Wednesday, 20 June 2018

The KM one-stop shop vs the multi-site experience

When we set up our KM systems, lets make it as simple as possible for the knowledge-seeker. Let's aim for the one-stop shop.

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It is common for Knowledge Managers to start to plan their KM systems based on the supply of knowledge, or based on the different forms knowledge can take. 
"Let's set up a lessons database to collect lessons"
 "Let's put together a best practice repository"
 "Let's build a site where we can collect videos together. We can call it AcmeTube!"
 "Let's set up some forums for communities of practice"
 "Let's create an expertise-finder system so people can find others with relevant knowledge"
"Let's start a wiki site. We can call it AcmePedia!"
All of these are worthy aims, but the complication comes when a future knowledge worker comes looking for knowledge. Say they are looking for knowledge on a particular topic - a maintenance engineer wanting to overhaul a submerged pump for example. With the system above -
  • They have to open the lessons database to see lessons on submerged pumps,
  • They have to open the best practice repository to see best practices on maintaining submerged pumps,
  • They have to visit AcmeTube to see videos on how to maintain submerged pumps,
  • They have to visit the community of practice forum to see discussions on submerged pumps,
  • They have to log into the expertise-finder system to find people who know about submerged pumps,
  • They have to open AcmePedia to find if there are any articles about how to maintain submerged pumps.
By setting up multiple knowledge systems, and splitting up your knowledge based on it's type rather than its topic, you are setting unnecessary demands on the user. It is hard enough to get people to re-use knowledge without making it time-consuming and complicated. Far better to construct your technology around the needs of the user and to create a one-stop shop. Make it as easy as possible to re-use the knowledge.

The one-stop shop

The ideal situation for the user is that they search or navigate through "rotating equipment" and "pumps" until they find the Submerged Pumps Portal. The portal then gives them:

  • Wiki guidance
  • All videos are embedded in the wiki (even though they might be hosted elsewhere)
  • Alongside the page is a list of experts on submerged pumps
  • At the bottom of the page is a summary of open lessons on submerged pumps (the content of older closed lessons has already been used to update the wiki)
  • Also at the bottom of the page is a summary of open community discussion on submerged pumps (the content of older closed discussions lessons has already been used to update the wiki)
  • The wiki contains best practices, maybe with links out to Standards documents. It may also contain case histories, links to training material, and so on.
Ask yourself - if you were the maintenance engineer, which of these two approaches would you prefer to use? The one-stop portal, or the six separate systems?

Set up your technology systems with the needs of the user in mind. Don't structure them based on the type of knowledge or the provenance of the knowledge, separating out lessons from best practices, or separating videos from discussions. Instead structure them based on the needs of the users. Structure the knowledge according to the activities the knowledge workers undertake, or the equipment they work with. 

Set up the one-stop knowledge shop to make life quick and simple for the knowledge worker.

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