This complete guide will cover the topic of knowledge management in business. It will explain the common challenges faced with knowledge management, how to tackle them, and the benefits that can be delivered to your business when perfected.
25 min read
Knowledge is the lifeblood of every company. Without capturing knowledge, you’ll find it difficult to make decisions, learn from your mistakes, and develop new products. Knowledge Management is the approach you might take to capturing, organizing and sharing your company knowledge with both internal and external stakeholders.
Knowledge Management is not a new concept and has been slowly developing in the business and academic worlds for a number of years. New technologies and the way we store information is changing how Knowledge Management initiatives operate.
It’s not easy to set up a successful Knowledge Management system and it needs to be tailored to your own unique needs and circumstances. You need to gain a good grasp of how to structure your system, the potential obstacles that are in your way, and the most effective tools that will enable you to implement your system.
In this guide, we are going to cover the definition of Knowledge Management, why Knowledge Management is important, challenges in Knowledge Management, Knowledge Management use cases, and more.
“Knowledge Management is the process of capturing, distributing, and effectively using knowledge.” Tom Davenport (1994).
Knowledge Management is the process of making the knowledge available for everyone in your team, instead of having it reside in the heads of the few and causing information silos. Companies can more easily achieve their objectives by making better use of the knowledge that resides within their domain. They develop a culture of continuous learning and allow knowledge to flow freely throughout their organization.
Knowledge Management includes those necessary systems and tools for creating effective KM processes. It is a combination of people, processes and tools.
When we are dealing with knowledge within an organization there are three different types that we need to be aware of.
Explicit knowledge is information that can be codified and communicated. It’s easy to share this type of knowledge and it can be quickly understood by others. Some types of explicit knowledge are standard operating procedures, employee handbooks, and HR policies.
Tacit knowledge is much harder to capture than explicit knowledge. It typically comprises the skills and experience of your employee that is difficult to explain or share with others. Tacit knowledge includes customer support know-how, design skills, and so on.
Implicit knowledge is very similar to tacit knowledge except that it can more easily be codified. It’s information that is embedded in the organization’s processes and is currently unarticulated. It’s tribal knowledge that can be learned and communicated but hasn’t yet been formally captured.
Without Knowledge Management, it’s impossible to control or understand the way information flows through your organization.
A lack of information management systems also puts knowledgeable employees under more pressure. In most cases, your team members will seek the help of their most knowledgeable peers. But, this also means that skilful employees will spend a lot of time helping others, which can put a dent in their productivity.
Instead of relying on an unstructured system, information management lets you control the way knowledge flows in your company. In simple terms, a good system ensures that information is available to those who need it when they need it.
What’s more, knowledge management is important because it can:
Regardless of the industry, your company should be the biggest source of information about your product. Data management allows you to capture valuable information from different sources. Then, you can create articles, videos, and similar resources that help users solve their problems.
Creating the resources your team and customers need is a great first step. But, this doesn’t mean it’s easy to access.
It’s normal for an employee to spend more than 12 hours per week researching information. Knowledge management allows your team to track down resources through a centralized platform. In other words, employees can find the data they need without spending hours looking for a specific email or IM.
The modern concept of knowledge management is relatively new. And, like many innovative business practices, there are many challenges that come with this new philosophy.
One of the biggest setbacks is cultivating the right environment. Knowledge is as an advantage and your team should see it as such. By improving the way information flows, you can change the way your employees view knowledge resources. It can also help ingrain the idea that knowledge and collaboration are as valuable as any other business tool.
In many cases, knowledgeable employees don’t feel like a valuable asset. Some companies expect them to take on more responsibility without showing gratitude or awarding recognition. Needless to say, this can result in high employee churn, which can translate into higher expenses.
Knowledgeable employees play an important role in companies that focus on information sharing. It allows your skillful employees to share their knowledge without putting them under enormous pressure. This will make knowledgeable team members feel like the valuable assets they are and give them the credit they deserve.
The Knowledge Management process can be broken down into 5 steps.
Organizations should identify and record any knowledge that they want to disseminate across the company. Knowledge should be written down and adapted in a form that will be suitable for the target audience. You need to liaise with subject matter experts to capture knowledge that resides in their heads and turn it into content that can be available for anyone in the company.
Once you have gathered the necessary information you need to store it in a way that makes sense for your chosen IT system. Knowledge may need to be formatted in a way that meets the requirements for your system. During this stage you will be uploading your content to your Knowledge Management system and organizing it into categories ready for consumption.
A Knowledge Management system is no good if nobody can find it. You need to share your knowledge across email, collaboration systems, intranets and so on. If you see somebody asking a question that could be answered by your KM system then make a point to share the relevant article.
