The Complete Guide to Knowledge Management

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.

20 min read
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Introduction

It’s estimated that Fortune 500 companies lose around $12 billion to poor knowledge management every year. Recording and distributing information in an effective way can bring many benefits. But, it’s important to understand this process and find the best ways to share information in your company.

The idea behind knowledge management is not new. But, cloud computing and other emerging technologies are changing the way we store, share and use information. There are many steps you need to take to set up a reliable knowledge management system. You have to identify the right structure, potential obstacles, and effective tools that will help achieve your goals.

In this guide, we will discuss the definition and importance of knowledge management. We’ll also go over its benefits and challenges you need to overcome. Finally, we’ll provide tips to help you set up an effective knowledge management system in your company.

What is Knowledge Management?

According to research published by the TSIA, 41% of employees believe that good knowledge management can improve productivity by one-third. In the business world, knowledge management is the practice of collecting, storing, distributing, and using information. It includes all systems and tools that help you handle knowledge resources.

Knowledge management has evolved from an informal practice to an essential business tool. It allows companies to improve productivity and reduce costs. A solid knowledge management system also encourages collaboration and results in better customer support. Through internal knowledge management, you can ensure your team members have everything they need to deliver great services. In contrast, external knowledge management empowers customers to take care of their own issues.

Internal Knowledge Bases

Internal Knowledge Management

As the name suggests, internal knowledge management covers information that should only be available to your team members. It includes internal policies, procedures, goals, objectives, access credentials, and much more. In essence, it should feature any piece of information that is useful to your team.

External Knowledge Management

External knowledge management is customer-centric. It includes all the resources and details that your clients can take advantage of.

Having a knowledge base in this scenario is a great idea. A knowledge base is a platform that allows you to create, store, and share knowledge resources. That said, always be careful about the information you share with clients. External knowledge bases should not include access credentials or other details that are only for internal use.

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Why is Knowledge Management Important?

Without knowledge management, it’s impossible to control or understand the way information flows through your organisation.

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 peer. 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:

Capture Valuable Information

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.

Allow Easy Access to Knowledge Resources

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 centralised platform. In other words, employees can find the data they need without spending hours looking for a specific email or IM.

Cultivate an Environment Where Knowledge is Valued

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.

Help Treat Knowledgeable Employees as an Asset

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 skilful 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.

Breaking Down the Obstacles of Knowledge Management

According to the TSIA, 80% of companies believe their knowledge management practices are still in the early stages. Establishing a system to manage information is crucial. But, you also have to address potential obstacles to ensure the successful sharing of knowledge.

There are many challenges you may encounter when trying to implement information management. Some of the most common challenges include, but are not limited to:

Changing Your Team’s Mindset

Knowledge management goes beyond file sharing. It’s a business philosophy that focuses on efficiency. Because of this, the best way to implement it is to change your team’s mentality. But, this can become a major challenge in some companies.

There are many different reasons why your team may resist change. Instead of forcing them to adjust, you should highlight the benefits of information management. And, you can provide training sessions to ensure they know how to use the new tools. This will help change their perspective and allow them to embrace knowledge management in a positive way.

Creating a Secure Environment

Many companies try to implement a casual form of information management. But, since knowledge is power, having a casual setup can actually compromise your company.

Your information sharing ecosystem should be airtight. This will help prevent any security breaches. You’ll also ensure that your customers don’t access internal information. Additionally, you have to limit the number of people that can edit your resources. Thus, having the ability to grant different access levels is crucial to overcome this obstacle.

Measuring Knowledge and Managing Resources

It’s difficult to measure knowledge using traditional metrics. Focusing on the results may not be the solution either.

Tracking technologies allow you to assess the performance of your knowledge resources. You can see what resources your employees and customers use most. And, you can use this information to measure the impact your resources are having.

Managing the resources you create is also important. You should use a platform that has a robust structure, large storage capacity, and tracking features. If the system you use is not efficient or intuitive, your employees won’t embrace it with open arms.

To prevent this from happening, implement an approach that allows easy managing of articles and other resources.

Identifying the Most Knowledgeable Employees

In some cases, identifying the keepers of information is easy. Smaller organisations often have two or three knowledgeable employees that can take reign. There are other scenarios where knowledge lies in a large pool of employees, so the process of identifying experts varies by company.

Distributing and Improving Knowledge Resources

Collecting and assembling information are the first steps. But, you also have to ensure that your resources are distributed in an efficient way. This is where knowledge bases come in. Having an internal knowledge base can work as the perfect distribution tool within your company. And, you can also build an external library to improve the way customers access information.

Your knowledge repository will evolve with your product. Because of this, you need to improve your resources through optimisation. Take the time to review the performance of your information management system. Then, use the findings to make adjustments that will benefit the entire ecosystem.

