Untying the Purse Strings: 3 Ways of Communicating Value

Employees furloughed. Budgets cut. Projects prioritized. Is this the time to propose a knowledge management (KM) project costing well into the tens of thousand dollars?

Absolutely. Why not?

Effective and efficient knowledge management brings value to the entire organization. Communicating that value can lead to the support and funding needed to move forward. Framing your proposal around the following points may help untie the purse strings in support of your project.

1. Identify the decision makers and speak to their concerns.

Know the decision makers. Understand their concerns and priorities. While the information center or KM team may be your primary concern, it may be only one of many concerns for the chief executive officer, chief financial officer, or other key executives. Generally they’re preoccupied with the competition, budget cuts, regulatory agencies, stockholder value, and a myriad of other issues. To get the attention of the decision-makers in your organization, speak to their concerns.

Find out what keeps them awake at night and point out how your project addresses those concerns.

2. Understand organizational goals and incorporate them.

Help decision makers see how the larger organization will benefit from your project. Will it ultimately lead to a reduction in spending, more informed spending, or higher productivity? Say so. Don’t emphasize the benefit to the information center or knowledge management team. That’s a narrow focus that’s not likely to win over hearts or minds (or budgets). What will happen differently after the project as a result of the project?

Examples from actual experience – The project may:

  • address a regulatory agency mandate
  • provide better monitoring of the competition
  • reduce costs of information silos
  • relieve information overload among knowledge workers
  • prioritize spending on information resources

Demonstrate how your KM project will move the organization closer to its goals.

3. Pick up the lingo and use it.

Every specialty has its jargon, including KM and the library biz. Avoid it. Use terms and vocabulary that will resonate with your decision makers. They may not get the phrase information audit, but they are very likely to understand resources study or needs assessment or library services analysis. Test your terminology to see how well it is understood. Use words that resonate with decision makers.

Don’t make them guess what you mean, or worse yet, misunderstand.

Keep these three points in mind to communicate the value of your KM project. It’s a proven, common sense strategy that could make all the difference.

Team of Advisors – Developing support while gaining input

Fill-in-the-Blank Advisory Board.   Library Advisory Board, Knowledge Management (KM) Advisory Board, Information Center Advisory Board. Call it what you will, an advisory board can prove a valuable asset.

In addition to providing valuable insights for the strategic and tactical direction of the information center or KM initiative, advisory board members can become advocates and ambassadors strategically positioned throughout the enterprise.

To assemble a powerful advisory board, begin with a charter defining the board’s purpose and the members’ responsibilities. The charter does not need to be long.  One page should suffice in most cases.  The following charter outline will get your team off to a strong start.

Sample Charter Outline

Knowledge Management Advisory Board June 10, 2014

Purpose/Mission Statement Tell how the board will relate to the chartering organization and what role they will play overall.  A mission statement might read:

The ABC Company Knowledge Management Advisory Board will advise the KM team regarding priorities and investments in content and services intended to support ABC Company knowledge workers.  KM Advisory Board members act as two-way conduits between users and the KM team to communicate needs and to act as ambassadors promoting awareness and use of products and services made available through the KM team.

Authority Describe the organizational relationship of the advisory board.  For example:

The KM Advisory Board is convened by the KM team which resides in corporate Research and Development.

Membership Strategic selection of board members yields many benefits. Consider appointing individuals within key partner departments, colleagues who have self identified as information gurus or problem solvers within their own teams, and champions for services and products provided by your team.  Be very clear about the process for becoming a member.  For instance:

Membership is by invitation.  The KM Advisory Board comprises 10-12 permanent employees of the company who have shown interest in using knowledge for the benefit of the organization. Members of the KM staff convene and participate in Advisory Board meetings but are not members of the Board.

Term of Office Select a finite term that suits the culture of your organization. In companies with high turnover and mobility, 12 -18 months may be all one can expect. Other situations may point to terms of two years or more.   You can always add language to permit longer terms, such as:

A term of office is 18 months.  This may be extended by mutual agreement.

