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Why KM needs sponsors, experts, and advocates in the business

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In most organizations, the KM core team is relatively lean. For example, among the KM programs that participated in our 2022 KM Benchmarks and Metrics research, the median program size is eight full-time equivalent (FTE) employees.

This means that there are limits to what even the best KM core teams can accomplish. These teams are not likely to have a deep enough understanding of specific business topics to know whether a specific content piece is accurate and up-to-date. They also may not fully understand the culture of each end-user group or the most effective approaches for motivating individuals and teams to become involved with KM. These challenges only grow when KM is supporting hundreds or even thousands of end users.

For these reasons and more, it’s vital to tap people in the business to help with certain KM activities. In this article, you’ll learn about six KM support roles that are often delegated to people with day jobs in the business along with the value of formalizing these roles.

Why formal roles matter

Formal KM roles differ from informal ones in several important ways. First, formal roles tend to be sanctioned by both KM and the team or function in which the person taking on the role resides. Managers are aware of, and, in most cases, have approved, their employees taking on KM-related responsibilities. Formal roles also tend to come with documented expectations. For example, KM duties may be built into the candidate’s annual objectives or performance measures. In some cases, formal roles may also carry authority that informal roles do not. People in these roles may have special authorization to publish, edit, and archive content; schedule meetings; get a slot to speak at during town hall meetings; run focus groups; and so on.

Depending on how new a KM program is and the organizational culture in which it operates, informal roles may be the best option—or the only option—for which KM can get approval. If you’re starting from scratch, informal roles may be a good launching pad for connecting KM to the business and building grassroots engagement. However, APQC’s analysis shows that formal KM business roles are ultimately more effective at boosting KM participation and helping KM to achieve its goals.

Formal business roles are linked to KM success

APQC’s research identified six KM business roles that are correlated with a higher degree of KM program success when they are formalized rather than existing as informal or volunteer roles:

Community leaders
Subject matter experts
Trainers and coaches

KM programs do not need different people assigned to each of these roles. For example, if your KM program has a formal KM champion role, those individuals could also be responsible for training. Below, we give a brief overview of each role and review findings that demonstrate the benefits of formalizing them within a KM program.

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