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Purging Knowledge

There has been a lot of talk of knowledge management over the past 5 to 10 years. Organizations are obsessed with improving processes by having them documented – not just for those who are charged with carrying out those processes today, but for those who have to follow in their footsteps once the current holders of the knowledge leave the organization. One overlooked notion in this arena is knowledge purging.
We all have document retention policies. In some cases, that is thanks to Sarbox. In other cases, paranoid general counsels have advised this for years. But what about general knowledge? Why isn’t that occassionally purged? You know what I’m talking about – “That’s just the way it is done.” I hate that answer. If I ask why do journal entries have to be made for every expense in a job costing system, “that’s just the way it is done” is not a valid answer. Instead, exploration is required to figure out why that is the way it is done.
Business rules need to be documented for exactly this reason. The people that you have entrusted for the past decade to keep up the knowledge of the system are now overloaded with things they need to remember. They are also nearing retirement. The audit trail will tell us not only why “that’s the way it is done” but also who says that is the way it is done. Armed with this information, the savvy business executive or effective business analyst can now cut through the noise and ambiguities to carve out what is truly required, and make tactical decisions based on solid, current facts.

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