Why is establishing a knowledge map important for your organization?

Well, let's look at it this way, unless you had a travel map you wouldn't know what was out there and more importantly, you wouldn't know how to get there. A knowledge map works in pretty much the same way. It tells you where knowledge resides and where the gaps are.

However, the most important thing to keep in mind when creating a knowledge map in your organization, or your project,  is to map it in the context of the business processes that you are trying to improve. Otherwise, you end up mapping knowledge you have no idea what to do with.

It’s critical to understand that if you are starting a KM initiative you first create a knowledge map, this will establish a platform upon with you could build your KM approach. Since institutionalizing KM is such a mammoth task you will most definitely create unnecessary hurdles for yourself if you don't know where the gaps and strengths are.

However this is a lot easier to accomplish within a project, so you should take heart in the fact that implementing small KM initiatives within your project do not take all that much effort. Just some thinking.

So why would you spend effort on Mapping knowledge?


  • to find key sources, opportunities, and constraints to knowledge creation and flows.
  • to encourage re-use and prevent re-invention, saving search time and acquisition costs
  • to highlight islands of expertise and suggest ways to build bridges to increase knowledge sharing and exchange
  • to discover effective and emergent communities of practice where informal learning is happening
  • to reduce the burden on experts by helping staff to find critical solutions & information quickly
  • to improve customer response, decision making and problem-solving by providing access to applicable information, internal and external experts
  • Knowledge maps can be either strategic or tactical depending upon the need and intent. The best way to start the mapping exercise is by targeting processes that need improvement, from either the enterprise or process level.

The highest level mapping - at the enterprise level - is what's known as an expertise review. This is a crucial area of mapping as it identifies the various silos of knowledge available in the organization as well as the key assets of knowledge. Unfortunately due to the nature of the knowledge this map quickly gets outdated.

The expertise tacit knowledge map focuses specifically on business units and other such entities. It’s purpose being to identify resources with specific knowledge.

The knowledge map gap analysis, however, is the most specific map of all. This map gathers specific information about what knowledge is needed, who possesses it, who uses it, where it is located, and what business issues it addresses. This, however, is a time-consuming exercise as it defines the flow of knowledge in an organization.

When a process such as the one described above is completed it gives an organization amazing insight into the knowledge it possesses and how it can go about maximizing its use.