In Part 1 of this series, I listed Lucidea’s 5 Cs of KM, Gartner’s Four Cs of KM, and the five activities of Gartner’s KM Process Framework. In Part 2, I compared the three lists in detail. In Part 3, I compared details of the recent Gartner report with similar concepts I have written about for Lucidea’s Think Clearly Blog. In this post, I contrast some of the concepts in the Gartner report with my thinking.
Gartner’s April 28, 2022 report, Guidance for Developing a Knowledge Management Strategy, contains many excellent points. There are also some which I would state differently, and some important concepts that are missing. Following are Gartner’s views followed by mine.
Gartner: Overview — Key Findings
Successful knowledge management programs must support four foundational activities: converse, capture, curate and circulate.
I have already contrasted Gartner’s Four Cs with Lucidea’s Five Cs of Knowledge Management. But I don’t consider either list to constitute the fundamental activities of knowledge management. In my view, the fundamental activities are share, innovate, reuse, collaborate, and learn, which can be remembered using the acronym SIRCL. In Starting a KM Program I wrote that knowledge management enables an organization to better:
- Share what has been learned, created, and proved to allow others to learn from the experience of the organization and reuse what has already been done. This provides a supply of knowledge.
- Innovate by being more creative, inventive, and imaginative, resulting in breakthroughs from bold new ways of thinking and doing. This creates new knowledge.
- Reuse what others have already learned, created, and proved to save time and money, minimize risk, and be more effective. This creates a demand for knowledge.
- Collaborate with others to yield better results, benefit from diverse perspectives, and tap the experience and expertise of many other people. This allows knowledge to flow at the time of need, creates communities, and takes advantage of the strength in numbers.
- Learn by doing, from others, and from existing information to perform better, solve and avoid problems, and make good decisions. Learning is the origin of knowledge.
Gartner: The Guidance Framework
The most commonly referenced set of strategic principles for KM are those codified by Stephanie Barnes and Nick Milton (from Designing a Successful KM Strategy: A Guide for the Knowledge Management Professional). These 10 principles provide an excellent reference point for organizations new to KM.
- KM implementation needs to be organization-led; tied to organization strategy and to specific organization issues.
- KM needs to be delivered where the critical knowledge lies, and where the high value decisions are made.
- KM implementation needs to be treated as a behavior change program.
- The endgame will be to introduce a complete management framework for KM.
- This framework will need to be embedded into the organization structures.
- The framework will need to include governance if it is to be sustainable.
- The framework will be structured, rather than emergent.
- A KM implementation should be a staged process with regular decision points.
- A KM implementation should contain a piloting stage.
- A KM implementation should be run by an implementation team, reporting to a cross-organizational steering group.
The list from the book by Stephanie and Nick is excellent (I wrote a blurb for their book), but I don’t think it is the “most commonly referenced.” It is one of many great lists. Here is a list of 10 principles I created:
- Put an effective KM leader in place and ensure that the KM team has only strong members.
- Balance people, process, and technology components, with a project leader for each category.
- Establish a governance and collaboration process to engage all groups within the organization (e.g., business units, regions, functions), and to formally manage and communicate on all projects; appoint KM leaders in each major group.
- Hold annual worldwide face-to-face meetings to get all KM leaders informed, energized, and collaborating.
- Communicate regularly through newsletters, training, websites, and local events.
- Get the senior executive to actively support the program.
- Engage with other KM programs, both internal and external, to learn, share ideas, and practice what you preach.
- Focus on delivering tangible business benefits that match the overall objectives of the organization.
- Deliver regular improvements to make the KM environment effective and easy to use.
- Set three basic goals for employees and stick to them for at least a year.
Gartner: Creating a KM framework also requires four steps:
I use people, process, and technology as the fundamental categories of knowledge management components, but not as steps. I see governance (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) as a key element of a successful knowledge management program, but not as a step. Here are 12 Steps to KM Success I have defined:
- Learn about the field of knowledge management, build expertise in it, and seek outside help. This will allow you to learn from the experience of others, reuse the best ideas, and avoid the usual pitfalls.
- Identify the top 3 objectives for the program, focusing on meeting the biggest needs of the organization. List the challenges and opportunities your KM program will address. These objectives align business direction with program goals.
- Gain the sponsorship, commitment, and active support of senior leadership. There are ten commitments from the leader of your organization that will enable your KM strategy to be implemented.
- Answer nine questions about people, process, and technology. Determine who will participate in the program, which basic processes will be required, and how tools will support the people and processes.
