Tuesday 5 June 2012

Making the KM business case, but for what?

Off to Work: University Professor At a workshop last week in Copenhagen, there was a lot of interest in "Making the Case for Knowledge Management".

At the intereactive stage, where people were identifying their common issues for further discussion, several people asked about "Making the Case", and the crux of the issue seemed to be that KM could be seen as a big investment, and that without some investment, you won't see much value. So are you asking Senior Managers to take KM on trust, and invest in something where the value is unclear and intangible?

Basically, the answer is not to invest all at once.
As I said in this blog post, you can look at KM as a series of investment decisions. Each investment is only enough to get you to the next decision point.
Therefore, you only need to make the case for the investment for that stage.

Let me explain.

  1. The first business case you need to make, is the case to set up a task force, and commission some studies to gain some idea of whether KM is something the company needs to invest in.  You can make this case fairly simply - either using case studies from other companies, or by showing waste or risk in your own company through ill-managed knowledge (see the white paper on "Making the Case" here).
  2. The second business case is to scope out the scale of the implementation, to set strategic direction, and to do a first-pass costing of what the implementation exercise might cost. More assessment may be needed to fully map out the scale of the interventions needed. This could be an extension of number 1, or a separate investment. This scoping work will include an estimate of implementation costs, and of the scale of business value, and these figures make the case for the next step.
  3. The third business case is the case to set up a piloting program. This will include a full-time KM team and budget, buy you arent investing in a massive change program, only one or two (or maybe three) pilots. However the value data gathered through piloting will confirm the scale of the business value (above), and will prove evidence for the next business case.
  4. This is the big one. This is the business case for roll-out of KM across the whole organisation, as a change program. However this case can be made in the light of hard business figures delivered through the piloting in stage 3. If the pilot program was successful, this business case should be unarguable.
So the point is, you don't have to make the business case all at once. You just have to make enough of a case to escalate to the next step.


Rob Weare said...

I totally agree with you Nick, and that approach,in my experience has worked well. I would like to add thatbi think you also need progressive decision makers. By that I mean those who may be willing to take a risk for a big reward. Good business people do it all the time......I sometimes get a little tired of always having to prove and justify...can't people see it makes perfect business sense in the New Econom nd invest accordingly!!?

Nick Milton said...

Well, although I agree with you to an extent Rob, I think we still have to shoulder the burden for "making the case". we can't just expect people to see KM as "perfect business sense" without our help. We are the experts, after all, and we need to be doing the evangelism. Progressive decisions makers still need a basis on which to make their decisions.

Having said that, the basis does not need to be a logical basis, but that will be the content of my next blog post, I think.

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