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Celebrate the Success Stories of Knowledge Management - 2022 KMWorld Awards

Three trends shaping the direction of KM in 2019

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Rapid change requires adaptive approaches

Organizational knowledge and knowledge-related needs are evolving faster than ever before. There’s a lot of instability out there, and KM leaders are reeling from a constant churn of mergers, acquisitions, reorgs, product innovations, market and technology shifts, and strategic realignments. They know they need to set long-term objectives when it comes to improving the flow of enterprise knowledge, but the goalposts set by executive sponsors are in flux, and they’re worried about change fatigue among both KM staff and end users. In addition, the tight job market and war for talent are heightening risks related to critical knowledge loss while shortening the lead time KM programs get to address those risks.  

For these organizations, agile development and design thinking represent different ways to approach KM projects. Both methodologies focus on quickly responding to emerging needs, developing a minimum viable product that can be tested, gathering user feedback, iterating, and improving over time. The methodologies also emphasize collaboration, so the KM team is designing tools and approaches with rather than for its target users. This can shorten the time needed to deploy solutions (however imperfect) to emerging knowledge needs while increasing the chances that what the KM team comes up with will fit the requirements and workflow of the employees who will use it.

Agile and design thinking may also help KM teams grapple with cloud adoption and the more flexible planning and management structures it requires. With on-premise software, KM teams could implement updates and improvements on their own timeline, with lots of preemptive planning. But as more organizations shift to the cloud, some of those decisions are taken out of their hands. KM leaders can come in on Monday morning to major modifications in the portfolio of apps their organizations use to facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing. And as a result, well-laid plans for management and adoption can quickly devolve into chaos. A nimbler approach to solution design and project management may help these teams roll with the punches, responding promptly to whatever changes vendors throw their way.

Skills for what lies ahead

KM teams are in a unique position. As they adopt new systems and ways of working, they are also responsible for rolling out these innovations to the employees they support. This involves communicating the value proposition and inspiring behavior change, even when the processes and systems being implemented are “works in progress” whose benefits have not been fully tested. For all these reasons, it seems fitting that the number-one skillset that survey respondents said their KM teams needed to develop over the next 12 months is change management.

Today’s KM professionals must not only get comfortable with change, but also become convincing advocates for it. Whether the organization is going through a digital transformation or adopting a new project management approach, KM must both embody and encourage the shift in order to remain relevant.

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