A story of a failed portal

I've heard this story from too many Telstra employess, ex-colleagues, to hold back on it now… It's just a story and so perhaps not fully representative of the truth. But is seems to be a great example of the misapplication of technology to knowledge management.

There is minor variation but the mian elements of the story proceed as follows:

  • Ted Pretty, head of uber geeks at Testra visits Infosys in India, sees their knowledge portal and says "I want one". (As an asside, this is in 2002 while I am still in Telstra and, as Principal Architect for knowledge management, I get to say no – this is doomed to failure. Perhaps saying no is one reason I left the organisation shortly after.)
  • After much angst and investment the Telstra "K-portal" is created, as a pilot. Ted Pretty is asked not to publicise it yet.
  • Ted Pretty gets up in fron of the entire Telstra technology group (TPIPS) and talks about the portal and says that the portal is open for business and that anyone who contribues will get $100 per contribution.
  • Needless to say that the contributions come and the pilot server crashes.
  • I know people who made money out of contributions.
  • But was it ever used? That's a lot less certain. Comments I have heard include that the contributions were "of very low quality" or to even "full of crap".
  • Later, Ted leaves the organisation, for reasons totally separate from the K-portal and, just weeks after the new person is appointed, the K-portal is shut down. The content is deleted.

What lessons could Telstra learn from this?

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3 comments

  1. Thanks Matt, you’re right. I think you and I both know people in Telstra that do, indeed, understand that KM is primarily about people and apply that in their work. Perhaps a lesson here is for an organisation to apply all available internal expertise to these large investment decisions.


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