In every organization, there exists an accumulation of knowledge and experience gained by each of its members. This institutional knowledge can be individual, based on the employee’s skills and expertise, or it can be collective, gained from working as a team or department.
Unfortunately, such critical corporate knowledge isn’t always maximized by the organization. When this happens, members work in information silos, business processes get hindered, and training and development become more time consuming and less efficient due to the lack of a central knowledge base.
This is where knowledge management comes in.
What is Knowledge Management? 3 Definitions
- Tettra definition of knowledge management: Knowledge management is the process of gathering and structuring all the disparate knowledge within the organization so that it can be used, shared, and maximized fully.
- IBM defines it this way: “Knowledge management (KM) is the process of identifying, organizing, storing and disseminating information within an organization.”
- Garnter defines knowledge management as: “Knowledge management is a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, capturing, evaluating, retrieving, and sharing all of an enterprise’s information assets. These assets may include databases, documents, policies, procedures, and previously un-captured expertise and experience in individual workers.”
The 3 Types of Knowledge
Organizational knowledge falls into 3 buckets: explicit, tacit, and implicit.
1. Explicit knowledge – This refers to codified information captured in documents, files, books, and hard copies.
2. Tacit knowledge – Lessons acquired through practice and experience by knowledge workers. While intuitive, it is more challenging to capture and store. An example would be soft skills, which is gained through interaction.
3. Implicit knowledge – Also known as embedded knowledge, this refers to the organization’s processes, routines and culture. It becomes “embedded” in the work environment through long practice and repetition.
Effective knowledge management will capture all three.
What is a Knowledge Management System?
A knowledge management system (KMS) is a platform that contains the organization’s collective knowledge. It is a centralized repository for storing and accessing knowledge relevant to business operations. This is done through a knowledge management tool or software specifically designed for knowledge management.
Examples of knowledge management systems include:
- Onboarding and training programs
- Case study archives
- Content management systems (CMS)
- Slack and MS Teams
- Intranets and private networks
Launch with Knowledge Sharing: Use These Techniques
To get your knowledge management system and processes off the ground, you have to start with knowledge sharing.
This sounds obvious, but once you drill down, you’ll be surprised at how much information *isn’t* shared.
How do you crack open those silos so that the information flows freely? Get the spigot flowing first, and then work on the processes (see below) to streamline your information management.
1. Involve everyone in the knowledge sharing process
Everyone has expertise in certain parts of the business. They need to share their routine processes and procedures so it’s easier to scale the team and/or hand-off to the next person in that role once the time comes.
2. Designate a knowledge base for important materials
You’ll need to select knowledge management software or a knowledge base to help you do this. Things start falling apart when you have Slack, Teams, and files in Google Drive with no cohesion between all of those elements.
3. Repeated 3 times? Document it.
Now what should be documented? If it’s been repeated more than 3 times, then it’s a process and should be recorded.
This is the repetition rule. Essentially, when there’s a piece of information or knowledge that you cite repeatedly, it’s worth documenting it and making it easily accessible. Not only does this save you the hassle of repeating it a fourth (and fifth and sixth) time, but it also saves the other person the embarrassment of asking again.
4. More than 3 steps? Document it.
Anything more than three steps should have a home in your knowledge management system. As Atul Gawande demonstrated in “The Checklist Manifesto”, people forget a lot. We tend to skip or forget steps in a process, even when we use that process on a regular basis.
5. More than 3 people? Document it.
If you’re working on a project or initiative with at least two other people, take the time to document it. This helps ensure that no one drops their responsibility, and no one accidentally doubles up on the same task another person is handling.
The Knowledge Management Process (5 Steps)
In order to gather these separate types of knowledge into one repository, follow these 5 steps in the knowledge management process:
- Discover: Once the knowledge management strategy is set, map all the knowledge and resources and their various locations. Think about Slack databases, MS Teams, Google Drive, other knowledge base tools, your help center, and HR tools.
- Capture: This will include current docs and information, but may also included conducting interviews and asking SMEs to record processes for documentatioon.
- Index and store: The gathered data is catalogued, indexed and stored in a knowledge management system for centralized storage and retrieval.
- Assess: Verify that the entries are up-to-date, complete, and are correct. As you can guess, this is an ongoing maintenance process and you’ll need a tool like Tettra to help you maintain and update that information.
