The KM Standards are coming: Is this a big deal?

The following article published by Karen Mcfarlane and I appeared in abridged form in this month’s edition of “Information Profesional”

For the past couple of years, national standards committees have been working on the development of an ISO Standard for Knowledge Management Systems. Is this a big deal? How have we got here? Will it have an impact? Who is likely to benefit? What does it cover?

We would like to stress from the start that the new ISO BSI Knowledge Management Systems Standard is a standard of principles. We believe, contrary to some in the Knowledge & Information Management (KIM) community, that there is real value in having a set of universally-agreed principles that practitioners can align with.

The new standard sets down a marker for future knowledge managers to benchmark activities against. As with all BSI standards, it will be reviewed every five years to ensure that it is up to date.

The idea of KM Standards is not new; the British Standards Institution (BSI) first discussed it in 2000.

A long time in the making

BSI’s initial look at Knowledge Management standardization in 2000 resulted in a publication: Knowledge Management PAS 2001: a guide to good practice.

In 2002, BSI’s KMS/1 Committee produced BSI Position Statement on Standardization within Knowledge Management which concluded: “The judgement of BSI is that, at this point in the development of Knowledge Management, it is too early to attempt to impose too rigid a framework or too narrow a view of this rapidly developing field.”

Interestingly it presented this figure to illustrate the above conclusion.

BSI noted: “…within British Standards there are effectively three levels of standardization that can be applied according to the requirements of the industry at that specific point in time.

As an area grows in maturity it is generally the case that the documents produced will tend to move up the pyramid, reflecting the greater consensus within the industry and public. It is important to note that, unless directly referenced in legislation all Standards (and other documents mentioned here) are voluntary documents.”

Notwithstanding, BSI continued to publish KM guidance material:

  • April 2003 – PD 7500 Knowledge Management Vocabulary
  • May 2003 – PD 7501 Managing Culture and Knowledge – A guide to good practice
  • July 2003 – PD 7502 Measurements in Knowledge Management

Following on, European Standards (CEN Workshop) Agreements published in 2004 a European Guide to Good Practice in Knowledge Management

So what has changed? Why is the time right for a standard?

Despite frequent predictions of its demise, the discipline of KM (or whatever guise it appears in) is now a tactical/operational role in many organisations. Take a glance at the countless adverts for knowledge managers to see what we mean.

KM has grown in maturity, and can now be considered to be almost a quarter of a century old, so meets the criteria BSI applied for having a standard.

Today we await formal publication of ISO KM Systems Standard 30401, individually approved by the national standards committees and the ISO Working Group that oversaw its development. Indeed it may well have “hit the stands” by the time you read this.

What we can confidently predict is that on 8 October there will be a formal launch event organised by BSI details of which will be available soon.

Development of the standard

Work started in 2015 and was conducted by an ISO steering committee supported by eight national mirror committees including the UK, which contributed significantly to the initial draft.

A draft was made available for public review for a six-week period during December 2017 and January 2018. Hundreds of comments were received and the UK BSI committee went through each one (including those of CILIP’s K&IM SIG), identifying 270 suggestions to be referred back to the ISO committee. These were combined with comments from 15 constituent countries, including eight national mirror bodies. This means that the final standard not only reflects UK contributions but those of other countries.

About the new standard

The new KM Standard will not try to tell you how to do KM, but it does help you ensure you have set up a good management system, providing a solid foundation on which to build your KM solution.

The standard is flexible. It is applicable to large and small organisations. It sets out principles for guidance. This standard does not mandate how you implement KM. It describes requirements for the final product but not how you get there. It’s an attempt to ensure that KM is managed with a degree of consistency. It is an aid for self-audit.

What does the standard cover?

  • It starts with an outline of the purpose of the standard. It outlines why KM is important. It provides Guiding Principles and outlines the boundaries of KM.
  • Section 3 defines knowledge and also knowledge management
  • Section 4 covers the KM system, understanding the organisation and its context and how KM supports this; understanding the needs of stakeholders. It then outlines the KM system itself: the knowledge development/lifecycle; enablers (the roles, processes, technologies, governance and culture)
  • Section 5 covers leadership and governance
  • Section 6 covers planning and actions to address risks and opportunities
  • There are three annexes on: the knowledge spectrum; boundaries between KM and adjacent disciplines; and KM culture.

Benefits of the standard

  • It provides a benchmark for your KM management system and a guide to those organisations that are new to KM to help them avoid common pitfalls.
  • It gives knowledge managers leverage in their organisations.
  • It gives KM legitimacy as a profession.

