26 Experts Share Their Top Tips for Developing a Winning Knowledge Management Strategy
Knowledge management is crucial for modern businesses of all sizes. With the proliferation of digital media, company knowledge assets now span not only departments, employees, and consultants but also myriad channels, repositories, systems, and infrastructure. In other words, it’s more complex than ever to develop and maintain comprehensive systems and processes for keeping tabs on the vast knowledge, data, and information that exists within even the smallest organizations.
Of course, the development of effective knowledge management practices early in the lifecycle of an enterprise is the best way to ensure that knowledge is organized in meaningful ways, discoverable, and usable, ultimately enabling companies to leverage both intellectual and tangible knowledge to the fullest extent possible. But what key elements are necessary for winning knowledge management strategies? What’s the best way to get started, and how can companies get a handle on knowledge that’s already dispersed throughout the enterprise?
We reached out to a panel of business leaders to find out what they’d recommend to companies interested in implementing effective knowledge management practices, asking them to answer this question:
“What’s your #1 tip or best practice for developing a winning knowledge management strategy?”
Find out what the most critical aspects are in implementing a successful knowledge management strategy by reading what our experts had to say below.
Meet Our Panel of Knowledge Management Experts and Business Leaders:
Caitlin is the product marketing manager for DZone, one of the largest web communities and publishers of technical content about Java, DevOps, Big Data, web development, and more.
“Today’s business environment is inherently fast-paced, exciting and competitive…”
Everyone is working on what they think is the next billion dollar idea — but only if they strike while the iron is hot. Despite the focus placed on discovering the next big idea, it is important to also think about knowledge management— both as a means for short-term wins as well as long term-success. In our recent blog post, we discussed how to foster an environment that encourages knowledge sharing and how it enables organization to thrive both now and in the future.
To build the foundation for strong knowledge management, organization must create a highly collaborative and innovative culture. This requires strong executive support — the importance of knowledge sharing and continuous learning must become high-visibility initiatives that have the support of organizational leadership. Further, the knowledge and experience that every employee brings to work each day must be recognized as a high-value resource for the organization. When implementing a knowledge management strategy, organizations must work to document the experience, information, knowledge, learning, and skills of all employees.
When implementing a strong strategy, organizations must also cultivate team-wide continuous learning. Continuous learning promotes the process of continually developing and improving a person, team, or organization’s skills and knowledge in order to perform effectively and adapt to change. This requires organizations to establish an environment where it is safe to share. Knowledge contributors must be identified, empowered, and inspired to support a shared purpose that defines what the organization does and why it does it.
Lastly, organizations should create a centralized, digital community for knowledge management and knowledge sharing. Many tools and platforms are now available that allow the development of organizational communities where people can connect and interact with the same ease and intuitiveness of their favorite social networks. Most of these systems allow people to pose questions to the community, have profiles and visibility into all of the questions and shared knowledge that has transpired. Again, learning must be a shared, open, and interactive experience.
Craig Borowski is a market researcher covering CRM and CMS tools at Software Advice, writing about trends in document management, customer service, marketing automation, and the impact of technology on CRM strategy.
“The best way to ensure a new knowledge management strategy will succeed is…”
To start with a detailed appraisal of how knowledge currently moves through the organization. This includes determining where in the organization, and by which individuals, knowledge is created, updated and utilized. After doing this, then a content management platform can be selected based on how well it supports the existing workflow processes involved in the creation, updating and use of knowledge resources. This helps avoid one of the most common pitfalls of knowledge management strategy: selecting a platform that doesn’t mesh with existing processes, leading to a low rate of adoption.
President of Octacom, Canada’s foremost provider of high quality document management and business process outsourcing solutions. We provide a wide range of customized management solutions for large, international enterprises.
“My #1 tip for knowledge management is to…”
Have an efficient system in place for all operational processes.
For many businesses and enterprises, the majority of knowledge management has to do with internal knowledge, so outlining a clear management system for employees to interact with is integral to your business’s operational efficiency. No matter the focus of your knowledge management strategy, whether it be customer satisfaction or even growth into new markets, all effective strategies must first start with a clear internal operational process.
