BFM2013_1_05_Knowledge snippets and traceability

Two simple actions could simplify both the interaction with the “thesaurisation and compliance organizations” (e.g. methodology, quality assurance, knowledge management) and those charged with knowledge production: writing “knowledge snippets” along with each item, and defining “building maps” for the basic documents to be generated by the knowledge producers.

Traceability is a simple concept, and it is more a matter of common sense than a completely new concept.

Simply, partition your document into “atomic” (i.e. not further divisible) items, and whenever producing an update, take note of which existing item you are updating.

Managing traceability is slightly more complex, but it is built around this same basic rule.

Not everyone is keen on documenting in a traceable way, or interested in restructuring documents according to different sets of requirements.

The knowledge producers should retain control of the knowledge they originated, as they are the only ones able to update it in a meaningful way.

Obviously, this implies that the knowledge producers operate according to your own rules- and this applies both to your own staff and any external supplier: as you pay, they have to use your methodology, not their own.

As it will be discussed in a later issue, you can outsource/delegate the execution, but not the responsibility.

While outsourcing, you focus on the results and not the process: in that case, the knowledge ownership balance might be altered.

If you define clear “roadmaps” to assemble and store knowledge items, then the thesaurisation is just a by-product of your normal activities.

Then, the knowledge producers can delegate the actual collection and formalization to resources focused on those task, usually belonging to the “thesaurisation and compliance organizations”.

Knowledge producers usually need to get through some trial-and-error before they can identify the proper size of the “knowledge snippets” for their own processes, but there is a low-cost option.

Ask them to define “knowledge snippets” so that they can enforce traceability.

They should start by looking at their own business processes, and check what is the minimal traceable “knowledge snippet”: probably the actual size and configuration of a meaningful knowledge snippet is different across the organization.

It is critical that this “traceability identification” is defined by knowledge producers, to ensure that it is consistent with their actual “real” processes, as often processes contain both a visible layer, operating through the formal organization, and an invisible layer, managed through the informal organization.

And this awareness becomes even more critical in case of knowledge thesaurisation activities that are a step toward restructuring (e.g. downsizing, merger, acquisition, asset/business line disposal) or outsourcing activities.