It’s important for all organizations to be able to access knowledge to make important decisions that could impact their mission or business. It’s also critical that the knowledge is accurate, current and relevant. The Knowledge Lifecycle is the process that ensures that the information is accurate, current and relevant. Depending upon the organization’s staffing, a knowledge management team, a web content management team, and/or individual teams within the organizations are often responsible for ensuring the knowledge is accurate, current and relevant on all portals, such as: SharePoint intranet portals, public web sites, and Facebook pages. The Knowledge Lifecycle helps teams to be able to manage the knowledge to ensure that the information is accurate, current and relevant.
Figure: The Knowledge Lifecycle
The process has seven phases.
In this phase, this is where you plan on the “who, what, when, where, why and how” of knowledge capture, storage and management. At this stage, you would more than likely have a mission from your managerial staff regarding what you are supposed to do, so this mission will help you craft your questions and answers.
Questions that you would ask during this phase are:
• What do you need to capture?
If your mission is to have a centralized location to access industry standards and practices, you would want to capture information such as scientific journals, whitepapers, legal briefs, and government briefs. You would not be interested in collecting cake recipes or pictures of team members dressed as Disney characters at the last Halloween party.
• Who will supply the knowledge?
One of the concepts of knowledge management is to collect accurate information, and you would want to choose the best experts that could supply the information. Going back to our example mission of providing a centralized location to access industry standards and practices – your knowledge suppliers will probably be industry experts, legal personnel, and/or individuals who work with standards and practices.
• When will you get the knowledge and how often?
If you have received a mission from your managerial staff, you may have already received a timeline as to when this solution needs to be available. In some cases, you may be working in a field where the knowledge is constantly changing.
• Where is it going to be stored?
When you are selecting a solution for this, you have to take the following into consideration:
o Where is everyone located?
o Are there regulations that require the information to be located from one network, or can this information be accessed from any Internet connection?
o Are there regulations that require security measures to be able to access the information?
o Can everybody get to the possible locations?
With this question, you may have to “tag-team” with your IT team to help with creating an answer. For example, depending on who needs to have access to the knowledge, you may need to select a portal that’s accessible from any network, or you may be able to just host it on a local network drive in an isolated network.
• In which format will you make it available?
Basically, this is how you are going to store the knowledge, and your selection will depend upon how the data will be managed. Some formats include:
o PDF Files
o Multimedia files (audio and video)
o Wiki pages or other dynamic content pages (such as WordPress)
If your knowledge has to go through a change management process before allowing for changes, it’s best to use a PDF file to prevent people from being able to “corrupt” the knowledge in the documentation. If the knowledge frequently changes, and you have multiple people contributing to the knowledge, it’s best to use a wiki page or a dynamic content page.
If you are able to use this capability, multimedia files are a fantastic delivery method since we all learn and absorb information differently.
Real life example of content delivery - Microsoft has on-line help for their products, and they use a variety of delivery methods such as web pages, documents, videos, and audio podcasts.
• How will you capture the knowledge?
There are many methods to use to capture knowledge. Some methods include:
o Interviews with subject matter experts (SMEs)
o Collect documentation from SMEs
o Have SMEs contribute knowledge to a central repository like a wiki site, portal site, or a network drive
o Perform research
You may end up using one or many methods to capture the knowledge. As you capture the knowledge, you will also need to have a procedure in place to review the knowledge for inaccuracies and clarity.
2. Collection, creation, receipt and capture
In this step, this is where you gather the information using the KM principles of people, process and technology.
• People: Conduct interviews with SMEs; hold worksessions for gathering knowledge
• Processes: Require SMEs to create documentation on their day-to-day activities; require SMEs to provide weekly knowledge updates based on a timeline
• Technology: Have SMEs upload documentation to a central location such as a portal or network drive; use the Internet to perform research
Before finalizing the knowledge and making it available, a process for reviewing the knowledge for accuracy, relevancy, and readability occurs here. In addition to the review, a “librarian” applies taxonomy, or categorizes and arranges the knowledge, for easy access and organization.
Taxonomy: a process of classifying things or concepts.
4. Use and Dissemination
This is where the knowledge is assigned classifications and permissions. Assigning the classifications determines how the knowledge can be distributed to others. For information about classification in countries including the United States, reference the following article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classified_information.
Based on the determination made during the planning stage on who is supposed to have access to the knowledge, the actual access permissions are applied to the knowledge repository.
5. Maintenance, Protection and Preservation
Even though you may already have your initial knowledge, you have to have a process in place to ensure that the information doesn’t get stale, and you have to have a process in place on handling updates to the information.
An example process is to assign a review date to the information of 3-6 months. When the date arrives, have an SME review the knowledge to see if it needs to be updated, archived or deleted. If a change is necessary, there should be a change process in place to keep track of changes made to the knowledge. There should be a versioning process set in place to keep track of the changes.
In knowledge management, “disposition” is a fancy word for “how are you going to handle outdated knowledge”. Based on government requirements, corporate policies, and/or legal rules, this is where you determine whether outdated knowledge needs to be archived or deleted. If there are no government requirements, corporate policies, and/or legal rules that compel you to archive the knowledge, it’s best to remove (delete) the outdated knowledge.
The knowledge lifecycle is a fluid process, and in this stage, you analyze the entire process and determine whether improvements need to be made to the process. You can do a “post-mortem” report after the initial knowledge capture to determine what was done correctly, what needed to be improved upon, and what can be done next time to make it better. The lessons learned from the evaluation stage can then pass back to the planning stage for the next knowledge capture effort.
So that’s the knowledge lifecycle in a nutshell. By following the knowledge lifecycle, we can ensure that staff members aren’t searching through massive amounts of information to find the most current and relevant information.