Andrew Choco is the VP of Marketing at Directive Consulting. They are a Google, Bing, Moz, & Unbounce partner serving mid-enterprise level firms.
He is a creative marketing enthusiast always looking for new ways to hack growth, specifically across social media platforms. He was recently published on Vendasta and is a consistent contributor to the Directive Consulting blog.
“To execute our knowledge management strategy, we take full advantage of…”
Apps like Trello and Slack. We use Trello to create learning boards with checklists for ongoing training and development and then have a Reading channel on Slack to consistently update our teams on relevant and technical information that we’re reading. We also do weekly meetings on Friday to dive into actionable ways we can use our new learnings to better the work we do for our clients.
Joseph Thompson is a solutions consultant for Beyond20, a woman-owned, minority-owned, small business focused on ITSM training, consulting, and assessment. He has a Masters in Library and Information Science from Drexel University.
“The #1 tip I’ve learned through experience is…”
To start by asking the knowledge users questions and to provide a space for them to ask questions. By providing a space for colleagues to communicate early, one can begin identifying project champions, uncover potential roadblocks before crashing into them, and nurture a sense of ownership across the organization.
Ninh Tran is the CMO and Co-founder at Hiretual, when Science meets Recruiting.
“When I started working at Google, my first assignment was to read through an internal Wiki page filled with know-hows and how-tos…”
Believe it or not, Wiki-style knowledge management is the best knowledge hub for coworkers to contribute, edit, annotate, and share knowledge that is accessible to anyone who is online and has a browser. This completely eradicates the need for special platforms for different devices and is instantly accessible. Every member on the team should have some sort of access to edit and revise, although major revisions should be approved by an admin, usually a trainer or manager. If you worked in engineering, like me, then everyone with sufficient skills and/or knowledge can contribute. Google is probably the most secure tech company in the world. Enterprises put a lot of effort into guarding their IP and knowledge, so why would anyone, especially Google, use Wiki to manage knowledge? First, security starts with the people you hire. Second, we had some rad server security to protect our knowledge based on IP, login, etc. If you do knowledge management right, it can be a super secure, easy to read and edit, shareable, fast and low-cost solution and will keep everyone on board on the same page.
Derric Haynie is the Head of Growth for Rebrandly.com.
“To develop a winning knowledge management strategy, you need to have…”
A centralized knowledge base to store all of your data.
GrowthHackers.com just came out with something called projects that helps encourage writing and sharing key learnings from experiments within any business. It’s the only tool I’ve ever seen that covers this subject.
Sarah Dillingham has over 20 years’ knowledge management experience at global corporate enterprises. Now she runs Case Study Ninja, helping you to create, manage and publish case studies.
“To develop and execute a successful knowledge management strategy, you should focus on…”
The users and what’s in it for them. Understand their pain points, go to tools, and what they need to achieve during their day-to-day activities. Build your knowledge management strategy around this.
It’s a lot easier to deliver projects and systems that solve a genuine business need and build on existing behaviors than assume that people will embrace significant change for a wider corporate objective.
Mat Brogie is COO at Repsly, Inc., a leading provider of simple mobile CRM and data collection software. Mat has 30 years of experience in large and small technology companies working to help global CPG organizations down to small software companies become more efficient.
“My advice to anyone developing a knowledge management strategy is to…”
Keep it simple, open and unstructured. There are so many low-cost tools and platforms that enable tagging of content and concepts, communication around specific topics, open search and powerful filtering. It no longer makes sense to try to architect a solution that tightly fits your specific business since requirements constantly change, and innovation is hampered by rigidity. Implement an easy to use platform, and invite everyone to participate. Look for opportunities to collaborate around pieces of content or knowledge. This will encourage use and adoption and will develop the knowledge-base even further.
Jon Clark, vice president of sales at Cabinet Document Management Solutions, has more than 10 years of experience in the document management and business process automation industries. He specializes in transforming business needs and inefficiencies into tangible IT initiatives focused on measurable results.
“For a successful knowledge management strategy, you must…”
Centralize your documents. Having one central location for all business documents to be easily accessed allows people to spend their time talking to customers, solving problems, and working on improving the business as opposed to wasting time searching for documents. Document silos waste time and expose organizations to risk. By implementing a centralized document management and automation solution, organizations can streamline business processes, better serve customers, and avoid costly audit issues.
