What is the Future of Knowledge Management?
There’s a lot of talk about knowledge management (KM) in the enterprise these days as well as a growing number of tools aiming to streamline the management of knowledge for organizations of all sizes. Being that it isn’t really a new concept, but it is a rapidly evolving one, you might be wondering what the future has in store for KM. Taking a look at the history and evolution of KM as well as current trends provides some insight on what we can expect to see in the coming years.
The Current State of Knowledge Management: Pain Points and Misconceptions
Tieja Thomas, a Research Associate with The Conference Board of Canada, reports on an executive event held in September 2015 in which several pain points and interesting insights on the current state of knowledge management emerged:
- Per an informal poll, 35% of members either don’t have or aren’t sure if their organizations have a formal knowledge management process in place.
- Resistance towards implementing KM solutions stems from a disjoint between the concept of knowledge management and some organizational procedures.
- Some perceive KM as add-on solutions that aim to augment existing workflows yet fail to provide gains in efficiency.
- Other sources of resistance include non-intuitive knowledge management processes and poorly communicated KM visions.
Given that there remains a fairly large portion (just over one-third of companies, based on The Conference Board’s informal poll) of companies that haven’t yet implemented KM solutions and several predominant perceptions that lead to resistance, there is much room for growth and improvement in knowledge management.
‘Knowledge Management’ May Represent Outdated Ideas: New Buzzwords to Emerge
Jim Lee, Senior Adviser, Knowledge Management at APQC, an organization that conducts knowledge management research and provides benchmarking and best practices guidance, tells Thomas that he believes that in the next five to ten years, we will see a shift in terminology. The term ‘knowledge management’ has earned a bit of a negative connotation due to early and inadequate attempts at organizing intellectual property and knowledge assets under this umbrella. As such, Lee predicts that the field will evolve along with better descriptive terms that can overcome this perception.
In other words, someone will probably come up with a shiny new buzzword that means essentially the same thing but represents the new and improved field. (If you’re aiming to create a legacy for yourself, start thinking of snazzy new terminology to describe the innovations in knowledge management.) According to Lee, these terms will “better describe the processes that support peer-to-peer collaboration and knowledge sharing and preservation within learning organizations.”
Collaboration: The Future of Knowledge Management
Collaboration seems to be the name of the game in terms of modern-day knowledge management. It’s a focus that Andrew Pope also points out in an article on CMS Wire, along with another interesting, emerging trend: a focus on the customer. With more enterprises taking a customer-centric approach to marketing, sales, and overall business ops, it only makes sense that the knowledge management tools we adopt should also enable us to put customer needs and priorities at the forefront.
“Understanding our customer’s needs can no longer be relegated to a small number of frontline people. As an organization, we need to react quicker and more innovatively than ever before,” Pope explains. It’s the collective knowledge of a company’s workforce – the valuable human capital that modern enterprises work hard to cultivate and nurture – that holds the key to proactively addressing customer needs.
It’s not just relegated to the sales department anymore, either. As Pope points out, every individual contributor can offer insight on customers that can enhance a company’s collective knowledge about its audience. And ultimately, every process, every system, product, and solution that happens inside the organization exists to serve the end customer in some way or another. Even back-office processes impact the customer experience. Aggregating this collective knowledge is the foundation of a customer-centric culture; you can’t focus on the customer you don’t understand.
Bringing It All Together Without Disrupting Workflows: Is it Achievable?
All of this points back to the need for streamlined collaboration within the knowledge management realm. Insights that exist in silos, much like knowledge assets that exist in siloed repositories, aren’t easily discoverable outside their silos – if at all. When we combine social collaboration with real-time analytics and insights, ease of access and discoverability, and contextual relevance, we’re on the way to breaking down silos of knowledge. Only then can enterprises turn intellectual capital into a valuable business asset and maximize the utilization of knowledge to improve business outcomes.
The real challenge for CIOs, of course, is identifying the solution for achieving these goals without disrupting existing workflows. Rather than try to force your workforce to change their working methods and use a single repository or even a single knowledge management collaboration tool exclusively (which means giving up those tools and systems they’re already accustomed to and comfortable using), you’ll have greater success with solutions that enable teams to continue working as they always have while still aggregating valuable knowledge and making it accessible.
Any CIO who has attempted to implement a new solution that interrupts the status-quo realizes that employees will continue to utilize the tools they’ve always used, resulting in information gaps. In other words, you’ve failed to eliminate information silos. With solutions like Docurated, the impossible is suddenly possible: Silos are destroyed, information is accessible, real-time insights are at your fingertips, and there’s no disruption to workflows. And that’s the future of knowledge management – making the impossible, possible.
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