What technologies are used for KM, and what value do they deliver?

Here are some more results from our 2014 and 2017 Global Survey of Knowledge management; a plot of KM Technology usage and value.

We asked the survey participants to rate a range of different types of technology by the value they have added to their KM program, giving them the options:

  • Large value
  • Moderate value
  • Slight value
  • No value
  • Too soon to tell
  • Do not use

 513 people answered this question.

The answers allow us to look not only at the usage of the technology, but also (through a weighted average of the first 4 reponese) the value that it delivers.

The chart above shows the survey results in order of value, as a stacked bar chart, with the weighted value shown as a line (this line would be at 100% if all the participants that used this technology claimed it had “high value” and at 0 they all claimed it had no value).

The top of the dark grey area represents the usage percentage for these technologies (the light grey area above represents people who do not use this technology). The top of the green area represents the percentage of people who said this technology had added “large value”.

The technology types are listed below in order of usage, and in order of value.

Technology type in order of usage 
(most common at the top)
Technology type in order of value delivered  when used (most valuable at the top)
1. Document collaboration
2. Best practice repository
3. People and expertise search
4. Portals (non-wiki)
5. eLearning
6. Enterprise content management
7. Enterprise search
8. Question and answer forums
9. Blogs
10. Lessons Management
11. Video publication
12. Wikis
14.Social media other than microblogs
16. Expert systems
17. Data mining
18. Innovation funnel
19. Semantic search
1. Enterprise search
2. Best practice repository
3. Document collaboration
4. Enterprise content management
5. Portals (non-wiki)
6. People and expertise search
8. Question and answer forums
9. Lessons Management
10.Expert systems
11. Brainstorming/ideation/crowdsourcing
12. Social media other than microblogs
13. Video publication
14. Wikis
15.Innovation funnel
16. Data mining
17. Semantic search
18. Microblogs
19. Blogs

What does this tell us?

We could take these results at face value, and say that the chart and the lists above represent the usage of the various technology types and (independently) the value of the various technology types.  The strong correlation between usage and value that we see in the chart and lists could represent a tendency for the more valuable technologies to get the greatest use. This is a perfectly valid interpretation.

An alternative argument would be to say that technologies deliver more value the more they are used. Technologies at the top of the list are mainstream technologies, used frequently, and delivering high value. Technologies at the bottom of the list are less mainstream, and deliver less value to the companies that use them, because those companies make less use of these technologies. This is also a plausible interpretation.

Even with this interpretation, we could still look for “Good performing” technologies which deliver more value than their popularity would imply, and “Poor performing technologies” which deliver less value than their popularity would imply.  Under this interpretation, the best performing technologies are Enterprise Search and Expert Systems (both of them 6 places higher in the Value list than the Usage list) and the worst performing technologies would be Blogs (10 places higher in the usage table than the value table).  This of course does not mean that Blogs have no value; it could men that the way they are being used is not adding the expected value (see my post about the “director’s blog“.

We saw very similar results for this question between the 2017 and 2014 surveys, with some minor changes. Those technologies which most increased in use between 2014 and 2017 were Microblogs and Video publication, and not surprisingly these have also seen the greatest increase in reported value delivery as well. The technology which decreased in use the most over the 3 year period is the innovation funnel technology (capturing and filtering improvement suggestions).

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

A new way to differentiate Industry approaches to KM?

If you are interested in how different industries approach KM, here is a new way to differentiate them. 

