Joining the dots: Knowledge Management and Product Ownership

Recently, I've been reminded of the crucial role the Product Owner plays in designing knowledge-friendly solutions for organizations. Many entering the knowledge management field dream of deploying vast knowledge-bases and collaboration tools to foster sharing and innovation. However, some of my most impactful work has not been in building KM infrastructure but in helping operational projects navigate intangible barriers.

Applying the Knowledge Lens

Few business analysts and software designers are trained to view their organizations through a knowledge lens. They focus on delivering specific outcomes, often treating feedback and stories as isolated issues rather than part of an integrated, new way of working. This approach can identify key criteria for success but also creates unintended consequences that emerge in practice.

For instance, in a project for a federal organization aiming to shut down IT infrastructure, my knowledge audit revealed 12 additional users in four divisions reliant on the system for their processes. Had the system been turned off without considering these users, it could have disrupted operations during a national emergency.

Joining the dots is where knowledge managers excel, involving deep stakeholder engagement beyond interviews and working directly with those the project aims to assist. This is also the essence of a product owner's role in software development, acting as a bridge between end users and the project, managing success criteria, and prioritizing stories to uncover and address risks.

New knowledge managers may find themselves in product owner roles, which is invaluable for understanding operational complexities and the interconnectedness of processes and people. My own experience as a product owner, following a master's degree, provided a foundation for successful projects, judged not only by executive satisfaction but also by the tangible benefits for end users.

Wayfinding the world that AI can't see

In the era of generative AI, the importance of humanly connecting knowledge management and product ownership to bridge the gap between action and documentation will only grow. Generative AI's reliance on written information highlights the need for roles that understand the unwritten and unsaid. Whether you're a knowledge manager, product owner, or just working on change, prioritizing the connection between different aspects of the organisation, understanding workers' needs, and grasping the scope and the influence (span) of your projects is critical.

As generative AI reshapes our work, mastering the art of product ownership becomes a key skill against unintended consequences. Embrace this pivotal role with vigor; prioritize connecting the dots, deeply understand your team's needs, and fully grasp your projects' reach and impact and how negative consequences may emerge from the proposed solutions. It's not just about navigating the future; it's about shaping it to avoid the pitfalls that could compromise your success. Let's not just adapt to the new era; let's lead it with foresight and empathy. Ready, set, innovate!

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