Impact

In order to assess the impact it is worth providing context. Many KM programs benefit from an image. Here’s one that might help:

The standard is like a new kitchen without the utensils, the crockery, cookbook; it’s down to those who use it to determine how it will work for them.

At first, practitioners are unlikely to see a significant change. Few assessors have seen the standard, even fewer will have a KM background, though it’s arguable whether that is a prerequisite to undertake a “compliance audit”.

Our hope is that it provides a globally-accepted framework of what should be in a KM programme and how it should be supported and assessed. We are looking forward to it being drawn on by organisations that value KM.

Who will benefit?

At the time of general release of the draft for comment in Q4 17, a question that arose was: “Who is going to benefit?”

Undoubtedly consultants will develop offerings that purport to help organisations to prepare for an ISO KM Standards Audit. If that helps to raise standards then surely that’s a positive. However, we see the real beneficiary being KM practitioners, current and future in those organisations such as the public sector for which ISO Standards are a core component of their quality measurements.

And finally

A week or so ago Chris Collison published this on LinkedIn:

Excellent article in CILIP magazine by Paul Corney and Karen McFarlane CMG describing the forthcoming KM Standard. Despite one or two early reservations (and a lot of commenting) – I’m convinced that – used thoughtfully and strategically – it will become an exciting force for good. Hungry for more? Watch this space for news of an exciting collaboration!
In the intervening period the post has been viewed by more than 4k people and liked by 100+. It also spawned a number of comments from those in the KM Community who oppose the idea of standards for KM.
While everyone is entitled to their opinion and I’ve expressed mine in the article I was very disappointed that once again the integrity of those who took part in the process was called into question. I participated because I believed it was the right thing to do not because I thought it would generate future business.  Anyone who knows me and the pro bono / community work I’ve done and will continue to do will confirm that is not how I am wired!

If so few Mergers & Acquisitions are successful why is Knowledge Management so often ignored?

“The best year of my life as we tried to maximise the synergies…”

was how Chris Collison described the year following the largest industrial merger in the history of the oil industry. As one of the award winning KM team in BP the merger (acquisition) of Amoco some 20 years ago presented unique challenges and a great opportunity to demonstrate the real value inherent in Knowledge Management.

“We were faced with merging intranets, capitalising on the communities of practice both organisations had developed and the BP Connect system (which at that point had 20k employee profiles) proved invaluable in matching skills and people.”

Yet KM has barely featured in Mergers and Acquistions (M&A) transactions in the intervening two decades?

M&A activity shows no sign of abating as this recently published survey from Accenture demonstrates but perceived wisdom is that fewer than 25% of all transactions fail to realise the projected synergies.

A few weeks back I had the great pleasure of exploring this topic in more detail with 100 or so senior global legal professionals.

I’d been invited by the organisors, ALM (American Lawyer and Legal Week), to give the opening address to their annual European Strategic Technology Forum at a magnificent venue (Grand Hotel des Iles Borromees & SPA) on Lake Maggiore, Italy.

Testing a hypothesis

I began by drawing on Chapter 7 of “Navigating the Minefield” A Practical KM Companion”I felt that was not enough so ahead of the event I decided to test the findings in “Navigating…”.  I approached:

  • A leading expertise discovery organisation: surely it makes sense to try and locate then validate /compare expertise in the to be merged organisations? People are at the fulcrum of of any successful merger and key in the realisation of the synergies often cited as the rationale for the transaction.
  • A world leader in the use of social network analytics: as an acquiring organisation you’d want to know what’s behind an org. chart, who are the people that make it tick? Increasingly SNA is being used to see how strong networks are in a business.
  • A recently merged industrial group: when one is a leader (and award winner) in KM surely their KM team would have a role?
  • A previous winner of the prestigeous European Law Firm of the Year award: as an organisation who has invested heavily in KM and grown through acquisitions surely they woud have built KM into their due diligence and integration strategies?

Astonishing insights

Here’s what I discovered:

  1. The anticipated demand for expertise discovery systems from organisations engaged in M&A activity has failed to materialise. It seems organisations are not interested in knowing what they know and what they are getting by way of expertise.
  2. In very few instances and in retrospect only do organisations undertake in depth analysis of networks in either the acquired or acquiring organisation.
  3. The KM team in the merged entity had to work really hard to reestablish a position since one of the organisations had a KM function and the other did not. It was not involved prior to the merger but acting quickly was able to demonstrate value through facilitating aspects of the organisation’s integration plan.
  4. In an organisation which has invested in KM capability and where knowledge is the core asset (Law Firm) any new entrant (firm or lawyer) has as a matter of urgency to contribute to the organisation’s knowledge base.

