Thursday, 26 March 2020

The 3 main types of KM roles

There are three main types of KM roles in an organition; the business roles with a KM focus, the KM roles with a business focus, and the central roles 

The business roles are focused on the business outcome which KM supports, while the KM roles focus on the effective operation of the KM processes within the business. The central roles design, implement, monitor and continuously improve the KM framework itself.

Business roles with a KM focus 

There is a role we could call the Business Knowledge manager or Business Knowledge Champion for an area of the business such as a department, a division or a project.  This person owns and implements the KM plan or strategy for that area of the business.   They
  • ensure the KM expectations are met, 
  • that the processes happen, 
  • and that KM works for the benefit of the business. 
They don't conduct KM processes themselves, but they ensure KM processes are conducted. In my experience, this is a role owned by a business person, and they may also own risk management, quality management or another parallel discipline.

In the Communities of Practice there is a CoP leader role, who

  • provides overall leadership and direction to the CoP, 
  • works together with the community sponsor to develop community objectives,
  • works with the core community team to develop plans to deliver the objectives,
  • coordinates & follows up the activities of the community, 
  • ensures that the community successfully delivers its goals, and 
  • sets the leadership style of the community
In terms of the ownership and the maintenance of the organisational knowledge, the business role is the Knowledge Owner or Subject Matter expert. This role

  • “owns and manages” an area of critical knowledge for the company
  • monitors the state of knowledge 
  • keeps the knowledge base up to date 
  • validates new knowledge 
  • broadcasts new knowledge 
  •  plays a strong role in the community or network

KM roles with a business focus. 

The business roles mentioned above will have specialist KM support. 

There is a role which supports the business KM champion, which we could call the business knowledge facilitator.
This role is sometimes known as a learning engineer, or a learning historian, and is a role for a practitioner with KM skills.

The CoP leader is often supported by a community facilitator, who
  • ensures effective transfer of knowledge among the community members through facilitation of online discussion and face to face meetings 
  • ensures new knowledge is captured and shared 
  • maintains energy and commitment in the community 
  • ensures the knowledge assets are built and maintained, and
  • maintains the community site
The CoP leader is usually a business role, while the CoP facilitator (who has a much greater emphasis on the mechanics of knowledge transfer within the CoP) could be considered a KM role.

The role of the knowledge base facilitator, or cyberarian, is to
  • determine the customer base of the online library or knowledge base, 
  • carry out market research into customer needs,
  • work with the SMEs to develop and maintain a structure for the online library 
  • work with the SMEs to develop processes for refreshing and renewing content and for removing old material 
  • monitor these processes, prompting for compliance as required 
  • provide a help-desk service to users of the online library, and 
  • provide coaching in the use of online tools and the search engine
The role of the Lessons Learned manager (who might be based in the project management office, if you have one) is to
  • support the lesson learned process 
  • analyse, action and communicate lessons
  • support LL Information Sharing via databases, websites, reports, newsletters, etc. 
  • look for recurring lessons and common threads
  • support the LL Community
  • set up or improve the organization’s LL capability.

So as the diagram above shows, at each level we can see a business role with KM as a focus, supported by a facilitative KM role with a business focus.  The KM facilitation roles bring the KM skills and knowledge of KM theory and process, while the business KM roles bring the business objectives and the business context.

Then we have the central roles

This blog contains many posts about the KM team and its role. In a fully mature KM organisation the role of the central KM team is to monitor and support the application of the KM framework, rather than to do KM work. The team will have a leader (a CKO) who is accountable for the KM Framework and its application in support of business strategy. Then there may be trainers and coaches who work with the KM roles mentioned above, to give them the skills and support they need to do their jobs.

Those are the three types of role. Not every organisation will have every role mentioned here (you can see the usage of the more common roles here), but every organisation will have roles that fall within these three types.

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