3 Fundamentals for Managing Client Expectations

For knowledge managers, a thorough understanding of the discipline is only the beginning.  Skillful project management and thoughtful expectation management are the keys to success.

Focusing on managing the client’s expectations, there are three fundamentals necessary to a successful outcome:  LISTEN, STAY IN TOUCH, and DELIVER.


The most important thing a knowledge or information manager can do is to listen to the client.  Be absolutely sure, through questioning and clarifying, that you understand what your client needs or wants. Through questioning and clarification, you can focus on the problem the client wishes to solve, the features or benefits that are most highly valued, and the outcome that the client hopes to realize.

For example, if the client values a low cost solution, keep that in mind as alternatives are weighed.

Grounded in careful listening and thoughtful questioning, it becomes clear where the project should be going and what a satisfactory conclusion looks like.

Feel your client’s pain.


Throughout the project or process be sure to offer status reports or check in for clarification as needed.  Share bad news as soon as you have it.  Unexpected delays, unusual findings, or cost overruns are just a few of the things that can crop up.  Be prepared with solutions or alternatives to address the situation.

Proactive always beats reactive.


To the best of your abilities, deliver what you promised, when you promised, in the way that you promised.  The deliverables might have evolved based on Fundamental No. 2 – staying in touch. Nevertheless, your credibility is at stake.  Your goal is to deliver a professional outcome so that your client’s problem is solved, questions are answered, or a way forward is clear.

Your reputation depends on it.


In Other News

Free Resources for Busy Professionals

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The Biotech Industry’s Daily Monitor

Outsell’s Information Industry Headlines

Daily summary of top information industry news stories


Upcoming Workshop

Landing a Project … Then Nailing it: How to Win Assignments and Deliver Quality Results Every Time

April 7 –  Pittsburgh PA

Back by popular demand and open to all, this interactive, dynamic session follows a framework based on project phasing and client interactions. Since the facilitators lead a discussion based on participants’ experience and challenges, everyone comes away with insights specific to their situation.

Ready, Aim, Fire: When a knowledge audit could be your first step

No Brainer – Your team has recognized the need for more strategic implementation of knowledge management practices within your organization.  Time for a knowledge audit.

Less Obvious – You’ve been tasked planning for more promotion of library and research services.  Time for a knowledge audit.

Recently, on the discussion lists where information professionals share ideas and best practices, two very different challenges were raised.  In each case, a part of the answer involves doing a bit of internal research to craft a good action plan.

The No Brainer situation had a solo (working on her own) librarian seeking best practices for knowledge management in a small organization.  Her statement to the list included the pharse, “I’ve been working on a project plan to better address knowledge management in our organization.”

For this savvy info pro, the initiative would begin with a knowledge audit, with a goal to understand what is actually going on, what the needs are, and where there are opportunities to deliver benefits and solutions.

A solid KM plan tackles real barriers and leads to valued products and services.

The Less Obvious situation arose when the manager of library and research services in a large organization inquired with colleagues about tactics for promoting library services and increasing awareness.  A successful marketing campaign depends on understanding potential customers including their pain points, needs, and gaps in resources or services.

An audit is a good way to collect this information.  In the course of conducting a study like this one the manager can come to better understand her customers and what they value. Because studies of this nature typically involve interviews and similar conversations, they offer the additional benefit of building relationships.

People appreciate being heard and having someone ask about their challenges.  The process of an audit in and of itself is a promotional strategy.  In talking to people you learn what they need, but they also learn more about you and what you do.

So, What is a Knowledge Audit?

The knowledge audit, and its cousins the information audit and the needs analysis, are types of studies.

The knowledge audit takes a comprehensive look at both tangible and intangible knowledge assets and their role in advancing the organization’s goals.

The information audit focuses on tangible objects (digital or hard copy), and how they are produced, acquired, stored, shared, and used,

The needs analysis is a process to identify the information and services workers require in order to do their jobs.

For more information on conducting a study of this kind, download a free copy of “Planning for Knowledge Management: Conducting a Knowledge Assessment“.

Say it So They Will Listen: 3 Tactics for Holding Decision-Makers’ Attention


Deliver the bottom line up front.  Busy executives and critical thinkers need to know where an argument is going in order to evaluate the merit.  This is a variation on the inverted pyramid (below left) used in journalism.  Don’t bury the lead.  Put the most important information up front.  For most knowledge management projects the delivery would look like the list on the right below.



