Strategy Services

Knowledge Management Cost Benchmarking

Learning about KM investment across industry peers

For many years, one of the most prominent global management consulting firms had invested in building a strong internal knowledge management (KM) capability, focused on enabling its partners and consultants to provide stronger and more efficient client service delivery, growth, and firm-wide success. The firm had augmented these investments in recent years with expanded staff (including placing client-facing consultants in formal knowledge roles), offshore support from a shared services center in India, and enhanced knowledge-sharing tools.


Because of the challenges of performing high-quality benchmarking, the project took the following approach:

  • The study participants included approximately 15 large, global professional services organizations, as long as they had a defined KM capability and program leader(s).
  • Data was collected through an online survey, completed by each participating firm’s head of KM (or another senior contact). Iknow also conducted a telephone interview of each firm after the survey.
  • Iknow committed that the attribution of raw data to individual firms remain in the possession of Iknow and not be shared with any other parties. Participating firms were offered a summary report from the study.
  • The majority of KM costs typically reside in personnel/staff, so one main focus was on capturing clean and normalized headcount/FTE data and staff location.
  • The data collected was also mapped against services delivered and key program activities. The analysis then compared KM costs by major activity.
  • Technology enablement costs were captured for major categories of KM platforms and reflected new versus ongoing investment.
  • The process ensured that all roles were captured, including those in business groups that may be part-time and not budgeted.

The project was structured in three workstreams.

  1. Preparation. Build and test the survey and data collection approach and secure the participation from peer firms.
  2. Data Collection. Gather data from participating firms through a survey and follow-up interview.
  3. Analysis, Reporting, and Wrap-up. Complete data analysis, deliver the full project report, and transition the sanitized model to the client.

The project’s deliverables included:

  • Collecting current and projected data on KM costs from each organization
  • Capturing the data, as best as possible, by type of spend (e.g., dedicated staff, technology cost, other program expenses), and by the type of services provided
  • Normalizing the raw data to account for differences in KM program scope and services, by organizational size and geography, and other relevant differences in firm strategy
  • Creating practical cost metrics, which can be used to compare relative spending across participating firms
  • Identifying key insights and good practices from other firms, which the consulting company may want to assess in more detail.

The consulting firm received valuable information about the levels of current and future investment in knowledge management across its industry peer group. The benchmarking findings provided insights about how the company might optimize its resource allocation decisions. 

    Project Summary No.

    Knowledge Management Strategy

    Helping the IMF leverage knowledge to promote monetary cooperation and sustainable economic growth

    The International Monetary Fund (IMF), an international organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. and composed of 189 member countries, works to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.


    The objective of this initial assignment was to support the IMF’s KM working group by providing an external, expert review of the working group’s draft strategy and plan for knowledge management.

    Iknow structured the project in three phases.

    1. Discover Phase. Iknow started the assignment by reviewing the current draft documents, the previous KM recommendations, and other relevant information. Then Iknow conducted interviews with the KM working group and with other IMF stakeholders. The Discover Phase established a baseline understanding of the IMF’s knowledge management environment and the associated issues.

    2. Workshop Phase. Next, Iknow facilitated two workshops with the KM working group. The two half-day interactive workshops proved to be excellent forums for discussing, challenging, reviewing, and enhancing the draft documents. The workshops helped align the team to a common KM vision and goals for the future state.

    3. Strategy Refinement. Iknow captured the conclusions and insights from the two workshops and incorporated this new material into the draft documents. Iknow provided a knowledge model and recommended a series of priority and longer- term actions, addressing such issues as governance, cultural change, and communications. Iknow also added additional perspectives from its previous client work to enhance the vision and planning documents. Lastly, Iknow helped IMF develop KM storylines and use cases that clearly demonstrated KM’s value propositions for the key stakeholders.


    Iknow’s input into the planning process strengthened the working group’s proposal for the new KM vision, plan, and recommendations. Specifically, Iknow’s support aligned the KM vision and plan with the IMF’s strategic plan and communicated KM’s value in more tangible and practical terms. The resulting recommendations quickly gained support from the IMF’s senior management.

    Project Summary No.

