Should Knowledge Management sit within HR? Or IT? Or somewhere else?
Here's a way to think about it.
KM, as we often argue, involves attention to four things, People, Process, Technology and Governance, which together ensure that Knowledge management is applied systematically and effectively to improve business results.
- People; knowledge management roles have to be established in the business, communities need to be set up to share and reuse tacit knowledge, behaviors such as seeking for and sharing knowledge need to be incentivised, and to become 'the way we work'
- KM Processes; there has to be a tried-and-tested process for capturing, distilling, validating, storing, applying and reusing knowledge, and also for innovating.
- KM Technologies; the people and the process need to be supported by enabling technology, which allows knowledge to be found and accessed wherever it resides (in databases, on the Intranet, in people's heads). IT plays an important role in KM, by providing the technology to allow people to communicate.
- KM Governance; without a governance system that promotes and recognizes sharing and the re-use of knowledge, any attempts to introduce KM are going to be a hard struggle.
Each of these four elements is vital, and each links to, and is supported by, other parts of the organisation.
- The people aspect is linked to HR, as new roles need to be in place, new career ladders, and new recognition schemes.
- The technology aspect is linked to IT, as new programs, applications, systems and (sometimes) hardware need to be in place.
- The Process aspect needs to be linked to Operations, as new processes have to be embedded into the operational workstream, and
- The Governance aspect needs to be linked to the Executive, as their support, involvement and drive is vital.
Generally, if any one of these supporting departments is "in charge" of KM, the balance becomes distorted - not because of any evil intent, but just by the nature and the natural way of thinking of the epeople within that department. So KM run by IT and HR look like the pictures below - distorted versions of what is really needed.
What's the answer?
The answer is to run KM as a separate small department, independant of these four, but to involve all four supporting departments on a KM steering team or steering committee, as they are four of your most important stakeholders.