Recommendations and Conclusions

Key Benefits

Supporting documentation and background


2. Clearly state the benefits

Executives, managers, clients, and coworkers face any number of challenges on a given day.  If your message addresses one of their problems, you are likely to gain their attention.  Give your listeners a reason to care.

Answer the question “what’s in it for me?” and you’ll have their attention.

State how your recommendations will make your clients look smarter, beat the competition, add shareholder value, enhance creativity,  avoid risk, or increase productivity.

Benefits tend to read like this:

  • Once these recommendations are implemented you will have at your fingertips access to the latest scientific literature needed to write your next grant proposal.
  • Once these recommendations are implemented the company will have a process in place that will reduce the risk of copyright violations and advance the culture of knowledge sharing across the enterprise.
  • Once these recommendations are implemented we will minimize worker frustration and shorten the time required to identify internal expertise.

Give your listeners a reason to care by clearly answering the “what’s in it for me?” question.

3.  Keep it short

For better or for worse, busy executives have short attention spans.  Go on too long and their minds will inevitably move to the next agenda item.  Once you’ve delivered the bottom line and the benefits, wrap it up.  Move on to the action item. For instance point to next steps or state the decision you need from them in order to proceed.  Save your background data, methodology, and documentation for the questions and answers section.

Figure on holding the executives’ attention for about 7-10 minutes.  Five slides in a slidedeck is fairly typical in presentations to executives and other decision-makers.

Once you’ve delivered the bottom line and described the benefits, move on to the action item.

BLUF,  state the benefits, and keep it short.  These three tactics will help you maximize the value of your time in front of decision-makers.


Untying the Purse Strings: 3 Ways of Communicating Value

Employees furloughed. Budgets cut. Projects prioritized. Is this the time to propose a knowledge management (KM) project costing well into the tens of thousand dollars?

Absolutely. Why not?

Effective and efficient knowledge management brings value to the entire organization. Communicating that value can lead to the support and funding needed to move forward. Framing your proposal around the following points may help untie the purse strings in support of your project.

1. Identify the decision makers and speak to their concerns.

Know the decision makers. Understand their concerns and priorities. While the information center or KM team may be your primary concern, it may be only one of many concerns for the chief executive officer, chief financial officer, or other key executives. Generally they’re preoccupied with the competition, budget cuts, regulatory agencies, stockholder value, and a myriad of other issues. To get the attention of the decision-makers in your organization, speak to their concerns.

Find out what keeps them awake at night and point out how your project addresses those concerns.

2. Understand organizational goals and incorporate them.

Help decision makers see how the larger organization will benefit from your project. Will it ultimately lead to a reduction in spending, more informed spending, or higher productivity? Say so. Don’t emphasize the benefit to the information center or knowledge management team. That’s a narrow focus that’s not likely to win over hearts or minds (or budgets). What will happen differently after the project as a result of the project?

Examples from actual experience – The project may:

  • address a regulatory agency mandate
  • provide better monitoring of the competition
  • reduce costs of information silos
  • relieve information overload among knowledge workers
  • prioritize spending on information resources

Demonstrate how your KM project will move the organization closer to its goals.

3. Pick up the lingo and use it.

Every specialty has its jargon, including KM and the library biz. Avoid it. Use terms and vocabulary that will resonate with your decision makers. They may not get the phrase information audit, but they are very likely to understand resources study or needs assessment or library services analysis. Test your terminology to see how well it is understood. Use words that resonate with decision makers.

Don’t make them guess what you mean, or worse yet, misunderstand.

Keep these three points in mind to communicate the value of your KM project. It’s a proven, common sense strategy that could make all the difference.

Content and Assets and Documents – Oh My!

Once upon a time, workers kept documents in folders in file cabinets with drawers that open and close.  It was not unusual to have these file cabinets managed by an administrative assistant who assigned categories, typed labels, pulled content as needed, and refiled content once the user finished.  Workers may have kept a few key files or personal files in their own desks or workspace.

