Why Knowledge Management matters…

I believe that we are standing at the edge of the next big thing in enterprise management – using technological tools to capture, preserve, and maintain the intellectual capital of organizations. I believe that corporations will begin realize that they are investing large sums of money in their employees, but they’re not capturing, preserving, and leveraging the output of these workers. Doing so was very difficult in the past, but it’s doable with today’s tools and platforms such as SharePoint.

I look at it this way… Let’s assume we have a generic mid-level employee who is paid $50K per year. She starts on January 1st, works 50 weeks, and quits on December 31st. At the end of her tenure, this worker has accumulated a year’s worth of knowledge, skills, and experiences about the organization. The company has invested $50K into this individual plus training costs, benefits, etc. After the worker leaves, what does the company have to show for their investment? Maybe some documentation, maybe some training and some skill transfer to another employee, done in a disorganized fashion and varying from manager to manager. And that’s it?? This is an outrageous waste of money and resources. From the first time I saw it even to this day, I can hardly believe it’s happening. Do you find it outrageous too?

If you and I purchased a machine or a product that only lasted a year and which did work for us and also collected information and knowledge about our company, and we paid $50K to use it for only one year – we would want to see some information in the end, wouldn’t we? We would DEMAND to see some reports and graphs and statistics. But not so with employees – we let them work, accumulate knowledge and skills, and then we let them leave… And what about an employee who stays for 5 years and then leaves? Or a higher level employee who makes $100K per year? Or how about a 5-year employee who makes $100K per year? What’s the price tag on that?

We need to have systems and platforms in place that capture, organize, and preserve the intellectual capital produced by today’s knowledge workers. These systems need to be transparent and intertwined with the organization’s business processes and LOB systems. You can’t expect a knowledge worker to go into a separate system and consistently record their knowledge – it just won’t happen. You’ll get output from workers who have a lot of free time on their hands and are probably not the best sources of knowledge. KM needs to happen behind the scenes, in such a way that people don’t even realize they’re doing KM.
I believe that Microsoft SharePoint and other similar technologies offer a platform that will enable organizations to do effective knowledge management. And we’re going to see major changes in how organizations manage the knowledge of their workers…


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