    Knowledge Management Strategy and Framework

    Designing Saudi Arabia’s National Knowledge Hub

    The Center for Strategic Development (CSD) was established by Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers to be their national center of thought-leadership on socio-economic development. The CSD’s mission is to provide independent and comprehensive advice on socio-economic development. The CSD is organized into three main departments—policy analysis, consulting, and knowledge management (KM).


    The Knowledge Management Strategy and Framework Project was conducted in eight stages, or work streams, over roughly a 20-week period. The objectives of each work stream were:

    1. Baseline CSD KM Landscape and Capabilities. Gain a comprehensive understanding of the CSD’s current KM capabilities, practices, and processes and develop a “baseline” assessment.
    2. Benchmark Think Tank KM Functions. Identify KM-related benchmarks and industry best practices from recognized “think tanks” and apply them to CSD’s new KM program.
    3. Develop the CSD KM Strategy. Develop a customized KM strategy that is consistent with and supports CSD’s overall mission, vision, and business strategy.
    4. Develop the CSD Knowledge Taxonomy. Create a comprehensive and consistent taxonomy and set of metadata that can be used across both the CSD KM Platform and the National Knowledge Hub.
    5. Design the CSD Knowledge Management and National Knowledge Hub Platform. Identify, collect, and validate the CSD’s internal KM-related business requirements and the National Knowledge Hub’s KM-related business requirements.
    6. Design the CSD KM Governance Model. Develop an information governance framework, processes, and organizational structures to manage the entirety of information assets within the CSD.
    7. Detail the CSD KM Operating Model. Define the internal business processes necessary to support enterprise-wide knowledge management, and define the roles, organization structure, and resources necessary to staff the internal KM function.
    8. Design the 2020 KM Roadmap. Develop, evaluate, and prioritize a portfolio of projects that will continue to grow and expand the KM capabilities within the Center for Strategic Development.

    These eight work streams provided a comprehensive KM foundation and roadmap for the CSD.


    Iknow produced 40 primary deliverables and categories of deliverables as part of the KM Strategy and Framework Project. Some of the key deliverables are described below.

    • KM Strategy. The KM Strategy work stream identified and defined ten user groups and performed an extensive analysis of business use cases. The National Knowledge Hub will initially focus on four categories of strategic knowledge assets:
      • Deliverables and related outputs from studies and projects related to strategy and socio-economic development that are conducted within the CSD and across all KSA government organizations.
      • External content to support the CSD Research & Policy Department’s policy research portfolio.
      • Profiles of subject matter experts (SMEs) whose specialty areas are of interest to the CSD and other government entities.
      • Consulting and research templates, guidelines, approaches, methodologies, frameworks, and tools, extracted from the collected studies.
    • KM Benchmarking. Iknow conducted a comprehensive benchmarking effort to identify knowledge management-related (KM) benchmarks and industry best practices from recognized think tanks and apply them in the design of the CSD’s new KM program.
    • Knowledge Taxonomy. Iknow used the American Economic Association’s Journal of Economic Literature Classification System for the subject matter taxonomy. Naseej translated the taxonomy into Arabic. Iknow also selected the Maknaz Expanded Thesaurus as the source for synonyms, homonyms, antonyms, and related terms. These terms will be added to the autoclassification tool to enhance the semantic value of the taxonomy.
    • Metadata Schema. Iknow constructed a composite metadata model for the CSD. The metadata model consisted of seven metadata categories and twenty-five metadata elements. Iknow’s metadata schema included definitions of the metadata elements, their data type and format, and other relevant descriptors, such as mandatory or optional, and single or multi-valued. Iknow also developed ten controlled vocabularies that are associated with specific metadata elements. For most of the controlled vocabularies, we prepared the lists of values in both Arabic and English.
    • Technology Solution Recommendations. Iknow collected, validated, and documented the business and technical requirements for the National Knowledge Hub platform. Based on these requirements, Iknow evaluated hundreds of commercial and open source software products. In the end, sixteen named software products were recommended for the Knowledge Hub platform. These products address all of the business and technical requirements that were identified and collected during the earlier work streams.
    • KM Governance Model. Iknow developed recommendations for the Knowledge Hub’s governance model, governance bodies, and responsibilities in the form of a RACI Matrix. Iknow recommended an Interactive KM governance model for the Knowledge Hub. The Interactive KM governance model will support the organization’s learning culture, which is required by CSD to become a thought leader in socio-economic development. Iknow recommended three types of KM governance bodies for the Knowledge Hub: a KM Advisory Committee, a KM Strategy Leadership, and a KM Operational Team. The duties and expectations for each governance body were described.
    • KM Business Process Descriptions. Iknow developed a comprehensive set of “future-state” business processes for the Knowledge Hub. Specifically, Iknow developed thirty-four individual business process descriptions and process maps for the knowledge management-related “future-state” business processes. These “future-state” processes were based on Iknow’s deep experience and expertise in the knowledge management domain.
    • KM Organization Structure and Job Descriptions. Iknow designed four levels of the Knowledge Management Department’s organization structure. Iknow prepared 25 KM-related job descriptions for the new Department. We also created the three-year Knowledge Hub Staffing Plan
    • Three-Year KM Implementation Roadmap. Iknow conducted a Portfolio Prioritization Workshop to propose, discuss, and refine proposed roadmap projects.

