During the implementation stage, knowledge management is a project. It is a project set up to implement change in the organization, and to move the organisation to a state where knowledge management is embedded as part of the business. Like any project, there are a number of roles and accountabilities associated with delivering the project objectives. These include the following:
KM project leader, or Chief Knowledge Officer. The role of the KM project leader is an absolutely crucial one. This person delivers the KM implementation, leads the implementation team and manages the budget. Their accountability is clear. They are accountable for delivering the project objectives, within the agreed time frame and to the agreed cost and standard. Choosing the right person for this role is also very important. The KM project leader needs to be a respected member of the organisation, with a history of delivering organisational change. Kent Greenes at BP was just such a leader, and those of us in Kent's delivery team in the 90s benefited greatly from his visionary leadership.
In anything other than a very small company, the KM project leader will need a KM Implementation team. The size of the team, and the specific roles within the team, will vary from company to company. You may need somebody on the team with a communication role, accountable for making sure that knowledge management communications to the wider organisation are timely and relevant. You may need somebody on the team accountable for coordinating a KM community of practice. You may need somebody on the team accountable for ensuring the technology suite is complete. If you are looking to implement through the use of pilot projects, there will also be clear accountabilities related to pilot project delivery. It all depends very much on what you need to do, to get knowledge management up and running. See our guidance on selecting a team.
Sponsor. The sponsor is the person to whom the KM project leader reports. The sponsor acts as the internal customer for knowledge management implementation, on behalf of the organisation. They set the agenda for change, they give the mandate for change, and they represent the project at the decision-making level of the organisation. They are accountable for providing the budget, for agreeing the objectives of the project, and providing guidance and high level support so that these objectives are delivered.
The sponsor often can make use of a steering team of senior players, whose role is to ensure that the knowledge management framework that the implementation team designs is fully compatible with existing business structures. For example, you might have the head of IT, the head of HR, and the head of operations on your steering team. There accountability is to provide steer so that the final knowledge management framework fits seamlessly within "business as usual".