Knowledge management. Have you ever known just two words to bear so much weight?
If you are reading this blog, chances are that you are a knowledge worker too. That’s two more heavy words, right there.
We can’t escape these big, heavy words, though. We work and live in the knowledge economy where economic input and output are both rooted in information.
How do we handle so much (too much?) information that always seems to be clamoring for our limited attention spans? And how do we decide where to invest our mental faculties to get the maximum returns?
We turn to our favorite words, of course: knowledge management.
As important as knowledge management is for individuals (personal knowledge management), it becomes radically more essential for organizations where many people come together to work with significantly higher quantities of information.
What is knowledge management in an organization?
Knowledge management (KM) is the process of creating, identifying, organizing, storing, using, and sharing collective information within an organization.
Knowledge management in an organization helps transform heaps of raw, scattered information — Slack threads, Jira tickets, Google Docs, Github PRs — into useful assets.
In the absence of organizational knowledge management, employees have to constantly jump through hoops, looking for the relevant resource. If we look at this McKinsey report, employees already spent 1.8 hours every day — 9.3 hours per week, on average — searching and gathering information, back in 2012. That means about 1 in every 5 employees hired spends all their time just looking for things, and not getting any real work done. Scary, isn't it?
Understandably, companies with a robust knowledge management system can avoid draining their time and money resources.
Importance of knowledge management in an organization
Heeding knowledge management is important for all kinds of organizations for many of the following reasons.
1. Fast and efficient access to the organizational knowledge base
Imagine a new, remote hire logging in for work on their first day. They are expected to go through the organizational charts, workflows, company handbook, and a bunch of other documents before they can get started. In the absence of a central repository, they would be dependent on their colleagues (whom they don’t know) or their manager (who may not have enough time) to share these and even walk them through it all.
A knowledge management system can help. If employees know where to look for information, they don’t have to wait on others or lose their mind trying to get there. In this case, the knowledge management system can be as thorough as a company intranet, as standard as a well-defined onboarding process, or even as simple as access to a common, shared folder for essential ‘Getting Started’ resources.
P.S. For 10x the speed and efficiency, consider creating a single source of truth for all important resources in the organization
2. Creates a shared organizational memory
People may come and leave, but organizations are ‘going concerns’. As people leave, their knowledge also leaves the company if it is not documented or shared. To benefit from the experience and expertise of outgoing employees, it’s essential for organizations to have a knowledge management strategy.
3. Stimulates more informed decision-making
In a typical software company, such as OSlash, product managers need access to customer feedback to know which features to prioritize, developers need access to bug reports to build better software, sales teams need access to qualified leads to focus their sales efforts on the right audience, and so on. A knowledge management system facilitates speedy and hassle-free access for better data-driven decisions.
4. Improves business operations and efficiency
Knowledge management systems enable knowledge workers to spend less time searching for information and more time using it. They are also not forced to learn and relearn information and processes or duplicate work. This can weed out operational inefficiencies and turbocharge productivity. Lew Platt, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, said: “If HP knew what HP knows, we would be three times more productive.”
5. Enhances workplace collaboration and trust
Teams build trust with the help of knowledge management systems. The transparency and ease of access to organization-wide information leads to a shared understanding, fosters collaboration, and creates alignment around common goals.
6. Increases employee satisfaction
When an organization creates systems for providing employees the information they need, it shows them that their time and skills are far too valuable to be wasted on just looking for information. Additionally, employees who have access to the right information can contribute more, achieve better outcomes, and in turn feel more aligned with the work they do.
Now that we know why organizations need knowledge management, let’s dive into how they can implement it.
Examples of knowledge management in organizations
Organizations that take knowledge management seriously will typically choose one or more of the following systems to capture, curate, and leverage information.
1. Document management systems
Think of document management systems as e-filing cabinets for digital documents, such as PDFs, images, word processing files, spreadsheets etc. They support knowledge management by allowing quick and easy access, retrieval, and sharing of documents. Popular document management systems include Confluence, Google Drive, Adobe Acrobat etc.
