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Accelerators of KM maturity: Part 4

This article appears in the issue April 2016 [Volume 25, Issue 4]
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Measure adoption, engagement, satisfaction and impact

Deciding on the right KM measures is vital, but it is only half the story. Once you agree on what you will track, you must create a system to collect the data and monitor performance over time. As Figure 2 chart shows (Download chart of Figure 2, also on page 27, KMWorld, April 2016, Volume 25, Issue 4) , organizations with KM measurement systems are five times more likely to recognize the impact of applying KM to business challenges and opportunities. Measurement systems are also an essential precursor to collecting evidence of cycle time or cost reduction due to knowledge reuse.

What should these systems track? The answer depends on the tool or approach, as well as the organization’s overall level of KM maturity. For newer KM programs, it makes sense to focus on participation and engagement metrics such as the number of employees joining communities of practice, the percentage of communities with active discussion forums/threads, the number of lessons learned submitted to an online repository or downloads from a central knowledgebase. Such measures help the KM team realize what does (and doesn’t) work in various parts of the business, spot problems early on and tweak its efforts over time. They also help validate the initial KM value proposition and bolster the case for additional funding and resources.

Along with participation rates, developing KM programs should use surveys, focus groups or other channels to monitor employee satisfaction with KM tools and approaches. Participation statistics can point to a problem with a particular KM initiative or user group, but only qualitative feedback can tell the KM team why participation is lagging and what the specific problems are. Thus, it makes sense that organizations with mechanisms to assess satisfaction are more than five times more likely to successfully identify and address barriers to knowledge sharing and use (Download chart of Figure 3, on page 28, KMWorld, April 2016, Volume 25, Issue 4).

In addition, requesting—and then acting on—user feedback makes employees feel like their opinions are valued, which strengthens engagement and buy-in. This is probably why 79 percent of organizations that assess satisfaction have secured KM champions and advocates across the enterprise, compared to only 21 percent that do not.

Once baselines have been established, the KM program can start defining the value path by which KM tools and approaches affect the organization’s overall strategic goals. That involves correlating KM participation data with outcomes important to the organization, such as employee or customer retention, reduced costs per transaction, or new and follow-on business. With that information in hand, you can illustrate the true value of KM in supporting key objectives and driving the business forward.

Assess maturity and monitor progress

The measures described here serve a variety of purposes, from comparing the efficacy of KM approaches and identifying adoption barriers within specific user groups to justifying KM funding and resource requests. However, the final piece of the measurement puzzle requires the KM team to turn its focus inward and investigate the evolution and development of the KM program itself.

Organizations often ask us why they should complete our KM Capability Assessment Tool. Will that type of in-depth evaluation really make a difference? Each organization has its own motives for assessment: It may want to demonstrate progress toward goals, determine priorities for improvement or build a business case for future investment. But analysis of APQC’s data reveals additional reasons to assess. In short, organizations that track their KM maturity are significantly more likely to achieve other higher-level capabilities related to standardization, alignment, enhancement and expansion (Download chart of Figure 4, also on page 28, KMWorld, April 2016, Volume 25, Issue 4).

First, because assessment forces organizations to scrutinize and recalibrate the focus of their KM programs at regular intervals, those that assess are significantly more likely to achieve ongoing alignment between KM and business strategy and to ensure that KM is embedded in current business processes and domains. The soul-searching required to complete an assessment—as well as the results—help KM leaders realize where their efforts may be failing, which is why organizations that assess boost their chance of addressing knowledge-sharing barriers by a factor of four.

Routine assessment reaffirms the strategic value of the KM program, enabling KM leaders to secure dynamic resourcing structures in which KM methodologies, competencies and infrastructure can be expanded and enhanced to meet demand. And finally, assessment helps KM formulate a solid business case for program expansion to new domains based on predicted gains and impact to the organization.

All of this supports our hypothesis that a periodic, formal assessment of KM maturity and capabilities helps organizations recognize the strengths and weaknesses of their current KM capabilities and take deliberate steps to improve to the next level.


When APQC talks to KM leaders about their measurement strategies, many express an urgent desire to demonstrate early ROI in order to secure the leadership support and resources necessary for ongoing operations. However, it is important to put measurement goals in their logical order. The KM team should start by defining key performance indicators that reflect its objectives and the results it wants to achieve. Then, those KPIs should be incorporated into a holistic measurement system that monitors all aspects of KM program performance, including adoption of KM tools and approaches, engagement and satisfaction across the user population, maturity of KM capabilities and impact of KM activities on related business outcomes.

Such measures help the KM team realize what does (and doesn’t) work in various parts of the business, spot problems early on and tweak its efforts over time. They also help build connections between KM and business outcomes and provide the raw materials necessary to start calculating ROI.

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