Friday, 21 February 2020

The 4 legs on the KM table - comparison of Google vs ISO

A recurrent theme on this blog is to address "the 4 legs on the Knowledge Management table" - the four enabling elements of the Knowledge Management Framework (and indeed of any management framework) - roles, processes, technology and governance.


Two days ago I published a quick exercise, looking at the relative "Google ranking" of these four elements, as a proxy measure of where the attention typically lies, and comparing this with results 5 years ago.
  • A search for "knowledge management process" gave  632000 hits
  • A search for "knowledge management technology" gave 416,000 results
  • A search for "knowledge management roles" gave 169,000 results
  • A search for "knowledge management governance" gave 122,000 results 
These figures show an imbalance between the 4 elements  (although less so than in 2015) with far more attention paid to KM processes and KM technology than to KM roles or governance.  My colleague Ian Fry in Australia then suggested we look at ISO 30401:2018 for a good coverage of governance.  So I went through the various clauses of ISO 30401:2018 to determine which referred to each of the 4 elements. The results are shown in the chart below, and are very interesting.


The plot above shows the results. In ISO 30401 there are

  • 4 clauses addressing Roles (4.4.4, 5.3, 7.1, 7.2)
  • 2 clauses addressing Process (4.4.4 and the single clause in section 8)
  • 1 clause mentioning technology (4.4.4)
  • 15 clauses on governance (4.4.4, 5.1, 5.2, and all of sections 6, 7, 9 and 10)

So the view of KM on Google (its all about KM process and technology) and the view of KM on ISO (its all about governance) are diametrically opposed.

Now to an extent that is to be expected, as ISO is a governance document, but it certainly shows that, for organisations wanting to comply with the ISO standard, governance is something that no longer can be neglected. There is no point, for example, in having a toolkit full of processes and technologies if there is no planning, no leadership, no policy, no objectives, no measurement of results, no regular audit, no controlled documentation and no means of continuous improvement of the KM Framework.

Hopefully an increased use of the ISO KM standard will lead to a further balancing of the 4 critical elements that form the 4 legs of the KM table.

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