KM Singapore 2010

KM Singapore 2010 kicks off, KM Excellence Awards winners show strategic value of knowledge management


by Madanmohan Rao

Editor, The KM Chronicles

Singapore; September 16-17 2010



The KM Singapore 2010 conference kicked off today with the theme “Knowledge and Innovation” ( The KM Excellence Awards for 2010 were also announced for culture and process, and technology infrastructure. (See my blogpost on KM Singapore 2009 at — this has become an annual must-attend event for me!)


The conference this year featured 12 case studies and four workshop sessions, and drew 170 participants from 45 organisations and 9 countries (as compared to 200 participants from 60 organisations and 20 countries last year).


There were also 13 contributors to the annual KM publication of IKMS (Information and Knowledge Management Society IKMS was registered in 2001, and will soon be celebrating its 10th anniversary; this is its 7th annual KM Singapore conference. Sponsors this year included Genesis Networks, Siemens and Straits Knowledge.


Dr N.Varaprasad, former CEO of Singapore’s National Library Board, said this conference reinforces the KM movement’s goals and objectives: innovation, excellence, and value addition.


“Few governments invest as much in workforce re-skilling as Singapore,” said Varaprasad. For instance, Spring Singapore ( is the agency that helps Singapore organisations lead in business innovation and excellence.


Competency tracking and effective tools are important for KM professionals. Some of our best work comes from collaboration, hence close attention must be paid to the knowledge creation cycle. Innovation requires a nurturing and risk-taking environment, added Varaprasad.




The levels of awards for the KM Excellence initiatives are bronze (launch, with some noticeable impacts), silver (strong business impacts in parts of the organisation), gold (success and transformation across the oranisation), and platinum (performing at gold levels in culture and process + technology infrastructure). Merit awards are also given to organisations which formally launched KM but are still in the early stages and are likely to see positive impacts soon.


Winners this year included Singapore Armed Forces (SAF: platinum), Singapore Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee (SYOGOC: silver), Supreme Court of Singapore (bronze) and The Attorney-General’s Chambers (bronze). The platinum award was given for the first ever time this year. Merit awards went to Institute of Chemical Engineering and Science (using technology to support their work), Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS: SharePoint implementation) and Yokogawa Engineering Asia (engineer access to critical information via content re-use strategy).


All contestant offices were visited by the Singapore members of the jury committee (which included members from Singapore, US, Europe and Australia). The screening is rigorous and impartial (jurors are not regular IKMS officials, and those with a connection to contestants are not involved in screening those contestants). The jurors included: Sean Callahan, R Gopinathan, Ernest Lee, Patrick Lee, Ng Kok Chuan, Peter Queck, Arthur Shelley, Eric Tsui and Ron Young.


Straits Knowledge co-founder Patrick Lambe expressed satisfaction that KM pioneers in Singapore are being recognised and rewarded and are no longer “struggling in isolation” as he wrote almost 10 years ago!


The purpose of the awards is knowledge exchange among award nominees, building confidence in organisations embarking on the KM journey, and increasing opportunities for learning. The awards are not benchmarking awards (such as the MAKE awards), but they highlight good practices and involve peer evaluation.




Silver award winner SYOG’s KM team is project-based and is disbanding now, but the knowledge capture and transfer team is working hard at present. SYOG used KM to deliver on the urgency of its mission. Knowledge transfers are to Singapore sports organisers as well as the IOC.


Doreen Tan, KM Head at the Singapore Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee, shared lessons learnt from the first Olympic-level event held in Singapore. It was a brand new world-class product and had to be delivered in 2.5 years, covering venue management, parallel events, transportation, culture and media. There were clear objectives though this was a new task, and the team adopted a learn-as-you-go principle.


Foundational steps included designing a taxonomy (partly inherited from the Singapore Sports Council), developing and standardising shared acronyms and terms (800 of each have been created!), KM extranet, capacity building workshops (process mapping, AARs), creating knowledge assets (eg. venue planning toolkit and ops manuals), and games-time during-action reviews (over 800 stories collected). The team will brief the organisers of the next games in Nanjing subsequently.


Yeong Zee Kin, Senior Assistant Registrar at Singapore Supreme Court, showed how a combination of sharing culture and technology enablers in its KM initiative improved accessibility, timeliness and quality of court decisions; these were specifically identified in the KM Vision of the Supreme Court.


Some challenges in the court system are that the life of a judge is lonely, while everyone else around you is exchanging notes and discussing! People in the legal profession are also slow to change, Yeong Zee joked.


Tools already in use included electronic filing, digital transcription, mobile info-trolleys, videophones and secure wireless hotspots. The central portal was updated in 2008, with a focus on enabling judicial officers to better manage and discharge their judicial functions. A Wiki-style repository of legal knowledge was created. Planned next steps include email management solutions (especially when employees resign).


Yeong Zee also admitted that some experiments like online forums and expertise profiles were not successful because their team was quite small and already knew each other; they met quite often anyway. “You never know such things till you actually try it,” he joked.


