me. When I present a training course, I often fill a whole page of blog post ideas just from the questions I get asked.

I often up cycle previous blog posts, but only if they are at least 5 years old and therefore in need of modernizing. If I get really stuck I open a random PowerPoint, choose a random slide, and write a blog post about that slide

What are key skills or training a person in the KM field should have?
The core skills are people skills. KM is “all about people,” and KMers need to be People people first and foremost. If I were given a KM team, I would train all of them in facilitation skills, and change management skills. The team would than need other skillsets within it: someone with IT skills, someone with IM or library skills, someone with communication skills, and then a whole bunch of people skilled in the business of the organization (lawyers in a law firm, engineers in a construction firm, geologists in an oil company). You don’t need everyone to have all these skills, but you need someone in the team to cover each skillset.

Based on your experience with multiple customers, is there an industry that really “gets” KM?
The ones that “get” KM are the ones which cannot afford to fail – where failure is serious, costly, or endangers life – and therefore where the value of learning and of knowledge is obvious. Therefore you see KM very well developed in the military (as you know from your own experience, Yadira), the emergency services, aviation, Oil and Gas, and (to a lesser extent) construction.

Then there are the big consulting firms, whose only product is knowledge, and who compete on knowledge. Companies such as McKinsey are leading the way with KM. There are probably more KM roles in legal firms than there are in other industries, but legal KM is an unusual variant which has more in common with content management than other variants do. And the development sector also has embraced KM, partly because knowledge has higher relative value in a cash-poor industry.

You’ve mentioned new technology (i.e. Artificial Intelligence) will not eliminate KM. Do you see any major changes in the field?
AI will not eliminate KM but it may eliminate some drudgery for knowledge workers. I think better search will always help – semantic search, natural language search, intelligent search. Also AI will help in uncovering patterns and insights from huge databases, which intelligent people can then turn into knowledge. These will be the power tools for the knowledge worker, helping them to work faster and smarter. But no matter what the toolset may be, its only 1/4 of the solution. We also need the roles and accountabilities, the KM processes, and the KM governance suite if our KM frameworks are to be complete.

AI will not eliminate KM but it may eliminate some drudgery for knowledge workers.

Nick Milton

Is there a particular project in your career you are most proud of? Why?
I loved the work we did with Mars in the early 2000s. It was simple stuff, but it made an impressive impact to the business. Also some of the work we did with De Beers at the same time. I really enjoyed working with Nancy Dixon at Huawei, in China. This was a chance to try western style KM and adapt it to Chinese business, and again it succeeded beyond expectations. Also I am really enjoying the work I am doing now with the European Space Agency. Again just good standard KM, but in such an exciting setting.

What three resources (podcasts, books, websites) you recommend which have helped you in your career?
I will go for books: Davenport and Prusak Working Knowledge, Nancy Dixon Common Knowledge, Hansen Collaboration, Wenger and Synder Cultivating Communities of Practice. Also if I can include my own book, written with Patrick Lambe, The Knowledge Manager’s Handbook. Nothing helps you understand a field more than writing a book about it. You don’t realize what you know, until you try to put it into print!

Do you have questions, feedback or suggestions of people to interview?

Contact me!

How to Pass the PMP on the First Try

By: Yadira Y. Caro

Having a Project Management Professional Certification is an achievement many of us working in technology and management want to attain. It is globally recognized as a standard to demonstrate knowledge of best practices to manage any project. In other practical terms, it gives us competitive advantage to get better positions and thus, better salaries. According to studies, those managers who have it earn up to 22% more than those who don’t.

Taking the PMP is an investment. I’m not only referring to the money spent in preparatory courses, but also on time spent getting ready to fulfill educational and work requirements. However, after spending multiple hours to lead to this certificate, I noticed how many of us simply delay taking test.

Perhaps this is due to fear of failure. Only 40-50% pass of the PMP test takers pass it on the first try. This fear of never feeling prepared makes us think ‘I need to study a bit more’ and keep delaying the test even further. Participating in a PMP bootcamp – and taking the test immediately after of course- helps increase your chance of passing on the first try. Some of us however, are not able to attend one due to time (requires a full week out of your job), money or simply no bootcamps taking place nearby.

After fulfilling all my educational requirements in 2015, a year and a half later I finally took the PMP. I took the test and passed it on the first try. Here are some tips which might help you too!

Set a deadline and stick with it
You have all the requirement to take the PMP test. Now pick a date and schedule it at a testing center near you. Test centers are everywhere: I took mine here in Germany, and while a test center was not available in my city, I was happy to drive to 1.5 hours to Frankfurt.

Set your studying schedule as well, a realistic one. Do not plan your test for a month from now if you know you will barely have time to study. I scheduled my test four months prior with the commitment of studying an hour per day. It is what I had available as I had a full time job, a toddler and a baby on the way (morning sickness is a pain!).

Create your own cheat sheet
As you being to study, start drafting your study cheat sheet. Many books may come with one, but drafting your own helps reinforce the material as you are learning. In mine, I included the names of processes, formulas and terms I knew I needed to remember. Also, keep your cheat sheet short as you’ll look at it often to help remember what you study. It is called a “sheet” after all.

