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The power to change: switching a Knowledge Management system

1 June 2014
Sagit Salmon
the word change on cubes

Organizations tend to switch Knowledge Management systems similarly to an individual switching a Smartphone, vehicle, apartment…

The reasons vary: an outdated system no longer technologically supported or the need for innovation and staying updated, installing an entire new system instead of performing a large change in the current one, etc. The switch (or upgrade/conversion), be it a result of some constraint or part of a natural organizational process, is an opportunity to perform a renewed need location which is a process that should be performed routinely yet it usually forgotten.


In recent years, I have accompanied (and still do) many projects of this sort. When I review these projects, the vast difference between them becomes apparent. Seemingly, they all share a common starting point-we are upgrading: the portal, the website, the knowledgebase. Actually, every update was derived from a different need (not always a technological one) and therefore requires a different process lead by different processes.


Take for example a large organization that assimilated a new technological system and is in the midst of converting all the knowledge from the old system which is no longer supported. The old system includes professional and unit websites, headed by website mangers from the organization's different units.  The website managers did not choose the change yet are committed to it. The field of organizational Knowledge Management invests many resources in the conversion process, which includes optimization of the existing knowledge, re-characterizing the websites, constructing them, entering their content, guiding the website managers, ongoing support of the latter and an orderly change of staff.


The website managers are full partners in the process: they optimize the existing knowledge, they approve the list of site topics (content tree), transmit requests for changes in structure and experience working with the new site. Only after all these are fulfilled with joint consent is the responsibility fully handed over to them.  


What should be emphasized during this process?


  • Short schedules.

  • Optimizing and knowledge validation.

  • Cooperation with website managers

  • Quick characterization based mainly on the current yet still requires providing added value both visually and regarding abilities.

A different organization is reconstructing its knowledge directory. The organizational change and the lack of apt response to the current knowledge directory lead to the need for an update. The change is usually accompanied with switching the system, yet the need location process that was executed shows that the main difficulty users experience nowadays is with the content: it is difficult to locate the content, the knowledge items are long and complicated, are not presented in templates and are therefore difficult to use.


This organization will perform a validation process and a usefulness survey with potential users in order to ensure that the defined concept indeed matches the located needs.

What should be emphasized during this process?

  • Including potential users in the characterization process and content writing.

  • Defining a knowledge tree (external accessibility).

  • Rewriting all knowledge items.

  • Operating according to conversion sites.

  • Training and guiding content writers.

Yet another organization is reestablishing its professional portal.

The users are complaining about the current portal's search engine-the knowledge is difficult to reach, is presented in an unorganized fashion, and there is an inflation of irrelevant knowledge.


The portal will be reestablished using a new system which will emphasize several search methods. The formulation of the solution and its illustration are performed gradually and ripen as the process progresses. This way the gap between the users' expectation and the presented solution is increasingly shrinking.


What should be emphasized during the process?

  • Defining types of knowledge and professional subjects according to roles and areas of practice.

  • Optimizing and validating the existing knowledge.

  • Re-Cataloguing all the knowledge.

  • Recurring validation of the solution being formulated.


In conclusion: sometimes, the required change is not switching the system yet we lack the motivation and resources that the real solution requires.

The incentive to perform this change is changing the system. Once the system is switched (as part of an inclusive strategy) it is easier to muster the motivation and apply resources. The overall emphasis is to adapt to the need and not miss the opportunity.

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