Super Users in Action: Knowledge Management

by Laila Stancioff, Published in BPTrends on 2019

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:

  • Knowledge Management
  • Internal documentation
  • Training
  • Channel and filter for improvements

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 see 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 (inside of people’s 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:

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 put this 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 in the Organizational Performance than we could expect.

Knowledge Management processes (KING, 2009) [4]

The Super User’s impact

The big issue here is in the “Internalization” step, because this is such a personal process. To be sure someone internalized something, it is not enough to deliver a training, or explain once: you need to transmit this knowledge on the way this person needs, identifying the correct “what is there for you”, and be able to come back to it later and check if it was really apprehended. It is also not enough to create a collection of documents that explain everything and inform all the company, hoping that people will start using 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 definitely for a Super User it is much more possible to succeed. Here are the reasons 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 can structure the knowledge within his department on a way that facilitate to people reaching for it on the moment they need. He also knows how much it takes to get to the information, so he can minimize the effort it takes for people to go look for some information.
  • We cannot deny that people’s reaction is different if a message is delivered by an external player than if it is delivered by someone closer to them. The fact that the Super User is performing the same process they are 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.
  • Especially in big companies, where the responsibilities of a same function may vary a lot depending on the location, only someone inside of the team will really be able to prepare trainings 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, 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 does not go away with him, but can be transmitted to the next one.

Potentializing the impact

We did not talk about the “Socialization” step, but this is obviously benefitted by the work of a Super User due to the constant interaction he has with his colleagues. But the “Socialization” step is benefitted with even more strength by the existence 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 lot by himself on his department level, but having him as part of a network boosts the impact. Interactions in work are always opportunities to generate new knowledge. Now, if you create a network formed of people that are experts on their process and on the system, and that are conscient of knowledge management, and you create the environment that allows them to cooperate, share and solve problems together, you not only have a lot of knowledge being generated, but also captured – because they know how to do 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 on 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 Stancioff, Process-U Executive Director

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