When searching on the website getapp.com for a knowledge management application over 80 software applications are displayed. Many of these focus only on a vendor’s specific CRM application of sales knowledge and not the organization-wide information management challenge. So how does one go about making the right choice when thinking about the right tools and technology for your organization?
Our perspective on KM tools comes from our experience, both good and bad, when using our customers KM technologies during project engagements. Even in very large organizations there are challenges with selecting and managing KM technology. Here are seven questions that can serve as a useful guide for making the best KM Technology choice.
1. What problem are we trying to solve?
Knowledge Management concerns typically manifest themselves in key business activities that are often not adequately addressed with core enterprise solutions. If problems like persistent mis-communication or conflicts in how a process is supposed to work occur too frequently then they are warning signs that better knowledge management is needed. The need for KM can span an organization or be specific to a function. Often the need for KM is identified at a department or functional area but in reality the need is a cross-functional challenge. If the problem with KM is pervasive, then an enterprise solution should be considered. While solving a KM problem at the enterprise level is more valuable for the organization, it also requires broad executive support.
2. Is there a compelling value proposition?
Once the problem has been properly identified, it’s important to establish what the benefits and value will be to the organization. While there are both qualitative and quantitative benefits to managing KM, the approval typically hinges on some return on investment (ROI). How will KM help the organization be faster, cheaper, and/or better? Fortunately, there’s enough data to support the fact that utilizing technology helps in all three areas. Technology allows employees to easily access information. Spending less time accessing information improves productivity reducing the processing or transaction costs. Finally, utilizing information creates insight (knowledge) that can be used to improve quality.
3. Who is the decision-maker and who are our stakeholders?
The decision on which technology is appropriate is often left to the information technology (IT) department. Although the IT Group plays and important role in these projects we believe the decision should be left in the hands of the group that expects to benefit the most from using the technology solution. If the KM technology solution is for the entire enterprise, then having a cross-functional steering committee comprised of key stakeholders helps to not only ensure everyone’s interests are considered but also makes the change management effort easier because stakeholders can be the voice for change within the organization.
4. Have we established business and technology requirements?
Because the KM need is often severe, there is a tendency to select a technology solution before really understanding the needs of all stakeholders. IT is concerned with security, reliability, disaster recovery, technical support, infrastructure, and total cost of ownership (TCO). End user requirement are primarily around ease of use, intuitive navigation, response time, accessibility, and improved productivity.
Common functional requirements for enterprise KM technology today include content management, portals, project rooms, community workspaces, social networking, contextual search, accessibility on laptops and smart devices. Some KM tools specialize in certain areas such as learning management systems (LMS), help desk support, and workflow. Our experience is that most solutions have many more features than are currently implemented and end-user training and empowerment are typically understated.
All requirements should be weighted in terms of importance. Categories that delineate “Must Have” requirement and “Nice to Have” requirements are necessary since KM solutions will have strengths and weaknesses around your requirements.
5. Which vendors are worthy of consideration?
Once a comprehensive set of requirements are developed, then an organization can issue a request for information (RFI) or proposal (RFP) to vendors they have identified. Many organizations can assist with this process and databases with requirements per solution are available to aide in narrowing down the vendors to a short-list of five or less.
6. Do we understand the total cost of ownership?
The focus on selecting KM solutions naturally highlights the cost of implementation. However, consideration needs to be given to long-term costs as well. In addition to the IT teams having to support the technology over the entire life-cycle, other costs needs to be understood and factored into the decision-making process. Maintenance, upgrades, infrastructure, technical training, ongoing training and customer support should be included in the business justification.
7. What is our change management process?
A new KM technology solution means change for the people in an organization. Our experience with change is that resistance to change is natural. Planning for change ensures successful adoption of new KM technology and maximum benefit to the organization. Change communication needs to start early in the project and should continue throughout. Acknowledging and addressing concerns about the new technology will help reduce anxiety and stress for everyone.
Are you evaluating Knowledge Management Solutions?
If you are evaluating knowledge management solutions, then contact us for a free consultation. Our KM technology, RapidMapper, can be used at an enterprise level or a functional level such as human capital, project management, or any process that needs employees to readily access information. Over the last decade, we have helped Fortune 1000 companies create a smarter, more effective workforce. We do this by helping clients increase their effectiveness in integrated process design and delivery, people development and engagement, and talent management.