Certified Knowledge Specialist (CKS): What it is and How to Get Certified

by | Knowledge Management

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Your organization relies on great knowledge…and a competent individual who knows how to properly manage all the people, processes, and technology involved. Provide great knowledge, and employees spend less time searching for what they need—there’s no surprise knowledge is an ROI-positive investment.

A foundational knowledge management certification is a great idea in general—but if you really want to achieve maximum impact you may want to consider specializing in a particular KM discipline.

In this post, you’ll learn exactly what a certified knowledge specialist is, the specialty KM topics to choose from, and the steps to take to become a Certified Knowledge Specialist (KCS).

Building a knowledge management strategy? Start here Get this essential guide to knowledge management best practices from Harvard expert Patrick Clapp.

Before we dive into things, understand that KMI—the Knowledge Management Institute is by far the leader in KM certifications. They offer both foundational certifications, and specialized certifications.

Below is a brief introductory video outlining the steps to completion for the CKS course from KMI.

You can complete these courses relatively quickly and have the tools to start implementing meaningful changes with KM within your organization.

What is a certified knowledge specialist (CKS)?

A certified knowledge specialist (CKS) is an individual trained in a specific KM discipline, beyond a general or theoretical understanding of KM best practices.

As a Certified Knowledge Specialist, you may be your company’s sole knowledge manager or just an integral part of a larger, multifaceted knowledge management team. Large companies benefit from having multiple Certified Knowledge Specialists that specialize in different areas like knowledge transfer or information architecture.

After taking foundational KM coursework, you can then gain one or more specialized certifications depending on your interests or organizational needs.

If you already have foundational knowledge in a few knowledge management best practices, specialized certifications can help you better tackle specific knowledge initiative like creating a taxonomy.

How to become a certified knowledge specialist (CKS)

To become a certified knowledge specialist, you must complete a two-part CKS certification course including passing a series of exams related to KM fundamentals and a particular knowledge specialty. These classes are offered online or in person by the KM Institute.

Part one lays the groundwork with foundational knowledge management principles. This foundational KM course provides a non-technical understanding of KM as a whole you’ll need as a professional. Upon completing part one, you will receive access to the specialist courses. KMI also provides a general Knowledge Management Certification (CKM) we covered in this post that is their most popular and broad certification option.

The AI Survival Guide for Knowledge Managers Read this guide to future-proof knowledge management in the age of AI.

For any speciality certification, you’ll learn the inner workings of one particular aspect of KM and can specialize in more than one topic.

Here are the steps for earning the CKS certificate (in any one of the eight specialty areas).

  1. Study 10 hours of content to prepare for the KM Foundations online course.
  2. Complete a two-day in-person or online training: Foundation and Essentials Program.
  3. Attend a two-day in-person immersive training or live virtual event covering the CKS specialty topic of your choice.
  4. Take and pass a two-part online post-class exam.

Building a knowledge management strategy? Start here

Get this essential guide to knowledge management best practices from Harvard expert Patrick Clapp.

8 Certified Knowledge Specialist topics to consider

The following are brief descriptions of each of the eight specialist tracks offered by KMI in the second part of the CKS course.
You will likely gravitate to one of these knowledge specialty areas based on your interests, experience, and existing skills (technical or not).

1. Agile and Design Thinking

Agile and Design Thinking puts the user at the front and center of the development process. Since the concept depends on continual feedback loops, it requires empathy skills to transfer knowledge as users provide input about their experience. Continual improvement requires KM to feed its infinite development cycle.

Each repetition requires even more honed and fine-tuned KM than the last cycle.

This CKS specialty area works well for people interested in establishing an organized approach to KM within a company. From the basics of the course, students learn how Agile and Design Thinking improves every aspect of a business.
Instructors then present detailed analyses and case studies where Agile and Design Thinking applied to KM positively transform businesses.

Students leave the course prepared to work with executives and others to establish a foundational KM program within their organization.

2. Knowledge Transfer

The Knowledge Transfer CKS course focuses students on the crucial task of preserving knowledge within an organization. No one stays at a job forever, so every individual’s ability within a company will eventually require preservation and transference.

