Fads vs Business Value: Knowledge Management & Enterprise 2.0

Fads vs Business Value: Knowledge Management & Enterprise 2.0

Summary: Anyone with a computer and access to stock photos can put together a slide presentation and upload it to sites such as slideshare, and sometimes it seems like everyone and his brother is doing just that on social media, enterprise 2.0 and other 2.


Anyone with a computer and access to stock photos can put together a slide presentation and upload it to sites such as slideshare, and sometimes it seems like everyone and his brother is doing just that on social media, enterprise 2.0 and other 2.0-ish subjects.

The sheer volume of instructionally toned sets of slides,  earnestly explaining to the world how to change the world reminds me of similar proselytizing ten years ago at the height of the Knowledge Management movement.

Back then the shiny new idea was that we could share knowledge as never before thanks to the web, and a whole enterprise industry sprung up around 'elearning' with 'learning management systems' being touted as the cost effective educational source for businesses to enlighten and track employee's intellectual sophistication.

If the learning management system was the medium, knowledge management consultants and elearning course content providers would provide the brain training.

The systems were financially attractive to cost effectively provide and track confirmation that every employee had taken sexual harassment training while on boarding. If an employee made unwelcome advances in an elevator the recipient couldn't sue their employer because the legal responsibility was clearly on the individual, as had been clearly defined and complied with in their AB 1825 anti harassment training.

This basic business value which often bought the servers and software was a mere sideshow to the KM crowd however, with much excitement about synchronous and asynchronous learning,  formalizing organizational objectives for improving performance, competitive advantage, innovation, the sharing of lessons learned and striving for continuous improvement of the organization.

Top down information and knowledge propagation with no less a target than total business transformation was the goal, and much excitement ensued.

The debate got more and more heated, and sophisticated CD Roms were created to evangelize the innovative ideas of competing camps. Visionary thinkers expounded on how to improve the business world at conferences and in tiny Quicktime multimedia movies on CD's, companies started internal 'universities' ...and then the dot com bust happened.

The deflation of the bubble also took a lot of the wind out of KM's sails (and sales) and some serious soul searching ensued. The Enterprise eLearning world ploughed on, renaming their (primarily hosted offline in that era) infrastructure 'Human Capital Management', which allowed trainers to deploy elearning courses to employees and book training rooms in the scaled back 'university' facilities, but there was little call for the KM philosophers.

Ten years later we have a not dissimilar to the e-prefix era frothy 2.0 suffix debate about revolutionizing business and changing the old order. The terrific new features of Keynote and Powerpoint make putting together a snappy set of slides with some visual cues and connections along with some instructional text extremely easy.

The problem with easy is that suddenly the world gets flooded with copycat versions of the same content. Originality is always in short supply but copycats never are, whatever the field...

Like the vast amount of blogs, there's now a glut of content online with mostly nothing new to say (with honorable exceptions of course) on the topic of using web 2.0 technologies in business, the wonder of Twitter and on and on, in slide format. It's far from clear who most of this material is aimed at - like the CD Roms ten years ago not many people actually look at this stuff unless there's a compelling reason to.

The facts are very simple: in the case of business, regardless of what you're selling, utility, relevance, context and most importantly value is paramount. Whether you're an ivory tower academic, consultant, software vendor or copy toner salesman you'd better have something of value to peddle when you ring the doorbell.

You may have a nice looking deck of slides with fashionable images but you're not going to get far evangelizing second or fifth hand unfocused ideas - this is how movements turn into fads. In my opinion the Knowledge Management world is still arguing amongst themselves about what they represent and offer ten years later...and I'm sure someone from that world would appreciate fifteen minutes to take you through some slides.

Meanwhile someone somewhere is watching a ten year old sexual harassment training course as part of their HR requirements....

Topics: Enterprise Software, CXO, Data Centers, Software, IT Employment


Oliver Marks & Associates provides seasoned, technology agnostic independent consulting guidance to companies on effective Digital Enterprise Transformation business strategy, tactics, infrastructure & technology decisions, roll out and enduring use models and management.

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  • Just put it all in one place

    Just put it all in one place - I don't need
    something like a dozen social networking feeds.
    For crying out loud - what was wrong with email