Filing Cabinets in 2014

Workers today still use physical files, but they also store content digitally on enterprise servers, individual desktop computers, mobile devices (tablets, smartphones, thumb drives, laptops), and in “the cloud”.  These options add tremendous value in terms of convenience and access, but they also complicate knowledge management.

How are workers adapting to this new reality?  While individuals develop local solutions, the marketplace has responded with new categories of tools and software solutions.  Category names continue to evolve, thus creating a landscape that can be ambiguous and confusing.

In order to bring clarity to a recent conversation on information management solutions for a particular situation, the parties agreed on the following descriptions of enterprise content management, digital asset management, document management, and reference management.

Comments welcome.  Do you agree or disagree with these characterizations?

A Sampling of Knowledge Management Tools and Software 

Enterprise Content Management

Enterprise content management (ECM) solutions reflect the need to wrangle the content that an organization creates or obtains from outside.  ECM solutions are the industrial strength tools that address organizational processes.  They enable an organization to help make information findable and deliverable.

For example, banks use ECM solutions to scan and store canceled checks making them searchable and viewable.  In manufacturing a company has used ECM tools to improve access to product specifications and design documents to reduce time to market on new products.

ECM is the big gun in knowledge management software.  It usually encompasses many other tools including capture, scanning, search, digital asset management, and document management.

OracleIBM, and SAP have developed ECM products.

Digital Asset Management

Digital Asset Management (DAM) focuses on making stored files findable. Digital assets include but are not limited to documents, videos, photos, music, and databases. DAM systems make these files findable by applying standard library and information practices to electronically stored content.  Tactics include cataloging (applying taxonomies and metatags), annotating, systematically organizing files for storage, implementing processes for content acquisition and disposal, and standardizing methods for content retrieval and distribution.

Marketing departments use DAM systems to manage product literature and all its versions, logos, templates, and branding materials.  Photo and video libraries use DAM for archiving content.

WebDAM and Widen are examples of DAM software.

Document Management

Document management (DM) systems differ from digital asset management in their emphasis on version control.  DM systems track objects through the lifecycle, enabling collaboration, compilation, and tracking of changes.

Organizations creating new content that requires input from a variety of stakeholders often use DM systems.

Pharmaceutical companies preparing complicated submissions to regulatory agencies often use DM tools.

Documentum and Alfresco are examples of DM systems.

Reference Management

Reference management tools (also called citation mangers or bibliographic managers) address a specific knowledge management need.  These products offer the means to track references that describe published and unpublished literature so that these references can be searched, cited in papers, shared with collaborators inside and outside the organization, linked to full text, and annotated.

Scholars, authors, researchers, and the organizations they inhabit, generally need access to some kind of reference manager.

EndNote and Quosa are examples of reference management software.

Resource List

AIIM Glossaryaiim-logo

In explaining and understanding the landscape of knowledge management tools, writers often cite definitions derived from the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) Glossary. You will often see AIIM Glossary definitions in Wikipedia articles and product reviews.

Capterra Software DirectoryCapterra logo

“Find the Best Software for Your Business”.  Capterra offers a searchable database of over 2,000 software products organized in 300+ categories including knowledge management and document management.  Product listings often include reviews.

Team of Advisors – Developing support while gaining input

Fill-in-the-Blank Advisory Board.   Library Advisory Board, Knowledge Management (KM) Advisory Board, Information Center Advisory Board. Call it what you will, an advisory board can prove a valuable asset.

In addition to providing valuable insights for the strategic and tactical direction of the information center or KM initiative, advisory board members can become advocates and ambassadors strategically positioned throughout the enterprise.

To assemble a powerful advisory board, begin with a charter defining the board’s purpose and the members’ responsibilities. The charter does not need to be long.  One page should suffice in most cases.  The following charter outline will get your team off to a strong start.

Sample Charter Outline

Knowledge Management Advisory Board June 10, 2014

Purpose/Mission Statement Tell how the board will relate to the chartering organization and what role they will play overall.  A mission statement might read:

The ABC Company Knowledge Management Advisory Board will advise the KM team regarding priorities and investments in content and services intended to support ABC Company knowledge workers.  KM Advisory Board members act as two-way conduits between users and the KM team to communicate needs and to act as ambassadors promoting awareness and use of products and services made available through the KM team.

Authority Describe the organizational relationship of the advisory board.  For example:

The KM Advisory Board is convened by the KM team which resides in corporate Research and Development.

