Knowledge Curation 2019 Trends

   If you follow the news and keep up with blogs and articles, you know that "automation" and "AI" are the Knowledge Curation buzzwords of the hour. Vendors and experts alike tout the benefits of auto­mating routine knowledge tasks and using powerful algorithms to recommend con­tent and colleagues based on a person's role, interests, and current projects.

   At the Social marketing Agency, the benefits of intelli­gent automation have been seen firsthand by studying our clients and other early adopters. But surprisingly, when over 400 Knowledge Curation professionals were asked last winter about the goals their organizations have prioritized and the tools they're imple­menting, the subset aggressively pursuing these trailblazing capabilities was com­paratively small.

   Instead, Knowledge Curation leaders are focused on more incremental technology changes such as transitioning content and collaboration to the cloud and upgrading search and learning management tools. And beyond technology, they are embrac­ing new ways to design solutions, manage projects, and adjust to rapid-fire change.

   As part of its this Knowledge Curation Priorities sur­vey, Knowledge Curation leaders and staff were asked about the most powerful forces affecting their Knowledge Curation efforts this year. This chart shows the percentage of respondents citing each trend among the top three that will impact Knowledge Curation inside their organizations in 2019, with the most popular 10 of 21 trends listed.


   The data suggests that, despite the buzz around cutting-edge technologies, Knowledge Curation adoption of these tools is progress­ing slowly. Only 11 % of respondents said that robotic process automation, cognitive computing, or AI would have a serious impact on their 2019 Knowledge Curation efforts. The numbers for many related trends are even smaller. For example, 9% are focused on cognitive search and auto-classification, 8% on personalized recommendations, 7% on natural language processing, and 6% on chatbots.

   This may seem surprising, but upon closer inspection, these results make sense. Knowledge Curation tech budgets tend to be mod­est-so there is limited funding for risky innovation and custom development. As a result, most Knowledge Curation leaders are monitoring the potential of new capa­bilities and waiting for them to be either integrated into tools they already have or affordable enough to invest in as add-ons.

   A majority of the Knowledge Curation programs sur­veyed are emphasizing non-technical goals. Top 2019 priorities include honing the Knowledge Curation strategy, identifying critical knowledge so that Knowledge Curation is focused on the right areas, and increasing engage­ment among end users. And, the two most prevalent drivers of change are not technologies, but rather techniques for designing and managing Knowledge Curation systems and approaches.

   Agile- a project management approach that stresses iteration, collab­oration, and customer centricity- tops the list of innovations shaping Knowledge Curation pro­grams. Nearly one-third of survey respon­dents listed it among their 2019 guiding forces. A close second is design thinking, a human-centric approach to problem solving that enables organizations to understand user needs, brainstorm ways to meet those needs, and then rapidly test ideas in order to progress toward an effective solution.

   Among Knowledge Curation teams that are prioritiz­ing technology, it is the complex move to cloud-based platforms such as Mic­rosoft Office 365 or Google G-Suite that looms largest. Almost half of the survey respondents said their Knowledge Curation pro­grams are adding or upgrading inte­grated digital platforms this year, and one-quarter listed this transition among the developments having the greatest impact on their 2019 Knowledge Curation efforts.

   Don't let the data on automation and AI adoption fool you. Technology change remains top-of-mind for many Knowledge Curation teams. In fact, two-thirds of survey respondents reported that their organiza­tions are undergoing some form of digital transformation, But Knowledge Curation's current role in these initiatives centers on helping the enterprise transition to integrated dig­ital platforms such as Office 365. Such platforms are by far the most popular Knowledge Curation technology to add or upgrade in 2019.

   Early adopters started moving their Knowledge Curation activities to Office 365 and sim­ilar cloud platforms a few years ago, but the pace of adoption has accelerated quickly. Vendors are increasingly push­ing organizations in this direction, and CIOs see potential for cost savings and other benefits. Whereas some Knowledge Curation lead­ers advocated for their firms' transition to cloud-based software, others are being forced to adapt to technology decisions made upstream from them. In most cases, the migration of content and collaboration to the cloud is happening whether Knowledge Curation leaders are ready for it or not.

   The good news is that Knowledge Curation programs can realize significant benefits when they transition to cloud platforms. With built-in integrations, it's easier to push relevant content to employees based on their personas and behaviors across platforms. Better integration also helps anchor knowledge in workflows and business applications. Instead of toggling between platforms to work on projects, find expertise, and download content, employees have everything they need in one system. And access from home computers and mobile devices makes cloud-based knowledge more readily available.

