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FreePint BlogKnowledge Management: Importance, Challenges and Prospects

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By Aileen Marshall


Aileen Marshall reviews recent FreePint articles on knowledge management and delves into them to find out current challenges, why technology doesn't always equal better team work, and what the opportunities are as KM expands to include an increasingly-social element.


“I don’t understand why collaboration within our team did not work!

 We have the technology, the programs!

We even set up a Google site for everyone to work on.

 In the end, there was more confusion than when we started to work on this.”

Sound familiar? Sounds like our little friend needs more than technology. He needs knowledge management (KM), an understanding of what KM is and why it is so important - as James Mullan highlights in his article "The Importance of Knowledge Management and KM roles".

Of equal importance is to recognise what KM is not

In today’s technology-driven work environments, remarks like the above are unfortunately all too common. With workplaces becoming more and more decentralised, with employees and team members scattered across different regions, it is tempting to assume that setting up a digital workspace (be it Google Sites, Google Docs, SharePoint, Wikis or other tools) will magically tie everything and everybody together, enhance collaboration and increase efficiency with a few single keystrokes. But, as Robin Neidorf points out in her article "Practical Business, Digital World", technologies oftentimes confuse users instead of helping them to solve their problems.

Unfortunately, the mere existence (and implementation) of technology and tools with collaborative features is not a guarantee for successful teamwork. And even if all your tools and workflows and models work well together, you still need to create or foster the desire to share information and collaborate. This is something that seems to be hardwired into the psyche of librarians and information professionals, but that is sometimes almost completely absent in the minds of other professionals. Robin Neidorf reflects on the benefits of opening dialogue and sharing experiences in her article "Open and Closed Cultures".   

Not only users encounter a learning curve though. Knowledge management professionals will have to learn as well: about business environments and workflows, KM tools and processes as well as the culture and nature of collaboration and the needs of employees. The article "How to Identify what Intranet Users Want" considers how administrators can understand the needs of their users. It explores a variety of tools and research techniques that will allow intranet managers to gather data by putting themselves “into their users’ shoes to […] develop and refine the intranet to better meet user needs”.

While traditional KM techniques have worked for many years, the field is starting to see a new trend: the use of social KM techniques. The article "The Inexorable Rise of Social Knowledge Management" explores why it is so important, and how employers and employees can be encouraged to use these tools to share information.

Knowledge management professionals need to be involved in "Stretching and Shaping the Knowledge Management Concept" and to be able to distinguish between different types of knowledge and information needs. We need to stay abreast of latest developments and sharpen our skills to be competitive and bring a high value to any organisation (Tim Buckley Owen, "Technology Talent + Softer Skills = Ideal Candidate?").

You and your organisation will need dedicated knowledge management professionals that will analyse your company’s workflows and processes, and come up with solutions that enable you to collaborate in a way that works for you and your team.

FreePint Subscribers can log in and download the FreePint Report: Knowledge Management now.


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Aileen is a Knowledge Management Analyst, supporting the USAID Knowledge Services Center. She holds a MA in English Linguistics from the Westfaelische Wilhelms-University (Muenster, Germany), and received her MLIS from the University of South Carolina in 2011.

She worked in federal, public, and correctional libraries. In 2013, she serves as Chair for the SLA Government Information Division, Secretary for the Transportation Division, and DC Chapter Membership Chair. She is passionate about advocating for librarians working as intelligence analysts and has a special interest in intelligence in transportation. Aileen lives with her American Staffordshire Terrier, cat and water turtles in Montgomery County. She can be reached at

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