As we move into 2014, permit me to share a few thoughts – fourteen in particular – about knowledge management and knowledge services (and, related, about knowledge strategy and the role of developing knowledge strategy in the management enterprise).
Why thoughts about our line of work at this time? And why from me? Because, well, it’s sort of traditional to begin a new year sharing observations about where we’ve been and where (if we’re brave enough to predict) we might be going. And I spend a lot of time thinking about the role of knowledge in organizations. In my work as consultant, public speaker, teacher, and author (I take my role as “knowledge services evangelist” very seriously), I’m called on frequently to express my opinion about our important work and the topics relating to what we do.
So read on for my “talking points for 2014,” we might call them. Each of these could – I expect – be added to and re-formatted as an individual post on its own but for now, let’s think of each as brief topic. We can build on them later, if we want to.
And if you are of a mind to do so, share your thoughts and opinions. Comment here or to any of the social media groups where you find SMR Int’l. Glad to hear from you.
- Let’s give credence to the trend: KM is no longer a new-management “buzz word.” Remember when people laughed when we tried to describe concepts relating to KM? That doesn’t happen now. While there are still plenty of people who resist (especially enterprise leaders without reference to the value of knowledge development and knowledge sharing – KD/KS – in organizational success), most managers now understand the connection. And even if they don’t understand it clearly, they respect the end-result (strengthened ROI, improved resource management, successful achievement of the corporate mission, etc.).
- Intellectual capital – knowledge – is critical intellectual material that is put to use to create wealth… “the sum of everything everybody in a company knows that gives it a competitive edge” (Thomas A. Stewart Intellectual Capital: The New Wealth of Organizations). In today’s organizational environment the management of intellectual capital (KM) goes beyond creating wealth, supporting any knowledge-sharing activity or opportunity.
- Organizations (profit, non-profit, not-for-profit) all have the same goal: organizational effectiveness, which can be – and should be – the result of the organization functioning as a knowledge culture (one approach I like for defining knowledge strategy: “using knowledge for strengthening performance when organizational objectives have been defined, and using knowledge to define new objectives and the strategies for pursuing them” (Kenneth J. Hatten and Stephen R. Rosenthal Reaching for the Knowledge Edge)
- Successful KD/KS is influenced by a wide range of disciplines, including but not limited to organization development, strategic communication (including strategic learning), business management, technology management, change management, and risk management. For many of us, Drucker still reigns supreme and Drucker’s principles about management effectiveness and management efficiency continue to work very well, generously amplified by the thinking of more recent management leaders.
- Two critical success elements support the organization as a knowledge culture: IT and a collaborative corporate/organizational environment; we get into trouble when we separate them. IT tools must reflect these dual objectives, enabling content access and supporting human interaction that supports strategic learning and discussion.
- The IT/KM “divide” is still in place but efforts are being made to close it; we hear more and more organizations referring to the corporate intranet as the organization’s “KM system” or “knowledge services portal.” There is a very real sense that many in both IT and KM lines of work would like to see a more collaborative and cooperative workplace environment.
- The practical side of KM – putting KM to work, we might say – is knowledge services, defined as the convergence of information management, KM, and strategic learning. We use knowledge services to build successful KD/KS and as the foundation for the knowledge culture.
- KM alone continues to be hard to define, precisely because each individual organization or corporation must develop KM, knowledge services, and enterprise-wide knowledge strategy reflecting the organization’s particular and individual needs, identified for successful KD/KS within that specific organization; attempts at standardization can be helpful in coming to grips with language and over-arching principles but can KM be standardized? What happens, with respect to the organization’s unique KD/KS needs? Take a look at the current proposal from the Standards Institution of Israel (SII) for a new international standard focusing on requirements for knowledge management systems here and here. Perhaps that standardization effort applies only to the IT “piece” of KM?
- Contributing to the new thinking, research management has seriously evolved beyond “traditional” research, and many organizational leaders are challenged by the concept of “research library,” “specialized library,” even “libraries” of non-traditional content (databases, web-based content, and the like). While there is much temptation to focus on digital asset management (DAM) isn’t that a little risky? Won’t there always been a need for dealing with at least some research content that still captured in hard copy? Is the repository for these items/artifacts a “library”? Do we manage them through an integrated library system (ILS)? And, by the same token, can we “stretch” the ILS to incorporate other enterprise content?
- What about the professional organizations and trade associations we use for learning, networking, and advocacy? I’ve recently began to find a refreshing and intellectually rewarding “home” at AIIM, which seems to represent new trend: IT + enterprise content management (ECM).[Full disclosure: I will be leading a panel discussion at the AIIM Conference in April – perhaps this topic will come up.]
- I continue to be concerned about how we connect IT, ECM, and make the link to KD/KS (and vice versa). One colleague – Mor Sela at Better Collaboration – suggests we broaden KD/KS to incorporate usage, recommending that in addition to knowledge development and knowledge sharing, it might make sense to look at improving knowledge utilization (e.g. making decisions based on business intelligence). Would KD/KS/KU work? Could that be the solution for connecting KM/knowledge services with IT and ECM?
- Continuing with that thought, from just about any angle we can see many parallels between IT and knowledge services. Should we begin to think about bringing similar elements under one umbrella? What would it be? What would we call it?
- In a recent presentation (What Comes after ECM?, presented on Dec 19, 2013), John Mancini, AIIM’s President and CEO raised many intriguing points. For us today, I’m interested in what he said about how the management workplace is changing, with the CIO becoming more of a strategic business partner. I would ask the same question about the knowledge strategist.
- At the same time, John makes the point that with IT (and of course I add KM and knowledge services), governance is “extremely complicated”? As information professionals/knowledge services professional/knowledge strategists, are we the people to deal with governance issues? I think we are but you might not agree. I think it’s our job to connect it all – pull it all together – and governance is just one more element of the “big picture” of what we work with.
Happy Thinking. Happy New Year.