Why KM is Ignored

A part of the senior management team of Sopheon PLC during the dot com boom I was tasked with overseeing the integration of many of the acquisitions it made. I worked closely with HR / Organisational Learning and Marcoms functions as well as Software Engineering and Product Development.  We’d made the strategic decision and then looked in depth at the target and it’s skill base but often that was from a savings and efficiency perspective. We had no formal KM function yet products had years of knowledge and expertise  embedded and we ran an extremely successful global knowledge network.

I fear many people in KM are not close enough to the seat of power and seen as a tactical resource (fixers not originators) rather than people who help develop and drive through strategic initiatives.

So how might we change that and get them a seat at the M&A table?

A blueprint for the future?

Some years ago I was retained by a prominent venture capital group to help with techncal and managerial due diligence on acquisitions and investments.  The model that a former colleague James Macfarlane and I developed looked at inter alia the culture of an organisation, it’s management style, who people went to for assistance and perhaps most importantly how it coped when the pressure was on.  We also looked at how it used what it had learned before and fed that into how it developed its products.

I realise now that much of what we were doing is what I’d expect a good Knowledge Manager to be able to do today on any M&A transaction. However tools and process are important so they will need to have a range of faciiltation and diagnostic techniques they can apply. The impending publication of the ISO KM Standards might be just one of those since it will require those who have signed up to it to evidence adherence to a set of principles that rather neatly pick up many of the indicators that were in mine and James’ original Due Diligence Model.

The Knowledge Manager’s M&A Checklist

Here’s a very rudimentary set of questions to be focusing on.

Watch this space: in the coming months I will be expanding on this.

And finally

I have been remiss in not keeping up on postings. However the last two months have been extraordinarily busy with an assignment (helping to embed KM into the workstream of an organisation undergoing transformation), speeches, working on CILIP’s Knowledge Manager Certification process, getting started on a new co-authored book and working with Portugal’s Zero Food Waste movement to develop an application to improve the process of donation.

Paul delivering the opening address in Stresa to the Strategic Technology Forum

 

Sophia, AI and the importance of curation: KIM is safe (for the time being)!

I’m lucky. I get to travel to some of the most interesting places on the planet and experience different cultures. These last few weeks for example I’ve been on a book / Masterclass / conference trip to Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and SIngapore.

Book launch hosted by Petronas KL

More on the issues that arose around KIM accreditation and the outcomes from KM Asia in separate blogs.

Over dinner in Hong Kong I got to talk about “Sophia” the locally based Hanson Robotics model that controversially has been given citizenship of Saudi Arabia. While hugely impressive and a major advance in sensory technology two quotes about Sophia stuck with me:

Why are we humans obsessed with creating life forms in our own image?” and

“Dogs are able to sense what their master’s mood is. Imagine if we could replicate that in Sophia?”

“Km has gone thru peak of inflated expectations which AI is now going thru”

This was one of KM Asia’s Day Two Chair Les Hales opening remarks.

It’s a good backdrop to focus on the ever increasing clamour I sense around the use of AI / machine learning technology to improve effiiciency and outcomes, reduce headcount +/or free up time for more added value work. In the Masterclasses and presentations I suggested AI is addressing 3 questions on expertise, transactions / news and process:

I noted there has been a lot more in the way of measurable progress on transactions / news and process enhancement than on expertise. In his presentation at KM Asia, Eric Chan of Hutchinson Global Communications showed examples of a couple of regionally based organisations who now used Chat Bots

His examples above which focused on the process question confirmed the widely held assumption that many industries are ripe for disintermediation by AI technology. I noted a couple of his comments:

“Replacing customer service agents by chatbots powered by AI. Achieves 9/10 satisfaction and not subject to selective memory and

1/3rd of work can be done by machines = disruptive stress”

What was really interesting about the Chatbot example? How the difficult customers (the ones who shout) get routed thru to a human!

So where does this leave Knowledge & Information Management? Actually not badly if Eric Hunter’s comment is to be believed:

“The rise of newer forms of technology is challenging the way codified knowledge is managed leading to the need for KM professionals to work with new types of colleagues such as business process improvement specialists and AI providers.”

