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The best cloud KM combines cutting-edge technology with smart oversight

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Cloud computing is one of the hottest trends in knowledge management. But as the stampede to the cloud intensifies, some KM leaders are struggling to determine the best approach for implementation and oversight.

According to recent data from APQC, a KM benchmarking and research organization, 49% of organizations moved aspects of KM to platforms such as Microsoft Office 365 or Google G Suite last year—and even more firms are incorporating standalone cloud solutions into their KM portfolios.

Every company has its own goals and constraints when it comes to cloud adoption, so there is no universal recipe for success. But APQC’s “Enterprise Content and Collaboration in the Cloud” research set out to determine distinguishing traits of effective, well-received cloud initiatives. By surveying more than 300 people responsible for enterprise content management and collaboration in the cloud, the motivations for organizations to migrate and the choices most likely to satisfy both executives and end users were revealed.

The analysis suggests that cloud-based KM requires a careful balance of innovation and restraint. The best results ensue when companies combine aggressive adoption of advanced technology with strong central oversight, traditional taxonomy, and flexible implementation to accommodate different parts of the business.

Embrace emerging capabilities offered by cloud platforms

When embarking on this research, it was expected that cost savings would be the biggest reason why organizations move to the cloud. But while cost is among the top objectives, the versatility and advanced features offered by these platforms are even more compelling motivators. The number-one driver is mobility, or the ability to offer access to enterprise systems from anywhere and on any device (Figure 1). Other factors include opportunities for better information visibility and sharing across business siloes and increased flexibility to add storage, apps, and features as needed.

When it comes to apps and features, organizations that take full advantage of advanced technology capabilities are benefiting more fully from cloud migration. Across all the capabilities included on the survey, three in particular were correlated with every marker of success. Companies that have adopted these elements are more likely to report that their cloud deployments are meeting intended goals, that employees are happy with the capabilities, and that employees can easily find the knowledge they need to work effectively. These capabilities are as follows:

♦ Smart recommendation systems for content (used by 51% of respondents)

♦ Automatic translation (used by 46% of respondents)

♦ Machine learning (used by 45% of respondents)

Automatic translation is an “easy win” for global companies since it’s included in most cloud solutions and requires little effort to deploy. Some KM leaders think everyone should stick to the organization’s “official language” to prevent language-based silos, but employees often struggle to consume and contribute complex information in what may be their second, third, or even fourth language. Automatic translation capabilities—such as those that translate webinar content in real time—are a great option to expand the reach of enterprise KM to previously underserved segments of the workforce.

Smart recommendation systems for content, as well as the machine learning technology that underpins them, are more complicated to pull off. Most self-learning algorithms require extensive training and testing to operate as intended, and the off-the-shelf recommendation engines included in cloud platforms—such as Microsoft Office Delve—receive mixed reviews at best.

That said, the organizations that have invested the time and energy in getting machine learning and content recommendations right—and especially those using custom or add-on software—are reaping significant rewards. Based on experiences in their personal lives, employees have come to expect both great search results and contextual suggestions for relevant content based on who they are and what they’re doing. Employees are more inclined to use enterprise guidance if—for example—a help box pops up with useful tips based on the customer emails they are responding to. When systems can guide users to the right resources without them having to search, those users are significantly more satisfied with their content experience at work.

It’s worth noting that old-school taxonomy and tagging structures remain important to effective content management in the cloud—even for those using recommendation engines, machine learning, or AI. Organizations that rely on traditional taxonomies are more likely to achieve the outcomes they intend from cloud migration and to report that users are happy and finding what they need. The best approaches incorporate intelligent automation without abandoning the foundational organizing structures on which those new capabilities build.

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