“NOW knowledge management is possible” – Whaddya Kidding me?

dirty-waterIn marketing his most recent white paper for KMWorld, Andy Moore wrote:

“For decades, it’s been a promise. But knowledge management is finally possible. That’s because social networking MAKES it possible. By allowing fast, easy and lightweight collaboration between individuals and workgroups, tools such as user forums, blogs, wikis and their ilk have finally made good on the promise of KM.”

Oh my where do I begin.

Maybe Andy was only going for shock value. If so, it worked with me. I was shocked all right. This is a man with whom I have collaborated in the past, a man who has made a living based on the phrase “knowledge management.” And now he is saying that it was all just a pipe dream, marketing hype until now?

Not only does Moore state that social software now makes knowledge management possible, he goes on to state in the paper itself: “ … it [social networking ]  is also freeing many of them [companies] to achieve something they hadn’t quite reached:a state of pure knowledge management.”  “Pure knowledge management,” what is that?  Up until now what have we been achieving,”impure knowledge management?” Suddenly I feel so dirty.

What of all those “best practices in KM articles” published by none other than KMWorld? Were these successes impure, false? And how about those pioneering organizations we always pointed to, whose leaders touted the success they had with KM:  companies such as Ernst & Young, Hallmark, Buckman Labs, and Shell Oil? Were these individuals legends in their own minds, false prophets?

And wait – is Moore saying that what suddenly makes all those “KM promises” “real” is the advent of more technology. Really Andy, “…tools such as user forums, blogs, wikis and their ilk have finally made good on the promise of KM.” I know you don’t believe that – right? I mean are you stating that it was just a matter of the right technology?

OK – Ill give you that there was much ballyhoo about knowledge management circa 1999, and some wanted us to believe at that time that it was fully realized. In some cases, we were told that KM was something you could buy from a software provider. But to claim that KM was not possible until now is irresponsible to the market and insulting to its advocates and pioneers. To state that what makes it now possible (and pure) is yet another genre of technologies is just ridiculous. In fact this statement is as wrong as the claims made a decade ago regarding “knowledge in a box”. Search engines, content management systems and taxonomies no more provide a knowledge management system, then does social software.

Knowledge management is a business practice and ecosystem, that evolves over time. Technology plays a role. It is an enabler and facilitator, but not the answer.  This is why I was among those at the Enterprise 2.0  conference that voted Enterprise 2.0 is evolution not revolution. Each new generation of users (through experience) and technology (through improvements and advances) make knowledge management simpler to achieve and broader in reach.  But, never possible until now?

But before I go to far – let me say, in spite of how this post may sound, the white paper is worth a read (and not just for entertainment value). The white paper is predominately a series of articles written not by Moore, but software vendors, namely: OpenText, EMC, NewsGator, PTC, and InMagic. (Whitepaper or advetorial?) This series of articles is preceded by a 2 page intro by Moore, with ample quotes from OpenText. But, within some of these vendor articles, there is some very good advice and insights.  My favorite is written by Cheryl McKinnon of OpenText – very insightful. But, perhaps my favorite quotes are from Phillip Green of InMagic, “knowledge management is an awfully broad term and an awfully big bucket that no one technology,
product,process or service defines.
” and “Simply implementing blogs and wikis into an
organization is no guarantee for success.”
This seems to fly in the face of Moore’s editorial, but supports my argument.

Overall, as I said the paper, (be  sure to download the full pdf version to get the vendor articles) is definitely worth a read, but I would just take Moore’s pages with a grain of salt – or hey – exercise some KM of your own, and just ignore them.

But he is obvioulsy entitled to his opinion, just as I am mine, and of course you are yours.  What do you think?  After you have read the white paper please share your opinion here. Evolution or revolution? Is KM suddenly possible or it it still evolving?

And for those of you who are a bit confused by all of this, or simply would like to better understand the impact KM and Enterpirse 2.0 can have in your organization, you might consider our integrated consulting and training on KM.

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