In the August 29th SMR post we gave attention to knowledge workers, a first “category” for people working in the knowledge domain.
Another category is that of strategic knowledge professionals. These are knowledge development/knowledge sharing (KD/KS) employees often thought of as a company’s “information professionals,” “content professionals,” “IT specialists,” “information managers,” or any of the myriad new titles coming into the knowledge lexicon these days. As KM and knowledge services continue their move toward enterprise-wide acceptance (including acceptance and – to some extent – enthusiasm in the management community at large), we see the valuable role of the strategic knowledge professional extending into a wide range of tasks and responsibilities. And they all come together in a single function: to support KD/KS activities – regardless of origin and subject – undertaken throughout the organization.
Many established professional employees in the knowledge domain fall into the category of the strategic knowledge professional. Records managers and archivists fit in here of course, and specialist librarians with their academic degrees in library and information science (graduate-level degrees in North America and most of the European Union member countries) are also good examples of the strategic knowledge professional, since their role is to apply their professional education and expertise in support of enterprise-wide KD/KS.
In most organizations, the work of the strategic knowledge professional is spelled out pretty clearly, primarily because the important contribution of the employee’s discrete discipline links to the success of enterprise-wide knowledge activities. These employees can usually be counted on to participate in an enterprise-wide understanding of a subject or group of subjects through focused analysis, design and/or development. They use their research and/or search skills (especially in situations relating to content created in-house, such as company records and/or organizational archives) to define problems and identify alternatives.
In other situations, strategic knowledge professionals bring high-end research expertise to the organization, positioning themselves for important work in a wide variety of projects (regardless of the division or section of the company in which the projects originate). They generally connect to professionals in other disciplines and work (generally) with captured knowledge – tangible information – in physical or electronic repositories, with the distinction being that the knowledge these professionals manage is strategic and – as I’ve noted – directly connected to the success of the organizational or corporate mission.
That’s a critical distinction, and it must be given serious consideration when we think about the role of the strategic knowledge professional in the company. For a variety of reasons, the professions making up those distinct disciplines – as I referred to them earlier – have over the years become even more distinct, separating from one another. Sadly, in many companies and organizations this separation has contributed to yet another version of “silo” structuring, but in this case the silos are within what we think of as the organization’s broader-based knowledge domain. As discrete “practices” (probably a better word than “disciplines”), the strategic knowledge professions often sit apart from one another in the corporate structure. It’s that separateness that has contributed to management’s need for an overall, enterprise-wide knowledge strategy.
And led to the emerging career of the knowledge strategist, which we’ll explore in our next post.