Tuesday, 23 August 2011


The KM Framework - an analogy


Abacus I posted a few days ago about the importance of a Knowledge Management Framework. This prompted some questions, including one from Liu, looking for an analogy.

The analogy I use the most, is to compare the KM Framework with other management frameworks, showing that these are also an interconnecting framework of people, processes, technologies and governance, which cannot work if there are holes in the framework. One of the easiest to understand, because everyone is involved with it, is financial management. I know knowledge and money are not the same, but both require a company-wide management framework if they are to flow round the company in an effective and systematic way.

If you Google "Financial Management Framework", this will give you many examples, most of which contain common elements, and most of which contain a mix of people, process, and governance (strangely technology is often missing from these frameworks, presumably either because financial technology is pervasive and taken for granted, or because the framework should be technology-independent).

Lets look at some of those common elements, and then, lets ask what happens if some of these are missing.

People
The frameworks all contain defined roles and responsibilities, such as
  • Budget holders - the people accountable for money within projects and operations
  • Accountants and Cost engineers - the people doing the nuts and bolts of money-tracking
  • Central finance team - the people who shuffle money between the projects and operations
  • CFOs and Finance Directors - the people accountable for the financial management system itself
Processes
The frameworks all contain certain processes, such as
  • Financial planning and forecasting
  • Budgeting
  • Invoicing
  • Expenditure management
  • Cost tracking
  • Timewriting
  • Reporting
Governance
All the frameworks mention governance, which typically includes
  • Financial policies
  • Monitoring
  • Auditing
  • Training and support
If there were mention of technology, this would include
  • Technology for logging and tracking transactions, such as SAP
  • Technology for reporting of figures, such as Excel
  • Technology for counting, such as a calculator or an abacus
All of these fit together into a financial management framework, and the complexity and completeness of that framework needs to fit the scale of the operation. The framework listed above has 18 elements; large companies can easily have more elements. My small company has fewer. The person pictured at the top if this blog has a very simple framework - one person, an abacus, a money pot, tickets and a stapler, and a few process to support these.

Now what would happen if there were holes in that framework? Let's pick a few items from the framework listed above, remove them, and imagine what would happen.

  • Imagine there were no budget holders - what would happen then? With no accountability for managing a budget, it just would not get done. There would be no attention paid to budget management within the projects and operations, because it's nobody's job.
  • Imagine there was no process of financial reporting - what would happen then? Financial management would fall apart, because the company would have no record of money gained or spent during operations.
  • Imagine there was no consistent technology for financial management, what would happen then? Financial management would be a mess, as there would be no way of comparing and compiling financial figures from across the organisation.
  • Imagine there was no auditing - what would happen then? There would be no way of knowing if people were doing proper financial management, people would cut corners and fudge figures and pretty soon a consistent approach to financial management would disappear.
So there's our analogy. Financial management needs a minimum framework consistent with the scale of the business, and if there are holes in that framework, financial management becomes impossible.

It is the same for knowledge management!

Knowledge management needs a minimum framework, and if there are holes in that framework, knowledge management becomes impossible. Here are some equivalents to the holes mentioned above


  • Imagine there were no "KM holders" in the projects, the people accountable for KM within projects and operations - what would happen then? What would happen is that, with no accountability for managing KM activity, it just would not get done. There would be no attention paid to knowledge management within the projects and operations, because it's nobody's job.
  • Imagine there was no process of knowledge reporting - what would happen then? Knowledge management would fall apart, because the company would have no record of new knowledge gained  during operations.
  • Imagine there was no consistent technology for knowledge management, what would happen then? Knowledge management would be a mess, as there would be no way of comparing and compiling and communicating knowledge from across the organisation.
  • Imagine there was no auditing - what would happen then? There would be no way of knowing if people were doing proper knowledge management, people would cut corners and fudge figures and pretty soon a consistent approach to knowledge management would disappear.
So if your managers question the need for a KM Framework, and ask (for example) "do we really need defined roles for KM?", then ask them to imagine a financial management framework without defined roles.

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