Early Knowledge Management solutions often disappointed. What can we learn from these pioneer solutions to ensure that current day programmes don’t suffer the same fate?
Knowledge Management (KM) isn’t a new idea – the concept of formalised knowledge sharing can easily be traced back to medieval times with the creation of guilds for craftsmen and the master/apprentice model. In terms of modern business management practice, its emergence in the early ‘90s led to a spate of ambitious KM programmes being initiated, often involving significant investment in software solutions that claimed to “knowledge enable” the enterprise. Unfortunately, the actual experience was not as successful as hoped, with many organisations being underwhelmed by the return on their investment. What lessons can we learn from these pioneer solutions to ensure that current day programmes don’t suffer the same fate?
Obviously, technology has advanced significantly over the last 30 years and problems that were common in solutions at that time can now be addressed more effectively:
- Early systems were often very expensive to run, required a lot of manual intervention to configure and maintain, and did not scale easily or effectively. Current solutions with highly automated backends that take advantage of Cloud deployment are far cheaper to implement and run, and allow the technology solution to scale both easily and rapidly to meet the needs of a growing and/or global enterprise.
- Personalisation is a very powerful feature – early adopters often discovered that solutions were too general and merely exacerbated the problem of information overload for users. Modern solutions that can tailor search and alerting to specific interests accurately and easily act as valuable tools to support daily activities.
- Managing tacit knowledge has always been one of the hardest challenges in KM. With the advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning software, solutions are now far more capable of understanding and extracting insights and concepts from published material and highlighting them to the user. Modern tools are also far superior in their profiling capabilities allowing likely relevant subject matter experts in larger, globally distributed organisations to be proactively identified and surfaced to the rest of their colleagues. This ability to easily make connections which would previously have gone unknown greatly enhances the capability of any KM programme.
- Integration into typical daily business processes is key – modern solutions can seamlessly aggregate distributed information repositories to allow the user a single access point to all of the internal and external resources an organisation has invested in. Proactive monitoring and alerting highlights valuable information from all sources, refined to personal interests and delivered on-demand via preferred device. Too many first generation solutions were a separate “sideshow” which resulted in them feeling more like an administrative nuisance rather than a key support tool.
Solutions like KiteEdge Apex are capable of delivering all of these features and many more, such as the ability to customise an ontology to accurately reflect the internal business language and specific needs of any organisation.
Perhaps the greatest learning from the first wave of KM initiatives is the need for a balance between People & Technology to deliver a successful programme. As we discussed in our last article, positive behaviours towards knowledge sharing are critical to making a KM programme work and the “tone” is set by the expectations and attitudes of the leadership team.
With such an environment in place, new technology solutions become the enabling infrastructure that allows people to access and find relevant information, knowledge and expertise from across the enterprise in a seamless, automated manner. Creating this successful balance allows organisations the best chance of delivering an effective KM programme and to turn knowledge into advantage.