To generate reliable evidence about the true state of Knowledge Management (KM) and how it could be improved, organizations need to approach KM Audits thoughtfully. This post provides five keys to conducting successful KM Audits.
1. UNDERSTAND WHY KM AUDITS MATTER
A Knowledge Audit is a dynamic process to identify and assess knowledge, its availability, needs, sources, structure, flow, use, and importance to the organization. A Knowledge Management Audit (KM Audit) examines the KM culture and capabilities of the organization that impact the viability of KM. Carefully-designed Knowledge and KM audits lay a solid foundation for a KM Strategy that improves collaboration, productivity, knowledge accessibility, innovation, and knowledge retention. However, when organizations do not conduct KM audits or approach them superficially they often waste money and undermine the viability of subsequent KM initiatives. Make sure your team and top management understands why KM Audits are important, and invest in their design and execution.
2. FOCUS YOUR KM AUDIT STRATEGICALLY
KM audits that try to encompass the entirety of a large organization’s processes and business units are risky, time-consuming, and expensive. It is usually better to focus Knowledge and KM audits strategically on knowledge management capabilities that directly support the organization’s strategic objectives, core processes and performance metrics. The Knowledge Audit must identify, qualify, measure, and assess the most important tacit and explicit knowledge and critical gaps and improvement opportunities. And the KM Audit should reveal where enhancing the ability to get the right intelligence to the right people at the right time will, in fact, help them make better decisions, collaborate more efficiently, work more productively, achieve its goals and strengthen performance metrics.
3. PREPARE DILIGENTLY FOR THE KM AUDIT
A key preparation step is building a strong audit team. Your audit team may need to include not just KM experts but also senior management, Corporate Strategy, finance, HR, Legal, IT, Information Management, librarians and research services team members. Be sure your KM Audit project lead or consultant can integrate the perspectives of various disciplines.
Your KM Audit team needs to study the organization’s mission, vision and objectives and to identify and model the organization’s key processes and IT systems that will be in scope for the audit.
It is important to be able to clearly describe the knowledge your organization needs to manage more effectively. The KM Audit Team may need to create controlled vocabularies, taxonomies, and ontologies for describing knowledge assets and KM capabilities clearly in the audit survey questions and interview guides. Otherwise, you may find that the data collected in the audit cannot serve as a solid foundation for analysis. Moreover, your KM Strategy and the requirements specification documents you write for the solutions it calls for may be insufficiently coherent. This means that they will serve poorly as a basis for IT system development. So make sure to use language carefully and pilot-test the questions used in your audit surveys and interview guides.
4. STUDY ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURES
KM Audits should not just examine the visible aspects of KM such as document repositories and collaboration tool use. They should examine how culture, employee attitudes, and management styles support and influence knowledge sharing and KM behaviors. The information sharing and collaboration behaviors, types of KM issues reported, and the attitudes and cultural norms that pose challenges and opportunities for KM change will vary across the organization.
Recognize that organizations don’t have monolithic cultures. Your surveys and interviews should collect demographic data such that you can see correlations between seniority, location, and business unit, and study the KM phenomena in each sub-culture and social network in the organization.
5. PRESENT NEGATIVE AND POSITIVE AUDIT FINDINGS IN A COMPELLING WAY
The typical outputs from KM Audits include:
- Inventory of Knowledge Assets
- Identified Knowledge Needs
- Information/Knowledge Flow Maps
KM Audit deliverables should identify inefficiencies (e.g.,duplication of efforts), knowledge gaps, and impediments to information sharing, expertise finding and collaboration. They also should identify barriers to efficient and effective knowledge creation, access, and sharing across knowledge networks. However, don’t just highlight problems. Make sure that the KM Audit also highlights good practices, especially those that can and should be scaled across the organization.
Using interactive charts and graphs to tell your story about the audit findings and the insights gained will help management understand the situation and support subsequent KM initiatives.
ABOUT MIND-ALLIANCE AND KM AUDITS
Mind-Alliance Systems has significant experience in KM consulting in multiple sectors and countries. We address cultural, political, strategic, operational and tactical aspects of KM in an interdisciplinary manner. When designing KM Audits we describe business processes and KM phenomena using controlled vocabularies and semantic models. This enables us to create surveys that produce much higher-quality data and yield deeper analytical insights than other firms. Mind-Alliance has received a patent for its method and system for analyzing the flow of information between a plurality of parties.