Paul Corney, K&IM Ambassador
This article suggests that to thrive in a period of rapid technological development and the impending arrival of industry standards, today’s Knowledge & Information Manager will need to develop a mix of soft and technological skills allied to a proactive ‘can do’ style.
Knowledgeur, ISO KM Standards, Artificial Intelligence, Navigating the Minefield: A Practical KM Companion. Knowledge Management Matters: Words of Wisdom from Leading KM Practitioners, CILIP, American Society for Quality
In July 2016, I was invited to address CILIP’s annual conference in Brighton, a short ride along the coast on one of the most scenic bus routes from my UK home in Eastbourne. My topic ‘The changing KM landscape, the future of KM and our role in it as KM professionals’.
I recalled as I was travelling that 22 years previous while working in an investment bank in the City, I had taken over the running of a unit that came to be called “Business Intelligence”. My challenge then was to change the mindset of a group formerly known as Library & Information Services, to get them to become proactive and to recognise their key role in the front-line delivery of client services, if only they’d seize the opportunity! Back then the term “Knowledge Management” was not part of the lexicon of organisational speak but business development was and being seen as part of the revenue generation process, a failsafe way of changing organisational perceptions.
Fast forward 20 years and a quick glance at salary scales reveal that a Director of Knowledge Management will be remunerated in excess of £100k. A more junior Knowledge Management Officer is likely to be paid £60k+.
Taken from a Google search by the author in November 2017
Yet it is unlikely the Head of Library & Information Services will be remunerated as handsomely as their KM counterparts. Yet KM jobs rarely specify a requirement for academic qualifications in Knowledge Management (absent from a set of universally recognised accreditations) but most Library roles ask for MSc in Library & Information Management. So why is there a difference in remuneration?
Take a look at the task list a Legal Knowledge Management Officer is expected to perform. I’ve highlighted some of the phrases that leap out as differentiators:
- The Knowledge Management Officer is responsible for capturing, developing, sharing, and effectively using organisational knowledge. This role is fundamental to continuous improvement in sales excellence and bidding in order to drive an increase in the bidding success rate across …..
- By storing and sharing information effectively (e.g. case studies, exemplar responses, previously developed value propositions) and through the production of best practice processes, templates, how to guides and checklists, the Knowledge Management Officer will help … to win work more efficiently by enabling those involved in bidding opportunities small or large to harness the experience of other
Navigating the Minefield: A Practical KM Companion
Last year the American Society for Quality (ASQ) published a book I had co-authored with Patricia L Eng. It has received a number of nice accolades from peers and readers.
Paul & Patricia handing over the book to CILIP Chair Karen Macfarlane
When Patricia and I sat down to make sense of the material we’d gathered from nearly 40 hours of interviews with leading practitioners in the KM world a few thoughts struck us:
- Effective KM is dependent on good communication and engaged people.
- KM requires a different skill set than that usually found in Library & Information Managers.
- KM thrives where there is a proactive mindset; it needs someone with the ability to make correlations between seemingly unrelated pieces of information.
- Great KM usually emerges from within the business.
Arise ‘The Knowledgeur’
In Navigating the Minefield we suggest tomorrow’s Knowledge & Information Manager will need to have the facilitation and social skills that make them the ‘go to’ person in an organisation. They need to be someone who makes and nurtures connections.
Here’s my definition of that person I now call a ‘Knowledgeur’:
‘A Knowledge & Information Manager (Knowledgeur) is someone who makes use of his/her/others’ knowledge in one activity or market and applies it for beneficial use in another.
Originally inward facing the role is becoming more outward facing with the rise of communities and the subsequent need to collaborate outside of the organisation.’
Skills (8 ‘ates’) of a ‘Knowledgeur’
Here’s what I think you will need to do to if you are to perform this role:
- Investigate: Are you putting out a burning fire / solving an immediate business need / addressing a risk (Operational KM) or is this driven by the vision from the top consistent with the organisation’s business direction (Strategic KM)?
- Navigate: Work out / Map the critical knowledge areas of your organisation and create a directory of the organisation’s knowledge assets.
