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Accelerators of KM maturity: Part 2

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Second, there are statistically significant relationships between the establishment of formal steering committees and the standardization of KM processes, approaches and technology. For example, 52 percent of organizations with advisory committees use standard methods to capture and retain valuable individual knowledge, compared to only 21 percent of organizations without such committees. Organizations with committees are also significantly more likely to support knowledge flow with standard tools built into core business processes and workflows.

This link to greater standardization may be due to the cross-functional committee’s role in sponsoring a common strategy and toolkit. By bringing together representatives from relevant stakeholder groups, a steering committee ensures that everyone has a voice in setting the strategic direction of the KM program and an opportunity to evaluate and approve new tools and approaches before they’re rolled out. This, in turn, minimizes resistance to change, boosts adoption rates and promotes consistency across the enterprise.

Strategic alignment and enterprisewide standardization both contribute to the final outcome associated with a formal steering or advisory committee: the ability to apply institutional knowledge for consistent business benefit. By focusing the KM core team on the right objectives and driving cross-functional adoption of tools and approaches, a steering committee can accelerate adoption of replicable, scalable KM processes (which are the hallmark of Level 3 and above on APQC’s five-stage maturity model). The result is that organizations with advisory committees are nearly twice as likely to leverage knowledge for competitive advantage—a result coveted by KM programs at every stage of development.

Secure active champions and resources from the business units

In discussing the benefits of KM steering committees, we mentioned the role such committees play in building business-unit support for KM. Stakeholder buy-in does not always stem from a cross-functional advisory group, but regardless of source, it is an essential component of a healthy KM program.

Whether the roles are formal or informal, KM champions embedded in the business units are instrumental in connecting the KM core team to users and increasing engagement in the KM strategy and toolkit. Those representatives speak “the language of the business” and are able to describe the KM value proposition in terms their colleagues can understand—especially if they relate KM activities to the specific goals of their functions, departments or locations. In many cases, they also act as beta testers for new KM approaches, telling the KM core team whether a tool will work in their part of the business and suggesting tweaks or improvements. But perhaps most importantly, KM champions promote and endorse KM tools and approaches, ensuring that employees know how to use them and providing a local point of contact if they get confused or stuck.

APQC’s assessment data reinforces the importance of business champions and their contributions to the ultimate success of the KM effort. In testing relationships between KM capabilities, we noticed a strong link between active KM champions and the allocation of business unit resources to KM. Among organizations with KM champions and sponsors inside business units or disciplines, 41 percent report that business units directly allocate resources for KM capability and knowledge asset development, compared to only 8 percent without active champions and sponsors.

That is an important indicator of program effectiveness because business units tend to fund KM only after they fully accept the value of the program and the time employees spend capturing and sharing knowledge. The designation of business-unit resources is also tied to the overall maturity of the KM effort and the presence of advanced knowledge capabilities. For example, organizations where business units allocate employee time and funds to KM are five times more likely to designate organizational knowledge as a marketable asset or major attribute.

It’s hard to say whether business-unit sponsorship is the prerequisite or natural result of an effective KM program. Perhaps it is best to say that the two go hand-in-hand. If KM tools and approaches align with organizational goals and make day-to-day work easier, then both top-down and grassroots support for KM naturally grows. And a robust network of engaged stakeholders, in turn, makes it easier to sustain and build on KM successes over time, expanding and enhancing tools and capabilities to target evolving business needs.

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