What counts as Knowledge Management software?

Running a workshop last Thursday on Practical Knowledge Management for Information Professionals reminded me that perceptions of Knowledge Management are changing where it matters – the coalface/workplace. And this is at least partly under the pressure of sales-driven talk about the KM capabilities of just about every piece of business software.

So what counts as KM technology?

The point shared by all Knowledge Management theoreticians (and every practitioner that I know of), is that KM recognises there are more intellectual resources than data and information involved in decision making, and KM tries to make those resources available in useful ways. Those extra resources can include the expertise, experience and the sheer “nous” of the decision maker, and of those people he or she consults.
Knowledge can even wonderfully include what is discovered and used collaboratively before it has time to be documented!

So when I see a platform, or piece of software, claiming to deliver KM benefits, here are 3 things I look for. If it has any of these I (as MD of Real Knowledge Management) tentatively add it to my list of KM products and promise myself I’ll investigate further

1. Does it enable decision makers to access the tacit knowledge of the organisation so they can apply it to the context in which they are working?
2. Does it provide people working together on a particular problem, opportunity, invention or whatever, with the ability to discover more than the data and information already publicly available in the organisation?
3. Does it help the individual, or the team, apply the intellectual resources they’ve gathered, to the particular context they’re working on so that they make better decisions?

In a post in the near future I will be listing some KM products and explaining why they qualify!

Dion Lindsay
Managing Director
Real Knowledge Management (DLC Ltd)
07540 659255/01604 686797

Knowledge Management Standards have an important role to play

There’s good news for Knowledge Managers, HR strategists and Communications experts. The draft ISO 30401 Knowledge Management Standard has completed its work group drafting stage[1]. For the rest of this year it will be reviewed by National Standards Organisations including the British Standards Institution.

I will be blogging about developments in the National Standards Organisations review of ISO 30401 as I become aware of them – let’s hope by this time next year we have a modern BSI publication on KM to add to the current suite!

In the meantime, for all you KM enthusiasts and stalwarts, BSI KM publications (written in the early 2000s) are still available and they still provide fascinating hints and food for thought about what is important in KM:

  • PAS[2] 2001:2001 Knowledge Management was based on PricewaterhouseCooper’s experience, and takes a strongly human-centred view
  • PD 7502:2003 Guide to measurements in Knowledge Management includes a chapter on Return on Investment for KM, and a few pages on linking KM measures to reward, which was a hot topic in 2003 and has never really gone away
  • PD 7506:2005 Linking knowledge management with other organisational functions and disciplines. A guide to good practice among other things reviews the case for treating KM less as a function and more as a competence. Industry experience this century has shown the tendency for KM to be seen as a change management function, with the ‘loss’ of KM departments as KM practices have become established.

It’s a shame that BSI publications remain so expensive (£200-£250 for non BSI members), but for Knowledge Managers and others in organisations with budgets to cope, these are still great scene setters. A full list of BSI Committee KMS1 – Knowledge Management Systems publications is available at https://standardsdevelopment.bsigroup.com/Home/Committee/50079903#tabs-representation

Dion Lindsay

Real Knowledge Management (DLC Ltd)

07540 659255 / 01604 686797


twitter: @dionl


[1] For this news I am grateful to Ron Young of Knowledge Associates


[2] PAS documents are commissioned by industry leaders to satisfy a perceived immediate business need, PD (Published Document) is a catchall category including but not restricted to formal Standards

Drowning in data or waving?

How true is it that we are drowning in data? There is a lot of data which is the incidental creation of processes – if I pay with my credit card a computer somewhere has a record, if I buy a bus ticket the ticket machine will hold the data for a while, if a pupil says “here sir!” an entry is made in a real or virtual roll.

But I don’t think it’s justifiable to say we are drowning in data, however much of it there is. It can lie there, somewhere in cyberspace, without us trying to swim in it. Surely it’s only when we try to do something with the data (viz turn it into information) that we can be said to be drowning – then we find we can make more patterns of the data than we can deal with, and that’s where we have overload.

I understand and share the frustration – yes it would be interesting, and likely enough beneficial, to turn more of our data into information and, with only a brief nod to turning it into knowledge, act on it.

But to say there is too much data is like saying there are too many atoms. So there’s a trace for every action, and probably even for every thought. But the need to do something with it, and therefore the feeling of drowning in it, is at worst a simple restlessness, and at best an urge to understand and predict the future better than we used to, for the sake of business or personal happiness. Either way the solution is in our hands: resist our completist urges on the one hand, and prioritise what we want to use data for on the other.

Don’t let us make an enemy of data!

Dion Lindsay

Real Knowledge Management (DLC Ltd)

07540 659255

01604 686797



How to understand knowledge sharing conversations

One of the best things about being a Knowledge Management consultant is that it requires me to look deeper into some of the questions that practicing Knowledge Managers never quite have time to.

One of these is how knowledge sharing actually works – the mechanics if you like. And that’s how I came across Discourse Analysis. It’s a way of micro-analysing conversations to identify why speakers say what they do, and the social consequences of what they say, within the conversation.

The micro aspect means it can hardly be applied in broad scale across the discourses that happen all day at work, but DA is a cracking way of working out what is happening in particular and, the analyser hopes, significant examples of un-self-conscious conversation.