Membership Strategic selection of board members yields many benefits. Consider appointing individuals within key partner departments, colleagues who have self identified as information gurus or problem solvers within their own teams, and champions for services and products provided by your team.  Be very clear about the process for becoming a member.  For instance:

Membership is by invitation.  The KM Advisory Board comprises 10-12 permanent employees of the company who have shown interest in using knowledge for the benefit of the organization. Members of the KM staff convene and participate in Advisory Board meetings but are not members of the Board.

Term of Office Select a finite term that suits the culture of your organization. In companies with high turnover and mobility, 12 -18 months may be all one can expect. Other situations may point to terms of two years or more.   You can always add language to permit longer terms, such as:

A term of office is 18 months.  This may be extended by mutual agreement.

Responsibilities Members need to know what is expected of them so that they can budget time and follow through on commitments.  This section should include reference to meeting times and durations along with typical topics or activities.  For example:

The KM Advisory Board members may expect to spend three or four hours a month on Board activities.  This will include 6-8 meetings per year each lasting approximately one hour.

Board members are responsible for:

  • Maintaining awareness of projects, initiatives, and priorities within their departments or teams that could impact products and services provided by KM
  • Providing input to the KM team regarding existing and potential KM products and services
  • Communicating KM related activities to their departments and teams

Budget Authority In most cases the Advisory Board is just that – advisory, having no authority to budget or spend.  Typically this is made clear enough by simply not granting authority in the charter.  In some cases it is better to make this explicit in order to remove all doubt.  In that case you could say something like:

The KM Advisory Board has no authority to budget, allocate, or spend funds.

Adoption Date For future reference, include the date that the Charter was adopted or amended and by whom.

Adopted by the ABC Company Knowledge Management Department on June 10, 2014.

Knowledge Worker Defined

The term “knowledge worker” comes from Peter Drucker, the highly respected business management expert who coined the term in the late 1950’s. The concept first Drucker_mgt challengescame to my attention when I read Drucker’s 1999 book titled Management Challenges for the 21st Century.   Some have said that knowledge workers include those who think for a living. The more inclusive definition Drucker offers in this book makes more sense to me.  He frames it in the context of subordinates vs. supervisors, noting that it’s more about what you know than where you fall in the organizational chart. “…knowledge workers are not subordinates; they are ‘associates.’  For, once beyond the apprentice stage, knowledge workers must know more about their job than their boss does – or else they are no good at all.  In fact, that they know more about their job than anybody else in the organization is part of the definition of knowledge workers.” Drucker says that knowledge workers are part of a system and their key resource is information. Using the term knowledge worker rather than employee reminds us how important knowledge assets are to the success of an enterprise.

Information Update – June 2014

Information Update – Looking Back

Look for a new focus and even more valuable content for the 21st Century knowledge worker coming soon to Information Update.

The very first issue of Information Update hit cyberspace via email in September 1999.  The plain text, Courier font banner read:

Welcome to INFORMATION UPDATE.  Since you value accurate, up-to-date information, but do not always have time find it, you have received the inaugural issue of INFORMATION UPDATE.

During the ensuing 15 years Information Update focused on research strategies and tactics through DO IT YOURSELF feature articles. The very first issue revealed “Shamel’s Seven Searching Secrets”. (Readers know that I am very partial to alliteration.)  The DID YOU KNOW articles informed readers on value added services and products offered by the information professionals associated with Shamel Information Services.

Email me if you’re interested in taking a peek into the past, and I’ll send you a copy of that first Information Update.

Changes are Afoot

After more than 16 years as a researcher and consultant, I have noticed some important changes in client needs.  While business research remains a valued service, clients more and more often request help with managing knowledge and information within their organizations.  As we consult and advise on these topics we find greater and greater urgency to “know what we know”.

Thus, Information Update will broaden its scope from searching and finding to include selecting, sharing, organizing, and storing the information and knowledge content within organizations.