Knowledge grows within an organization only when a system is in place to hold it and transfer it to the “next generation” of staff, from workers to executives. Your org better prepare whenever someone quits, retires, or moves up in rank if guided by someone trained in knowledge transfer.

The Knowledge Transfer specialty gets you ready for any possible significant disruptions that are likely or upcoming. In addition, as a Knowledge Transfer course graduate, you will have tools at your disposal to help ensure your company passes on knowledge instead of losing it.

3. Information Architecture

Information Architecture (IA) studies building knowledge access that mirrors the functioning of the human mind. IA puts a readable face on raw data and increases its level of “findability.” It is unfortunate when a company’s workers or leadership cannot locate the information they need to do their jobs because they do not know how to structure the search. If your company’s vital, life-giving knowledge is hard to find, employees cannot use it to better the organization.

The Information Architecture course covers how you structure company information to make it more usable. Students learn the fundamentals of IA to further their ability to set up knowledge management structures within their organizations that will be user-friendly and flexible enough to evolve and scale. In addition, you will thoroughly understand how to apply IA to achieve your company’s goals upon completion.

4. Social KM

The social aspect of KM involves the implicit details of knowledge within your organization that are difficult to define. Not necessarily the “A-ha” moments, but more how your company’s staff unofficially transfers bits of wisdom each day.

When you learn to collect these intangible information exchanges in a tangible format, you will have the opportunity to create a guide to your organization’s previously undocumented inner workings. Moreover, the valuable handbook you produce will take on a life of its own and outlast the individuals who contributed to it.

Learning to tap into these “off-grid” knowledge transfers is powerful when establishing or improving KM within your organization. Course participants learn how to uncover, track, and use these magical moments of knowledge conveyance to enhance the performance of all aspects of their companies.

With the skills taught in this certification course, you can lead a collaborative effort to document your company’s “hidden” knowledge and provide lasting benefits to your stakeholders.

5. Knowledge Capture

This CKS specialization teaches you how to get knowledge from the minds of experts within your company and share it with everyone else. The “Knowledge Jam” is a KMI conversational technique that teaches students the words to use to get knowledge holders within your company to open up and share what they know.

Now you can gather the knowledge that lies idle or in information silos within your organization. You will learn the skills to take that information and disseminate it to everyone who will benefit.

6. Taxonomy

With a Taxonomy certification, you will understand how to label, group, and classify your data to transform it into usable knowledge for your business. For those starting on a KM project involving the creation of Metadata, this course will provide what you need to know to get started.

You will learn how to explain taxonomy and Metadata to your colleagues. In addition, this course gives you solid information on how investing wisely in good taxonomy design produces value for the company.

The result will be a company with information that is easier to find and easier to share. Unfortunately, most companies struggle with successfully implementing effective taxonomy strategies. With this certification, you will be able to help bring your organization to the forefront of this vital aspect of KM.

7. Change Management

One thing is for sure — the ability to manage change in today’s business environment is essential for success. Change always occurs, but managers and staff are often unprepared to deal with it. This course gives you foundational information on how to cope with the inevitable shifts likely to occur on your watch.

Students will leave the course knowing how to move beyond change-coping strategies. They will learn how to use tools acquired in the learning sessions to stimulate buy-in from within the company. The course also covers using a change event to promote positive outcomes within an organization.

8. Creative Knowledge Management

The course creators at KMI developed the Creative Knowledge Management certification to stretch participants’ thinking and help them improve how they approach problems.

Elegantly solving problems may involve a straightforward step outside the usual pattern. This course teaches you that it is okay to take that unconventional step. Creative KM will help you break through those restrictive thought patterns that keep your organization from moving forward.

Ready to become a certified knowledge specialist?

The demand is growing for people with KM skills, especially if you are designing a knowledge management system and graduating from a knowledge base to a more powerful solution. Once you have the foundational knowledge management skills, it may be a good idea to specialize in a particular discipline, or a KM methodology like KCS.

Even if you decide to put off additional knowledge certifications, always follow KM best practices and stay up-to-date with the latest in knowledge management!

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