    The project’s deliverables and recommendations were well received by the Head of the Knowledge Hub, the President of the CSD, and the CSD’s Board of Directors. The Board of Directors approved the funding for the Implementation Phase and work will start in 2019.

    Project Summary No.

    Knowledge Management Strategy Support

    Executing on the USACE knowledge management campaign plan

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is a major Command of the Army, with more than 37,000 employees. The USACE’s mission covers major public civil engineering projects in both the military (e.g., facilities construction/maintenance) and the civilian sectors (e.g., roads, bridges, dames, water protection).


    Over the course of the five-month engagement, Iknow provided support to the USACE in the following six areas.

    1. APQC Maturity Model submission preparation and support. Iknow worked closely with each of the 12 KMRs in coordination with the CKO to develop their maturity model submissions. Iknow served as a subject matter expert on the APQC’s KM Maturity Model, providing guidance to the KMRs as they collected data/examples for their submissions and providing feedback on their draft submissions. Iknow used these submissions to provide a preliminary assessment of the ratings achieved by each of the twelve divisions, along with recommendations for each to close any gaps relative to the Level 3 rating. Iknow worked with the APQC’s experts during the project.
    2. Expertise location LOE review and assessment. Iknow conducted a brief assessment of the expertise location LOE, by interviewing members of the LOE team, studying the progress made on their pilot projects, and reviewing two draft reports written by the USACE staff. From this assessment, Iknow authored a report containing a recommended strategy, roadmap, and immediate next steps. This report was delivered to the USACE’s Knowledge Management Leadership Team.
    3. Content and records management assessment. Iknow performed an assessment of content and records management at the USACE. The assessment covered content strategy, lifecycle management, technology platforms, taxonomies, and roles, as well as specific action items for the organization to pursue over the next 18-24 months. Iknow’s approach for conducting the assessment included stakeholder interviews; the review of existing documentation, policies and metrics; and demonstrations of several existing technology tools. One software product that was proposed for wide use across the USACE was an engineering project collaboration suite called ProjectWise.
    4. Knowledge management training. Iknow created a training strategy document for the USACE, covering the training requirements and proposed programs for both end-users (all off the 37,000 workforce) and KMRs (roughly 50-100 core knowledge management staff). Iknow also developed the “KM Familiarization” training programs for both of these stakeholder groups, in both PowerPoint and online formats. The online programs were created using LearnDash LMS, a plug-in tool that runs on WordPress sites; Iknow used LearnDash upon the request of the CKO.
    5. Preparation of Lines of Activity (LOA). LOA’s are defined as the lower level building blocks of strategy implementation. Iknow created a library of LOAs for Knowledge Management, which provide instructions and guidance to each of the divisional KMRs on the key activities they need undertake when leading their local KM programs. This library was created in Microsoft Word.
    6. General KM program support. Iknow also participated in many other activities in the KM program, including KM Working Group meetings, technology reviews, and ad hoc support as needed.