2. Content management systems
Content management systems (CMS) are simply an extension of document management systems that can store not just documents but also media files including audio and video data. Cases in point are WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, Magento, Microsoft Sharepoint etc.
Most companies work with a variety of databases to store, index, and interact with data. Everything from an employee directory to a customer relationship management (CRM) system in a company is a form of database. Organizations often also store inventory and accounting information in a database.
An intranet is a private internet maintained by an organization. Intranets are social networks that ease access to company-wide information. Among other things, companies use them for announcements, employee advocacy and recognition, and shared access to centralized resources. They are particularly useful for enhancing collaboration, especially for remote and geographically dispersed teams.
Wikis are collaborative web-pages where anyone (or in some cases permitted individuals and/or teams) can autonomously publish and store public information. This open access is both an advantage and a limitation of wikis. While it fosters a culture of trust, transparency, and initiative among employees, it can also backfire if the data uploaded to the wiki is distorted.
How does knowledge management help in organizational growth?
One of the main benefits of knowledge management in an organization is that it improves organizational performance and accelerates growth. By becoming a knowledge-sharing organization, a business
1. Speeds up new employee onboarding
Getting new employees up to speed quickly is crucial to their productivity. An enterprise knowledge management system can fastrack their access to information, obliterate frustration in searching for answers, and reduce training time and costs.
2. Allows existing employees to spend more time on impactful, outcome-driven work
It’s safe to assume that nobody gets up in the morning excited to answer a bunch of emails and Slack messages, or spend their valuable hours searching for the right Google Doc. People want to do meaningful work that drives meaningful outcomes. And a knowledge management system can help by curbing the constant chat and email noise to give them quick, easy, and hassle-free access to enterprise knowledge.
3. Decreases customer support time and costs
An extensive knowledge base relating to the business and its offering can be a great resource for customers looking for answers. Tutorials, Guides, Playbooks, Help Articles, Demos, and Webinars etc. can add to customer knowledge and encourage the self-serve attitude, decreasing time and costs spent on customer support.
The knowledge base will also help reps to have quick access to all the product or service related information at their fingertips, leading to faster ticket resolution and greater operational efficiency.
For inspiration, check out our Help Center at OSlash.
4. Improves quality of information and data available
Creating a single source of truth for the whole organization is the key objective of a good organizational knowledge management system. No more sitting on graves of obsolete, discarded, unfinished documents. No more running around for the latest version of this presentation, that report. Everybody is on the same page (quite literally) right from the start!
5. Promotes a culture of innovation
Improving access to enterprise knowledge empowers teams to make informed decisions. This access also allows them to learn from the mistakes of others and leverage these learnings to succeed faster.
Knowledge management encourages team collaboration, and the sharing of ideas acts as a catalyst to drive change and create a culture of innovation.
OSlash — your go-to solution for enterprise knowledge management
Enterprise knowledge management isn’t a child’s play. But it doesn’t have to be like moving a mountain, either.
This was our vision behind building OSlash, the knowledge management platform that lets you build a company wiki for everyone — instantly and intuitively.
With OSlash, you can create simple and easy-to-recall shortcuts to all your links. By letting you name your everyday links using everyday words, OSlash lets you find, navigate, and share workplace information at lightning speed.
So your product roadmap can be accessed at o/roadmap instead of https://www.notion.so/xhtryE/roadmap-d60645aa5640422ebcd8238510e156eaxty and your everyday standup meeting opens at o/standup instead of the random Google meet link meet.google.com/bcj-jddu-kat
By simplifying URLs, OSlash simplifies finding information at fingertips — for you, your team, your department, and your entire organization. And saves you all that productive time wasted on looking for the right resources.
It allows you to create custom collections — folders of shortcuts grouped by topic, function, or any other criterion you like. And lets you surface related information using tags. You can also update destination documents as often as you like, to maintain a dynamic and living repository of enterprise knowledge, without changing URLs.