During my time in the technology industry there is one thing that always strikes me. That is that some of the most challenging projects became so not because of the new requirements, but because of what was already there. Often people didn’t understand it properly.

This isn’t to say that the new requirements didn’t present their own set of demands and challenges. No one would suggest otherwise. It’s simply that projects run the risk of being blighted by inertia due to the presence of existing systems, processes and procedures that people just never seem to know enough about.  Even if some knowledge does exist, do people have the confidence to make decisions based on it? How do we estimate work or even just explain the work coherently?   This leads to a sort of nervousness where people are uneasy about initiating any kind of change. In turn people get distracted from the important business of the day – the new requirements, adding value, and the ‘better state’ that we are supposedly here to deliver.

And lets not forget that all this makes technology people look as though they are not on top of the job.

The fact that I frequently encounter all of this and have done over a long period might just be coincidence, of course?

Unlikely. And if it isn’t just coincidence, or ‘one of those things’ what are we to make of it?

I do firmly believe in the importance of having a culture of knowledge management in place.  Some time ago I devised a new way of creating a body of knowledge for each application, but creating and managing this in such a way that it can underpin the day-to-day user activities, joining up with the service desk who log helpdesk calls, help educate new developers unfamiliar with the application, and give analysts a ‘jump start’ to be more productive on new work.  It would draw the different communities together. Without this, we are missing out on significant efficiency savings.

I did a presentation on all of this. A colleague stopped me afterwards and said “You looked very Al Gore today Mike!”.  This was, I was assured, a compliment – I supposedly look like Al Gore.  And anyway, Inconvenient Truth was out at the time.

Maybe there is another aspect though:  Knowledge management does entail hard work, cultural change, new thinking, and a certain amount of “banging on” at every opportunity, but I still think it’s the right thing to do.  So maybe Knowledge Management is the ‘Global Warming’ of Technology.  An issue we know we need to address, but not always easy to get everyone on board with.