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Chapter 9 Developing an Effective Knowledge Service

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1 Chapter 9 Developing an Effective Knowledge Service

2 Introduction In many knowledge communities, the philosophy and expectations of knowledge management are not achieved in practice This session explores the use of a knowledge service as a major strategy to create a strong support for knowledge management across the organizational community Knowledge services provide an integrated and strategic approach to supporting knowledge growth and development Introduction, page 222 In many knowledge communities the philosophy and expectations of knowledge management are not achieved in practice. A critical element in stimulating a knowledge community relates to building a strong knowledge culture. This generally requires some strong support and ongoing nurturing to build a strong cohort of committed professionals across the organisation. This session therefore explores the use of a knowledge service as a major strategy to create a strong support for knowledge management across the organisational community. It examines the various approaches which might be taken, and considers the implications of these strategies. It is suggested that the development of a knowledge service is an essential element of the knowledge strategy, and should be seen as the mechanism by which principle can become core practice. Knowledge services provide an integrated and strategic approach to supporting knowledge growth and development. In particular, they are invaluable in supporting each user, and in stimulating a grater understanding of the knowledge agenda.

3 Knowledge Services (1/4)
Support knowledge users and contributors Encourage knowledge sharing and best practices Encompass professional, social and technical services Accommodate labor intensive, customer orientated processes and self-managed technical solutions LO1, page 222 An effective knowledge service provides support to the various knowledge users and contributors across the organisation. It encourages knowledge sharing and better knowledge practices. Knowledge services encompass professional, social and technical services provided to members of the knowledge community. Professional and social support services are highly labour intensive, requiring extensive user-interaction and customisation, while technical support aims to create self-managed, low customisation approaches This session examines the professional and social capital service component, while the next will explore the ways in which the individual can be supported.

4 Knowledge Services (2/4)
Features Customers Simultaneous support to the user Perishability Customization Service mix is an important consideration Pages 222 – 223. The knowledge service operations has a number of features which are common to other services. An understanding of these helps to clarify some of the challenges posed when working in a service capacity. First, they rely on customers, who choose to participate based on their judgement of the service and its benefits. Services are simultaneous, that is, they are responsive to the customer at point of need. In other words, they cannot be pre-prepared and stored. This is both a strength and a weakness. It is a strength, in that it enables customisation to support the user. It is a weakness in that it is relies on available capacity to perform the service when required. If there is high demand the capacity to provide an effective service is greatly diminished if there are insufficient service staff. Perishability is another service feature. If knowledge service support staff are not effectively employed, they are wasted resources. Customisation stems from the recognition that customers are not homogenous: they have different needs, backgrounds and motivations which must be accommodated. The service therefore needs to be flexible enough to accommodate these requirements, and to link the overall support to the expectations of the individual or unit within the organisation. A knowledge service needs to fully employ its staff, and should consider developing a service mix which ensures full staff engagement at any time; for example, staff roles may incorporate some ongoing project activities as well as service support to customers.

5 Knowledge Services (3/4)
Functions Promotes/publicizes the benefits, examples and outcomes of desirable knowledge practices Facilitates knowledge management across the community Enables common understandings Supports communities of practice Monitors and responds to new issues/needs Page 223. The service, as a broader agency, can promote and publicise the benefits, examples and outcomes of desirable knowledge practices evident within the organisation. This is an important mechanism for building an effective knowledge culture. It can: demonstrate the benefit of both capturing and disseminating knowledge; highlight how knowledge has been applied and contributed to the organisational outcomes; feature key knowledge models and champions to provide exemplars of good practice; and share strategies which have applications elsewhere. By operating outside hierarchical or vertical structures the knowledge service can strongly facilitate knowledge management. The dissemination of knowledge practice and common cultural perspectives enables common understandings to develop across the community. encourage interaction by providing a range of informal and formal avenues to stimulate networking and communities of practice. It operates as a flexible and adaptable utility, which reflects and responds to new needs and issues.