Information Update – What’s Next

Going forward, Information Update will focus on the needs of the knowledge worker in the 21st Century enterprise.  Workers today are flooded with information.  With increasing frequency we hear the call for filtering, organizing, and sharing information.  In 1999 Peter Drucker, business management guru, said:

“Enterprises and individuals will have to learn what information they need and how to get it.  They will have to learn to organize information as their key resource.”*

He went on to say that “[t]he most valuable asset of a 21st Century institution, whether business or non-business, will be its knowledge workers and their productivity.”*

*Drucker, P.F. (1999) Management Challenges for the 21st Century. New York: HarperCollins

Beginning with our next issue, look for Information Update to address the concerns of managing knowledge and information within an enterprise. Articles will suggest action items for all knowledge workers to improve productivity, support enterprise goals, and enhance overall knowledge management.

In the next issue, coming soon, we will provide a definition of “knowledge worker” and tips on chartering a knowledge advisory group within your organization.

Upcoming Workshops and Presentations

Maximizing Consultant-Client Partnerships: Key Success Factors

Cindy Shamel, along with Ulla de Stricker will offer a half day workshop on Saturday, June 7 at the SLA 2014 Annual Conference in Vancouver British Columbia

People who attended this workshop in the past say:

  • “The session was packed with information and practical tips.”
  • “It’s a great value.”

KM from the Trenches: Practical Tips for Making Knowledge Management Work in Your Organization

June 8, 2014 from 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm Cindy Shamel will participate in a panel discussion of lessons learned in knowledge management, particularly the knowledge or information audit process.  Speakers are all contributors to Knowledge Management Practice in Organizations.

LinkedIn Maps: Mine your own big data

You probably hadn’t considered the possibility that you personally generate anything one could call big data, but you do.  One source is your network of connections on LinkedIn. Through InMap you can create a visual representation of all your personal connections.


The above map shows my connections, including a legend of what each color grouping represents.

In a recently published book chapter called “Planning for Knowledge Management: Conducting a Knowledge Assessment” I suggest that maps like this one can be used to help understand connections within an organization.  The map is interactive, making it possible to hover over any individual’s node and see what connections track back to him or her.  Areas of overlap can also provide useful insights.

Note, the map loses some of its impact when printed in black and white, as the publisher did in the aforementioned book. The chapter in full color is available for a fee on the publisher’s website or after registering on the Shamel Information Services website.

More on Big Data

OnlineSearcher March-April_2014For more about big data, what it means, who’s using it, and why, see Chris Sherman’s article “What’s the Big Deal About Big Data” in the March/April 2014 issue of Online Searcher.  Chris discusses a number of freely accessible big data tools and points to one of my favorite blogs Information is Beautiful.



In Other News

AIIP Annual Conference, April 3-6 in Baltimore

Ulla de Stricker andCindy Shamel will present a pre-conference workshop on Wednesday, April 2 –Landing a project…then nailing it:  How to win a project then deliver quality results every time.

SLA Annual Conference in Vancouver BC, June 8-10

Another professional development opportunity for info pros will be offered by Cindy Shamel and Ulla de Stricker on June 7.  Maximizing Consultant-Client Partnerships:  Key Success Factors.  Visit the SLA website for more information or contact Cindy.

SlideShare: Searchable and Social

SlideShare offers another place in cyberspace to see and be seen.  An online community for sharing knowledge, Slideshare currently bills itself as “the world’s largest community for sharing presentations and other professional content.”  The content consists of over 15 million uploads including presentations, infographics, documents, videos, PDFs, and webinars.


SlideShare is free and open to search.  Its content can be valuable for competitive intelligence, understanding technology, or learning more about a given topic.  I recently located a detailed description of a competitor’s accounting practices (for a client related research project) and later watched an academic lecture on the knowledge audit process (for my own learning).

Once you’ve entered your search terms and have a list of preliminary results, you can limit by time, format, or language.

There are some pretty well known contributors to SlideShare including Guy Kawasaki, The White House, the United Nations Development Programme, Huffington Post, and Mashable so when you participate in the SlideShare community, you are in good company.


To take full advantage of the social aspects, you need to register and create your own profile.  Then, if you find an interesting individual or organization uploading content to SlideShare, you can follow them  and receive notifications of any new information.  Just click on the contributor’s name.  Then on their profile page click Follow.

Knowledge Management Matters

A knowledge audit can affect the bottom line.

Knowledge management – minimizing the unknowns and knowing what we know – continues to gain attention as organizations seek to wrangle tacit and explicit knowledge within their ranks.  New methods beyond the purely technical solutions are receiving closer scrutiny.

