Michele Gentry and Robert Jacobs, Project Directors
If you are reading this, you may have decided it is time to take knowledge management (KM) seriously. Perhaps you have seen the effects of lost knowledge and are working from lessons learned. Or maybe you are a visionary who understands there is no time like the present to get things underway. So how do you begin establishing your KM strategy? EquaTerra recommends these essential steps.
1. Clearly understand what a knowledge lifecycle includes. Articulate your vision and the importance it has on your strategic business objectives to your knowledge stakeholders. Then, compose a team and insure the proper level of sponsorship and attention.
2. Establish a timeline. Determine how much time you want to dedicate to the initiative in terms of lifecycle steps. Investment in the right resources is just as important as the investment in the right technology.
3. Identify a knowledge manager and project owner. Make sure the person serving as the knowledge manager clearly understands the mission and vision. If he or she is not a project manager by nature, enlist the help needed to stay on track.
4. Determine those within your organization today who maintain the largest repositories of intellectual capital. Keep in mind it might be tacit knowledge resulting from years of experience that would be lost if they left the company or a tragedy struck, or more tangible data maintained on hard drives or in file cabinets. How accessible is the information? How close to retirement are the people that possess it? It’s important to understand these factors when considering your approach to knowledge assimilation.
5. Identify what knowledge capture processes exist today. Sources to consider include web portals, collaboration sites like SharePoint, and helpdesk or call centers, either internal or external, that support your customers or employees. Other relevant sources may include HR, legal, communications and risk management departments. If knowledge is managed by a third-party provider, make sure it is transferrable in a format you are able to accept. Should the contract end, you will want to ensure you have all information at your fingertips.
6. Call on all business units and departments to determine and list the information most important to them, where it is housed, and how they would recommend extracting it to a common and secure repository. For example, business units may seek out data associated with specific customer information, legal entities for information relative to articles of incorporation, policies, signed statements, minutes of previous board or steering committee meetings, or compiled research obtained or purchased on behalf of the organization. HR departments might seek research on insurance vendors or past practices of the organization in terms of people care. From an IT perspective, a helpdesk may look at the most frequently received requests or incidents and develop knowledge elements for analysts to expeditiously troubleshoot and resolve. A marketing department might look at the history of campaigns and their resulting successes. Your governing board may place importance on the historical information surrounding the founders of the organization. Your IT department might maintain data within your business continuity plan specific to systems and applications. Every department and business unit should be considered a stakeholder and offer suggestions as it relates to the work they do.
7. Vet and prioritize the suggestions. Then, determine what information is most relevant to the business and how best to assemble or extract it.
8. Label each knowledge artifact to ensure proper tracking. Include, at minimum, the source, current location, format, age and current owner.
9. Validate the information. It will be critical to your initiative that knowledge is evaluated for accuracy and applicability to the business environment. This is part of the overall lifecycle and, once established, will drive the evolution of knowledge over time.
10. Start the lifecycle and don’t forget to measure and report at the stakeholder and leadership levels on how knowledge is being captured as part of your strategic planning efforts. Track the number of defined and prioritized knowledge elements discovered through the preceding steps. Ensure accountability of all process stakeholders through regular communications on the effort and activities to date. Make the updates part of a regular governance review. Follow and trust the process.
As with all new initiatives, getting your knowledge lifecycle up and running will take time and commitment. To learn more on this topic, read the related white paper, “Knowledge Management Makes a Comeback. A Knowledge Management Primer: What it is, How to Get Started, Manage it Going Forward and Calculate ROI.”