Originally published May 5, 2022
This is the 79th article in the Profiles in Knowledge series featuring thought leaders in knowledge management. James Robertson is a thought leader on intranet strategy and design, digital employee experience, digital workplaces, web content management, and technology selection. He is the founder and managing director of Step Two, a vendor-neutral consultancy in Australia that helps organizations select a suitable intranet platform or web content management system.
After following his work online, I first met James at KMWorld 2009, and we became friends. We were also at KMWorld together in 2010, 2012, 2015, and 2017. He presented on the October 2010 SIKM Leaders Community call.
James is the author of three best-selling intranet books. He has written hundreds of articles and produced a variety of resources, including the Intranet Roadmap. As a certified trainer, James regularly runs one and two-day practical workshops on intranet strategy and design, both within Australia and internationally. He was a founding member of the CM Professionals (CM Pros), a non-profit international community of content management professionals that existed from 2004 to 2014.
- Education: University of Sydney — BSc (Honors), Science, 1990-1993
- Work: Step Two Designs — Founder and Managing Director, 1996-present
- Boxes and Arrows
- CMS Wire
- Step Two Twitter
- LinkedIn Articles
- LinkedIn Posts
- Step Two LinkedIn Posts
- Step Two
- Intranet Roadmap
Knowledge management as a discipline has been around for decades. Over the years it’s waxed and waned in popularity, to a large degree because it’s genuinely hard to do (organizations are complex!).
We think it’s far from dead. In fact, with the emergence of platforms such as Office 365, it’s more important than ever. There are now a multitude of tools and platforms, which combine with ongoing organizational change to make active knowledge management crucial for many businesses.
- Identify the key staff groups within the organization. These groups deliver the greatest business value or are involved in the most important business activities.
- Conduct comprehensive and holistic needs analysis activities with selected staff groups, to identify key needs and issues.
- Supplement this research with input from senior management and organizational strategy documents, to determine an overall strategic focus.
- Based on these findings, develop recommendations for addressing the issues and needs identified.
- Implement a series of strategic and tactical initiatives, based on the recommendations. These will select suitable knowledge management techniques and approaches.
To mitigate risks, and to get the best possible project outcomes, organizations should abandon use of the term ‘KMS’. Instead, organizations should focus on clearly articulating exactly what functionality is required.
At the end of the day, organizations need to let go of the desire for ‘silver bullet’ solutions implied by terms such as KMS. Instead, they should look to build internal information management expertise, alongside the people and process aspects of KM.
- Recognize (and manage) complexity.
- Focus on adoption.
- Deliver tangible & visible benefits.
- Prioritize according to business needs.
- Take a journey of a thousand steps.
- Provide strong leadership.
- Mitigate risks.
- Communicate extensively.
- Strive for a seamless digital employee experience.
- Choose the first project very carefully.
Collaboration is hard work: There are many elements and activities needed to get the most out of collaboration and social tools, including:
- clear strategy and vision
- good alignment with business goals and objectives
- unambiguous support from senior leaders
- up-front decisions on what functionality to enable (and what to leave turned off)
- highly usable tools, making changes from out-of-the-box designs where needed
- good integration between the new tools and existing platforms
- excellent launch communication
- strong change management planning
- comprehensive training and support materials for staff
- clear guidance for teams requesting new collaboration spaces
- hands-on support for key business areas, to help them adopt and use the new tools
- strong usage reporting and metrics
- an ongoing ‘community manager’ role
This article challenges the vision of the corporate intranet as a publishing tool, or a static repository for web pages or documents. Instead, it looks at a number of ways in which the intranet can become a dynamic and living environment for knowledge-based activities.
Five key approaches are covered:
- communities of practice and intranets
- staff directories and expertise finders
- collaborative environments
- intranet-based knowledge tools
- using the intranet to drive cultural change
Over the last few decades, knowledge management has produced many theories and methodologies. Of these, communities of practice (CoPs) are perhaps the most successful and effective. They connect staff, share knowledge, and help to break silos.
To achieve these benefits, however, communities of practice must be tackled in a structured and well-resourced way; they are much more than just a few discussion spaces in a collaboration or social tool!
Articles by Others
- Intranets and Design Thinking by Wedge
- A Manifesto for the Decade of Courage by Paul Miller
- Employee Experience Is the Heart of the Digital Workplace by Siobhan Fagan
- The Enterprise Front Door: my takeaways from Entopic’s Congres Intranet 2018 by Robin Slagman
Awards and Communities
- B102: Employee Experience: Heart of the Digital Workplace
- B105: Making a Digital Workplace Work & Inspiration from Intranet Award-Winners
- W8: Exclusive Look at the Best of Leading Edge Intranets
- W9: Delivering Successful Social Projects
- W18: Exploring the World’s Best Intranets
- B101: Taking an Agile Approach to the Digital Workplace
- B103: Intranet Showcase
- W17: Creating Intranets That Work
- B102: Delivering Enterprise Mobility
- B106: Intranet Showcase
- B105: Digital Workplace Strategies
- W2: Strategies for Innovative Intranets
- W12: Improving the Design of Search
- C201: SharePoint Strategies, Tactics, & Tips
- C204: Innovative Intranets: Insights & Trends
- W5: Strategies for Innovative Intranets
- D101: Innovative Intranets for 2008
- D201: Collaborative Tools & Solutions: Where Do They Fit?
- C302: What have we done before?
- What every intranet team should know — Gerry Gafney
- Focus on the digital employee experience — Annika Willers
- Innovative Mobile Intranet Design — Sean Carmichael
- Why is the Digital Employee Experience so important? — Chris Lukianenko