Home > Communities of Practice > Can online communities be used for knowledge retention?

Can online communities be used for knowledge retention?

Given the austerity measure starting to take place across the UK public sector – 500Extracting knowledge,000 posts in five years – those charged with maintaining services need to take action now on capturing the knowledge of those who will be lost in the cuts. If they do not, as has been seen with many previous “restructures” in the sector, former employees may need to be brought back on at expensive consultancy rates to provide advice and counsel.

So could online communities be used in supporting the knowledge capture and transfer in the future?

I suppose the answer is Yes but it needs to be part of something bigger.  My feeling when it comes knowledge sharing and transfer within organizations is that there is still a focus on

  • Technology,
  • Process and
  • People. 

Bring in some technology and everything works.  But we all know this is not the case.

APQC’s research document on Retaining Valuable Knowledge: Proactive Strategies to Deal with a Shifting Work Force conducted with the Oil and Gas industry found that the best way to retain valuable knowledge in the face of attrition or downsizing is to build and sustain systemic KM approaches; one of theses approaches is establishing communities of practice.  Companies like Chevron Texaco, Schlumberger, and ExxonMobil have improved their efficiency by institutionalising a knowledge-sharing culture through communities of practice

“By helping to build these communities, we are not only realising huge improvements in business processes and performance, but also providing employees with greater access to one of the most valuable learning resources: interaction with peers,” said Michael Behounek, director of knowledge management at Halliburton.

Schlumberger have designed their knowledge ecology around collaborative working, with a knowledge retention and transition strategy integrated into to their ways of working.  Schlumberger Hub (“The Hub”) is an intranet and Internet enterprise information portal that provides employees and customers uniform access to information, providing access to:

  • knowledge repositories,
  • project management and collaboration spaces,
  • real-time news a help desk, and
  • Support for multiple internal and external audiences through threaded discussions, community repositories, and collaboration technology.

A key feature of the Schlumberger Hub is the seamless view it provides to the end user, whether it is an employee or a customer. All information is stored in one repository, and the portal posts only the appropriate information for each customer type.

So technology can be part of the solution but as with Schlumberger is need to be part of something bigger, the

  • People,
  • Process and
  • Technology

And there are many examples of the people and process techniques such as the Knowledge Exchange that we use but there are many more.

Also in the APQC report it suggested vendors such as Oracle have labelled a technology solution to the issue of Knowledge Loss as Enterprise 2.0 – a combination of content management, enterprise search, and portal technology, linking with 2.0 tools such as wikis and blogs.

We have done some great groundwork on some of these with Communities of Practice for Public Service

And with the upcoming Knowledge Hub we will be hitting all the areas that Oracle mention and a lot more.

So maybe there is a chance for the sector to hold onto its knowledge.  I just hope that we are not too late, and that by using the simple things to start the process the technology can support it in the future.

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