ABCs of KMTaking knowledge management to the next level

Technology as disruptor: why IT are not the enemy [RealKM Connect introductory series]

This is part 8 of a series of articles presenting key points from Stephen Bounds’ presentation1 to a RealKM Connect introductory seminar in November 20162.

Traditional external change mechanisms in organisations are the burning platform scenario highlighted in the previous article, and result in change in a product or service delivery. With internal scenarios, the available mechanisms to adjust people’s behaviour are to hire and fire, or to change wages and conditions. In the public service these options aren’t available because it’s generally not an option to hire or fire, and there is a fairly static product and service mix.

So how can change be enforced when there’s no incentive to do so, and when the politics and interactions between people are balanced, but the business is not operating efficiently? It’s at this point that technology becomes effective at forcing change in behaviour. If business processes are more efficient it can create greater competitive pricing, and a new value proposition for your customer base.

From an internal perspective, technology can either enforce behavioural change, or it can change the risk profile of activities. If a process is being run that shouldn’t be, technology captures that activity and monitors it so that a decision can be made to either incentivise or disincentivise the behaviour.

From a knowledge management perspective, the transaction costs are also a factor. If you are implementing a new system and changing what people do, then it is likely you are also changing the efficiency of various other processes. Information transaction costs are threefold:

  • input costs, the time and effort if takes to capture information
  • processing costs, how long it takes to act on the information
  • reuse costs, the time and effort it takes to access the information outside of its original context.

Often when a new system is introduced workers using the system see their input costs go up, while their processing costs stay the same or reduce. It is the managers who are keen on the change because it improves their reuse costs and this is where the value add is sold in technology.

From a knowledge management perspective, it’s important to understand the social networks that exist within organisations, where the political boundaries lie, and both the influences and influencers in the organisation. It is vital to ensure the information that goes into the system is valid and not a case of “garbage in garbage out”. If people are forced to do things and do them badly it can be worse than not having the information at all.

If the changes being made are for enterprise reporting purposes then this needs to be clearly articulated to staff, because if they don’t understand that they won’t understand why they’re doing the extra work. From a knowledge management perspective, this is why the impact of technology needs to be factored into a change scenario.

The next (final) edition will focus on digital preservation.


  1. Stephen Bounds is the Director and Principal Consultant at KnowQuestion, publisher of RealKM Magazine.
  2. For a copy of the transcript please contact Amanda Surrey.
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Amanda Surrey

Amanda Surrey is facilitator of RealKM Connect. She is a strategic knowledge management professional with extensive experience in global business environments, including BHP Billiton where she worked for the past 14 years. Amanda has planned, managed and executed innovative knowledge management solutions that have enhanced workforce intelligence and overall organisational competitiveness. She holds post graduate qualifications in information management, and a Master of Arts.

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