I first encountered legal knowledge management four years ago. I was fresh from the world of academia where I’d been a technology librarian for years, had zero legal experience, and had just been hired to lead my firm’s new knowledge management initiative. There was only one small problem.
I had no idea where to start.
Developing a KM program from scratch can seem a little daunting. Here are some suggestions on how to develop a successful program at your firm.
- Define what KM would mean at your firm.
KM is as varied as flavors of ice cream at the supermarket. The definition of KM differs depending on who you’re talking to and when you talk to them. In general, however, most KM programs tend to center on sharing, organizing, and managing institutional information. These programs typically include determining ways to ease access to information and sometimes cross into the outside world when institutional knowledge needs to be made available to an external party, such as a client. They often cross over with other departments, such as IT and the library.
Identifying the scope of the KM program will help you identify what skills you’re looking for, particularly if you’re looking to hire or convert a position to a KM position, and what projects you envision being a part of this initiative. It will also help provide guidance and focus for the person or people put in charge of leading this effort as well as give you talking points when discussing it with your firm’s executive team or management.
- Identify the issues KM would solve.
If it’s not broken, we’re not going to get the budget to fix it. Period. So, if you think your firm is ready for or needs a KM program, ask yourself what issues this program/person would solve. Maybe there are barriers getting to information or problematic processes that no one has time to resolve. Or perhaps there’s a lack of ownership between the firm’s technology and implementing it into the everyday workflows of the firm. Whatever the reason is, identifying the issue that this position or program would solve will help you justify why it’s important to the firm and how it can help long term.
- Determine whether or not the identified issues are actually fixable and worth fixing.
Some KM projects end up having little or no impact on our intended audience, or something that we think is a no-brainer falls flat when we talk about it to others. In order to avoid these situations, we have to determine whether or not the issue we’re trying to solve is actually worth fixing. Having critical conversations with both key project stakeholders and end users will help determine whether or not you’re trying to resolve a problem that is both fixable and worth fixing. Gathering relevant statistical data regarding the issue will also assist in identifying how widespread it is and what the potential impact of solving it could be.
Starting a KM program can be overwhelming; however, the payoff is worth it in the long run. KM stands in the unique position of solving business problems with real-world solutions and can bring about improved process and greater efficiency, leading to better overall client service.