Wednesday, August 19, 2009

One Size Fits All?

This is a question which i have been thinking about for some time. Mst of the organizations i interact with have KM programs which are standardized across the organization. There is one portal, there is one set of guidelines and processes which are applied across the organization when it comes to engagement of the business with KM. The assumption is that if you put all the tools out there, people across teams can find the tools which they find useful, and use them as they require.

The assumption behind this approach is that KM is not an initiative which is meant to solve specific problems. In other words, KM is seen as an initiative which is loosely linked to business processes, and as such, the adoption of KM is seen as the logical thing to do, by itself, without any other reason to do it. And this leads to the scenario where the different functions in the organization see KM as an external entity, or at least, external their line of business, leading to a scenario where KM is seen as an initiative which is running on their own with not much engagement either required or existing with the business teams. And this, in turn, leads to far lower engagement, and so, far lower adoption of KM initiatives.

A lot has been written about how KM needs to be linked to business processes. Some folks talk about baking KM into business processes (baking ... not something i want to talk about ... am off sweets!), and as i have written before, this relationship between KM technology and the business processes of the organization is quite important. An important part of this is to keep knowledge-sharing simple, so that it is a part of the day-to-day work of people, rather than additional work, as i have written before. The important aspect of this, however, is that instead of being trying to be one thing which can meet all the requirements of different sets of people across the organization, KM can move to a scenario where it becomes a set of tools, practices, and processes, which are tailored to solve the business requirements of different people at different parts of the organization. In other words, what this means is that different people in different parts of the organization have different requirements, and different problems, which need to be solved by KM. Came across this interesting paper about Social Computing at Intel ... and this talks about something on similar lines.

Any thoughts? I am trying to refine this idea, looking forward to inputs from you.


Anonymous said...

wish could give some idea/inputs here, but sorry i cant... only one thing i want to ask... how can you be off sweets?!!!!!

Atul said...

thats a very important question ... some things need to be done, so ... :-)

Lakshman Pillai said...

Atul: What you are talking is very vital. Making KM part of the business and inter-connecting business functions through KM are the keys to success.

Our complete end-to-end KM solution is based on this approach. Visit to get the conceptual understanding. to know more about the solution.

Atul said...

Thanks, Lakshman. What is cool is the fourth point you have mentioned, about defining personal goals ...

Suresh Nair said...

Some how I have been seeing you now more often. Thought to key-in a few words.
As you said I also strongly believe that k-sharing has to be kept as simple as possible.
The real knowledgeable people really don't like to be very formal - they share because they think it's required and not for any monetary gain or fame. People who look for those are the one who would want it big and formal.
I personally feel, the most of the KMers some how manages the top management to buy-in their idea then try putting things together for review purpose - not for establishing KM system as such.
Besides that KMers give more emphasis on IT, which deviates the them from the main work.
KM is a business process where culture and behaviour of every member matters.

Atul said...

Suresh, agree with you in some part. There are people who share for the joy of sharing, but some even otherwise.

I agree with you that for a lot of organizations, KM = Technology. This is why you find a lot of people blogging that KM is about people. :-)

Debanjan Ray said...

Dear Atul,
There can not be any unique KM process for all Business Units. If Organisation plans to design a portal, the portal needs to cater to different processes for different business. For example, one business unit may want to arrange their portal in different domain area and technology area, and want the information to be put by only some designated people (we call them SME(Subject Matter Experts) or Knowledge Manager. Another Business Unit may want just an infrastructure such that any one can create such areas in wiki way. The portal has to cater to needs of various people. Accordingly look and feel of the portal ( or any KM system) may be different at different Business Units.
- Debanjan Ray

Suresh Nair said...

Its absolutely true - whatever is knowledge for NASA can not be the knowledge for a shipbuilding company. Organisations world over have different information requirement. As regards to the rights on posting on portal - for that too one cannot define a standard procedure - local variation is bound to be there. In general we can say Knowledge to any organisation should be the one which is required for running the business (to satisfy the customer). The whole objective of having a KM system in any organisation is to pool in the collective knowledge - and not to be used by a "bunch of showmen".

R Murli Krishnan said...

I agree with Suresh on two counts
1.KMers just do it for doing something - without appreciating that this is do more with the culture
2. Too much emphasis on IT part of it, rather than the content part

Difficulty in KM is that those who have the knowledge do not (first of all) realise their knowledge or think it is something everybody will or ought to know.
Second they do not feel the necessity or the urge to share + insecutiry angle is also there

For KM movement to succeed, firt thing to be dealt with is the Cultural.
Second is the recognise the contributor
Make it easy to share and ensure it is captured well - whichever way it is expressed.