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KM is the New Black

The second trend, of course, is mobile. Never before has the organization’s information been subject to such duplication, mis-control, non-compliancy and just plain laziness than with “BYOD.” Do you think employees check out documents and check them back in via formal policies when they take their tablets home? I didn’t think so.

The Document Remains

“Data is every organization’s most im­portant asset,” writes Greg Council, Parascript, LLC and Derek LeCroy from Canon, USA. “And yet, managing ever-increasing volumes of documents and their metadata remains a surprisingly complicated and thorny issue. It requires identifying and applying document descriptors, ensuring proper documentation is collected and shared, and incorporating access to boxes of forms and paper often kept in-house or off-site that organizations are required to keep for audit and compliance purposes.”

I don’t know about the boxes part. Maybe, but 90% of all information is now created electronically and stored electronically. But they have a point.

“The amount of document-based information has grown significantly over the last two decades and the ability for staff to keep up with the volume, curate metadata and apply those descriptions is all but impossible. The days of the file clerk are well behind us. More recent approaches have attempted to recruit everyday knowledge workers to perform the task of assigning metadata. Organizations then experimented with what we call the ‘bucket of documents’ approach where staff can send documents to the repository and let intelligent search handle the relevance and accuracy problem. This approach used the ‘infinite metadata’ concept where anything on the document could be used to describe the document and make it available in search results. In most cases, this ended up in something marginally better than storing documents in a file cabinet or electronic file share.”

Well, “marginally better” is better than nuthin, I guess. I can remember a story from the early days of a former magazine I used to edit. We were convinced that the value proposition for imaging documents would be the space savings that getting rid of all those file cabinets would create. So we did a cost analysis. If we got rid of the file cabinets, how much in real-estate terms would we recover? So we took current real-estate costs by the square foot and applied that savings toward the cost of office space in various cities. In Des Moines it was just OK. In New York City, it was like a tsunami. We were quite pleased with ourselves, until we got a letter from a reader. The gentleman, politely but firmly, hated the article.

He said that we had made a grave error. He pointed out that, “We had neglected to account for the 16 inches in front of the file cabinets that OSHA required for safe passage.” And I thought, “There has to be more to it than this crap.”

That’s how we stumbled onto knowledge management, as many of you reading this probably did. Because it’s truly not just about cost saving in that fixed asset sense, but there’s also a value intrinsic in the proper application of knowledge and understanding and experience that can create top-line results, not merely bottom-line cost-cutting.

My friend Kelly Koelliker, from Verint Systems, Inc., has a very articulate and kind of sublime passage in her article: “Knowledge is ever-changing, and maintenance of an organization’s knowledge is a critical function. By storing knowledge in a formal knowledge management system, an organization can leverage time-saving tools, such as templates, reusable content snippets, cloned content and more. Embedded workflow and analysis tools allow administrators to assess what content is resonating and what knowledge is missing. Tools such as these can help organizations ensure they are providing the most up-to-date accurate content for their users.

“Knowledge management is here to stay, even in an age of social content and engagement. In fact, formal and informal content can work together to add even more value. By leveraging social sources as content in knowledge searches and mining social content to find new articles for contribution, your organization can offer a complete solution for both its employees and customers.”

I looked back at last year’s KM Best Practices article, and came across some quotes that I think are germane to this conversation. I was talking with Carla O’Dell and Lauren Trees from APQC. They had very pertinent comments on this very subject:

Lauren started: “I don’t think about it in terms of policy. I think of it in terms of strategy. Leading with technology never works; you want to think first about the value proposition. You should start with the business problem you’re trying to solve, and then address that with a strategy. Then you can think about a set of tools and processes that allow you to meet that strategy. What you DON’T want to do is reverse-engineer from the tools first, and back-end yourself into a strategy.”

And Carla then added: “KM operations are still mainly IT-based. But the IT organizations have become more sophisticated and have placed business analysts into their teams. They’re doing that at the business-level, but not at the CEO level…because the CEO is not in charge of anything, particularly. And I say that as a CEO!”

There is not much more I can add, except to say that knowledge management has weathered a heck of a past, and is now coming out shiny and new. Whether or not you subscribe to KM as a viable process for your business is your business. I can say from many years of immersion that KM can be the leading driver in your organizations, and the other authors here today can attest to that fact. And will do so proudly. You couldn’t always say that about the KM community, but I’m happy to say, you can now.

Thank you for joining us. I hope you get as much from these articles as I have. If you have any questions or comments, you can always reach me at andy_moore@kmworld.com.

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