How Important is Knowledge Management to Your Organization?
Knowledge is arguably one of the most valuable assets for an organization; in fact, knowledge alone can give one company a distinct competitive advantage in the market. Knowledge encompasses far more than intellectual property such as processes and methods that might be unique to an organization; today, knowledge is a plethora of traditional intellectual property, training, data on the market at large and the company’s audience, prospects, and customers, and more. As a CIO, the safe and comprehensive management of knowledge is a primary security concern, as well.
Knowledge alone doesn’t make or break a company’s success, however. How well a company applies knowledge to their business processes and protects it from leaking outside the organization, on the other hand, can certainly be a catalyst for a company’s rise or demise. With the body of knowledge maintained within most companies today, secure and comprehensive knowledge management has become an essential piece of the puzzle.
The Need for Knowledge Management
The need for effective knowledge management becomes clear in scenarios in which companies are trying to solve problems or uncover competitive advantages. Knowledge may exist, yet it may not be utilized to its fullest potential, or at all. These types of discoverability issues are among the primary challenges that can be overcome with better management practices.
“According to Delphi Group, employees spend 7 percent to 20 percent of their time on the job replicating existing solutions for others. Ernst & Young reports that 44 percent of employees are poor or very poor at transferring knowledge,” explains the Association for Talent Development (ATD). “These statistics—which are just the tip of the iceberg—can translate to process redundancy, subpar performance, marketing mistakes and inconsistencies, customer defection, low employee retention, and revenue loss.”
It makes little sense to reinvent the wheel every time your teams encounter similar challenges that could be solved with existing knowledge. But too often, these solutions are tacit knowledge, stored only in the memory of one or a few employees who might work in another department – and if your organization still operates in silos, those holding the knowledge might be unaware that the problem even exists. Similarly, knowledge management is about capitalizing on subject matter experts across teams as much as managing tangible knowledge assets and data. No company wants to repeat costly mistakes.
How to Do Knowledge Management Right
According to Knowledge Management Tools, knowledge typically falls into one of three categories:
- Explicit knowledge – Including document management, intelligence gathering,and data and text mining.
- Tacit knowledge (or embodied knowledge) – Including surveys and questionnaires, information from individual and group interviews, focus groups, network analysis, and findings from observation.
- Embedded knowledge – Referring to knowledge that’s not immediately obvious or available on the surface, including analysis from observations, reverse engineering, modeling tools to identify knowledge that may be stored within procedures, and the like.
Effective, comprehensive knowledge management should include information from all of these sources within the enterprise including:
- Data – both raw data and insights
- Identified subject-matter experts
- Lessons learned
- Onboarding processes and learning materials
- Documented, repeatable procedures
- Best practices
- Tools and systems
- Organizational hierarchies
In addition to including these and other sources of knowledge, establishing a clear framework for organizing this knowledge and making it easily accessible (and therefore easy to apply to current business objectives and challenges) is crucial for truly leveraging your organization’s vast knowledge bank.
It’s not a one-or-the-other option. When it comes to knowledge management, having only the knowledge without the framework – or a framework that isn’t all-inclusive of your company’s information resources – falls short of maximizing intellectual property to its fullest advantage. Implementing the right infrastructure that enables your organization to readily acquire, discover, and locate knowledge while simultaneously maintaining security and integrity is the ideal for CIOs.
What Happens When You Implement Knowledge Management?
Enterprises that establish sound knowledge management processes and systems reap rewards that continue to pay dividends for years to come in terms of revenue, the ability to adapt to market trends, productivity gains due to process improvement and knowledge accessibility, and more.
In general, knowledge management serves as the grease that enables companies to run like well-oiled machines. In an article on LinkedIn, Stan Garfield provides a clear and thorough breakdown of the benefits enterprises gain through effective knowledge management, including, but not limited to:
- Making rapid decisions driven by data.
- Facilitating seamless knowledge discovery.
- Getting more leverage from organizational knowledge and assets.
- Minimizing the duplication of effort across all tasks and scenarios.
- Making mistakes, but never making the same mistake more than once.
- Leveraging existing expertise for new initiatives.
- Easily disseminating and distributing communication across the enterprise.
- Establishing standard and repeatable processes and procedures.
- Providing the tools and templates, methods, techniques, and examples employees need to do their jobs effectively.
- Discovering the best approaches to solving problems, and translating those experiences to repeatable processes.
Ultimately, there’s no clear and simple way to quantify the value of knowledge that would apply across the board. Certainly, enterprises can determine their ROI from implementing knowledge management by quantifying KPIs and measuring impacts. It is clear, though, that knowledge management holds the key to unlocking innovation, driving business and revenue growth, competing in even the most saturated markets, and even minimizing wasteful spend (replicating existing solutions, repeating mistakes, etc.). Likewise, investing in secure tools and systems enables CIOs to meet cross-departmental demands without risking the integrity of company data, ensuring that your company is able to leverage its knowledge, but it benefits no one else without the explicit sharing of information.
If you’ve implemented knowledge management practices or solutions, how comprehensive are they? Do you continue to experience knowledge gaps? Are you maximizing the value of your company’s intellectual property? If you’re not following best practices, you might be wasting resources, missing opportunities, or losing your competitive edge. The question isn’t how valuable knowledge management is to your organization, but whether you can afford to ignore it.
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