What is Knowledge Management? How does it relate to you? Is it something only companies with obvious intellectual property need worry about? It’s easily dealt with once you’ve grasped how vital it is.
You can certainly gain a competitive advantage by capturing and using the knowledge in your business, but that’s only half the story. You can also add efficiency and protection to everything and build an inclusive, sharing culture that genuinely benefits people and profits directly.
And what is this “knowledge” that’s so valuable? Another great question that you need to answer before you start trying to capture it all.
Why should you care?
“No thief, however skillful, can rob one of knowledge, and that is why knowledge is the best and safest treasure to acquire.” L. Frank Baum – author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
There are processes happening every day in your business that happen because people know how to do them. That’s knowledge your business has learnt.
There is a level of expertise that goes into the product or service you offer. That’s knowledge that directly affects your bottom-line.
You are probably already capturing basic information about your customers, but you might need to record how you work with them and how they like to buy from you, or who their key people are and how they operate? That’s key commercial knowledge.
And there are things each of your staff members knows that contribute to the wellbeing of your business, and there are skills and knowledge they have that you might not even be aware of.
The reason you should care is that one day, your business might lose access to any, or all of this knowledge. What if someone leaves? What if a person needs time off without warning? What if a person just forgets some crucial detail? What if the usual person is just off sick or on holiday when a job needs doing? What if ……? What if …….?
Here’s some things you might consider when deciding what it is you want to achieve with knowledge management. These can all be achieved by knowing what is in the business and protecting it.
- Making the best use of time
- Making the best use of resources
- Avoiding mistakes
- Making good decisions
- Avoiding repetition
- Achieving consistency
There’s a study in the USA that concluded companies are collectively losing at least £31.5 billion per annum because they are not capturing and sharing knowledge.
One danger is that you just rush around trying frantically to document everything and end up with an unusable dump of data. Remember that data is useless until you turn it into information.
Your initial project should be about changing behaviour so that Knowledge Management (capture and consumption) is something that’s engrained in your business at every level. Get everyone into the habit of capturing what they know, and looking for information in the same place when they need it.
Start with knowledge capture, but always with an eye on how the knowledge might be usefully consumed.
- Keep your knowledge structured – choose broad, easy to find names for your topics and keep all your information categorised into these topics. Don’t be afraid to build information into modular courses if that will help people use the knowledge.
- Make your knowledge easy to find – use meaningful titles for knowledge items and augment these with searchable key word tags.
- Include everyone – don’t limit article writing to administrators. Let everyone share their knowledge. You’ll be surprised what people know, and by how much is gained when they share it.
Once you have a good knowledge capture technique, promote your new resource every time someone asks a question. You should be aiming for the time where every question can be answered by your Knowledge Base. Hope you’ll never get there because it means your business is constantly learning, and you’ll build a fantastic and unique resource along the way. When an answer isn’t there, the person asking the question should find the answer and document it so that next time – it’s in the right place.
Try It For Yourself
There are many knowledge management tools around. Choose one that’s easy to get started with and that can grow with you if your business expands.
Also, think about your budget. There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors around Knowledge Management and that can make software expensive to buy and run, but it certainly doesn’t have to be.
My own company’s Learn with Mobile product contains a dedicated knowledge base as well as other learning and collaboration tools. It’s free to get started and it’s cloud-based so you don’t have to worry about expensive servers or what devices you want to use to access your knowledge base.
If you find knowledge management useful you can carry on at a very friendly budget, or choose another tool that you like better. My only real advice is that it’s easy and profitable to manage the knowledge in your business so get started now.