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Knowledge Management: What It Is and Why It’s Important

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Life moves fast and business moves even faster. Customers have high expectations. Instant responses from smartphones and other technology have pushed consumer behaviors that demand immediate solutions. That drives your company to solve issues quicker than ever to provide a positive customer service experience. And those experiences must be consistent and error-free.

What is Knowledge Management and why is it important?

Every company has its own knowledge. Whether it’s a pile of how-to manuals, or something more technologically sophisticated, knowledge gets shared up, down, and sideways in your organization. Knowledge Management (KM) is the practice of gathering, structuring, and sharing the company’s knowledge. It’s a matter of figuring out what everyone needs to know and the best ways to deliver that information to them.

For example, a supervisor writes a memo to their staff about a procedure. Another supervisor in another part of the company writes their own memo about the same procedure, except the processes don’t match. Employees in different parts of the company are now approaching the same task in different ways. Eliminating duplication to streamline and create consistency is part of knowledge management. It reduces errors and keeps everyone singing from the same songbook. And that’s music to a manager and a customer’s ears.

What are the four components of Knowledge Management?

People come first. That includes people who will acquire the knowledge (employees, new hires, experts) and those who will be on the receiving end of that knowledge (customers, client base). Employees might be experiencing a lack of confidence because information is too limited or too slow to access when they need it. Clients at the other end of the call notice this, and it can erode trust in your organization.

Process distributes two types of knowledge. Explicit knowledge is the “how to” information that’s easy to explain and could be written in a manual. Tacit knowledge lives in the minds of those who know it and is more difficult to extract and share. It’s learned by doing the job.

Technology refers to the knowledge delivery method. How much and how quickly the knowledge will be shared helps determine the technology that’s best to accomplish it.

Strategy, a solid one, will facilitate building upon the developed knowledge base and allow for updates, as required, as the company grows and procedures change. Although it’s relatively simple to add to a text-based strategy, it’s not easy to distribute. Nor, as we’ll see, is it the best way for people to understand and retain the information.

People sitting at a desk and discussing work at their office

What are examples of Knowledge Management systems?

A Knowledge Management system is any kind of IT system that stores and retrieves knowledge. Choosing the right KM system requires a deep dive inward to your organization’s particular wants and needs. Let’s look at some common KM systems.

SaaS: A cloud-based KM solution, such as ProcedureFlow, converts organizations’ processes and information into an accessible easy-to-use management tool to be used by employees.

Document Management System: A digital, central filing system for company documents, password-protected to restrict access to authorized personnel only.

Intranet: A private, searchable computer network purpose-built for in-house knowledge sharing.

Content Management System: Dedicated storage for all types of media—audio, video, recorded webinars, etc.—in addition to documents.

Wikis and Forums: The upside to Wikis and Forums is that they can be easily accessed and updated by anyone. That’s also their downside. It’s difficult to ensure the posted information is accurate.

What is Knowledge Management software?

It’s a tool for containing, organizing, updating, and distributing knowledge. It prevents data silos and becomes one centralized resource.

ProcedureFlow pairs highly engaging visuals with simplified text on hyperlinked flow charts. Among its many benefits is that it allows companies to quickly and easily onboard new employees.

What is the difference between a text-based and visual knowledge management tool and what are the benefits of visual?

In a nutshell, visual is stickier than text. Humans are visual creatures. The brain absorbs text in the short-term memory where it’s easily replaced by something new. Visual data is engraved in the long-term memory where it can get called up when needed.

Visuals, whether screenshots, images, or color and shapes, take your message from boring to compelling. And there’s evidence visuals improve comprehension of complex ideas. Adding illustrations to text increases understanding of a concept 98% of the time.

However, visual doesn’t necessarily mean video. Videos are difficult to create and even harder to update. Think of your Knowledge Management system as a living entity. Improving upon it when it’s in video form is cumbersome, time-consuming, and expensive. Videos are also virtually impossible to search when one needs to find specific information fast.

Visuals, such as images, colored shapes, and characters such as emojis, work best when paired with a text component, for several reasons. One is searchability. Searches depend on text to return matches. A picture may be worth 1,000 words but a few actual words can help make the message clearer.

How can organizations integrate a Knowledge Management system?

First, identify the reasons for embarking on the process. What are the goals and objectives? Begin with the problems that need solving. Is the current system unmanageable and out of date? Are too many errors occurring that led to customer complaints? Justify the process by identifying why a KM system is needed.

Define the metrics you’ll use to measure effectiveness now, so you can compare them to future performance under the new system and note the improvements.

Create a roadmap for navigating the inevitable challenges that will come as one system migrates to another. This roadmap will keep the team focused and motivated as you consult it regularly. Isolate gaps and duplications in the current system.

Implementing a knowledge management system will cause a cultural shift in any organization, from financial services to insurance to retail. Prepare employees for it and show them how everyone will reap the benefits.

Looking to upgrade your Knowledge Management system? ProcedureFlow can help you visualize your processes to help you organize, implement, and maintain your company’s knowledge.

Written by Lisa Brandt

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