6 Knowledge Services (4/4)
Philosophy User-focused High quality outcomes which reflect the user expectations Range of services that facilitate knowledge management across the community Reliable, dependable and credible Responsive and willing Professional Page 223 – 224 There are a number of philosophical principles which underpin a knowledge service. They ensure the service remains relevant and useful to the organisation. Some of these principles include: The knowledge service is strongly user-focused. Its support of organisational strategy needs to be melded with customer requirements. The service is based around a range of explicit and implicit services which are available to users. These need to provide a good quality outcome for those who employ them. It should provide high quality outcomes which reflect the user expectations. Effective and functional systems should address user needs. The knowledge customers are active partners in determining the service requirements. The service is highly dependent on user demand, and needs to recognise this in its activities and focus. Provides a range of services which facilitate knowledge management across the community. The knowledge service needs to establish effective relationships with each knowledge user and unit. Customers have high expectations of any service. In the case of knowledge services, they will anticipate access to people who know their business and who have a strong grasp of the wider knowledge context. The service should be reliable, dependable and credible. Knowledge service staff should be experienced, knowledgeable and very effective in dealing with their wider community. they should ensure promised services are provided to a high quality. As part of its function, the knowledge service should ensure the risks associated with knowledge loss are minimised. There should be evidence of strong responsiveness and willingness to support the customer in appropriate ways. Customers need to be assured that their concerns and needs are important. This assurance is critical if high trust is to be nurtured. Knowledge service workers need to understand and relate to their customers, ensuring that they have been courteously and sympathetically treated. The presentation of the service needs to be very professional. The appearance of the employees, the quality of documentation and verbal presentations, preparation for meetings and other interactions all need to be handled with a high degree of professionalism.

7 Major features of effective knowledge services
Page 224. As the figure shows, there are a range of service elements which will help to build the knowledge community. while each service will design its own suite of services which reflect eh user expectations, some common elements include Evaluation / analysis and reporting Knowledge management system development Communication across the community regarding knowledge management initiatives Relationship building with and across members of the knowledge community Enabling opportunities to assist members of the knowledge community to develop enhanced knowledge strategies. The provision of facilities, promotional events and community development initiatives to stimulate wider engagement with the knowledge agenda. Consulting to individual units or individuals to provide customised support on particular knowledge strategies or issues. Competency development to support the ongoing development of new and better knowledge management strategies. As KM Viewpoint 9.1 (page 225 – 6) illustrates, there has been considerable concern about the ways in which knowledge management is embedded within the community. The limited integration of effective knowledge services in many communities has been one of the likely causes of reduced success. Few organisations would contemplate introducing a new finance or human resource system without a cohesive and well planned service agency supporting it. Given the wider and more profound implications of knowledge management, the need for a knowledge service is even more critical.

8 Knowledge Service Contributors (1/2)
LO2, page 226 There are SIX main service roles which support knowledge management: The CKO provides strategic leadership for knowledge management and builds significant political alliances to facilitate knowledge sponsorship. Knowledge analysts identify knowledge practices and trends. Knowledge engineers and technical support officers support the KMS and its usage. Knowledge managers coordinate the knowledge management implementation. Knowledge stewards operate locally as knowledge champions and enablers. Knowledge facilitators work across the entire community to encourage the development of the community, knowledge workers and culture. They provide an important service in boundary spanning across local groups to encourage wider interaction. As the figure illustrates, the knowledge service influences the community in three ways. First, it builds community by encouraging a strong and vibrant knowledge culture, knowledge leadership and the growth of user capabilities. The service also ensures the knowledge environment operates as an effective system and integrates well with the knowledge context and organisational priorities from the core business. Second, it creates an effective knowledge environment by managing and promoting the knowledge systems to users and monitoring the knowledge context and organisational priorities. It also develops and maintains the organisation's knowledge applications, including the KMS. Finally, the knowledge service provides a range of facilitative strategies to encourage knowledge adoption and also seeks to develop the most effective strategies to support users in that setting. It encourages organisational change to provide better structural support for knowledge management and enables user and organisational development. It also promotes, markets and evaluates the service while seeking to build relationships with potential champions, advocates and supporters.

