Monday 29 June 2020

4 flavours of KM - which one do you work with?

The more time I spend in the field of KM, the more I see certain brands of flavours of the field which share a common name (knowledge management) and common principles, but can use very different roles, processes and supporting technologies.

Image from wikipedia
Below are the main flavours I see, together with some of the common elements you find within their KM frameworks. Sometimes different flavours are seen in different divisions within the same organisation - Practice-flavoured KM in the project department, Product-flavoured in the Engineering department, customer-flavoured in sales and marketing. These different flavours of KM can use very different processes, technologies and roles - even within the same organisation.

Please let me know via the comments section if you have an additional flavour to add to the mix.

1. Practice-flavoured KM

This is the brand of KM which I was brought up on, in the early stages of my 28-year KM career.

This flavour of KM focuses on know-how and on practice and process improvement to support increased operational effectiveness and efficiency. You see this brand of KM in the military, the oil sector, the construction sector, charities, and other organisations focused on "doing stuff". 

Practice-flavoured KM is based around communities of practice, best practices, learning from experience, and process innovation, supported by community collaboration software, wikis and process documents such as Standard Operating Procedures.

Engineering-product-flavoured KM

This flavour of KM focuses on capturing and reproducing the expert knowledge of product design and manufacture, primarily in industries such as the car industry, the aerospace industry, defence contractors and so on. It's aim is to make expert design knowledge available, in order to increase quality and reliability in future products. It often uses knowledge-based technology to support computer-aided design.

The components of engineering-product-flavoured KM include knowledge engineers, knowledge acquisition programs (for example using the MOKA methodology), concept mapping and A3 diagrams, supported by a Knowledge Based system or expert system such as ICAD.

Document-product-flavoured KM

This flavour of KM focuses on creating knowledge-based document products to customers, primarily in areas such as the legal industry, education, aid and development, and many areas of government. It's aim is to provide the best knowledge and advice to customers and clients, through access to a wide and up-to-date knowledge base.

The components of document-product-flavoured KM include researchers and analysts, evaluation programs, library staff, and communities and networks focused on specialist areas of interest (specific client industry groupings, specialist legal advice areas and so on). Supporting technology is usually provided by excellent document and information management, and portal technology. AI and semantic search can help.

Customer-flavoured KM

This flavour of KM focuses on supplying knowledge to customer-facing staff, or even providing self-help knowledge directly to customers. It's aim is to build a strong customer base through effective customer support. You see this brand of KM in the retail sector, financial services, and media companies.

Customer-flavoured KM is based around communities of brand and communities of product, customer relationship management integrated with KM, and the development of knowledge articles within a knowledge base (of which there are many commercial examples). Chatbots can be used to support customers directly.

When seeking analogues, be aware of these different flavours, because the KM solutions do not always map across from one to another. 

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