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knowledge management novices

Here’s why so many Microsoft SharePoint users are knowledge management “novices”

There’s an old saying: To a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

A lot of organizations have Microsoft SharePoint as the knowledge management (KM) “hammer” in their toolkit – and many are wielding it inappropriately, doing considerable damage in the process.

Don’t take our word for it. When industry research firm IDC* interviewed scores of companies around the world about their experiences using knowledge management systems – what IDC calls “intelligent knowledge networks” – they found that the least sophisticated user organizations, or “novices,” reported experiencing a range of problems that, in scope and scale, stood in marked contrast to the most sophisticated KM user organizations (“transformers”).  The intensity with which novice organizations reported experiencing these problems, specifically for competitive intelligence (CI) use cases, suggests to us that many are probably using Microsoft SharePoint as their primary KM tool for CI.

What are the problems IDC’s study called out, and how do they correlate to SharePoint’s limitations?

First, no well-defined process for capturing knowledge.  On IDC’s scale of 1-10, novice organizations reported experiencing this problem about 50% more frequently than did transformers.

Second, the current knowledge management tool is unable to ingest necessary content.  Again, novices reported experiencing this problem about 50% more intensely than did transformers.

Third, usability (or lack thereof).  Novices felt the “difficulty of use” problem particularly intensely, recording one of the highest scores (6.5) of any question in IDC’s survey.  Transformers, by contrast, recorded an aggregate average score of less than 3.5.  This finding suggests to us that novices most likely are using Microsoft SharePoint in their organizations, as it is notoriously unfriendly.

Closely related to general usability is the next problem: it is difficult to find content within the KM system using its native search tool.  Scores on this question mirrored the usability question and provide another indicator that Microsoft SharePoint may be present at many novice organizations.

Another problem called out in IDC’s survey is the inability to access silos of information.  This gets at the heart of SharePoint’s most glaring limitation for competitive intelligence applications: it isn’t an enterprise solution.  SharePoint is at best a workgroup solution and actually contributes to the problem of information silos rather than solving it.  Novice organizations again reported experiencing this problem over 50% more intensely than transformer organizations.

Finally, regarding content management, IDC probed survey respondents about whether they found accessing external knowledge through their KM system to be limited, manual or time consuming.  Responses to this question revealed one of the sharpest divides between novices and transformers – not surprising, given that Microsoft SharePoint has no special facility for handling external content.  (In contrast, Northern Light SinglePoint – an enterprise KM solution optimized for competitive intelligence that is used by many transformer organizations – excels at ingesting and indexing external content, which is vital for the use case since so much CI content comes from the outside world, beyond the “four walls” of an organization.)

Why does any of this matter?  Because the problems highlighted in IDC’s study are not academic; they represent real impediments to effective knowledge management across an enterprise, which in turn impact the ability to make sound business decisions.

Therefore, it is well worth an organization’s time to assess the functionality of each KM system solution relative to the problems IDC flagged… and to remember, when it comes to Microsoft SharePoint, a novice with a hammer may damage more than he repairs.


Watch Northern Light CEO David Seuss’ presentation to SCIP (the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals) about what it takes to become a competitive intelligence “transformer”.


[* IDC multi-client study, “Intelligent Knowledge Networks Survey Analysis”, document number US48814422, December 2021]
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