Expert provides surefire test to measure KM success

TORONTO — If you want to know if your company’s knowledge management efforts are paying off, try pulling the plug for a few hours. If people react, you know it’s a valued asset.

“”The noise level you get when your system is down tells you your level of success,”” said Ash Sooknanan, senior

knowledge management consultant with Emfisys, the company dedicated to managing Bank of Montreal’s IT requirements.

If silence prevails, it may indicate no one is tuned in. In the push to gain adoption of knowledge management in the workplace, some companies may be creating huge bodies of information that quickly become unwieldy to users.

The danger says Sooknanan, speaking at The Conference Board of Canada’s Knowledge Management 2002 in Toronto Wednesday, is by creating so many vehicles of information such as intranets and other repositories of information, it all becomes too cumbersome to navigate.

“”As much as I am a champion of knowledge management, in some cases we’ve gone back to where we were before knowledge management. We have codified so much and have so many sites and repositories we don’t know where to get at information,”” said Sooknanan “”As soon as people start losing confidence they will stop using them.””

“”I was really overwhelmed when I started at Bank of Montreal. There were about 100 Intranet sites and I found it difficult sometimes to get information,”” he said.

Knowledge management efforts, he says, must have a global strategy but with local implications.

“”The mantra I continue to use is ‘Think big, start small and build incrementally.’ Once you have a vision or strategy build it and people begin to find value in it.””

Sooknanan said there are four steps to arriving at a good KM solution: capture the corporate DNA and its processes; document things like strategies, applications and training; share enterprise-wide, online and immediately and improve data collaboratively and “”on the fly”” through tools like online chats.

Sooknanan also emphasized the importance of “”nurturing communities of practice”” in which after a project is completed the processes and best practices learned are detailed in an area where everyone can draw on them for future reference.

Formerly with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board of Canada, Sooknanan says he has seen the benefits of knowledge management from the perspective of both the public and private sector.

“”When I was in the public sector I felt knowledge management was more beneficial in the private sector – it could improve profitability. Now I see huge benefits from what we were doing at the WSIB,”” he said.

Following a project at the WSIB in 1994, Sooknanan created “”a community”” where others could learn what happened during the project using Lotus Notes to capture the various processes. A discussion thread allowed for contributions to be made about the project.

“”We believed there were things our group was doing that others could benefit from,”” he said.

While there are numerous tools on the market to make sense of data, software shouldn’t be where knowledge management begins and ends. Ultimately, it is about using information to grow the business and profit from the collective knowledge.

“”To me, knowledge management isn’t about technology, but about people and how we can get things done but technology plays a large role in it,”” said Sooknanan,

Known as the “”pioneer”” of the WSIB’s knowledge management practice, Sooknanan earned a Silver Medal at the Government in Technology Distinction Awards in 2000.

The value of KM, he says comes from “”squeezing performance from organizations by leveraging and focusing existing knowledge, assets, people and technologies.””

Things like training new employees, for example, is more easily accomplished when jobs are standardized.

In the private sector, he says the key objective is to arrive at a good return on investment. While statistics gathered at the WSIB may assist in formulating a campaign to focus on teenagers injured while working at summer jobs, the banking industry can determine customer needs by focusing on things like monitoring Web use patterns to determine a customer’s need for credit products.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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