n business today, you can never have access to enough information. How much more so in the consulting world? As consultants, it is our job to pass on the knowledge we have gathered from our experiences. Clients look to consultants to provide recommendations based on industry trends, government policies, and some form of specialized training or education. The strongest consultants thriving in this field ideally have multiple years of experiences to share with their clients.
As managers we understand this, but to a greater degree we understand that our business does not last long by simply relying on the experiences of a choice few. Our strongest consultants all too often move on to other roles in their careers, leave to work for third parties, go back to school for an MBA, or even form a start-up venture. Therefore, in order for us to succeed in the long term, our businesses must focus on sharing knowledge across the organization, effectively storing it for future, lesser experienced employees, categorizing massive amounts of data, and utilizing or purchasing tools to efficiently mine this data. This is knowledge management.
There are many things to consider when attempting to implement a new Knowledge Management (KM) system, or when trying to manage the growth of an existing one. To assist in this area, understand the pitfalls and how to avoid them:
- No Knowledge Management system is free from failure: Failure can happen when the KM effort focuses on the technology side, and the non-technology issues of the organization are not properly addressed. These include the objectives and goals of the organization, as well as the personnel. The managers’ job will be to integrate the personnel, processes and technology together. Knowledge Management is more than just systems.
- The people needing to use the Knowledge Management system may lack the motivation or incentive to use it at all:The managers’ job will be to introduce the most useful application and processes first. Also, they may want to look into implementing an initial rewards system that encourages personnel to participate in sharing knowledge with a Knowledge Base
- Employees may tend initially to stay with a familiar, existing system:We must keep in mind that implementing a KM system to those that have been used to an older system may prove a challenge, as they may not be able to change completely and commit to that change. Management support of KM systems is crucial. This means that quality training must be provided, as well as on-going support (budget and forecast resources accordingly). Training and support are some of the most crucial aspects of introducing and maintaining change in an organization.
- Knowledge Management approaches can fail when they are designed without input from key stakeholders: This can happen when KM ignores the organization culture of the organization. Managers would do well to use surveys, and similar techniques to receive input from the different stakeholders before going ahead with full implementation.
- Knowledge Management approaches may fail if quality of knowledge is hindered due to lack of time to input this knowledge: Managers must analyze the business processes and look at the expectations on personnel to properly utilize the system. They should create reasonable processes to allow for information to be accessed and input in real-time. This is why we cannot just focus on technology and ignore processes and culture.
- Knowledge Management approaches may fail if you are not able to show measurable benefits: In order to justify the implementation costs of a KM system, proponents may have to present the Return on Investments, showing how much revenue the firm had before the system, and how much they would have as a result of the KM system. This is also a great way to get leadership on board.