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How to Apply Knowledge Management to Project Management

Aug. 24, 2012
Stephanie Simon

Knowledge Management examines how we acquire, organize, manage, share, and utilize knowledge and information. The Internet gives us an overwhelming amount of information on a daily basis — and the volume of information available is growing rapidly! One of the biggest challenges for individuals and organizations involved in project management is to make the best use of this knowledge and information so they can operate more efficiently, improve decision making, and sustain a competitive advantage.

What Is Knowledge Management?

Simply put, it is how information is converted into knowledge that is an asset to the organization. We learn from each project we complete, but without management support and knowledge management tools and processes in place, this knowledge is routinely lost during the project lifecycle, and it may take a cultural shift to recognize the strategic importance and value of knowledge and information.

Why Knowledge Management?

Knowledge management uses knowledge as an organizational benefit that is an essential component of project management. Organizations that make the greatest use of their knowledge assets understand the competitive advantage they can develop as they manage projects smartly and more efficiently.

People, Process, and Tools

Knowledge management is about how to systematically develop and share knowledge throughout the organization. Adopting knowledge management in an organization involves three major items.

  • People: This involves understanding the importance of knowledge and information to organizational success.
  • Process: This involves having a framework for knowledge management in the organization and embedding that framework into project management processes and methodology.
  • Tools: Some of the tools and technologies that can facilitate managing and sharing knowledge and information include document management systems, online communities through the use of web portals, data repositories for storing and retrieving lessons learned, and Web 2.0 tools such as wikis and blogs.

How to Apply Knowledge Management to Your Projects

Knowledge management and project management are complimentary practices that can work hand-in-hand to improve organizational performance. First you need to demonstrate the value of knowledge management practices, and then you can introduce knowledge management into the project management process and methodology.

The project manager can serve as a mentor or change agent to establish knowledge management activities as part of the project work. Once team members experience the benefit of knowledge sharing, they are more inclined to participate in the process.

When closing out a project, don’t forget to store important project artifacts (e.g. project charter, WBS, schedule, communication plan, risk and issues log, change control documents); these can serve as templates for future projects. The post-project review is a way to capture information for the knowledge repository. Beneficial knowledge provides long-term benefit in terms of improving organizational performance and fostering a learning organization.

Knowledge is increasingly being valued as a strategic asset essential to sustaining a competitive advantage. Knowledge management provides a way to capture knowledge from projects in as close to real time as possible, transfer the data and information, and apply those learnings to future projects. Applying knowledge management techniques to project management practices can result in enhanced communication and better project integration, improved decision-making, reduced risks, and continuous improvement in project performance.

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