As knowledge management challenges once again top the agenda of many CEOs, an emphasis on getting more value from corporate knowledge assets has heightened the interest in knowledge management as a professional area of practice. Providing education in KM, which can include specialized courses, seminars, certifications, and formal undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs are leading the way in preparing future KM practitioners to meet this challenge. On the other hand it has also raised questions about the educational foundation needed to support the profession.
Despite the wealth of published and informal literature, although derived from practice, and dialog on the foundational learning needs of KM practitioners, there is no consensus on what comprises a professional education and training in knowledge management. In 2011 the Knowledge Management Education Forum (KMEF) a collaboration between Kent State University and George Washington University was formed. “The mission of KMEF in part is to provide an on-going, annual dialog to identify and grow consensus on the knowledge management body of knowledge, competencies, roles and curriculum. The goal of the KMEF is to create an environment in which a consensus can evolve. It brings together the current and past thought leaders in the field of knowledge management to discuss their work and to open the dialog where others can contribute” (KMEF – 2011).
Besides the educational options mentioned above, KM education opportunities are occurring in KM-focused departments, which are delivering subject-specific education and strategic learning programs. All of these KM educational products must operate under one cohesive and holistic set of standards and policies in order to provide the KM practitioners with consistent industry recognized education. According to the KMEF, a special effort will be needed to connect the various educational entities to the business community and vice versa, while providing “the core and elective elements of a knowledge management curriculum for the 21st century (KMEF – 2011).
Participating in the KMEF it was generally recognized that while “there is general agreement that KM, knowledge services, and knowledge strategy require, an understanding of shared concepts, a basic lexicon, and some level of mutual understanding about the elements and framework of KM, there continues to be concern that too much “standardization” might work against the success of KM in the workplace” (KMEF – 2011).
As a KM practitioner who has (and continues to) work across various and different sectors and industries of the 21st-century “knowledge economy” I recognize that every organization is different and therefore the success of KM, knowledge services, and knowledge strategy in each is going to depend on how well the elements of knowledge management align with the corporate objectives, unique management methodologies and leadership structures of the various organizations implementing KM programs.
As knowledge management education evolves for the 21st century and beyond, especially as the delivery of education and the workforce becomes more mobile there is a need to establish a philosophy of teach and learn anywhere and anytime. This will facilitate the need to incorporate standards for KM course design, need to provide students (class participants) a practical way to apply KM, deliver technology that will facilitate the ability to teach and learn anywhere and anytime, provide learning outcomes and assess them, provide an understanding of the various KM roles and their responsibilities.
Roles and Responsibilities of Knowledge Professionals
The roles of knowledge professionals cover areas from strategic, tactical, program related to executing specific projects and system development. The KM roles and responsibilities vary according to the category in which the knowledge professional works. The roles and responsibilities depicted here (see Table 1: KM Roles, Responsibilities & Core Competencies) consists of but are not limited to Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO), KM Program Manager, KM Project Manager, KM Director, Operations KM Director, KM Author, KM Lead, KM Liaison, KM Specialist, KM System Administrator, Knowledge Engineer, Knowledge Architect, KM Writer, Knowledge Manager, and KM Analyst.
Core KM Competencies
In determining core KM competencies we must first understand what it takes to perform in the various KM roles and execute their responsibilities. The KM core competencies include: connecting education and strategic learning competencies with skill and ability in knowledge strategy development and operationalization, collaboration, leadership and management skills, plus technical competencies.
Knowledge management has both soft and hard competencies. The soft competencies include ensuring that knowledge processing is aligned with the organizations business goals and objectives, and is integrated into the organization’s everyday business and work. It also includes software development, business and systems architecture and workflow management. The hard competencies include elicitation and representation of knowledge (both tacit and explicit) and it also includes structural knowledge in the form of business rules and business process.
The KM Competency Model
Knowledge Management (KM) focuses on people, process and technology that enable and support knowledge sharing, transfer, access, and identification. KM competencies represents what KM practitioners must understand to facilitate KM methods established by the organization. A KM competency model (see Figure 1: KM Competency Model) reflects the strategy, goals, and objectives of the organization. Competency alone is not sufficient; it must be accompanied by an organizational culture shift towards knowledge-sharing.
To determine the KM Competency Model, a rigorous process was initiated to provide consensus on core competency areas (see Table 2: KM Competency Model Details). This methodology will apply to any modern organization, regardless if a CKO role is established or not. It can be used by any department or individual who has the vision, leadership, and determination to infuse KM principles in the enterprise. A KM competency model serves as the foundation for functions such as training, education, development, and performance management because it specifies what essential knowledge, skills, and abilities.
KM Competency Model that will serve as the foundation for enterprise-wide KM adoption and use, and create a culture of collaboration and knowledge sharing where personalized and contextual information and knowledge is “pushed and pulled” from across the enterprise to meet corporate objectives, where good ideas are valued regardless of the source, where knowledge sharing is recognized and rewarded, and where the knowledge base is accessible without technological or structural barriers.
(This is an excerpt from my latest book Knowledge Management in Practice)