Tuesday 8 November 2016

4 ways to ensure good KM in your outsource partners

Many organisations outsource large chunks of their work to partners, who can deliver that work more efficiently. But how do you make sure those partners are managing their knowledge?

Creative Commons image from nyphotographic.com
Outsourcing work generally means outsourcing the knowledge about that work as well. 

Say you have an outsource partner managing your customer support, for example, or your tax preparation, or your website design. You want them not only to provide a good service, but to manage their knowledge about service provision, so that they continuously improve.  You need them to have good knowledge of customer support, tax preparation and website design, and to keep that knowledge fresh and well managed.

You have outsourced the knowledge as well as the task, and need to ensure the knowledge is managed on your behalf.

Here are 3 ways you can acheive this.

1. Put KM in the contract.

I recently saw a government contract which contained the following clauses:

"the contractor shall employ knowledge management systems and processes to promulgate knowledge and experience resulting from the service to the user community"  
 "The contractor shall provide the following ... A knowledge management system to promulgate lessons learned, good practice and to facilitate improved maintenance and operation"
These are good clauses - they say quite clearly what is expected from the outsource contractor in terms of KM.

If you are outsourcing knowledge as well as work, then use clauses like this to let the partner know in advance that they need to manage that knowledge on your behalf.

2. Align your Knowledge Management frameworks.

Ideally the partners KM framework and yours will be aligned and integrated. Take the example of outsourced customer support - you need to be receiving lessons and insights from the customer support area to improve your products and services, and you need to be passing knowledge to customer support concerning new products and services. Any communities of practice related to specific products or services may need to include staff both from your own organisation and from the outsource partner. Your taxonomy, and the partner taxonomy, should align in critical areas.

Again this is something you need to set up from the start.

3. Require a single point of contact for KM matters

Ask the partner organisation to assign a person to work with you on KM matters, and to be accountable for the KM performance of the outsource partner in relation to the outsource service. You need someone you can talk with, work with, negotiate with, who can fix any KM related problems for you and reassure you that the knowledge is being well managed for you.

4. Ask the partner to comply to a KM standard.

We don't yet have an ISO KM standard, although one is in preparation. Once this is published (possibly in 2017, more likely in 2018) then you will be able to require your outsource partner to comply with this standard. This will ensure they have a sound KM approach which will make sure they manage the knowledge well on your behalf. 


Unknown said...

In the absence of a KM standard, can we ask the partner to comply with knowledge management clause in the ISO 9001-2015, ADVICE

Nick Milton said...

Yes you could, though ISO are clear that this clause is only about their quality system, and is not an ISO KM clause. In the absence of an ISO KM standard, I suggest you write your own clause, which could potentially be based on ISO9001:2015, but will probably need to go into more depth.

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