Note the use of the phrase to work with not be replaced by. Here’s why I believe this to be the case.

The importance of Curation (…ate #7)

One of many positives to emerge from every stop on my Asian adventure was a reaffirmation of the importance of curation, a term Patricia Eng and I described in our book thus:

#7 Curate: So much of what passes for Knowledge Management is about creating and storing content and making it available for reuse. It’s more than the role formerly undertaken by Information Professionals and Librarians, here we are talking about being a custodian of organisational knowledge and organisational knowledge bases.

Technology has for some time been knocking at this door.  Indeed companies like Profinda have made significant strides so it was fascinating to read this very well written piece on Microsoft’s evolving Yammer strategy by Antony Cousins, Director of Customer Success which reflects my ongoing concern that Technology is not Knowledge Management:

Lost knowledge. With the same room structure as Yammer, there will be popular generic rooms where far too much is shared, too little is relevant to users and, should they ever want to find that document or that chat thread which was relevant to them, good luck. It’s lost in the never ending deluge of chat never to be seen again. If we can’t easily find previous answers and solutions or reference points, we’ll be as doomed on Microsoft Teams, as we were on Yammer, to ask the same questions over and over or worse, repeat the same mistakes…. So, in general, well done Microsoft for making things that were quite easy about 6% easier. Now can we please focus on the really big problems still faced by those of us trying to resolve the collaboration problem for big business?

I continue to argue that one of the key aspects of the role of KIM’ers is acting as Curators of organisational knowledge as well as signposts / navigators. In fact this was the premise behind my Masterclasses in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur and the need for those skills:

KIM’ers have to be good at understanding technology and its implications for the business. But they are one of the few groups organisationally who see across silos and should be able to analyse business needs!

And finally

My concern is that organisations increeasingly see technology in its new guise as KM and are jumpiing on the bandwagon to put social tools behind the firewall expecting staff to find the expertise / historical knowledge automatically. In previous pieces I’ve argued that assisted search is still important.

I can also see a shift towards HR / Talent Management as the logical resting place for the discipline where the driver is one of mitigating the risk of knowledge loss when people leave.

But I still see in the short to medium term at least a need for what good KIM’ers do.

AI driven expertise & profiling: hype, hope or déjà vu?

May was a busy month. Apart from helping establish then launch a real estate and mortgage business (Bees Homes) I was in Lisboa for Social Now and London for KM Legal UK.

I attended both in the expectation of learning more about the onrush of Artificial Intelligence and its implications for the Knowledge Management profession.

Specifically, I wanted to see how the encouragingly styled Talent and Knowledge Matching / Profiling systems might tackle the challenges of knowledge loss when people depart, of onboarding when people arrive and identifying / ranking expertise that might otherwise be opaque when pulling together teams.

It’s not a new topic: back in the late 90’s I was Business & Strategy Advisor to Sopheon PLC when we acquired Organik (a technology for identifying expertise) and built systems for US Insurers looking to establish the best teams for clients based upon expertise. We never cracked it even though we knew what the issues were (usually motivation)!

Seeking answers at SocialNow Lisboa while Keynote speaker Ellen Trude watches.

Armed with a list of ‘use cases’ I’d worked on with Martin White I set off in search of answers to these questions from both vendors and KM practitioners?

  • Onboarding: A new employee with many years of highly relevant experience joins the firm. How long will it be before their experience is ranked at the same level as their predecessors?
  • Legal: Is the profiling process compatible with the provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation? The thoughts of the Information Commissioner on this are worth a look. Profiling & Automated Decision Making
  • Functionality: Do they offer the ability to present a list of people ranked by expertise?
  • Language: In multinational companies where it is especially difficult to know all the experts, how does the vendor coppe with the fact that documents, meetings and social media traffic will be in local languages?
  • Chinese Walls: How does the application cope with expertise gained on projects that are secure, a common issue in law, finance and R&D where walls need to be erected to prevent commercial information being divulged>
  • Testing: What User Testing is undertaken with a client before signing a contract to verify that the profiling system works?

So, what did I discover? Thierry de Bailllon in his closing Keynote put it very succinctly but with a caveat:

Embrace or die? 88% of technologies already include AI.

Self reinforcing bias?

it’s not Enterprise Social Networks (ESN)!

This Twitter exchange between Ana Neves and Luis Suarez prompted by a question I posed of the Workplace (Facebook at Work) team following their presentation is revealing:

May 12 there’s been a few questions about expertise location 2017 I don’t remember that being the case in previous years #SocialNow

May 12 Well, I think people are starting to understand how critical it is to know who is who within the org beyond just content, right?

