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 this post, I compare details of the recent Gartner report with similar concepts I have written about for Lucidea’s Think Clearly Blog.
Gartner’s April 28, 2022 report, Guidance for Developing a Knowledge Management Strategy, contains many points that will be familiar to my readers. Here are excerpts from the Gartner report followed by related Lucidea content.
Gartner: Overview – Key Findings
The root causes of failure in KM are a lack of strategy and structure. Without a well-defined vision, identified business drivers and established KM principles organized into a defining structure, sustainable KM will not be achievable, and associated initiatives are doomed from the outset.
Lucidea: 10 Tips for Starting a KM Program
- Articulate the end-state vision: what does it look like when it is working? Establish a vision for your organizational knowledge ecosystem and relentlessly work towards making that vision a reality.
- Start working on getting to the vision right now, in small steps, and with measurable progress. As you achieve results, celebrate your successes, and then raise the bar with steeper goals for the future.
- Identify the top 3 objectives for your program and focus on meeting the biggest needs of your organization.
- Collect content and connect people. Both collection and connection are valuable, and neither one should be emphasized over the other. Without context, content is not very useful.
- Lead by example. Practice what you preach. Model desired behaviors to show others how it’s done.
- Implement, improve, and iterate key KM processes and tools. Continue to do so as long as possible.
- Determine who will participate in the program, which basic processes will be required, and how tools should support the people and processes.
Gartner: Successful knowledge management programs must support four foundational activities: converse, capture, curate and circulate.
Gartner: Problem StatementThe challenge of KM strategy is more pernicious than it may seem. When asked, most organizations that have attempted KM will protest that they did in fact have a strategy and well-structured program, but the effort failed anyway. While this may in fact be the case, not all strategies are created equal. A knowledge management strategy requires specific elements that are unique to KM and often unfamiliar to technical professionals who are not KM specialists.
Gartner: The Gartner ApproachThe most common mistake when attempting knowledge management is treating the initiative as an exercise in tool selection. Knowledge management is not a technological discipline; it is a technologically enabled discipline. Without first attending to the human-driven processes that the technology is intended to support, KM will fail, no matter how sophisticated a tool is deployed.
Lucidea: KM Pitfall Number 2 – Focusing on technology
- It is common for KM initiatives to immediately be drawn to technical solutions, including tools, systems, and databases. These can help make a program succeed, but they should always be in support of a people or process component.
- Implementing portals, repositories, search engines, and other tools will not automatically address how content is provided, whether or not people use the tools, or how the use of the tools yields beneficial results. Communities are groups of people, not portals or bulletin boards. Knowledge is shared and reused by people following processes, not by systems.
- Some members of the KM team will still fixate on the design of repositories, collecting documents, and reporting on minutiae such as uploads and downloads. Keep reminding them that connection is just as important as collection.
Gartner: The Guidance Framework
Defining KM for the enterprise consists of four steps:
- Vision: Work with key stakeholders to create a clear and concise description of what the KM initiative will bring to the organization.
- Drivers: Define the business drivers behind the initiative. Why are we doing this? What makes the initiative worth the investment?
- Principles: Articulating the principles that will underlie and inform both the creation of the KM program and its ongoing practice.
- Scope: Determining what knowledge domains, repositories and resources will be included in the initiative and, just as importantly, which will not.
- 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:
- People: What existing roles will be tapped to create and sustain the KM program? What new roles will need to be created?
- Processes: What existing processes will be utilized for KM as is? Which processes will need to be modified or adapted? What new processes will need to be defined and implemented?
- Technology: What tools, platforms and technologies will be utilized to support knowledge management?
- Governance: Define the oversight and guidelines necessary to ensure that the KM program is sustainable. Determine how these guidelines will be created, communicated and applied.
- Which people in your organization need to participate in the KM program?
- What are the different roles that participants will need to play?
- Who are the key stakeholders and leaders to line up in support of the new initiatives?
- What existing processes need to be modified to incorporate KM activities?
- What new processes need to be created?
- What policies will need to be changed or created to ensure desired behaviors?
- What existing tools can be used in support of the new initiatives?
- What new tools need to be created or obtained?
- What integration of tools and systems will be required?
Gartner: Define KM for the Enterprise
Before embarking on the strategy phase, identify a representative of each group that will be impacted by the program. These individuals will represent the interests of their constituency in the group that will develop the KM strategy. This group is most often called a steering committee, but the name is unimportant. This body should be a small group of people charged with developing the KM strategy and resourced to do so.
Lucidea: Core Team (Steering Committee)
- Core Team: A virtual team, by invitation of the organization KM leader. It sets the direction of the organization program, debates issues candidly, and makes decisions. It includes the program staff and the group KM leaders.