Focusing on data-driven insights and a heavy research process, Joshua helps small and mid-sized businesses develop employees, wow customers, increase their sales & margins, and develop scalable processes and software. He is the Founder of Procurem.io & Business Process Consultant, COO of Chess Group Inc , Founder of Grupo Ajedrez .
“Knowledge management has both pros and cons…”
It creates a structured way to share knowledge across an organization without taking precious time from the most experienced individuals in the firm. However, it is also intrusive by nature in that it requires constant recording of every lesson, thought, and practice. The more helpful a knowledge base becomes, the more intrusive it was on its key recorders. For this reason, having a simple system to enter work instructions, processes, and documentation rarely sees firm-wide adoption.
Having had this problem at a number of my clients’ workplaces, I considered a new method to understand both what was needed in these systems and an easy way to capture it. What I came up with was a question-initiated system rather than a knowledge-initiated system. Most systems rely on the knowledge holder to decide, “Hey, others should know this.” However, the incentive for them to record knowledge is small, as they already know it, so taking the time to share it seems excessively intrusive rather than enlightening. This leads to the best information not being shared (from the best executives) and moves the quality of the entire system towards common sense inputs lacking any real differentiation that can help the firm, its reputation, and its operational excellence.
By placing the initiation with those who need help, in the format of placed questions to be answered, you now create a system which contains a list of the “holes” in the knowledge base. Question-driven systems tend to be much more complete. They may be less organized in terms of Process -> Procedure -> Work -> Instruction, but finding the answer occurs much faster. When questions drive the knowledge base, the answers target the most likely thoughts of other associates and co-workers directly. What results is a complete, targeted, and helpful knowledge base.
One step further is lowering the intrusion for high-level executives. The best way I have found in answering these questions is a posted video with outsourced (or in-sourced) transcripts. Most computers and phones now have cameras. By simply recording an answer to a posted question, either by facing the camera or recording your screen, busy but knowledgeable executives will be more willing to add their knowledge through natural question answering without typing or other intrusive tasks. The transcripts provide a searchable database and the videos share the knowledge with emotion and passion.
Barbara Weaver Smith
Barbara Weaver Smith is founder and CEO of The Whale Hunters, helping companies grow by making bigger sales to bigger customers. She is author of the new Whale Hunting with Global Accounts: Four Critical Sales Strategies to Win Global Customers and co-author of Whale Hunting: How to Land Big Sales and Transform Your Company.
“The #1 most important thing for the knowledge management team to understand is…”
That documents represent information; people turn the information into knowledge. So best practices require keeping people engaged with a superior document management system.
I work with sales teams, who need the most recent, compelling materials of all kinds to present to prospective customers in all sorts of formats. Usually Marketing supplies the documents. So Marketing and Sales need a knowledge management strategy to keep the materials up-to-date, correct, and easy to find just when a salesperson needs them (in the office, on the road, during a webinar). Believe me, having a truly workable system that everyone loves and uses is rare! Here’s what it takes:
Commitment from all document producers and users to a single system with a rigorous production, review, and revision process. You need agreement that everyone will operate within the system and make it work. That means management will provide sufficient funding, platform tools, and support staff and is dedicated to getting the strategy in place team by team, as quickly as possible.
Collaboration with the end users in the creative process. In my example, Marketing needs to involve Sales in determining what documents are needed and what the content should be. The platform for managing documents is critically important; but it’s insufficient if the documents are not what people want or need.
Interaction of the people with the documents by means of a user group, chat room, some easy form of online dialog. Encourage conversation and feedback about the documents; gather immediate responses when someone spots an error; have a rating system to sales reps can evaluate the effectiveness of materials to help their peers.
Gamification may work with some user groups.
Knowledge management really requires buy-in from the people—the knowledge really resides in their brains and their conversations. So make it super easy for them to get their hands on the perfect document and give feedback on it just when they need it.
Nathan Barber works for a digital marketing agency, digitaladvertisingWorks. He is a recent college graduate who is learning day by day how to become a better digital marketer. Presently he is representing Pawel in its marketing efforts for LingPerfect.
