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A Few Thoughts On Content Management – Charting A New Destiny For KM

Content management is probably one of the most important activity any organization should be performing, irrespective of whether they have formal KM function or not. Content management goes a long way in safeguarding key knowledge of the organization, which results in protecting and growing core competency, facilitating continuous improvement, promoting standardization and providing learning materials for employees.

A few thoughts on the approach to content management and how it should be aligned with overall organizational work and KM function focus is shared

Content management and what should be the focus:

Different kinds of content get created in an organization on a regular basis. Without a proper policy on the contents that should be managed from a Knowledge Management perspective, we will end up having too much trash in our repositories, resulting in low adoption. We should be clear what should be part of and what should not be part of KM responsibility and who should be owning what part of the content.

Contents of an organization:

The content of an organization consists of data, information and knowledge. Based on whether the content is data, information or knowledge, who will manage it will differ.

Data and its ownership:

Lots of data get generated within the organization, in almost all the cases, ownership of managing the data lies with the functional team who uses it. For example, an HR function will have a lot of data related to employees, like their salary, rating details and other personal data. This data stored in databases is important for them to work. Similarly, the marketing team may have a client database or the sales team will have data on the sales lead. These are operational content. While the data may be stored in the same infrastructure which KM team uses, the KM team will not be responsible for its usage, updatation, cataloguing etc. This data will be owned and managed by respective functional teams.

Information and its ownership:

Similar to data, quite a lot of information also gets generated. However, unlike data, there can be a lot of confusion about who manages information. Will the KM function do it or will the respective functional team do it. Example of information can be a project management plan, project assessment report, industry assessment reports, client requirements, marketing collaterals, case studies etc. The management of information, storing it, archiving it, retiring it etc., gets into a lot of greys. A suggested approach to deciding ownership will be:

  • KM team should be responsible for overseeing the way content is collated and catalogued. It should define the policies around that and ensure compliance with the same.
  • Content-specific to each client engagement will have to be managed by a specific function and team. Example: client requirements, project plan, assessment reports. Role of KM team will be to oversee the way the content is managed and stored. Each team or group will be reviewed by the KM team and assessed on compliance
  • All content that has generic applications should be managed by KM team. For example case studies, marketing collaterals, PoCs, reusable assets etc. Here the role will go beyond compliance and working with respective teams in identifying the content, cataloguing them and making them available for use across the organization.

Knowledge and its ownership:

Knowledge of an organization represents mainly the know-how and know why of an organization. One should not have any doubt on who has the responsibility to maintain it. It is the responsibility of the KM team, irrespective of the function to which it belongs to. This is knowledge in the form of processes, information about product/services, reference architectures etc.

A suggested approach to content management for KM team

Step 1 – Categorizing content based on knowledge type: Information and Knowledge that is under the purview of KM team can be classified into two categories. For the sake of simplicity, let us name them as category 1 and 2.

Category 1: These are information and knowledge generated by teams and groups as part of their functioning. They are generic content and include best practices. reusable artefacts, lessons learned, recordings of sharing sessions, PoCs, PoVs, case studies, referenceable project plans etc.

Category 2: These are processes, templates, guidelines, documentation of products/services, standard architectures, designs, organizational approaches that form the base of an organization. They define the know-how of an organization and are very critical to the survival of the organization. This content keeps growing and should be well structured and classified.

Step 2  –  Approach towards Category 1 content: Category 1 content represents information and ad-hoc learning of an organization. This content gets created within an organization on a regular basis. As mentioned they can be in the form of best practices, lessons learned, case studies etc. The KM team will work very closely with respective functions in identifying as and when this content gets generated and the same will get properly tagged, cleaned-up (if required) and made available for reuse. Some key characteristics of category 1 content are –

  • A lot of duplication of content will be there
  • Content from this category either gets retired or moved to category 2
  • Organizations which are into complex activities and knowledge-intensive organizations will have a large category 1 knowledge base as compared to category 2
  • Most of the efforts of the KM team will go into managing content in category 1
  • The focus of organizations will be to ensure that content is regularly pushed from category 1 to category 2

Step 3 –  Approach towards Category 2 content: As mentioned earlier, this category of knowledge forms the core of the organization. It defines what the organization does and how it does. All the critical information about the organization, without which organization may be impacted competitively comes under this category. Some key characteristics of category 2 content

  • At an organization level and individual group level, we will be able to define upfront, the kind of content required in Category 2 and do a gap assessment on the availability of category 2 content
  • Category 2 content should be created if not there, by translating tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge. In case of absence of that knowledge even in tacit form, then that knowledge should be created or acquired from external sources.
  • There should not be any duplication of content
  • All knowledge transfer activities and knowledge retention activities will be done based on content in this repository
  • In the case of organizations who are into routine and non-complex work, the category 2, type of knowledge will be on the higher
  • Organizations which have been functioning for a long time will have a large category 2 knowledge
  • Mostly content from Category 1, moves to category 2
  • Content in this category gets embedded into the processes, tools and into the training programs
  • Process team plays a major role in managing the content of category 2

 Note on Categories 1 & 2:

The focus of an organization should be to push content regularly from Category 1 to 2. There is an assessment layer, where the knowledge in category 1 is reviewed and based on its relevance across the organization is pushed to category 2. Category 2 content defines how the organization goes about performing its task. The content in category 2, will have to be regularly reviewed and updated.

Content Management is key to any organization and is very critical from a knowledge management perspective. If practised in a planned manner, it can help organizations learn regularly, as well as ensure that organizations know what they have and regularly update it.

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