A not so happy 2013 for knowledge management?

knowledge managementIt has been a while since my last blog entry, but I lay the blame solely at the feet of an extremely busy and turbulent 2012. Actually, I do take some responsibility for this blog hiatus, as I have been also devoting significant time to family and friends in this past year over and above setting aside time for my writing.

There have been however some interesting trends in the economy, professional services and knowledge management that are worthy of discussion.

The global economy has been a strange beast over the last few years. Many countries are continuously on the brink of economic collapse while some corporate profits are consistently at record highs as some sectors of the economy appear to struggle for survival. Australia, the lucky country, has so far lived up to its nickname, by global comparison at least. However, there have been signs of tightening economic conditions throughout the Australian economy and professional services firms did not escape unaffected this economic turbulence.

Most professional services firms can attest to the fact that their business has slowed as Australian companies, small and large, have reviewed their spending, reprioritised their budgets and made significant cuts in many areas of their operations spooked by both global and local economic forecasts.

Consequently, if you are a knowledge management professional in a professional services firm, 2012 has highly likely presented you with some unique challenges, some of which I have analysed and documented in previous blog entries over the last couple of years. The most significant of these I think is ‘proving’ your value in an environment where costs have become a focus in order to maintain profitability.

A fee-earner in a professional services environment shows her or his value by billing, increasing business from existing clients and bringing new clients to the firm.

Things are more complicated for a knowledge professional who is a mere ‘overhead‘, especially in tightening economic conditions which are unlikely to improve significantly in 2013. We must be realistic in admitting that we do fear hearing the ‘R’ word. Redundancy that is … and who in their full mind would want to be made redundant in this economy?!

So, ‘What can I do about it?’ I hear you ask.

Plenty actually! But while of course there is never a guarantee that you can escape the big ‘R’, there are many things you can do to illustrate your value to your firm to reduce the likelihood of finding yourself on the cutting room floor, so to speak, and make 2013 hopefully a happy one after all …

First, be flexible!

The world is changing, the economy is changing, businesses are changing, your firm is changing, so you cannot avoid your role changing within your firm. Your role may have already begun transforming in the last year or so (or it will soon if it hasn’t yet) and that transformation is likely to accelerate in 2013. The role of knowledge management will be expanding to better support business plans and provide a full fit for growth objectives. So be brave, leap forward and don’t try to resist the change by holding on to old understandings of what knowledge management is.

Second, be proactive!

Don’t wait for the change to whack you on the nose! Keep and eye on international developments in knowledge management and evaluate what may be beneficially implemented at your firm and raise your ideas with your internal networks.

Identify new (or existing) projects that are a fit for your firm’s business objectives and profit drivers and embed yourself in those projects and ensure you make a unique and invaluable contribution to its implementation and success.

Third, demonstrate, demonstrate, demonstrate!

I have an old saying which has guided my career over the years: ‘It’s not just about what you do and how you do it; it’s imperative that you are SEEN doing it!’ It’s essential that you focus on demonstrating to your superiors and colleagues what you are doing and how it adds value to the business.

Demonstrate, demonstrate, demonstrate … your value to your firm! Embed yourself in strategic projects, highlight the projects you are working on and emphasise the value you add through your contributions.

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