As a co-author of Knowledge Management Practice in Organizations, I recently had the opportunity to participate in a webinar organized by editor Ulla de Stricker.   We gave the presentation to a professional community of practice interested in better management of knowledge and information.

During my portion of the program I had the opportunity to discuss how a knowledge audit can benefit the organization’s bottom line.  A knowledge audit requires a commitment of time and money to collect meaningful data and develop useful insights.  The results, however, support strategic plans, establish spending priorities, advance organizational goals, and identify workable solutions to barriers affecting knowledge acquisition and sharing.  Whether the organization has eight members or 8,000 knowledge management matters.

The slides are available on SlideShare.

I Know It’s Here Somewhere: 5 Tools to Help You Organize Information

It’s the new year.  Time to get organized.  Citations (aka references) illustrate one type of information that serves us best when organized and managed. Researchers and students often need to collect and store a body of literature related to their area of interest, but they are not the only ones.  Knowledge workers across the board seek to keep abreast of what’s happening in their field or maintain a library of references that inform their work.

Enter the citation manager.

EndNoteRefWorksMendeleyZotero, and Flow are five tools for organizing libraries of literature.  EndNote and RefWorks are subscription or fee-based, and since they are fairly widely known, we’re going to look more closely at the remaining three products.  All are free or have a free version.

logo-mendeleyDownload Mendeley to your desktop and/or mobile device for free, add PDFs if you have them, and you’re ready to collaborate, annotate, cite, and organize.  Mendeley lets you search across the full text of all your papers and offers 2GB of online storage.  In addition, you can generate bibliographies and share with your network.

zotero Official word from the Zotero website:  Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources.  Zotero has been around since 2006 and is currently a project of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and the New Media.  One of the features that differentiates Zotero is the ability to add web content to your personal library in one click.

Flow is a new product from ProQuest that offers free reference management to researchers (in educational institutionsProQuest Flow) and students.  Flow comes from the team that developed RefWorks, so if you’re already a RefWorks user, you may transition easily to Flow.  This product seeks to bring the whole document management process online “embracing an all digital workflow.”

Comparison Charts

For those readers who would like to compare citation manager features,Wikipedia and the University of Wisconsin offer some handy charts. Note that Flow is too new to be included, however, they have created their own chart.

How can we know what we know? There’s a book for that.

You may not know what you know, unless your organization has undertaken some sort of knowledge management (KM) initiative.  KM typically means an active and intentional effort to track and deliver information (knowledge/data) to workers in order to advance organizational objectives. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Knowledge Management Practice in Organizations: The View from Inside co-author Cynthia Shamel, forthcoming Spring 2014 from IGI Global

Peter Drucker, in his book Management Challenges for the 21st Century, states that “The most valuable asset of a 21st-Century institution, whether business or nonbusiness, will be its knowledge workers and their productivity”. Furthermore, ”Enterprises and individuals will have to learn what information they need and how to get it.  THEY WILL HAVE TO LEARN TO ORGANIZE INFORMATION AS THEIR KEY RESOURCE”. Drucker must have thought this was pretty important.  The all caps are his.

Where do we begin?  Experts agree that the first step in launching a knowledge management initiative is the knowledge assessment or audit. Through this process the enterprise comes to understand what knowledge or information resources they have, where they come from, who uses them, what’s missing, and much more.  Grounded in this way, it’s possible to propose and evaluate options for improving knowledge management.

Overwhelmed yet?  Don’t be.  There are numerous experts and resources that can help you or your organization methodically and incrementally address knowledge management issues.  One step at a time and gaps are filled, barriers overcome, and resources shared.

One of the newest and most practical books on KM will be published soon. Knowledge Management Practice in Organizations: The View from Inside takes a comprehensive look at KM through the experience of KM professionals who have “been there, done that”. Editor Ulla de Stricker brought together seven experts who contributed wisdom and guidance from their collective experience of nearly 150 years addressing knowledge management challenges.

KM book coverCindy Shamel, author and editor of this newsletter, contributed the chapter titled “Planning for Knowledge Management: Conducting a Knowledge Assessment”, drawing on real life examples to outline best practices and lessons learned. 

For more information, please feel free to contact Cindy Shamel.