Skip to main content

Digital Transformation

Social Software Helps Shape our Understanding of Knowledge Management

Debra Logan, VP Distinguished Analyst, Gartner

Debra Logan gave some insights on what social software means to the KM world.   I find this interesting because we all talk about capturing and using the knowledge inherent in our organizations………….we just do a lousy job of implementing it.  I think it has to do with both the tools we used previously and with the processes we use to go about it.

Early KM tried to capture and measure it.  The problem was in how do you measure that knowledge?  At Perficient we have run into that exact problem.   We want to capture it and then rate it and put it into a process and track how much is out there.   Debra’s point is that perhaps that doesn’t give value.  Maybe the value comes in putting people first.  Choosing the right tool for the job………even if the right tool is the phone. Social Software is “counter-corporate” in many ways.  How many ban that type of software?

There is a difference between implicit knowledge that an expert knows but is very hard to capture and explicit knowledge which is easy to capture. What is interesting is that the whole concept of social software focuses on explicit knowledge and then “who” created it and therefore has the implicit knowledge you will never capture.  Once you know the expert, you can share the knowledge.

What’s interesting is that at one time we thought search would solve the KM problem. Debra makes the point that it’s a matter of access to the content as well as ability to search the content.   Personally, I’ve seen a number of companies dumping their search engine and moving on to another search engine.  Maybe their approach should instead be the use of social software with technologies that help shape our understanding of that knowledge.  Tags, bookmarks,, ratings, profiles, etc. would help shape it.  In many ways, KM is NOT a market.  Almost any of the portal, content, search, and collaboration tools meet the requirements of KM.   So if it’s not a market, what do you do?

Spend less time on the tool and more time on understand the creation, finding, and organization of that knowledge. Then figure out how to make it a part of your company.  At that point, you can decide what are the right tools to harness that knowledge or ideas in the community.  The right tool always involves the winnowing of ideas.   You cannot pursue every good idea. You cannot use every single artifact that you capture. Some are better than others.  Point: social software doesn’t edit……….only people can do that. They may use the tool but people are a key part of this.

When to use traditional KM systems: when you want to capture and codify existing knowledge.  Don’t use the wiki for safety documentations on your oil rig for example.

When to use Web 2.0 systems: when you want to create and share new knowledge, especially the knowledge implicit in an expert.  If you think about the content lifecycle, capture is optional in the web 2.0 world.

Key differences between early and social KM

Capture of content: Formal with early KM, find places and people with social.

Categorization: formal taxonomies with early KM, folksonomy defined by users with social

Access: formal repository in early KM.  Source in a repository but accessible via RSS or other feeds.

Creation: read only in early KM, user participation in social

Sharing: lack of trust in early KM; use of tags, links, wikis, blogs in a trusting environment

How are metrics affected by social KM?

Metrics still matter.  This type of KM ought to still help you make better decisions, answers phone calls, cut time per phone call, decrease errors, etc.  If it doesn’t then why invest in these technologies?

Debras recommendations:

  1. Rethink old assumptions about data, informtion and knowledge.
  2. Adopt the RIGHT technology for the task. Explicit knowledge capture should not be the dominant feature of KM
  3. Create, share, and consume knowledge with social software. Don’t focus on capture.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Michael Porter

Mike Porter leads the Strategic Advisors team for Perficient. He has more than 21 years of experience helping organizations with technology and digital transformation, specifically around solving business problems related to CRM and data.

More from this Author

Follow Us