E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

Traditional Knowledge Management Systems – Adapt or Die

Gran Canaria - Puerto de MoganIf you have been following this blog for a while, you would know how my professional background comes from various different areas associated for quite some time now with Knowledge Management, in particular, traditional Knowledge Management: Collaboration, Community Building, Learning, etc. Yes, I am one of those folks who eventually worked for several different projects, throughout the years, dealing with deploying successfully specific KM and community building programs for various business units.

One of them, perhaps one of the most powerful and traditional ones, was IBM‘s Global Business ServicesLearning and Knowledge. At the time with one of the most impressive KM Systems in place to date. One of those resources considered an essential KM tool for every single practitioner to work with: KnowledgeView. Then towards end of 2005 a relatively new concept came about: Web 2.0. Social Software. Social Computing. A radical change in how things were operating at the moment. Disruptive enough to pay attention to it. Essential to adapt or die in the attempt. And a couple of years later, Practitioner Portal was born.

That’s a summary of how traditionally powerful Knowledge Management Systems need to be ready to adapt or die with the emergence of Enterprise 2.0 (Yes, I know it may sound a bit too drastic, but you get the idea of what I am after with that expression); how they need to come to terms with the fact they are no longer in control (They never were for that matter!) of how knowledge flows within the organisation; how they should start realising they need to make it much easier sharing knowledge and experiences across amongst knowledge workers, making it much more participative and engaging that whatever has been happening in the past; how in the end complex fixed taxonomies and processes, as well as a rather cumbersome set of KM tools to use extensively, is not going to go very far. Specially in the current business environment we are working in, where more and more social computing is taking over the corporate world by storm.

Yes, indeed, for those traditional KMS to survive it would be about time now to start figuring out how they would want to get the most out of this next next wave of interactions to improve collaboration, both inside and outside of the firewall. Thus Knowledge Sharing is born. Does it ring a bell? Probably not. But if I tell you to go and have a look into Bryant Clevenger‘s article at KM Edge titled “Web 2.0: Changing How Value Is Created and Measured at IBM” the story would be different,

Bryant, global leader for the IBM Global Business Services knowledge sharing strategy, used to be my manager (Then became my manager’s manager) at the time when that transition into the social computing world was just getting started for that particular business unit as well as for KnowledgeView. For the rest of the story I would like to point you to Bryant’s post, because it is very indicative of how things got started and where they ended up just recently. The Practitioner Portal itself.

Here is an interesting quote from Bryant’s entry that I thought would be worth while mentioning over here to give you a taster of what that transformation has been like:

[…] we undertook a massive overhaul of the technology and approach we use for knowledge management, moving from a centrally managed, linear, taxonomy- and repository-based system to one that leverages the best of Web 2.0, including social software, user participation, and key market-driven concepts like sponsored links. We see this as a shift from “knowledge management” to “knowledge sharing.”

Impressive, don’t you think? Well, it gets better. Bryant will eventually be keynoting on this very same transformation, and plenty more!, at the upcoming APQC Knowledge Management conference event in Houston by mid May. But to get things going and share some further context on what you may potentially find out at the event, here is a YouTube video that he has shared that provides a lot more background on what that change management process was like:

I know that plenty of folks out there may be wondering right now whether KM is dead or not; specially traditional KM. Perhaps it is; perhaps it is not. Maybe it is morphing into something else. Something we have failed to name it yet (Knowledge Management is quite an oxymoron, don’t you think?), but that’s already started with the process of adapting itself to the new rules of engagement in the Enterprise 2.0 world, because I seriously doubt it would want to go away just like that after all of these years. I eventually think that it will adapt successfully and move on. And the example of IBM’s GBS Practitioner Portal, as you may have been able to see, is just one of those to which you could apply quite nicely the following quote from the always insightful Charles Darwin:

It is not the strong, nor the intelligent who survive, but those who are quickest to adapt

So is your traditional Knowledge Management System ready for such unprecedented transition? Are you ready for such a massive transformation of your business? Is your KMS ready to adapt or die in the attempt?

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2 comments

  1. Big companies (I rely on my experience in the german automobile sector) hardly introduced organisation-wide traditional KMS and now they have to face both the transition to web 2.0 and the emerging field of social computing.

    What happens to the old KMS? Do they need to be abandoned? Or is social computing just a face-lift with some new features?

    However, I also wonder if the actual world crisis influences the decision of adapting or dying? It is no surprise that generally a crisis makes people/companies review their situation and introduce fundamental changes. Is social computing eventually a winner of the economic crisis or will it (similar to KM) experience death to some extent?

  2. LibraryThing provides a good example of a model that unites the centrally managed info/metadata/organizational elements important for some types of foraging with the emergent elements. Many of the disciplines experimented with during KM projects will be vital to the role/process of pruning, shaping, harvesting, etc the emergent menagerie.

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