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.

Bigger communities of practice are more effective, data shows

The bigger a community of practice is, the more value it delivers. At least according to our KM surveys. 

Knoco conducted two major surveys of knowledge management programs in 2014 and 2017, collecting in total more than 700 results.

As part of the survey, participants were asked whether Communities of Practice (CoPs) formed part of their KM approach. Over 250 people then continued to answer supplementary questions about their CoPs. (this was an optional section and not all of the people running CoPs took the option)

One of these questions covered the average size of CoPs in terms of teh number of members, and another was a subjective assessment (marks out of 5) of Community effectiveness in delivering value. 
From the plot shown here, there is a very close link between CoP size and perceived CoP effectiveness. Larger is better, and the largest CoPs were ranked as the most effective. There seems to be a jump in effectiveness between 100 and 500 members, which may represent “critical mass”

This is not to say that smaller CoPs don’t add value, but respondents marked these are less effective.

As you might expect, the larger CoPs are found in the bigger organisations, confirmed by the plot below of average CoP size v organisation size. The large organisations, with CoPs of more than 100 members, are where CoPs were deemed the most effective at delivering value.

However the survey also showed that the majority of CoPs are small – the modal size being 10 people, the median 50 and the mean 250 (see plot below).

There are a lot of organisations out there with very small Communities of Practice, delivering disappointing results. If this is your organisation, with many small CoPs, then consider if possible amalgamating them, as Bigger seems to be Better.

Go here for more details of the survey results, and how to ask for a free copy.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

New survey results on planned usage of the ISO KM standard

Last week I launched an online survey of planned uses for the new ISO KM standard: ISO 30401:2018. Here are the results of that survey. 

The survey was announced on this blog, on Twitter, and on LinkedIn (where it was shared by many people). 75 people answered the survey, which seems like a large enough dataset to be representative. The results are shown above, and in the table below.

Response Number
Buy a copy as a useful guide to KM development 20
Self-audit compliance against the standard 17
No plans to engage with it 14
I didn’t even know there was an ISO KM standard 12
Seek external audit of compliance against the standard 5
Bought a copy to be able to advise clients aiming for it. 1
Bought a copy. Now thinking of how could I use THAT… 1
Hasn’t thought about it in a while but now thinking we should use! 1
If I can access through the library I would look at it but I can’t afford to purchase a copy 1
Use it as a communications tool for senior stakeholders to get buy in for a “serious” approach to KM 1
Utilize audit group internally 1
Need to understand it better before I decide whether I need to consider it relevant in my market 1

Over half of the respondents (42 out of 45) plan to use the survey in some way or another, as a useful guide (27%), as a tool for self-audit (23%) or as a tool for external audit (7%).
14 respondents (19%) do not plan to engage with the standard at all. 
Almost as many (12 respondents, 16%) were unaware that it exists. 
The remaining individual responses vary
  • Three of them are effectively “don’t know” responses
  • One is “I can’t afford it”, which you could say equates to not planning to engage with it, for reasons of expense. 
  • One is “utilise audit group” which I suspect is another vote for internal/self-audit
  • One is a KM consultant planning to use it with clients
  • And the final one is interesting – planning to use the standard as a mechanism to engage senior managers. 
If we eliminate the “Don’t know” answers and the “Unaware” answers, and reassign “can’t afford it” and “utilise audit group” as discussed above, then we have the following stats:
  • 60 people knew about the standard and had a view on its use
  • 45 of these (75%) planned to use the standard in some way (as a guide, for internal or external audit, for communication with stakeholders or for supporting clients)
  • 15 (25%) said they had no plans to use it

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

Why buying more technology will not solve your KM issues

Technology is not the main issue in Knowledge Management today, according to available data.

Results from the free Knoco online survey

Here in Knoco we have been taking the pulse of Knowledge Management for many years, through a number of mechanisms, one of which is a free online survey, available here. To date (June 2019) nearly 500 people have taken this survey, which shows that Technology is being the strongest and most mature of all the enabling factors of KM, as shown in the graph attached.

The survey consists of ten “maturity” factors, self-scored by the respondent. It is a “quick and dirty” approach to giving a first pass view of  where you are in terms of KM, and where your relative strengths and weaknesses are.

So what are the conclusions for you, the knowledge manager?

  • Firstly, that most companies have much of the technology they need already. Technology as a factor scores more highly than any other.  If you are looking to improve your Knowledge Management results, then just buying more technology is probably not going to help.
  • Secondly, most companies need to focus on Governance. This is the weakest area and therefore the area that generally needs most attention and which will deliver the best return on effort.
  • Thirdly, many organisations need to focus on aligning KM with the needs of the business. This is the second weakest area.  5 years ago it was the third weakest, but it seems to have gotten worse over the years. 
  • Finally most companies need to focus on KM roles. This is the third weakest element and also generally needs serious attention.
If you want to make the next step forwards on your Knowledge Management journey, then the survey results show that in most cases you would be better to work on Governance, Business alignment, and Roles than on acquiring more Technology.

Buying more technology without addressing these three areas will be money down the drain. 

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

How to protect your KM program against the risk of internal reorganization

Did you know that the biggest risk to your Knowledge management program is internal reorganisation? Here is how to protect against this risk.

The graph above is taken from our Knowledge Management survey – a survey of over 700 kmers round the world. Some of these people had been in charge of KM programs that had folded, and we wanted to know, in these cases, what the reasons had been for the abandonment of Knowledge Management.

The most common reason for abandoning KM was Internal Reorganisation.

The Knowledge manager found themselves reporting to a new boss, a new CEO or new management, who were not supporters of the KM program, and the “plug was pulled”.

This sort of reorganisation can happen to any of us at any time. You need to make your KM program reorganisation-proof.  Here’s how, in easy steps.

1) From the start make sure your Knowledge Management program is focused on delivering real business needs and objectives. Read this blog post. Get this business-focus into your Knowledge Management strategy, and get the strategy signed off by senior management. Read this blog post as well.

2) Have some idea of the size of the prize. Value your KM program – find out what it would be worth to the business if all staff had access to the knowledge they needed to make their key decisions. Communicate this value widely.

3) Conduct some early proof of concept exercises. Prove that KM works in your context, and get early endorsement (ideally on camera) from your business customers. 

4) Conduct some business-led pilots, designed to deliver measurable benefit. Get agreement from senior managers before-hand that if the pilots are successful and add enough value, KM will be endorsed from on high as “required behaviour” 

5) Embed KM roles into the organigram, KM processes into the high-level operational processes, and KM technology into the technology suite. Weave KM so tightly into the fabric of the organisation that it can’t be unwoven. 

6) Present KM widely to the external world. Make your company famous for KM.  Get into a position where abandoning KM would be an embarrassment.

Do all these, and you will have the argument, the evidence and the momentum to survive any but the most extreme internal reorganisation.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.