Invariably introducing - or improving - an orgnization's knowledge management capabilities places demands on information and communications technology. The starting points are any deficiencies highlighted by the IT systems and infrastructure assessment, needs emerging from the knowledge audit, and the demands of the KM strategy.
Typical of the kinds of requirements that emerge are:
- Some improvements in basic infrastructure, such as providing appropriate access devices for professional staff, improdivng remote aceess (for working out-of-office or at home) and increasing network bandwidth.
- Consolidation of a plethora of spreadsheets or databases into a more cohesive database.
- Personal productivity tools for knowledge workers - this may be as simple as exploiting (and explaining through training) features that already exist in office software suites, though it may include other aids such as 'mind mapping' software.
- A content management environment, so that it is easy for knowledge workers to publish information on a corporate 'portal' or intranet.
- An improved 'search' capability.
- More automated work flow and processes linked to relevant databases.
The diagram below is another way of depicting the ICT contribution to KM, showing phases of the knowledge cycle as a value chain.
Project Scoping and Planning
If your organization is already fairly mature in its IT approach, it should have the following for you to link in the KM requirements:
- An IT strategy - ensure that this incorporates the requirements for KM; it is not unusual for a KM strategy to force rewriting of an IT strategy to be more user-centric
- An IT architecture - the efects of KM are most apparent at the upper (user access and application) layers; pay particular attention to remote access to and security of core information.
- A set of project plans - again, make sure that KM needs are taken into account; if necessary additional projects will be required to address KM requirements; in many cases both ICT and KM projects are really business projects with a strong ICT component.
- Clear processes for approving major new investments in such projects, as well as good processes for making minor routine improvements - some KM requirements need only minor changes to existing systems, such as adding additional fields and outputs to existing databases.
- A project methodology such as PRINCE2 - properly followed, such a methodology embraces several aspects of good KM, such as Project Stage Reviews that are similar to AARs. In general, though, we have found that a simpler methodology is more suited to KM projects, particularly to aid communication with business managers and to gain their support - an example will be added later.
Of course, not every organization wanting to embark on KM has all these elements in place, or if they are, they are bureed in the depths of the IT department or with external consultants and are unfathomable to the average business manager. The KM initiative may therefore, as the author has discovered on his assignments particularly in mid-sized and public sector organizations, initiate clearer processes for initiating and managing business-focussed ICT projects. Since this is yet another new change for the organization, it is important to make these processes as simple as possible commensurate with 'fitness for purpose'.
Another important aspect of ICT planning is that of standards. The need for information management 'standards' was discussed in KM governance. Here, we need to consider what technical standards are required to improve information management. We are not directly concerned with technical architecture standards per se, such as XHTML for the internet, but rather standards such as:
- Document and records management - the overall process for managing documents; what distinguishes a record from a document; ownership and sharing. Examples of such standards are ISO 15489:2001 and MoReq2 (Model Requirements for Electronic Records Management specification).
- Metadata - attributes that describe an information element, such author, title, audience etc. The eGMS (eGovernment Metadata Standard) based on the Dublin Core is an example.
- Content management workflow - how documents move through various stages from creation to online publishing, including the approvals process.
- Access and security - the considerations that affect permissions for accessing various types of document, or even knowing of its existence, e.g. would a 'search' reveal that a given document exists or not?
- Retention and disposal - the timescales under which documents are reviewed, retained or disposed. A retention schedule gives general guidelines for different types of document/record by subject and type.
- Document storage guidelines - what information is stored where; which databases, systems or physical repositories; an associated standard might cover scanning of legacy hard-copy documents.
- Email management - both an 'email charter' (guidance) for effective use of email by users and the technical aspects of storing and filing emails and managing accounts. Consideration must also be given to what happens when someone leaves. Too often their email accounts are deleted along with important information that may be needed later.
As with other aspects of KM, a good body of practice will grow over time. When starting, the important thing is to identify which elements are crucial for ongoing success and to what degree of detail they need to be specified. The good knowledge manager is one who can achieve the delicate balance of enforcing some degree of harmonization for the common good alongside allowing individual teams the flexibility to do the bet thing for their part of the business.
Last updated: 19th March 2011