The changing face of Knowledge Management teams

In a recent blog post, InfoDesk commented on the changing face of Library teams across the industry. Here we take a deeper look into what’s causing these changes, whether they’re for better or worse, and what to expect moving forward into the future.

It has been noted that, what was once the ‘traditional’ Library team, has become something less tangible. Previously, mid-to-large organizations would have had dedicated and sizeable Library teams. Today, they are much more likely to rely on an individual or small team, tasked with managing the entirety of an organization’s information supervision.

This blog identifies the causative factors, largely responsible for these changes as; technology innovations in knowledge management, changing business demands, and the challenge for Library teams to articulate their value within their organizations.

Technology innovations

It would be a challenge to find an industry that hasn’t been affected by technology innovations in the last few decades. However, corporate libraries have undergone particularly significant changes in recent years and these advances don’t look as if they’ll slow down anytime soon.

Now, we could dedicate a whole article to identifying the specific innovations that are causing these changes, but for the purpose of this blog, we’ll focus on the two that have been (or will be) most impactful.

1) Search

This simple (in concept) innovation is one of the most significant in the world of information management. Consider this – a librarian was once the closest thing an organization had to any form of a search engine; this is no longer true, by any stretch of the imagination. Nowadays, even a relative layman can source information relevant to his or her work activities by utilizing a search engine (aka ‘Googling it’).

The widespread use of search engines has its own problems, however. Where once an internal Library team would research, source and vet only the most accurate and relevant information, the modern search engine relies solely on keywords inputted by the users, and complicated algorithms known to only those who wrote them.

But ‘search’ doesn’t stop at the engines. With the prevalence of internal and third-party knowledge management platforms, search has become a function of most organizations’ day-to-day workflow. Now, knowledge workers have the ability to independently search their organization’s repositories for the information they think they need to know.

2) Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Cognitive Computing

AI is on most lips when it comes to potentially disruptive technology changes in modern organizations. This is just as true in the knowledge management field, and its introduction has already resulted in considerable changes. Its ability to filter, screen and draw insights from information is increasingly enticing in this environment of information overload.

With the amount of information ‘skyrocketing’, AI is capable of filtering out the noise and distilling the information to its most critical values. Yet, what AI has achieved in quantity it is unable to recreate in quality.

Human expertize still trumps algorithms when it comes to drawing actionable insights that are relevant and successful within an organization. A knowledge worker specializes in understanding your business and its strategic objectives in relation to the ever-changing industry environment. While AI can refocus their role to be more concerned with drawing the insights from a refined pool of information, it cannot replace their capacity or expertize.

Changing business demands

Though perhaps a less dramatic paradigm shift than that caused by technology, the changing demands of organizations and increasing specialization of business units have also played a part in the changing face of Knowledge teams.

With the increase in information availability and growing need for organizations to become data-driven, Knowledge teams have begun to become more granular in their responsibilities. The idea that the prevalence of the Knowledge Management team is diminishing seems to be an illusion; the traditional perception of them may have altered but, if anything, their expertize has never been more crucial.

Articulating benefits

If there is one thing that Knowledge Management teams could be faulted for, it would be their inadequacy in articulating their tangible benefit to their organizations. Yes, because of technological innovations and the changing business-sphere, demands on these teams have changed. But this does not diminish their value, nor importance.

While Google and other search capabilities may have normalized the Library team’s ability to source and consolidate information, they cannot compete with the expertize and familiarity of an internal knowledge professional.

Your librarian, Competitive Intelligence team or Business Information group know your organization. They can define the current research environment to correlate with business goals and strategic objectives. This is critical in a world where information is becoming more disparate and its availability is growing exponentially. To have an internal resource with the capacity to identify the insights most relevant to your organization is invaluable.

Conclusion

It’s clear the traditional face of knowledge management is changing. This does not, however, mean that the importance of these roles is changing, nor diminishing.

Are these changes for better or worse? Innovation is generally for the best, and in a world where information is becoming so widespread that we cannot stay on top of it, technology that can lighten this burden cannot be a bad thing. It frees the knowledge workers to focus less on the sourcing of information and more on drawing the actionable insights critical to their organizations.

Knowledge Management teams will always be a critical asset for any organization. Their roles might change and their challenges might look different, but their ability to draw insights and guide organizations in their overarching strategies will ensure that they remain at the fore of an organization’s competitive advantage as they progress into the future.