9 Knowledge Service Contributors (2/2)
Service activities Encourage social interaction Identify and nurture community knowledge potential and talent Leadership support and development Organizational development Capacity building Promote and stimulate the social dimension of knowledge management Pages 229 – 230. One of the roles noted in the last slide was knowledge facilitator. This role has been little recognised for its importance in building a social setting and encouraging adoption of the knowledge management concept and practices. Facilitators are normally quite empathetic people who relate well to others. They provide the support and guidance necessary to change organisational practices and structures. Their roles are critical to the success of the knowledge strategy, as they are the main means of building of a knowledge community which is functional, effective and highly engaged with the concept and practice of knowledge management. Facilitators assist with building social knowledge communities. The encouragement of social interaction is important: when people meet, they start to identify synergistic work and research interests. This can stimulate ongoing collaboration and promote the use of the repository services. The knowledge service facilitators are also ideal boundary spanners who learn about the talent and potential which resides across the knowledge community. they can support and nurture those individuals and encourage their consideration of the knowledge strategy as a means of enhancing their contribution to the organization. These facilitators also support communities of practice and can stimulate electronic communication strategies, such as online chats. They become the brokers for these groups, ensuring the practice is Leadership support and development can be part of the knowledge service. Coaching, development programmes, published guides, case studies of successful leaders are some options. This may include facilitated discussions about affective and behavioural experiences of knowledge leadership. These facilitated debriefings can be very important in guiding both learning and constructive development of sharing/communication processes. Organisational development benefits from the knowledge services’ capacity to operate across the wider organisational community. The knowledge facilitators can monitor progress on achieving the desired knowledge outcomes, and identify emerging issues. The service can also act as the reporting agency to the Executive, so that the knowledge strategy is analysed, reviewed and further supported. Capacity building refers to the development of employees who are capable of meeting the demands their workplace must address. The knowledge service can play a large role in educating the organisational community at large as to new techniques and services which are beneficial. This is further addressed next session. Overall, organisations need to place much greater importance on the promoting and stimulation of the social dimensions of knowledge management. The knowledge service has the potential to fulfil this role, particularly if skilled facilitators are employed in the service.

10 Models of Service Provision (1/4)
Centralized or devolved Ensure awareness of the knowledge community and its activities Monitor issues from local subgroups Dissemination of central policies and strategies to local units, individuals and networks LO3, page 230 Many organisational service units grapple with the challenges relating to whether they should be centralised or devolved to local organisational groups. In many organisations, various permutations will be tested, implemented and then reviewed and changed. Whatever the model, there are three main functions a knowledge service should achieve: Ensure awareness of the knowledge community and its activities Monitor issues from local subgroups Dissemination of central policies and strategies to local units, individuals and networks. Different models may generate a different balance across these functions. This needs to be recognised when considering the relative models of each. The next three slides explore the relative merits or issues attached to three models: centralised, local or blended.

11 Models of Service Provision (2/4)
The centralized service Work outwards into the community Contributes to strong dissemination of the knowledge management strategy Monitors knowledge implementation Assists peer collaboration, leadership interchange Provides a range of community building tools Builds a knowledge presence Page 230 Centralised services are normally placed within the central management area of an organisation. A centralised knowledge service therefore works out from that location to interact with the wider organisational community. It supports a number of important functions, particularly Contributing to strong dissemination of the knowledge management strategy Monitoring knowledge implementation Assisting peer collaboration and leadership interchange and Providing a range of community building tools. A centralised knowledge service can build a significant knowledge presence through the widespread communication of knowledge priorities, good practice and interchange. It provides a holistic perspective. However, it can face the danger of being too separate from real practice. Members of the knowledge service must maintain a strong awareness of issues arising in the

12 Models of Service Provision (3/4)
The local service Members are integral to the business of the local unit Stakeholders are regularly interacting with the knowledge service Can isolate the knowledge service from the overall corporate strategy Potentially reduced influence, reach and capacity to collaborate with other units Page 230 – 231. In a locally managed knowledge service unit, members are integral to that local community. they work closely with their members, know the business, know the stakeholders and can support the knowledge focus and activities in a very supportive and intensive manner. They may be isolated from the overall corporate strategy and evolving knowledge agenda. This can be very dangerous, as the local community may veer away from the corporate directions. Politically, a local unit may also have lessened influence, sponsorship, reach and capacity to collaborate with other units. They could become resistant to other change options. While offering a local community support strategy which can be enormously powerful, they can also be limited by their locality. The third option combines the strength of these two models.

13 Models of Service Provision (4/4)
The blended service Central + local Visible and encompassing knowledge service Hands-on responsive local service Higher investment, higher return Requires significant management of interactions to maintain connectedness and common understanding Page 231. The blended service is a combination of both central and local. It offers a visible and encompassing knowledge service along with a hands-on responsive local service. In many ways, this is the optimal approach for a knowledge community as it builds in strong support at both strategic and operational levels. However, while providing higher returns in terms of practice and adoption of the knowledge agenda, it also requires higher investment. The success of a blended service depends on the management of the interaction and communication between the two service levels. Connectedness and common understanding must be generated. Some useful strategies include regular meetings with all representatives, planning sessions which identify common goals and directions to be enacted, two-way sharing of information and new ideas across the two layers, and strong leadership of the overall team.

