Do we really have as much control over our KM department priorities as we’d like to think we have? I asked variants of this question during a follow-up conversation based on my prior post, What’s Your KM Priority? In the course of this second conversation, we took a look at how our various law firms defined knowledge management. Although we didn’t have a scientific sample, the answers were instructive. Most firms participating in the conversation had a bifurcated approach to KM: (i) direct practice support and (ii) infrastructure support. In fact, for many of these firms, the folks working on content creation and practice development (e.g, traditional practice support lawyers) were not part of the KM group, but were more likely to be embedded within practice groups. As a result, they reported to practice heads, rather than the administrative head of KM. By contrast, the folks working on infrastructure (e.g., technology, content distribution mechanisms, etc.) sat in the KM department and reported through the head of KM to the Chief Information Officer or IT director.
Now go back and look at the KM Priorities listed in my earlier post: you’ll see that six of the nine areas of impact are primarily focused on information management as opposed to firm management. Given that most of the KM departments participating in these conversations are expected to spend the bulk of their time on content retrieval and distribution, is it any wonder?
Our KM priorities are set in relation to how the firm defines KM and where the KM group sits on the organizational chart. This has interesting implications for KM personnel who wish to apply KM principles to business processes generally and firm management specifically. Will you be given the freedom to share your wealth in this way if your firm is intent on keeping you in the information management box?
[Photo Credit: Steve Keys]