Knowledge Management And The Technical Writer


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Key concepts of Knowledge Management, and how they relate to the field of Technical Writing

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Knowledge Management And The Technical Writer

  1. 1. Matt Danda, MBA
  2. 2.  Knowledge Management Overview  My Perspective on KM as a Technical Writer  KM Initiatives for a Technical Writer (Discussion)  Conclusion  References
  3. 3. • Knowledge management is the systematic processes by which knowledge needed for an organization to succeed is created, captured, shared, and leveraged (Rumizen)
  4. 4.  Knowledge management comprises a range of practices used in organizations to identify, create, represent, distribute and enable adoption of insights and experiences. Such insights and experiences comprise knowledge, either embodied in individuals or embedded in organisational processes or practice. (wikipedia)
  5. 5. • Knowledge management is the leveraging of collective wisdom to increase responsiveness and innovation (Frappaola)
  6. 6. • KM draws from a wide range of disciplines and technologies • Cognitive science • Expert systems, artificial intelligence and knowledge base management systems (KBMS) • Computer-supported collaborative work (groupware) • Library and information science • Technical writing • Document management • Decision support systems • Semantic networks • Relational and object databases • Simulation • Organizational science • Object-oriented information modeling • Electronic publishing technology, hypertext, and the World Wide Web; help-desk technology • Full-text search and retrieval
  7. 7.  1959: Peter Drucker coined the term, “knowledge worker” in his book, Landmarks of Tomorrow.  1966: Philosopher Michael Polanyi defined tacit and explicit knowledge.  1982: Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, Jr., publish In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies.  Successful organizations share a common set of values and practices  1992: Michael Hammer and James Champy publish Reengineering the Corporation.  Starts business process re-engineering craze  1995: Ikujiro Nonaka published The Knowledge Creating Company.  Popularize Knowledge Spiral model (tacit versus explicit)
  8. 8.  Late 1990s  Leif Edvinsson became first Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO) of Swedish-based Skandia Corporation  Explosive interest in knowledge management as Internet emerged  Business process re-engineering craze meets headwinds ▪ Re-engineering is a one-time , short-term fix (but shouldn’t be!) ▪ Lots of business knowledge was “let go” in the re-engineering  Most knowledge management post-1995 is to all intents and purposes content management (Snowden)
  9. 9.  2000 to present  Technology ferver of 1990s waned quickly  Acute recognition of the chaos and complexity of human organizations  Next generation of panaceas emerge (B2B, Portals, e-learning enterprise content management, information architecture, taxonomies, etc.)
  10. 10. • Data: Simple facts • Information: Data used in context to answer a question • Knowledge: Information used to address novel situations for which no direct precedent exists. It is comprehension, understanding, and learning that go on in the mind. We often do not know what we know, until an opportunity arises to employ the knowledge to accomplish something. • “Information management consists of predetermined responses to anticipated stimuli. Knowledge management consists of innovative responses to new opportunities and challenges.” (Frappaola)
  11. 11.  Explicit knowledge: What we know that can be put to words.  Tacit knowledge: Know- how, judgment, experience, insights, rules of thumb, and skills. Difficult to express, capture, or transmit in any systematic or logical manner.  “We know more than we can tell.” --Michael Polyani
  12. 12.  Socialization: transferring tacit knowledge from one person to another  Externalization: making tacit knowledge explicit by people-to-people interaction  Combination: transferring explicit knowledge to explicit knowledge. Making explicit knowledge available to others.  Internalization: Learning through experience, transforming explicit knowledge to tacit knowledge
  13. 13. Technology Fits Here!
  14. 14. People-to-people People-to-people Technology People-to-people Fits Here!
  15. 15.  File Server Model  Content Management System Model  SharePoint Information Architecture Model  Microsoft SharePoint is a collection of products and software elements that include Internet Explorer based collaboration functions, process management modules, search modules and a document-management platform.
  16. 16. Content is easy to User classifies generate and User Content content by file store; difficult creates stored/shared name and to search and content through file server folder find
  17. 17. Manual tagging User uploads Content is cumbersome, User and classifies stored/shared leading to low creates manually using through content user adoption content organizational management locally taxonomy application
  18. 18. Search can User leverage IA Content and instantiates Content inherits taxonomy taxonomy content taxonomy with are through no user action inextricably SharePoint UI required linked
  19. 19.  “KM has fallen victim to a mixture of bad implementation practices and software vendors eager to turn a complex process into a pure technology play. The result: like many a business concept, KM has evolved from a hot buzzword to a phrase that now evokes more skepticism than enthusiasm.” (CIO Magazine, May 2001)
  20. 20.  T.D. Wilson in his paper, The nonsense of ‘knowledge management’ (2002), notes that most journal articles on knowledge management have these tendencies:  A concern with information technology  A tendency to elide the distinction between ‘knowledge’ (what I know) and ‘information’ (what I am able to convey about what I know)  Confusion of the management of work practices in the organization with the management of knowledge
