Knowledge mapping: What time and efforts does it really take?

“If you aren't knowledge mapping, say hello to knowledge management failure”, claims American Productivity & Quality Center (APQC). This statement makes knowledge mapping an unquestionable component of any knowledge management project. Why? Well, because knowledge mapping is the only way for companies to inventory knowledge they have and reveal knowledge gaps that affect organizational development, block business opportunities or cause failures.

However, even understanding the true role of knowledge mapping, organizations still have to address a whole bunch of questions. How long will it take us to create an organization-wide knowledge map? Who should participate in mapping? What efforts should we make to get first results? And, finally, how to reduce them?

Let’s dive in to find the right answers.

Knowledge mapping efforts

It takes time

It’s true, knowledge mapping is time-consuming. As a deeply analytical process, knowledge mapping includes multiple preliminary activities that are great time-eaters. Knowledge managers are to define core knowledge domains to be mapped, elaborate an optimal approach to cooperate with knowledge owners, develop relevant questionnaires to analyze corporate knowledge, as well as to organize and control knowledge mapping automation.

At this stage, it’s important to answer the following questions to objectively assess an organization’s readiness to knowledge mapping and as a result, save valuable time spent on mapping itself and get positive results faster.

  1. What knowledge to map? There are up to 15 types of knowledge maps available for organizations. For example, APQC offers at least 7 types of knowledge maps (strategic overview, expertise overview, functional, process-based knowledge maps, etc.). Sticking to ScienceSoft’s proprietary SharePoint-based knowledge management framework, we prioritize either strategic/expertise overviews or functional maps to outline an enterprise’s overall knowledge and reveal knowledge gaps.
  2. How will we inventory and validate knowledge? Starting to map knowledge, a knowledge manager should be armed with well-thought questionnaires coupled with a relevant validation scales (ideally, implemented in a knowledge management system) to assess knowledge across all the departments.
  3. Are we ready to map tacit knowledge? Knowledge mapping should cover explicit and, particularly, tacit knowledge that is the most valuable part of organizational knowledge. Obviously, a knowledge manager should think of relevant techniques to assess tacit knowledge beforehand.

It takes collaboration

Definitely, knowledge managers don’t build comprehensive maps alone. There should be others to collaborate. In reality, however, it’s pretty difficult to organize collaboration effectively, especially when it comes to involving experts and thought leaders who are usually overloaded with working tasks.

To save employees’ efforts and build up a clear collaboration strategy while knowledge mapping, a knowledge manager should answer a few more questions:

  1. What knowledge can I map with employees’ minimum involvement? It’s worth navigating across corporate knowledge repositories and collaboration spaces to pick up pieces of knowledge that can be mapped with the minimum participation of employees. For example, it’s a feasible solution to map explicit knowledge, which will require just a few employees’ comments.
  2. Who can help me to map corporate knowledge? It’s absolutely necessary to form a devoted team of employees that will take an active part in knowledge mapping. Knowledge managers can turn to HR managers, line managers and project managers for support to achieve better results.
  3. What are knowledge areas to be mapped first? It’s worth prioritizing to map the knowledge of core units, departments, and experts which are involved into vital business processes and thus ensuring an organization’s viability.

It takes patience

Finally, knowledge mapping will definitely be a patience test for all the stakeholders. Being time-consuming and long-lasting, knowledge mapping also overlaps with other organizational activities, such as competency management. On the one hand, this is a great plus, since competency assessment results can be leveraged in knowledge mapping. On the other hand, employees can get irritated while reporting their competencies twice (first, to an HR manager, then to a knowledge manager). The task can be even harder if a knowledge manager tries to pick out tacit knowledge hidden within competencies, which certainly requires face-to-face meetings. To reduce employees’ resistance to knowledge mapping, a knowledge manager will have to:

  1. Sift knowledge items out of competencies. By analyzing available competency assessment results a knowledge manager can sort out those employees’ competencies that equal knowledge items and map them right away.
  2. Elaborate on the meeting format. Nothing can be more annoying than endless, idle meetings. That’s why every meeting with a knowledge owner should be well-planned. This includes clear questions to ask in order to get necessary information in the shortest timeframe.
  3. Respect individual timetables. Obviously, knowledge mapping activities should be aligned with employees’ schedules. A knowledge manager should always stay a loyal negotiator rather than a stern tormentor to get the staff’s time and engagement instead of irritation.

