I blogged a while ago about the two parallel work streams in product development - the product work stream and the knowledge work stream.
A question came up last week - who defines the output for the knowledge work stream? The output from the product work stream is defined by the customer for the product - there are product specifications which meet the client requirements or the requirements of the market. But who defines the specs for the knowledge work stream?
The answer, of course, is simple, the knowledge customer (or the knowledge market) defines the specifications for the output from the knowledge work stream.
For a product going into service, the knowledge customers will be
- The manufacturing staff, who need to know how to build the thing
- The sales, service and support staff, who need to know the details of the product in order to sell it, to support the customers, and to service the product. They need to know the selling points, the functionality, and the as-built spec.
- Anyone in future who will make modifications to the product, who need to know the design rationale; the choices made in design, why they were made, what the alternative choices were, and why they were rejected, what the core "don't mess with this" items are, and what the "options to improve" components are.
- Managers and teams of similar development projects, who want to know how to repeat the successes of this project, and avoid the pitfalls
- Owners of corporate process, who need to know if any modifications to those processes are needed
- Technical authorities and technical communities of practice, who need to know of any technological advances developed along the way, and what these may mean for future products.
You find the needs of these customers by asking them, or (if they are not yet identified) by predicting their needs as a sort of market research. The knowledge workstream, and the delivery of these results, are managed through the Knowledge Management Plan.