Responsibilities Members need to know what is expected of them so that they can budget time and follow through on commitments.  This section should include reference to meeting times and durations along with typical topics or activities.  For example:

The KM Advisory Board members may expect to spend three or four hours a month on Board activities.  This will include 6-8 meetings per year each lasting approximately one hour.

Board members are responsible for:

  • Maintaining awareness of projects, initiatives, and priorities within their departments or teams that could impact products and services provided by KM
  • Providing input to the KM team regarding existing and potential KM products and services
  • Communicating KM related activities to their departments and teams

Budget Authority In most cases the Advisory Board is just that – advisory, having no authority to budget or spend.  Typically this is made clear enough by simply not granting authority in the charter.  In some cases it is better to make this explicit in order to remove all doubt.  In that case you could say something like:

The KM Advisory Board has no authority to budget, allocate, or spend funds.

Adoption Date For future reference, include the date that the Charter was adopted or amended and by whom.

Adopted by the ABC Company Knowledge Management Department on June 10, 2014.

Knowledge Worker Defined

The term “knowledge worker” comes from Peter Drucker, the highly respected business management expert who coined the term in the late 1950’s. The concept first Drucker_mgt challengescame to my attention when I read Drucker’s 1999 book titled Management Challenges for the 21st Century.   Some have said that knowledge workers include those who think for a living. The more inclusive definition Drucker offers in this book makes more sense to me.  He frames it in the context of subordinates vs. supervisors, noting that it’s more about what you know than where you fall in the organizational chart. “…knowledge workers are not subordinates; they are ‘associates.’  For, once beyond the apprentice stage, knowledge workers must know more about their job than their boss does – or else they are no good at all.  In fact, that they know more about their job than anybody else in the organization is part of the definition of knowledge workers.” Drucker says that knowledge workers are part of a system and their key resource is information. Using the term knowledge worker rather than employee reminds us how important knowledge assets are to the success of an enterprise.

Information Update – June 2014

Information Update – Looking Back

Look for a new focus and even more valuable content for the 21st Century knowledge worker coming soon to Information Update.

The very first issue of Information Update hit cyberspace via email in September 1999.  The plain text, Courier font banner read:

Welcome to INFORMATION UPDATE.  Since you value accurate, up-to-date information, but do not always have time find it, you have received the inaugural issue of INFORMATION UPDATE.

During the ensuing 15 years Information Update focused on research strategies and tactics through DO IT YOURSELF feature articles. The very first issue revealed “Shamel’s Seven Searching Secrets”. (Readers know that I am very partial to alliteration.)  The DID YOU KNOW articles informed readers on value added services and products offered by the information professionals associated with Shamel Information Services.

Email me if you’re interested in taking a peek into the past, and I’ll send you a copy of that first Information Update.

Changes are Afoot

After more than 16 years as a researcher and consultant, I have noticed some important changes in client needs.  While business research remains a valued service, clients more and more often request help with managing knowledge and information within their organizations.  As we consult and advise on these topics we find greater and greater urgency to “know what we know”.

Thus, Information Update will broaden its scope from searching and finding to include selecting, sharing, organizing, and storing the information and knowledge content within organizations.

Information Update – What’s Next

Going forward, Information Update will focus on the needs of the knowledge worker in the 21st Century enterprise.  Workers today are flooded with information.  With increasing frequency we hear the call for filtering, organizing, and sharing information.  In 1999 Peter Drucker, business management guru, said:

“Enterprises and individuals will have to learn what information they need and how to get it.  They will have to learn to organize information as their key resource.”*

He went on to say that “[t]he most valuable asset of a 21st Century institution, whether business or non-business, will be its knowledge workers and their productivity.”*

*Drucker, P.F. (1999) Management Challenges for the 21st Century. New York: HarperCollins

Beginning with our next issue, look for Information Update to address the concerns of managing knowledge and information within an enterprise. Articles will suggest action items for all knowledge workers to improve productivity, support enterprise goals, and enhance overall knowledge management.

In the next issue, coming soon, we will provide a definition of “knowledge worker” and tips on chartering a knowledge advisory group within your organization.

