Knowledge Management is dead, long live Knowledge Management Part I (of II)

One of the hottest topics in information management today is the question: how to get grip on your working knowledge! We live in an information-overflow world. There is more information available than our (or at least my) brain can handle. How do we transform that information into working knowledge? Knowledge helps people and organizations be successful, but only if it is current! In this blog I want to take a look at the following aspects:

  • Knowledge Management
  • The importance of knowledge management
  • Why existing knowledge management initiatives fail
  • How can we make it better?

Knowledge management

Knowledge management (KM) is the process of creating, sharing, using and managing an organization’s knowledge and information. Having the right information at the right time is key for an employee [1].

Importance of knowledge management

Let me explain WHY I THINK Knowledge Management is so import from end user perspective. Microsoft’s vision may well differ from the general thoughts about the importance of knowledge management. Without straying too far, it comes down to the following:

By generating, sharing and making knowledge available to the employee, the organization becomes more flexible.

Organizations hire employees to help the organization. In return the employee helps the organization by making the right decisions at the right time, for himself and for the organization. That last sentence is important! The employee not only makes choices for the organization but also for himself… and therefore also for the organization! By having the right and up-to-date information (knowledge) at the right time, the employee can make the right decision. All this makes the organization agile. Making this principle possible is what Microsoft calls the Employee Experience Platform. This shows that managing knowledge provides enormous added value to the organization and may make the difference with the competition.

Failing knowledge management

So why do we see things go wrong so often?

Knowledge management is a process…

… but is not recognized as such within the organization. As a result, there is no accountability and ownership over the knowledge. No resources and no budget are made available, so employees have to do this ‘on top’.

Manual maintenance

The employee must have the right information at the right time

Manual maintenance is disastrous for a knowledge management system. In the beginning, the project group and the organization (or at least those who are working on it) are very enthusiastic. The knowledge system is actively maintained… but then priorities change, the project team is disbanded, the knowledge system is still fed with new knowledge by a few enthusiasts, but the existing knowledge is not maintained. The stored knowledge is becoming less and less accurate and up-to-date.

Static knowledge

Because knowledge has to be updated manually, the knowledge that is guaranteed in the knowledge system is static. It is up-to-date until the last change. So someone needs to know that knowledge is outdated and know how to make this knowledge topic up-to-date.

Lacking integration with user context

By generating, sharing and being available to the employee, the organization becomes more flexible  

A knowledge system is often a separate system in the large ecosystem that the employee has at his disposal. The employee has to switch between the application in which she works and the knowledge system and back again. If she finds out that knowledge is incorrect, she must report somewhere (where?) that the data needs to be adjusted. Another possibility is that employees are allowed to update the knowledge themselves, but how do you check the correctness of those changes? In short, there are a huge number of variables that make employees stop using the system.

How can we make thigs better?

Whether you’re working in Word, typing an email in Outlook, reading a page on the intranet or chatting, I’m chatting with Teams: you need the right and most up-to-date information now! You don’t want to search for the information at all and certainly not in other systems.

Microsoft’s mission is “Empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more”. In line with that mission, Microsoft has decided to go beyond developing stand-alone productivity and knowledge tools and digitizing processes, but to empower people and teams to grow, succeed, and be at their best.  They focus on the combination of the success of people, organizations and technology.  As an important first step on this journey, Microsoft has announced their vision for the Employee Experience, along with a new Microsoft brand product suite called Microsoft Viva, where making knowledge available is central.

Conclusion

Employees make better decisions for the organization by having the right knowledge at the right time. An additional advantage is that the employee also does this faster if the knowledge is presented within the context of their work. By acknowledging the pitfalls that have been mentioned here and taking action on them, the first hurdle for successful knowledge management has been set. If you have any feedback on this item please contact me!


[1] Knowledge Management – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Sander Derix
I want to know what drives you as a business, what your goals are, what capabilities you need so I can design and help realize solutions that are both realistic and manageable. In short getting you to the next level. I do this partly by the use of technology. I mainly focus on the services of Microsoft 365.

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