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The Basics

The Basics

How to Measure Knowledge Management Strategies

How to Measure Knowledge Management Strategies

Whenever you try to implement a new strategy or system for your company it is always very important to create measures and bench marks for your progress. This allows you to see if your strategies are effective, which areas need to be worked on and how to progress into the future. Also, this gives you evidence for when your boss asks you how the new KM strategy is doing!

The following is a simple strategy you can use to measure the current effectiveness of KM and use this as a bench mark for the future!

Getting onto the same page

The first step is sometimes the most likely to be missed when it comes to KM planning. If KM is new to a company, some employees will not have any idea what you are talking about and will be unsure of how to give useful feedback. For example, I had an executive once tell me that their company had ‘never really gotten into Knowledge Management (KM), all we ever really did was use an online forum to discuss ideas and help each other with their problems’. It can be hard to check the status of something if now one knows what it is called!

This is why the first step is to create company wide definitions of what Knowledge management, knowledge sharing and what knowledge management systems are. These can vary hugely in the academic and industry literature. So the definition itself is not so important, as long as everyone is using the same definition!

Finding the Bar

This stage is used to get the feel for how the company views and uses KM. What you will need to do is use a variety of tools to collect information on how the company has used KM in the past and what its current form looks like and how it performs. Every company on the planet uses KM, no matter how informal it looks. This can be done using surveys, focus groups, interviews or mystery shoppers (well… mystery knowledge users). If you use surveys and focus groups, it is a good idea to explain the definitions again before you get started.

Setting the bar

Once you have a reliable idea of how the company operates in terms of KM, you can now begin to plan for the future. Hopefully you have seen the problem areas of your company and how to improve KM to help match the company’s business strategy. In the future you will now have a clear picture of where you started but more importantly on where you are heading.

Looking to the future

Once you have achieved your benchmark, you should congratulate yourself on a job well done but this is not the end! You should now repeat the ‘Finding the bar’ step, with a focus on the qualitative feedback. By using this and the qualitative data from surveys, you can now steer your KM strategies onto bigger and better things. It is a good idea to do the surveys and focus groups at least every 6 months or before any big KM decisions. If it is a new project, maybe try to get continual feedback.

What can you do today?

Have a look at the following strategy. It’s quite simple but should allow you to use this as a baseline for the future.

  1. Form a small informal survey for the target group.
    • Start with demographics questions. For example:
      1. Which department do you work for?
      2. How long have you worked here?
    • Now you want to get a basic feel for the KM effectiveness of the company. Remember to stick to the agreed upon definitions of KM and to personalise it for your company. Here are some questions to gauge KM, simply use a ‘strongly agree’ to a ‘strongly disagree’ scale. These are from academic literature, so feel free to liven them up a bit!
      1. I am satisfied with the availability of knowledge for my tasks.
      2. The available knowledge improves my effectiveness in performing my tasks.
      3. I am satisfied with the management of the knowledge I need.
      4. Employees are encourages to share knowledge.
      5. Individuals are valued for their individual expertise.
      6. Individuals are encourage to ask others for assistance.
  2.  Form informal focus groups to chat about how they see KM at the company. Look for the demographics who have been with the company for more than two years. Try to take key quotes about its status. E.g. ‘The intranet is very useful’ or ‘I can’t find anyone who knows about XYZ’. This is also an opportunity to get ideas for the future about what they could really use.
  3. Create a benchmark report for future use. Nothing too long, just with the relevant details. For example: Satisfaction rate is 80% and a common issue was the intranet was a ‘pain to use’.

Putting it all together.

Using these strategies you can now get a reliable status of the KM in your company. Using this you can set benchmarks for future projects and focus on key problem areas. Also this data will allow you to show how well your projects are going and how much of an impact you have had.

This is just a simple outline of just some of the possibilities. Feel free to add to the complexity and customise to your industry. Remember not to go too overboard with the level of detail. Your goal is to improve KM in the company, not to make everyone hate it before you have even started! Good luck!

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The Basics

What Is Knowledge Management?

KM

What Is Knowledge Management?

Knowledge Management (KM) is a set of strategies used by companies to create, capture and transfer knowledge between their employees. These strategies can include a vast array of strategies, processes and technologies. These strategies can be grouped into two sides of KM. This includes the process side and the technology side. The processes side includes all employee focused strategies, for example: 1) Changing company knowledge sharing culture 2) Using knowledge cafes 3) The support of management 4) Incentives to share knowledge etc. This is should work in tandem with the technology side to work to the same goals. These include technologies such as: 1) Wikis 2) Corporate blogs 3) Document managers 4) Yellow pages to find in house experts 5) Lesson learned databases etc.

Where to begin?

KM starts where the knowledge is… the people! Every good KM initiative starts with the people of the company and then moves onto the more complex strategies and technologies later.

