Branding, Branding, Branding!

April 27, 2007

This article has been moved here…..

As any marketer will tell you, A large portion of a products success depends on it’s brand value. The same holds true for a Knowledge Management initiative.

There is no doubting that you have a good product, otherwise you wouldn’t be taking it to the market ( being presumptuous here ) . However to ensure its success, you need the brand. Once people start associating KM in your organization with something prestigious the interest in it will automatically increase.

Strong KM practices can be run into the ground because of a lack of branding. Unlike most other job functions Knowledge Management has to be sold to the general public. You need to approach your employees like customers.

There is another reason for branding, as with most KM initiatives there is invariably a rewards and recognition program tied to it. When an employee is recognized as a knowledge contributor , the prestige is much greater when there is brand value associated with the award.

The underlying idea behind Branding is to increase awareness and promote its use, there is also the added benefit of the “wow” factor.

One of the biggest ways of doing this is to ensure that there is senior management presence in most of the award ceremonies. The idea that automatically gets conveyed by this approach is that in order to get recognized by the top brass you need to be a Knowledge Contributor.

There is a lot that needs to go into an initiative like KM, but branding is something that almost always seems to lose out…

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Metrics and Knowledge Management

April 24, 2007

This article has been moved here…..

For the longest time ( well, since a couple of weeks ago ) , i’ve been trying to come to grips with how Knowledge Management in theory differs so much from actual practice in corporates.

My previous posts on corporate KM and ROI on KM are an indication of my thoughts on this subject. As those of you who practice KM in the corporate world know, the success of any initiative is determined by its ROI.

The problem of addressing ROI is one which we face on a daily basis. The question they all ask “How do you determine , in numbers , the effect of a KM program?”.

The basis of any analysis is numbers, and the process of collecting “meaningful” numbers, metrics. So, how do you gather metrics on Knowledge Management initiatives? and by that i dont mean how many hits you get on your portal or which document was used the most. These numbers do not mean anything unless put in meaningful context.

While metrics are important there isnt any definite way to capture the benefits of KM. Due to the variable nature of Knowledge a standardized metrics capture process would not give a clear picture of the benefits of knowledge transfer and its re-use.

Now while metrics in KM is a very vague subject, trying to quantify knowledge transfer in a large organization where just getting knowledge to flow is such a challenge, seems an impossible task.

Though at the end of the day its a numbers game, and without metrics backing knowledge management initiatives in the corporate arena, management buy-in seems bleak.

So, for those of you out there who have managed to implement, successfully or otherwise, a KM metrics methodology please feel free to leave comments.


Why is Knowledge Sharing so different in the corporate world?

April 17, 2007

This article has been moved here…..

Users spend over a hundred hours every month on collaborative sites like Wikipedia. While it seems cruel to call this Knowledge “Management”, it does describe the very foundation of KM. Get people to share their knowledge.

More importantly, this cultural phenomenon has shown long term sustainability of such initiatives without traditional drivers like Rewards and Recognition. ( Read Here ). Which addresses the basic question this post raises : Why is Knowledge Sharing so different in the corporate world? For a lot of you the answer might seem obvious, but with the trend of KM adoption in corporates rising there is a serious need to understand what can be done about this.

There are many instances where KM seems to flourish outside the corporate sphere. Now the question is, why does this happen? In most cases these are the same people doing the sharing. What makes it so different within an organization?

True, there are certain pre-concieved notions about corporates. The biggest of which is that you always seem to have someone looking over your shoulder. Add to that the fact that you need to be extremely careful about the things you say or do and you have a system designed to cut off free information sharing at its knees.

Wikipedia is a prime example of Knowledge Sharing, here thousands of strangers help put together an amazing collection of information without any percievable reward. You might say the reward here is recognition. However, if you take a closer look, a large portion of these contributors are annonymous.

So why do they do it? What drives this need to share knowledge , when everything we’ve learnt so far tells us that we shouldn’t. Would you spend that much time contributing?

The answer i feel lies in the fundemental issue of competitiveness. It exists in the corporate world, it does not outside it. When you remove an individual from those restrains you get to see the true “sharing” potential of a person.

As always, please feel free to put down your thoughts on this subject…….


Rewards OR Recognition ?

April 16, 2007

This article has been moved here…..

One of the biggest challenges in Knowledge Management these days is getting people involved in the process. Unlike other initiatives which use a mix of the carrot and stick approach, KM can only be promoted using the carrot.

Now the challenge is, what motivates the average users to contribute towards the system? Is it the rewards or the recognition? From what i’ve seen its a balance between both.

However, for the long term sustainability of any KM initative there has to a be focused move from a rewards based system to one of recognition. For one, its cheaper , second and more importantly, studies done in corporates have shown that the single largest motivator amongst employees is recognition by their peers and superiors.

Knowledge Management is that perfect platform that enables even the youngest of employees’ to show case their ideas and talents on a corporate platform. It ensures that if you are good at what you do, your voice isn’t lost in the crowd. This, i feel is the biggest selling point of KM to the average employee.

