November 19, 2015

Knowledge Management

Recently I got a call from an industry publication to attend their upcoming webinar on the future of Knowledge Management (KM). I had to chuckle as a) I didn’t know Knowledge Management was such a hot topic it demanded a webinar on its future, and b) how do you define the future of something that evolves through redefinition? Whatever way enterprises are leveraging information assets to gain value in five years will be defined as Knowledge Management.

Seriously though, Knowledge Management is an important topic as its most simple definition is just that: leveraging knowledge assets to gain value. I looked for a better definition and found a reference that cited that there were over 100 definitions for Knowledge Management, many of them contradictory in some aspect. One of the key differentiators in classifying KM definitions is how the creation of knowledge is treated. Some experts choose to segregate innovation as a separate function from the curating of what is known, choosing to limit KM to the later. This is an important distinction as it touches on another related discussion point: the relation of content management and knowledge management.

This topic is too big to cover in one blog entry so I will just introduce some aspects here and expand the discussion later.

A good working definition of Knowledge Management is the Gartner Group definition, from the Gartner IT Glossary, which characterizes it as a:

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.

A Gartner analyst (now with AIIM), Bryant Duhon, rephrased it in 1998 as:

Knowledge management is a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, capturing, evaluating, retrieving, and sharing all of an enterprise's information assets. These assets may include databases, documents, policies, procedures, and previously un-captured expertise and experience in individual workers.

The key points here are that KM operates at the enterprise level and works with structured and unstructured content which it captures and enhances for retrieval and reuse. Implicit in these definitions and explicit in many others is that the focus of KM is on delivering realizable value to the organization by making knowledge workers more productive, with knowledge growing cumulatively over time.

Anyone who has worked in the sphere of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is very aware of the overlap between content management and knowledge management that these definitions reveal. Both address the capture and retrieval of information assets across the scope of the enterprise to drive top and bottom line results with improved business processes.

I want to focus on the commonalities, i.e. good content management is good knowledge management. It should be obvious that leveraging the value of an ECM deployment advances the goals of KM. The functions of capture, organization, retrieving and sharing are explicitly ECM functions and business process management (BPM) improvements realized through more effective ECM deployment, are inherently an explicit KM goal.

Without going into it further here, there is a key difference in an academic discussion of ECM vs. KM. ECMs are traditionally thought of as being restricted to explicit knowledge. Put simply, this means they accrue and distribute “known” things recorded as content in the ECM. KM, on the other hand, by definition deals with explicit, implicit, and tacit knowledge. The latter two, simply put, mean that knowledge workers have ‘uncaptured’ information that is either obvious, but not recorded yet, or is not obvious and is a synergistic uplift, such as experience.

To effectively deploy an ECM system requires that it be equipped to advance KM goals by extending from only dealing with the explicit (i.e. documents) and become a tool for making knowledge workers more productive when working in the implicit and tacit knowledge realms (i.e. what they are paid to do!) Riptide® is a tool that can extend an ECM system’s capabilities to enhance content, either under automated BPM control or in the hands of a knowledge worker, allowing it to deliver greater value.

Using the example of a customer service representative (CSR) assisting a customer, explicit content can be retrieved by Riptide from multiple ECM repositories, enhanced with annotations capturing tacit knowledge as the experienced CSR solves the problem at hand, and then automatically distributed to other knowledge workers and/or workflow process (ex. delivering the sorted and collated annotated content) leveraging the CSR’s implicit knowledge. The enhanced annotated documents can be entered into an ECM as a new record, making the captured tacit knowledge available to others for reuse along with the original content. Riptide bridges the gap between ECM and KM delivering realizable value by making knowledge workers more productive.

For more information, stay tuned for the next blog in this series.