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Everyone has something to contribute. Employees know more than they can write down on their resumes and they should not be taken for granted. This means that KM should have the ability to allow every employee to contribute knowledge.

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Everyone is an expert at something. This is also refereed to as being an expert in context. This means that lower levels employees will have a better understanding of common processes than senior employees. KM should have the ability to take knowledge evently from employees at all levels and not just those with the most experience.

Which technologies to use. Once  a company has created effective KM processes they can then begin to look into technologies that will complements their processes. This will differ from each company and depend on their strategies. Technologies should only be chosen if they directly benefit a core processes. For further information on how to implement a KM strategy, see (Link soon).

networkSmallAfter implementing basic processes and technologies you have created a knowledge network!

Challenges to KM

Sounded easy right? Well there are a lot of challenges that come with KM that need to be addressed before you can start seeing the real benefits. Below is a small list of the most common challenges that effect every KM initiative. It is a good start if you can answer all of these questions BEFORE you start KM!

Joining the Network
  • Can a new employee join the network easily?
  • Do you accept new knowledge and ideas?
  • How easy is it to learn the new processes?
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Leaving the Knowledge Network
  • But what about if some one leaves the company?
  • What happens to their knowledge?
  • Have you successfully captured their knowledge?
  • Do they still have access to you KM network?

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Sharing Knowledge
  • What if an employee doesn’t want to share their knowledge?
  • What if an employee doesn’t see the value of KM?
  • How can you motivate your employees?
  • Do your employees feel that if they share, will they loose there advantages?

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Summary

So at its core, Knowledge Management (KM) is a strategy to help transfer knowledge between employees to create value for a company. This strategy is build from a range of processes and technologies that contribute to one broad vision of KM. If the challenges of KM can be mitigated, a company can see real value for the benefit of the employees and the company as a whole. This is just the tip of the ice beg that is KM, explore the rest of this blog to find out more and to get the most out of your new KM strategy.

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The Basics

What is a Knowledge Management System (KMS)?

KMS

What is a Knowledge Management System (KMS)?

A traditional Knowledge Management System (KMS) is a technology that helps the creation, capture and transfer of knowledge. This can exist in many forms and will differ heavily between each company. Due to the variety of KMSs, the definition is often used very loosely.

The use of a KMS is tied to the current Knowledge management (KM) strategies used by the company. This will define the KMS type and how it is used. For example, if a company invests in social and person-to-person KM strategies, then any KMS will function in a support capacity (e.g. video chatting). Technology examples:

  • Corporate blogs
  • Company wiki
  • Video chat
  • Collaborative technologies
  • Lesson learned databases
  • Document management systems
  • Expert information systems
  • Some forms of corporate social media

Benefits of a KMS:

The benefits of a KMS are almost as numerous and varied as the benefits of a KM strategy. A better way to think about it is how does this KMS benefit my KM strategy. You can see the benefits of a KMS by examining its target goals.

  • Knowledge Creation

This is where the knowledge is created on the system and is not captured from a certain individual. Think online chat rooms. These systems basically provide new avenues for knowledge creation. This is done by providing uncommon resources, access to new individuals or collaborative processes. Knowledge creation is always a bonus for the company, with the exception of time wasting activities.

  • Knowledge Capture

This is the capture of knowledge for the use of team members and new hires. This is often seen as the primary goal of KM. In the KMS context this would be data captured from employees for future use. KMSs are normally judged on the ability capture new knowledge.

  • Knowledge Transfer

This is the use of knowledge for team members and new hires. By retaining knowledge in a technical system, it puts less pressure on existing employees to mentor each new arrival. While the system could never replace an employee, it does provide a valuable starting point or reference structure to bridge knowledge levels. These benefits are the easiest to quantify: employee performance, training time, problem solution times, etc.

It is important to note that a KMS by itself is not a KM strategy!

What success looks like:

A successful KMS will operate in the background of employee focused processes and will support the KM strategies being used. For example, take a project team that uses a corporate (team level) blog with a document management system. The knowledge management (KM) strategies used are weekly knowledge cafes, outsider inputs, role reversals and promoting a sharing culture.

(See the strategies of KM section for more details)

As the team progresses through the project and completes the above KM activities, they can update and create new entries for the blog, while adding new documentation and master templates for future use.

While these team processes help create, capture and transfer knowledge, the KMS provides central documentation for team members and outside entities. This simple KMS will know allow the sharing of knowledge through quantified information and resources. The advantages of this example will be seen in knowledge retention rates, the training of new employees, management oversight and the sharing of knowledge among other project teams.

Potential failures:

When a KMS fails, it rarely has anything to do with its technical operation. This means that the technology itself functionally operates but fails to satisfy its purpose to help the capture, transfer and creation of knowledge. A KMS will be at risk of failure from a range of reasons, lets explore this by using the example of a lessons learned database. These failure points include:

  • Low user involvement

Even the best KMS system will be considered a failure if no one uses it! This will be tied to a lack of employee incentives, poor user experiences or a perceived lack of value in its use.

