Sunday, August 10, 2003

Collaboration is the new KM?
I refuse refuse to talk about an nth generation KM, as there was a spate of articles last year all claiming that 1st generation was this and 2nd generation was that, according to whatever message the author was pushing. But if I look at whats happening in the industry, I think the tone is changing subtly. We're seeing IT come back into the picture again, for example. It's as if we had to ask it to leave the room while we could have the discussion about the people element, but now its safe to let it back in.

My tip is that collaboration will become the next trendy term. We're going to have to go through the same loop as before: IT will push it, there'll be some initial successes, others will try to follow and fail, people will then say wearily "its all about people" and slowly we'll get it right. Lets just hope we can go through all that a bit faster this time. Why collaboration? I think it appeals because its less fluffy than 'KM' - people intuitively think its good (few CEO's are crying out for their people to collaborate less) - and it taps a current need: in trying to cut costs by e.g. reducing travel, people are feeling the pain of projects failing and mis-communication. 'Virtual teams' as a term has been around long enough, but few companies are getting it right. This is largely because when people sit close-by then you don't need to manage the information exchange. Take them more than 30m away, and you have to start planning (see Ward and Holtham's excellent The Role of Private & Public Spaces in Knowledge Management).

I think this is a good move for KM: it preserves the people+process+technology elements, but is widely understood and still people-centric. The trick will to be avoid reducing it to technology in the imlementation (see your average Portal\Intranet publication, for example)

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