Robertson’s call to arms: Let’s get practical

I’ve been thinking about James Robertson’s post. In it, James says that instead of undertaking enterprise-wide, strategic Knowledge Management initiatives (my grouping for his list of example “enterprise projects) organizations should be focused on smaller, more tactical point solutions that deliver real improvements to productivity.

He’s not advocating that every business unit just “do their own thing”.

This is not to say that the bigger picture is forgotten, quite the opposite. While individual activities are always focused on immediate needs, consideration is given to longer-term objectives. This influences the selection of the projects, the technology used, and the points of integration into other systems.

While I agree with James’ overall sentiment, I’m not quite clear on what he thinks is the best way for the business units to leverage economies of scale around best practices and infrastructure.

For example, several of our clients use a “shared services” or “center-of-excellence” approach. In this model, a centralized supporting infrastructure is put in place (includes physical infrastructure as well as human resources) that business units can leverage.

The trick is making sure that:

– The IT organization is not a bottleneck. The whole goal is to empower others to use the infrastructure.

– The process of selecting and implementing the infrastructure doesn’t turn into a multi-year project that delivers no value until the very end. By that time, the business units will have already done their own thing, often without regard to the shared economies of scale or “the big picture”.

It seems that this model lends itself to empowering business units without too much overhead yet still provides enough direction and coordination to avoid a big mess down the road.