On the defense front, SAF is now a member of AQPC and the KNOW network. Its KM initiative includes ESILK: Enterprise System for Information, Learning and Knowledge.


B.G. Lee Shiang Long, Head of the Joint Communications and Information Systems Department from SAF, said the organisation had a range of objectives for which a number of KM initiatives were launched: organisational learning, open culture, knowledge capital, and knowledge-embedded collaborative teams.


Driving imperatives were complexity of defense activities as well as quick turnover and limited time to train (two years), according to B.G. Lee. IT-enabled Web 2.0-driven self-discovery was thus an important factor for the next generation of defense forces.


B.G. Lee said an open culture had to co-exist with a military culture of deferment to authority. Committed change agents began to work on small groups and teams. “We invest in our people to make sense of the environment and create new knowledge,” he said.


B.G. Lee showed snapshots of the SAF/MINDEF wiki, e-Forums and e-Repository: using the tree metaphor for roots and branches of knowledge activities and enabling fertilisers/factors for yielding knowledge fruits. The management has now been restructured into five inter-linking knowledge hubs, including coaching and journalistic knowledge capture support.


Another defense KM case study was presented by Nate Allen from the office of business transformation in the US Army. He discussed examples of their Website Company Command ( and external examples such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s Wiki.


The army’s LeaderCast initiative uses videos to share learnings across commanders in conflict zones around the world; the next step is milTube, like an internal version of YouTube. Allen cited Cisco Quad, Google MOMA and IDEO Tube as good examples of dynamic Web-based knowledge sharing and teamwork. milSuite is the army’s umbrella implementation of social networking; it includes milBook, with features like Facebook. (Related links:


The army’s next step is called iLink, which uses Web 3.0 approaches such as “ like” recommendations on top of Web 2.0 content: this adds real-time and long-tail intelligence to the existing knowledge engine.


Other frontiers include knowledge mobilisation on the fourth screen: mobile phones. Almost every US soldier has a cellphone; within a couple of years, 50% will have smartphones, and the MilSpace initiative is targeting secure mobile applications as well.


Other case studies were presented by KM teams from Petronas, Shell and the Singapore Attorney-General’s Chambers.




“The world can be viewed as an open KM laboratory,” observed Eric Tsui, associate director of the KM Research Centre at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Their ongoing research activities address sustainability of KM programmes, process mapping, collaborative learning, personal KM, scenario-based learning, intellectual capital models, and KM strategy in sectors ranging from logistics and offshoring to government and financial services firms.


Eric identified various KM activities in China and Hong Kong, including the KM Asia-Pacific Conference in China this week (KMAPC: as well as the events of the Hong Kong Knowledge Management Society ( and student projects at HKPU. (See my blogpost from the International Conference on Knowledge Management 2009 in Hong Kong:


Eric also tracked KM-related job advertisements in Hong Kong from the site, and observed that over the last three years they have increased 500+ per cent (but mostly IT-driven). Eric cited Nancy Dixon’s evolution of KM in three phases: collection, connection, conversation. It is now being generally accepted that knowledge is socially constructed.


KM is successfully practiced at Hong Kong Police, Hong Kong Town and Gas, Cathay Pacific, and a range of other organisations (though not much in SMEs). In sum, Eric said activities such as seminars and awards have had a positive effect on raising awareness of KM in Hong Kong. KM is active in mainland China (see, but more communication is needed in English with the outside world.




Ron Young (Twitter: @RonYoung), Chief Knowledge Officer from Knowledge Associates in the UK, shared some of his insights from his work for organisations like Asian Productivity Organisation (APO). APO has published materials for KM facilitation, tools and KM for SMEs.


Knowledge is regarded as the key determinant for national growth and competivity; government needs to learn and innovate as much as the private sector. International organisations such as International Fund for Agricultural Development ( have also launched KM and innovation strategies.


KM is focused on current good practices and harmonisation around proven practices, according to Young. In contrast, innovation is focused on good practices of tomorrow, is higher risk, questions established knowledge and is more high-risk. Innovation builds on prior inventions and discoveries; innovators “leap across learning curves.”


The challenge is to go beyond individual innovators to organisational innovation. This is feasible of course: after all, nobody is perfect but a team can be. It should include roles of idea plant, evaluator, investigator, implementer, shaper and specialists, said Young, citing the work of Meredith Belbin (


Organisations need to understand the spectrum of innovators, enthusiasts, pragmatists and luddites. There is a difference between those who say, “I’ll believe it when I see it” and “I’ll see it when I believe it” (I will invent it and show how). A genius is someone who uses the left and right sides of the brain to the full (eg. Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein).


Young explained that both KM and innovation need to operate across four dimensions: communication, collaboration, processes and integration. Organisations should move from episodic KM and innovation to continuous mainstream KM and innovation. The challenge in this century is to improve the productivity of knowledge workers fifty-fold, just as this transformation happened to factory workers in the last century.


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