The Knowledge Management Holy Grail

photo courtesy of Eddi 07

photo courtesy of Eddi 07

For the 15+ years I’ve been working in knowledge worker roles, knowledge management has been much spoken about, but never seen.

I’m currently working with a virtual team of nearly 10 consultants.  The firm has had 0ver 80 clients since its founding in 2001, so there is a treasure trove of experience in the firm.  Unfortunately, its in people’s heads, on their laptops, and to a lesser degree on the shared network drive.  Sound familiar?  It’s the classic enterprise knowledge management problem.  You want to tap into the experience of your peers, but there is no easy way to do it.

For example, if I need to run a requirements session, and I know my colleagues have done many, I currently have to phone each one and rely on their memory and availability to send me what they have, or I can browse through the network client folders one-by-one randomly opening documents.  Inefficient and time-consuming.    A Google appliance would help, but the success of that approach depends on the discipline to save relevant files to the network drive.

We need a system which reduces the barriers to storage and search – organization with minimum overhead.  It seems the new abundances of storage, computing power and bandwidth would be amenable to cracking this decades old problem.  Perhaps a version of Google that can search nominated folders and Outlook files on everyone’s laptop that’s working on the same project? How cool would it be if you could just do a Google quality search of the team members’ laptops, maybe with an interrupt alert that seeks their approval of which folders and what results to share? Even cooler if a wiki or other centralized collection of notes and links was auto-created and updated on desired topics again with people’s approval of the search and results.  Any takers? (We could certainly use the help!)

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2 thoughts on “The Knowledge Management Holy Grail

  1. Hi,

    The problem you have is very classical and so is your envisioned solution 😉

    Search and Storage are the two faces of the same coin. You rely on documents and not webpages. Documents are space consuming. They require a strong search engine to crawl. You end up searching the container and not the knowledge, even with a strong metadata policy.

    Move on to social computing tools.
    Social bookmark would help you get a lightweight knowledge base, using words to classify content that mean something for each individual and not the organization (i.e. no one really at the end of the day).
    Have people contribute directly online, and not in emails and attachments, so that content is more easily findable and accessible. This approach centralizes the content and alleviate certain legal issues related to emails, particularly access to content when a colleague is gone. It can be blog-like if you favour indviduals and conversations, or wiki-like if you favor collectively edited content. It really depends on how you work. From what you describe, blog-like is more in-line.
    Add social networking features so that you get rich profiles, constantly updates so that you get a better sense of who is a particular colleague, where s/he comes from when contributing, who is s/he related to by affinities. This features happens to be very helpful for knowledge and people discovery. It’s browse, not search.

    Additionally, there is another element you don’t mention here: the fact that the web is the principal source of information today. You display a look into the internal vaults here. That is just one way to make relevant requirements. Staying on top of what happens in your domain or in your client industry, with a selection of relevant RSS feeds that harvest the web and display the hot content is a good complement.

    You might want to look at Knowledge Networks, a solution developed by PersonAll.

    I’m currently re-testing it for potential “clients” and I’m pretty amazed. In fact, your post come into my radar thanks to the RSS Feed ecosystem I have created on KN for the test. What I particularly like is the seamless flow they have created between RSS feed content, social bookmarking, blogging and conversations.

    My 2 cents.

    I hope this helps!

    • Hi Olivier,

      Thanks so much for your comments – I’ll have to check out Knowledge Networks – I love the idea of capturing the knowledge as it develops. A large part of what I need to search is in project emails and documents that form deliverables for projects, so I’ll be keen to see how this solution addresses these.

      Cheers,
      Rich

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