“Our tip for developing a winning knowledge management strategy is…”
To have our employees keep a single database using an Excel document of all our client’s information compiled together. We are able to gather as much information onto one document where we jot down the client basic information, strategies, and tactics employed with specific detail. This way information keeps on a continual pattern through the months. Using specificity, we are able to track when certain actions were employed and analyze our results as the month goes by.
Tom Kolepp, vice president of marketing & compliance at BerkOne, has more than 35 years of experience in general management, operations planning and execution, marketing, strategy and finance with a track record in many top-rated businesses including a Fortune 500 company. Tom is responsible for creating marketing plans to support BerkOne’s business strategy and product decisions, ensuring systems and operations are in compliance with client requirements and overseeing document generation operations, facilities and logistics.
“A winning knowledge management strategy has its underpinnings in a comprehensive answer to the critical question…”
“What game are we trying to win?” Senior management alignment with the chosen answer will increase the odds of a successful KM implementation.
To illustrate this, examine the three value disciplines defined by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersma in their book, The Discipline of Market Leaders: operational excellence, product leadership and customer intimacy. Imagine the types of knowledge required to win at these three different games. Operational excellence demands knowledge focused on internal capabilities, efficiencies, supply chain, and other factors to deliver quality goods at a low price. Product leadership demands market, design, and development knowledge to be first to market with innovative goods and services. Customer intimacy demands knowledge that brings the company’s marketing, sales, and servicing teams close to the customer. These three games require three fundamentally distinct knowledge management strategies.
So, the lesson is to define your game before setting your KM strategy.
Jennifer is the President and Founder of Complete Controller.
“Being in the business of standardization of the full-charge bookkeeping cycle, knowledge management is a crucial element…”
Our company is growing and evolving on a day-to-day basis, and our primary purpose is the standardization of the full-charge bookkeeping cycle which has many moving parts and can vary by industry and client need. All of this is to say that we have new processes emerging and process refinement occurring daily. And, because bookkeeping is something that can be done 100 different ways, we also have the challenge of defining the best practice – the one we want to adopt. At first, we just added to the process manual for each role within the company and made sure the processes had accountability points where a person outside of the process would be aware if it wasn’t completed or proper. Eventually our manuals became very beefy, and there was no way to ensure that the staff members in a given role had a working understanding of all of the material. We implemented the following tools for knowledge management, and our knowledge share is now more efficient and exciting than ever:
Training Videos – We created a series of training videos to help orient new staff members or those entering into a new role within the company. They are supported by outlines on which we require our trainees to make notes and submit them to their supervisor. This accomplishes a few things: we are reaching the visual and written learners, we are ensuring that videos are being watched all the way through, and we are mining information about the content and the trainee. If we keep seeing the same questions pop-up on those outline notes about a given subject, we know we need to improve our training in that area. If we see inconsistent or off-subject notes, we know that the trainee lacks the ability to learn this way, be meticulous, or stay on point – all indications that the role may not be a good fit for them.
Testing & Continuing Education – After they have watched all of the videos and taken one long read through the process manual that applies to their role, we give them an open book test. All of the answers are searchable within the manual and this practice helps us to get their head into the manual, using it as a reference guide and bringing attention to the details of critical processes. Since our process manuals are constantly evolving, internal continuing education is critical. Our staff answers a quick set of continuing education questions every month that set them up for success in their roles. Some processes only occur once a year so the continuing education questions are a great way to refresh their knowledge about how to handle seasonal tasks properly. Of course, we also include questions about the new or changed processes so they are brought to attention. This has been extremely effective for reducing requests for support in tasks that are already clearly outlined in the manual – thereby increasing our staff efficiency.
Management Brainstorming – We have five levels of accountability within our company: Data Entry, Bookkeepers, Controllers, Operations, and Executive staff. At all levels we have talented, experienced, and highly educated people who love the company and want to see us become more valuable, more efficient, and more effective in the market we serve. I believe that executive staff who do not recognize the talent of their team and instead ‘dictate from on high’ miss out on great feedback and have a hard time creating the passion that fuels collaboration and personal responsibility. If a staff member is always carrying out someone else’s wishes and doesn’t have the opportunity and encouragement to share their thoughts and ideas, they won’t be excited about their workplace. We provide a forum for weekly brainstorming where our management level team members air concerns, discuss potential solutions, work through processes that are broken, and discover untapped opportunities. Our non-management staff are recognized when they bring a good idea to the attention of management and they get a sweet bonus if it is implemented in part or in whole.
