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How does your KM program measure up?

If you put five people in a room and ask them to define knowledge management, you'll quite likely get a dozen different answers. I'm pretty sure, though, that you can get them to agree on at least one bare-bones concept: KM means getting the right information to the right people at the right time.

If we follow that premise, then, it's safe to say nearly every organization—large or small—attempts to engage in KM. But how are the programs structured? Where does knowledge management "live?" What kinds of technology tools are deployed and how? Who heads the initiative? What's the cost per employee? And how does one program stack up against another of similar size in a similar industry?

Until a few weeks ago, I wasn't aware of any trulywell-designed studies that address those particular questions, which are immensely important to KMWorld and to assessing the value of knowledge management. That why I'm so impressed with the American Productivity & Quality Center's (APQC) PowerMARQ survey, which tackles those very issues for the purpose of measuring the impact of KM.

Wesley Vestal, project leader for APQC's KM business, explains that PowerMARQ (a jazzy term for "powerful benchmarking") is the latest iteration of the organization's ongoing study based on its roadmap to KM implementation methodology: 1) getting started, 2) developing strategies, 3) launching pilots, 4) expanding and supporting, and 5) institutionalization.

The goal of the survey is to identify where companies are in the evolutionary cycle of KM. Is management driving people to look for quantitative outcomes they can link to KM activities? Or are qualitative anecdotes of success all management needs to understand and justify existence and expense of those programs? Does the creation of a special business case for KM have an effect on success metrics? Is a KM program that grows out of an organic process any less or more effective? In early findings—a demographic base of 38 enterprises whose employee base ranges from 14,500 to 350,000 and annual revenues from $2.2 billion to $162 billion—about half developed the formal business case with an intentional design, so those metrics can be a little easier to track. The database is still small, but it does include information from nearly every type of industry. And only through increased participation will greater value be added to the survey.

That's why I strongly urge you to participate by taking the time to complete the survey—go to apqc.org/powermarq. Everyone who completes the survey will receive a copy of the results from APQC, so you can assess how you compare with other companies of your size, in your industry and your KM maturity level—incredibly valuable information. Plus, as the database of information becomes further populated, APQC's Vestal will be writing a series of exclusive articles for KMWorld, analyzing the results so we can all understand the impact of knowledge management on business outcomes.

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