In an organization, knowledge is generated on an ongoing basis as employees, vendors, and software tools utilize thousands of human hours each day to get jobs done. Not necessary that the methods that worked yesterday will work today as well. Something might go wrong, or someone might find a better way to do something. If passed on to other organization members, both things can save a lot of time and money.
One can learn the lessons (both good and bad) while completing a task. Lesson learned is what you learn from doing tasks on a project. It can be what one did right or wrong. Lessons learned (LL) should be documented throughout the project. Based on the LL, one can understand the corrective courses needed in the existing process to improve it. This correction can be documented as best practices (BP) to strengthen the process further. Documenting LL and BP is an ongoing and iterative process.
Now that one has identified the LL and BP, other team members from the same or different groups and geographies must understand and learn these. Suppose such knowledge remains with a particular employee or a team. In that case, there are chances that with the exit of these individuals, this knowledge will cease to exist for that organization, something known as corporate amnesia. Organization Memory holds knowledge about LL and BP.
Learning from the LL and BP can pose different challenges, primarily divided into cultural and technical challenges (Dalkir, K. (2017)). Today, I want to discuss one of the challenges categorized under technical. This challenge is associated with the technological container. The technical backbone and infrastructure that holds the LL and BP. If the technical container is weak, has leaks, or is broken, the organization will face immense challenges in learning from LL and BP.
The technological container, in many cases, is an intranet. With open source gaining popularity, many organizations are hosting their KM over the internet as well; at the same time, in doing so, organizations do ensure that no sensitive information is made available on the internet.
Choosing an outdated Content Management System (CMS) is a common technological barrier an organization might face. CMS is the software that makes it easy for KM managers to publish content and make it available to the end user. The browsers and user habits are changing rapidly, and if the CMS fails to cope with the changes, it might fail to provide a proper KM portal (either intranet or internet). Technologies like HTML 5, no flash, mobile responsive, header-less scripts, CDN-enabled data loads, etc., are now popular. If CMS does not support these technologies, it makes the life of both content producers and content consumers difficult. To overcome this, one must ensure that the selected CMS is appropriately supported and has a good update release cycle. For example, one can go with WordPress, appropriately maintained by an army of open-source developers.
Content discovery is a big challenge. Organizations can make the mistake of publishing a huge amount of data in their KM portal that discusses LL and BP. When the user is bombarded with a lot of data, the key articles may get buried under other content pieces. Therefore, it is important that organizations appropriately classify the information into different categories and sub-categories to overcome this. Users can visit a particular sub-category to find relevant information instead of browsing through thousands of irrelevant content pieces. This process can further be improved by introducing AI and ML technologies. AI algorithms can recommend an article based on user profile, past web behaviour and what similar users are looking for.
Content sharing should also be made very easy. Having content but not providing users a way to share it with their colleagues can be a big mistake that should be avoided. This hurdle can be overcome by introducing content-sharing plugins in CMS. These plugins allow users to easily share content over email, intranet social networks, etc. A content piece can get proper visibility due to this.
Analytics and reporting are other hurdles that an organization faces. Having a beautiful KM portal with hundreds of KM articles sounds nice. However, all the efforts are wasted if no one access the KM portal. Therefore, it is important to understand the usage and popularity trend of the KM portal. In addition, having no or broken analytics measurement plans in place is a challenge an organization faces. This can be overcome by using a measurement solution like Google Analytics. GA will allow administrators to understand the popularity of the KM portals, actions that users are performing on the portal, and other key insights.
I have discussed technological containers as barriers to successfully learning from best practices and lessons learned. Along with the challenges, we discussed the steps one can take to overcome those challenges.
Dalkir, K. (2017) Knowledge Management in Theory and Practice, third edition (p. 230). MIT Press. Kindle Edition.