Knowledge Management Tips

A large shift has been going on behind the scenes of many large and not so large organizations over the last couple years. That has been the shift to using IT-based knowledge management systems in the storage, access, and the dissemination of organizational knowledge.

Wikipedia defines knowledge management as "a range of strategies and practices used in an organization to identify, create, represent, distribute, and enable adoption of insights and experiences. Such insights and experiences comprise knowledge, either embodied in individuals or embedded in organizations as processes or practices."

The knowledge management area like many others are filled with software offerings ranging from free to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The key to the entire process is understanding knowledge creation and retention is a fundamental business continuity issue. At a recent industry meeting here in Columbus there was a discussion panel filled with several leaders ranging from large universities, insurance companies, and local municipalities all at various stages in the knowledge management implementation process. Out of this came several key insights:

  1. Vision. Define your driving principal.
    • eg. Anyone can retrieve anything at anytime. Provide the right information to the customer service reps that will allow them to completely resolve the customer's issue.
  2. Accountability. Determine whom will own and maintain each piece of knowledge. Assess the regulatory and access control environment. eg. Using an open wiki at an insurance company isn't going to fly.
  3. Measure. Define the key indicators are you using to measure the success of the overall project.
  4. Oversight. Create a process for monitoring and reviewing the key indicators ability to discern the effectiveness of the project. You may need to change your indicators.
  5. Engage. You must get the end-user of the systems involved in the entire process. That includes defining the vision. You must have buy-in from the users or they will not populate the system with meaningful and accurate information.
  6. Searchable. There is no point in storing knowledge if those needing it are unable to find and access it in a timely manner.
  7. Reallocate. Look inside your organization for existing software that already has been paid for as a stepping stone to prototype the concept.
  8. Own IT. This is your company data. You must have a solid plan for accessing and restoring the data due to a server failure, Internet connection loss, or data corruption or destruction. It can be extremely costly to recreate the knowledge and the loss of productivity in the meantime will be significant.

One last thought to keep in mind is that you can trial this first by starting on a single department such as operations. If you have a starting point such as an existing operations manual using that as a base and updating it into the new system is a great way start.