- Group Teams (e.g., for a region or business unit): Virtual teams, by invitation of the group KM leader. They set the direction of the group program, debate issues candidly, and make decisions. They include the group KM leader, all KM leaders within the group, and all knowledge assistants within the group.
Vision statements can directly reference the KM program itself and clearly state its goals. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company adopted such a vision statement. “Collect and Connect to provide associates the entire knowledge of the organization available at their fingertips.” This statement succinctly captures all four Cs of KM in an accessible and relatable way. (from Knowledge Management Visions, Medium.)
Lucidea: The quoted statement was made by Dean Testa of Goodyear and was taken from my article Knowledge Management Visions without attributing the statement to Dean or the article to me. I’m pleased that my article was used, but good knowledge management practice includes proper attribution when quoting, paraphrasing, or otherwise reusing content.
Gartner: State of the Knowledge Environment
To assess the state of the knowledge environment, conduct a survey of existing knowledge resources. This survey should capture basic information about the resource such as ownership, users, dependencies and contents. Contents do not need to be exhaustively inventoried. A description of the nature, type and amount of content is sufficient. For example, a wiki could be documented in terms of responsible department or administrator, number of users, any integrations, number of articles and a summary of the topics or domains covered in those articles.
Lucidea: Resource Survey
- Conduct a Resource Survey to compile a list of people, process, and technology components currently in use, determine the usefulness of each one, and request suggestions for additions. Use this survey to find out which processes and tools are currently popular, to identify gaps in meeting user needs, and look for integration possibilities.
- Use this survey to evaluate existing knowledge resources and to determine which ones to add. It allows you to learn which resources are worthwhile, which ones are not, which ones you should learn more about, and which ones should be added. This should be conducted once when starting a KM initiative to help select the KM components to use, and every one to three years thereafter to make adjustments to the ones selected.
Gartner: Establish the Structure for Knowledge Management
At this point in the KM strategy development process, you should have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish, what you have to work with and what you will need to create or acquire. This is a tremendous amount of information. If it is to facilitate the actual implementation and maintenance of the KM program, it will need to be organized and structured.
Lucidea: 12 Steps to KM Success
- 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.
Explicit, quantifiable measures are necessary to determine both the rate of progress toward strategic goals, and the overall success of the KM program. Unfortunately, there is no standard set of metrics for evaluating KM. This is for the same reason that there are no standard KM strategies or frameworks. The goals and circumstances of each organization are unique to that organization. What constitutes success or acceptable progress for one organization could be irrelevant or even counterproductive to another. As a result, your KM team — working in concert with executive leadership — will need to define KM metrics that align with your specific strategic goals. Some areas and measures to consider as a starting point include the following:
- Number of active community members
- Number of questions posted
- Number of questions answered
- Reduction in null search results
Three different kinds of metrics are typically captured and reported when following knowledge management best practices:
- Goal-oriented measurements directly relate to employee goals and allow assessment against those goals.
- Operational metrics are based on data captured by systems used by the initiative. For example, a knowledge sharing initiative would capture details such as web page visits, document uploads, and document downloads; threaded discussion subscribers, posts, and replies; and repository submissions, searches, and retrievals.
- Business impact metrics attempt to determine the specific value of initiatives, and include costs saved, costs avoided, incremental revenue, improved quality, increased customer satisfaction, customer retention, new business attracted, increased market share, and revenue from innovation.
Gartner: Whatever metrics and measures the KM team settles on and leadership approves should be evaluated at the outset of the program before any changes are made or any KM interventions are introduced. This will provide a baseline to measure progress against. Targets can be useful, but they should be defined in terms of trends, rather than discrete values. If you say “our target is 1,500 quality knowledge articles in our knowledge base,” it is tempting to declare victory when that goal is reached, and then ignore the ongoing state of the repository. By contrast, if your goal is a 10% month-over-month increase in the number of quality knowledge articles, you have a way to explicitly measure progress, while also establishing the expectation of ongoing, continuous improvement.
Send monthly KM metrics reports to the senior leadership team. Ask them to publish their own variations for their organizations. Report on how the organization is doing in a monthly report and inspect and discuss progress (or the lack thereof) in management team meetings. Request that the organization’s balanced scorecard or equivalent performance indicator reporting be updated to include compliance to KM goals. Review KM indicators along with the usual business metrics, so it will be clear that they are just as important.
In the fourth and final post in this series, I will contrast some of the concepts in the Gartner report with my thinking.
Please enjoy Stan’s blog posts offering advice and insights drawn from many years as a KM practitioner. You may also want to download a copy of his book, Proven Practices for Implementing a Knowledge Management Program, from Lucidea Press. And learn about Lucidea’s Presto and SydneyEnterprise with KM capabilities to support successful knowledge curation and sharing.
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