Wednesday 13 October 2010

No silver bullet in KM

Bullet holes
Originally uploaded by Isbi Armor

Folks, we have known for a long time that there is no silver bullet in KM, despite what the software vendors tried to tell us.

  • Groupware? Not a silver bullet
  • Intranets? Not a silver bullet
  • Enterprise Search? Not a silver bullet
  • SharePoint? Not a silver bullet.

So it's not really surprising if we have to add another to the list

  • Social Media? Not a silver bullet.
There is a lot to be said for social media in support of KM, and certain social tools, such as wikis, are already proving their worth as part of an overall KM framework. But that is as part of a framework, not as a silver bullet. There are plenty of failed wikis out there - wikis with no process, roles or governance to support them. They start with a burst of enthusiasm, then wither and die rapidly.

In fact, that seems to be all too common for social media implementations. I was reviewing KM at a big company a couple of weeks ago, and they had done the default thing of introducing social media tools on their own. The result? A few half-formed wiki pages, mostly a year out of date. One or two blogs by senior managers, replacing newsletters. Yammer, rolled out to all staff, and 95% of staff disillusioned by the aimlessness of it already. And what about KM? It's working the way its always worked in that company, through personal networks and face to face meetings.

Social media is not a silver bullet. You can't just introduce social media and expect "knowledge to be managed" (or even, "knowledge to be shared"). There is no short cut.

Instead you have to address KM the hard way, the rigorous way, the business-led way.

  • What knowledge is crucial to business strategy?
  • Who needs that knowledge?
  • Who has it?
  • If nobody has it, how do we develop it?
  • If we have it in-house, then how do we get it to the people who need it, at the time they need it?
  • What framework shall we put in to ensure this happens?
  • Within that framework, what technology is needed? (and sometimes, some of this may be social media)
  • What governance is needed to drive it?
There is no easy way, no easy answer, no silver bullet.


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