How long it really takes to embed Knowledge Management

### In the wake of our recent 2017 survey, here are some more data about how long it really takes to embed Knowledge Management.

We conducted a big global survey of KM this year. following on from a previous survey in 2014. In both surveys we asked two questions:

**How many years have you been doing KM?**

- 0
- .5
- 1
- 2
- 4
- 8
- 16
- 32

**Which of these best expresses the level of KM maturity in your organisation?**

- We are in the early stages of introducing KM
- We are well in progress with KM
- KM is embedded in the way we work.

If you combine these questions, then you can get a measure of how long it takes to reach the various levels of KM maturity. The graph below is just such a combination, and represents all datapoints from the 2014 and 2017 surveys with duplicates removed – a dataset of just over 750 organisations.

### Full dataset

This is the full dataset, and we can see that the transition from “early stages” to “well in progress” takes normally about 4 years (if you take the 50% level as normal), and the transition to fully embedded takes normally about 20 years. There is a large spread – some reach maturity far faster than others.

We can also see some strange anomalies:

- organisations which have been doing KM for 0 years, yet it is fully embedded – either these are spurious data, or organisations who feel they are doing KM without the benefit of introducing a formal KM program
- organisations which have been doing K for 32 years, yet are still in the early stages – either these are spurious data, or organisations who feel they are doing KM for ages but in a half-hearted manner, or doing it “under the radar”.

However this full dataset may not be too helpful, as we know that embedding KM takes longer in larger organisations. The graphs below show sections of the dataset for small, medium and large organisations.

### Small organisations

We also asked the participants to answer the following question:

**How large is the organisation (or part of the organisation) you are decribing in terms of staff?Please select the closest number from the list below.**

- 10
- 30
- 100
- 300
- 1000
- 3000
- 10000
- 30000
- 100000
- 300000

The graph above is the same plot of maturity v number of years, but only for those 148 organisations where the respondent chose a size of 10, 30 or 100.

We can see that the strange anomalies of “doing KM for 32 years and getting nowhere) belong to this size range. we can also see that the transition from early stages to well in progress still takes just under 4 years (if you take the 50% level as normal), but the transition to fully embedded takes about 6 years.

### Medium organisations

The graph above is the same plot of maturity v number of years, for those 351 organisations where the respondent chose a size of 300, 1000 or 3000.

Here the transition from early stages to well in progress still takes about 4 years (if you take the 50% level as normal), but the transition to fully embedded takes about 20 years.

### Large organisations

The graph above is the same plot of maturity v number of years, for those 3255 organisations where the respondent chose a size of 10,000 staff or larger.

Here the transition from early stages to well in progress still takes about 4 years (if you take the 50% level as normal), but the transition to fully embedded takes 32 years, as half of the respondents at the 32 year mark said they were still “well in progress”.

### Conclusions

The obvious conclusion is that implementing KM takes a long time, and the bigger the organisation, the longer it takes. However we can be a bit more subtle than that, and conclude as follows:

- The early stages of Knowledge Management take on average 4 years for any organisation, before you can begin to say ” we are well in progress”. 20% of organisations may get to this point within a year, another 20% may take 8 years or more.
- The time it takes to reach the point where KM is fully embedded depends on the size of the organisation, with an average of 6 years for the smaller ones, to 32 years for the very biggest.

These are average figures – some implementations are faster and some are slower. Tomorrow we might start to investigate what makes the difference in the speed of Knowledge Management implementation.

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**Nick Milton**

*June 26, 2017*

Tags: Archive, implementing KM, survey

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