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Digital Transformation

Knowledge Communities

I saw a good presentation on knowledge communities.  The speaker, Jim Kane, gave a good overview.  Before I go into notes let me note his one key best practice: ” Don’t just use a template. A template will fail.”  He makes a great point that it’s about much more than just the technology.

The Problem

People hoard knowledge. They don’t communicate all that well.  The tools we have had in the past were very poor  in capturing knowledge. Look at what’s captured on your intranet, that’s probably only 20% of the total sum of knowledge.  (My comments: and much of that is probably outdated)

A knowledge community should help to get the explicit knowledge people have inside their heads.

What Are They

Knowledge Communities are enviroments in which member share common objectives and goals.  They are highly collaborative.  They are NOT templates.  They should:

  • help locate skills
  • communicate
  • foster innovation
  • build relationships
  • administer the community
  • create knowledge or content
  • manage content
  • facilitate knowledge sharing
  • facilitate knowledge re-use

There is a process in becoming a community.  A community will use discussions, wikis, blogs, profiles, bookmarks, search and social.  That’s great but they are the tool. A community uses the tools to allow many to many sharing.  That’s where tagging, rating, comments, wikis, etc help.

Knowledge communities may be

  1. Practice centric communities
  2. Project centric communities
  3. Topic or interest communities

There is no bible on what it should be.  As long as you share it better, find it better, consume it easier then you’ve met the goal of sharing.  The behaviour side of things is critical.

I don’t have time to do this

It’s one more site I have to go to

Examples of some knowledge communities could include a proposal department.  It’s a community to write the proposals better.  It could include a powder compaction community at a life sciences firm.  Using profiles, boards, wikis, etc., they can capture the knowledge of powder compaction across the world. The key to their success is changing behaviour in capturing the knowledge.

Community Enablement

Communities rely on the following to be enabled: Sponsorship, methodology, culture and values, technology, and governance.  Listen to the business users and find out the problems at three levels: corporate, department, individual.

The key to success is sponsorship. If your boss doesn’t allocate enough time to manage the community then you will fail.


User adopton and sustainability also proved to be the two biggest road blocks to a successful knowledge community.   Success can come in phases.

  1. Setup: Define and get it going. Involve the business.
  2. Enrollment: get the business to commit to a process of charter, outcomes, drivers, etc.
  3. Adoption: implement governance and measurements to evolve the community.  This may involve expansion as it’s successful. This will include growing and evolving as the needs change.

If you follow a more formalized approach to building a community, it will get easier over time. Success will breed more success.  People will clamor for that bright shiny new toy too.

Key: Get an evangelist.  Make that evangelist a part of the business. IT should not be the intermediary.  KM is about sharing between those who have knowledge.

Key: Stretch your tool as far as it can go before you build something more or buy something to add to it.

Sharepoint features to enable this:

  • My Site
  • People and profiles
  • Tag clouds and tag pages with everything related to that
  • Tags in your my site
  • Search: tags are indexed and can be treated as managed properties
  • Communities that provide the features

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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.

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