Wednesday, November 21, 2007

KM -- Tool or Function

I was at the KM India Summit last week. Which explains the long time since the last post. Well well ... Traffic in Delhi can have that effect. As you can see, the who's who of the knowledge fraternity in India were there ... and talking. Dr. Rory Chase delivered some interesting insights. And, Dave Snowden was there ... via telephone. A little bit of a disappointment not being able to meet him, but he did deliver a talk which was very insightful (had read a bit of it on his blog, which should go to show the power of web 2.0 ...).

Well ... one theme which came out of the summit throughout, and something which you couldnt help observing was this ... More and more people were talking about KM being used to achieve a particular thing ... Which is the way it should be ... End of the day, KM cannot be the end in itself, but has to be a means towards a larger business goal. Having said this, there are two things which I thought need a little more reflection ... Not because I disagree with the idea of KM being a means to a larger business objective, but because the larger discussions threw up a few questions in my mind ...

1. It seems to me that in a lot of scenarios, KM is encroaching ... on the domains which used to be those of other functions in the organization. It could be production, or operations, or it could be quality, or it could be sales, or finance, or hr ... Its one thing that KM enables these functions, and another thing to have things being drawn from other functions, packaged together, and labelled KM. Having said that, it is also a fact that the business demarcations between functions are blurring as the world around us getting more and more multi-disciplinary. But, somewhere I think there is a little bit of confusion about where KM should fit into the jigsaw. Of course this would be different for different contexts, and for different problems, but KM cant be all things to all people.

2. Taking the previous point forward, and the logical conclusion from this is ... KM can either be a function, or a tool. As a function, I think the definition of KM is blurred in the current applicability context, which leaves us with one option ... a tool. The question this then throws up, is that if KM is a tool, and this is something which explains a lot of the things and practices taken up by KM practitioners, is how does one measure a tool? Does this then mean that our efforts to look at measurement of the effectiveness of our KM efforts are misguided?

1 comment:

Brad said...

Atul,

I see the debate about KM as a tool or a function is a discussion point in India as well! I blogged about the crisis of confidence in KM that touches on this dilemma (http://bradhinton.wordpress.com/2007/11/07/on-knowledge-managements-crisis-of-confidence/).

KM crosses many organisational functions and thereby facilitates knowledge diffusion and regeneration within organisations - a significant competitive advantage that is realised in response to appropriate KM. KM is therefore not an output, it is a facilitator.

Regards,
Brad