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KM's role in facilities management

Initiatives cry out for expert services

Facilities management, as applied to high-tech applications, includes on-site implementation of demanding technology, including copiers, printers, networks, servers and other business-critical systems. Typical facilities management includes staffing, training, support and operations management, including hardware, software and related development services."

The term migrated from building maintenance and janitorial services to high-volume copying and duplicating operations manned and operated by major players like Xerox, EDS, IBM and the rest of the big guys.

Knowledge management demands expertise from many disciplines and departments. In most corporations, the people, process and KM components are controlled by different individuals, with different daily tasks and divergent strategic objectives. It would make sense to outsource the complex work of KM initiatives to expert agencies.

And since most KM projects involve in-house information assets, in both people and technology, it seems practical to bring KM experts on site to provide ongoing analysis and development services.

So what is it like to apply a straight facilities management contract, results-oriented business services approach to knowledge management?

Steve Goodfellow of Access Systems is a KM practitioner consulting for a globally known research-oriented industrial client.

"The client's information silos need to be integrated, for example, using CORBA to access legacy systems. But the human info silos have to be considered too," Goodfellow says. "That's why HR attends our knowledge management planning meetings, to reward and understand the intangible KM in people's experience.

"In our KM initiatives group, we meet with IT, records management, library, information management and human resources," Goodfellow continues. "We outsource highly specific skills like library science, like hiring expert librarians to design our taxonomies. No one in the organization has these skills. Managing the process of choosing, focusing and engaging outside expertise is in effect KM outsourcing."

Donna Wray is chief intranet strategist for Medical Broadcasting Company, which provides consulting services to the pharmaceutical industry. "There is an enormous potential for improving team effectiveness through knowledge management, but implementing good technology only takes you half of the way," Wray says. "Most of our clients have not evolved to recognize or staff for the need for people to assist with capturing, organizing and updating information--essential to keeping the momentum going."

To address that crucial threat to the success of any knowledge management implementation, MBC offers a hands-on management option.

"We find the facilities management approach the most effective," Wray explains. "A full-time person at the client's site can greatly improve team efficiency and effectiveness and capture team knowledge midstream. One of our staff analysts has been on site supporting a team knowledge environment since 1998, and being available face-to-face has meant many more opportunities to capture and exploit team knowledge--a key part of this successful system."

Facilities management will become an in-demand consulting service in the near future, now that even IBM/Lotus and Xerox have adopted the terminology of KM. In the past, Xerox Services has done full-scale implementation and staffing of on-site, business-critical copying and printing operations--the classic example of facilities management.

The demanding set of skills and labor for knowledge management implementation cries out for expert services companies to offer outsourcing. Facilities providers could afford the experts required in each discipline, and offer highly accomplished operations managers that could launch world-class KM initiatives, including all the necessary disciplines

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