In his recent Law.com post, 5 Steps for Beginners to Implement a Knowledge Management System, Zach Warren gives an overview of a KM session he attended during 2018’s CLOC (Corporate Legal Operations Conference) in April. He joined the beginners portion of the session, led by KM experts from Baker McKenzie and Cisco, whose recommendations are just as relevant outside the legal sector.
During the session, Emily Colantino, from Baker McKenzie and Steve Harmon, vice president and deputy general counsel at Cisco shared 5 important lessons for anyone contemplating a knowledge management program.
Lesson 1: Come Up with a Strategy
Steve Harmon stressed that “You need to figure out what the purpose is of having a KM program in the first place. Why do we have it?” He reinforces the importance of forming your strategy “in alignment with the organization’s overall goals… (which often) means (developing) standardized, repeatable processes that help common problem areas.”
Lesson 2: Find Resources Through Incentives
Both speakers stressed the importance of encouraging and rewarding contributions to the KM system, positioning participation as one of the best ways to stand out of the crowd. It’s also important to be open to contributions from unlikely experts—those you don’t immediately think of, but who actually have significant knowledge to share—and publicly acknowledge those.
Lesson 3: Create a Culture
Both Mr. Harmon and Ms. Colantino emphasized the necessity for top-down tone setting as critical to “establishing a culture that encourages and rewards knowledge sharing.” This challenging element of implementing a successful KM program often means designating “knowledge champions” or including workflow mandates such as ensuring that closing the knowledge loop—e.g., documenting lessons learned—occurs at project sign off.
Lesson 4: Start Simple with Document Collection
Ms. Colantino believes that if you don’t yet have a KM system, but you do have document management software, that’s a good entry point. “Start with what you have, because you probably have more than you think you have.” She asserts that the three keys to effective document management are that content needs to be both “useful” and “easy to get to” and must be routinely maintained so it’s up to date. These imperatives are of course true for all forms of knowledge, not just documents.
Lesson 5: Standardize and Streamline Your Forms
It’s clearly operationally efficient to reuse existing documents or take a templating approach. An important tangential benefit of doing so is that you can easily generate statistics that support the argument for a fuller KM program. Per Ms. Colantino, “I find that standard-form documents lend themselves to a quantitative analysis. If we have two documents that take two hours apiece (per week, to write)—take two by two by 52, and that’s over 200 hours saved (per year).”
Lessons Learned. Now what?
You’ve kept the above steps in mind and put them in place, securing leadership advocacy, gathering powerful metrics, leveraging improved workflows, giving KM some cachet, and starting a collection of the good stuff.
You can now expand your knowledge management program to include purpose-built KM software, (e.g., Lucidea’s SydneyEnterprise or Inmagic Presto) which will take you well beyond documents—and allow users throughout your organization to access multimedia content, organizational knowledge assets, subscribed third-party resources, and their colleague’s tacit expertise.
The user interface is the knowledge management system point of entry providing navigation, search, communications, an index, a knowledge map, and links.
Best KM search engines enable searching for sites, documents, files, lists, content, and answers to questions, plus ability to search on text or metadata
Knowledge managers use taxonomy, folksonomy, metadata and tags to classify content so it’s easily discoverable through navigation, search and links.
KM leaders should base strategy on user input to determine needs to address. Conduct surveys to capture challenges, opportunities, and suggestions.