Turning data into knowledge and managing it

It’s up to IT to ensure that management gets the knowledge they need to make crucial business decisions. That is easier said than done.

New apps support business strategy and provide a valuable mechanism for interacting with users. The knowledge management challenge new apps present is that IT has to plan for tracking, processing and managing the new data—yet another way the app economy has changed the info lifecycle.

It’s crucial for management to have your new data at their disposal, as they need to be more nimble than ever in responding to user needs. But it isn’t data, per se, that management needs; it’s knowledge. With that in mind, let’s agree on these definitions:

  • Information=Structured data
  • Knowledge=Information in context


You need a Plan A—and a Plan B

It’s up to IT to ensure that management gets the knowledge they need to make those crucial, nimble business decisions. Of course, that’s easier said than done! In putting together a plan for tracking, processing and managing your new data, it makes sense to answer these questions:

  1. Does IT understand the specific knowledge needs of each manager/department? While much knowledge (i.e., reporting) is common to the entire enterprise, each department also has unique needs.
  2. Is the knowledge being delivered current? Is that evident to users of the knowledge?
  3. Can management readily get to the knowledge they need when they need it?
  4. Is knowledge delivered in a format that best supports management?
  5. Is mission-critical knowledge securely stored? Securely accessed?
  6. Is mission-critical knowledge well defined and backed up frequently?
  7. In the event of an IT infrastructure failure, do you have a Plan B for accessing critical knowledge?


Perhaps even a Plan C

We also need to remember that individual departments retain department-unique knowledge in their own repositories. While it may not be mission-critical knowledge for the entire enterprise, it’s significant for that department’s day-to-day business. There’s nothing inherently wrong with departmental repositories, other than the real possibility that department users and repository owners don’t have the skills or experience to get the most out of a knowledge base.

Such repositories are usually met with high expectations on Day 1 and almost immediate adoption. But unless a skilled knowledge manager is identified, and that role is in their job description, most departmental knowledge repositories become large file shares—an archive of final and WIP artifacts that accumulates with no logical plan over a multiyear period.

However, the situation doesn’t need to unspool like that; the IT organization has many years of experience of distinguishing between data, information and knowledge and managing it logically. When IT management provides guidance and support for department repositories, they increase the likelihood that repositories will provide the needed value—that is, information in context. Just as the enterprise needs to be nimble, so do its departments. When the right knowledge is accessible when needed, departments will be nimble enough to contribute to the bottom line.

The world is your audience

In the app economy, we also need to support end users external to the enterprise. Users need to conduct business via their smart phones: routine banking transactions, purchasing goods and services, making and changing travel arrangements, monitoring weather and travel conditions—the list goes on.

Users expect the right data, delivered in protected mode, to be readily visible and understandable on a small screen. They also expect their responses to be accurate and secure.

When IT gives users information in context, users can readily make informed decisions. Companies that fail to deliver will eat the dust of companies that gladly supply that service.

Our next blog looks at the underlying technical details of managing data and describes several of the main tasks. In the meantime, if you’ve encountered knowledge management challenges other than those we talk about here, we’d love to hear from you.

Rob Zuurdeeg is a Principal Technical Information Manager at CA Technologies. He has consulted on…


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