- Distribute: The process by which members are able to access and share the information, either individually or as subgroups.
Those 5 steps will lay the groundwork for effective knowledge management. In the future, you will need to implement these actions, too:
- Apply – The retrieved knowledge is used for organizational tasks and goals. Practically, this means that the team routinely uses the knowledge base and tool for their everyday work.
- Optimization – Over time, the stored knowledge is added to, refined, or replaced after real-world lessons are learned.
The Advantages of Using a Knowledge Management System
There are plenty of reasons to use a KMS, particularly for larger organizations. These include:
- Efficiency – Knowledge is faster to retrieve and disseminate, leading to faster processes and execution time.
- Standardization – Procedures and routines are preserved and uniformly practiced, making the organization more efficient and effective.
- Optimization – The knowledge is reinforced and improved over time with practical lessons.
- Better collaboration – The information is easier to disseminate and share among various groups that are working together.
- Harmony – Codified practices and convenient learning can improve job satisfaction and reduce fatigue, frustration and learning time.
Knowledge Management Use Cases
At Tettra, we see teams commonly using knowledge management for these use cases:
1. New Employee Onboarding
Newly-hired employees need to gain insight quickly to acclimate to the company. Utilizing a knowledge base can supply the answers they require and guarantee that everyone is on the same page right off the bat.
2. Product Processes & Support
Customers and users need an effective way of learning the ins and outs of your product – an external knowledge management system is an ideal solution for onboarding new customers. It will help them understand features, and how to use the product in the intended way. Use it an external knowledge base as your help and support center.
3. Team Communication & Information
Centralizing communication is key to improving team processes, policies, and information. Tettra can keep employees up-to-date and in the loop with procedures, questions, and answers – all in one place, so no need to search through emails or Slack. The Tettra Slack integration helps you take answers asked in Slack and then answer them via Tettra. Users are then notified in Slack that an answer has been given.
Customer Success and Support
For customer support, knowledge management can provide clear benefits. Because it’s easy to find answers in a knowledge management system, it minimizes the amount of time required to answer customer queries maximizes available time for other responses, and improves the customer experience. In turn, this enhances employee response time as they don’t have to start from scratch to find each and every answer.
The Challenges Facing Knowledge Management
Like all business processes, knowledge management comes with its own issues that must be surmounted in order to be effective. Some of these challenges are recurring and must be faced periodically, especially by a knowledge manager, who are often on the forefront of keeping organizational knowledge updated.
Human nature – The biggest hindrance is organizational inertia. People tend to be set in their ways and practices, which can be a roadblock when standardizing processes, or defining how a particular routine or culture should be.
Technology – As tech evolves, there will always be newer and more efficient ways of capturing, storing and distributing the data. Over time, obsolete knowledge management systems will need to be augmented or replaced by new knowledge management tools and software.
Security – Along with the steady march of technology, security of the KMS will need to be updated periodically in the face of new threats and evolving systems.
Knowledge transfer – This is probably the biggest threat to knowledge management. People leave. Organizational priorities shift. But in fact, this is even a more important reason to have s solid knowledge management culture. Because when people do exit, if their notes/thoughts/processes are documented, then it’s easier to train and retain in the future.
(Lack of) Value – With all of those challenges above, an organizational emphasis on knowledge retention will keep the trains running. But is there value placed on that efficiency?
“Few managers truly grasp the concept of a knowledge-producing company, nor how to manage knowledge. They simply misunderstand what knowledge is and how their organization can leverage it!” said Lester Pierre, Chief Scientist of Wall Street Network.
Instead a group of managers and employees have to re-learn and re-educate themselves on what worked in the past. In other words, no one understands the value of existing knowledge until it’s gone.
How Tettra Can Help with Knowledge Management
Tettra is an internal knowledge base, wiki and knowledge management solution in one. Tettra has a streamlined interface that is beginner-friendly. It has a question and answers feature, as well as content verification which keeps knowledge base content up-to-date. If you’re a knowledge manager, you’ll find features that resonate with you as well as others in your organization. The knowledge management process is simpler when each employee participates.
With Tettra, you’ll get:
- Q&A workflow to capture questions for simple knowledge creation
- Knowledge base to document answers
- Knowledge management features to keep content up to date.
- Integrations with chat tools to make sure your team actually uses Tettra
What is the Knowledge Management Process?