- Articulate your vision. You must be able to passionately describe the end-state vision for your program. What does KM look like when it’s working? Establish a vision for how knowledge management should work, and relentlessly work towards making that vision a reality.
- Define the KM strategy. These are specific actions that will be taken to implement the program.
- Define compelling use cases with clear advantages over existing alternatives. Don’t talk about adoption or rollout of a tool. Talk about the advantages of using it over existing alternatives.
- Define the KM program governance.
- Specify the desired modes of knowledge flow.
- Select and implement people, process, and technology components using knowledge management specialties such as information architecture, design thinking, user experience, and agile development.
- Innovate key KM processes and tools to implement the strategy and achieve the vision. Seek user feedback and continuously implement, iterate, and improve.
- Share achievements and ideas with others, solicit feedback on your program, and reuse the proven practices of other programs. Pay it forward, meaning that if you help people with their KM efforts, they in turn will help others, achieving a virtuous circle.
Gartner: Business Drivers
The best way to understand the benefits you hope to realize from KM and what it will take to achieve those goals is benefit mapping.
- Better and faster decision-making.
- Users can easily find relevant information and resources.
- Ideas, documents, and expertise can be reused.
- No duplication of effort.
- Mistakes aren’t repeated.
- Existing expertise and experience can be leveraged.
- Important information gets communicated widely and quickly.
- Processes and procedures can be standardized and repeatable.
- Methods, tools, templates, techniques, and examples are available.
- Unique expertise becomes widely accessible.
- Customers can see exactly how knowledge is used for their benefit.
- Accelerated customer delivery.
- Organizations can leverage scale.
- The best organizational problem-solving experiences are reusable.
- Innovation and growth are stimulated.
Gartner: Scope — State of the Knowledge Environment
The following are common examples of resources to be surveyed. Others may exist in your organization, but these are a good starting point:
- Repositories: These include knowledge bases, document management systems, file shares, wikis or any other location where knowledge is explicitly captured and documented. In addition to the amount of content present, catalog the types of content present, the subjects covered, any templates in use and any repository specific information that may be relevant to the KM program.
- Workstream and collaboration tools: Tools such as Microsoft Teams, Slack and Stack Overflow are increasingly common and preferred as the means to interact, collaborate and exchange knowledge. They are also prime sources of ad hoc knowledge capture.
- Search platform: The search platform is a foundational element in any knowledge management program. The current state and perception of enterprise search, assuming something is already in place, should be assessed and captured. This will likely be a significant area of investment in the course of the KM initiative.
- Process and workflow: Capture how knowledge is created and shared in the organization. This should include how documentation is created and maintained, how reports are generated and disseminated — any process that is deemed relevant to the KM initiative being considered. Ideally these processes, along with any dependencies, will be captured as simple workflow diagrams.
- Expertise: Inventorying expertise is the most difficult yet most important aspect of the knowledge environment assessment. This will identify subject matter experts that will create and maintain knowledge resources, as well as identify knowledge gaps that will need to be developed or recruited. Take this as an opportunity to begin developing your expertise directory. If a staff directory of any sort is already in place, start there and have staff add or update their areas of expertise.
This list is indeed a good starting point, but it is missing many of the key components available for KM implementation. 50 of them are listed in Select and Implement People, Process, and Technology KM Components and details of each one are available in separate blog posts:
- culture and values
- knowledge managers
- user surveys
- social networks
- user assistance and knowledge help desk
- goals and measurements
- incentives and rewards
- lessons learned
- proven practices
- content management
- metrics and reporting
- management of change
- social network analysis
- appreciative inquiry and positive deviance
- user interface
- team spaces
- virtual meeting rooms, web/video/audio conferencing, and telepresence
- threaded discussions and Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs)
- expertise locators and ask the expert
- metadata and tags
- search engines
- podcasts and videos
- syndication, aggregation, and subscription management systems
- social software and social media
- external access
- workflow applications
- process automation
- gamification applications
- analytics and business intelligence
- cognitive computing and artificial intelligence
Gartner’s report, Guidance for Developing a Knowledge Management Strategy, offers useful advice for initiating a knowledge management program. For a wealth of additional insights, more than 150 blog posts I have written are available in Lucidea’s Think Clearly Blog. And two of my books, Proven Practices for Implementing a Knowledge Management Program and The Five Cs of KM, are available from Lucidea.
- The Gartner Comparison Series:
- Presentation: The Five Cs of Knowledge Management in Special Libraries
- Book: The Five Cs of KM