Over time, you need to analyze whether your content is working or not. You can look at search results to see terms that are returning no entries and create relevant content to fill the gap. You can identify articles that are not being used and delete them, and take note of any comments your audience has left to update articles.
This is the stage where you take action on your analysis. You need to keep current articles up-to-date and plug any knowledge gaps with new content. Actively solicit feedback from your users about how your Knowledge Management system is working and highlight any areas for improvement. It should always be evolving to keep pace with the changing knowledge in your organization.
There are many types of knowledge that can be included in a Knowledge Management system.
When employees have easy access to the right knowledge this can accelerate their decision-making. Employees spend less time reinventing the wheel because they can learn from decisions that have already been made and benefit from collective wisdom.
Employees spend a significant portion of their working week simply searching for information that should be readily available. With the right Knowledge Management program employees will have efficient access to knowledge and be able to spend more of their time on outcome-focused assignments that directly benefit the company.
When knowledge is shared effectively this promotes collaboration between employees. They have insight into the workings of other teams and this enables colleagues to work together more effectively. Having access to previous company initiatives gives employees more ideas to implement in the future. Employees already know what has worked and worked hasn’t so this makes them more strategic in their thinking.
A successful Knowledge Management program enhances communication throughout the organization because employees can gain a perspective on other teams through the documentation you create. Teams are no longer a black box working in silos, but able to communicate more effectively with colleagues and share knowledge of what they are doing.
When information and data is actively cultivated the quality is improved. Someone is actively having oversight of the company’s assets and ensuring that it is presented in a way that is helpful for employees. Information and data that is not up to standard can be removed in order to make sure what is left is relevant and valuable.
When organizations actually record their intellectual property as documentation within the Knowledge Management system this gives them more security. Intellectual property no longer only resides in the heads of employees who may leave the company at any time, but is saved for posterity and the benefit of current and future employees.
New and old employees can take advantage of captured knowledge during their training which considerably speeds up the process. Training programs are more robust and impart much more value to employees when they have access to the right documentation.
Although Knowledge Management is incredibly valuable for your company it is not necessarily easy to implement. Here are the main challenges you need to overcome when embarking on your KM journey.
It can be hard to find the right technology to support your Knowledge Management strategy. Knowledge Management solutions can be expensive and they might not be the right fit for your specific organization. You may try out one tool only to find later down the line it is totally unsuitable for your needs, but unfortunately, you are now invested in the system.
The solution is to thoroughly research options before committing to one particular tool. Take advantage of free trials to test out the software and check that it has all the features you need for your Knowledge Management program.
It might be difficult to convince your employees to share their knowledge in your Knowledge Management system. This challenge comes up for a number of reasons, the most prominent of which is that your employees may be part of a competitive culture that doesn’t value transparency and openness. They may feel that their knowledge makes them a valuable asset to the company and therefore they don’t want to share it with others.
The solution to this problem is to demonstrate the right culture from the top down. Your senior leadership team should be sharing knowledge and actively participating in your Knowledge Management program. In this way, you lead by example and employees gradually learn to share their knowledge.
You might have confidential information that you don’t want to share with the general public or sensitive data that needs to be protected. There is a risk that Knowledge Management systems can be compromised and your valuable data could be leaked to the general public. Or, you may not want certain content pages to be edited by the general users of your software and therefore have a need to restrict roles and permissions.
The solution to this problem is to choose a Knowledge Management software system with robust security features. Ensure that your system can only be accessed by those within a defined IP range or enable Single Sign-On.
There are several use cases for your Knowledge Management program.
New hires need to access a lot of information quickly in order to get up to speed with their new role at the company. A Knowledge Management system can provide the answers to their questions and ensure that everyone is singing from the same hymn book from their first day.
Customers need a way to learn your product from scratch and a Knowledge Management system can be a great way to onboard new customers. It can teach them the ins and outs of product features and the ways that your product is intended to be used.
When you’re providing a centralized space for employees to post announcements, and ask and answer questions, you are improving team communication. Instead of trawling through emails or old chat threads, employees can simply check the Knowledge Management system for the latest updates.
Knowledge Management for customer support agents has a number of benefits for your agents. It reduces the time they need to spend searching for answers for customer queries and gives them more time to spend on other customers. Employee morale is improved as agents spend less time reinventing the wheel and more time on more rewarding projects.
Knowledge Management for customers is a valuable way to improve customer service. When you provide relevant documentation for customers searching for solutions to their problem you ensure that customers can self-serve, and they don’t need to reach out to an agent. Customer satisfaction is improved and this will result in more loyal customers who will buy more of your products.
There are a number of different tools you can use as part of your Knowledge Management program.