Knowledge managers/consultants are likely to want to use it to
• analyse those conversations during which knowledge is shared
• analyse how the conditions for successful knowledge sharing are established
• create good habits in themselves of really attentive listening

Here’s a small example (1) of how such conversations are transcribed for analysis.

EXTRACT 1 130520_003 COMPANY A
1. Chair: A::h I-I did ↑wonder about that actually
2. when you were talking about it
3. so I’ll – I’ll probably talk to you
4. about that one off-line ( ) find out more about
5. that one heh=
6. Sam: =I’ll fill you in later – in on
7. that ]one
8. Chair: [O::K↑ then ]OK
9. Sam: [same subject – same
10. subject, different client, different
11. Technology [heh]
12. Chair: :Yes – yeah. [heh]. OK. Different world

Table 5 Transcript conventions
• Inserted colons indicate word stretching
• Square brackets used between lines, or bracketing two lines of talk, indicate the onset and end of overlapping talk
• Upward/downward pointing arrows indicate increase or decrease in intonation
• Underlining indicates emphasis
• Use of round brackets denotes unclear speech
• Heh or hah indicates laughter
• The use of the equals sign at the end of one and the onset of the next indicates no interval between utterances

Clearly in the typical situations where knowledge managers/consultants operate, it’s not always possible to record or remember the exact wording or inflections of a conversation of any length. But there will be spot-lit situations when discourse transcription and analysis will be valuable techniques.

In other circumstances a habit of discourse analysis on the fly will help us spot clues and achieve “ah-hah” moments about how the knowledge sharing environment is actually working!

(1) Crane, L. (2016). Knowledge and discourse matters: relocating knowledge management’s sphere of interest onto language. Wiley, pp. 198,288.

Dion Lindsay Consulting Ltd
New Knowledge Management Techniques
07540 659255
01604 686797
Email: dion@dionlindsayconsulting.com
Twitter: @dionl

How much management do Communities of Practice need?

Four years ago I helped a UK charity with a list of roles a Community of Practice (CoP) might need. They wanted it as part of planning a nationwide CoP network for scientific discovery, peer to peer learning and support.

But the list seems robust enough for other CoP contexts. What other roles have you noticed are needed in practice?

Obviously not every Community of Practice needs all the roles, less obviously some of them can be done by the same person. Least obviously perhaps – some of them definitely can’t!


Dion Lindsay Consulting Ltd

New Knowledge Management Techniques

07540 659255

01604 686797

Twitter: @dionl


Title Description





Often the most actively engaged members. Assume a leadership role by virtue of their interest and commitment, and may adopt an attitude of ownership because they are often the first to contribute and know their way round the CoP. May promote the role of the CoP in the general professional or business community



Community team leader


Coordinates processes of the CoP such as technical and set up support plus eg facilitator(s), moderators, synthesizers, and champions





With research or practical expertise in the area of the CoP.  May either hang back as a source of reference for discussions or engage and become leaders in a topic. In the latter case may need to be managed to ensure that all contributors have a say, and that conclusions are not rushed to unnecessarily.





Coordinates discussion and ensures the CoP’s purpose is adhered to. Helps with discussion and maintains a balanced perspective. Guides questions to experts or considers other support mechanisms (eg support documents)

Makes sure that discussions are within the rules of the CoP and resolves disputes in line with the rules and the published moderation process.

Watches out for jargon and helps the members avoid it or encourages them to explain it.

Encourages “inclusivity” – members often come from a wide range of backgrounds and levels of expertise. Ensures that respect is accorded to all.

May also act as liaison to sponsors and other stakeholders




Temporary members from outside the usual membership of the CoP, brought in to enlighten and enrich particular discussions

IT support


Designs web pages, enables or commissions maintenance and development, troubleshoots technical problems.





Takes overall responsibility for the CoP. Reports to and liaises with sponsors, and coordinates work on the design, maintenance and development of the CoP. In small CoPs, where roles are often doubled up, facilitator sometimes takes this role.





People of the same (properly) profession or craft, who seek and share knowledge with each other.


Membership manager


In larger CoPs monitors size, composition and effectiveness of membership. Where membership is restricted, approves new applications.





Overlapping role with facilitator. While facilitator is concerned with the overall health of the CoP and that its overall purpose is being furthered, the moderator(s) will pay particular attention to behaviour and relationships in individual discussions. May (rather uncommonly nowadays), approve all contributions before they are visible to all readers. A gentle sensitive approach is necessary so as not to kill discussions through over-regulation, while a rapid and firm though graduated response may be necessary to wayward styles and contributors





As alternative name of “lurkers” suggests, may be (unwisely) seen as passive valueless watchers. Not to be undervalued – often 80% and more of those who access the CoP, the dissemination of the learnings and ethos of the community may depend on them. While the right to “merely” read should be respected, a good CoP will enable and welcome contributors





To fund,  and demonstrate organisational/community support for the health of the CoP and the activity of its players, both formal and casual.




Helps produce longer term meaning from the discussions. Provides a sense of historical perspective – of the place of current discussions in the overall purpose and history of the CoP. Can synthesize and extract (k)nuggets of knowledge for allied content and to support collaborative processes