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Looking to the future: 2022 KM outlook

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Key opportunities

The pandemic and its aftermath created openings for KM to meet urgent business needs. In APQC’s survey, KM professionals identified the following as the biggest opportunities for KM to capitalize on right now:

1. KM is essential as organizations embrace more remote/hybrid work. People accustomed to working from home expect to have that option moving forward. Working remotely requires both good tools for content management and collaboration and more structured knowledge flow processes to ensure knowledge gets to people when, where, and how they need it.

2. More leaders are recognizing and treating knowledge as a strategic asset. Cascading crises have drawn attention to the need for speed when it comes to knowledge exchange. To act quickly, an organization must be able to “know” quickly and at scale, and that means treating knowledge assets as strategic assets.

3. Employees are frustrated with chaotic, disorganized information repositories. Workers are feeling the burn of poor content management. The gradual buildup of digital information, combined with the sudden shock of working from home without access to people as sources of knowledge, spiked rank-and-file demand for KM.

4. The pandemic highlighted to leaders the risk of knowledge gaps and silos. As leaders are “getting” the upside of KM, they're also understanding the downside of ignoring it. They’ve heard employees’ frustrations, but they’ ve also seen how enterprise knowledge can disappear in the blink of an eye, and how a lack of access to critical information can endanger both day-to-day productivity and future readiness.

5. KM is essential as organizations strive to reskill and upskill employees. With looming retirements and an impending labor shortage, leaders recognize KM's role in learning and development. Especially in rapidly evolving knowledge domains, KM's self-directed and just-in-time resources—as well as its ability to connect sources and recipients of knowledge—are a critical complement to traditional training.

Threats to success

Whereas the opportunities for KM reflect the current moment, the threats to its success are more timeless. Still, it’s worth considering how the challenges of the past 2 years have exacerbated the top three threats identified by KM professionals.

1. Employees are overworked and don’t think they have time for KM. Environmental factors such as pandemic burnout, strains on work/life balance, and the hoisting of additional responsibilities on current employees in response to the labor shortage are shining a spotlight on this evergreen problem.

2. Leaders are focused on what they see as more urgent problems or opportunities. When supply chains are broken and customer needs change drastically overnight, it makes sense that attention might be elsewhere. Even when people see KM’s value, there are only so many burning platforms leaders can deal with.

3. The organizational culture does not incentivize knowledge sharing and reuse. Culture change is never easy, but it's even harder when employees have already endured nearly 2 years of constant, world-altering changes at work and at home.

Additionally, some positives described earlier could go sideways if executives seek shortcut solutions and KM teams fail to manage expectations. Consider, for example, the increased investments headed toward KM. We didn't ask for a breakdown on that investment, but other APQC research suggests at least some of the bump is outlay on new technology. If organizations invest in software to solve their KM problems but don’t invest in people to set the strategy and manage the relevant processes, they're unlikely to get much value out of those investments.

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