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Knowledge management thrives on partnership

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IT and information strategy

In analyzing the data, one of the biggest gaps APQC saw is between KM programs that are integrated or tightly partnered with the IT/information strategy function and those that are not. The difference in perceived effectiveness is particularly stark: KM programs with strong IT relationships are 70% more likely to be perceived as effective or very effective by leadership. The difference around budget approval is less dramatic, but IT-linked KM programs are 40% more likely to anticipate that their next budget approval will be easy or very easy.

The importance of a strong KM/IT partnership cannot be overemphasized, especially in organizations where most knowledge is shared, accessed, and consumed through digital channels. Many KM efforts falter because of poorly designed IT solutions—or because they lead with technology and let that dictate the KM strategy.

When KM works hand-in-hand with IT, it is better able to source knowledge technologies that suit the needs of the business and employees’ expectations for working and sharing in a streamlined, modern way. Frequent and open collaboration with IT also helps KM teams tackle potential technical problems (e.g., integrations and system incompatibility) early in the design and development phase of their KM deployments, before they endanger project timelines or become embedded in the final product where they impede the user experience. We suspect this is why KM programs that team up with their IT counterparts are so much more likely to be rated as effective by senior leaders.

Process improvement and quality

The advantages of partnering KM with quality and process improvement groups are less pronounced than for functions such as learning and IT. But where an organization has successful process improvement or quality efforts in place, aligning KM with those initiatives can provide distinct advantages.

As with learning and development, collaboration between KM and process improvement/quality teams can reduce overhead and consolidate the guidance that busy employees must assimilate. But beyond these efficiencies, KM and process improvement/quality have a natural affinity that makes partnership mutually beneficial.

Both process improvement and quality benefit from the free flow of knowledge across the enterprise. Any effort to transfer new methodologies, tips and tricks, or lessons learned among teams is likely to help the organization adopt standard best practices and avoid failures and defects. And if the organization already has measures in place to gauge process efficiency and quality, KM may be able to use those metrics to demonstrate the value that knowledge sharing and collaboration bring.

All of this helps explain why KM programs that are fully integrated or tightly partnered with process improvement/quality are 38% more likely to be rated as effective or very effective by senior leaders.

Taking the next step on partnerships

The research proves what seasoned knowledge managers have known for years: KM can do more in a cohort than it can on its own. And the emergence of new technologies for KM makes cross-functional collaboration more important than ever.

Cloud platforms make it easier—and more imperative—for KM, learning, and quality/process improvement to integrate the resources they offer employees and provide one cohesive user experience. All three functions must work more closely with IT to bridge the gap between problems and solutions and apply the right mix of new technologies to business and employee needs. And most interestingly, digital transformation projects are pushing KM programs to pursue less traditional partnerships with innovation, digital workplace, and new ventures teams in order to fund experiments with natural language processing, chatbots, intelligent automation, and AI.

If a KM program historically has not played well with others, now is a good time to change the approach. And even if there are already strong collaborative relationships, strengthening those ties—and forging new ones with less obvious partners—can help prepare for the people, process, and technology changes taking shape as part of digital transformation.

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