Thursday 20 October 2016

How email plays a key role in Knowledge Management

Email is an unpopular medium, but we should not ignore the role it can play in Knowledge Management

Everyone professes to dislike email.

In most offices, especially after the holiday break, you hear people competing about the number of emails they received – “I had 500 to deal with”, “that’s nothing – my inbox had 1000 unread messages”, “I actually took my iPhone on holiday so I could weed them out before I got back”

Then when you introduce communities of practice, and suggest that the community Q&A forum may somehow be linked with email, people say “Oh No – not MORE emails”.

And yet, you can’t keep people away from email. It's like a habit you can't break. It’s the first thing most people do when they come to the office.  It’s the last thing they do at night. They check email at the weekend, and on the train.  Email is omnipresent - even US presidential electiopns may hinge on who did what with emails.

Email is communication, and lots of email means lots of communication and for most of us, communication is a large part of the job. The email habit is still very strong, and very strong to break. So why not work with it, and use email as a key enabler for KM?

How to use email in Knowledge Management

We are not proposing that email is a favoured way of sharing knowledge - far from it. Community of Practice discussions, for example, should not use the standard email system, where the discussions are stored in private email folders rather than in shared space, and where threaded discussions get lost in mazes of cc and reply-all.

But for the current majority of people, email is the best way to get their attention.  This may change with the rise of enterprise social media, but for the moment email is the primary attention mechanism within most companies.

For as long as people “have the email habit”, then our Knowledge Management activities can use email as a personal notification mechanism.
  • You can link the community Q&A forums to email, so people are notified by email of new questions, and can follow a link to reply to the question.
  • You can link the community Blog to email, so people are notified of new items, and can follow a link to read it all, and comment.
  • You can link the lessons management system to email so people are notified of new lessons, and new actions they need to take.
  • You can link the Wiki to email, so people are notified of new content

For a large proportion of people in a large proportion of companies, if they don’t hear something by email, it might as well not have happened.

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