Critical Success Factors

Pillars of Sustainable Knowledge Management

The main challenge in sustaining a high-performance knowledge management program is to nurture a knowledge-sharing culture that produces bottom-line results. This is best done by creating a new work environment where knowledge and information are easily shared. Experience with leading organizations enables us to briefly summarize the critical success factors.

A Vision and Roadmap form a useful foundation. The vision defines the overall business case. It helps stakeholders understand why the organization is working on KM and what new personal and organizational capabilities can be expected as a result. The roadmap lays out in general terms the order in which new capabilities will be developed and the rough timing.

Six strong pillars are essential to support the Knowledge-Powered Enterprise. The key elements are summarized below. For each pillar, one or more questions are shown. These are part of a benchmarking / tune-up process that highlights components of the program in need of adjustment or replacement to achieve peak performance.

Pillars to Success

1. Business Value Focus
Address a compelling business need, opportunity, or core corporate value. This is essential for gaining management support and for maintaining momentum across the organization. Managers and individual contributors must see the value of supporting a KM program.
  • Does your KM program have a business focus agreed upon with today's senior management?


2. People
You are seeking to change the work environment of your people to one in which knowledge-sharing is the norm ("the way we work around here"). Success dictates investment in marketing, communication and training (change management).
  • Do business managers visibly support your KM program by encouraging participation, recognizing successes and asking questions?
  • Do you have a budget for essential support resources? Examples include: technology, knowledge desks staffed by brokers/analysts who can answer questions and experts who can generate and validate content.
  • Communities of Practice are the fundamental organizational units of knowledge management. Does your organization recognize and support them?
  • Has your organization aligned knowledge seeking, sharing and re-use processes with the daily workflows of stakeholders (users, contributors, managers) and with the processes by which their objectives are set and performance assessed?


3. Process
Put in place clear processes so that stakeholders understand how they are expected to share and re-use information and knowledge and how they can get help.
  • Are stakeholders involved in introduction and regular assessment of your KM processes?


4. Content
Visible management support and attention to managing the change in the work environment give a new knowledge management implementation a chance to succeed. However, ongoing success is largely dependent on availability of high-quality content, aka "knowledge assets." Content must be relevant and trusted - and subject to an ongoing maintenance process (e.g., retiring out-of-date information).
  • Are processes operating smoothly for capturing, validating and maintaining content?


5. Technology
Technology is the essential enabler. Without good technology, investments in the other areas will be wasted. Your KM program is not likely to be sustainable without technology that delivers the functionality needed by stakeholders. People are busy. They have neither the time nor the patience to fight with inadequate technology. Technology must be easy-to-use, integrated and secure. Like content, technology must be subject to an ongoing maintenance process (e.g., upgrading functionality).
  • Are stakeholders involved in introduction and regular assessment of your KM technology?


6. Execution
Measurement is a must. Define and track metrics that make sense to both business managers and individual contributors. Focus your internal work on high-value activities that cannot be outsourced. Enlist suppliers and partners for the rest.
  • How do you measure and report the performance of your KM program for the different stakeholders, including business managers and individual contributors?


Last Updated: 1-Jan-2019