Tuesday, May 27, 2008

KM and Business Continuity Planning

Last week I attended a two-day training program titled "Business Continuity Planning for Water and Wastewater Utilities: How to keep your utility in business and operating in times of crisis." I went to the workshop to determine if and how I can incorporate business continuity planning (BCP) into the KM work that I'm doing. My general conclusion was that a good BCP plan has components of KM and and good KM plan considers what to do in a time of crisis.

Business continuity planning considers what happens if... How do you keep your business running, continue to complete your mission and keep your people safe. What happens if you can't get back in to your facility for 24 hours, 30 days, or they are destroyed completely? Examples could be a fire, flood, hurricane, tornado or just a water pipe break? We even talked about pandemic flu which could reduce the available workforce by over 50%. How do you stay in business?

From a KM perspective, the issue becomes what critical knowledge do out need and how can you access it during a crisis. Is key knowledge accessible at an alternative location? Do multiple people have access to it? What people and skills (tacit knowledge) do you need and how do you get a hold of them. What happens if you don't have a computer, blackberry or cell phone? What happen if all your paper records are gone?

A good KM strategy needs to consider not only the knowledge you need to manage and use during normal business operations, but also during a crisis. By considering it upfront and as a component of your KM planning, you can save time, effort, and be ready in the event of an emergency.

Is this likely to be needed, let's hope not. However, toward the end of our session a tornado warning was issued and two of our classroom participants rushed out because a tornado touched down by their offices.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Knowledge Retention

Over the last few months I've heard more and more questions about knowledge retention and tying knowledge management to succession planning.

Myron Olstein in the report "Succession Planning for A Vital Workforce In The Information Age" (Awwa Research Foundation, 2005) stated that for drinking water utilities:

•Half of your workers will not be with you in 10 years
•Most of the useful operating knowledge will go with them
EPRI report estimates that more than 80% of useful operating knowledge is tacit

These sentiments are being echoed throughout the water supply community, particularly by HR departments that are struggling to fill positions with qualified candidates.

This recognition has also spurred a lot of interest in purchasing systems to capture knowledge. The first question I'm often asked is what knowledge system should I purchase? While some knowledge systems are great, they should be last in your planning for knowledge capture. My recommendations are to:
  • Identify what information do you need to capture?
  • What can you do with existing processes and systems?
  • What simple things can you do first to capture knowledge (people and process)
  • What knowledge systems can support these activities? (technology)

Knowledge management planning should also not be done in a vacuum and should be integrated with business strategies and succession planning.

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