Is technology necessary for Knowledge Management?

May 21, 2007

This article has been moved here…..

A large percentage of my posts so far have touched upon technology in the KM sphere. Now, while a portion of you practicing KM out there might feel that technology has no place in KM i still feel that in this day and age creating a robust technology platform that can support a KM initiative is one of the most important milestones you can set for your company.

Let me be very clear about the meaning of my statement above, technology is not Knowledge Management. As stated in earlier posts, a warped understanding of the term “Knowledge Management” have led a large number of companies to re-christen their information system initiatives under this umbrella. This aside, i do feel very strongly that unless you have a strong technology framework your KM initiative will not be as widespread as it should.

A prime example would be in the area of communications. The single biggest challenge to sharing knowledge in any organization are its barriers to communication. Once you’ve opened those up knowledge automatically starts flowing. Environment management, that’s what KM is all about.

Technology helps overcome personal limitations as well. A considerably large number of people are not very outspoken in the corporate world. These people are just as smart, if not more, than the outspoken ones. Creating a communications framework to allow them to contribute should be an organization wide goal. A technology solution, something as simple as a discussion board, would solve this problem almost instantaneously.

One thing that you need to keep in mind when creating a technology framework is, do NOT over-engineer. While you might build the most advanced KM system, at the end of the day what determines the application’s success is how well its received by the end-users. Engineer the system around their requirements and there is a good chance you’ll walk away from an application that truly helps with knowledge management.


Branding, Branding, Branding!

April 27, 2007

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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…

Rewards OR Recognition ?

April 16, 2007

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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

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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.

KM ? Huh ?

February 16, 2007

This article has been moved here…..

Knowledge Management, a term that i have tried many a time to define. Yet very few people outside the KM community actually comprehend. To be honest it is rather difficult to explain to the average person what it is we try to accomplish in the field. Managing knowledge? how on earth do you do that ? are one amongst the many questions i have to field everytime i describe my profile to someone So for all of you out there who’ve battled with trying to define KM, here is a story ( a fable rather ) that defines what we do and how we do it extremely well.

Kudos to the people who put together this fable, even though i’ve read a number of articles on KM this is still one of those that i’d like to read over and over again. Getting back to basics, thats what its all about.