Different industries tend to approach KM in different ways, or apply KM in “different flavours.”  In September I posted a ternary plot, where different industries were plotted on their relative focus on Product Knowledge, Process Knowledge, or Customer Knowledge. Below is a similar plot, but looking at the preferred “default approach” to KM.
This plot is derived from answers to our KM surveys in 2014 and 2017, answered by more than 700 knowledge managers worldwide. One of the questions asked the respondents to list, in order of importance, a series of KM components (communities of practice, for example). In this plot we look at three components, 
  • Connecting people through communities of practice;
  • Learning from Experience;
  • Improved access to documents (including search and portals)
The plot maps out the percentage of companies from each industry which chose each one of these three as their top area of importance. Of course for many companies, all three were important, but for this plot, we look at which of these three components was chosen as MOST important.
A Ternary plot such as this one shows a choice between three components, measures on three axes (labelled in the plot above) and the closeness to each of the apices shows the proportion of companies in that industry which chose that KM approach as the most important of the three. For example, the data point on the far left, the “Legal” data point scores 
  • 71% on the axis “improved access to documents”
  • 26% on the axis “connecting people through communities”, and
  • 3% on the axis “learning from experience”
This represents the views of the 35 survey respondents from the legal industry concerning which of these three was most important for KM. 
What is interesting about this plot, is that the points are well spread out, suggesting that this is a way to differentiate some of the industries. 
  • Legal, for example, sees access to documents as the most important of these 3 KM tasks. Finance/Insurance and Health are similar. 
  • Oil and Gas, on the other hand, sees a mix of communities of practice and learning from.experience as more important (only 15% of respondents voted for “improved access to documents”).
  • IT/telecoms has the highest proportion of people preferring “connecting people through communities”, perhaps related to their long history of online collaboration.
  • “Learning from Experience” gets its greatest attention from Aid/Development, Military/Emergency and Mining.
  • In the middle of the plot, where all three areas get equal votes, are Utilities, Construction, and Education/Training.
You can see the outworkings of these preferences in all sorts of things, such as the ways KM job descriptions are written, the skills from which KM teams recruit, and the preferred components of the KM Frameworks
What’s the conclusion? I think that this plot may be an interesting way to differentiate different KM approaches, but perhaps the main conclusion is that id you are looking at analogue Km approaches to learn from; stick to a neighbouring industry. There would be no point in an oil and gas company applying a KM framework from Legal, or Legal applying a KM framework from IT, or IT applying a Framework from Mining. 
Understand how your industry approaches KM, and use that as your starting point. 

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

The biggest barriers and enablers for knowledge Management

This post is an update of an earlier post in 2014, brought up to date with new survey data.

As part of our global surveys in 2014 and 2017, answered by over 700 KM professionals, we asked respondents to rank a number of barriers in order of the impact they had had on their KM programme, ranking these from 1 to 8 (Knoco 2017).

 The results are shown in the table below, with high numbers representing high ranking and therefore high impact.


Average ranking

Cultural issues 5.8
Lack of prioritisation and support from leadership 5.0
Lack of KM roles and accountabilities 4.8
Lack of KM incentives 4.8
Lack of a defined KM approach 4.6
Incentives for the wrong behaviours (inability to time-write KM, rewards for internal competition etc) 4.3
Lack of support from departments such as IT, HR etc 4.1
Insufficient technology 4.0

They were then asked to prioritise the main enablers for KM which had proved powerful, ranking them from 1 to 9. The resulting figures are shown in the table below (high numbers being high ranking).


Average ranking

Support from senior management 6.2
Championship and support from KM team/champions 6.2
Evidence of value from KM 5.9
Easy to use technology 5.6
A supportive company culture 5.6
Effective KM processes 5.5
Clear KM accountabilities and roles 5.4
Personal benefit for staff from KM 4.6
Incentive systems for KM 4.2
So what does this tell us?

  • The number two barrier and the number one enabler are support from senior management. Without this, you will struggle. With this, you will succeed. This blog contains much advice about gaining senior management support (see here for example, or here), and if you need more help, we will be happy to advise. Get this support, all else will be much easier.
  • Although culture is the number one barrier, it is much lower in the enablers table. I think this is because the highest enablers – leadership support, champions and evidence of value – are all means by which the culture can be changed. Culture is therefore not the enabler; culture change is the enabler. 
  • Although roles and incentives are seen as major barriers, they are much lower in the enablers table. These are perhaps not the barriers that they might seem to be, even though they are a key part of your Knowledge Management Framework. 
  • Technology is seldom a barrier, nor is it at the top of the enabler list. Anyone thinking that the solution to effective KM is technology alone is ignoring the lessons from the past 2 decades of successful KM.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

The main reasons for KM failure

From our global survey, the reasons why 18 organisations gave up on KM, and how to stop this happening to you.