These strategies have drastically improved knowledge management within our small business environment and they are very affordable – we were able to create all of our training and tests in-house, by the people who are closest to the work. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive to be effective.
Dr. Sy Islam is an Assistant Professor of Industrial Organizational Psychology from Farmingdale State College and a Principal Consultant with Talent Metrics, LLC , a human capital consulting firm. Much of his experience is in the area of training and development. He is the former President of the Association for Talent Development in Long Island.
“My number 1 tip with regards to knowledge management strategy is…”
To make sure that your knowledge management strategy matches your business objectives. Often, training and/or HR departments seem to function independently of the business needs of the organization. A knowledge management strategy must align with the business goals of the company. That means that the knowledge you decide to keep will be retained and beneficial to the organization, whereas unnecessary trainings will be removed and/or modified over time.
Jeff is the President and CEO of RightAnswers.
“To develop a winning knowledge management strategy, you have to realize that…”
Knowledge is the building block that makes up a great customer service and support organization.
An effective knowledge strategy that transforms your customer support involves people, technology and processes.
It is crucial to provide your knowledge workers with the right tool, one that suits all types of teams, people, products and support cultures. By investing in the support organization, company leadership sends the message to the knowledge workers that they are important to the company, which keeps them motivated.
When you’re undertaking any process that involves multiple steps and multiple people, it’s helpful to adopt a process that can keep you on track and achieve your goals. Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS℠) is the preeminent set of practices for knowledge management. KCS provides guidelines to ensure that knowledge is written for maximum usability and “findability,” and that your knowledge base is kept up-to-date. It is helpful to use software that complies with KCS out-of-the-box. The need for a methodology increases in environments with increased complexity, such as high call volume, many knowledge workers, many products, a large number of knowledge articles, and so on.
Grayson is a Founder and Owner of Power Digital Marketing.
“For business owners and entrepreneurs, running a successful company can be very challenging…”
Our leaders are usually faced with a multi-faceted role in which management is just one of the many hats they wear.
Marketing requires discipline and consistency. Our management team often struggles because they are constantly working on different things and can’t give their marketing efforts the focus needed to get the “ball rolling” and drive results.
Here are a few best practices for developing a winning knowledge management strategy:
1) Communication and transparency is essential- everyone needs to be on the same page.
2) Create a 6 month plan that you and your team commit to.
3) Divide and Conquer: “divvy” out the tasks for the plan and hold your team accountable.
4) Hold weekly scrums to check in on team’s progress.
5) Hold monthly and quarterly meetings to measure results.
Zack Kelly is the Director of Management at Array Automation, a consulting company that specializes in data management and process streamlining.
“The most important thing for knowledge management software is…”
That all the data is held in a similar space, is searchable and easy to input information into. This allows information to be shared freely and efficiently. One of the biggest trappings of knowledge management is a too-organized system of folders. This often follows only the creator’s logic of information flow and is often hard for others to follow. Having all information searchable makes it easy to find exactly what you’re looking for. Of course, with some basic organization, you can see how something developed, but typically, you’re only instantly looking for an instant answer.
With experience at the intersection of business development, marketing, and technology, WibniLabs Founder and CEO, Josh Rosenzweig, has spent his career working across business functions as an intrapreneur to discover new and unexpected opportunities to grow businesses.
“The best way to implement a successful knowledge management system is to…”
Establish a process to create (or uncover) new knowledge.
A knowledge management strategy that focuses on innovation ensures that the existing knowledge does not become stale. Most of this “new knowledge” currently exists within your company, but you may not have a process in place to uncover it. By organizing idea brainstorms, mind maps, and root cause analyses of existing processes and technology, individuals can share information and experiences in a protected environment that can lead to new knowledge creation.
Clint Evans, CEO StandOut Authority is a #1 Amazon best-selling author, speaker, and coach to decisive and growth minded entrepreneurs. He has a column with Entrepreneur.com and Business.com.
