Many knowledge management initiatives focus on technology first, but some fail to venture far beyond that. The outcome of a platform-centric approach is often a great KM software implementation without much visibility or use.
While it seems intuitive to look at the process holistically, it is easy to ride the wave of internal support, flowing budgets and internal politics to first purchase a system and then figure out later how to make it work. Consider turning this equation around to examine the vital other aspects of an effective knowledge management system.
Following are six non-negotiables to consider before you choose, or at least in tandem with your evaluation of, a knowledge management platform.
1. Put Due Diligence First
You don't want to ask, "We just bought a KM System, now what?” First, understand the problems you are looking to solve, including your workflow and business needs. If that doesn’t seem as easy as it should be, get some professional knowledge management guidance. Consider connecting with trade groups such as the Knowledge Management Association or Special Libraries Association, or attend and network at one of the many trade events, conferences and seminars dedicated to KM provided throughout the year.
2. Consider All Opinions
Gather input and feedback from all stakeholders. Remember that everyone has an opinion. The sooner you listen to and collect those opinions, the better.
Let’s say, however, that you have done the legwork, gathered requirements, documented the workflow and interviewed people across all aspects of the business. But you are still getting pushback from teams or leadership about specific aspects of the plan.
Before succumbing to frustration, understand what’s behind the resistance. Remember:
- Team members within a part of the process may not see, understand or care about the big picture. You will always have stakeholders who look only at the impact it will have on their daily work, and you will need to deal with their personal concerns.
- Success comes from buy-in at all levels, from entry level employees to senior leadership. Leaders at any level are your ambassadors of change who will help you keep acceptance and adoption rates as high as possible, while grassroots enthusiasm from below will facilitate support and participation. You want as many evangelists as possible.
- Solicit good, constructive feedback. Listen to the user community and strive to accommodate all valid needs. People generally know their jobs and what they need to be successful.
3. Assume Resistance to Change
As the KM thought leader and project manager, set expectations by clearly defining and communicating what users will experience every step of the way. Be an effective change management leader, which at some points may feel like you’re struggling to keep the bus on the road while changing the tires at 50 mph.
While you are focused on technology, workflow and process, people are thinking about their jobs and perhaps feeling like it is one more burden to add to their to-do lists. With that in mind, consider and communicate:
- What are the benefits overall and at each workflow function?
- How does the KM initiative correlate with and support corporate goals?
4. See Everyone on One Team
It's easy and often common for silos within an organization to have some rivalry – an US vs. THEM mentality – be it division versus division, creative versus operations, law versus research, etc. Finding ways to get everyone on the same page and feeling like they’re all in it together, working toward the same goals, will make for an easier implementation and better results.
5. Embrace Metadata and Governance; They Matter
There is no better way to guarantee failure than to focus solely on the technology or fail to give serious thought to an effective metadata strategy. No matter how appropriately matched your system is to your needs, without metadata – or inconsistent metadata – no technology will work as promised.
- Define your metadata strategy and a minimum standard data set required for assets in your KM environment.
- Look to build workflow automation on top of your workflow definition and metadata strategy, make that information work for you.
How do you know if you have adopted a good metadata strategy? You won’t really find out until you have built up some content. If information assets remain undiscoverable and users can’t find something, then you have not succeeded in building an effective KM system.
6. Address Rights Management
Your employer can keep workflow operating smoothly with effective rights management, which dictates accessibility and defines how materials can be reused moving onward. It won't matter if users can quickly find something if they discover it’s restricted or otherwise unavailable for their use. Consider how your organization grants rights to external users of the system – contractors, temporary staff, anyone who is not an employee yet contributes to your company’s knowledgebase. Have you considered their access, allowing them to work only with the information they need to know?
Depending on the type of business you are in, rights management can impact content, usage, distribution and ownership.
These non-negotiables make the technology selection look quite easy by comparison. As challenging as some of these items may be to address, tackling them head on at the outset of your project will clear your way forward for success.