Replying to totally! It surprises me it took so long. It’s amazing the role #ESN can have in unveiling that expertise #SocialNow

On the surface the case for ESN is compelling. Yet the majority of vendors at SocialNow focus on information exchange and conversation rather than the capturing and cataloguing of it. One,@mangoappsinc, had a neat tool (they won the “coolest app” prize) with the ability to upgrade comments from threaded discussions and posts to create ranked knowledge resources from the mass of information and conversation.

So, ESN can show who has answered what question, conduct searches across conversations and in many cases act as a project management tool, the new Facebook at Work (Workplace) now allows the creation of documents for example.

Provided the application is linked to HR systems it is possible to retrieve profiles and see what expertise an individual might have. As one vendor (@OrangeTrail showcasing Facebook at Work)) who uses bots to generate responses put it:

‘Questions’ is the key to find experts as people don’t keep profiles updated.

I concur and they are great facilitation platforms though with advanced features that will suffice for many. Yet I left Lisboa though feeling organisations will need to rely on assisted search for some time if they want to take a deep dive into expertise

know what you don’t know

Peer Assist “Problems” for discussion

So onto London and KM Legal UK. An interesting Day One ended with a psuedo Peer Assist in which AI was raised a lot.

One observation (facilitation tip): the session failed to commit the ‘owner’ of the problem to action so as a result the feedback loop to plenary became a series of “we said this.”

Again, as in previous years I felt the focus was on operational tools and techniques which means that KIM Professionals in Legal are more at risk from the onrush of technology.

It reminded me of the issue Librarians faced with the arrival of end user search in the mid 90’s which finished their monopoly of being the people who found stuff in organisations.

Day Two took a deeper dive into technology and its potential impact.

AI in Legal today

This slide sets out where AI is making a difference in Legal.

I tweeted having heard Cliff Fluet’s excellent presentation:

Paralegals beware. AI is coming. Adapt or die?

And I questioned:

How wide is scope of AI? More than Doc Analysis / Creation. Opportunity to broaden knowledge base

As yet no one had focused on expertise and profiling so when one presenter cited the case where a newly arrived CEO asked the Head of HR / Talent Management to let him have profiles / competencies of the staff using their system it got my attention.

I asked whether the results the HR head gave the CEO inferred a level of expertise. It didn’t which got thinking that if the data set is incomplete and the issue of self reinforcing bias is not addressed then over reliance on one source for identifying ‘experts’ is dangerous. Imagine your career prospects if for whatever reason your name wasn’t on the ‘expert’ list given to the CEO?

and finally

So where do I see the state of expertise and profiling systems? Patchy!

Yes there are certainly companies who ‘get it’ but can they do it?

I am indebted here to Martin White who in an excellent report “People and expertise seeking – an overview” summarises the predicament thus:

The most important lesson learned is the need for an expertise location strategy that is linked into HR processes, knowledge management, training, job appraisals and social media development. Finding people with expertise is not a ‘search problem’.  Good search tools can certainly help but without attention being paid to profile quality (even if other types of content are being searched) and a commitment by employees to share their knowledge expertise discovery will not be as successful as anticipated or required.

My takeaways:

  • KIM professionals need a clear strategy (working in partnership with other stakeholders such as HR and IT) and be clear on the questions being solved by any system;
  • They need to be clear what they are getting, what’s missing and how it mitigates the potential for self reinforcing bias when they enter discussions with vendors around automating expertise seeking and profiling;
  • They need to recognise the importance of their role in facilitating the adoption of such systems and accept this is just a part of a portfolio of approaches of identifying, capturing and retaining expertise;
  • They need to be clear what critical knowledge actually is in their organisation and who is likely to have it in order to assess the veracity of the results of any pilot;
  • It doesn’t matter what solution you adopt, if your environment is not conducive to the sharing of expertise and people don’t see the value in it then save the money; and
  • In any event you cannot capture everything people know; we learn and share through stories (failures rather than successes) and those often remain hidden.

Challenges and Opportunities facing Legal KM: interview for KM Legal Europe

A few weeks back I wrote a  post Future of the Internet and Legal KIM in an artificial world ahead of an interview I was giving to the organisors of January’s KM Legal Europe Amsterdam.  Here’s that interview which includes a snapshot of the sessions I will be facilitating.