When Kate Guersch became director of learning and knowledge management for the newly formed Avanade three years ago, she faced a challenge that many training professionals would love—to build a comprehensive learning strategy from the ground up. "I had a strong sense of what needed to be done," she says, "and it was really cool to be able to do it."
Guersch's team developed aKM, a continuous learning system that incorporates instructor-led virtual training, self-study, on-the-job experience and knowledge sharing. Worldwide, the Seattle-based company has 1,400 technical consultants who support enterprisewide projects built exclusively on Microsoft technology. Working on the ever-changing, leading edge of technology, often with products still in development, these consultants need to know the latest data, information and knowledge to do their jobs.
Note the distinction: data are the facts, which are organized into information; when used by someone to solve a problem, information in turn becomes personal knowledge. Capture that knowledge and you have an intellectual asset that can be shared, informally on the job or within a structured classroom.
Companies have been capturing intellectual assets in knowledge management (KM) systems for some time now. As e-learning matures, opportunities for leveraging these assets to enhance learning are becoming increasingly clear. For example, one of Avanade's more recent aKM training courses is Exchange Server 2003 Troubleshooting, a 40-hour, instructor-led virtual course for a Microsoft product not yet fully launched in the market. After using the product to help a customer improve its Exchange infrastructure, an Avanade technical consultant wrote down his experience and submitted the "IA," as Avanade calls the aKM contributions made by the consultants. His IA is now used in the course as a discussion tool, as well as housed in the repository as a knowledge resource or object that can be accessed whenever needed.