- Negotiate: Agree the scope of your role with your sponsors and be tough negotiating what success will look like and how it’s measured.
- Facilitate: So much of what a KM Manager does involves facilitation. You will become a hub knowing who to approach if you don’t know yourself. You will have to facilitate connections, meetings, interactions, events and communities. This requires resilience, a lot of social skills and a real understanding of cultural nuances.
- Collaborate: You are in alliance with business areas and occasionally external suppliers or partners. You have to be capable of virtual cross border collaboration.
- Communicate: Senior KM’er’s tell you to devote 30% of your time to communicating what you do and getting feedback – it’s not just about broadcasting. Have your KM Elevator pitch always with you. Let all your stakeholders know what you are doing and why.
- Curate: So much of what passes for Knowledge Management is about creating and storing content and making it available for reuse. It’s more than the role formerly undertaken by Information Professionals and Librarians, here we are talking about being a custodian of organisational knowledge and organisational knowledge bases.
- Celebrate: The role can be a lonely one as reporting lines and sponsors change, yours is a cost not revenue line and the initial burst of enthusiasm fades. Collect stories, be prepared to acknowledge contributions and celebrate successes.
The certification conundrum
Contained in the ‘Surprises and Admiration’ Chapter of Navigating the Minefield we note: “… there is no recognised industry body promulgating KM setting universally agreed qualification or certification criteria that employers find acceptable for entry and advancement.” Instead global KM’ers are attracted to training programmes run by private organisations in order to demonstrate knowledge through external certification. Experience is gained on the job and there have been few mentors or coaches to help a newbie KM’er take their first steps.
Today with the advent of CILIP’s Certified Knowledge Manager Accreditation that’s changing. Now Knowledge & Information Managers from Beijing to Boston can acquire a recognised qualification from an independent body through either self-certification which is subject to independent assessment or via accredited higher educational establishments.
The Knowledgeur’s role will inevitably evolve. In the 18 months since I first coined the phrase and thought about the 8 ‘ates’, the spectre of artificial intelligence and machine learning looms large and with the imminent release of a set of KM Standards by the International Standards Organisation (ISO) today’s Knowledgeur is facing a complex future.
It is clear that to be effective, Knowledgeurs will need a mix of soft and technical skills as well as a good working knowledge of their business.
If I were embarking on a career in KIM today, I’d be honing these skills.
Slide taken from Masterclass run at International Islamic University of Malaysia Kuala Lumpur in November 2017
If you found this of interest Eric Hunter (Director of Knowledge & Innovation for US based law firm Bradford and Barthel) and I will be running a Masterclass on this very topic on Monday 14th May in London ahead of Ark Group’s annual KM Summit.
About the author
Paul J. Corney came to knowledge management while working in the City of London in the mid-1990s. He is the founder of knowledge et al, a UK-based KM consultancy and the former Managing Partner of Sparknow LLP.
He has worked across a variety of sectors in the Americas, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, helping clients to identify and make use of the knowledge that resides inside their organisations. He has led many challenging knowledge management and learning assignments, often cross-cultural, working with a range of global organisations such as Islamic / Asian / Caribbean Development Banks and the UK’s HM Revenue & Customs.
He completed a large project with a major industrial and engineering company in Iran, helping them to audit, assess and improve their KM practices, and develop and implement a KM strategy.
Paul is an experienced practitioner, presenter, masterclass leader and lecturer; he chairs international KM conferences, is a visiting lecturer on knowledge and innovation management at the University of Brighton, and has published numerous articles one of which was featured in Making Knowledge Management Work for Your Organization published by Ark Group in 2012.
His latest books are: Navigating the Minefield: A Practical KM Companion published in May 2017 by the American Society for Quality co-authored with Patricia Eng and Knowledge Management Matters: Words of Wisdom from Leading Practitioners a co-authored book published February 2018.
Paul is a member of the British Standards Institute KM Standards Committee working on the development of a set of ISO KM Standards.
K & IM Refer 34 (1), Spring 2018