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How to Assess Our KM Needs and Find Appropriate Solutions

Kristen Summers

Kristen Summers works as a Grants Manager at Saint Luke's Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio. She is interested in Knowledge Management in order to further her career in philanthropy. In her spare time she enjoys hiking with her husband and two dogs.

You know the saying in the field of grantmaking, “If you've met one foundation, then you know one foundation”? It means that foundations all have different priority areas in what they fund, their geographies differ, the way they accept applications and make decisions can vary greatly. The same is true for a foundation's Knowledge Management (KM) needs and the solutions that would be most appropriate to address those needs—there are a lot of different options out there so it is very important to spend time researching what the most fitting solutions would be for that organization.

Fortunately, Becerra-Fernandez and Sabherwal (2015) give us this seven step methodology for identifying appropriate KM solutions (p. 279), and I will give a basic overview here:

  1. Assess the contingency factors—This step requires you to examine the organization's environment in terms of contingency factors (characterizing tasks, knowledge, environment and organization) and how they contribute to uncertainty (p. 279).
  2. Identify the KM processes based on each contingency factor—When you have identified the contingency factors that are relevant to your organization, you then have to discover which KM process corresponds to that (p. 281). For example, if environmental uncertainty is high, then you would use combination or socialization for knowledge discovery, but socialization for knowledge sharing would not work as well (p. 282).
  3. Prioritize needed KM processes—Once you've identified the needed processes in the previous step, then you need to prioritize them. To help with that, you can assign scores based on appropriateness and then rank the processes (p. 281).
  4. Identify existing KM processes—This is where you will need to survey the employees of the organization to assess which KM processes are being used and to what extent (p. 281).
  5. Identify additional KM processes needed—Based on what you discovered in the previous steps, this is where you can recommend which other processes would be appropriate based on the priorities (p. 283).
  6. Assess the KM infrastructure and identify the sequential ordering of the KM processes—It is important to consider the current infrastructure to support these solutions, including the organization structure and culture, as well as the physical environment and IT infrastructure (p. 283).
  7. Develop additional needed KM systems, mechanisms, and technologies—This is where all the previous work comes into play and changes are actually made. This means creating KM systems, mechanisms, and technologies to support the KM processes, through teams or by buying or building systems (p. 283).

As I stated earlier, this is a very basic overview of the methodology, but I hope you can see all the work it would take to find the appropriate solutions. However, this work performed in order to determine the best solutions is far more efficient and cost-effective than if you were to do trial-and-error with various KM solutions that are not appropriate for your organization. Moreover, implementing the wrong solution and seeing it fail might make senior leadership gun shy about deploying any further KM solutions. So, it is better to follow this methodology and figure out what is best for your organization.


Reference List

Becerra-Fernandez, I., & Sabherwal, R. (2015). Knowledge management: Systems and processes. New York: Routledge.