  • Ineffective knowledge capture processes

This may occur when employees are required to write down lessons learned at the end of a project. This may sound useful but in long-term projects, team members may have either forgotten the details of key lessons or lack the incentives to write meaningful explanations to the context of this lesson.

  • Incorrect usage of the KMS

This is often the problem when the designers or project champions of a KMS fail to adequately explain the purpose of a KMS and is the used in alternate ways. For a simple example, project members may only update the database with soft skills learnt when management wanted new technical lessons learnt.

Summary

A KMS can exist in multiple forms but is generally referred to as the technical system that supports KM strategies. Due to the vagueness and poorly understood definitions of KM, managers can see the benefits of KM but don’t know how to achieve them. This normally presents itself when a manager invests in a KMS but does not know how to deploy it properly. Without employee focused strategies, the KMS will be under used and will likely fail.

As you can see from above, a KMS can fail for a large number of reasons before you even get to the technical side. The KMS is not the primary actor in Knowledge Management (KM), it supports the key strategies and if done right, it can benefit the company immensely.

 

 

 

 

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The Basics

Definitions of Knowledge Management

KMdefinitions

The Various Definitions of Knowledge Management

The definition of knowledge and its management can vary between academics, corporations and individuals. These definitions can then effect the way knowledge is interpreted and subsequently the way it is managed.  Here is an collection of definitions of Knowledge Management.

Knowledge management is the process of capturing, distributing, and effectively using knowledge. – Davenport 1994

Knowledge management is a collaborative and integrated approach to the creation, capture, organization, access, and use of an enterprise’ s intellectual assets. – Grey 1996

 
Knowledge management is the process by which we manage human centered assets . . . the function of knowledge management is to guard and grow knowledge owned by individuals, and where possible, transfer the asset into a form where it can be more readily shared by other employees in the company. – Brooking 1999

 
Knowledge management consists of leveraging intellectual assets to enhance organizational performance. – Stankosky 2008

Knowledge management is a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, capturing, evaluating, retrieving, and sharing all of an enterprise’s information assets. These assets may include databases, documents, policies, procedures, and previously uncaptured expertise and experience in individual workers. – Duhon 1998

Knowledge management seeks to accumulate intellectual capital that will create unique core competencies and lead to superior results. – Rigby 2009

KM is predominantly seen as information management by another name – Davenport & Cronin 2000


Knowledge management “is understanding the organization’ s information flows and implementing organizational learning practices which make explicit key aspects of its knowledge base. . .  It is about enhancing the use of organizational knowledge through sound practices of information management and organizational learning. – Broadbent 1997


Knowledge management is the concept under which information is turned into actionable knowledge and made available effortlessly in a usable form to the people who can apply it. – Patel & Harty 1998


Leveraging collective wisdom to increase responsiveness and innovation. – Carl Frappaolo


A systematic approach to manage the use of information in order to provide a continuous flow of knowledge to the right people at the right time enabling efficient and effective decision making in their everyday business. – Steve Ward

 
A knowledge management system is a virtual repository for relevant information that is critical to tasks performed daily by organizational knowledge workers. – What is KM? www.knowledgeshop.com


The tools, techniques, and strategies to retain, analyze, organize, improve, and share business expertise. – Groff and Jones 2003


A capability to create, enhance, and share intellectual capital across the organization . . . a short-hand covering all the things that must be put into place, for example, processes, systems, culture, and roles to build and enhance this capability. – Lank 1997

Knowledge management is a process whereby an enterprise methodically gathers, organizes, analyzes and shares knowledge relevant to its business environment and operating disciplines. – Chambers & Associates Pty Ltd (Australia)

Knowledge management is the practice of ensuring insights, results and learning within an organization is captured and made available for staff to find, use, update, adopt and integrate into company processes. Knowledge management often aligned with training and learning, as well as innovation and research initiatives. – Elcom Technology Inc. (Australia)

The creation and subsequent management of an environment that encourages knowledge to be created, shared, learnt, enhanced, organized and utilized for the benefit of the organization and its customers. – Abell & Oxbrow 2001

Knowledge Management: The administration and oversight of an organization’s intellectual capital by managing information and its use in order to maximize its value. – Society of American Archivists

 Knowledge management: The process of capturing, organizing, and storing information and experiences of workers and groups within an organization and making it available to others. By collecting those artifacts in a central or distributed electronic environment (often in a database called a knowledge base), KM aims to help a company gain competitive advantage. – Imperial College London

Knowledge Management (KM) is a discipline of management supposedly dedicated to ensuring that people in an organisation have timely access to the information and expertise they need to do their job. In reality, KM is a discipline full of semi-literate XXXXs who like to use big words. – Urban Dictionary


This is by no means all of the definitions, so if you know of any more, comment them below.

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