14 Knowledge Service Staff (1/2)
Confidentiality Individuals, groups, systemic support Systems versus human factors Knowledge of service priorities and goals Ongoing communication with colleagues Sharing of effective strategies LO4, pages Knowledge service workers will see many things as they work with their communities. They need to operate as confidantes who are trusted by their clients, so that they can support the ongoing growth of their members. Confidentiality is an important aspect of the knowledge worker role. Services need to identify how they can best operate. Should the service, for example, focus on individuals, groups, systemic support or a combination of these? Should different members offer different levels of support to those elements? These expectations need to be clarified, as it greatly alters the role and strategies which should be undertaken. A challenge for a knowledge service is the correct balance between building effective systems and encouraging committed community members. The systems must be regarded as a tool to support the community. without a knowledge community, there will be no need for a system to support it! The knowledge service plays a major part in stimulating that community. Knowledge service members need to work from three broad methods. First, they need to have a good understanding of the knowledge service priorities and goals, so that these can be reflected in their practices. Second, they need to ensure ongoing communication with their knowledge service colleagues. This is important fro two reasons: it encourages cohesive approaches to the knowledge service development and also models the collaborative behaviour which should be promoted across the wider community. Third, the knowledge service should ensure effective strategies are shared across its members so that good practices can be applied more widely. This is a very important set of principles that can greatly enhance the credibility of the knowledge service and its members.

15 Knowledge Service Staff (2/2)
Knowledge service competencies: Familiarity with knowledge technologies Organizational development Project management Consultancy expertise Interpersonal skills Analytical and conceptual skills Management and leadership skills Page 232. The skills a knowledge service worker requires are quite broad. They encompass many different elements of building a knowledge service. The list on this screen reflects the diversity of expectations that a knowledge service staff member may be asked to undertake. These broad headings encompass a number of competencies. For example, Familiarity with knowledge technologies In general, knowledge service employees will need an understanding of the KMS and its components, so that users can be provided with general guidance when they have a query. More detailed queries which would require a detailed and specialised knowledge would be more the realm of the technical staff member. Organisational development Organisational development is a specialist field of management which recognises the complexities of changing organisational structures, cultures and expectations. It requires a capacity to undertake organisational research and analysis, interact with many different people, identify and negotiate suitable solutions and support the implementation of agreed change. The knowledge service will be strongly engaged in this process as it encourages communities of practice and the embedding of knowledge management practice. Project management, Will be likely to be undertaken as part of the OD role. Project management encourages a planned and methodical approach to change so that all the necessary tasks and contingencies are well managed. Chapter 4 reviewed a number of project management processes when it explored the process of building a consultative change process. Consultancy expertise Many knowledge service members act as consultants to their communities. They meet with individual members, analyse issues, diagnose a solution and work with those members to develop a sound strategy. This is another role which requires quite advanced skills. Interpersonal skills Similarly, a knowledge service member will need to be highly capable in terms of interpersonal skills. Communication, listening, written and verbal presentations, and empathy with other people will be critical. The member must be someone with whom others feel comfortable sharing and working. Analytical and conceptual skills There will be many challenging problems across the community. the knowledge service worker will need to demonstrate high level analytical and conceptual skills to develop creative and responsive solutions to problems. Ongoing evaluation and innovation within the service will also be necessary. Management and leadership skills Finally, they will need to demonstrate sound management and leadership skills which reflect eh knowledge community in which they operate. The skills noted in chapter 3 will be important for these members.

16 Funding and Promoting the Knowledge Service
Free service Fee for service Service level agreements LO5, page 233 – 234. It has been noted several times that the knowledge service can be costly in terms of initial and ongoing investment. While this cost is well justified in terms of its overall influence on organisational practice, the funding of the service can be undertaken in different ways. A free service model is one where the organisation funds the service and encourages all users to access it. It can generate high demand as users build trust, partnerships and reliance on the service. I It has the capacity to explore new issues, and to integrate creativity, innovation and responsiveness into its ongoing processes. The service can also act as needed to address issues which are emerging, and potentially, to work with groups which are evidently having difficulty – often before they themselves are aware of the emerging challenges. However, success breeds increased demand which must be funded. The degree to which the overall knowledge strategy is seen as integral, and the ways in which the knowledge agenda is visibly linked to the knowledge service, will be critical in gaining funding support. Fee-for-service units are funded by those who use the service. The service responds to requests for assistance, and may be limited in the way it can operate proactively. Unfortunately, those who are less capable of paying the fee will be unlikely to seek help. Opportunities to promote and stimulate new trends and strategies become less feasible, as there may be a lack of available sponsors to fund those processes. This model is less viable for a knowledge service where long-term benefits and cultural change are major elements of the service outcomes. While free services are important, they can lead to disproportionate use by different clients. An alternative model is service level agreements, where each major knowledge client is provided with an outline of the level and quantity of service which will be provided free. If the demand exceeds that quota, a fee will be charged. In some instances, the free service relates to the basic services which may operate, with more demanding and intensive services (such as local consultancies over a period of time) operating as fee for service. A problem experienced with some service level agreements is that the units all request their ‘quota’ be met at the end of the designated period. This places enormous pressure on the knowledge service workers.