One of the questions in our 2014 and 2017 Global Survey of Knowledge Management asked about the current status of KM in the respondents’ organisations, and for those 18 respondents who answered “We tried KM but gave up”, we asked a supplementary question. 

This question asked them to identify (from a list of 6 options) the reasons why they had given up, choosing as many as were relevant, and adding additional factors which were not on the list.

The frequency of their selections is shown here and listed below.

  1. Internal reorganisation was the most common reason, mentioned by 12 respondents out of the 18. I explain in a separate post how to make your KM strategy reorganisation-proof. Knowledge Management is a long term program in a short term world, and needs attention to delivering Proof of Concept exercises, and application of what the Army call a two-pronged approach, so that value is delivered early on through solving business problems, and the KM program proves its worth well enough and early enough to make a case for surviving reorganisation.
  2. Cultural barriers was number two mentioned by just under half of the respondents. There will always be cultural barriers (see my post on how to address the cultural barriers). If they were too strong, then your Knowledge Management program was lacking something; either high enough support, or a careful enough change program.
  3. Lack of involvement from staff. This often comes when you make KM an optional activity, and rely on initiative and goodwill for people to become involved. This is not a good implementation approach!
  4. Technology did not deliver as expected. However technology is not the solver bullet, and n ever will deliver benefits on its own. That’s why you need the complete KM Framework, including roles and accountabilities, processes, technology, and governance. 
  5. KM did not deliver the expected benefits. I am not sure what was at the root of these two responses. KM, in my experience, when applied to business issues, delivers real value, However it can take a couple of years for that value to be realised. 
  6. KM was taking too long to deliver. See number 1 above.
In addition, the respondents added the following reasons for failure. 

  • Too much focus on technology platforms and not enough on incentives and cultural elements, 
  • The Company was sold to government, which had no interest whatsoever, 
  • No customer demand reported 
  • New Top Management – Not interested in KM 
  • Replaced with Business Process Management
  • Lack of executive buy-in / drive 

There are some well-known failure reasons here, which every Knowledge Manager should prepare against, and the most common is Internal Reorganisation, leading to the loss of your support.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

What are the most popular strategic elements of KM?

What do companies around the world identify as their primary KM strategic approaches?  This was another area we wanted to explore in our two global surveys of Knowledge Management.

One of the questions in our surveys therefore covered the topic of strategic focus areas for KM, and we asked the participants to prioritise, from a list of 11 potential approaches, those most important to them.

The pie chart below shows the frequency of each of these approaches as “first choice.”  The approaches are of course not exclusive, and most respondents applied many of these. However

  • 19% of respondents said their highest priority within their Knowledge Management strategy was to connect people through communities of practice or networks;
  • 17% chose “better access to documents”as their highest strategy. This is the average of the two surveys, and if you look at the 2017 survey alone, this was the most popular choice. However the 2017 had a much higher percentage of contributors from the legal sector, where this is their default approach;
  • 13% saw Knowledge Retention as their highest priority approach;
  • For 12%, Learning from experience was the most important;
  • 10% chose “Creating and providing access to best practices”
  • For another 6%, Innovation was the most important;
  • Provision of knowledge to customer facing staff was also the primary strategy for 6%
The remaining options all received small percentages of the votes.
Some of our respondents pointed out that there were maybe 3 or 4 strategic options on the list with more or less equal priority – Communities of Practice plus Learning from Experience was the most common combination.
The choice of primary strategy varied to some extent with the industry – 
  • “Connecting people” was most popular in Aid & development, Construction,and Oil and Gas
  • “Learning from Experience” was most common in the military and emergency services
  • “Development of best practice” was the preferred focus for the military
  • “Better access to documents” was the area prioritised by the legal firms, the public sector and the financial sector.

