Re: Some thoughts on knowledge management, content management and single sourcing

Subject: Re: Some thoughts on knowledge management, content management and single sourcing
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 16 Mar 2002 11:09:04 -0800 (PST)

--- Bill Hall <bill -dot- hall -at- hotkey -dot- net -dot- au> wrote:

<snip academic stuff>

> While knowledge management may be a joke for Andrew Plato and the
> organizations he normally contracts to, it is a major economic issue for
> large organizations employing thousands of people. Because organizations
> exist independently from their members, they need to capture and preserve
> learning and knowledge held in individual heads beyond the life of the
> individuals' memberships in the organization.

The concept of KM is not a joke. Its the practitioners and the meaningless buzz
that surround KM that is a joke. Its yet another, in an endless series, of
"movements" that attempts to con corporations into paying big consulting fees
to people and organizations so they can tell them to do something they should
already know.

Yes. Capturing information about why stuff is done a certain way is important
for corporations. They need some kind of internal mechanism to feed information
to a central point. But once again, this isn't something that warrants a lot of
energy and attention. It should be done as a matter of practices. It shouldn't
require a big "movement" to make it happen.

> Technical writers know how to
> capture and record the knowledge, but large organizations have immense
> problems establishing culture, technologies and processes to facilitate
> preserving and managing this knowledge in forms that other people in the
> organization can find and use where and when it is needed.

Which is fundamentally an employment and management problem. Rather than make
people do their jobs correctly, companies and employees get lazy. They stop
documenting information or it languishes in somebody's head until that person
quits and leaves. This devastates the firm.

What firms need is better management. People establishing expectations and then
enforcing those expectations. And one of those expectations should be to feed
the details of your work into some kind of central library. However, it is
understandable that this material does not always get captured. Thus, tech
writers should be capturing and storing this information into white papers
articles, intranet web sites, etc.

I don't see a need to hire consultants and formulate task forces to handle

> The owners of my organization have recognised this problem and are beginning
> to come to grips with how important knowledge is to the success of their
> business of managing large engineering projects.

Yes, executives are beginning to raise the bar on expectations of employees.
Making sure that as part of their job, they take the time to document their
work and leave a clean "audit trail."

> Anyway, going back the original question of what does knowledge management
> mean to technical writers, at least in large organizations, it should mean a
> lot of new and important job opportunities if we work to understand the very
> real needs large organizations have and learn to talk to people who are
> successfully selling the knowledge management concepts to senior executives.
> A combination of the tech writing and KM paradigms offers far more real
> value to organizations than either does alone.

Yes, there are opportunities in huge organizations to help facilitate and
manage such documentation efforts. But, many firms merely need to realign their
expectations of employees and make documenting their work an integral part of
their job. I think the problem here is that once again, KM is being touted as
some new paradigm synergy leveraging buzz, when its just good ol common sense
repackaged and sold for $225 an hour.

> We are doing exactly this in my organization. I'm educating the KM
> consultants at the same time I'm learning a great deal from them. The
> opportunities to be gained from this kind of collaboration are immense if
> you can swing them.

And it strikes me as a little sad that organizations have to pay big money to
hire people to tell them to do their jobs in a professional and responsible
manner. But, I guess if that's what they need, I suppose there will be people
out there who will fill that need.

Andrew Plato

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Some thoughts on knowledge management, content management and single sourcing: From: Bill Hall

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