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The Benefits of Effective Knowledge Management

The main purpose of knowledge management is to capture, catalogue, and use information. This simple process can bring great benefits to your business. With a solid knowledge management system, you can:

Improve the Way Your Team Communicates

Email and instant messaging are the most common business communication channels. But, these are not ideal for sharing all types of information.

Knowledge management opens up new communication lines among your team members. It provides an organised platform for them to share company information. Knowledge base software like Document360 even allow employees to comment on internal articles so that authors can clarify any doubts. This improves the way your team interacts and can have a refreshing effect on chemistry among team members.

Boost Employee Productivity and Encourage Collaboration

As mentioned before, employees can invest a significant part of their day into researching. Knowledge management can cut down the amount of time they spend searching for information. This, in turn, can boost productivity and let them focus on their assignments.

Additionally, remember that information management is a team effort. Your employees need to adopt the system. But, they also have to be a part of the development and creation of your knowledge resources. This can encourage collaboration and allow them to see the extra value that teamwork can bring.

Deliver Outstanding Customer Support

There are many elements that affect the quality of your customer support. Speed, accuracy, and the ability to solve problems are critical. A robust knowledge management system can have a positive effect on these areas and much more. This can result in better customer support, earning you a good reputation for quality service along the way.

One in three people believe that speaking to a knowledgeable representative is the most important element of good service. Customer support agents that have easy access to information will deliver quick, accurate answers. They can look for troubleshooting instructions, guidelines, or other solutions that help them solve the issue at hand.

Build Better Customer Onboarding and Employee Training Programs

Your information management system affects all areas of your organisation. This includes your employee training and customer onboarding programs.

Customer onboarding is the process of introducing new clients to your company. This focuses on your product, for the most part. But, you should also highlight other areas of your operation, like your knowledge resources. If you have a vast library, customers can learn about your products at their own pace. They can even use your knowledge base as the first point of reference whenever they have a question. And, you can include a contact link to your support team in case your customers need help.

Employee training is like customer onboarding, with a few differences. You need to deliver a large amount of information in an organised way. The distribution platform should be easy to use and contain all the resources that your employees may need. Through knowledge management, you can create resources that help new employees hit the ground running.

Empower Customers to Solve Issues By Themselves

The impact of knowledge management goes beyond the onboarding stage. As a matter of fact, 60% of US consumers prefer to use self-service channels for simple tasks.

Knowledge management can empower customers to take care of problems on their own. Instead of contacting support, clients can use the information they have available to find a solution. The best part is that customers won’t contact your support team every time they have a question. This can relieve a lot of pressure and reduce expenses in your support department.

Lower Churn and Improve Customer Retention

It’s common for SaaS companies and tech organisations to deliver ongoing support. Maintaining low churn and improving retention rates are critical for these companies. Instead of losing customers that don’t understand your product, knowledge management ensures that they have the resources to embrace your platform.

Not only this, but knowledge bases that allow tracking can also help identify churn patterns. This will allow you to reach out to your customers at critical stages. Besides addressing their concern, you can also take the time to ensure they are using your product to its full potential.

Cut Operational Costs

Maintaining a large customer support team is expensive. Instead of relying on a single-channel approach, knowledge management delivers information through different platforms.

This can reduce maintenance costs and create a more efficient structure. Customers only contact your team when they have issues they can’t solve on their own. And, when they need help your agents have the tools to deliver fast and accurate support. This boost in productivity can lower costs and help deliver superior service at the same time.

Create a Better Decision-Making Process

There’s no denying the power of big data analytics. The more information you have available, the better the decisions you can take. Knowledge management is no different. Companies that manage and track knowledge can gain insights from employee and customer behavioural patterns.

This will only be possible after your team and customers have started to use your knowledge resources. Once you have enough data, you can compile and organise it to determine what topics are the most discussed. You can then develop better training programs or sales pitches that focus on certain features. It can even allow you to create innovative workflows that encourage employees and customers to seek knowledge.

How to Implement Effective Knowledge Management Practices in Your Company

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:

Analyse How Information is Currently Shared

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.

Set Quantifiable Objectives

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 metrics will determine the success of your sharing ecosystem.

Create an Environment that Rewards Collaboration

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 organise company events that focus on boosting collaboration skills.

Identify the Best Tools

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.

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Create a Knowledge Management Team

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.

Set an Optimisation Calendar

Like online marketing, knowledge management requires regular optimisation. From the moment you implement knowledge management, you should set an optimisation calender. 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.

Stay Up-to-Date with New Advancements

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.

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Deploying a Reliable Knowledge Management Solution

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Knowledge management has come a long way since its creation. This business practice is becoming a must for companies of all sizes. It can bring many benefits that can increase efficiency, reduce cost, and improve the quality of your customer support.

That said, you need to take the time and find the best structure. You should also avoid common pitfalls, create a team of knowledgeable experts, and make sure that you create an environment that fosters teamwork.

All in all, having a healthy knowledge sharing ecosystem can improve your operations, allow you to deliver better service, and give your customers the freedom to tackle challenges at their own pace.

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