Observations on KMWorld 2019

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The annual KMWorld conference in Washington, D.C., is for many attendees their first real exposure to KM, or at least their first real deep dive into KM. The result is that there is a rather consistent backbone to the conference presentations, and that backbone grows and changes incrementally each year. That rather consistent backbone, however, provides a base from which to assess what is new and what is receiving noticeably increased inattention.

At KMWorld 2019, three themes emerged with much greater emphasis than in previous years.

Knowledge graphs

The most obvious new enthusiasm was an emphasis upon the role of knowledge graphs in the construction and implementation of KM systems.  It is increasingly being recognized that data and facts and figures alone are not sufficient to capture knowledge. The relationship between all those nuggets of information must be captured, and despite the seductively promising name "relational databases" and the explication of entities and attributes, the components of a relational database are not able or sufficient to capture a great many of those relationships. What is necessary is the capture of ontological relationships. These ontological relationships are captured in subject-predicate-object “triples,” as in Steve McQueen—appears in—"The Great Escape" and Steve McQueen—rode—a Triumph T100SC. The result of the mapping of these “triples” is a knowledge graph. The knowledge graph links Steve McQueen to the movie and to the motorcycle. The obvious conclusion is that KM practitioners need to be familiar with ontologies and the techniques for creating them. In particular, KM specialists need to be familiar with OWL, the web ontology language; check it out.  (I know, web ontology language should be WOL, not OWL, but Owl sounded so much cooler than Wol.)

Compliance

Another theme to emerge with much greater emphasis was the role of KM in compliance.  How can KM support compliance with regulatory requirements such as Dodd-Frank, how can KM alert the organization to possible issues of non-compliance, and how can KM alert the organization to impending compliance regulations and issues?  The obvious conclusion is that there will be a new enthusiasm for SDI, or selective dissemination of information. While there was much mention of compliance, there was little offered in the way of techniques or specific examples. Expect more next year.

Strategies for success

While not new, a third area that received much more emphasis, was the importance of securing “quick wins” for the successful implementation and adoption of KM systems. This topic is hardly novel; it has been a staple of sage KM advice not just for years, but for decades. What is new is the near ubiquity and unanimity with which this advice was brought forward, and the tone in which it was presented as a graven given about which there can be no dispute.

The area which seems to have receded in the amount of attention paid to it is the role of KM in capturing and preserving the knowledge of those staff about to retire, and of retirees. There have been two somewhat antithetical schools of thought in this regard. One is to establish a formal program to identify those about to retire, assess the importance and criticality of their knowledge, and then debrief them so as to be able to sequester and capture that knowledge. The other approach stresses the importance of keeping retirees active in the organizations communities of practice, the emphasis favored by this observer. Why the decrease in attention paid to this issue is not clear. It may have to do with the fact that the phenomenon of boomer retirement is now upon us, and that it is something we now take for granted, rather than a looming issue in the future that we need to plan for.

What will be the new emphases and enthusiasm at KMWorld 2020?

Many speakers at KMWorld 2019 have made their presentations available at www.kmworld.com/Conference/2019/Presentations.aspx.

SAVE THE DATE FOR KMWORLD 2020—NOVEMBER 16-19, 2020!

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