My last blog looked back at my doctoral research (see below), to show that lack of leadership support from Senior Managers was a factor that could severely hold back an eager new Intranet. So I guess it’s important to look at the other conditions that help or hold back your Knowledge Sharing intranet plans…
One area that was shown to be pivotal for a strong business intranet was, not surprisingly, the relationship of the technology staff to the knowledge management specialists. I came across a variety of relationships. Here are three examples, taken from my research case studies, to highlight what works and what emphatically does not.
In my view, KM specialists can focus too much on their need to prove themselves separate from the IT team and try to work apart rather than building strong links. My first case study organisation did indeed start this way. The knowledge team even went out and bought their own server, assuming they could run it without technical support. Ah, what a disappointment to find an organisational network does need to be connected! But once realising how technology worked, they put their effort into making a harmonious bond with the technology team, who overcame their suspicions and agreed to present a common front. As a result the work on delivering the intranet was highly positive as this quote from one of the IT team demonstrates: ‘It was one of the best collaborations because it was not seen as a business project, nor was it seen as an IT project but seen as an organisational priority’.
That is how it should be done. The organisational support fell into place as the two teams worked together to sell a clear and compelling vision of successful knowledge sharing.
In a second example, the KM team were also aware of the need for technology support but took a different route. They built up their knowledge sharing system first on the drive platform that was already provided by IT. They were able to demonstrate what they had in mind and deliver some positive results that won over the support of the leadership team. With this backing, the IT team where drawn in and they worked together to improve the systems available. A successful intranet project followed soon after.
In the third example, the KM team neither took care to win over the IT team, nor to demonstrate how their vision could be realised. Technology and Knowledge staff working together was hindered by misunderstandings and even at times, open conflict. As a result, there was no focused drive in the intranet project which was characterised by low user interest and understanding. A second attempt to get an intranet up and running used more conciliatory methods, but still the failure to work in tandem selling the resulting system and providing seamless help to staff meant it had little chance to win over the people that they relied on to use and champion it.
Sad but true, for KM staff who long to rush ahead alone. Whatever process you decide to use, collaboration with technology staff is by far the strongest approach to developing your intranet or other knowledge sharing systems in an positive and purposeful way.
Unpublished Thesis: Knowledge Management in International Development Charities. Dr Corfield, 2011