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Enterprise knowledge management: we’re all in the entertainment industry now


We had a Eureka moment in our team recently. While organizing the content for our current service desk program, we started thinking about how Knowledge Management (KM) has been on the wrong track – driven too much by organizing the “supply” of knowledge, and not thinking enough about “demand.” We’ve ended up with knowledge “landfill,” rather than knowledge that’s still valued and easy to discover.

We could learn a lot from the entertainment industry, which has evolved from the traditional approach of broadcasters like Turner, who bought up big back catalogs of existing content, to the dynamic model of online providers like Amazon Video, who create, organize, and refresh their content based on the demands of their members.

Ripe for a rethink?

While there is definitely growing corporate support for KM initiatives (it has risen in the last year from 25% to 33%), progress remains slow. Many proponents say that “knowledge sharing is not integrated into daily work, and data or information is inaccessible across enterprises within silos.

So, what can we learn from the online content providers to bring KM more in line with user needs and prevent the knowledge landfill? I think there are two key areas of change.

Lesson 1: Anticipate need

This all comes down to data. Amazon has huge volumes of data on its customers and understands their preferences across different categories. It weaves this together to present relevant content suggestions and anticipate what else might be of interest.

For example, it might detect a person’s interest in Egyptian history based on a recent book purchase, and then serve up a relevant documentary or independent film on the same topic. If there’s a surge of popular interest in that period, it might even commission a pilot for a new fictional drama – and then quickly ramp up production to release a full series if there’s sufficient demand.

Knowledge management has the potential to be more audience-centric and responsive like this, with artificial intelligence playing a key role. Future KM systems should recognize and understand what people are asking for, and then actively critique, improve, and add to the content available to meet that demand. They should also analyze why that demand exists, so it can develop training support or re-engineer business processes accordingly.

Lesson 2: Interact better

Online content-streaming services like Amazon and Netflix have become masters of the user-friendly interface. They don’t just understand the type of content we want, they make it easy for us to engage with it. When a new suggestion pops up, we can instantly click to play it or save it for later. It’s also simple to leave a quick rating or a review, which will feed into future recommendations.

We’re seeing elements of this in the enterprise already, with HR chatbots and virtual agents that let us book holidays and carry out basic tasks. But there’s scope to go much further.

In addition to friendlier Google-like search options, the KM systems of the future will return knowledge in smarter and more intuitive ways. They won’t just passively pull up a PowerPoint that matches a keyword search or draw down passages from Wikipedia – they’ll make knowledge as relevant as possible. They’ll learn every time a question is asked to improve future responses, and use machine learning to understand the context of the request, so they can offer up additional knowledge.

It comes back to the five senses

If we look back to the Five Senses of AI, I believe the next generation of knowledge management systems will need to combine all five attributes:

  • Analyze – spotting key trends and patterns, so you can predict demand
  • Know – having back-end processes to capture and access the required content
  • Interact – front-end interfaces that allow people to use knowledge without frustration
  • Monitor – track internal and external activity and sources to enrich the knowledge base
  • Act – respond to the above by deleting, updating and commissioning knowledge content.

Reflecting on the advances made by its online video streaming service, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said that “we’re in a golden age of television.” Perhaps we can soon look forward to a golden age of knowledge too.