Knowledge base software is a centrally managed website that displays your content as categories. The knowledge base is easily searchable or users can browse for content using the navigation. It’s a tool that lets you create, organize and manage content for your audience and typically comes with analytics to show you how your content is performing.
Document360 is our very own knowledge base software that can assist you in your Knowledge Management program.
A wiki is a site that is designed for groups of people to easily record and share ideas through creating pages that are linked together. A wiki is for companies who want to crowdsource their content and allow everyone in their organization the same level of access in editing articles.
An FAQ is a list of commonly asked questions along with their answers and is usually displayed as a single page.
Content Management Systems (CMS) store documents, audio, video, and other media types.
Read more: Top 11 Knowledge Management Software 2022
Information management has many benefits. But, implementing a system that works isn’t always easy. You have to choose a robust platform to back your knowledge-sharing ecosystem. Trying to implement knowledge management without a solid structure can compromise usability and efficiency.
To build a reliable knowledge management system, you should:
Whether you focus on it or not, your team members are always sharing information. To change the way data is transmitted, you should understand how your current model works. Aside from the communication channels, look at the actual data, context, and turnaround time.
Remember, you also have to distribute information to clients. Assess the resources you share with your clients and note their quality. Can customers solve problems on their own? Are the instructions clear? Did you offer any contact information?
These details will help you determine the best approach, the size of your user base, and the topics you should start with. You’ll also find out if you need to produce information in different languages. And, it’ll help you single out knowledgeable employees at the same time.
Like other business practices, setting objectives you can measure is important. But, given the nature of knowledge management, finding the right metrics isn’t always easy.
Rather than trying to measure knowledge, set a goal for the number of resources you want to start with. You should also develop a set of unique key performance indicators. These can vary depending on industry and company size. So, work with your creative team and learn which knowledge management metrics will determine the success of your sharing ecosystem.
Teamwork and collaboration have many benefits. Even so, many employees avoid sharing information and working with their peers. This may be due to a competitive environment or many other reasons. The real challenge is to change this mentality. And, you can do so by rewarding those who collaborate with their peers.
Aside from offering some form of reward, you should educate employees on the impact of collaboration. It’s always best to make a gradual change. If some team members are having more difficulties, you can create a special training program. And, you can organize company events that focus on boosting collaboration skills.
There are dozens of knowledge management platforms out there. To find the best tools, you need to look at your current and future requirements.
The number of users, security requirements, and budget will influence your decision. But, you should also look at your potential for growth and the features you want to have. These include tracking, branding, collaboration options, easy distribution capacities, and rich media support.
Developing and implementing a knowledge management system takes a lot of effort. You need to decide on a strategy and develop resources for your audiences. To make this task easier, you should create a team of knowledgeable employees that can help tackle these responsibilities.
Also, keep in mind that information management is a continuous process. You should set up a system to generate an ongoing collection of resources. And, you have to assess the performance of your old resources and make adjustments whenever necessary.
Like online marketing, knowledge management requires regular optimization. From the moment you implement knowledge management, you should set an optimization calendar. Keep in mind that you need to collect enough information before making any changes. But, you should take the time to assess your knowledge resources and make changes to improve their performance.
Research and studies on knowledge management are ongoing. Furthermore, the technology that supports this practice moves at a fast pace. To maintain a healthy ecosystem, you should stay up to date with new advancements and techniques that can benefit your company.
It’s vital for your company to have a Knowledge Management program in place in order to capture, preserve, and share knowledge throughout the organization. Not only will your business be more effective at achieving its goals but you will significantly raise staff morale and engagement.
Remember, choose the right tool for your program. Document360 can help you there. Document360 is robust knowledge base software that lets you easily manage large volumes of information for internal or external audiences. You never have to worry about losing your work as Document360 automatically provides backups for every article.
You can easily control who has editing rights to each article and assign users different roles and permissions. It has never been so easy to create documentation for your Knowledge Management program. Take us for a free trial today.
Can’t find the answer here? Get in touch
People, process, content/IT, and strategy are the four key components of knowledge management.
Regardless of your organization’s sector, size, or knowledge requirements, you will still require people to lead, support, and encourage knowledge sharing. Well-defined process are required to regulate and measure information flows. It is necessary to have information content and IT resources that connect the appropriate individuals to the right material at the right time. You must have a clear Strategy in place for utilising KM to fulfil the most significant and immediate business demands.
There are three primary types of knowledge management systems that may help you share and manage corporate information. Knowledge work systems, intelligent techniques, and enterprise-wide knowledge management systems.
A knowledge management framework is a structure that may assist you in mapping, creating, distributing, scaling, and optimising your company’s knowledge and knowledge resources. The framework covers anything from staff handbooks and step-by-step instructions for utilising various software applications to solutions to commonly asked inquiries from consumers and market research required for high-stakes decision-making.