Super Users in Action: Knowledge Management

In previous Articles we have defined the Super User role [1] and showed the impact it has on an organization through a case study [2]. It is now time to go into detail into the different dimensions of this role:

This Article details the first dimension. The first question would be: why would we need the Super Users to do that? To begin, let's look at some basic Knowledge management concepts.

The two basic types of knowledge are the explicit (what is already formulated in words, documents or any kind of organized data) and the tacit knowledge (that which resides inside of peoples' heads). All knowledge is initially tacit before being translated into explicit knowledge. As per Nonaka's model, knowledge is created in four different ways in the organization:

Super-User-in-Action_fig1' Phase

Nonakas's SECI model of Knowledge Creation (HILDRETH & KIMBLE, 2002) [3]

Process professionals are very good at “Externalization”. Organize a workshop, draw a process, write a procedure, and there you have it: tacit knowledge transformed into explicit. Process specialists have a series of tools and techniques to understand what is happening in the company, to identify opportunities of improvement, and to track them down in flowcharts, procedures, policies, and descriptions. Also “Combination” is not a problem, if you already have material from previous initiatives and you work on them. The issue is at the left side of the model.

This means that, in the knowledge management process (see below), the knowledge reaches the memory of the organization, but does not go forward. Both “Transfer” and “Sharing” of knowledge are typically defective, causing the “Utilization” step to be weak, consequently having much less impact on the Organizational Performance than we might otherwise expect.

Super-User-in-Action_fig2' Phase

Knowledge Management processes (KING, 2009) [4]

The Super User's impact

The big issue in this regard is in the “Internalization” step, because this is a personal process. Certainly, it is not sufficient to deliver a training program and, or explain it just once: you need to transmit this knowledge in a way the person needs, identifying the correct “what is there for you”, and be able to come back to it later and check to make sure it was actually comprehended. It is also not enough to create a collection of explanatory documents for the entire company, hoping that people will start referring to them. I would not say that it is impossible for the Business Process Office, or for an external trainer, to get people to use what was created. But a Super User has a greater possibility to succeed in do achieving that goal. Here's why:

  • The Super User knows what knowledge his/her colleagues need, in which format, and at which time (or step of the process). Therefore, he/she can structure the knowledge in a way that enables people to access it when they need it. He/she also knows what is required to access the information, so he can minimize that effort.
  • We can agree that an individual's reaction is different if a message is delivered by an external player as opposed to someone closer. The fact that the Super User is performing the same process they're involved in gives more confidence to the team to listen to what he/she says, when teaching something about how to use the system or how the process works.
  • Particularly in large companies, where the responsibilities of a same function may vary significantly, depending on the location, only someone inside of the team will really be able to prepare training and documentation that are perfectly adapted to the team. An external player could do that, but it would require a lot of customization and would be time consuming.

To be able to be both “Knowledge guardian” and “Knowledge adapter” [5], the Super User needs to be aware of the knowledge that exists in his department. This is why Super Users should receive a basic training on Knowledge Management when they assume the role. They should get to know both models presented above, learn how to create a knowledge map, and distinguish different types of information, so as to decide on the best way to store it. With this ability, the Super User will be able to guarantee that:

  • The knowledge existing in the department is relevant, up to date and available to all the team on the best format.
  • New knowledge generated during interactions and problem solving is also captured.
  • In case of replacement of the Super User, this knowledge remains and can be transmitted to the next Super-User.

Potentializing the impact

We did not talk about the “Socialization” step, but this is obviously benefitted by the work of a Super User because of the constant interaction he has with his colleagues. But the “Socialization” step benefits even more because of a Super User Network (read “The Super User (R)evolution” for more information on Super User Networks) [6]. A Super User can do a great deal by himself on his department level, but being part of a network enhances the impact. Interactions in work are always opportunities to generate new knowledge. Now, if you create a network comprised .of people who are experts in their process and the system, and that are cognizant of knowledge management, and you create the environment that enables cooperation, share and solve problems together, you have a great deal of knowledge that's been captured and generated, because they know how to use it!

Knowledge always exists, but people and the organization only fully benefit from it if it is also properly managed. Let's not forget the Super Users' role in this.

  1. Rizoto-Vidala-Pesoa, L. M. The Super User Role: An Extended Concept, 2018,
  2. Rizoto-Vidala-Pesoa, L. M. Super Users in Practice: A Case Study, 2019, BPTrends,
  3. Nonaka, I. & Takeuchi, H. (1995). The knowledge-creating company, New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press
  4. King, W.R. (2009). Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning, Annals of Information Systems 4, DOI 10.1007/978-1-4419-0011-1_1, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009
  5. Rizoto-Vidala-Pesoa, L. M. The Super User role as a tool to progress in
maturity in Business Process Management–a study case of Cabot Latvia. Master thesis, University of Latvia, 2017.
  6. Luttrell, G., Doane, M. The Super User (R)evolution, 2017

Laila Māra Pesoa

Laila Māra Rizoto-Vidala-Pesoa (Rizzotto Vidal Pessôa) is a Process and Knowledge Management expert. At present, she is working in the Business Process Excellence Global Team at Cabot Corporation, where she is participating in the upgrade of the company’s ERP system and coordinating the review and migration of Global Standard Process documentation to a new platform. Laila has worked previously in a fast consumer goods company as Supply Chain Process owner, and has participated in the implementation of the SCOR model in Supply Chain processes for all Baltic Countries. Laila has developed the BPM 6x5 (BPM 6 by 5) model, a self-assessment model that aims to Measurement of the Maturity of an Enterprise in BPM and to guide the development of action plans to move the organization forward in maturity. Maturity in BPM became then Laila’s main topic, especially from the People’s perspective: how to create in people a process thinking mindset that enables continuous improvement? Contact Laila at Linkedin:

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