Knowledge Repository

Recently Colabria Action Research was asked to review a relatively new offering in the ‘knowledge repository’ domain. The basic proposition was a SharePoint extension. The intention was to facilitate collaboration, capture organizational procedures and syndicate ‘knowledge’ for all stakeholders.

Often there exists utility for ‘Best Practice’ information and content in embedded bureaucracy. Well-established business procedures and IT audit are good examples. Some backup planning, procurement and data center procedures are okay too. Enterprise back-office procedural activities and engineering change management are fine for well-maintained, structured information assets.

Colabria Cynefin Framework

These stable, deterministic, enduring bureaucratic activities inhabit the ‘Simple’ domain (circled in red above) of the Cynefin Framework above. They are well-suited for information and content systems.

The creator correctly postulated the fit for the offering would likely be enormous govt agencies, healthcare bureaucracies, elements of giant military organizations and so forth. It recalls the traditional repositories and ‘Best Practices’ frenzy of the mid-1990. 

Fact is most business is social. For most modern businesses, >80%  business and authentic knowledge leadership inhabits the other three quadrants of the model above. So-called ‘knowledge repositories’  not only fall down badly in these domains,  they are extremely harmful. For the most part, ‘We’ve been there, done that.’ The results have been disastrous.

For example, many/most business situations may have one, multiple or all of the following properties…

· Genuine surprise. 

· Complex interaction.

· Chaos. Everyone is overwhelmed. 

· Totally insufficient resources. 

· Distributed, multi-agency response required.

· Groups with no prior reason to collaborate.

· Moving from a state of “coexistence” to a state of “collaboration.”

· Makeshift infrastructures.

History has shown creating a false-hope, a dependency on a repository like some specious ‘knowledge repository’ is extremely counterproductive, harmful and dangerous.  Same goes for the infrastructures these subsystems depend on. Beware. Examples of monumental failures are Challenger, 9/11, Katrina, etc., etc.

Remember, knowledge is an experience. It’s social. Knowledge reposit or storage is a foolish and cruel oxymoron.  For social business the failed and harmful notion of ‘knowledge inventories’ is cataclysmic.  

These ridiculous and expensive ‘knowledge storage’ or ‘knowledge management systems’ are oversold calamities. Avoid them at all costs. Save your firm’s money. They are a wasteful investment for anything but the most steadfast and/or legally-required back-office administrative processes.  

Still, there can be tremendous benefits earned from well conceived, engineered and maintained information systems. Excellence in content collaboration and management propels administrative productivity. 

For these applications to be effective, they must stay firmly in the ‘Simple’ domain such as stable government administration, audit and bureaucratic activities. These markets are huge. Focusing on structured content in these areas will allow this supplier to meet their market, create benefits and prosper.


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