Review the PMBOK, but don’t use it as your study guide
The Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) provides all the foundational information, about project management, but the test focuses on practical questions which are not covered on this book. While I looked at the PMBOK to remember information about each standard and process, the real meat of the test is offered in many other books. I focused on books written by these two authors:


• Roji Abraham: His 300 Practice Questions for the PMP Exam and Be a PMP Ace in 30 days offer great tips and plenty of questions to study on.
• Aileen Ellis: Any of the books written by her, based on the area you want to focus on, were extremely useful. One I realized which areas I was consistently getting lower scores on, I bought (for a very low price) her e-books which have numerous questions and explanations. Although the test did not have as many formula questions as I expected, I truly believe constant practice made a difference.

Practice questions every day
This is the key to pass the PMP. Practice questions often, but make sure you are focusing on the right ones. Some apps offer PMP practice questions, but these are often in a short trivia format. Questions on the PMP are quite long, so focus on those apps and books with longer questions which require greater analysis. The more you practice, the more you get used to this format.

On test day, relax and use all the time you have
I took my test while I was on the first trimester of my pregnancy. I wanted to take the test in the morning as it is my peak time for concentration, but my test was two hours away from home. Instead of waking up at an ungodly hour to deal with morning sickness and drive to take the test, I booked a hotel nearby the test center. It made all the difference as I had a good night sleep knowing I would not have to battle traffic.


On test hour, I proceeded to write down all the formulas and key words I had studied, so I could refer back as needed. I took my time with each question and answered each one; but I marked those I was uncertain of. Once I finished, I revised the marked questions. Then, with some extra time, I went back to review each unmarked question briefly just to make sure I did not miss anything and was consistent with the answers. The test is four hours long, so make sure you use up to your last minute. A single question can make all the difference.

Good luck on your test! Pass this along to your friend or coworker who is still procrastinating on taking the PMP.

Follow Communicate for more tips and expert advice.

Marketing Puerto Rico: Interview with Alan Taveras

By: Yadira Y. Caro

In recent weeks, news about Puerto Rico and its deepening economic crisis have occupied the attention of major U.S. publications: in sum, things are so bad everyone seems to be leaving the Island. I am one those Puerto Ricans who left (over a decade ago) but am also striving to find the silver lining. This is why when I heard the interview of Alan Taveras on a local podcast  I had to find out more about his initiative to promote Puerto Rican businesses.

Instead of planning their escape from the Puerto Rico, Alan and his brother Nestor Guarien Taveras not only stayed but also saw an opportunity to target the diaspora while promoting local products through Brands of Puerto Rico. This virtual marketplace or as Alan calls it “the Amazon of Puerto Rican products” started a year ago.

The Taveras brothers, who have MBAs and attended the Founder Institute, were already building success with their Très Epic agency, a programming firm which provides services to advertising agencies in Puerto Rico. These agencies though, were big international brands.

Based on their own experience abroad (Guarien studied at Boston University while Alan went to Argentina’s University of Palermo), they saw there were consumers eager to get products from home and decided to launch the start up which has gained traction through the combination of traditional and digital marketing.

During a visit to their offices in Puerto Rico, I spoke with Alan about the importance of branding and advertising. We started the conversation talking about the origins of Brands of Puerto Rico.

Note: The interview has been edited for space.

How did you started with Brands Of?

It was early March or the last days of February of 2014, it was the first time the bonds of Puerto Rico were downgraded to junk and the diaspora groups and every newspaper were talking about how (messed up) we were or how many people left Puerto Rico. (My brother and I) used to take one Friday each month to just throw ideas on the board like what type of startup we can do, because Très Epic was made for us to have capital to live and to invest in our ideas. That was the mission from the start. One day my brother was reading out loud an article which  said monthly roughly 3,000 Puerto Ricans were leaving on those days to the states, mainly Florida as always. A lot of people were alarmed on this, it was like a crisis, my Facebook newsfeed was depressing to say the least.

We started to look at that as an opportunity because since we were little, everyone would tell us Puerto Rico is a small market, entrepreneurs will never make it here and that’s why the big companies here are the distributors, because there is no space to create something new. So we started looking at that, (and also) we came across the fact that almost 5 million of people from Puerto Rico were living in the states. Suddenly it is an appealing market that nobody was thinking about. Everyone was focusing on how bad it was, but for us it was a good sign.

We started to research on local brands. There are a lot of people doing cool things in Puerto Rico, no one knows about them and they don’t have online presence. It was like connecting the dots. We decided to make a marketplace for local entrepreneurs to sell to that diaspora.

In terms of your marketing mindset, did you acquire that thanks to the Founder Institute?

Founder Institute is really really tough on first, build the market. For example, with Brands of Puerto Rico we did not write a line of code until we had like a thousand followers on Facebook. So first, build that market and if it gets traction, build the product. That helped us create this fast and at really low cost.

How did you reach out to the people in the diaspora?

