The status of KM in 2020 and trends for the future
A NetIKX seminar, 27 May 2021
For the May 2021 seminar, NetIKX was pleased to host Nick Milton of Knoco Ltd for an in-depth discussion of the state of knowledge management (KM) during the exceptional year of 2020 and possible trends as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. Knoco Ltd has conducted a global survey of KM every three years, starting in April 2014, with the latest in May 2020. Over 1000 people have taken part in the surveys, mostly individuals leading KM activities or members of KM teams. In this seminar, Nick took us through the results of the latest survey and of the COVID-19 supplement which was undertaken in 2021 and received 83 responses.
Nick reported that the majority of responses were from Western Europe (including the UK), the US and Canada. There may have been an English-language bias here – the possibility of a Spanish-language version of the survey was considered, but rejected due to the technical difficulties of translating text in spreadsheets. Over half the respondents stated they were leading the KM initiative in their organisation. Obvious spam and ‘junk’ responses were weeded out, but some anomalies remained, such as a company which claimed to have reached KM maturity within two years!
Seven key areas of focus
The seminar focused on seven key areas of the survey: what do we mean by KM? what is a typical KM team? how much value does KM deliver? what are the typical barriers and enablers? what does mature KM look like? what are the trends over the past six years? and finally, what was the impact of COVID-19 on KM? Best practice and improved access to documents were consistently high on the list of KM strategic approaches since 2014, but there was a slight gradual decline in the importance of connecting through communities and networks – there was no obvious reason for this trend, although it was suggested that perhaps those communities are now already in place and well-established in many organisations. As in the previous two surveys, the main enabler was support from senior management and the main barrier lack of prioritisation or support from management. Most organisations viewed KM as well-established or embedded in their work practices. A move towards digitisation was already apparent pre-pandemic and was seen as one of the major changes in focus during the past year. Opinion on whether KM had become harder or easier during lockdown was split, with lack of face-to-face interaction and spontaneous sharing being cited as negative factors and greater ease of communication with remote workers as a positive factor.
One of the biggest issues surrounding any analysis of KM is exactly how KM is defined (and it is often poorly defined). Conclusions from the survey were that practiioners view KM as a mix of document access, learning from experience, best practice, connecting people and knowledge retention. Each of these factors adds value. The longer you do KM, the greater the annual benefit – as KM matures, cultural barriers also come down. Although it is still too early to determine the full effect of the pandemic on KM, the overall picture is one of expansion and greater management support. KM came to the fore during the pandemic and proved its value, underpinning remote working through the provision of knowledge. It remains to be seen whether these gains can be built on when – or if – ‘business as usual’ resumes.
The pandemic – a turning point for KM or a bump in the road?
During the breakout sessions, we were invited to discuss three topics: whether the results of the survey matched our own experience of KM; what surprised us about the results; and whether we felt COVID-19 was a ‘turning point’ in KM or just a bump in the road. Observations from participants included a sense that the pandemic had increased interest in the value of KM and highlighted the demand for KM solutions, but that there was still a perception gap to overcome. It was also noted that organisations with embedded KM had a greater interest in innovation and consequent willingness to take calculated risks. We also agreed that it is too early to predict what consequences the COVID-19 pandemic has had for the future of KM, especially as we still do not know how much longer the pandemic will last.
For more information about the survey, and KM in general, the Knoco Ltd website is an invaluable resource. The 2020 survey is currently available free of charge and can be requested here. We all expressed our thanks to Nick for a fascinating and highly topical presentation – and look forward to the revelations of the 2023 survey!