Knowledge Management (KM): It’s No Longer Meaningful

Now, before a bunch of you pull out the pitchforks and light the torches, hear us out.

We’re not saying that the idea of Knowledge Management isn't important. We're not saying it's irrelevant, or unnecessary – because it isn’t. But what we are saying is that it's confusing, it's evolved, and its philosophy can be so much more if you use it correctly within your organization. We just all need to stop using the term “knowledge management”.

Why?

First of all, it's difficult to find a consistent definition of the term knowledge management. Need some evidence?

KMWorld:

"Knowledge management is the process of capturing, distributing, and effectively using knowledge."

Gartner:

"Knowledge Management (KM) is business process that formalizes the management and use of an enterprise’s intellectual assets. KM promotes a collaborative and integrative approach to the creation, capture, organization, access and use of information assets, including the tacit, uncaptured knowledge of people."

Wikipedia:

"Knowledge management (KM) is the process of capturing, developing, sharing, and effectively using organisational knowledge. It refers to a multi-disciplined approach to achieving organisational objectives by making the best use of knowledge."

But first, let us point out something even more entertaining. When you look up “knowledge management” in Wikipedia, the first line, before the definition, is:

"Not to be confused with information management."

If you weren’t confusing it with information management, you surely would, with an intro like that.

Why else is the term confusing? Because it is used incorrectly by both IT and the business. However, vendors, who are selling to IT, make solutions based on the business’s definition of the term, thereby leading to confusion from the end users about what tools are supposed used for and how they're supposed to perform this odd idea of “sharing my knowledge with someone”.

The reality is that it’s a discipline, not a technology. And we all know that putting a technology in front of your employees doesn’t get you any closer to a habitual action.

So why does it still exist? Because knowledge management’s core is important. It is important to capture the intellectual output of the organization and share it effectively. What’s made it complicated is the how. To capture and share information, we don't need big, hairy ECM systems. If those are the only requirements, then there are plenty of solutions like SharePoint that can provide that capability.

So here are some tips:

  • Stop using the term Knowledge Management. Many people stopped using this term years ago. Just like ECM is evolving to EIM, knowledge management has evolved, too. If you as an end user want “knowledge management,” call it something different – because nobody in IT will respect you. Sure, C-Levels might still use the term, but do they really know what it is?
  • Don’t waste your time trying to design KM or create a solution. Build a well-managed repository for your unstructured content, with the means to share quickly and effortlessly; and then,
  • Create a best solution for each workgroup within that repository.

We believe that KM today allows individual work groups to collaborate on repositories designed specifically for them. The method for sharing and discussing within and outside of their group needs to be seamless and to make sense specifically to that group.

Bottom line: Stop throwing around terms that aren’t thought-provoking anymore, and actually do something about it. Get with your business units and start to understand their processes. Learn more about how they do their business so that you can enable them to do it more effectively, faster, and much easier with the tools that you most likely already have in place.

Rich Medina
Jeff Phillips
I’m a Principal Consultant, specializing in strategies for using ECM tools such as Microsoft Office 365 for information management.