    Because of the wide range of topics and deliverables addressed in the contract, it was critical for the USACE and Iknow teams to communicate and collaborate effectively. Several key techniques included:

    • Use of Slack as an information collaboration tool. Slack was used as the primary mode of communications among the joint team, and generally replaced email. Team members used Slack to provide updates, ask/answer questions, and share informal documents. Team members knew they could find quick answers and an historical record of conversations. The team also used Slack’s private channel capability, for collaboration among subgroups.
    • Use of Asana as a master repository for deliverables and reports. Iknow’s project team as well as other consultants working for the USACE posted workplans, project updates, reports, and other deliverables in Asana.
    • Weekly team check-in calls. These calls were used to review the most recent deliverables, review progress, and agree on the next steps.

    The USACE CKO’s office used Iknow’s recommendations and deliverables to plan the next phase of their KM program implementation, including FY19 budget requests and the mobilization of staff. An immediate next step was to formally submit the Maturity Model package to the APQC for evaluation and ratings.

    Project Summary No.

    KM Strategy, Governance, and Roadmap

    Building the Foundations for Knowledge Management and Institutional Memory at a National Energy Ministry

    The King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (K.A.CARE) serves as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s national energy laboratory for atomic, solar, wind, geothermal, and other emerging renewable energy technologies. Its mission is to contribute to sustainable development in the Kingdom.


    Iknow conducted this assignment by performing a portfolio of 11 discrete work streams:

    • Content Audit
    • SharePoint 2013 Configuration
    • Taxonomy and Metadata Development
    • Content Cleansing, Migration, and Enrichment
    • Publication Strategy
    • KM Current-State Assessment
    • Business and Technical Requirements Collection
    • KM Strategy
    • KM Governance Policies and Practices Design
    • Knowledge Capture and Retention Design
    • KM Roadmap (includes KM Team Organizational Structure).

    The project began with a detailed content audit of K.A.CARE’s current knowledge repositories and a broad assessment of the organization’s other knowledge resources, knowledge sharing behaviors, and barriers to effective knowledge management. Iknow then collected business and technical requirements, driven by a combination of face-to-face interviews with the organization’s management group and surveys across all departments and functional areas.

    As part of the Taxonomy and Metadata Development work stream, Iknow developed an enterprise-wide taxonomy and metadata schema for classifying all aspects of the organization’s activities and documents. In parallel, we collected a range of deliverables from previous K.A.CARE projects and constructed a historical events timeline. This timeline served as the framework for capturing the organization’s institutional memory.

    The first phase of the work concluded with a comprehensive strategy, detailed recommendations for the future-state KM policies, practices, metrics, and governance mechanisms, and a complete implementation roadmap.

    Iknow produced more than 100 separate deliverables for K.A.CARE. Some of more important deliverables include:

    • Content audit
    • Current-state assessment that documented the current status of K.A.CARE’s knowledge management activities and established the baseline to measure future improvements
    • Customized metadata schema, controlled vocabularies, and a hierarchical taxonomy with related terms
    • Business and technical requirements
    • Recommendations for KM governance policies and practices
    • Single content repository implemented in Microsoft SharePoint 2013
    • Several technical pilots including project team collaboration, enterprise content management, search, and an interactive timeline for institutional memory
    • Initial set of finished K.A.CARE publications
    • A comprehensive roadmap, with implementation priorities and ranked projects

    Key benefits anticipated from the knowledge management work streams include:

    • Speed of response to business opportunities
    • Quality of output and decision making based on knowledge of previous work
    • Greater efficiency from re-use of data, approaches, models, and tools
    • Stronger organizational alignment from cross-sector awareness of projects and activities
    • Improved collaboration and teamwork
    • Improved employee engagement and morale at every level.

    Key benefits anticipated from the institutional memory work streams include:

    • Retain the knowledge of how and why K.A.CARE has evolved as it has, regardless of employee retirement and turnover
    • Make this knowledge retention consistent and repeatable as additional milestones are achieved
    • Optimize onboarding and training time and effectiveness
    • Improve new employee productivity and decision making through better contextual understanding.