What does this mean?

I think we can take the results of this question and assert that it shows what the world of KM practitioners tends to choose as primary KM strategies.

On the whole, Knowledge Management seems to be recognised as a combination of Connecting People, Learning from Experience, provision of access to documents, retention of knowledge, creation of best practices, and innovation.  Individual industries favour one of these six over the others, but in combination they seem to pretty much map out the mainstream field of KM as it is currently understood.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

The 2 factors that determine the size of KM teams

The size of KM teams depends on the size of the organisation, and the maturity of the KM program.

Yesterday I talked about the need to put your A-team onto the KM implementation program, and discussed some of the skills you need on the team. What I did not discuss was how large that team should be.

I published some statistics on this in 2015 based on our global KM survey in 2014. We conducted a second run of the same survey in 2017 and so have some additional data, with now 596 responses from knowledge managers around the world. The updated plot below shows that the size of the central KM team is controlled by two factors, described below. (There will be other KM roles in the organisation, and this plot does not reflect all KM professionals; just the central implementation and coordination team).

The first factor is the size of the organisation. Larger organisations have bigger teams, but not proportionally to their size, and an increase in organisational size of a factor of 10 is not associated with a similar increase in KM team size. There is an economy of scale here, and the size of the central team remains similar across all organisational sizes. What seems to change instead is the time taken for KM implementation, and a team in a small organisation can implement KM much faster than a team in a large organisation.

The second factor is the maturity of KM in the organisation. Whatever the organisational size, the KM teams in organisations where KM is fully embedded are larger than the teams where KM is still in progress. This is either

  1. Because mature KM requires a larger central team than “in progress” KM, or
  2. Organisations where the KM team is too small do not get to the “fully embedded” stage.

Whatever the reason, this remains a useful plot for organisations to benchmark the size of their central KM team. 

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

7 potential business drivers for Knowledge Management

As part of our Global Knowledge Management Surveys in 2014 and 2017, we asked our respondents about the business imperatives which drove them to invest in Knowledge Management. This is what they answered.

The survey asked about the importance of 7 main business drivers, and these are listed below, together with the percentage of the 536 respondents who said this was their primary business driver. 

It’s important to realise that the actual KM framework may be independent of the business driver, and that there will be framework elements which are common to all approaches. However the the KM strategy, that determines how and where the Framework is applied, should be fundamentally based on the key business drivers for your own organisation.

Operational effectiveness – top driver for 22% of our respondents, with an average priority of 5.4 out of 7.

Here Knowledge Management is deployed to ensure that the business delivers better outcomes. Through aspects such as Learning from Experience, and the development of Communities of Practice which look after Best Practices or Doctrines, the organisation will build a knowledge base of “what works”, enabling it to improve its products and processes and deliver better results.

Operational effectiveness is the primary business driver for the Military sector, for Oil and Gas, for Aid and Development, and for Construction.

Internal Efficiency – top driver for 22% of our respondents, with an average priority of 5.1 out of 7.

Here Knowledge Management is deployed to reduce cost and time. Again Lessons Learned are useful to avoid repeat costly mistakes, and Communities of Practice can exchange knowledge of individual savings and short-cuts.  Through continuous improvement of internal process, the organisation can work faster, shaper and smarter while still delivering the same results.

Operational effectiveness is the primary business driver for the Financial sector, for Manufacturing and Telecoms.

Delivering a better customer service – top driver for 20% of our respondents, with an average priority of 4.7 out of 7.

Here your Knowledge Management strategy will be focused on the needs of the customer. Communities of practice will be needed to support customer facing staff, and may need to be extended to include the customers themselves. Delivering a better customer service is the primary business driver for the Legal and the Professional Services sectors.

Retaining knowledge at risk of loss – top driver for 15% of our respondents, with an average priority of 4.3 out of 7. 

Here you need a Knowledge Retention and Transfer strategy, in order to protect against the loss of knowledge through staff retirement. This is a very specific KM approach, targeted at a short term need, which should over time be replaced by an ongoing Knowledge Management Framework. There is no one sector where Knowledge Retention is the priority; instead it reflects country demographics, seeming to be a particular issue in India and Central/South America.

