In Part 2 of this series, I discussed the types of content to capture as part of a knowledge management program. This part covers capturing information.
In addition to collecting documents, knowledge capture also includes making entries into databases. Examples of this information include personal profiles, repositories, and knowledge bases. Following are details of each type and how to capture it.
The personal profile is a way of capturing information about people and their skills. It allows people to enter information about who they are; their location; what they know, and what they can do. A personal profile aggregates an individual’s contributions to libraries, databases, and repositories; their social media posts; and their other activities to make all of this available on a single page specific to that person. Use personal profiles for locating experts, helping staff projects by finding the right people with the right skills and backgrounds, and providing a place to learn about each member of a social network.
Information entered in a skills database can include technical knowledge, process expertise, work experience, languages spoken, roles performed, customer and industry experience, community membership, professional organizations, publications, certifications, and so forth. The more details collected, the more searchable it is, but at the cost of complexity—and possibly annoying the users who must rate themselves on a multitude of categories.
The challenge with skills databases is getting employees to enter and maintain their personal data. Even with mandates from top management to do so, many people do not enjoy this task. As a result, they enter minimal information and don’t keep it updated as they develop new skills.
Social software can help address the difficulty of motivating employees to maintain their expertise in a tool. By allowing users to define their own tags for both interests and skills, a folksonomy of expertise is developed, which is less onerous than a massive list of standard skills. If a social networking tool offers other desirable features such as photos, personalized information, and friends, it may draw in users who will also enter and maintain their skills.
Repositories are structured lists, databases, and collections that allow information to be stored, searched for, and retrieved. A knowledge capture process requires a place to store what is collected. A repository is such a place, designed for ease of use when storing and retrieving information. It can take the form of a database, a list within a tool such as Microsoft SharePoint, or a collection of files within an intranet site, team space, or portal.
When creating a knowledge repository, decide on what type of content to capture. Plan for storage capacity that will remain adequate even as the number of collected files increases dramatically. Define the metadata required for each submitted file. Decide on a structure: hierarchical folders, different list views, faceted taxonomy navigation, or metadata-based search. Specify a contribution process. Ensure that search is properly integrated so that contributions can be found. Consider publishing the list of the latest submissions, providing alerts for posted material, and otherwise highlighting new submissions to make users aware of them.
Examples of repositories include project databases that capture key information on all projects, reference databases that include details on all reference materials, and asset collections with cataloged assets such as books, art, and music held in a library or museum.
In addition to providing a way for users to browse and search to find content, repositories are also useful in conjunction with threaded discussions. When a community member asks if a specific type of content is available, another member can reply with links to instances within existing repositories. This is an example of combining collection with connection; content has been collected and stored in a repository, and connections between people are made so they can take advantage of that content at the time of need.
An example of a project database is Hewlett-Packard’s Project Profile Repository, in which an individual record was captured for every project. The information collected included details on work performed and the team that delivered the project. This answered the question, “Where have we done this kind of work before?” which arises frequently in any kind of project-based organization.
If you have a database such as the Project Profile Repository where all previous work has been cataloged, you can easily search by any project attribute. You can identify people who worked on the project, contact them to learn more about it, and apply that knowledge to a new, similar effort.
A knowledge base is typically used to store answers to questions or solutions to problems enabling rapid search, retrieval, and reuse by reference librarians, information specialists, help desk personnel, or directly by those needing support. Examples of knowledge bases include customer support applications that capture problem resolutions, proposal generators that use an archive of proposals to help create new ones, and presentation builders that use a library of slides to generate custom slide decks.
The information stored in a knowledge base is captured in several ways. It can be seeded with authoritative articles written by recognized experts. This content can then be supplemented by reference librarians or help desk personnel as they respond to queries and requests. Once they have fulfilled a request or solved a problem, they enter information into the knowledge base so it can be reused the next time a similar need arises. In some cases, knowledge bases may be opened up to end users so they can add their own solutions and suggestions, thus helping each other directly.
In Part 4 of this series, I will discuss the types of input to capture as part of a knowledge management program.