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Taking the ‘No’ Out of Knowledge Management

Talking about knowledge management is so 1990s. At least, conventional wisdom would have us believe that most significant problems related to knowledge management have been fixed. Joe the IT Guy is not so sure. He suggests, in his self-titled blog site, that there are plenty of improvements to be made, from identifying relevant knowledge to knowledge sharing, access, availability, and timeliness.


Knowledge management might be defined differently depending on who is doing the defining. From an ITSM perspective circa ITIL 2011, it is “the process responsible for sharing perspectives, ideas, [etc.]…and for ensuring that these are available at the right place and at the right time.” Yet to borrow a more concise definition, it is the using and reusing of knowledge. But wait a minute…what is knowledge? The ITIL glossary is silent on that important term:

It all seems quite odd that we are encouraged to manage knowledge but never to understand that knowledge can be valuable (and even invaluable). It’s also odd that knowledge management is seen as a process, by ITIL 2011, rather than an ethos or a way of working within a particular organization.

A Cultural vs. Technical Approach

ITIL 2011 is quite technical in its approach to knowledge management, stressing data and information transfers instead of a cultural method for exploiting and cultivating knowledge management. Joe quotes ITSM guru Stuart Rance, who gets at the heart of what knowledge management is all about. Knowledge, says Rance, is only valuable to the organization if it is eventually received and used by additional persons throughout its retention by the organization. Treating knowledge management as an “add-on” job does not necessarily achieve that objective.

Take the Practical Direction

In order to make knowledge management more than a mindless “procedure,” in order to make it truly valuable, it needs to be a). part of a culture of knowledge retention and sharing and b). embedded in everyday business practices, not simply tacked on to workloads. Sometimes, it takes a more practical approach than the one offered in ITIL to bring value to the organization.

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About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI’s Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master’s degree in communications at Penn State University.

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