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Knowledge Management and Social Networking

My students often ask about new advances in Knowledge Management. While Knowledge Management is not a new topic, it seems that there are still many challenges in implementing and managing this important process.

I was discussing this topic with an academic colleague last week, Dr. Stuart Diaz Galup of Florida Atlantic University. He explained that "Knowledge Management" is often confused with "Information Management". I thought that was a very astute observation. According to ITIL V3, "information" puts data in context; "knowledge" adds experience, ideas, insights and value to information. So how can organizations evolve into managing "knowledge" instead of "information?

Dr. Galup's observation brought me back to thinking about social networking and Knowledge Management. The introduction and acceptance of Wikis (wikipedia) has encouraged collaborative knowledge in that individuals can contribute their expertise to create or update a topic area. Social networking sites such as Linked-In, Facebook, Twitter and blogs such as ITSM Professor have also provided a comfortable space to post facts, thoughts, observations and experiences.

So, if social networking is now part of our culture, why not capitalize on it in professional environments? How about putting up a Wiki as a front end to your knowledgebase or Service Knowledge Management System (SKMS)? Similarly, what about an "IT Blog" with subject matter expert authors from various IT units or domains? The blog could be made available to the business or used as a technical resource within IT. While the accuracy of entries would need to be verified and controlled, they are good vehicles for capturing the more subjective aspects of knowledge.

My future research will focus on identifying organizations who are using social networking concepts in their Knowledge Management processes.


This reminds me of a post a couple years ago where I discussed the concept of Social Capital, (see Implementing a CMDB is Like Blogging Alone: Why Products & Process won’t be enough to reconnect with the business.)

Understanding social capital, and the degree of impact social networking has on it, is particularly relevant. Knowledge is based on information, and I wonder if knowledge management without an accurate base of information is really helpful...

A question I'd like answered is: "Are these social networks actually increasing the social capital in our organization?"

Social capital is that reservoir of trust, cooperation and 'unwritten rules' that people have between each other and is often the glue that keeps things from completely falling apart. In organizations with lots of social capital, they seem to work well together -- in spite of good processes or bad. In others that have very limited amounts of social capital well, that's a different story.

I believe that the increased use of social networking tools can be put to great use, not just in sharing knowledge but in letting people interact and test the veracity of their own views against others. Not only will this help validate the 'truth', but it may help increase the reserve of social capital as well.

This requires a positive organizational culture, and recent emphasis by ISO and others on measuring organizational maturity may be worth evaluating before embarking on a knowledge management initiative.

For there may be risk as well. If the culture drives separation and warfare, I'm not sure these networks help and they may even hurt.

I'd be interested to know whether knowledge management initiatives, in the absence of some of the ITIL basics like 'what is a service?' and 'CMDB' is really a good thing or not. Do they help get to a universally recognized 'single source of the truth?' Or, are they simply the view of some imposed on the rest of the organization without any debate and exchange?

For me, the connection between the business service and the increasingly complex, virtual service infrastructures that underpin them will remain the most important priority for most. This reflects a need for information.

This part of the journey will continue to be very difficult for most, and I have my own opinions on the best way to get here (don't we all?). But the destination remains the same for all of us.

It would be interesting to know from practitioners the extent social networking tools have improved the quality of information, increased the organization's social capital, and re-enforced positive cultural values.

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