Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Business Knowledge Optimization: The "Next Big Idea" in Collaboration

What does your business know? About itself, its competitors, the forces shaping its key markets, what its customers think of it and its competitors, or how its customers make purchase decisions?

How well does your business use what it knows to improve how it does business? How prepared is your business to turn what it knows into business benefit, today and tomorrow?

Many business decision makers have no idea how to begin answering the questions above, but it's not their fault. Business knowledge – information framed in a relevant, actionable business context – is often undervalued and poorly managed, if it's managed at all. At the smartest companies, the business knows what it knows and how best to use that knowledge.

Those two things define everything significant about every modern business. So taking a holistic approach to the collection, curation and leverage of business knowledge can maximize the agility, responsiveness and competitiveness of any business. Such an approach is what I mean when I say business knowledge optimization (BKO).

Does your business need BKO? Here are some signs that it does.
  1. Your competition is consistently "eating your lunch." 
  2. Your customers are upset, and you're not sure why, or how many are upset, or what to do about it. 
  3. Your partners are wary or confused about your road map for the future of your relationships with them. 
  4. There are no clearly defined or well-enforced policies, practices, or processes in place for collecting and leveraging knowledge consistently across the organization. 
  5. There are no clearly defined or well-enforced policies, practices, or processes in place for ensuring that business-critical knowledge is retained when those who know it leaves the business. (You might know this as "institutional memory.")

What are the key elements of BKO? They include but are not limited to the following.
  • Any and all collaboration and information-sharing tools your business uses today. 
  • Any and all information repositories (such as databases) and the tools used to manage them, both premise- and cloud-based. 
  • Any and all solutions used by your business for backup, recovery or remote storage of business-critical information. 
  • Any and all tools and services used to capture, document or manage business processes. 
  • Any and all information collected or provided by any and all tools that "touch" or are "touched" by any colleagues, customers, partners, prospects or others who matter to your business. (Examples include tools and services for customer care, support incident management and employee feedback collection. Additional examples include Web site analytics and social media monitoring and reporting tools, which also happen to be critical to a related big idea, online experience optimization (OEO).) 
BKO also requires a level of process consistency and enforcement that is ubiquitous yet unobtrusive to succeed. This is because your business needs to capture as much information as it can about and from as many sources as it can to ensure that its knowledge is accurate, timely and actionable. At some companies this will mean revisiting almost everything about the processes that drive the business. At some companies, it will mean visiting these operational areas for the first time.

I'll have lots more to say about BKO here and elsewhere, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, you can help my research into this critical area by taking my brief BKO survey, anonymously if you prefer. You can take the survey and request summary findings at You can also take two equally brief surveys on OEO at and Thanks for your help – please tell everyone you know!