A boss’ challenge: KM in a month, on the cheap!

Guest blogger: Ron Brumbarger, President & CEO, BitWise Solutions.

Ever received a challenge presented to you by your boss like this: “I need a knowledge management solution, whatever that is, next month. Oh yeah, we have limited budget, so figure it out on the cheap.”

Gulp! The challenge statement above is riddled with potholes for your career, right? Let’s dissect the statement before worry overtakes us:
1. ‘I need’ – uh oh. “I” – your boss, needs. Why? Why is this KM system so important that he needs it? Are there other stakeholders pushing him to accomplish this? Best find out before you proceed too far.
2. ‘whatever that is’ – a bigger “Uh Oh!” So you’re being expected to deliver a KM system to your boss and an array of other stakeholders without them having a clear understanding of what a KM system is, right? I’ll get to some practical next steps for you to undertake below… but for now, let’s continue with our dissection project.
3. ‘next month’ – strike three! Now what? You’re delivering an unknown solution to a group without definition and doing so in a hurry. Dusting off your resume yet? Hang with me; we’ll get to some ideas for help.
4. ‘on the cheap’ – you’re toast. Luck you drawing the short straw to handle this project! If you haven’t already started packing your desk, you might consider doing so now.

But alas, there is hope. Let’s look at some things you might answer before you embark upon resolving this challenge:

1. Who – who are the stakeholders, besides your boss, that influence the decision making? It’s crucial to understand their expectations before proceeding. Dig a little and spend more time asking questions instead of making statements.

2. Why – when addressing the ‘who’ question above, let’s try to address the ‘why’ question first. There is a chance the wrong individuals are applying pressure for a KM solution, or individuals with expectations that will be disappointed. Best to understand the real drivers behind this KM project you’re being asked to undertake. Here are a few drivers we commonly see:

a. Economic: we’re losing money repeating the same mistakes over and over again. There must be a better way.

b. Quality: our quality is struggling as we seem to lose tacit and institutional knowledge with the ever revolving door of talent. How do we keep the knowledge created within the organization alive even with people changing jobs?

c. History: there’s a genealogy to the problem we’re solving here and I know we’ve encountered this before. Mini case studies are helpful here to ensure the same problem isn’t as costly to resolve as it was the first time.

3. What – what is KM. Best to define what KM looks like in your organization before proceeding. No two organizations are alike and each have slightly different interpretations and translations of the term KM. The answer to this question is most often solved by asking: “What is it you would like this KM system to achieve for us”?

4. When – next month, regardless of when you started, is out of the questions. Sorry – you can’t possibly answer the three questions above this one in a month. Not possible and not going to happen successfully. To answer this, you need to dig behind the drivers for ‘next month’. Perhaps a pilot with some test data in 45 days or so scratches the itch – and enables you to clarify the ‘Why’ and ‘What’ questions above sooner.

5. How much – Okay, cheap can’t be fixed, right? Wrong! If the KM system you’re tasked with implementing has a short ROI, perhaps cheap is attainable. Speaking of ROI – here’s where the hard work comes into play. How will you measure return on this KM system? What are the hard metrics, the soft metrics, and the financial metrics which comprise an ROI. Tough to define? Sure, but far easier than attaining ‘next month’!

6. Heroes – that’s right. Heroes. Your goal is to make those with whom you work look like heroes. If they win, you win. So rather than go about a knee-jerk reaction to the boss’ statement above, think first about how you make him/her stand out like a hero. It’ll change your perspective on the challenge before you.

We hear this challenge all the time. Too often, though, there’s a morass of IT, legal, product development, etc., people involved in the implementation. I encourage you to call the ball – step up and own/lead the charge. KM and related system implementations are just begging for leadership and ownership. Your fast track to hero is to own this challenge – humbly making those around you heroes in the process.

Finally, find a trustworthy partner. Is this a bit of a plug? Of course it is. But do yourself a favor and find a firm who has experience in such projects and ask for help. As I mentioned, we’ve seen this challenge before and, in addition to the technology, we can help bring about guidance (some call it marital counseling) in the implementation as well. You need not re-invent the wheel.

This was a guest blog entry by: Ron Brumbarger, President & CEO, BitWise Solutions.
About BitWise Solutions

BitWise Solutions Inc. is an Indianapolis website development company. In addition, BitWise performs web design, ecommerce web site design and development services including custom desktop application development and search engine marketing strategies in Indianapolis Indiana and throughout the United States.