ABCs of KMKM standards

Evaluating ISO 30401 standard: Part 4 – Primer on implementation process

This article is part of a series of articles on the new international knowledge management (KM) standard, ISO 30401 Knowledge management systems – Requirements.

In Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of the RealKM evaluation of the ISO 30401 standard, we looked at how effective the standard has been in aligning to community expectations and briefly summarised the mandatory requirements for implementation.

Now it’s time to see how the rubber hits the road. What does it mean to put ISO 30401 into practice? By focusing on the normative parts of the standard since that will define the “minimum viable product” (MVP) of a compliant implementation, we can evaluate:

  • Are statements unambiguous and meaningful?
  • Do they require practical and observable actions?
  • Do they promote specific and useful KM practices?

The answer (mostly) is yes. Unfortunately, the Annex SL boilerplate used as part of all ISO management system standards forces the KM standard to be presented in an order that muddies rather than clarifies how to implement the standard. Most other issues with the standard boil down to redundant or repetitive language, or “may” statements that make best practice unclear.

To address this, the attached primer provides a simplified and streamlined set of processes that will allow any organisation to implement an ISO30401-compliant Knowledge Management System:

Download Primer Steps for ISO30401 Implementation

For further information on ISO 30401:2018, including the background to its development and discussion of issues that should be considered in its implementation, see the other articles in the RealKM Magazine ISO 30401 series.

Note: An earlier version of this article referred to ISO 9001 as the progenitor of the Annex SL standard, when in fact Annex SL is designed to be applicable to all ISO management system standards, including ISO 9001.

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Stephen Bounds

Stephen Bounds is an Information and Knowledge Management Specialist with a wide range of experience across the government and private sectors. As founding editor of RealKM and Executive, Information Management at Cordelta, Stephen provides clear strategic thinking along with a hands-on approach to help organisations successfully develop and implement modern information systems.

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  1. I have to say, Annex SL is not peculiar to the QMS standard (9001). It is a template for all management system standards; you will find it used for 14001 as well as 45001, and I’m assuming other MS standards too.
    The purpose of the annex it to facilitate integration of management system arrangements.
    Another point: MS standards are not designed to tell an organisation how to achieve the requirements, but what is required; they are not technical, but system standards. The how is dependent on the organisation’s context.

  2. Thanks for the correction Mark, I’ve updated the article to be more accurate. I understand the purpose of having the standard Annex SL language and cautiously accept that it has a purpose when an organisation is seeking to implement multiple MS standards in parallel.

    While there are certainly drawbacks in having highly prescriptive standards (the somewhat outdated methodology in ISO 15489 comes to mind), the problem is that in an immature discipline like KM, we don’t have the infrastructure to support development of the “how”.

    There are no armies of ISO 30401 accreditors out there and in any case, there is no consensus on what sound execution of the system standards would look like. So it’s hard to see how we’ll end up markedly improving the standards of KM implementations in organisations through mere adherence to the ISO 30401 standard.

    1. That there is no consensus, from a MS development point of view is a good thing. Auditors should not be defining how to meet standards, merely whether or not the standard, as a minimum, has been achieved.

      How compliance is achieved is up to the organisation implementing management systems, possibly supported by consultants.

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