We need to draw a distinction between testing individual components of knowledge management, and piloting a knowledge management system. Both may be needed, and proof-of-concept tests of individual KM components can be valuable exercises, but we would highly recommend piloting the complete system on a small part of the business, even if you don’t do tests of individual components.
- The first few pilot projects will be “proof of value” projects, and the organisation will be watching them closely to see if they work, and in particular, to see whether knowledge management work in your individual context. You may need to many people within your organisation who say “yes, knowledge management sounds fine, and I can understand how it worked in Ford, or Shell, or BP, but our business is different”. A successful pilot project will demonstrate that knowledge management also delivers value in your own business.
- Secondly, the pilot project will deliver a lot of learning about how knowledge management works in your business, and how knowledge management can be implemented in your culture.
- Thirdly, if the pilot is successful, it will deliver monetary value to the organisation, and so should be worth doing in its own right
- Finally, you should be able to get some good marketing material from the pilot project, in terms of stories, endorsements, quotes and video. This will be incredibly valuable for the roll-out phase.
- If there is the business critical activity which is new to the organisation, then rapid learning will deliver business benefits. If it is new to only one part of the organisation, then transferring learning from where it has been done before, will give huge benefits.
- If there is repetitive activity, where continuous improvement is needed, then knowledge management can help drive down the learning curve.
- If there is activity which is carried out in several locations, where performance level varies, then knowledge management can help exchange knowledge from the good performers, to improve the poor performers.
- Finally if there is an area of the business which is stuck due to lack of knowledge, then knowledge management can help develop the knowledge needed to get unstuck.
Each of these areas carries the potential for a successful pilot.