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Three trends shaping the direction of KM in 2019

This article appears in the issue May/June 2019 [Volume 28, Issue 3]
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Cloud migration requires KM bandwidth, but provides benefits

Don’t let the data on automation and AI adoption fool you. Technology change remains top-of-mind for many KM teams. In fact, two-thirds of survey respondents reported that their organizations are undergoing some form of digital transformation. But KM’s current role in these initiatives centers on helping the enterprise transition to integrated digital platforms such as Office 365. Such platforms are by far the most popular KM technology to add or upgrade in 2019 (Figure 2).

Early adopters started moving their KM activities to Office 365 and similar cloud platforms a few years ago, but the pace of adoption has accelerated quickly. Vendors are increasingly pushing organizations in this direction, and CIOs see potential for cost savings and other benefits. Whereas some KM leaders advocated for their firms’ transition to cloud-based software, others are being forced to adapt to technology decisions made upstream from them. In most cases, the migration of content and collaboration to the cloud is happening whether KM leaders are ready for it or not.

The good news is that KM programs can realize significant benefits when they transition to cloud platforms. With built-in integrations, it’s easier to push relevant content to employees based on their personas and behaviors across platforms. Better integration also helps anchor knowledge in workflows and business applications. Instead of toggling between platforms to work on projects, find expertise, and download content, employees have everything they need in one system. And access from home computers and mobile devices makes cloud-based knowledge more readily available.

All of this puts knowledge at employees’ fingertips—sometimes even before they realize they need it—and, as a result, boosts adoption and reuse. APQC’s benchmarking research proves this out: KM programs with 10% or more of their software in the cloud have markedly higher participation rates than their peers.

Agile and design thinking help KM be more nimble and responsive

Agile is a methodology to manage complex projects. The basic concept is that a small team works in short (typically, 2-week) bursts called “sprints,” frequently demoing features and incorporating customer feedback, to deliver a product or solution. Born in the world

of software development, the agile methodology has taken the business world by storm and is now applied in a variety of disciplines and industries.

Design thinking is another methodology that’s quickly gaining popularity in and beyond KM. It is a human-centric, solutions-based approach to

problem solving, and it’s particularly useful for addressing complex or ill-defined challenges.

The methodology consists of five phases:

  1. Empathize—understand the customer and their needs.
  2. Define—scope the problem from the customer perspective.
  3. Ideate—brainstorm potential solutions.
  4. Prototype—develop minimally feasible models of potential solutions.
  5. Test—conduct a series of assessments on the applicability of the prototypes.

Design thinking can provide value in many ways, the biggest of which is customer centricity. The front end of the process is entirely focused on understanding the needs, applications, and challenges of the customer—and as a result, everything that follows is scoped and developed in the customer’s context. The technique also promotes creativity by giving teams the time, space, and permission to generate multiple potential solutions to any given problem.

Agile and design thinking are known to be gaining popularity in KM, but the sheer number of organizations diving into these methodologies in 2019 is surprising. It’s clear that, while new technologies are a huge impetus for KM change, there’s even more energy around tools to help KM programs cope with tech innovation and shifting organizational priorities.

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