As your organization grows, it accumulates vast amounts of information and experience. This collective knowledge makes your business unique and it’s what gives you an edge over your competition – but only if this knowledge can be effectively stored, accessed and applied.
Knowledge management is how a business identifies, organizes, stores and distributes information among its people. Poor knowledge management results in time and cost inefficiencies; people spend their time searching for information instead of completing tasks that add value and progress organizational objectives.
The effective, efficient transfer of knowledge has become even more critical as people are more likely to work from separate locations. A study in Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends says knowledge management is one of the top three issues impacting company success – yet only 9%1 of the organizations surveyed report feeling ready to address it.
And all the while your people are building and contributing knowledge inside the organization, the outside world is adding knowledge too in different languages, through different technologies and via various systems. A knowledge management system needs to manage all this input and make it available so it can be productively used.
Let’s look at knowledge management challenges at each stage of the process:
When your employees generate information or gain experience, they create knowledge. But unless they share it, it goes no further than the individual. If they don’t know where to save information, or if responsibilities around sharing it aren’t clearly defined, then knowledge disappears as quickly as it forms.
Creating a business culture that values knowledge and promotes the principle that knowledge should be for the many, not the few, will enable people to recognize the importance of the knowledge they acquire.
A knowledge management system should:
Businesses need to capture knowledge as soon as it’s created. Not all knowledge is as tangible as facts and figures though, and capturing it is difficult. Experience can be hard to reproduce or share. Every business needs a way to transfer this deeper knowledge, but it's especially critical if you have high staff turnover or many new employees.
The goal is to make it easy for anyone in any role, regardless of their digital skill levels, to capture and store information.
Atlas Add It, for example, is a feature of the Atlas intranet and digital workspace that allows anyone with permission to contribute information without the complexity other tools involve when it comes to uploading and tagging content. Add It’s step-by-step wizard takes people through the process of adding documents, news, events or insights, removing barriers to contributing knowledge.
3. Knowledge storage
Once captured, knowledge needs to be organized for easy access. Otherwise, people can waste a huge amount of time searching for information (1.8hrs a day according to McKinsey2).
The most widespread problem is having too many storage places, with too many copies and no formal information architecture. People won’t know where to find things if there are five versions of the same file across three applications, all labelled differently!
A best practice knowledge management system should apply tags and metadata to content automatically and in keeping with the organization level information architecture. Ideally little to no user input is required.
In addition, a system should provide effective search. The Atlas search functionality retrieves information across different applications, provides contextually relevant information and allows companies to mark documents as the authoritative source of truth. This way Atlas enables people to find information easily – even, because Atlas surfaces contextually relevant search results, information they weren’t aware existed. And with the ability to mark documents out as authoritative documents, people can trust that they are using the correct, most up-to-date version of a file.
Once information is stored, it’s important to keep it safe. This is where legacy platforms can cause serious issues – and not only because older software is more likely to have vulnerabilities. A clunky user experience can lead your employees to seek workarounds, such as using unauthorized consumer software to speed up their workflow, that can expose you to data breaches.
Microsoft provides data governance, risk and compliance solutions that help organizations govern, protect, and manage their entire environment. They help manage remote user connectivity and the spread of data across the organization. Atlas leverages all these Microsoft security and compliance features.
It’s important to make sharing as intuitive as possible. If people have a frustrating time trying to share their knowledge they simply won’t.
In addition to making different applications easier and more intuitive to use, and providing features that make it easy to capture and share information, Atlas also allows people to create visually engaging knowledge centers, or workspace around specific subjects. These are the ideal places to publish, share and consume knowledge.
Note that the organization's leadership and culture also play a key role in knowledge sharing. People may worry that letting coworkers in on their expertise will remove their competitive edge within the company. So you need to encourage, measure, recognize and reward knowledge contribution.
By now you’ve got secure, organized and shareable knowledge - excellent! Now you need to keep it up to date and relevant as your business needs change. Your staff need to trust that any knowledge they access is accurate and current.
Some ways to achieve this trust in the organization’s knowledge management:
An open, transparent culture of knowledge management.
Time to use your organization's expertise to reach your goals! Employees need to be able to bring information together and identify its value for the task at hand. And you need a way to measure how effectively your organization's knowledge is being used.
Analytics help you gauge which documents have been read or are most used. This helps build a knowledge scoring system. You can also tag specific decisions to relevant content which will also increase a document’s knowledge score.
Workspaces are a way to bring all the relevant knowledge together so that people can easily access and collaborate on it.
You know this bit. Your organization is made up of people. If they don’t have the tools, aren’t incentivized, or if it creates too much extra work, then your knowledge management strategy will stall.
However, there are knowledge management system suppliers that support organizations in building robust, people-friendly KM systems (and your company can benefit from the learnings that experienced suppliers garner from multiple customers across a range of sectors). Keeping the human factor in mind will ensure your system’s usefulness and relevance and make knowledge management an integral part of your company’s daily activities.
With Atlas, our solution for knowledge management, we focus on creating a system that’s robust yet flexible, secure and user-friendly. Our emphasis on an intuitive UI is key – that’s what makes contributing and sharing information easy and how an organization's knowledge grows.
Book a demo now and see how we can help you.