I don’t know if its something that is happening right now or if our idea had the prefect timing but suddenly the idea got a great response. (Local TV channel) WAPA featured us, we got an interview with CNN en español… It’s mostly organic, we have not an invested in marketing, I have to be honest on that. We have a saying here ‘try until you get it’ so every day we called the newspapers, every TV channel, ‘interview us, interview us’ until they said yes. Now what we do is invest a little bit and it is really targeted; we do digital marketing which is our forte, our knowledge. For example, I target campaigns to people in Orlando, I target campaigns to people in Brooklyn, New York and I can maximize the performance of my dollar to get to those people.

Also our biggest, biggest, biggest marketing weapon is word of mouth. If your cousin bought it in New York and he told all of his friends, it spreads.

In term of the overall idea, during the interview with the podcast you were wondering why it did not occurred to anyone before.

It’s a pretty simple concept. A lot of people tell me, ‘you are doing such innovative stuff’ but I don’t find that we are this breakthrough technology; its e-commerce. E-commerce has been here for decades. For me it’s a pretty simple idea to sell Puerto Rican brands to people from Puerto Rico outside of Puerto Rico.

Perhaps is the mentality that when it comes to producing something in the Island, people think just about the local market and they don’t really think in terms of outside markets.

Maybe it was that. Maybe it was the influence my brother and I had studying abroad that we see the world as a marketplace and not just Puerto Rico.

In term of finding the products locally and developing those relationships with local vendors, how do you do that?

In the first days it was almost impossible: imagine some kid coming to you telling that he is going to build a platform, it’s not even built, going to let you sell stuff for free and only charge you in transactions. We had a database of 300 brands and only 30 brands on our launch on July 11 (of 2014). Now because of the hype of the PR (public relations) people come to us, but in the first months we took a lot of no’s: ‘Are you crazy?’, ‘You are going to sell on the Internet?.’

It’s been real fun because we have a lot of people that work on agriculture, that don’t have technology knowledge and we even sit down with them and open a Paypal account. I opened Paypal accounts for Antojitos de Mango, (the owner) is like 80 years old but for me he is the one of the best entrepreneurs I’ve ever known. He has so much knowledge, always with a smile in his face. Not everyone has this opportunity to learn a lot from the people who have been doing this their whole lives.

In regards of what you are doing now, is there some sort of model that you look up to in other countries that’s doing this as well?

Right now it’s a cool moment for us as a company. Brands of Puerto Rico is one year old and thanks to everything that has happened and the trust that these brands have put in us, we are starting to grow, not only to grow on the amount of companies we have in Puerto Rico, but we as a company are starting to expand to other markets.

We are about to launch Brands of Argentina, and Brands of Nicaragua. From my connections in Argentina, we are in conversation with some venture capitalists who are interested in putting money on the company for us to start building franchises on every market. We are going to implement what we learned here in this whole year.

What are your particular goals for Brands of Puerto Rico?

For Brands of Puerto Rico and for Brands of -I am starting to think as the Brands of concept and not just Brands of Puerto Rico,- is to create the biggest quality oriented catalogs of brands and products of Latin America, and supply to that diaspora in the United States. Basically show the world that not everything is big brands in multinational companies, that good things are made by people who work in modest ways and they do deserve a chance. I think Brands of and our platform is a tool to give them the chance, that equal plane level field. For example, if you want a t-shirt you can buy Sotomayor which is local entrepreneur instead of going to Pac Sun in a mall.

How many brands do you have?

I have 80, I counted 2 weeks ago, but we have a pipeline. Let me tell you the process: you (as company) learn from us and we learn about you. We have a formal phone call or email and you come here to our offices with the product. We do the screening to see if it’s good quality, if it’s local brand, if that person is registered in the government, that is really important. We do a photo shoot free of cost for that brand and those photos, once they are properly edited, are uploaded to our e-commerce platform. We do a blog post, we do a social media post. Our business model is transaction based, we make 20% of each transaction.

If they are not registered, do you help them?

We help them with everything. We’ve done logos for people. A lot of people tell me ‘you are not supposed to that.’ If they don’t have a standard they are not going to sell, so it’s really important for me personally and for the company to make these entrepreneurs think and act upon their brand. A product is a product until you build a brand around it.

Is that something often people forget, to market their brand?

I’ve talked to so many entrepreneurs in the last year, I learned that different to how we think, people out there think the product is the star. For me, because I studied Advertising and then in Business I concentrated in Marketing, for me what is the star is the brand. You can sell this pen, anything, if you have a brand around it, if your communication is good, if your look is good. I think like that. But I learned most entrepreneurs here in Puerto Rico don’t give a (crap) about it. We are trying to teach people that the brand is really important and how you communicate, how you do advertising, is as important as a product.

Would you recommend people to study advertising?

I will recommend studying advertising not necessarily to work on advertising. It helps you communicate better. You can be an accountant, you can be a lawyer, you can be anything, but advertising helps you sell and communicate better and have a presence that is appealing to the market. If you are looking for a date, if you are trying to sell something, if you are trying to get out of trouble, if you communicate good, Is effective.

I think it’s important the way you communicate things.

Follow Brands of Puerto Rico on Twitter @brandsofpr or email Alan at info@brandsofpuertorico.com

Follow the author @yadicarocaro