By Hugh McKellar, KMWorld executive editor
CKOs and other knowledge management professionals have been hearing the increasing drumbeat of ROI, ROI, ROI about KM initiatives for the past couple of years. In many quarters, even the term knowledge management became taboo—or at least mentioned only in a whisper. A recent Outsell study supports those views but also notes that KM is hot again because organizations are required to fully exploit their IT investments—and that bodes well for the KM profession. Outsell does emphasize, though, that the number of KM pros has declined and that their responsibilities are leaning more heavily to the practical side and away from the theoretical.
But before CKOs and other practitioners simply roll up their sleeves and grab wrenches to give their intranets or other IT systems a tuneup, they should be aware that there is still a whole lot of good, new thinking about knowledge management that’s readily available. I think everyone agrees that KM is neither pure technology or pure theory, it’s an amalgamation of both and it would be unwise to abandon one for the other. So, with that in mind, here are just a few of the books that have crossed my desk in the past couple of months that I recommend to anyone who is even mildly serious about knowledge management.
As you can see from the illustration on page 1, the corporate portal market is far from mature—though growth is slowing, there is still an incredible amount of untapped potential. So, you just may want to pick up a copy of José Claudio Terra and Cindy Gordon’s book Realizing the Promise of Corporate Portals. If you a pure pragmatist, the largely case study format will be tremendously appealing. While we’re on the portal topic, Enterprise Information Portals and Knowledge Management by Joe Firestone is an excellent read. He does spend a fair amount of time describing his view of knowledge, which is a valuable contribution to KM literature in itself, but I found the greatest value in his definition of a true EIP and how the leading portals on the market measure up. You’ve noticed, I’m sure, that Firestone is contributing a monthly column updating and analyzing various portal solutions. Firestone’s book is part of a new Knowledge Management Consortium International imprint for Butterworth-Heinemann, another title from which is Mark McElroy’s The New Knowledge Management. McElroy argues that KM has moved into a new generation, one in which knowledge production, as well as sharing, is emphasized along with the integration of organizational learning.
Returning to the less theoretical, Hubert Saint-Onge and Debra Wallace have collaborated on Leveraging Communities of Practice. By definition, COPs must be practical, but successfully implementing and aligning them with organizational goals is the true challenge. If you’re interested in harvesting the values of COPs, this is the only book you’ll need.
For inspiration, you really should turn to The Future of KnowledgeThe Knowledge Evolution, which in many ways revolutionized thinking about business value. Her new book is equally visionary and should be required reading by anyone in a business leadership position. (It just so happens that these titles have been published by Butterworth-Heinemann. Although these recommendations are not a specific endorsement of the publisher, B-H deserves credit for its commitment to KM.)
I can’t sign off without calling attention to a new book in the works by KMWorld Senior Writer Judith Lamont, the working title of which is Knowledge Management Meets E-Learning, to be published this year by the book division of our parent company, Information Today