KM elements exposed

10/06/2003 - 22:00

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In the final instalment of the knowledge management series, Vincent Brown attempts to identify key elements local businesses need to consider when looking to implement the practice in their workplaces.

In the final instalment of the knowledge management series, Vincent Brown attempts to identify key elements local businesses need to consider when looking to implement the practice in their workplaces.

ACCORDING to one of Australia’s leading knowledge management practitioners Sue Jefferies, KM is a fuzzy subject.

While this has in no way discouraged Australian organisations of all shapes and sizes from wanting to realise the highly lauded benefits of KM that they have heard or read so much about, the fact that KM is a broad, multi-faceted discipline drawing upon a diverse range of management strategies and approaches tends to make it a subject of considerable bewilderment for many.

All the experts interviewed for this series agree that when KM is implemented properly within an organisation the benefits realised can be substantial.

However, when it comes to designing a KM initiative that will effectively achieve organisational improvement, no simple approach presently exists.

With careful research and consideration the likelihood of developing a productive and worthwhile KM increases considerably.

Here are five main points provided by the various experts used in this series that can be considered when looking into the adoption of KM within the workplace.

Ms Jefferies makes it clear that KM is a term that has grown to encompass a wide range of disciplines including business process reengineering, intellectual capital management, records management, document management and information management.

These are processes many organisations have engaged in for decades in one form or another. A little ‘knowledge’ is dangerous

Type the phrase ‘knowledge management’ into the Google search engine, restricting the search to Australian sites only and one gets more than 22,000 web pages to read – a significant portion of them hype.

KM-related hype can be identified by the fact that it is big in terms of promises but short on detail.

The devil is in the detail

As the saying goes, “the devil is in the detail” and business organisations considering the development and implementation of KM initiatives should avoid doing so on incomplete information.

KM is a complex subject comprising many apsects, not all of which will be relevant to any one organisation.

Therefore, before making any moves towards the incorporation of KM practices into the workplace, businesses must do their homework to clearly identify what KM is all about and, even more importantly, what it has to offer in terms of improving their key operational processes.

Aim KM at core processes

 KM only provides significant benefits when aimed at an organisation’s core processes.

In just about any business organisation, success often boils down to one or two critical functions that facilitate competitiveness and profitability. These may include product sales, customer relationships, research and development, staff management or marketing.

Any KM initiative should be specifically developed for an organisation’s critical functions if substantial benefits are to be realised. Before undertaking the design and implementation of any KM initiative therefore, an organisation must know what processes are at the core of its business success.

Learn the standards

Standards Australia has developed an innovative KM framework www.knowledge.standards.com.au that has been recognised as being one of the world’s best, thus keeping Australia at the forefront of international practice.

These standards should serve as a vital reference when KM initiatives are to be developed within the business enterprise.

As such, Australia’s KM standards, which are soon to move from their interim form to the final form, provide business organisations with a solid foundation upon which to develop and implement KM within their workplaces.

Scrutinise KM products thoroughly

As noted earlier, a vast array of KM related service and product solutions are available to Australian organisations.

This can make the process of selection very difficult, with poor choices almost certainly leading to the consumption of substantial time and money for little result.

Some questions that warrant consideration in this regard include:

1. How will the product or service go about establishing the things that make an organisation competitive and profitable? Unless KM addresses these core processes, it is unlikely to yield major benefits.

2. Is the product or service predominantly “IT-based” or “people-based”? While IT often plays a support role in KM initiatives, it does not constitute KM itself. Any solution that is primarily technology-based must be carefully evaluated in terms of how it will meet an organisation’s KM objectives.

3. Is the KM solution provider aware of the Australian KM standards and are they in any way reflected within the product or service being offered? These standards have been developed to allow Australia to be in line with the rest of the world as regards KM practice.

4. Does the KM product or service set explicit and relevant performance indicators by which its benefits can be tangibly measured? This is vital, for unless specific measureable outcomes can be established, the time and money expended on a KM initiative cannot be verified.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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