    K.A.CARE used the results of this project to secure funding for a 18-month implementation project.

    Project Summary No.

    Project Prioritization and Roadmap

    Creating an Optimal Portfolio of Improvement Projects

    The Information Technology (IT) department of a global media and entertainment company was struggling with how to make capital investment and resource allocation decisions. The company made very large capital investments every year in its technology infrastructure and software, and while the company did have an annual budgeting process for new IT projects, the actual expenditures varied widely from the original budget. The variances were due, in part, to competing priorities and an inconsistent approach for evaluating and selecting projects.


    Iknow first developed standard templates for describing the various types of proposed projects. The use of common templates helped describe each project consistently and make “apples-to-apples” comparisons between projects. Project owners were asked to describe their projects’ objectives, benefits, activities, deliverables, degree of technical effort, and timetable. Thirty-two projects were defined.

    Iknow then classified the projects into three groups:

    • Vision Shaping Projects. Vision Shaping Projects are those projects that establish a comprehensive, enterprise-wide direction for the company’s metadata architecture. These projects can be characterized as top-down and strategic.
    • Foundational Projects. Foundational Projects are those projects that indirectly create business value by providing the infrastructure to support the company’s value-creating core business processes and activities. Foundational Projects address internal data and information management processes, functional architecture, content architecture, governance, and other information technology issues.
    • Revenue Enhancement Projects. Revenue Enhancement Projects are those projects that generate new revenues or expand existing revenues, usually from new or improved products and services.

    Iknow categorized the proposed projects into these three groups because the criteria used to evaluate the projects varies across the groups. We defined several metrics for evaluating projects; some of the top metrics included alignment with mission, goals, and strategy; alignment with customer expectations and/or requirements; cost (to implement the project); revenue generation; return of investment (ROI); and time sensitivity/urgency.

    Iknow developed a nine-box scoring grid to visually demonstrate the relative position of the projects within each group with respect to the two criteria selected for the axes. An example of relative project ranking within a category is presented in the exhibit below. Projects highlighted in yellow (numbers 10, 17, and 18) have the highest relative ranking on the Customer Expectations dimension.

    Project Evaluation and Selection Grid

    The project evaluation and selection grid is used for project prioritization and selection.

    A day-long workshop was held with senior business and technology executives to evaluate the potential projects and to select the projects for next year’s budget. The objectives of the workshop were to:

    • Establish clear definitions for each of the potential projects.
    • Propose any new projects.
    • Agree on a common framework for project evaluation. This includes clear definitions of the evaluation criteria.
    • Evaluate the projects against the criteria to determine their relative importance.
    • Select the highest-rated projects for the roadmap.

    Thirteen projects were ultimately selected by the workshop participants to be included in the final project portfolio.


    The Information Technology Department now has a standard process for describing, evaluating, and selecting improvement projects and capital investment and resource allocation decisions are made consistently.

    Project Summary No.

    Knowledge Audit

    Laying the Foundation for a New Content Architecture

    The Scientific Affairs Department at a global pharmaceutical and medical device company is responsible for creating and disseminating medical and clinical information to support the company’s various therapeutic areas. The department had roughly 350 employees at three locations and field-based Scientific Affairs Liaisons (SALs) located across the United States.


    Iknow conducted the following activities:

    • Developed standard data collection templates and interview guides that were used for all interviews.
    • Conducted individual and group interviews across all major functional areas with process owners, process participants, and end users of process outputs to identify and describe the knowledge assets that they used in their jobs.
    • Prepared a detailed interview summary after each interview.
    • Collected and reviewed the available standard operating procedures for the department’s key functional areas.
    • Cataloged and stored the information about each knowledge asset in a custom Microsoft Access database.

    The information was collected and aggregated into 15 categories that aligned with the Department’s major functional areas. The categories were:

    • Clinical Operations
    • Clinical Trial Management (Clinical Supplies)
    • Customer Contact Center
    • EBM and OR Strategy
    • Learning and Professional Development
    • Medical Affairs
    • Medical Communications
    • Medical Education
    • Outcomes Research
    • Planning and Contracts
    • Quantitative Methodology
    • Safety Operations
    • Scientific Affairs Field
    • Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), Compliance and Auditing
    • Trial Methodology

    More than 80 Department personnel were involved in the Knowledge Audit and more than 700 individual knowledge assets were collected, described, and inventoried. Assets were categorized as either process inputs or outputs. Inputs were defined as knowledge assets that initiate, are accessed by, or referenced during a business process; outputs were defined as knowledge assets that are an end product from the business process.


