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The Knowledge Management Civil War

 

Well..it isn’t actually a civil war but the knowledge management (KM) front line is divided between software engineers and knowledge managers (kmers). Recent advances in the field of social collaboration technology have given rise to new tools that complement well with the fabric of KM (specially third gen KM) but this does not mean that by pursuing a tech solution KM will reach the desired results. This is where the divide occurs.

A couple of months ago I came across a Medium article written by Leo Grimaldi, a Google software engineer. He stated that “the common thread among github, medium, and slack will define the future of our knowledge economy”. As I read on I found that the underlying argument was that technology will thrust forward collaboration, an statement that most kmers deplore. He mentioned that sites such as GitHub have been able to connect 14 million people across 35 millions repositories and although this is indeed a huge achievement, it´s only reflecting data from a social platform which is not strictly business oriented or mirrors an actual company’s structure and challenges. What companies are really looking for is to manage their strategic knowledge as opposed to focusing on any type of knowledge that won’t necessarily add value. This is something that tech alone won’t secure.

However, it’s important to take note of the advances that companies such as Slack, Bittrix24x and Stample are achieving. They offer very neat and dynamic KM platforms for organizations that will definitely assist collaboration efforts. We must also keep in mind that Facebook will soon join in with Facebook for Work and that Google recently purchased Kifi order to boost the google spaces platform (Kifi´s concept is to connect people with knowledge) so that teams can improve collaboration. This is happening at a time where KM had practically abandoned the “tech first-strategy later” approach and has begun to focus on central business drivers for knowledge to really be used as a competitive advantage.

For example, in order to get teams to collaborate and work as networks you need to identify specific change management strategies and apply them. You need to work closely with community leaders and business managers not only to make things happen but to align goals and identify what critical knowledge really needs to flow in that network. Tech alone won’t make that happen but a KM model without a tech component won’t contribute to connect teams that might be geographically dispersed.

So are we divided? Not entirely but kmers and software developers are not really working together so it seems like KM has two sides. I’m very certain that If we are able to connect both we will be able to create a more solid and fast paced strategy that will certainly drive  better results. I don’t know what it will take two connect both teams but I´m raising the question here.

© Jose Carlos Tenorio Favero

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2 Responses to “The Knowledge Management Civil War”

  • Alexis Valencia / Responder

    Jose Carlos,

    Very keen insight, indeed. Yet, is it possible to step back one more dimension and see it from the “business outcomes” point of view. Business drivers are a good start point. They produce a series of demands that either new processes and/or supporting technology (whether new or not) could help satisfy. But, how does the new process or its supporting technology affect the business outcome. It is this outcome (these outcomes altogether) that once delivered to the customer, and along with the customer’s assets and resources unlock whatever value we had hoped in the first place to put into the business service or product we bring to market.

    So, how much more value are any of these new processes and their supporting technologies adding in the end? While there might be value in the midpoint (value realized by the internal business customer, even by the IT service provider), how do we quantify (even qualitatively), whatever value is brought to the end customer?

    Once we put the end customer’s value capture/realization stage as the driving force (centripetal), we should be able to see all efforts in knowledge management and its many technologies fit better as all are driven toward a common goal.

    It’s not one approach versus the other. It’s all approaches pushing and pulling, but in the end, driving value in the same direction. Much like warring family members stopping their internecine squabbles and presenting a unified front against a much larger foe or challenge.


  • Ken Wiggins / Responder

    I subscribe fully to this point of view. Knowledge and particularly Procedural Knowledge, by virtue of what it is (skills/specialization acquired through experience) resides in a human context. Technology and Software are the vehicles/tools that connect users with the information (body of facts and principles) required.
    A combination of Resources (teams of individuals who collaborate) and Tools (technology that links resources and required concepts) is always going to exist. If business defines Knowledge Strategy concisely and effectively, there will be a solid platform/framework on which to implement Knowledge Sharing and avoid the ineffective conflict over Tech Solutions vs Strategic Knowledge that benefits specific business outcomes


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