How long does it take to implement KM?

Knowledge Management can be started quickly, but takes a long time to fully embed. Here are two sources of data that show exactly how long.

Over the past few years we have helped many organisations to benchmark their “current status” of Knowledge Management. They ask for this for a number of reasons. Sometimes they want to see where they need to improve. Sometimes they need to see IF they need to improve. Sometimes they need to set a benchmark so they have something they can measure future improvement against.  The benchmark is a measure of the level of completeness and application of their knowledge management framework.

Recently we looked back on some of our benchmark data, and looked to see if we could find any trends. Well, we could.

The first trend appears when you look at how the overall benchmark score varies with the length of time KM has been addressed by the organisation. The graph above shows the overall KM score (from zero to 5) for about 25 organisations, plotted against how long they have been deliberately working with KM, in years. Bear in mind four things when you look at this plot.

  1. not all organisations want to score 5 out of 5, and 4 out of 5 is a pretty fine score.
  2. nobody scores more than 5, so the plot will “level off” at 5
  3. every company starts at a different level. Knowledge Management is something that mos companies do some of, without even trying. There is a big range of scores on organisations who are just starting KM implementation. If you already have a collaborative, open and supportive culture, you start at a higher point, and get good pretty quickly. If your culture is hierarchical, blaming and closed, it’s going to be a much longer journey.
  4. the people who call us in are often “stuck” in their KM efforts. That’s why they call us in. So “low scoring” companies will be over-represented here.

However also note on the plot the two red points joined by a red line, which represent the same organisation measured at an interval of 2 years, showing good progress. Similarly the two green points joined by a green line represent a different organisation, measured twice, at a 3.5 year interval, showing a similar rate of progress.

The black line is a simple linear trend line. It is there for guidance only – we really need some sort of exponential fit, but I could not get that to work in Excel

My conclusions from this plot are as follows;

  • Firstly, fully implementing Knowledge Management is a slow process. The earliest a company has reached level 4, from this dataset, is 4 years. The black line suggests an average of 14 years to get to level 4.
  • Secondly, you can speed up your implementation. The black trend line represents “natural drift” towards Knowledge Management, while the red and green lines bot represent a deliberate, focused and resourced KM implementation program. If you followed the red line trend, you could start at level 2 and get to level 4 in about 3 years.
Lets compare these figures with a different set of date, from our surveys in 2014 and 2017 (copies of the report available from the Knoco website), as described in this blog post from a year ago.
This plot shows that 
  • About 10% of companies have achieved fully embedded KM within 4 years
  • About 20% of companies have achieved fully embedded KM within 8 years
  • About 50% of companies have achieved fully embedded KM within 16 years
  • About 70% of companies have achieved fully embedded KM within 32 years

The blog article breaks these data down further, showing that KM implementation is quicker in smaller companies, and slower in larger, but the overall conclusions are the same from both graphs shown here.

KM a journey, it’s a slow journey, the fastest you will get there is about 4 years, different organisations start from different places, but faster progress can be made if you pay attention to implementing Knowledge Management as a project.

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