    In roughly four months, the Scientific Affairs Department had a comprehensive inventory of its business processes, standard operating procedures, and intermediate and final process outputs. This knowledge base served as the foundation for four follow-on projects:

    • Content Architecture. This project addressed content architecture, information access/availability, and search issues by standardizing the content types, metadata, and vocabulary across all databases and tools. This project covered:
      • Taxonomy
      • Content types
      • Metadata
    • Help/FAQs. This project developed and implemented a variety of end-user help and support materials to promote knowledge access, knowledge sharing, and end-user self-service. These materials included:
      • Guidelines and helpful hints on where to find information and on using the databases and tools.
      • Knowledge sharing programs and contests.
      • A monthly newsletter with knowledge-related news and tips.
    • Templates Redesign. This project created a department-wide templates repository. Specifically, this project:
      • Identified and collected best-in-class templates and categorized them by functional group.
      • Developed new templates based on the Knowledge Audit, SOPs, and end-user interviews.
    • Knowledge Governance. This project developed the optimal knowledge governance policies and practices.
    Project Summary No.


    Iknow’s benchmarking services highlight the approaches of other organizations that have successfully implemented knowledge management programs with the lessons learned from their experiences. Our benchmarking services assess our clients’ KM strategies, policies, practices, and systems against comparable organizations in their industry sector and against recognized leaders in the KM field to identify performance gaps and opportunities for improvement. 

    Business Value

    Iknow’s benchmarking services benefit greatly from our senior team’s KM leadership and operational experience—we know where to look for the most relevant ideas and insights that can improve our clients’ KM programs and initiatives, and that will work best in practice. Effective benchmarking can significantly accelerate KM strategy development and avoid wasted effort on implementing policies and practices that won’t translate well to a different organizational setting.


    Iknow provides benchmarking results either as a stand-alone report or as part of a larger deliverable, such as a current-state assessment, strategy, or roadmap.

    KM Renewal

    Practically every organization has some experience with knowledge management. Even when these efforts are not necessarily labeled “knowledge management,” they nonetheless represent real investments in people, process, technology, and content-related initiatives and tools, typically with the goal of enabling their staff and teams to do their jobs more effectively through the access to, and sharing of, relevant data and information.

    Business Value

    KM Renewal programs offer the potential to provide a fresh approach and new momentum to existing KM programs. If the shortfalls in an underperforming KM program are not addressed, then these failures can “poison the well” and cause businesses to abandon otherwise good investments in knowledge management.


    The main deliverable from this work is a refreshed KM Strategy and Roadmap. The strategy helps reset the dialogue and the underlying business case with the organization’s leadership; the roadmap is a focused action plan on how to enhance and optimize the value of the current knowledge management programs. Iknow builds this action plan through internal interviews and surveys, and an assessment of existing programs.

    Iknow also offers assistance for implementing KM Renewal programs.

    Governance, Roles, and Organization Design

    Governance deals with the “how” questions of knowledge management: How should KM be organized, monitored, and managed for successful outcomes? To address these issues, Iknow works with clients to define and build the structures, roles, and governance processes required to fully enable effective knowledge management in their organizations. This could include leadership positions, KM steering/advisory groups, and business-unit knowledge management roles.

    Business Value

    Success with knowledge management depends critically on both leadership and effective support resources. A well-designed combination of dedicated management roles with networks of part-time advisors and facilitators can ensure efficient use of resources to meet KM objectives, while enhancing broader organizational involvement and buy-in.


    Iknow’s deliverables typically include an organizational strategy, role descriptions for both permanent and advisory/committee positions, staffing and training plans, as well as draft communications for describing the new roles to the rest of the organization.

    Iknow also offers assistance for implementing governance, roles, and organizational design recommendations.