Questions and Answers About Knowledge Management

Victor, a senior manager at HP, posted an insightful question concerning the current state of knowledge management in the Basex Information Overload Network on LinkedIn (if you aren’t yet a member, and over 100 people joined in the last month, click here).

With his permission, I am reproducing his question and my reply with the hope that the discussion continues below.

“I’ve some questions about KM.  First, what is the most important function of a KM system?  The content management?  The collaboration based communication channel?  The security control mechanism?  The all-in-one portal?  The fast multi-faceted based search engine?  Now that we have a dedicated function for knowledge management and there are CKOs who are in charge of that, then what’s the core mission of it?  To my understanding it’s not only about technologies, or just setup some document management system, or an enterprise wide SNS system… Then what is our major target?  If I’m asked by the boss ‘what’s your strategic value?’ how can we answer that question?  A position or team without a clear vision and goal is worthless.  Say for IT department it is a business automation enabler, for sales department it’s the source of revenue.  Then what is the added-value of KM?  Sorry for the layman question but I’m curious to get the answer.”

Victor, to me KM is more of a discipline than a specific system.  In order for companies to remain competitive, they have to ensure knowledge sharing, knowledge transfer, and collaboration.  One of the greatest problems in this area is that individual problems are looked at in isolation, without an understanding or regard for the “big picture” so to speak.  Someone managing a document management project may not take into consideration what someone managing a new or existing search tool or workflow system is planning.

My approach has to be more holistic; I sometimes refer to it as “putting the pieces of the puzzle together” (despite the fact that this oversimplifies).  I have found that, when working with companies that are trying to answer questions similar to yours, few understand where one technology, such as content management, stops and where another (workflow, search, unified communications) begins.

To help end-user organizations better understand how to put the pieces of the puzzle together, we organized our coverage of all things knowledge-sharing and collaboration around the concept of what we called a “market supersegment,” which is essentially an amalgam of 22 markets most people think of as separate and distinct.  If you look at knowledge-sharing and collaboration from this viewpoint, you will find it much easier to address many of your questions.  Every company and CKO will have different core missions by the way.  I would surmise that the underlying commonality will be to keep information flowing and break down barriers.  How one gets there will vary greatly by organization.  You also have to take into consideration tremendous variances in corporate culture, which will then dictate how comfortable people feel about different forms of collaboration and knowledge sharing.

I hope this at least begins to address some of what you were trying to understand.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

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