Improved company growth – top driver for 9% of our respondents, with an average priority of 3.6 out of 7.

Knowledge Management supports company growth by allowing the development of reproducible and reusable knowledge that can be deployed to help each new sector of the business to grow as rapidly as the market allows, as well as the deployment of effective learning techniques in new areas of business.

Improved Innovation – top driver for 8% of our respondents, with an average priority of 3.8 out of 7.

Here your Knowledge Management Implementation will focus on developing and deploying innovation processes and techniques, to enable you to create new products, new processes and new business models. Improved innovation seems from the survey results to be a driver in the health-care sector.

Impacting health, safety and the environment – top driver for 4% of our respondents, with an average priority of 2.3 out of 7.

Here KM is deployed not to help you work faster and cheaper, but to help you work safer and cleaner. The tools of KM are the same as above, but the focus is on safety and health. This business driver is a secondary driver  in many industries, and occasionally was cited as a primary driver in the Oil and Gas sector.

For other insights, order our free KM survey report here

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

Knowledge of product, knowledge of process, knowledge of customer

Some companies make things, some do things, some maintain relationships. Process companies, Product companies, Client companies – different focus, different business, different approach to KM. 

OK, so that is an oversimplification – most companies are a mix of Doing, Making and Relationship Management; they have product departments where they Make things, and marketing departments where they Do things, and sales/service . However there are still three types of KM approaches; focusing primarily on Product, Process and Client.

The Ternary attached here (from our global KM surveys) shows how the balance between these approaches varies by industry sector.

For those of you for whom ternary plots are unfamiliar, the closeness of a datapoint to each of the three corners represents the degree of importance of that element.

Process-based KM.

A typical process-based organisation would be the oil sector, near the bottom right of the plot. They don’t make things, they do things, and their KM approach is all about the development and improvement of Practice. The focus is on Practice Improvement. Communities of Practice, Best Practices (or whatever you prefer to call them), Practice Owners – the entire focus is on knowledge of Practice, Practice Improvement, and Doing Things Better.

Utilities and some of the non-profits are similar, as are the military.

Product based KM

A typical product-based organisation would be an aircraft manufacturer or a car manufacturer. They exist to make things, and their KM approach is all about the development and improvement of Product. They develop product guidelines.

In DaimlerChrysler, their Electronic Book of Knowledge was about motorcar components, and their tech Clubs were more Communities of Product than Communities of Practice. The experts are more likely to be experts on a product, than experts on a practice area. With the more complex products, were design knowledge is critical, KM can become Knowledge Based Engineering, with design rationale embedded into CAD files and other design products.

The KM focus in Legal firms is also Knowledge of Product; the product here being legal advice.

The figure above shows that none of the sectors surveyed is purely focused on Product – there is always a mix of Product and Practice, but the closest points to the top corner are Legal Services and Manufacturing

Customer based KM

A typical customer-based organisation would be a government department. They exist to  serve a customer base. They are not making anything (other than policy) and the KM focus is on the customer.

Customer focused Knowledge Management consists of developing and documenting a knowledge of the customer (through Customer-focused communities and through research), and may also involve the provision of knowledge to customers, and the involvement of Customers in discussion through communities and social media.

The plot above does not show any sectors to be dominated by customer knowledge, but the points closest to the bottom left are Government Admin, and Aid and Development.

Balancing the types of knowledge 

The danger in KM comes when you try to impose a solution where it does’t apply.

KM should be pragmatic, and consist of “horses for courses”, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. This is also true for divisions within large companies.

While the projects division may need Communities of Practice, perhaps the division that makes the products needs Communities of Product, so that Knowledge of Product can be transferred across company boundaries. Perhaps the traditional tools of Learning Before, During and After need to look at Product knowledge as well as Practice knowledge, and look for improvements in Product as well as improvements in Practice.

