Bob Smith is a KM Business Process Architect currently with a market leader in B2B platform e-commerce, Ariba Inc. headquartered in Mountain View CA. Before joining Ariba, Smith was with NCR Corp. for 22 years.  He says,  "The last 12 of those years were dedicated to changing a culture within NCR that would embrace and adopt a ground floor up concept of moving away from a paper based business to a digital/computer based technology enabled environment."

As early as 1985 Smith began to see the importance of preventing rediscovery in his own day-to-day work activities as a customer services field engineer. He began to create logbooks at each customer site that contained previously discovered problems, program configurations, site wiring/logistics diagrams, and troubleshooting tips. This was the start of his knowledge management journey.

From 1989 – 1994 he served as an information champion designing processes and developing requirements to begin turning the work activity of people into technology-enabled workflow processes. He researched, developed, and conducted knowledge management awareness seminars designed to hit dead on the cultural issues of “knowledge is power," “not my job," and “job security." His influence began to change the way people looked at job security vs. opportunity in the knowledge age.

While at NCR, Smith developed a Global Community of Practice assembled with core knowledge representation from each support location around the world and then functionally managed the community from a computer desktop. The knowledge community automated the collection of KM requirements, project managed and delivered on the requirements and then measured the usage/effectiveness of what was delivered all through the use of technology-enabled processes.

As a member of the eKnowledgeCenter, certified in Feb. of '99, Smith has presented in knowledge management seminars, written many white papers and articles on the subject of knowledge management and is currently Vice President of the “Knowledge Management Professionals Association” (KMPA).

A KM practitioner who believes "knowledge management is a practice--- learning to become a science," Smith knows "there will be no turning back to the typewriters and file cabinets of yesterday. We will continue to “Practice” until we get it right.” The following article summarizes his years of KM experience and offers practical advice on implementing your KM program.

Bob can be reached at bosmith@ariba.com

Knowledge Management Program Implementation Tips & Guidelines “A Practitioners Point of View”
by Bob G. Smith

How to assess an environment & begin implementing a Knowledge Management Program: 

  1. Develop an information/content management survey.

  2. Identify the gaps in current information/content management methodologies, identifying information categories, types, access locations, owners/authors, usage, effectiveness, feedback, and any existence of communities of practice.

  3. Build relationships by leveraging the people and the work they have been doing in trying to organize their information/content. Do not discredit people’s attempts build upon them.

  4. Build a comprehensive taxonomy and migration plan and begin moving current information into new taxonomy. 

  5. Develop information/content management processes, roles and responsibilities.

  6. Build digital communities of practice to keep your core knowledge champions and mentors engaged.

  7. Set expectations/objectives for information provision and use.

  8. Conduct knowledge management awareness seminars addressing issues of "Knowledge is power," "Not my job," and "I don’t have time."

  9. Develop incentive methodologies to encourage quality contribution of information/content.

  10. Develop constant and consistent communication methodologies to keep people excited and informed.

How to avoid pitfalls and obstacles during Knowledge Management Implementation: 

  1. Educate, communicate, educate, and communicate.

  2. When assessing an opportunity that requires people’s time give a plan of action back designed to fix their problem and deliver on that plan by exceeding expectations. (ROT) return on time. This builds creditability & trust. People spread good news and bad news with the same enthusiasm.

  3. Don’t become discouraged with push back. Exercise the 20 – 30 – 50 rule. 20 % of the culture will be willing to change; 30 % will resist change, and 50 % will be undecided. Focus on the 50 % undecided. Give rave recognition to the 20% that are participating and the 50 % will soon follow. After 70% of the organization has crossed over the 30% will stand so far outside the circle they will be obligated to join or lose creditability.

How to obtain support for a Knowledge Management project at the Executive Level:  

  1. Find an opportunity to apply KM principles and practices in a small pilot; show the benefit and support will soon follow. You are building a reputation; respect for your efforts will follow your ability to improve the existing environment.

  2. Show the return on investment in quantitative or qualitative terms in areas of increased productivity, increased capacity, and time savings. (Increased innovations would be nice, too) Some companies or industries are more conducive to innovations by design (i.e. drug & food) than others, but innovation is still valid in all areas.

How to evaluate and chose the right Knowledge Management Technology: 

  1. Develop your people, process, and content components first and then select a technology to enable them.

  2. Many vendors claim to have a KM solution. You may find that no one technology or tool will work for your environment.  Many tools/technology may have to be integrated into back-end architecture to meet all the requirements.

  3. Run a side by side comparison of each tool/technology weighing the risk, benefits, pros & cons in the areas of functionality provided to meet your requirements; evaluate long-term relationship/costs with supplier. Do they insist on their knowledge engineers be used any time new functionality or changes need to be made or knowledge provided? Does it make more sense to develop a knowledge management environment of knowledge managers, engineers, practitioners, editors, etc. within your company?

  4. Technology is changing all the time; be sure your knowledge infrastructure can adjust; plug and unplug technologies without breaking your people, process, and content components.

How to measure the result of  Knowledge Management Implementation: 

  1. After determining the gaps rate the environment with levels of KM maturity. Example: Level 0 (No plan to fill gap), Level 1 (Planned), Level 2 (Developed), Level 3 (Deployed), Level 4 (Performed), Level 5 (Adopted). After the program has been adopted measure the usage and effectiveness of the KM processes and products being used to accelerate the pre-KM environment. The success or failure of the environment will be a direct reflection of the KM processes and products. 

  2. Before implementing knowledge management principles and practices into a targeted department or organization record previous moral, productivity, & bandwidth.  After implementation use story-telling for a qualitative measure of morale and look for quantitative methods to measure the delta in productivity and bandwidth or increased capacity.  Time to access information before and after, time spent researching & rediscovering before accessing a knowledge base of previously discovered answers or solutions.

  3. Replace the traditional industrial age practice of “create more quantity when asked for it, with provide more value when made aware of it”. To simply demand information contribution by metric may result in poor quality information; further resulting in the reactionary practice of cleansing.

  4. Integrate communities of practice into your KM program and measure the productivity and efficiency gains of digitally collaborating on common objectives vs. E-Mail correspondence and cost intensive physical status update and action assigning meetings.