Upcoming Workshops and Presentations

Maximizing Consultant-Client Partnerships: Key Success Factors

Cindy Shamel, along with Ulla de Stricker will offer a half day workshop on Saturday, June 7 at the SLA 2014 Annual Conference in Vancouver British Columbia

People who attended this workshop in the past say:

  • “The session was packed with information and practical tips.”
  • “It’s a great value.”

KM from the Trenches: Practical Tips for Making Knowledge Management Work in Your Organization

June 8, 2014 from 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm Cindy Shamel will participate in a panel discussion of lessons learned in knowledge management, particularly the knowledge or information audit process.  Speakers are all contributors to Knowledge Management Practice in Organizations.

I Know It’s Here Somewhere: 5 Tools to Help You Organize Information

It’s the new year.  Time to get organized.  Citations (aka references) illustrate one type of information that serves us best when organized and managed. Researchers and students often need to collect and store a body of literature related to their area of interest, but they are not the only ones.  Knowledge workers across the board seek to keep abreast of what’s happening in their field or maintain a library of references that inform their work.

Enter the citation manager.

EndNoteRefWorksMendeleyZotero, and Flow are five tools for organizing libraries of literature.  EndNote and RefWorks are subscription or fee-based, and since they are fairly widely known, we’re going to look more closely at the remaining three products.  All are free or have a free version.

logo-mendeleyDownload Mendeley to your desktop and/or mobile device for free, add PDFs if you have them, and you’re ready to collaborate, annotate, cite, and organize.  Mendeley lets you search across the full text of all your papers and offers 2GB of online storage.  In addition, you can generate bibliographies and share with your network.

zotero Official word from the Zotero website:  Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources.  Zotero has been around since 2006 and is currently a project of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and the New Media.  One of the features that differentiates Zotero is the ability to add web content to your personal library in one click.

Flow is a new product from ProQuest that offers free reference management to researchers (in educational institutionsProQuest Flow) and students.  Flow comes from the team that developed RefWorks, so if you’re already a RefWorks user, you may transition easily to Flow.  This product seeks to bring the whole document management process online “embracing an all digital workflow.”

Comparison Charts

For those readers who would like to compare citation manager features,Wikipedia and the University of Wisconsin offer some handy charts. Note that Flow is too new to be included, however, they have created their own chart.

How can we know what we know? There’s a book for that.

You may not know what you know, unless your organization has undertaken some sort of knowledge management (KM) initiative.  KM typically means an active and intentional effort to track and deliver information (knowledge/data) to workers in order to advance organizational objectives. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Knowledge Management Practice in Organizations: The View from Inside co-author Cynthia Shamel, forthcoming Spring 2014 from IGI Global
____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Peter Drucker, in his book Management Challenges for the 21st Century, states that “The most valuable asset of a 21st-Century institution, whether business or nonbusiness, will be its knowledge workers and their productivity”. Furthermore, ”Enterprises and individuals will have to learn what information they need and how to get it.  THEY WILL HAVE TO LEARN TO ORGANIZE INFORMATION AS THEIR KEY RESOURCE”. Drucker must have thought this was pretty important.  The all caps are his.

Where do we begin?  Experts agree that the first step in launching a knowledge management initiative is the knowledge assessment or audit. Through this process the enterprise comes to understand what knowledge or information resources they have, where they come from, who uses them, what’s missing, and much more.  Grounded in this way, it’s possible to propose and evaluate options for improving knowledge management.

Overwhelmed yet?  Don’t be.  There are numerous experts and resources that can help you or your organization methodically and incrementally address knowledge management issues.  One step at a time and gaps are filled, barriers overcome, and resources shared.

One of the newest and most practical books on KM will be published soon. Knowledge Management Practice in Organizations: The View from Inside takes a comprehensive look at KM through the experience of KM professionals who have “been there, done that”. Editor Ulla de Stricker brought together seven experts who contributed wisdom and guidance from their collective experience of nearly 150 years addressing knowledge management challenges.

KM book coverCindy Shamel, author and editor of this newsletter, contributed the chapter titled “Planning for Knowledge Management: Conducting a Knowledge Assessment”, drawing on real life examples to outline best practices and lessons learned. 

For more information, please feel free to contact Cindy Shamel.