You’ve decided you need a knowledge management system (KMS) in your office. Great – if done properly, it will help you save time and money. Before you start comparing tools, you need to get buy-in from your team and determine your process. Part of that process will include choosing a tool that best fits your needs. Remember: It may take a little longer to do all this planning in the beginning, but you will be grateful for it. Now that so many employees work remotely, creating and maintaining a KMS that isn’t used is a waste of time, money, and information.
Getting buy-in from your team is crucial to the success of any KMS, no matter how big or small. They need to understand the advantages of consistently contributing to and using a KMS for your company to fully benefit.
- Leadership endorsement is crucial. If your leadership team does not use your KMS, there’s little chance your other employees will. The leadership team must be included when choosing the tool used. They should also be trained first so that they can lead by example. Otherwise, the rest of your staff will wonder why they should bother, and the system will not function properly.
- Stick to one tool. There are many KMSs out there, but at least one is certain to fit the needs for your specific organization. Do not use more than one, as your team will feel overwhelmed if there are too many tools and won’t use any of them. After you and your leadership team decide on the tool to use, ensure adoption by setting up proper training and implementation. Don’t forget to add KMS training to your onboarding process!
- Ensure that your system is secure. Extra security can sometimes be a pain, but the little bit of time needed for two-factor authentication (2FA) or other added security features is well worth the additional security for your precious knowledge. The last thing you want is a vulnerable KMS allowing hackers or competitors access to your sensitive data. When your team feels comfortable adding information to the system, they’ll be more likely to use it to share that information. It also means you can add more levels of knowledge for your leadership team or other “need-to-know basis” employees.
- Keep that knowledge accurate and current. If your team knows the information in the KMS is reliable, they are more likely to add their own information and update it, continuing the cycle of accuracy. Knowing that they don’t have to reinvent the wheel and that there’s a best practices document in the KMS will allow them to save time and energy. To ensure accuracy, assign specific team members the responsibility of updating or cleaning the system on a regular basis.
Creating Your Process
Opinions vary on the number of steps in the process of creating a great KMS, but they can be summed up in the following:
- Knowledge Creation/Discovery. This is all about creating knowledge from raw data, such as surveys, interviews, and observations. Communication is key: ask a lot of questions and more than once. You may not think to ask about a process because you’ve been using it so long it’s second nature, but newer hires may share some best practices they’ve discovered after making mistakes early on.
- Knowledge Storage. Now that you have begun to capture all that invaluable knowledge, you need to decide on the best way to store it. Meet with your leaders to decide what type of KMS you need. Some organizations create or pay a third party to create a customized system just for them, others may subscribe to platforms that cater to specific industries. Your company may be small or have a limited budget and decide that a simple low-cost or free option of folders and documents is all you need. It’s like buying a car — understand your budget and your needs BEFORE you start looking, otherwise you might get distracted by bells and whistles you do not need.
- Knowledge Sharing. Decide on who needs what information, and ensure you communicate that information across your organization. Examples include lectures, presentations, training events, or simply sharing project files in a way that several team members can add to a document without needing a new version each time. (We’ll discuss tools in a future blog post.)
- Knowledge Application. Here it is, the reason you put in all that hard work: applying the knowledge in your KMS. If this step isn’t working, the KMS will not be effective. “Knowledge application” refers to how your staff uses the information in the KMS to make decisions, improve processes, and solve business problems. It is also applied through best-practices, onboarding, employee handbooks, and other organization or team procedures.
Remember that for your KMS to work properly, you must have participation from all your employees, and your leadership must be included in the process from the beginning. It’s more important than ever to have a consistent and accurate KMS in place so your staff from around the state, country, or world has access to information needed to do their best work.