6 steps to better knowledge management

The goal of knowledge management — summed up in a familiar phrase — is to get the right information to the right person at the right time, said Ramon Barquin, president of Barquin International, a consulting firm that specializes in information technology strategies.

Two technologies are having an effect on the way knowledge is shared and analyzed: the omniscient social media tools for collaboration and emergence of dashboards, Barquin said. Dashboards will provide the business intelligence to enable performance improvements through the application of knowledge, he said.

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However, a successful knowledge management program will focus on people, processes and technology, he said.

Although this is not a comprehensive list, here are six tips for making knowledge management work.

1. Strategize

Senior agency managers and chief knowledge officers should conduct a methodical review and knowledge audit to see where they want to go with knowledge management, knowledge sharing and knowledge transfer.

Developing a comprehensive strategy for knowledge management was the first task Susan Camarena tackled as chief knowledge officer at the Federal Transit Administration, an agency that is part of the Transportation Department.

“Even if you think knowledge management exists in your organization, you need to codify where you are and where you are trying to go," Camarena said. "Otherwise you’ll go many places, but you’ll never know when you’ve gotten to where you want to be.”

Camarena earned the support of senior leaders, and she established liaison knowledge coordinators to help FTA broadly share information and determine good and bad idea.

2. Capture Expertise

At FTA, Camarena instituted the concept of templates to collect information about employee expertise using Microsoft SharePoint’s collaborative platform. Additionally, Camarena introduced the idea of an after-action review, which she learned while in the Army. It is a review of an activity, conference, important document or other event to determine what occurred and what steps can be taken to improve the activity or task. FTA employees are seeing the benefits of taking an introspective look at their activities.

3. Go Public

Agencies interacting with the public shouldn’t assume that if they put information on a Web page, people will find it naturally. “You got to think about where citizens and businesses are interacting on the Internet and push data to those different locations,” said David McClure, associate administrator of the General Services Administration's Office of Citizen Services and Communications.

People are pulling information from lots of sources, such as Web sites, blogs, Facebook communities and YouTube, so agencies need to understand how and where people are interacting with government, McClure said.

4. Learn Social Media

Agencies need to understand how social organizations are being created in the Web environment, McClure said. Who are they? What are they doing? What are they interested in? How do they intersect with agency programs and responsibilities?

“You have to understand that community to understand where and how to communicate and extract data from them. It’s a very different ballgame from what we had in the past,” McClure said. “We’re allowing citizens to really interact with us much more dynamically and in real time.”

5. Know Your Mining Tools

Data warehouse tools and dashboards are a foundational part of knowledge management. Agencies have used repositories and dashboards to respond to crises and publish alerts as they occur, McClure said.

The next step is a knowledge repository that gives agencies a more informed view of what is happening in terms of service delivery and customer satisfaction. That requires moving toward predictive modeling, he said.

Enterprise search also will be an important technology if agencies want to capitalize on knowledge management analytics derived from the information mining, McClure said.

6. Collect Knowledge

Although federal knowledge management has matured, agency executives still need to be educated about it, Barquin said. There also has to be more outreach so that agencies can learn from one another. The Federal KM Working Group site has been revitalized to address that need, and Web 2.0 ventures such as GovLoop also have contributed, he said.


About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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