  21. 21.  In practice, KM breaks down to two topics:  Management of information  Management of work practices  “The conclusion is reached that ‘knowledge management’ is an umbrella term for a variety of organizational activities, none of which are concerned with the management of knowledge.” (T.D. Wilson)
  22. 22.  “Knowledge management has been easily dismissed by some as just the latest management fad. Dilbert has lampooned it. Untold software vendors slap the label of KM on their packages and tout miraculous cures for all our knowledge failings. Yet, behind all the jargon and the hype, we find companies engaged in serious efforts to manage their most precious asset—their working knowledge.
  23. 23.  “Managing knowledge is clearly one of the new fundamentals for success in the new economy. It is a tough job and few organizations do it well. Knowledge management involves many complex organizational issues; simplistic approaches will not work; nor will throwing technologies at people somehow magically make knowledge happen.” (Lawrence Prusak, Executive Director, IBM Institute for Knowledge Management, 2002)
  24. 24.  My current job:  Lone technical writer in a team of subject matter experts  The team has a strong interest in capturing knowledge  Very limited development resources  Zero budget for content/knowledge mgmt tools  Can only develop solutions using existing tools ▪ Corporate intranet ▪ MS Office suite (Word, Excel, Access)
  25. 25.  I think that a Technical Writer can make an invaluable contribution to the monumental task of capturing and communicating knowledge  The focus must go beyond writing – Facilitating the writing process (which in turn facilitates internalization and externalization)  Managing content  Organizing content  Acting as a documentation consultant to help devise methods for capturing knowledge
  26. 26.  The Technical Writer may be the only one around who understands:  Styles and standards in a team environment  Working with very long documents  Managing large numbers of documents
  27. 27.  The Technical Writer is highly focused on the actual content captured in the KM system  Not as easily distracted with:  The technology behind the system  The narrow interests of highly specialized subject matter experts (whose unique needs can sometimes inadvertently sabotage the grand plan)
  28. 28.  The Technical Writer may be the only one really thinking about the audience  Clearly identifying the audience/user  Understanding the specific question or problem being addressed  Adapting the content to serve as information (answering a specific, known question)  Adapting the content to enable advancement of knowledge (to support a future, unexpected question)  Instead of just slapping content together and publishing it
  29. 29.  The Technical Writer asks “people” and “workflow” questions that might otherwise get overlooked by developers  Organization/architecture of information  Writing and review process  Publication process ▪ Simple (one click) or Complex (generate PDF, check in/out)  Archival and versioning process  Maintenance and update process
  30. 30.  In addition to being a member of a full-fledged KM initiative, the Technical Writer can make a difference by volunteering to solve these common business challenges:  Reduce “lost file” syndrome (network folders)  Improve email productivity (memos, rules)  Improve writing productivity for non-writers (templates)  Help develop Internal tools  Write internal communications that help “sell” new management initiatives
  31. 31.  Use your normal projects as a showcase for your strict attention to best practices  Content-centric perspective ▪ Never forget the audience ▪ Adapt content for re-use, rather meeting a one-time need ▪ Never let tools distract you from (or compensate for) creating good content  Document management perspective ▪ Pay strict attention to basic document conventions ▪ File names ▪ Versioning ▪ Never let tunnel vision from one SME implement changes that affect bigger picture
  32. 32.  Knowledge Management has a spotty track record, but it is not going away  In fact, KM is gaining in importance  To succeed, a KM initiative must focus heavily on the people and processes
  33. 33.  The Technical Writer can make a valuable contribution to knowledge management projects  Intense focus on the actual content that is being preserved  Less susceptible to distractions related to tools and technologies  Less susceptible to distractions from the narrow needs of particular SMEs  Continually monitoring the overall structure of information  Willing and able to help management craft the communications that are critical to achieving buy-in from key players • Acutely aware of basic writing conventions that can make-or- break a document
  34. 34.  Finally, the Technical Writer can play a significant role in establishing an environment in which SMEs can focus more of their time on transferring knowledge to paper and less time on editing, formatting, retrieving, and publishing documents
  35. 35.  Koplowitz, R., and Owens, L. “SharePoint: the backbone of your information architecture.” KMWorld, June 2009.  Frappaolo, C. (2006) Knowledge Management.  Harvard Business School Press (1998), Harvard Business Review on Knowledge Management.  Introduction to Knowledge Management < nagement.html>  Rumizen, M.C. (2002), The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knowledge Management.  Snowden, D. (2002), “Complex Acts of Knowing: Paradox and Descriptive Self-Awareness”, Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 6 No. 2.  Wilson, T.D. (2002), “The nonsense of ‘knowledge management’”, Information Research, Vol. 8 No. 1.  Wikipedia <>