What is the most important role of the IT department in managing enterprise risks? Is it to just manage IT’s own risk, with a focus on security? Is it to get better alignment of IT services to business needs? Is it to advise the general counsel, the chief financial officer, and other business executives on the IT solutions that can help to improve risk management? It’s all of the above, truly.
But the biggest and most impactful role for IT in enterprise risk management is to ensure the best alignment possible of information to business needs. But for business alignment, don’t start with the technology infrastructure — start with the information. Many enterprises have adopted and advanced knowledge management programs to just that. We don’t hear as much about them these days, but there are many successful KM programs in successful enterprises.
I was talking to Mark Raskino the other day about his upcoming Cannes symposium Mastermind interview of the CIO of Shell. I mentioned to him that Shell is one company that adopted KM early and continues to embrace it. There are others in many different industry sections. In government for example, the U.S. Army credits KM with directly impacting operations.
A lot of KM professionals though have not been getting the love for a long time. Between the collapse of the tech bubble in 2001 and the economic collapse of 2008 they went into hiding — changing the names of their programs and projects — so they talk now about social networking, instead of tacit knowledge, or about being information-centric, instead of knowledge-centric. These are all valid alternative terms, but by taking the common K-word away, many enterprises have diffused their information strategies and deflated the effort of an enterprise wide-approach for getting the maximum business value possible from their information. The ultimate goal of an enterprise knowledge management program is to put a strong business focus on the alignment of knowledge to enterprise needs, whether that is the knowledge in someone’s head or the knowledge captured in a database.
All of us in the IT industry, whether we are vendors, service providers or users of IT, should quit avoiding the K-word. Alignment of information to business needs is job one, and KM is the strategic discipline for putting the right focus on that alignment. It is the most strategically valuable information risk management tool that is available to CIOs and other business leaders. For all those KM professionals, like me, who have been in the closet for the last eight years, in these tough economic times our organizations need us now more than ever — let’s bring KM into the light again.