Putting it to practice

We offer to analyze a lifelike example and count what time investments are needed to create a knowledge map (provided an organization has adopted and tailored a knowledge management solution that can offer built-in questionnaires and is able to automatically process the collected data).

Creating a knowledge map for a department numbering 10, 20 and 30 employees

Let’s consider approximate time investments required to build a knowledge map for a department that numbers 10 employees, including a line manager, 3 employees with role a, 3 employees with role b and 3 employees with role c.  

KM activity

Knowledge manager
(efforts in hours)

Line manager
(efforts in hours)

Total time
per activity

Outlining knowledge domains and items within a department

16h

 

16h

Defining business needs within the identified knowledge domains

8h

 

8h

Introduction into knowledge mapping for a line manager

2h

2h

2h

Creating a questionnaire (up to 30 questions)

10h per questionnaire, 4 questionnaires in total (3 roles, 1 line manager)

10h

40h

Completing questionnaires

 

1h per employee
(providing that a line manager does self-assessment)

10h

Verifying the processed data in a KMS

4h

 

4h

Total:

 

 

80h

 

Sticking to the same logic and keeping the same proportion of employees performing similar functions, we can count an approximate timing of knowledge mapping in a department with 20 and 30 employees:

20 employees = 90 h;

30 employees = 100 h.

Creating a knowledge map for 30 and 50 employees working within a similar cross-departmental specialization

Let’s calculate possible time investments required to build a knowledge map for a specialization (a single business area) that unites 30 employees from different departments, including 5 line managers, 10 employees with role a, 3 employees with role b and 2 employees with role c.  

KM activity

Knowledge manager
(efforts in hours)

Line managers
(efforts in hours)

Total time
per activity

Outlining knowledge domains and items within a cross-departmental specialization

24h

 

24h

Defining business needs within the identified knowledge domains

16h

 

16h

Introduction into knowledge mapping for line managers

4h

4h

4h

Creating a questionnaire (up to 30 questions)

10h per questionnaire

10h

10h

Completing questionnaires

 

1h per specialist
(providing that line managers do self-assessment)

30h

Verifying the processed data in a KMS

8h

 

8h

Total:

 

 

92h

 

Following the same logic and keeping the same proportion of employees with the same set of functions, we can count the time needed to map a specialization that unites 50 employees:

50 employees = 112 h.

Creating a knowledge map for an organization with 1,000 staff

Finally, let’s estimate time investments required to build a knowledge map for an organization with 1,000+ staff, including:

  • 20 departments with 30 employees each. Time required: 2,000 h.
  • 15 departments with 20 employees each. Time required: 1,350 h.
  • 10 departments with 10 employees each. Time required: 800 h.
  • 20 specializations (50 people per specialization). Time required: 2,240 h.

Total project time: 6,390 h.

Don’t be scared with numbers

The calculated project time of 6,390 hours required to create a comprehensive organizational knowledge map looks really huge and may scary organizations. But don’t be intimidated with these numbers. Companies can get positive results much quicker if knowledge mapping activities are planned and prioritized properly.

For example, knowledge managers can kick-start with mapping knowledge of critical departments that ensure core business activities and bring major revenue. Relying on the calculations made, a knowledge and a line manager will need approximately 172 hours to map a department with 20 people involved into 2 specializations. This way, if knowledge mapping is made dynamically and without delays, an organization will quickly see if their key people have enough knowledge to cover vital business needs and will be able to initiate necessary activities (training or hiring new employees) if there are serious knowledge gaps.

 

*Calculations made in this article are illustrative and are no way compulsory. The real timing of a knowledge mapping project within different organizations can differ substantially from the stated numbers. 

About the Author: Sandra Lupanava

Sandra is SharePoint Evangelist at ScienceSoft, a software development and consulting company headquartered in McKinney, Texas. With her 5+ years in marketing, Sandra voices SharePoint’s strengths to contribute to the platform’s positive image as well as raise user adoption and loyalty. Today Sandra advocates harnessing SharePoint’s non-trivial capabilities to create business-centric, industry-specific innovation and knowledge management solutions.