Tales from the Technoverse

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A Passing Thought About Knowledge Management Systems

February 5th, 2011 · No Comments · government 2.0, government business

I have been spending time this afternoon working on my UMUC Contemporary Topics in Informatics class. One of the topics my students have been commenting on relates to information sharing. One of the questions I have posed is why are some information sharing efforts successful and some failures.

A student wrote:

“Who has time to share information? Codifying one’s knowledge can be a very time intensive task. While many people share their knowledge via blogs, wiki’s and other such tools, getting individuals who are already overburdened to do this can be a challenge.  I’ve seen organizations try to force its employees to do this kind of thing resulting in very shallow products.”

From this conversation, I started to consider how this relates to some of the work my company, Powertek Corporation, www.powertekcorporation.com, has been doing with knowledge management. It seemed to me that in the end in the simplest sense knowledge management like information sharing solutions are all built upon the foundation of tagging information in a fashion that allows retrieval.

In the interactions I have had with Jeff Jonas, http://jeffjonas.typepad.com/, one of the smartest people I have met who studies all of this, he has impressed on me the importance of tagging information when it is ingested. Doing so afterwards is something liking trying to add the Dewey Decimal coding to a book after you put it on the shelf in the library. It would take so long to find the untagged books you typically wouldn’t get around to it.

If I can digress for a moment, and since this is my blog I guess I can write anything I want anyway I want to, while I was at the Department of Transportation and while watching what Vivek Kundra is trying to do with dashboards, I have pondered a similar issue – what tends to make some performance measurement systems and dashboards successful and some not.

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I have come to believe that those dashboards whose metrics are automatically generated by the performance of the action being measured have a greater chance of surviving over time. The reason is that whenever an intermediate step is needed to generate the dashboard entries, organizations have many reasons to reassign or eliminate altogether the resources used to perform the intermediate step. Thus useful and even pretty successful measurement systems often last only as long as their sponsor stays and stays engaged.

So the common thread would be that the ‘sharing’ and ingesting into the knowledge management system, that is the tagging, should be accomplished when the information is created.

Looking specifically at knowledge management implementations that I am familiar with, most do the knowledge management part after, and often long after, the knowledge creation. The question then becomes whether it is necessary, or practical, to move tagging and ingesting to the actual knowledge creation.

I am sure experts in the field already know the answer to these questions, but if so, they often don’t seem to have sufficient impact on the large number of unsuccessful knowledge management implementations.

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