Knowledge Management (KM) can play a pivotal role within organizations. Depending on why an organization wants to start with KM it can for instance increase the quality of the final product or it can help sharing available expertise among employees. Introducing KM is a serious undertaking. Buying a KM system and sharing some documents does not mean you actually implemented KM successfully. The following three aspects organizations should at least be considered before implementing KM:
Why exactly do you want to start using KM?
There can be many different reasons for using KM. For KM to be successful one needs to define KM's right to exist within the organization and connect this to the right of existence of the organization. A bakery exists for example to supply people with food so the professional knowledge available to its employees should support this goal. One then determines how your available knowledge can actually help your organization and your employees. An example of this is using KM to develop training programs based on the actual daily production routines as described in your KM system. Sharing the impact of changes on daily work routines at the same time for all employees and through the same KM platform could be another reason to start using KM. That way employees can see for example the impact of a change in regulations and how that actually effects them.
Instant access when you need it
One of the reasons many KM implementations fail is the (lack of) availability of knowledge at the moment that one actually needs it. When you need some support and you want to check a knowledge platform to find that particular piece of knowledge you do not want to search for a long time for that knowledge. You want that knowledge to be available within a few mouse clicks. A large database filled with documents can result in multiple hits when you do search for that particular piece of knowledge. Often it is impossible to see which document you actually need, and when you open a document you still need to browse through a lot of text. This will eliminate any enthusiasm to look up knowledge by that employee the next time they will need some support while doing their job. This aspect of implementing KM successfully is often underestimated or even overlooked. Mechanisms like contextual KM can however overcome this problem. One needs to be aware of this crucial aspect of KM though.
Knowledge must be up to date at all times
When starting with KM it seems simple; collect and store all available knowledge into a KM system and start sharing. This being a serious simplification the real challenge lies with the willingness of people to keep on using your KM system. One of the main problems of keeping employees motivated to use available knowledge is the fact that it always needs to be validated and up to date. Once people are confronted with outdated knowledge that they know is now irrelevant they will stop looking into your KM system. They will also stop sharing their own particular knowledge because they have lost faith in your KM program. A third risk would be that they will use outdated knowledge that could result in mistakes or less quality of the final product.
To stop this from happening one needs to consider carefully before implementing KM how you will keep your knowledge up to date. One way to do that is to determine how many people you will need to keep all available knowledge in your KM system up to date and set up a KM department. This depends on how much knowledge you put into your KM system and what your reason is for using KM in the first place. Making people responsible for keeping available knowledge up to date is an important aspect of a successful KM implementation.
There are obviously more things to consider if you want to incorporate a KM program within your organization. Please feel free to share your thoughts on this topic and article by using the comment section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org