What’s hot in knowledge management? What are some unfulfilled KM desires? 

In 2003, a group of NYC law firm KM professionals assembled a list of 20 useful KM resources and ranked them in importance. The top 5 were:
    1. Precedents
    2. Forms
    3. Experience location system
    4. Taxonomies
    5. Matter database

In December 2006, this group surveyed its own members plus firms around the US, Canada, and the UK. Respondents indicated the degree of actual usage of the top 20 resources – the graph below shows key results. The survey is not representative; it is biased toward firms more interested in KM than average.

InnovAction Award

The results are a classic glass-half-full versus half-empty situation. For #1 precedents, only 60% of firms have “widely” or “regularly” used systems; for #2 forms, fewer than half have systems. And #3 experience location systems are in wide or regular use in only 20% of firms.

I believe the apparent divergence between the 2003 ranking and the 2006 usage reflects a combination of high aspirations, some false-starts, cultural limitations, resource limitations, and technology challenges. All of the top 5 resources require significant substantive involvement by lawyers. Practice support lawyers (PSL), who support these resources in the UK and Australia and to some extent in Canada, are relatively rare in the US.

Though regular use is lower than I would have guessed, I nonetheless believe that KM is on the upswing. (Regular readers of this blog know that I have been skeptical on this in the past.) On the one hand, the data are the data. Plus numerous firms avoid saying “knowledge management.” On the other hand, even the ones who don’t say KM do it. And I see more firms attending conferences and new groups forming. Plus KM, marketing, finance, libraries, and professional development are converging in some of their interests and goals (especially taxonomies and matter databases).

So for me, the survey indicates both the progress made and the challenge of executing KM the right way. I’ll soon cover some additional survey findings that expand on these themes.