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Knowledge Management in 2017

After nearly twenty years of Knowledge Management Consulting, I’ve developed core themes to what I believe comprises good KM. EK’s definition of KM embodies many of these themes:

“Knowledge Management involves the people, culture, content, processes, and enabling technologies necessary to Capture, Manage, Share, and Find information.”

We supplement this with our KM Action Wheel. The wheel represents the many uses of KM:

  • Creation of knowledge and information;KM Action Wheel
  • Capture of knowledge and information (from tacit to explicit, and/or into KM systems);
  • Management of knowledge and information, often using an array of technologies including knowledge bases, intranets, content management, document management, and records management;
  • Enhancement of knowledge and information, making it better over time through increased collaboration, adding tags to improve its findability, and linking it to other knowledge and information to tell a more complete story;
  • Ensuring that the appropriate knowledge and information is findable by the right people in intuitive ways, maximizing its use and reuse; and
  • Connecting, creating links between knowledge and information, between the holders of knowledge (your experts), and between your various repositories, resulting in a web of enterprise knowledge that builds on itself over time.

Most importantly, though, is the word ACT in the middle of the wheel. For us, effective KM doesn’t happen for the sake of KM, it happens to enable specific actions and results. All KM efforts should be grounded in a deep and clear understanding of the results you’re seeking and the actions you’re attempting to enable.

Unfortunately, KM as a concept continues to be sullied by overly academic viewpoints and an unfortunate association with projects that are all talk and big ideas, but are unacceptably short on results and practical thinking. A look at Google Trends expresses this unfortunate reality all too clearly, with a steadily declining interest in the term since 2004.

I, along with my colleagues at EK, have worked extensively to realize Practical KM that results in meaningful business value, supported by the best principles in Agile, IT, Information Management, and Change Management. All of this, integrated, is EK’s version of KM and we have the success stories to prove its effectiveness.

What I hope to see in 2017, and what we have been and will continue to work toward, is this concept of KM and ______. Our work will be to apply these concepts for our clients and continue to offer the latest thought leadership on them through our blogs and conferences.

Knowledge Management and ___

KM and Business Value

The two concepts that I feel are most important to be intrinsically linked are KM and Business Value. KM initiatives have too often been seen as the “nice to have” when there’s budget leftover. Every KM project, big or small, should begin with a clear understanding the the KM Actions we are seeking to enable and the resulting value to the organization (ideally hard ROI) we anticipate achieving. At every turn, decision-making should go back to that core question, “Will this decision result in the business value we’re seeking?” If the answer is no, reassess and adjust.

KM and Information Management

I’ve written previously about my lack of interest in trying to draw a line between Knowledge and Information Management. These two concepts exist on the same spectrum, harnessing People, Processes, Content, Culture, and Technology to translate tacit knowledge, experience, and expertise into content that may be captured, managed, enhanced, and found by others. KM and IM (or KIM) belong together in most engagements where organizations are trying to get a handle on their knowledge assets or are concerned about losing knowledge, duplicating effort due to knowledge that wasn’t found, or wasting time looking or waiting for knowledge insteading of acting.

KM and Technology

There are those within the industry who wish to draw a hard line between Knowledge Management and IT within Knowledge Management Systems. I see technology as an enabling factor to effective KM. Using this broad definition, any number of Content/Document/Records Management products, knowledge bases, Learning Management Systems, Enterprise Search Tools, Taxonomy Management Tools, or Semantic Web Technologies fits within the box of KM Systems. This is not to say that simply installing SharePoint means you’re “doing” KM. On the contrary, an effective KMS requires a perfect merger of KM and IT best practices, ranging from knowledge sharing processes to content governance, KM culture change to KM systems adoption strategies, and KM content capture to IT systems migration.

KM and Agile

At EK, we’re firm believers in agile principles and have worked hard to promote these concepts and drive change and transformation for our customers. KM and agile are a natural fit for each other. KM efforts consistently benefit from maximized touch points with end users and stakeholders. They also require iterative progress in order to a) drive support and encourage adoption, b) demonstrate regular business value to ensure support and focus on action-oriented results, and c) ascertain whether we’re “getting it right” before going too far down a particular path. Since KM is so much about culture and adoption; getting your stakeholders to want to change is a critical success factor, and we think agile can help get you there.

KM and Measurable Results

Finally, as we define Agile KM road maps to help organizations realize their end user’s goals and maximize business value, it is critical that we’re able to measure our successes. This is important to ensure we’re reflecting on our progress and, as mentioned above, that we’re “getting it right.” Measurable results are something that we establish when we’re designing a road map so we can assess our progress iteratively throughout the effort. Measurable results need to be more than checkmarks in a project plan that say a particular deliverable has been completed. Instead, they must show the business impact of completing the action. They also play a great role in establishing “celebratable moments” that can be used to communicate the team’s successes and communicate progress to potential stakeholders.

Do you need help making KM and ______ a reality in your organization? EK is here to help.

Zach Wahl Zach Wahl Expert in knowledge and information management strategy, content strategy, and taxonomy design. Zach is passionate about forming and supporting high-functioning teams and facilitating results-focused outcomes with his clients. More from Zach Wahl »