As difficult and painful as the early 2020s have been, they have delivered significant opportunities for knowledge management. The pandemic—and the fluctuations and rapid-fire changes reverberating in its wake— exposed knowledge gaps and risks within organizations, value chains, and global economies. People urgently needed information and expertise to adapt and troubleshoot, right when social distancing cut them off from traditional modes of interaction and knowledge exchange. Leaders started to see enterprise knowledge needs in a more urgent, strategic light. Many moved to improve content and repositories, build better online networks, and formalize how knowledge moves through the digital workplace.
At APQC, we wanted to confirm what the anecdotal evidence was telling us. Our 2021-2022 KM Trends research surveyed 365 KM professionals about what’ s going on in their programs and how they believe the discipline is evolving. We asked about their priorities, the resources available to them, and how they plan to navigate the coming year.
The results suggest that KM is poised for success in 2022. Many executives are finally “getting it.” Good KM makes it easier to support remote and hybrid workers, build collaborative relationships with suppliers and customers, onboard and upskill new hires, and retain valuable knowledge despite turnover. KM also plays a vital role in automation and AI initiatives that are an increasing focus.
But to realize its potential, KM must combat time-tested obstacles to sustained engagement, many of which have been exacerbated by exhaustion and change fatigue. KM must act as a true enabler, rather than a distraction or yet another competing priority. This involves streamlining KM and integrating it into core business processes, systems, and relationships.
Where KM stands
The most drastic change KM has grappled with in the 2020s has been the explosion of remote and hybrid work, which sparked an urgent need to enable virtual communication and critical information access. At the same time, trends that were simmering in the 2010s began to boil over.
♦ Technologies such as AI and the intelligent enterprise became increasingly accessible and affordable.
♦ Methods such as design thinking and agile proved their value and moved into the mainstream.
♦ Corporate social responsibility initiatives such as sustainability and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) evolved from a “nice to have” to a “must do.”
♦ Demographic shifts made a tangible impact as Gen Z entered the workforce and the realities of the pandemic pushed more Baby Boomers into retirement.
APQC expects these changes will be a net positive for KM, and the research backs up this assumption. Sixty percent of those surveyed said they see KM as either thriving or gaining ground in the current moment. Moreover, two-thirds said their organizations plan to increase KM investments over the next 12–18 months.