The driving force behind KM implementation for an organization is a little different. Numbers speak volumes, and unless corporates see a monetary benefit towards implementing a KM initiative, chances are they’d rather invest the money somewhere else.

So, the method with which you decide to promote Knowledge Management in your organziation depends entirely on your people. Rewards will only get you so far.


Choosing the RIGHT technology for KM

April 11, 2007

This article has been moved here…..

This is a question that a lot of you might have battled with at some point in time and if i’m not mistaken continue to do so. Before we get into the “meat” of this post let me sum it up for you , there is NO right technology for KM.

While we all agree KM is more of a cultural initiative, there is no doubting that without a solid technology backbone chances are you’re heading down a dark road.

I’ve reviewed a large number of applications that claim to provide the perfect KM solution, and guess what? they don’t. No surprise there for those of you who’ve spent time trying to find an application that suites your needs. Please feel free to disagree with me, and if you’ve stumbled upon that “Perfect” KM tool do leave a comment. I’m sure the rest of my readers would love to get their hands on that information, as would I.

Traditionally speaking, a large percentage of corporates seem to have gone the Microsoft way. Starting at Sharepoint 2001 then migrating to 2003 and now 2007. The reason this is the case is because unlike certain other very specific applications like documentum which cost the earth, Microsoft’s Sharepoint is a lot cheaper and integrates extremely well with all its other products. Let’s face it, MS Office Suite is the basic technology foundation upon which almost every company works on.

I’m currently working on a MOSS 2007 deployment, and while this isn’t my first choice for a KM product, certain constraints ( like those i mentioned above ) prevent me from going in any other direction. Though, i was pleasantly surprised to see certain major improvements in the technology (There are a number of posts on MOSS 2007 in my blog if you are interested).

At the end of the day, If you want an application that is simple and easy enough to use – get one that provides the very basic features right out of the box. However, if you have more specific requirements i’d advise you to develop one from scratch.

This is a balancing act, if you have a great technology team to back you up its probably a good idea to go this route. I’m certain you’ll find open source applications that cater to your every requirement. Its just a matter of integrating them to ensure that you get a functionally seamless tool.

Would also appreciate it if you could leave comments on the various tools that you’ve used and the benefits and drawbacks you’ve observed.


Knowledge Management and Technology

April 9, 2007

This article has been moved here…..

When i started this blog the underlying reason was that there was a huge disparity between what i’ve read about knowledge management and the way its actually implemented in most organizations.

If you ask any KM expert about whether there is a standard method of implementing KM chances are he/she would probably say there isn’t one. It entirely depends on what your goals are and how these processes are received by your audience. At the end of the day, that is what really matters. The greatest KM Framework would still flounder if there isn’t buy-in from the grass roots level.

It has always been stated that Knowledge Management is not about technology. However from what i’ve seen in most companies (these are relatively large corporates which have their people spread all over the globe) technology seems to be the backbone of the KM initiative. Unless you have a platform that allows people to extract the information they want and allow them to contribute to the system, chances are your KM strategy will not work.

This is because the average employee in the organization is so focused on his job that anything above and beyond is considered an effort. Though, dont expect people to come running just because you have built a system. There has to be a benefit to the employee, this can either be in the form of making his job easier to do, or providing an incentive for him to contribute to the system.

There are exceptions however, the whole open source community is built on a knowledge management model. The initiatives here aren’t driven by incentives – and while there were skeptics, at the end of the day these have showed us that knowledge management can sustain itself in the long run.

I’ve tried to put down the basics of KM in the form of strategies that you might want to use to create an underlying framework to tackle an initiative like this. You can read those articles here.

The bottom line is, regardless of what technology you use, at the end of the day you need to get your people the right information at the right time, with as little effort as possible.


MS Wiki Vs Wiki

April 2, 2007

This article has been moved here…..

Right, i’ve already put up two prior posts on the wiki functionality thats available on MOSS 2007 ( Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server 2007 ) , You can read them here and here.

Now while it’s a great thing that Microsoft have finally awoken to the wonder that is the wiki, an in-depth look at the functionality would give an average wiki user the shudders.

While it is true that MS Wiki ( thats what i’m going to call it going forward ) does have a few of the basic features that we’ve come to expect of any wiki, the features it doesn’t have really makes you wonder if this isn’t a 1.0 version that’s been launched on the unsuspecting public.

Being a fan of mediawiki i’ve come to expect that all other wiki’s display the same high standards ( i’m pushing it here i know ) . But basic things like a categories function seem to be missing from the MS Wiki package. Which means that grouping the “articles” you create becomes a logistics nightmare. The only actual wiki feature that microsoft have managed to incorporate into the product is a web based UI and an interlinking feature ( i dont consider versioning a true innovation as its functionality derived off MOSS 2007 ).

So, to sum it up…….. What Microsoft seem to have done is create a web based front end for microsoft word, and slipped in a interlinking system and called it a wiki. Even with the versioning system this is probably the simplest and least effective wiki i have come across ( Please feel free to disagree with me if you’ve seen worse ). I truly hope they plan to move to a “2.0” version quickly, ’cause i dont see people waiting till MOSS ’09.