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Covering the intangibles in a KM initiative

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1 Author(s)
Poage, J.L. ; JLP Performance Consulting, Harvard Univ., USA

When we design the way work gets done in an organization, we often speak in terms of people, processes, and technology. In the KM area, the term intangibles refers to aspects that are not well defined or are outside the realm of technology; these likely include people and process issues. KM intangibles include such factors as a reward structure and organizational culture that encourage knowledge sharing; a system's compatibility with the employees' way of working and with the organization's processes; employees' feeling they have control over their work; the amount of effort it takes employees to enter, update, and retrieve content; and the complexity of using the technology (D. Cohen and L. Prusak, In Good Company: How Social Capital Makes Organizations Work, Harvard Business School Press, 2001). In designing products, engineers and computer scientists often deal with intangibles to some extent. User interface is often part of design, for instance, and designers draw upon disciplines dealing with intangibles - such as human factors and ergonomics. Gathering requirements from users often reveals what content they desire and how it should be presented. But the traditional design of technology applications typically doesn't cover motivation for use and for collaboration across parts of an organization - factors critical to the success of a KM initiative. Dealing with the KM (knowledge management) intangibles means actually getting knowledge shared and used. This article discusses the role of intangibles in KM initiatives, describes some specific intangibles, and presents some techniques for identifying and dealing with intangibles. Because IT Pro's readers come primarily from computer and engineering disciplines, this article will draw similarities between the techniques presented to design for intangibles and approaches used in engineering and IT. Addressing intangibles can be part of a more robust requirements phase that makes intangible requirements part of the design along with technology requirements.

Published in:

IT Professional  (Volume:5 ,  Issue: 6 )