Knowledge management (KM) represents solutions that streamline the process of capturing, distributing and effectively using knowledge within an organization. When an organization is able to easily access, share and update business knowledge, it can become more productive and cost-efficient. What role does KM play in information technology (IT) oversight? For some insight into that question, we sat down with Indiana-based John Antill, who is currently serving as a U.S. Army Expeditionary Civilian Workforce Knowledge Manager.
How do you define the value of knowledge management on a business IT team?
Antill: With any organization, KM starts in two places: people and tools. KM works with people to help relieve the areas, processes, and procedures where they’re having problems, along with the tools in the organization that enable the bottom line. To begin a KM assessment, I always survey the team that I’m working with in order to learn about the roles and people and to understand the value of the corporate team. Then I share that information with all of the managers involved.
What impact does KM have?
KM works for IT departments, but also across the business. In Europe, KM is big. It’s still growing there, because the concept focuses on people first and ultimately sees every asset as tangible. Training and people are often defined as intangibles that can make a big difference. That’s where we can impact the bottom line—fulfilling on the company’s desire for performance. Employee turnover is expensive for a business.
What are the intangibles that IT workers bring to a team and the value proposition?
Antill: In IT, the knowledge base is constantly growing, but what they can manage is often shrinking. Realistically, it takes about four to six months in IT to build a process. Companies need to retain that knowledge. People say to me, ‘John, that’s why we have certifications.’ Yes, there are rock stars with certifications. However, there must be applied knowledge when they stay in the organization over time, both large scale and small scale.
And employees take that applied knowledge with them when they leave.
Antill: When an employee leaves the organization, a simple exit survey won’t capture everything. Knowledge is power only when shared. IT departments often rely on content management systems (CMS), but they’re not curating the data or reviewing and updating it. These systems are looked at once and people say, ‘It’s in there; we’re good.’ But are the systems actually working? Are we capturing instructions from those who are actually using the content? Information becomes outdated or is incorrect, but it stays there.
Tech support may be able to save the company time and money in this area, but you’re going to need subject matter expertise. To capture and use intangibles, you must cross-level your team.
What do you mean by ‘cross-level’?
Antill: The best person to review aging content is the new guy. However, before an upgrade cycle, you must also bring in everyone associated in an area to do a five-minute huddle. Consider how much the team is really worth in their combined knowledge—an intangible, yet highly valued. Particularly in cybersecurity, teams have to train end users. This may require going into systems and removing attachment features or removing key links. It can also mean removing cross-scripting to save time and money later where user errors from phishing and social engineering can take down whole departments.
Describe a KM win and how choices impact downline in an IT ecosystem.
Antill: KM wins in cybersecurity come from getting better in educating users through cyber awareness. As a CIO, you’ve got to make sure that security policies are in place and that they work.
IT personnel also need to spend more time on their internal ticketing systems for issues, bringing them all together instead of having four or five systems. Consolidate and put all help desk requests on one ticket. In one company, I was able to save 16 hours immediately by doing that. Also, training new people in the help desk area, going the extra mile and showing them cool stuff they should know really pays off. Some companies also go so far as to have expertise locators and keep retirees in the loop, as a backup plan, for older tech issues.
Where should CIOs and CTOs leverage KM in 2022?
Antill: Start by implementing ISO 30401: 2018. It sets guidelines for establishing, implementing, maintaining and improving an effective KM system in organizations. Understanding second and third order effects can be really meaningful.
John Antill has over 12 years of KM experience in both the military and civilian sector. He has a Masters in Knowledge Management from Kent State University and has written several articles for RealKM.