“The number one priority for implementing knowledge management is to…”
Document your processes so any team member you hire can be productive quickly.
Store them in a system like Docurated (bigger companies), Basecamp, Asana or Trello. Larger companies are usually better with processes than small businesses. –
Have training or training videos that show how to use your chosen platform. In your process, define what types and categories of knowledge should go into your knowledge base. It’s easy for critical knowledge to get lost in an ocean of digital documents. Train your team members on your system. Train them on which digital buckets each category of information should be in. Design your system so it can handle scale. Once large, you and any team member want to be able to locate critical knowledge with a simple search.
AJ Saleem is the Director of Suprex Home Tutoring, a leading private tutoring and test prep company based in Houston. AJ has created a big dent in the private tutoring market by offering well-trained, highly qualified teachers who are also dynamic instructors. The company also operates in New York and Chicago.
“The best practice for business owners to implement a knowledge management is…”
To maintain a chain of command of knowledge. Make sure people know exactly who to ask if they have a problem and if not, they can move up the chain.
Swapnil Bhagwat is Senior Manager – design & digital media and implementing digital, design, web and strategies for the group companies (Orchestrate). He is an MBA graduate with work experience in the US, UK and Europe. Swapnil has worked for more than a decade across a range of businesses for the global markets.
“A knowledge management strategy has many components…”
First of all, the organizational culture should be congenial for knowledge management and could be in line with a learning organization. A flat organizational structure where an organization is more looked at like a community with more sharing helps to cultivate knowledge management. However, for a proper KM strategy, the organizational needs for knowledge have to be assessed with the work practices and cost-benefit analysis. The users or the representatives of the users should be a part of the design process to ensure organizational acceptance. It should be ensured that the processes of knowledge creation, sharing and reuse are being chalked out and are implemented properly. Technology is an important aspect and should be used to optimize knowledge acquisition, sharing and reuse.
Dr. Michael Provitera
Dr. Michael Provitera is a Management consultant, International Business Book Author, International Motivational Speaker, and Professor of Organizational Behavior. He is a recognized business expert, certified Situational Leadership Trainer, and Management Trainer. Michael is quoted frequently in the national media.
“A winning knowledge management strategy would include the concept of …”
Becoming a transformational leader.
Since knowledge management processes such as knowledge acquiring, creating, and sharing among both managers and departmental units is key to a company’s success, a transformational leader can impact the knowledge management process. Ergo, transformational leaders positively contribute to organizational knowledge cycles through building more decentralized structures within organizations. I would suggest to aspiring management and future business leaders that transformational leadership style and knowledge management are two complementary players, which positively contribute to firm’s performance and competitive advantage.
Karan Chaudhry is a serial entrepreneur (Comnplus (current), DropThought (Series A funded and acquired)). He’s earned his MBA/MS from Stanford and is a Coach/mentor at StartX, the Stanford incubator for startups, which is one of the top startup incubators in the country.
“There are endless ways to implement a knowledge management strategy…”
And that’s what makes it particularly tough to select the best one for your company. Spend time in scoping out your requirements upfront, as that will play a huge role in the success of your strategy. Once done, focus on getting solutions to address that. Additional features which you do not need are enticing but distracting. We are a data-driven organization and track everything under the sun. At one point we had 8 different dashboards (Registrations, App attributions, Google, Facebook, YouTube, video player analytics, etc.), and we realized it’s not scalable. That’s when we decided to do the exercise and come to one or max two sources of truth. Also, make sure the internal decision makers know their stuff and what’s available in the market. Since there are endless options, you need experience to know what works.
Stacy Caprio is the CEO and founder of Accelerated Growth Marketing, a business whose mission is to serve the profitable growth of other companies.
“The most important element for a successful knowledge management strategy is…”
A customer-knowledge focus, to enable your reps to interact with customers in the most positive, knowledgeable way possible.
Customers are the life-blood of any business, and even any marketing program as their positive (or negative) impressions will be shared and can serve to grow or stop your company in its tracks. Reviews and referrals are incredibly important to growth, and happy customers help your company stay in business. Focusing on customer knowledge as your main knowledge management strategy is a solution that will foster a growing company with happy customers.
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