November may seem like a “nothing” month filling in the time before the holiday season starts. But it’s actually known for several things: Fireworks night and Remembrance Day (if you’re British), Black Friday and Thanksgiving (if you’re American), the Melbourne Cup (if you’re Australian), St Andrew’s Day (if you’re Scottish) and Independence Day (if you’re Polish, Angolan, Latvian, Lebanese, Surinamese or Albanian). It’s also NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), Sweet Potato Awareness Month (who knew?!), and Movember (the reason you keep seeing unkempt facial hair around lately).
In the enterprise collaboration world, there’s WOLWeek (Work Out Loud Week), and I’m going to coin a new one – Nov-ledge Management Month! This is because there have been a lot of articles on knowledge management doing the rounds in November, with KM experts sharing their thoughts on the importance and practicalities of knowledge management.
In his blog post KM: The extra mile that saves your time, Ewen Le Borgne explains how KM saves both time and money, but requires people to “go the extra mile”. He explains how in order to practice good KM, workers have to invest in sharing their knowledge. “A good KMer encountering a problem will not just try and fix it,” he says. “S/he will record it, bring it to the attention of others concerned with it, and also document the way that problem was solved, or the gap in policies and processes that was revealed in the process. It would be much easier to just fix the problem and get on with it.”
Jose Carlos Tenorio Favero agrees, explaining that there is more to KM than following processes and using knowledge management software. In his blog post Knowledge management roadmap and practices: What comes first… Then second?, he explains that “what some of the best companies have revealed is that technology indeed is essential but it does not guarantee success. They all have KM portals which support wikis, forums, group pages, expert directories and other forms of tools which facilitate knowledge transfer but they didn’t start there. Emphasis is placed on strategy. Tech comes later.”
Jose Carlos comments on the future of KM, where he says that “KM is really more about people and how we can bring them together in order to connect, collaborate and co-create. This must come about from working on culture and driving a genuine and sustainable change management strategy that looks to promote passion towards learning and working as teams. This is in fact one of the biggest challenges KM faces and as various case studies show, there is no single recipe in order to get it done.”
Kashyap Kompella wrote an article that revealed that social collaboration projects (often considered to sit within the KM remit) are becoming shared across the business, in his article for Real Story Group. In the article, Kashyap analyses a report by Real Story Group, which reveals that the drive for enterprise social networks in businesses are coming from departments other than IT, mainly Corporate Comms and KM, with some HR too.
Kashyap explains how “not surprisingly, IT leads the implementation of about a third of collab-social projects. But note that responsibility for the other two-thirds of the projects rest with other departments. This suggests that most enteprises do not consider collaboration projects to be purely technology projects but “business” initiatives. Clearly that’s a positive development,” Kashyap says, but adds a note of caution: “When IT gets left out of the picture completely, projects may not necessarily scale well beyond the departmental level: the challenges of enterprise-wide deployments often involve complexities that usually require IT to untangle.”
Keith Ferrazzi writes about the practical applications of using social technology to connect knowledge workers in his article Getting Virtual Teams Right for Harvard Business Review. Keith explains that in a survey of 1,700 knowledge workers at his firm, 79% reported working always or frequently in dispersed teams. “The appeal of forming virtual teams is clear,” he says. “Employees can manage their work and personal lives more flexibly, and they have the opportunity to interact with colleagues around the world. Companies can use the best and lowest-cost global talent and significantly reduce their real estate costs.”
However, Keith echoes Jose Carlos’s sentiment by explaining that “most people consider virtual communication less productive than face-to-face interaction, and nearly half admit to feeling confused and overwhelmed by collaboration technology.” The key to effective virtual collaboration, Keith explains, is the right team, the right leadership, the right touchpoints, and then the right technology. Keith goes on to explain specific benefits of working out loud with social tools, saying that “All the activity is open and searchable, making it easy for existing teams to find subject-matter experts or review their own work and for ad hoc teams to form around business-related passions.”Nov-ledge Management Month may be over now, but that doesn’t mean you should forget about KM! You can download our practical guide to knowledge management to find out more about how to optimise KM in your organisation.