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KM Benefits Tree



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A benefits tree is a simple but effective tool for showing interdependencies between different types of benefit. Many senior executives want a clear understanding of the 'bottom line' benefits of knowledge management before they invest. Typically a knowledge initiative is an infrastructure project where the cost is visible, but the benefits are diffused throughout the organization. A benefits tree relates the immediately visible benefits, through a series of steps to those understood by senior executives.

Example Tree

The following tree has been synthesized from the outputs of three separate situations and highlights some commonly found benefits.

Benefits tree- enable images to view


The arrows indicate which benefits lead to higher level benefits. The benefits on the left are those that are the most visible or quantifiable. Those to the right are the result of several factors, including non-KM factors, combining. In this particular tree, three different classes of benefit have been used:

  1. Knowledge Benefits - these are those derived from more efficient processing of information and knowledge, for example by eliminating duplication of effort or saving valuable time. For example, a survey carried out by the AMS knowledge centre showed that information management professionals at a knowledge centre could find relevant information 8 times faster than non-IM professionals.

  2. Intermediate Benefits - these are how the knowledge benefits could be translated into benefits that can be expressed in terms of efficiency or effectiveness. A common example is that best practices databases helps to eliminate less efficient operations through transferring knowledge from the best practitioners.

  3. Organizational Benefits - this class of benefits are those that impact some of the organization's key goals, such as productivity and customer service.

As a result of such analysis, it is possible to track savings of time in accessing knowledge, though to better customer service by giving them more relevant, validated and timely solutions to their problems. It is quite common to have 4 or even five classes of benefits. For example, organizational benefits can be divided into two classes, one internal benefits, the other customer or market-related benefits.

Additional Information

Deriving a benefits tree is not as simple as it might look. It takes considerable effort to identify the efforts and map their relationships. These considerations are covered more fully in the Knowledge Management Benefits Tree Toolkit (price $10), available at K-Shop which provides:

  • A 'how to' guide for developing a benefits tree
  • Blank benefits tree templates
  • A checklist of common drivers and triggers for knowledge management
  • More extensive lists for each category of benefit
  • A discussion of the main 'value propositions' by which knowledge management is commonly justified
  • Some real examples of benefits achieved.

Other free tools in this series include The Know-All Assessment and a Knowledge Usage Template. See also Tools Overview.

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