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Knowledge Management 2015 – the end of ‘ivory towers’ in business

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Bricks and mortar businesses have long been a thing of the past in markets, and in tomorrow’s world the most prized asset in commerce – knowledge – will be housed in progressive, digital and data driven environments run by people that promote information sharing and who despise the notion of self-imposed isolation within ivory towers. By Fred Steinberg, MD of Communication Genetics.

Decision-makers understand that capturing and sharing knowledge within an organisation provides an enormous competitive advantage. This is why there are issues when employees enter or exit a company, the intellectual property that resides in a company differentiates it – hence the need to nurture and spread the value of expertise.

Too often knowledge and expertise stays with individuals who have exclusive access rights and when they leave, the organisation loses out.

Even when staff are encouraged to place information on shared drives or in Enterprise Content Management systems like Microsoft Sharepoint, once an employee has left the organisation it can become impossible to unambiguously locate the most up-to-date version of a documents or work out which of the draft contracts is the final one.

The knowledge stays with the people who created it and who must unlock it or reveal it for others to share. For this reason, good information governance practices lie at the heart of shared and effective corporate knowledge.

Agility and info management

Information governance means taking control of the organisation’s information flows and ensuring that vital information is captured, properly identified, searchable, and its lifecycle is properly governed in accordance with regulatory and legal requirements, the organisation’s own information policies, and good business practice.

In an information governance environment knowledge workers can be sure that they are working effectively together, because they are able to more easily find, use and reuse relevant information and are less distracted by ROT (information that is redundant, obsolete or trivial).

If there was any doubt about whether or not an organisation will benefit from effective knowledge management, then consider the proven level of output of a mobile, ‘always-connected’ and information empowered worker.

Knowledge workers are increasingly becoming better connected and more able to access and use information in a variety of different ways.

They are no longer chained to desks in traditional offices and are increasingly more mobile. They can also use and reuse knowledge resources in different formats and across different media.

For example, the use of video conferencing and video resources in business is rapidly increasing.

However, this explosion in information and media types also has a downside. Knowledge workers must spend more time each day simply managing their information, saving it to shared locations, categorising it so that it can be reused, and transferring it from one system to another. Many knowledge workers simply do not have the time to manage their information in this way.

A good information governance platform can take a lot of the pain away from knowledge workers, enabling them to do what they do best.

We have spent a couple of decades expecting knowledge workers to sort out their email and keep on top of their filing. In many businesses they are left to figure out for themselves what information is valuable and must be kept and what information is not.

Senior managers must seriously consider whether this approach is beneficial to the organisation in the longer term. Instead of individual accountability, they may prefer to adopt an information governance approach where information policies are managed centrally by people who are specially trained, such as records managers, data protection officers, and other information governance specialists.

These policies can then be disseminated and applied using technology, rather than manually.

Knowledge management solution

Business intelligence is an increasingly important contributor to knowledge management and competitiveness.

However, BI is only effective when the information that it relies upon for analysis is well organised and high quality. Information governance is able to make a significant contribution here by ensuring that the information within the organisation is up-to-date and well managed. Information governance platforms also enable additional metadata to be provided and enriched.

Accurate metadata is one of the keys to getting the most out of business intelligence applications as it allows for finer grained analysis.

Information governance solutions may also use business intelligence themselves to provide valuable feedback and analysis on the organisation’s information holdings.

This intelligence allows organisations to not only track the cost and risks of keeping and managing information, but it also gives insights into the value of information through its lifecycle.

Information governance is an urgent priority for all organisations. Recent years have seen an increase in external attacks and theft of information.

At the same time regulatory scrutiny and possible fines for information policy related activities and poor information governance has never been higher. More and more organisations are being held accountable for their actions.

A third effect is coming from greater public awareness. Stakeholders, including customers, partners, users and citizens are demanding greater transparency from within organisations, at the same time as they also demand greater protection of individual’s private data.

No one-size-fits-all

The only way to cater to all these demands is for organisations to make their information operations far more streamlined and efficient. This can only be done through greater use of technology.

Experience has shown that a “one size fits all” approach to digital technologies does not work. The days have passed when every person to join the organisation was issued with a Windows laptop (or more likely desktop) and a Blackberry.

Today’s knowledge workers need to be supported to work at their best. This means, from the point of view of the individual, that information should be there when they need it. But it also means, from the point of view of the organisation, that information about every business transaction is captured and retained within the organisation.

Information governance is an essential and necessary ingredient for success in any modern organisation, and is the most import strategy to put in place now, to support the knowledge worker of the future.

This is one sure way to help construct the digital enterprise of tomorrow, that has ability to withstand competition and differentiate itself to capture more market share, more often.