Public Sector - Public Knowledge

Insights into Knowledge-Enhanced Government

A Report in the Knowledge Insight Series

by David J. Skyrme

Public sector cover

Around the world governments are struggling to be responsive to unexpected challenges and to deliver higher quality services that its citizens now expect. In the private sector knowledge management has played a key role in improving organisational performance. Can it perform the same role in the public sector? This report shows that it can, but that many public administrations have been slow to embrace KM and still do not fully understand how to achieve the benefits that KM could deliver. Alongside some pathfinding examples of good practice are many instances of failing to address fundamental issues.

Written by David Skyrme, a world-recognised KM expert, who has extensive hands-on consultancy experience in public sector organisations, this report explores current and future developments in public sector KM and identifies examples of good practice from around the world. Extensive use is made of survey data, interviews and case studies to draw out key themes, insights and practical guidance for successful KM in the public sector. These themes include knowledge-enhanced policy making, more effective government and public administration, e-Government and enhanced services to citizens.

2008 supplement cover

2008 Update Supplement

Updating the original report written in 2004, this 32-page supplement provides chapter by chapter updates, including these additions:

  • Significant surveys - results of more recent surveys highlighting what has changed since 2004
  • Lessons from NGOs - how the public sector can learn from the third sector
  • Evidence or collective mind-lines? - the role of evidence knowledge in public policy making
  • Collaborative communities - how stakeholders are working in partnership for better outcomes
  • Customer-focus - why this remains a challenge in the public sector
  • Standards and principles - the current state of play
  • Committment: real of virtual? - how to address the frequently found gap between what is said and what is done
  • Success factors: what stands in the way of success; a more recent survey and a new factor added


  • Case study updates - what has happened to our 2003-4 cases?
  • Four new case studies - Dept of Works and Pensions, Natural England, State Records of South Australia, Australia's Natural Resources Audit
  • Updated hyperlinks - where websites have changed
  • More references - including hypertext links to full-text content
  • Updated resource list - including new additions

Key Features

  • Insights into latest thinking and trends
  • Results from a specially commissioned survey
  • Explores key drivers for KM in the public sector
  • Identifies differences between public and private sector knowledge management
  • Explains how to make a compelling business case for KM in the public sector
  • Describes good practice examples and lessons learned from more than 35 case studies
  • Provides action checklists for your own KM activities
  • Demonstrates how to overcome key barriers and pitfalls
  • Discerns key challenges for the future.

Whether you are in policy making or service delivery, in central or local government, in a government department or a public agency, this report is essential reading for those who are involved in improving public sector performance.

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

Chapter 1. Introduction: The KM Difference
- Public Sector Plays Catch Up?
- Our Survey
- Drivers for KM in the Public Sector
- Differences: public vs. private sector
- The Core Practices
- The Bottom Line
- Making the business case

Chapter 2. Knowledge-based Policy Making
- Policy Development: The Knowledge Perspective
- Knowledge Processes
- Policy outputs
- Knowledge Pools
- KM Techniques for Policy Development
- e-Democracy

Chapter 3. Knowledge Enhanced Government
- The Virtuous Knowledge Cycle
- The knowledge audit
- Harvesting Knowledge
- Organising knowledge
- Sharing Best practice
- Creating Collaborative Communities
- Maintaining and Enhancing Knowledge

Chapter 4. Joined-Up Services
- Delivering e-Government
- Portals - Gateways to Knowledge
- Creating a Customer Focus
- Life Events
- Managing Content
- Collaborative Parnerships

Chapter 5. Enhancing KM Capabilities
- A Capabilities Planning Framework
- Governance and Regulatory
- Information management principles (examples)
- KM development and management processes
- Standards
- National KM Strategies
- KM Leadership
- KM Roles and Skills
- Promulgating Best KM Practices

Chapter 6. The Journey To Success
- Getting Started
- Developing a Robust Strategy
- Gaining Commitment
- Programme and Project Management
- Managing Change
- Delivering the Benefits
- Key Success Factors
- Challenges and Pitfalls
- Future Directions

Chapter 7. Summary and Conclusions

Appendix: Useful Resources


Over 30 case studies and examples, including:

  • International Collaboration: ActKM Community, UK Office of E-Envoy, Beep best practices database
  • National KM Programmes: UK Office of E-Envoy, Federal CIO Council, Finland's Parliament of the Future
  • Government Departments: Navy, Highways, Health, Trade and Industy
  • National Agencies: Education, NASA, GSA, Small Business Service (UK), AIPA (Italy)
  • State/Regional/County Government: Berkshire Health, State of Victoria, Hertfordshire County Council
  • City/Town Government: Brisbane, Liverpool, Swedish municipalities
  • Communities: IdEA (UK local authorities), London boroughs.

See sample page (PDF - opens in new window)

Details and Ordering Information

Public Sector - Public Knowledge by David J Skyrme
Published by Ark Group/David Skyrme Associates (December 2003). Pages: 136pp plus index.
Original publisher's price: US$595; UK£345; Euro: 495.
Now much reduced, together with 2008 update supplement - see details of supplement above, and new prices below.

Available in PDF Only - This version has embedded hyperlinks
View sample pages (PDF) (opens in new window).

New Lower Price:
Single-user: US$145; UK£90; Euro: 100.
Multi-user / organization: US$245; UK£150; Euro: 150.

Supplement only (size: 293K) for purchasers of the original report:
Price: US$30; UK£17.50; Euro:20.

If you have any special requests/quotations or would like a hard-copy order form / pro-forma invoice sent by post, please email (or telephone +44 1635 253545). Be sure to include your full postal address and telephone number if you want us to contact you that way.

Last updated: 4th May 2011

Looking for practical guidance?

km roadmap Our KM roadmap takes you through the various stages of a knowledge management programme and gives helpful tips based on two decades of our experience.

KM: practice and pitfalls
KM presentation

A presentation (PDF) that goes through the elements of a KM initiative including several of the most useful practices for sharing and managing knowledge; there are several slides on specific cases


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