What’s Just Over the Horizon for Knowledge Management?

Lauren TREES's picture

I recently sat down with Bernie Palowitch, President of Iknow LLC, to talk about the current state of knowledge management; the biggest developments he sees in the near-term future; and the range of challenges that KM practitioners face in developing KM strategies, picking the right tools, and building organizational cultures that emphasize and value knowledge sharing and reuse. A few of his most intriguing responses are below.

Q: What opportunities do you see on the horizon?The Knowledge Management Horizon

Over the next three to five years, I see a growing emphasis in three areas.

The first is knowledge representation. This includes capturing tacit knowledge and converting it into formats that are more effective for sharing and reuse. This is critically important in the area of lessons learned.

The second opportunity involves innovations in expertise location and deep expertise description. These will increasingly leverage the hidden value of social networks and communities, as more and more knowledge gets exchanged in these forums and participants share their interests and topic-specific know-how. One example of a specific innovation in this area is the combination of social network analysis (who talks with whom), text analysis, and a comprehensive synonym library that is able to count and classify the types of conversations that are occurring across an organization.

Third, in technology, we’ll see further advances in auto-classification, automated text mining and text analysis, machine learning, and big data. These technologies provide a more scalable approach to getting value out of large volumes of content. They will also drive a richer and more intuitive user experience across all categories of applications.

We talked about some of these opportunities during our APQC conference presentation. Simon Trussler, a colleague at Iknow, has published an excellent article, titled Turbo Charging KM Content Management, that expands on some of these technologies.

Q.  What are the biggest challenges facing KM practitioners?

There is no shortage of areas for KM specialists to work on. If I were to group the biggest challenges facing KM practitioners into a few buckets, my top five would be:

  1. Relevance. Unfortunately, we sometimes see KM programs that manage document and content libraries that have no direct relevance or impact on the organization. I think one of the best ways of demonstrating relevance is to use KM to support your organization’s mission and core business processes.
  2. Grappling with the explosion of available content. How do you leverage the information available in open source databases, from social media, on public websites, and in search engine indexes to improve your organization’s decision making and outcomes?
  3. Finding the right technology solution for a specific use case. There is a proliferation of KM-related software products. In fact, at Iknow, we have identified and catalogued over 2,400 commercial and open source products that fall within the KM domain. It is often quite challenging to find the optimal solution. It requires a lot of hard work and dedication by an individual or small team, consensus on the business requirements, and a good dose of skepticism about what’s printed in software product brochures.
  4. Funding. In commercial companies, nonprofits, and the public sector, budget and headcount constraints frequently limit good KM projects. Funding for KM is very closely tied to the relevance point I made earlier. Creating good business cases, demonstrating relevance, and communicating the business value from KM are absolutely essential for gaining executive support and KM program funding.
  5. Tailoring your KM program to meet your organization’s “big picture” demographics. I don’t see this issue discussed much. Is your company facing a retiring workforce issue in the next five years? Or does your company contain mostly Millennials with a completely different set of KM needs and preferences?

Q. How do you feel about the future of KM?

Very positive! The business need is greater than ever, and organizations of all types really want to do KM right. All around us, we’re seeing the adoption and pervasive use of electronic tools and apps. While many apps are primarily data-driven now (e.g., weather forecast, maps, online shopping), the future will increasingly leverage personal preferences, rules, decision support algorithms, and other forms of knowledge.

The future of KM is exciting because we’re only at the beginning of the transformation to a global knowledge-based economy.

Iknow (www.iknow.us) is a leading management and technology consulting firm that helps businesses, governments, and nonprofit organizations to harness and unlock the value of their enterprise knowledge. Read the full interview with Bernie or check out a summary of Iknow’s breakout session in innovative and emerging KM technologies at APQC’s 2016 KM Conference.


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