Conducting a Knowledge Audit

The term information audit is often used synonymously with knowledge audit. However, a true knowledge audit will take into account tacit knowledge as well as information (explicit knowledge).

It is essentially an assessment of the knowledge needs and knowledge sources within an organization. Contrast with a KM assessment, which looks at the KM capabilities within an organization.

The Steps

knowledge audit

The diagram above shows the steps followed in a typical audit:

1. Scoping and planning how wide and deep the audit should be; what areas to cover; how much effort to invest.

2. Fact-finding the core activity that involves collecting data on knowledge needs, accessibility and quality of knowledge, knowledge flows and blockages.

3. Analysis and interpretation identifying critical knowledge areas needing more attention, for example based on their overall importance versus their current usefulness; uncovering knowledge gaps and duplication.

4. Developing deliverables as well as a report, these may include lists and characteristics of knowledge resources and sources; the output of an audit feeds into a KM strategy and action plan.

5. Stimulating action simply reporting on the state of knowledge resources will not change them for the better; this stage is about integrating audit results into the the ongoing KM action plan.

6. Review and revisit an audit should not simply be a once-off exercise, but a process that is repeated, say annually, to review progress.

The Deliverables

The output of an audit may be presented in various ways. Some of the commonly used ones are:

  • A knowledge inventory - either in spreadsheets or a database identifying information sources, ownership and usage
  • Knowledge maps - visual representations of domains of knowledge, such as depicted in a hierarchical knowledge tree
  • 'Rich pictures' - visual schematics that represent knowledge within the context of business processes or decision-making
  • Formal reports - perhaps on a division by division basis, highlighting key findings
  • Frameworks - that depict the relationships between different stores and different types of knowledge.

When developing outputs the key think to bear in mind is

"What kind of output will stimulate a positive response from the key stakeholders in the business."

Further Reading

  • Best Practices: The Knowledge Audit - an overview of benefits, the steps, pitfalls, a checklist, examples and links to external resources.
  • K-Guide: Knowing What You and Need to Know - the definitive 50-page guide which gives further information on the various steps involved in conducting a knowledge audit, as well as the related processes of systems and business process analysis. It includes practical guidelines, pitfalls to avoid and seven informative case studies. Price: $20. Available from our K-Shop.

Last updated: 31st January 2013


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