Sameer Agarwal

His views, thoughts, introspection and rants

Archive for the ‘km’ tag

Do you really need Knowledge Managers anymore?

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The trigger for this post is an interesting article from Atul Rai here. Atul articulates that from a ‘tacit knowledge sharing’ perspective (call it Web 2.0 or social networking if you have to) communication is probably not that relevant. He cites the SMS and twitter phenomenon has changed the way we communicate as people. Fair point – SMS hs chnged rules qt a bit & its nrml fr cnvrstns 2b lk ths.

But is communication all about the way we write, or speak. Isn’t their more to it? Bloody well yes, communication is about effectively transmitting a message from a sender to a receiver. While articulation (for traditional, ‘explict’ kind of KM) requires good writing skills, and for Web 2.0 kind of KM it does not, the realm of communication is much beyond articulation alone!

‘Communication skills’ is about an understanding of what mediums work best to be able to most effectively ‘transmit’ information. As Knowledge Management, or Knowledge Sharing professionals isn’t our job to create an environment conducive for effective collaboration? How people collaborate, what appeals to them and what doesn’t – including the medium (say Web 2.0) and language (say twitter/SMS kind) – is something that will fall in the communication realm for sure.

Of course you can argue that it really is about understanding human behavior, but ‘communicating’ with humans effectively to get the desired behavior is key, and ‘that’ definitely is the task of a master communicator.

In a corporate setup you’re trying to reach out to employees for a whole lot of reasons. Employee engagement,  knowledge management, information dissemination and a whole lot of other things. Poor employee! There are too many voices, too much clutter, too much confusion. Why can’t we have one voice, why can’t we align the communicators and the knowledge managers?  Is it because the knowledge managers think more in terms of processes and systems while communicators more in terms of info bytes? But isn’t knowledge management just a name now – is it not about knowledge sharing – sharing of knowledge bytes. Isn’t Web 2.0 breaking the structures and the processes out of KM? If yes, then aren’t communicators and knowledge managers inadvertently converging at “employee engagement”? Both trying to make sure employees know what they need to, and tell what they ought to…

Think about it. And if you agree, then well do you really need knowledge managers anymore? Isn’t it better to have a bunch of people who understand human behavior and the mechanics of bringing people together (broadly in the realm of employee engagement) run the show? Isn’t that very close to what communicators typically are anyway expected to do?

Footnote 1: Of course some technology may be involved in setting the mechanics up – but that can always be outsourced.

Footnote 2: I do a dedicated “KM” job as well, and am at an equal risk of losing my job if people buy in to what I said!

Written by sameer

July 15th, 2008 at 4:10 pm

KM for dummies

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An IIT Bombay student (Sweta Mehta) contacted me recently for a project she was doing on Knowledge Management. I answered some questions for her, which I thought I ought to share here as well:

  1. When did KM start in India?
    KM in some form or other existed ever since enterprises started! The whole process of filing documents is knowledge management in itself! The term knowledge management was probably coined sometime in the 1980s and organizations started formal programs on KM in the early 1990s. McKinsey and some other consulting firms were the front-runners in embracing KM. GE, HP, Boeing etc also boast of formal KM programs that started in early 90s. Of course India offices of some of the firms mentioned above also embraced KM around the same time, but amongst the Indian companies probably Infosys is one of the first Indian organizations to have embraced KM in the mid-late 90s. Airtel, Satyam, Wipro and lately Mind Tree have also been some of the Indian companies that have created an impact in the KM space.

  2. What is the difference between Indian and international KM standards?
    Unfortunately there is no such thing as “KM standards”! This is bad because most organizations grapple with evolving a “KM strategy” but this is also a blessing in disguise since “one size doesn’t fit all”. Any successful KM program needs to be customized according to the culture, people and nature of work of the organization. So the KM framework of a consulting organization will be very different from the KM framework for a BPO. The ‘lack of standards’ actually encourages organizations to ‘think’ and evolve their strategy. Of course there are benchmarks available in terms of what other organizations are doing, and there are frameworks like the APQC road-map available to help one get started.

    To answer your specific question about the difference between Indian and international KM standards – well honestly, that’s food for thought and requires research. I’m not aware of any such research that has been conducted in the past. However, I do think that there will be a significant difference in global and India-only KM programs because of the difference in cultures. As I mentioned above, a KM strategy is/should always be based on the culture of the organization/the country it operates in (and hence the culture of such countries).

  3. What is KM portal?
    The literal meaning of a ‘portal’ is gateway. So by definition, the KM portal is a gateway/starting point for the ‘knowledge’ available in an organization. There is debate around whether you should have a ‘separate’ KM portal, or if one org portal (intranet) should be good enough so as to not confuse people with multiple starting points – ideally (in my opinion) there should be ‘one’ integrated portal and several sites for various KM tools as needed.

  4. How is Knowledge Management implemented?
    The first step is to define the KM strategy for an organization. Such strategy should be evolved on the basis of organizational priorities and should have the buy-in of senior management. Unless the top management is convinced that the KM strategy is actually impacting the organization you can be sure that the program will fail. Once you have a high-level strategy, then a multi-generation plan should be evolved in consultation with several influencers in the organization who can champion the program eventually. While creating the strategy it’s important to understand what the ‘people’ want out of the program and what ‘processes’ can be set that will drive/sustain/control the program. Once you know what you want out of your KM program then technologies/tools should be evaluated. Remember technology is an enabler and merely deploying technology does not mean that you have “implemented” KM. KM is a continuous journey – the strategy needs to be revisited and tweaked as required. And never forget that it’s the people who make or break a KM program, so have utmost focus on people, and think of ways of engaging them at all levels in the program – through rewards, recognition and whatever else it takes!

  5. Who is the key person responsible for formulating the KM strategy?
    The Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO) will typically formulate the KM strategy in collaboration with senior management. (CKO is merely a title – anybody who has the mandate to lead the KM program is responsible). It is important that the CKO understands the business well, is a good communicator, can network well with people at all levels and is senior enough to understand business drivers and people behavior.

  6. How can KM implementation affect the organization and its stakeholders?
    The success of a KM program can be felt but not measured accurately. Unfortunately there are no accepted ROI models for KM. Typically KM professionals ask senior management to think about the cost of not doing KM rather than the cost of doing it and/or asking for ROI! Measurement can of course be done hypothetically – based on the assumed time saved by employees in finding knowledge/information and hence illustrating productivity benefits. Such models will however remain debatable and hence it’s best to not create an ROI model in the first place! KM is a continuous journey, and you do ‘it’ because you believe in it.

  7. Which companies in India have the best KM implementation process?
    The only recognized KM awards are the MAKE awards. Last year, Mindtree was the winner of the MAKE India awards. Airtel, Eureka Forbes, Infosys, Satyam were among the other finalists. You can find the details of the 2007 MAKE awards here (scroll down to the 2007 Indian MAKE Study Executive Summary).

Written by sameer

July 2nd, 2008 at 7:36 pm

Stan Garfield – KM Guru

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Here’s a testimonial I put for Stan Garfield – a very respectable global thought leader in Knowledge Management who I’ve had the good fortune to work with.

I knew Stan as a KM Guru even before I joined HP – and in fact he was one of the reasons I joined HP!

Stan is a great leader – very organized, methodical, motivating and approachable. His personal contact list is better than most org directories I’ve seen. He can pull references and examples to just about every fathomable topic. He has an exceptional ability to collaborate and get the best out of his people. And last but not the least, he stands by his team like no one else, in a world where it’s always “each one to her own”!

Written by sameer

May 10th, 2008 at 9:16 pm

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