Then the Marketing division or sales division might need Communities of Customer, so that knowledge of different customer groups can be developed, shared and re-used.

Know the type of knowledge that’s important, and set up a KM framework that suits. 

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

What makes a community of practice successful? Top 10 factors

There have been many articles and blog posts (including here) listing “Top Success Factors for Communities of Practice“. Usually these are based on a combination of experience and theory. Here’s a different approach.

Image from wikimedia commons

As part of our global global Knowledge Management Surveys in 2014 and 2017, we included an optional section on communities of practice. 251 people out of the 700 participants answered this section. Those that did were asked to rank the effectiveness of their Communities of Practice in adding value to their organisation. They were also asked to identify which of a list of CoP components they apply as part of their CoP approach.

The combination of these two questions allows us to work out which of those components make the most difference to the effectiveness of the CoPs. The “difference figure” is calculated as (average effectiveness when this component is included) divided by (average effectiveness when this component is absent), expressed as a percentage. High percentages therefore represent the greatest effectiveness impact. The top ten factors are listed below, together with their effectiveness difference (for example CoPs with a way of interacting online are rated as 23% more successful than those which don’t).

To be clear, this list is based not on theory or experience, but on looking at the common elements between successful CoPs as defined by global knowledge managers. The list is in order of declining importance, with the most important factors at the top. Obviously these elements are not independent, and so the list is approximate rather than exact.

  1. A way of interacting online – 23%
  2. A performance contract or objectives agreed with the sponsor – 20%
  3. A charter or terms of reference which reflects the members’ view of the network objectives – 19%
  4. A clear focus on business issues – 19%
  5. A business case – 19%%
  6. A defined facilitator in addition to the leader – 18%
  7. A defined leader – 17%
  8. A store for common documents – 15% 
  9. Training for CoP leaders and facilitators – 13%
  10. A collaboration tool for collaborating on documents – 11%
Also, let’s not forget that size is important, and with Communities of Practice, Bigger is Better.

So the number one requirement for effective CoPs is a way to interact online, while requirements 2, 3, 4 and 5 are all about governance and a common valuable purpose. Then 6, 7 and 9 are about leadership.

Give communities a defined common purpose, a way to interact, and good leaders, and success will follow.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

How KM is migrating from Big Companies to SMEs

So far, Knowledge Management has largely been a Big Company game, but this is changing.

This is another conclusion from the Knoco Knowledge Management survey, and is neatly illustrated in the bar chart shown here. The survey was conducted in 2 waves – 204 and 2017, and received submissions form over 700 KM professionals world-wide.

Among the data collected through the survey was a subjective assessment of the maturity of knowledge management, described as “We are investigating KM but have not yet started”, “We are in the early stages of introducing KM”, “We are well in progress with KM”, and “KM is embedded in the way we work”.

The picture above shows how this maturity level varies with company size.

It is clear that there is a very close link between size and maturity, and the larger organisations are the most mature. Knowledge Management has historically been a big-company activity, and early starters in KM were mostly the large multinationals. These companies are therefore the most mature.

In the plot below, we look at the link between company size and the number of years the company has been doing KM.

Again we can see a clear link – the largest organisations are the ones that have been doing KM the longest (over a decade on average) while the SMEs have been doing it for a much shorter time (less than 5 years).

The third bit of information is to look at the relative numbers of small, medium and big companies answering the survey.

So the messages from these graphs are as follows:

  • The larger companies have been doing KM for longer;
  • The larger companies are more mature in KM;
  • However there are potentially many more medium sized companies getting involved in KM. 
For example, of the 128 companies in the survey with around 1000 staff (graph 3), 60 of these  (47%) are in the early stages of KM (graph 1). That’s more than the total number of organisations in the survey with 100,000 staff.   So the smaller companies are catching up, and the trends shown here represent Knowledge Management spreading from the large organisations to the medium sized and smaller companies.

KM has been a big company game – now the medium sized organisations are catching up. 

For as assessment of your own KM maturity, use our quick online survey or book a detailed assessment.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.