by Kan Siew Ning
The management of information and knowledge is important for every organization whether or not the senior management refers to it explicitly as knowledge management (KM). In every company that takes KM seriously, managers at all levels are expected to facilitate and enhance knowledge flow within his team, and between his team and other teams. Knowledge-centric firms that use knowledge as a competitive weapon would have assigned one or more officers to provide focus to KM work within the company. Depending on the company, these officers have different job titles – ranging from knowledge manager to Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO) and sometimes to Chief Learning Officer (CLO).
Are you considering a career in Knowledge Management but don’t know where to start? Have you heard a lot about CKO’s but don’t know what they actually do? This article attempts to answer these questions by providing an overview of KM jobs and their required competencies.
Companies with regional or international operations tend to see a greater need to have a global KM practice. Some of these companies have created Chief Knowledge Officers (CKO) or Chief Learning Officer (CLO) roles. In the absence of a CKO / CLO appointment, companies usually appoint Knowledge Managers for the purpose of championing KM. The following companies were reported to have appointed CKO / CLO: Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Dow Chemical, Coca Cola, Monsanto, IBM, Young & Rubicam, Burson Marseteller, Canadian Imperial Bank, Xerox, Hoffman LaRoche, General Electric, Bank of Boston, Johnson & Johnson, and McKinsey & Co.
In addition to sourcing for IT applications that support KM, the KM champions are involved in the design or re-design of company Intranets, taxonomy construction, social network analysis, facilitating communities of practice, and designing schemes to increase the vibrancy of knowledge sharing within the company. The irony of a CKO job is that if the incumbent is doing his job well in increasing the flow of knowledge in the organization, he inevitably works himself out of a job. In one multi-national company, after putting in place and maturing a comprehensive KM strategy, KM framework, and the associated IT applications to support KM, the company reduced the CKO’s time spent on KM to 50%, and re-directed the balance of his time to focus on best practices in project management.
Knowledge manager roles tend to be more commonplace in both MNC’s and local organizations, such as government establishments. In the Singapore Government, almost every ministry and statutory board has at least one FTE dedicated to championing KM. In 2005, one statutory board advertised for two KM-related jobs, an Assistant Director post, and a Knowledge Manager post. Organizations are largely still conservative in naming their KM-related jobs, preferring to stick to traditional names like CKO and Knowledge Manager. It is noteworthy that there had been recent developments worldwide in companies where the KM-related jobs had more specific names like Director, Intellectual Capital, Chief Knowledge Broker, and a Director, Copyright Licensing Office.
The KM projects undertaken by knowledge managers typically include strategizing KM and change management, taxonomy construction, knowledge audit, social network analysis, and cultural archetypes. Examples of KM initiatives in the Singapore Government include a uniformed organization reaping fruits in knowledge sharing through investment in learning organization disciplines, an educational institution doing a website revamp to reflect a major restructuring of the courses, a regulatory body creating a set of archetypes to represent the knowledge-sharing behavior of the different categories of people in the organization, a statutory board investing in a document management system for all its employees, a department aligning its KM strategy to its Balanced Scorecard strategy, a department doing a taxonomy exercise, and a uniformed organization embarking on a Competency-Based Learning Project.
In the private sector, one GLC appointed a Chief Knowledge Officer as a secondary duty in addition to his main business function. There is a prime example of an MNC which developed its KM framework in Europe and promulgated the practices to its worldwide subsidiaries. One law firm appointed one of its partners to be in charge of KM and knowledge sharing.
The CKO is typically in charge of efforts to use technology for the capture and distribution of knowledge, including efforts to foster a culture that engenders knowledge sharing. He would usually need to craft a KM strategy to address the knowledge and information needs of the company’s business. He would also have to look into ROI considerations for KM projects. According to Laura R. Andersen, the CKO has a 3-fold job function - promote the importance of knowledge sharing, create an infrastructure to ease the sharing, and measuring the value of knowledge and KM in the organization. CIO Magazine is in agreement – it lists three critical responsibilities of a CKO: creating a KM infrastructure, building a knowledge culture and making it all pay off economically.
To do his job successfully, the CKO needs to possess a set of core competencies. Robert E. Neilson has provided an in-depth description of CKO competencies; he listed the following competencies and described each one in detail - Leadership and Management, Communications, Strategic Thinking, Tools & Techniques, Personal Behaviors, and Personal Knowledge & Cognitive Capability. Neilson’s CKO competency description is highly recommended to readers who are interested in pursuing a career in Knowledge Management.
Profile of Author:
Kan Siew Ning is the President of the iKMS, the Information & Knowledge Management Society. His detailed profile can be found on iKMS website