   All of this puts knowledge at employ­ees' fingertips-sometimes even before they realize they need it- and, as a result, boosts adoption and reuse. There are a few Knowledge Curation vendors who have anticipated this trend, and provide Knowledge Curation capabilities such as workflow integration and automation tied into the more advanced capabilities of data cleaning, categorization, and reporting with the leading edge technology of Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning. This is seen as a competitive advantage by companies who see Knowledge Curation as a required strategic capability.

   Agile is a methodology to manage complex projects. The basic concept is that a small team works in short (typi­cally, 2-week) bursts called "sprints," frequently demoing features and incor­porating customer feedback, to deliver a product or solution. Born in the world of software development, the agile methodology has taken the business world by storm and is now applied in a variety of disciplines and industries.

   Design thinking is another method­ology that's quickly gaining popularity in and beyond Knowledge Curation. It is a human-cen­tric, solutions-based approach to problem solving, and it's particularly useful for addressing complex or ill-defined challenges.

   The methodology consists of five phases:

  • Empathize- understand the customer and their needs.
  • Define-scope the problem from the customer perspective.
  • Ideate- brainstorm potential solutions.
  • Prototype-develop minimally feasible models of potential solutions.
  • Test-conduct a series of assessments on the applicability of the prototypes.

   Design thinking can provide value in many ways, the biggest of which is cus­tomer centricity. The front end of the pro­cess is entirely focused on understanding the needs, applications, and challenges of the customer-and as a result, everything that follows is scoped and developed in the customer's context. The technique also pro­motes creativity by giving teams the time, space, and permission to generate multiple potential solutions to any given problem.

   Agile and design thinking are known to be gaining popularity in Knowledge Curation, but the sheer number of organizations diving into these methodologies in 2019 is surprising. It's clear that, while new technologies are a huge impetus for Knowledge Curation change, there's even more energy around tools to help Knowledge Curation programs cope with tech innovation and shifting organizational priorities.

   Organizational knowledge and knowl­edge-related needs are evolving faster than ever before. There's a lot of instability out there, and Knowledge Curation leaders are reeling from a constant churn of mergers, acquisitions, reorgs, product innovations, market and technology shifts, and strategic realign­ments. They know they need to set long-­term objectives when it comes to improving the flow of enterprise knowledge, but the goalposts set by executive sponsors are in flux, and they're worried about change fatigue among both Knowledge Curation staff and end users. In addition, the tight job market and war for talent are heightening risks related to critical knowledge loss while shortening the lead time Knowledge Curation programs get to address those risks.

   For these organizations, agile devel­opment and design thinking represent different ways to approach Knowledge Curation projects. Both methodologies focus on quickly responding to emerging needs, devel­oping a minimum viable product that can be tested, gathering user feedback, iterating, and improving over time. The methodologies also emphasize collab­oration, so the Knowledge Curation team is designing tools and approaches with rather than for its target users. This can shorten the time needed to deploy solutions (how­ever imperfect) to emerging knowledge needs while increasing the chances that what the Knowledge Curation team comes up with will fit the requirements and workflow of the employees who will use it.

   Agile and design thinking may also help Knowledge Curation teams grapple with cloud adop­tion and the more flexible planning and management structures it requires. With on-premise software, Knowledge Curation teams could implement updates and improvements on their own timeline, with lots of preemp­tive planning. But as more organizations shift to the cloud, some of those decisions are taken out of their hands. Knowledge Curation leaders can come in on Monday morning to major modifications in the portfolio of apps their organizations use to facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing. And as a result, well-laid plans for manage­ment and adoption can quickly devolve into chaos. A nimbler approach to solu­tion design and project management may help these teams roll with the punches, responding promptly to whatever changes vendors throw their way.

   Knowledge Curation teams are in a unique position. As they adopt new systems and ways of working, they are also responsible for rolling out these innovations to the employees they support. This involves communicating the value proposition and inspiring behavior change, even when the processes and systems being implemented are "works in progress" whose benefits have not been fully tested. For all these reasons, it seems fitting that the number-one skillset that survey respondents said their Knowledge Curation teams needed to develop over the next 12 months is change management.

   Today's Knowledge Curation professionals must not only get comfortable with change, but also become convincing advocates for it. Whether the organization is going through a digital transformation or adopting a new project management approach, Knowledge Curation must both embody and encourage the shift in order to remain relevant.