I finally got around to reading the September 2006 issue of KM World. Jonathan B. Spira wrote an article, Step up to the knowledge economy, where he made a very valuable point. He lists three tenets that are required to make collaborative business environment (CBE). These three items range very true to my own (support) environment.
- the one environment rule (OER), which describes the benefits of conflating all applications into a single interface;
- friction-free knowledge sharing, which eliminates unnecessary steps in order to increase knowledge worker productivity; and
- embedded community, which deeply integrates many of the tools within the work environment.
In terms of knoweldge development, we currently are not in one environment — for that matter, we had three separate processes depending on the medium until just recently. Within a year, we should be on one environment. The greatest benefit is that we will reduce the learning curve for our knowledge contributors. For knowldge retrieval, it has just been this month where we have one search interface across all of our knowledge.
With the improvements to the environment, we are also gaining process benefits, eliminating unnecessary steps. By the end of the year, the publishing aspects that are still manual will have one less person to filter through. And again, once we get to one system, we will see additional improvements. With that being said, as we work to make sure that we are investing our precious resources on creating the right content, I do fear that we introduce new, unnecessary process steps. From prior experience, any process needs to be watched closely — too little, and mistakes happen; too much, and nothing happens.
The third tenet seems rather obvious, but it does not play out that way. Knowledge tools need to be in the workflow. If you have a call center, the knowledge tools need to be integrated with the transaction system. And if you are expecting those agents to add knowledge, the creation aspect needs to be integrated into the workflow too. The same can be said for your business intelligence tools. If the tools are not consolidated, easy to access, and within a familiar environment, they unfortunately will not be used.
I beleive the underlying message here is, if you want great knowledge collaboration to occur in your environment, you need to put the pieces in place to make it easy.