Thursday 28 May 2015

Sweetshop KM

Being a knowledge manager can be a bit like being a kid in a sweetshop. There is so much choice of KM software on the market, all of which claims to ensure KM success - it is very tempting to "pick and mix" a solution.

However such an approach does not guarantee a good result, any more than picking and mixing your sweets guarantees good teeth and a healthy diet!

Selecting KM technology should be done in the context of a KM strategy, a KM framework, and a thorough understanding of the user requirements.

We can think about technology as having four functions in a KM framework:

  1. Technology for connecting people with people, so they can collaborate and discuss.  This could include people-finder technology, technologies for threaded discussion, and technologies so people can interact real-time and face to face (such as desktop videoconference and real-time chat).
  2. Technologies for capturing and publishing new knowledge as user-generated content. This can include lessons management systems for capturing new lessons, wikis, blogs, tools for publishing customer solutions, and online video publishing ("in-house youtube").
  3. Technologies for organising, sythesising and structuring knowledge, such as portal technologies, wikis (again) and structured knowledge bases.
  4. Technologies for connecting documented knowledge with people, such as search technologies, and workflow technologies which push knowledge to the user at the start of each task. 

The key is to have only one technology for each function or subfunction, otherwise the channels for knowledge flow become duplicated and unclear, with some people using one channel, and others using another. Schlumberger for example, when they introduced SharePoint for document management, disabled the "MySite" feature as they already had a good people-finder system and to introduce a duplicate would be to introduce confusion for the user. 

Mapping out your technology needs in this way is a good approach to navigating the "KM technology sweetshop".


Stephanie Barnes said...

The same can be said for KM activities in general, not just KM technologies. Stan Garfield created a list of 80+ items (the only list that I have ever come across) that can be considered KM activities. It's critical to know which KM activities are the right ones for an organization. This is done through a similar business alignment activity as picking the right supporting technology and all of this is done in the context of having an over-all KM strategy and governance plan.

Nick Milton said...

Well said Stephanie.

Rupert Lescott said...

Nice piece, Nick. The key quote for me is "Selecting KM technology should be done in the context of a KM strategy, a KM framework, and a thorough understanding of the user requirements."

It is to the credit of certain software providers that their market dominance has led to people thinking that merely acquiring their tools = KM. However, without proper requirements capture, simply selecting the market leader platform is no substitute for a framework. Technology on its own achieves nothing.

Indeed, its procurement is arguably the easiest step - having a holistic approach, consistent processes and supportive governance are crucial but far harder to achieve.

Stan Garfield said...

Stephanie, thanks for your comment. The list is available on slide 7 of KM Basics at and details are available starting at slide 87 in KM 101 at

Anonymous said...

Great way to frame the buying & evaluation decision. Even for our product, which is more innovative and somewhat blazing a new trail, it's important to find our grounding with a framework that KM professionals will be able to relate to. As a biz dev guy, I hope you don't mind if I re-use some of this in my upcoming customer meetings and on our the company blog that I currently author.

Drew Lessard (

Stephanie Barnes said...

Thanks, for the links, Stan!

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