Using the 80/20 rule as a generalization, 80% of the challenges related to knowledge management are anchored around organizational and process dynamics. Only 20% of the challenge is related to technology enablement. I don't believe I'm being overly generous on the technology side of the issue. Ensuring that the user experience, application services, infrastructure and support frameworks are effective requires a fair amount of focus. I have mixed feelings on the article overall. It's certainly nice to see KM covered in the media. I would have hoped that the KM 2.0 meme would have taken the opportunity to discuss the social aspects of organizations. Given the need for growth and innovation, CXO's are investigating ways to harness the intellectual capital within their organization and extended network of customer, partner and supplier relationships. But any reader take-away that what we need is a new round of technology silver-bullets would be unfortunate. I'm having a bad flashback to the KM hype of the nineties sometimes applied nowadays to blogs, wikis and so on. Below are some reactions to various aspects of the article. It is still worth reading as the companies profiled are doing interesting things:
"New, focused, lightweight applications rewrite the rules about KM. The best part? People will actually use them."
There are no new rules here. Throwing technology out there in the hope that people will suddenly become motivated and change their communication, information sharing and collaboration behaviors is much more prone to failure than success. There is a sliver of truth here however. The industry is coming to realize that lightweight tools (tags, social bookmarks and other types of attentional applications) that overlay systems can act as connection services in a more natural manner than previous software that was complex costly and cumbersome. But, organizations need to focus on human capital management, leadership, followership, community-building, role/responsibility clarity, decision rights, recognition programs, conflict resolution and other people-centric issues depending on how functional/dysfunctional the organization is in the first place.
"So why haven't enterprisewide knowledge management tools caught on like wildfire? There's one main problem, says Gartner VP of Research Jeffrey Mann: Users and IT administrators hate them."
Well, they may hate their organization first and hate the tool second. Tools like enterprise content management are rarely rolled out across the enterprise because they are costly, complex and intrusive - regardless of whether people want, or do not want, share what they know. Again, KM is not a tooling problem. It is an organizational problem in terms of workers perceiving that there is a "fair process" (Harvard Business Review, January, 2003). The social contract between workers and employer is quite complex and requires a certain level of engagement, explanation and expectation clarity.
"Attention, CIO's: A notable aspect of this new generation of knowledge management tools is the way they offer themselves for casual involvement. "It's not as huge a commitment to use any of these things as it is when you have to set up a server, and install it and license it," says Gartner's Mann.
Acting independently, and without need of server space or tech support, business units can simply try out the new KM systems, sometimes in stealth mode. "In many cases they don't have to sell it to IT, they just go and do it," notes Mann. "You just [use] a credit card, or it's free." Now's a good time for CIO's to get up to speed on what these apps can do."
Casual and informal involvement is the truth here. See my posts here, here, here, here, and here. But the notion that enterprises might consider public services has its clear risks in terms of security and confidentiality.
"A KM system that's "actually being used"—this kind of language hints at the skepticism both users and CIO's have had about KM for years. But apps like Illumio and Koral could win enterprise users over one workgroup at a time via viral adoption
One final bit of good news: Users say the new, simpler KM tools make it easier to justify the investment to your fellow C-level executives."
KM is an additive component to a business case. Viral adoption is an important component. Organic, bottom-up champions are often necessary for KM to become socially institutionalized. But, overall, if the outcome does not contribute to innovation, growth, performance or some organizational goal (competency level, succession planning), then CXO's will not likely be any more enthused about it than before.