Managing knowledge is all about securing vital corporate know-how, usually kept in various sources, most of all in the collected experience of current and sadly also previous employees. The overall objective with effective knowledge management (KM) is to ensure that the right person has the right information at the right time to take the right decision. This of course is applicable in all situations you can think of, however Knowledge management normally as most common in support organizations to manage the knowledge capture. However the potential is much larger than that, even if it really is a kickass solution for example for the Service desk. In general I really think that no company should operate without having a structured and unified way of managing the corporate knowledge.
First of all, knowledge is not “only” information, rather it is reflecting the learning, skills and know-how in the organization. One popular illustration, for example used in the ITIL litteratur is the DIKW-model:
This model basically illustrates the relationship between the context and your understanding, the more context you add the more you will understand.
What is best practice regarding Knowledge management?
Since KM is a very information intensive discipline system support is of course vital. But this is not the first priority. Before even thinking about tool support it is vital to consider how knowledge should be stored – the information model, which user should access what (user models) and last, but not least, produce a process for creating and maintaining knowledge records, the actual content.
Included in the process work is also making sure that there is an KM organization, including the Knowledge manager but also editors/administrators authorized to audit and manage knowledge articles. This to ensure the quality and accuracy of the information which cannot be stressed too much.
Unfortunately my experience is that many organizations start with getting a large KM system (Database, MS Sharepoint or similar), hire a company to “install/configure” which means that everything will be more or less COTS (Comercial Off The Shelf), standard. This also means that all the intelligence, knowledge, organization and other unique conditions for a specific company are lost. This is not good KM and should be avoided.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me direct you to the real treat of this post, I am going to give you a very pragmatical approach, that I used many times, to implement Knowledge Management in your organization. Based on 3 steps: Asses, Design and Deploy.
Assess: You need to preform a baseline assesssment of your AS-IS (current state) regarding how knowledge are managed in your organization. These are your unique pre conditions. This also need to include establishing a good enough image about the current organizational structure, areas, products and related to provide valuable input to the next step.
Design: You need to perform a basic Information modeling, for the two main areas:
- The actual categorization of knowledge areas, including needed attributes and other to support both the KM process but first of all the actual search of knowledge articles.
- Setting up a basic organizational model to enable different types of user/roles with different types of rights in the KM Tool. This is vital to do before a tool is being used in order to protect the information. Normally pretty much anyone trusted in the organization can read the knowledge articles but only few can edit/add/delete records.
In parallell yo also need to define the process, including the actual process flow, procedures and instructions needed to:
- Register new Knowledge articles (draft-review-publish)
- Edit existing knowledge articles
- Performing audit on the KM content/etc.
Also selecting roles and governance routines for making sure that the KM process and tools are maintained over time.
Deploy: When you are in the last part of the design you can start looking for tool support. Normally I recommend starting with something really simple but future proof to avoid costly and complex integration when the tool needs to be replaced/upgraded. The most important thing is that Knowledge need to be easy and reasonable quick to find to gain users, slow search and old, outdated, knowledge articles makes very little sense.
This all might sound complex and/or time consuming but normally I would use about 2 months to do all the design and, depending on tool selection and scope, about 1 month additionally to roll out the tool in a controlled way and perform required training with selected users. I have done this several times before and trust me, you will not regret making this effort if you choose to do so, I have seen the power of global knowledge access before and it is very powerful indeed.