Implementing Knowledge Management, Part I: Concepts & Approach

Phase 3: Define high-level process – To facilitate the effective management of your organization’s knowledge assets, you must begin to layout a high-level KM process. The process can be progressively developed with detailed procedures and work instructions throughout phases 4, 5, and 6, but must be finalized and approved prior to “Phase 7: Implement Knowledge Management Program.”

Organizations that overlook or loosely define the KM process will not realize the full potential of their KM objectives. How knowledge is identified, captured, categorized, and disseminated will be ad hoc at best. There are a number of KM best practices, all of which comprise similar activities. In general, these activities include knowledge strategy, creation, identification, classification, capture, validation, transfer, maintenance, archival, measurement, and reporting.

Phase 4: Determine and prioritize technology needs – Depending on the program objectives established in Phase 1 and the process controls and criteria defined in Phase 3, you can begin to determine and prioritize your KM technology needs. The diagram shown here (Fig. 5) reflects the main technologies that can compose a KMS.

With such a variety of KM solutions, it is imperative to understands the cost and benefit each type of technology and the primary technology providers in the marketplace. Don’t be too quick to purchase a new technology without first determining if your existing technologies can meet your needs. You can also wait to make costly technology decisions after the KMP is well underway and there is broad support and need for enhanced computing and automation.

Phase 5: Assess current-state – Now that you’ve established your program objectives to solve your business problem (Phase 1), prepared for change to address cultural issues (Phase 2), defined a high-level process to enable the effective management of your knowledge assets (Phase 3), and determined and prioritized your technology needs that will enhance and automate KM related activities (Phase 4), you are in a position to assess the currant-state of KM within your organization.

The KM assessment should cover all five core KM components: people, processes, technology, structure, and culture. A typical assessment should provide an overview of the assessment, the gaps between current- and desired-states, and the recommendations for attenuating identified gaps. The recommendations will become the foundation for the roadmap in Phase 6.

Phase 6: Build implementation roadmap – With the current-state assessment in hand, it is time to build the implementation roadmap. But before going too far, you’ll need to reconfirm senior leadership’s support and commitment as well as the funding to implement and maintain the KMP.

Without these prerequisites, your efforts will be futile.

Having solid evidence of your organization’s shortcomings, via the assessment, should certainly drive the urgency rate up.

Having a strategy on how to overcome the shortcomings will be critical in gaining leadership’s support and getting the funding you will need. This strategy can be presented as a roadmap of related projects, each addressing specific gaps identified by the assessment. The roadmap can span months and years and group projects into phases as well as illustrate key milestones and dependencies. A decent roadmap will yield some short term wins in the first phase of projects, which will bolster support for subsequent phases.

As time progresses, continue to review and evolve the roadmap based upon the changing economic conditions and business drivers. You will undoubtedly gain additional insight through the lessons learned from earlier projects that can be applied to future projects as well.

Phase 7: Implementation – Implementing a KMP and maturing the overall effectiveness of your organization will require significant personnel resources and funding. Be prepared for the long haul, but at the same time, ensure that incremental advances are made and publicized. As long as there are recognized value and benefits, especially in light of ongoing successes, there should be little resistance to continued KM investments.

With that said, it’s time for the rubber to meet the road. You know what the objectives are, you’ve properly mitigated all cultural issues, you’ve got the processes and technologies that will enable and launch your KMP, and you know what the gaps are and have a roadmap to tell you how to address them.

As you advance through each phase of the roadmap, make sure you are realizing your short term wins. Without them, your program will surely lose its momentum and the support of key stakeholders.

Phase 8: Measure and improve program – How will you know your KM investments are working? You will need a way of measuring your actual effectiveness and comparing that to anticipated results. If possible, establish some baseline measurements in order to capture the before shot of the organization’s performance prior to implementing the KMP. Then, after implementation, trend and compare the new after results to the before results to see how performance has improved.

Don’t be disillusioned if the delta is not as large as you would have anticipated. It will take time for the organization to become proficient with the new processes and improvements. Over time, the results should follow suit.

When deciding upon the appropriate metrics to measure your organization’s progress, establish a balanced scorecard that provides metrics in the areas of performance, quality, compliance, and value. The key point behind establishing a KM balanced scorecard is that it provides valuable insight into what’s working and what’s not. You can then take the necessary actions to mitigate compliance, performance, quality, and value gaps, thus improving overall efficacy of the KMP.


Implementing a complete KM takes time and money, however, the results can be impressive and risks can be minimized by taking a phased approach that gives beneficial returns at each step. Most organizations that have made this kind of investment in knowledge management realize tangible results quickly. They add to their top and bottom lines through faster cycle times, enhanced efficiency, better decision making and greater use of tested solutions across the enterprise.

Robert Simmons is a master consultant with the Forsythe Solutions Group