If your organization relies on a shared drive or a DMS—or an underpowered knowledge management system—to house or reference critical information assets, that’s a real handicap. It means you can only retrieve valuable content if you know exactly what you want (and where it is), and that means you often have to rely on institutional memory.
Keepers of the Keys
Certain people who have been with your organization a long time know where the good stuff is, as do the creators of the content. If you work for a professional services organization, there may be practice managers, and those people might also know where that fantastic article on transfer pricing is, or where the biographies of your firm’s founding partners are. But what do you do if you aren’t sure who might know, or you are sure but they are on vacation, or too busy to help you?
Virtual institutional memory
The fundamental value of a great KM system is that it acts as “virtual institutional memory;” which I like to think of as VIM. Merriam-Webster defines “vim” as “robust energy and enthusiasm,” and when you apply those qualities to knowledge exchange, how can that be a bad thing?
Selecting and implementing a rich and comprehensive KM application delivers the benefits of “virtual institutional memory” long after the creators of the content (and the guy in the corner office who remembers that the annual reports from 1975–1990 were scanned and saved to a shared drive named “AR 15”) have gone on to other things.
A great KM system delivers the following enduring benefits:
- Advanced searching across your internal databases and your external resources
- Faceted and federated search for easier navigation
- Browsable directories with real world information groupings and categories
- Creation and use of an accepted organizational taxonomy and crowd sourced tagging
- Persistent URLs for linking to full text, to external resources, and to collections of content built by your subject matter experts
- Multimedia attachments that let you keep related materials together
- Multiple points of access to all content
When you are selecting a KM platform for your organization, look for one that offers all the above. You can still benefit from valuable human intervention, because sometimes you just need to know it’s in the 3rd box from the left on the second shelf of the working papers room… but you’ll always know you’ve got VIM on your side.
Planning a KM initiative includes determining who will participate, which processes and tools are required, and how tools should be integrated.
Starting a KM program includes defining participants and roles, which basic processes are required, and how tools should support people and processes.
Knowledge managers should enlist support from top leaders in order to ensure the success of a KM implementation; 10 commitments to ask for
KM guru Stan Garfield provides specific examples of challenges and opportunities and how to turn them into knowledge management program objectives.