17 Supporting the Organization
Evaluative focus Benchmarking and external review Promulgate discussion/debate Clarify core knowledge competencies Promote knowledge concepts, culture and value Encourage knowledge enterprise, communities and engagement LO6, pages 234. The knowledge service needs to operate in a proactive manner, identifying emerging issues and encouraging debate and discussion on these so that the community continues to evolve in a dynamic manner. This slide reflects some of the ways in which that proactive role might be reflected. It can be seen that these roles are highly influential in shaping the knowledge community. They will encourage the organisational members to reflect and engage with ongoing change. This level of influence is most important if the knowledge service is to be engaged in the systemic change processes which will be necessary. Professional credibility is based on the quality of these contributions, and the use of evidence-based practice which reflects a knowledge of the organisational strategy and the trends across the wider community.

18 Knowledge service levels
ORGANIZATIONAL COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE OPERATIONAL UNITS INDIVIDUALS Knowledge service focus Figure 9.3, page 235. This figure illustrates the different organisational levels which are supported by the knowledge service. Each level requires different forms of support, reflecting their respective needs. We will explore each of these separately.

19 Evaluating the Effectiveness of the Knowledge Service
Efficiency Effectiveness User satisfaction surveys Benchmarking Qualitative reviews LO10, pages 238 – 239. The knowledge service should operate both efficiently and effectively. Efficiency relates to how much work is processed through the service in a given time, while effectiveness relates to the quality of the process or product which is provided. There are a number of ways in which the service can assess its performance on these two measures. The level of demand for the service is one measure, as it indicates ongoing user satisfaction with the support provided. This can be measured in terms of inputs, that is, the actual demand for support such as user service requests or the number of events and services which have been provided. User satisfaction through regular sampling of clients via telephone interviews, surveys or follow-up meetings can be undertaken. One strategy that has been widely applied is the use of the SERVQUAL instrument, which explores the service from five perspectives: reliability, responsiveness, quality assurance, empathy, and tangible outcomes. The service might also benchmark its activities against comparable businesses, to determine how well it operates compared with similar entities. This will be increasingly possible as time progresses and more stable indicators are established. Many services therefore seek to document their success and impact using qualitative approaches, in which examples of improved practice and perceived benefits can be extracted and categorised. While this approach provides some measurable evidence of outcomes it can be very hard to clearly link performance to the knowledge service specifically. We will examine the issues of evaluation in week 11.

20 Concluding Points A formally constructed knowledge service can be a significant influence across the knowledge community While the structure and funding arrangements may vary, the underlying focus on supporting the organization, operational units, communities of practice and individuals is a core focus Efficiency and effectiveness are important As this slide notes, the knowledge service is a key factor in building an effective and highly integrated knowledge managed enterprise. In order to strongly influence the organisation, the knowledge service needs to be formally constructed. While it can operate as either a central, local or blended unit, and be funded centrally or through fees for service, it needs to support the four levels of organisational activity: organisation, operational units, communities of practice and individuals. In developing a knowledge service, the need to build an effective and efficient service must be considered. The credibility of the service plays a large part in cultivating the knowledge community.

21 Today’s focus questions:
How does a knowledge service work? Do organizations really need a knowledge service? If firms do develop knowledge services, how might that impact on other organizational activities? Lecture reference: Debowski, Chapter 9 Knowledge services provide a guiding focus for the organisation so that all levels of the community receive the support they need to engage with the knowledge agenda. It comprises a number of different roles, some technical, some managerial, and others with a strong community engagement focus. While the service is little recognized, it plays a very major role in creating the environment and facilitating activities which will enable knowledge to be shared and applied in different ways. It empowers users and supports their growth and development. It also promotes the knowledge activities very strongly and broadly. If introduced, the ways in which the service operates across and with other service areas will need to be considered. The links to IT, Human resources, library and other central agencies will need to be reviewed, along with the structural ways in which it sits across the community.

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