We’re living in a knowledge economy. That gives you a ready-made game plan for becoming a market leader. You simply have to use all of your company knowledge. The information that you share in your organisation gives it a competitive edge. But that’s a lot easier said than done. Silos between departments and breakdowns in communication contribute to a lack of collaboration.
Poor knowledge-sharing practices cost Fortune 500 companies $31.5 billion every year. This sum consists of lost productivity, duplicating work, and people leaving the company.
Knowledge management benefits
Silos, in a knowledge economy, are not your best friend. Duplicating work that already exists wastes time and resources. However, because of silos, different teams might not know that the work they’re doing already exists. Consolidating knowledge on one platform increases the visibility of work – and it’s quality. You can then amplify the best work across your organisation. Generating greater ROI and performance.
There’s also the unwritten knowledge stored with each experienced employee. You don’t want to lose this when someone leaves or retires. Knowledge management means you have a tangible record store forever. This becomes all the more important considering the increasing digital skills gap. By documenting rare and in-demand knowledge, you lessen the impact of skills shortages.
Those are just some of the perks from effective knowledge management. There are many more across every department and individual. It doesn’t only improve your internal operations but also the lives of your customers. Which has a knock-on impact on retention and loyalty. Read on to discover why you should be prioritising your knowledge management this year.
Creating a one-stop-shop means employees and customers don’t spend hours searching for answers. A search function within the knowledge base speeds this process up even more. Reducing time searching increases productivity as employees can focus on the task at hand. It also leads to happier customers as they can find answers and solutions at the click of a button.
Better document management
With everything in one place, it’s much easier to update documents when needed. When files are stored on different systems, you may not notice when they are out-of-date. For legal and HR documents, in particular, that could cause huge issues later on. But it’s also vital to regularly update your sales and customer support documents, to keep them effective. This process becomes less time-intense when employees can rapidly access and review files. Plus, it ensures a consistent brand identity. You can see mismatched branding instantly when documents are side-by-side.
Making knowledge accessible prevents knowledge gaps appearing when employees leave or go on holiday. There’s better continuity of service for customers too. As every employee is well-informed and there isn’t one person who holds all the knowledge about a product or customer.
Having information in one place allows for iterative improvements to operations, customer service, products and knowledge. Knowledge bases help employees update documents with new releases, troubleshooting tips and best practice. Plus, the collaborative nature of knowledge bases lends itself to continuous tweaking. A sales team member, for example, may spot some improvements to marketing copy. It’s easier to spot information gaps too. Such as a particular problem that’s often encountered by the customer support team.
Admin costs decrease
You’ll spend less time sorting and sifting through information. So, your admin costs will decrease and productivity goes up. Even more so when a knowledge base enables a degree of automation. Replacing a time-consuming (and insecure) paper filing system. Meaning employees can quickly upload and categorise documents online.
Using a cloud-based system enables access on any device, anywhere (with relevant permissions, of course). Remote and flexible working becomes more possible. With an associated decrease in fixed office costs. It enables greater efficiencies, with employees able to access key documents on-the-go. Whether that’s in a client meeting or on the commute.
When you use a knowledge base, you ensure that everyone sings from the same song-sheet. You can spread important information company-wide. So everyone has the same foundations in a product. Everyone understands the company’s best practice and approved procedures. It also gives a more consistent experience to customers.
Improving customer experiences
Good knowledge management practices improve the service offered to customers. For instance, customer support will have key product information readily accessible. Thus, can help customers more effectively. This includes insights from every department, like documentation, case notes and customer details. All available at their fingertips.
Sharing knowledge outside the company is also possible. A knowledge base or help center will improve your customers’ use of your product or service. It can even grow into a community where loyal customers and employees swap tips and solutions.
It also offers customers an option beyond calling your support center for help. 72% of online consumers prefer to search the Internet for answers, instead of phoning or emailing. Part of this might be because customers are often time-poor (especially in B2B). So, they need a quick self-serve solution that doesn’t involve the support team. This has an added bonus for your bottom-line. Troubleshooting common problems and questions via a knowledge base reduces pressure on your customer service team.
Knowledge management in action
ISC (a developer of three open source Internet networking software packages) uses a knowledge base platform to provide 24/7 coverage of its critical systems. Before this, the company struggled to track and update all its documentation. Employees didn’t have full visibility of all information available. It was unable to link software versions to documents. Plus, it didn’t understand how its customers used technical documentation (or what they needed). After it launched its knowledge base, the time spent searching for answers significantly decreased. There is greater visibility. Both employees and customers can search for solutions self-sufficiently.
A knowledge base contains a vast array of information. On customers, products, company policies, operational data, sales, finances and previous projects. Using this, managers can make well-informed decisions based on past experiences and practical lessons learnt. It also prevents the same mistake from re-occurring. This has applications for project management too. Allowing for more accurate timeline and cost estimation and risk assessments.
Why reinvent the wheel when a perfectly functional one already exists? With knowledge management, you can replicate proven strategies in different teams. Optimising efficiency and returns. Similarly, useful documents with future uses can be stored. Ensuring people don’t waste time recreating something that already exists. Indeed, knowledge workers only spend around 10% of their time creating new knowledge. The rest is spent re-purposing existing information or looking for it. Reproducing processes and documents helps to save time and resources. It accelerates progress and prevents reoccurring problems.
Making expertise widely available
Through knowledge management, employees with in-demand skills can provide information to colleagues. To upskill them and combat information gaps. Like software developers answering questions from customer support via an internal community forum. You can record presentations and webinars and store them for future reference. Plus, some resources will be useful for your customers.
As your team becomes better informed, the chances for innovation increase. Collaboration usually produces an ‘Aha!’ moment or two… It empowers your employees and customers to find new ways of getting the most out of a product. It should come as little surprise that Salesforce ranks amongst the world’s most innovative companies. Its ‘Trailblazer’ forum gives access (for both employees and customers) to best practice, new uses and troubleshooting.
Knowledge management: a must-have for all leaders
In the information age, where knowledge has value, you cannot afford to waste yours. That’s why knowledge management is a worthwhile investment. Failing to prioritise your knowledge management will ultimately stifle your innovation and growth. The first step to effective management is having robust infrastructure. In the form of processes and technology to facilitate it. You need a system that’s intuitive, accessible and easy to update. By putting this in place now, you’ll experience the benefits for years to come. If you want to become a market leader, it’s not a nice-to-have. It’s a must.