Knowledge Management questions (long)

Subject: Knowledge Management questions (long)
From: Gwen Thomas <gthomas -at- PAYSYS -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 14 May 1999 11:18:58 -0500

Hi folks,
Requests keep coming in for the list of Knowledge Management questions one might want to ask when considering major process changes, such as going to single-sourcing. I'm trying to get ready for Cincinnati, so I'm just going to post this to the list. Apologies for the length. By the way, I pulled this together a while back from multiple proposals, memos, etc. Suggestions for additions would be welcomed.

Gwen Thomas
Knowledge Management Consultant
CIBER Information Services

What should we do? How should we do it? How much will it cost?

Sometimes these are doc department decisions. Sometimes they involve so many corporate assets that they need to be approached from a management viewpoint. They become strategic decisions rather than tactical. The discipline of Knowledge Management addresses how information and knowledge assets are managed across an enterprise. It includes managing how information is created, stored, disseminated, and leveraged.

When should technical communicators approach documentation decisions from a Knowledge Management viewpoint?
1. When significant company resources have been (or are going to be) invested in creating information assets. These assets might be content and/or formatted deliverables.
2. When this content is valuable to more than one group of internal/external users.
3. When significant company resources have been (or are going to be) invested in developing media delivery choices, content storage processes, and doc processes.
4. If there is no strong concensus regarding the best types of media, tools, processes, formats, and/or content sets to be included. (If there is debate about what is best for your organization, then that is a sign that some tough business decisions need to be made to decide on the best ROI.)
5. If you want to be part of that ROI decision-making process rather than only implementing decisions made in another department.

How to be part of the decision-making process
1. Think like an executive. Tech comm decisions (best layout, best organization, language choice) are secondary to decisions like 'how much can we afford?'
2. Go into negotiations from a position of power. Have the answers to KM questions. Develop business cases for your various options, and spell out the pros and cons for them very clearly.
3. Be able to switch between a Knowledge Management role and a Tech Comm role as needed. Know what's best for your users, and be sure to convey that. But when it comes time to make the tough business choices that come with having to choose between what's best and what's affordable, be able to put on the KM hat. If you can do that, you're more likely to be included in future deliberations.
4. Remember that the doc group is probably acting as steward for content that has a higher value than just product documentation. If this content is used across the enterprise by other groups, you might be able to justify higher spending levels than for doc alone.
5. Use the management lexicon most appropriate to your decision makers.
6. Try to make it part of the decision-making process to specify how often and under what circumstances chosen processes/policies could/should be revisited.

Questions to ask when approaching documentation decisions from a Knowledge Management viewpoint

What is your organization's Value Proposition regarding the distribution of information?
(In this case, the kind of information is product documentation.)

( If we spend $_______ doing ___________ , then we expect ________________ to happen, with a value of _____________. )

How much is your organization willing to spend to make the first half of that proposition take place?

How does the doc department fit into this ROI equation?
How do other departments fit in?
How do doc and these other departments work together?

What external and internal customers need information?
What kinds? When do they need it? What form do they need it in?

What are the consequences of internal and external customers not receiving needed information?
Of receiving part of it? Of receiving it in an unpopular format or media?
Is this organization willing to live with these consequences?

Who creates information needed by internal and external customers?
Where is it? How and when is it maintained?

What IT drivers affect how information is shared internally and externally?
What sort of IT infrastructure is in place? Planned?

What's the best (according to the company's value proposition) way to broker knowledge/information between its creators and consumers?

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