Thursday 28 July 2016

A vision of the Knowledge Supply Chain

One of the clearest visions for the Knowledge Supply Chain comes from the UK National Health Service (NHS).

Image from wikimedia commons
The analogue of a Supply Chain for Knowledge Management is one I have been using for a while now (see herehere and here for example), as a different way to look at the purpose of KM and the role of the Knowledge Manager. The Google definition of a supply chain is

the sequence of processes involved in the production and distribution of a commodity

and if that "commodity" is Knowledge, then the definition above could easily refer to Knowledge Management.

The knowledge supply chain is a new way of looking at an organisation of knowledge workers (predicted 20 years ago by Lord Browne of BP), and for ensuring that the correct knowledge reaches each knowledge worker, at the time and place they need it, to the required standard and quality, in a deliberate and systematic manner. Knowledge Management then becomes the supply chain for the knowledge worker.

So I was very interested to receive this link from Anne Brice to a paper which laid out exactly this Knowledge Supply Chain vision for the UK National Health Service (NHS) 12 years ago.

The Knowledge Supply Chain vision for the NHS

The paper linked above is a guest editorial written by Anne Brice (currently Head of KM for Public Health England) and Muir Gray (previously CKO for the NHS), describing the vision for a National Knowledge Service for health, and containing the following text:

The generation of the knowledge that people need is the first step in a supply chain. It is necessary but not sufficient, because knowledge has to reach the point where it is needed and be available when it is needed. The National Knowledge Service is committed to ensuring that decisions are based on best current knowledge wherever and whenever those decisions are being made. This requires the supply chain to be organized from the producer to the consumer, ensuring that:
  • the knowledge that is needed is generated; 
  • the knowledge that is generated is organized; 
  • the knowledge that is organized is delivered to where decision-makers need it before and during the process of decision-making; 
  • the organizations and individuals within health care systems have the skills and resources to find, appraise and use the knowledge.

This is one of the clearest visions I have seen of the Knowledge Supply Chain, covering the whole chain from supplier to user.  This vision is still in progress within the NHS. The original structure of a National Knowledge Service has changed along the way, and the vision now seems to be part of the Library and Knowledge services, focusing more on the middle of the chain - the organisation and delivery of electronic resources.

As Anne Brice said to me this week by email, "If the vision is still alive then it needs to evolve to stress the whole 'health system'. Given the current emphasis on prevention and reducing inequalities, this can only happen if it encompasses public health and social care, and not just the NHS".

It is therefore important that the current library-focused organization and delivery role is seen as part of a larger supply chain for health system knowledge, much as a warehouse management role is part of a larger supply chain for other commodities. 

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