What is knowledge management and why is it important?
When processes and products are becoming easier to copy, knowledge becomes the foundation for building a company's competitive advantage. At a time when we are flooded with information and employees become less attached to their employers, knowledge management becomes a real challenge. What exactly is knowledge management? Why is it so important?
Let's start with what knowledge is. Knowledge is something on which the company's operations are based. There are two main types of knowledge: explicit and tacit.
Explicit knowledge is all kinds of procedures, rules of functioning. It is available to all employees and provided, inter alia, through internal documentation and training. Tacit knowledge is a derivative of employees experience, competences that they bring to the organization, discoveries they make when facing challenges at work.
The latter is of particular interest. A situation in which an employee leaves and knowledge disappears with him weakens the organization. That is why the area of knowledge management is so important. The key is to build a system that will allow for the accumulation, protection and effective use of knowledge.
Definition of knowledge management
Knowledge management is the systematic process of documenting, storing, communicating, applying, auditing and updating all of the company's knowledge. It is a set of procedures and technical means ensuring the transfer of the personal experience and knowledge of an employee to the organization database. It also covers ensuring the storage and distribution of the necessary information among authorized members of the organization.
The main goal of knowledge management is not only to ensure the smooth running of the company but to improve the organization's efficiency, save knowledge within the company and build the competitive advantage.
Examples of knowledge management can be as follows:
- archiving notes from meetings with key clients
- creating customer files, including correspondence, history of cooperation
- documentation of individual stages of research on a new product, tests, implementation
- saving the results of conducted research, lessons learned, best practices, case studies
- updating changes in documents, e.g. in the product offer, terms of cooperation, price lists (archiving the current and previous versions).
Knowledge management system
The key step to building a successful knowledge management system is to break away from the knowledge monopoly paradigm, and to spread the concept of organizational learning, increased collaboration and knowledge sharing.
The following aspects should be taken into consideration:
- types of knowledge
- content and document management systems (tools, technologies)
- knowledge sharing within an organization (employees, team members, new hires)
- audit of the current sources of knowledge
- updating knowledge and informing about the changes.
The above list shows how complex and multi-level the process is. Focusing only on the technical aspects will not be enough.
The main challenge in building successful knowledge management systems is the transition of tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge. And this is very much related to the organizational culture and attitude of people.
The success depends mainly on the top management, whether its attitude determines the acquisition of other employees for the idea of sharing knowledge. If the top management implements learning organization strategy, employees are ready to follow the example.
Location of this topic in the scope of duties, KPIs and the motivational system is not without significance. Giving the right priority will make the process permanently inscribed in the company's DNA.
Each organization has its own unique knowledge management systems. It always has to be adapted to the individual strategic goals. However, there are some popular ways to share knowledge such as sharing white papers within the organization, organizing meetings dedicated to the discussion of case studies, best practices or lessons learned, creating interdisciplinary groups to share experience or communities of practice.
An effective knowledge management system cannot exist without the support of technology. The abundance of knowledge and information, as well as the scale of their dispersion, makes the use of innovative tools necessary. This actually applies to every stage of the system: document storing, content management, updating the knowledge base.
This is why we decided to build BOTWISE. Our idea was to support organizations at every stage of effective knowledge management and to integrate existing information sources. We have created a solution which enables immediate access to all knowledge through one intelligent bot window. Such a tool works perfectly well in organizations where knowledge is very dispersed and undergoes frequent changes (e.g. banks, insurance companies, entities with call / contact centers). BOTWISE says NO to digging through piles of folders and reviewing dozens of documents. Thus, it streamlines processes in the organization and increases employee satisfaction.
Knowledge management barriers
The main barriers related to effective knowledge management systems derived from the topics discussed in the previous paragraph. These are primarily organizational and psychological issues. They include the attitude of top management that cultivates silo structures, lack of team cooperation skills, resistance to sharing knowledge related to the fear of losing position, poor communication. These are the most difficult barriers to overcome as it takes a lot of effort and time to change people's attitudes. So that in sharing knowledge they do not see only a threat, but an opportunity both for self-development and development of the organization.
The second group of barriers is related to the lack of appropriate tools. The implementation of innovative technology (ies) is limited by financial capacity. However, this is very short-sighted thinking. Basing the organization on knowledge is the only right way to grow. The effects of postponing investment in the knowledge management systems are as follows: the company operates ineffectively and reduces its competitiveness. So in the long-term perspective, it may turn out that it will cost the company much more, it may even threaten the survival on the market.
Benefits of knowledge management
The benefits to the organization can be considered from an internal and external perspective. Internally, the implementation of knowledge management strategy leads to an increase in operating efficiency. The organization is able to implement processes better and faster. Especially in the area of customer service. Implementation of an effective knowledge management system in a call or contact center will definitely influence sales performance. The value of the organization is also growing. This contributes to building competitive advantage as well as an image of an attractive employer and reliable business partner.
The organizational culture based on the free flow of knowledge fosters the development of employees. It also makes the „rat race” a thing of the past. Employees benefit a lot from teamwork and collaboration.
Knowledge management systems make their work easier to perform. Using the example of the BOTWISE application - employees work more efficiently, have easy and quick access to knowledge, they can spend more time on creative work, because automatic and tedious activities are delegated to the bot. It positively influences commitment, motivation and personal development.
Summary: Why is knowledge management important?
As you can see, knowledge management is the key to building the company's value and competitive position. The available data only confirm the above conclusion. Fortune 500 companies lose $31.5 billion each year by failing to share knowledge. Keeping the above in mind, the ability to access the right knowledge at the right time becomes crucial.
Without an effective knowledge management system in place, employees will be forced to learn and relearn processes and information. That’s an inefficient and costly practice. The biggest threat, however, is the risk of losing those processes or information if a knowledge leader or legacy employee leaves your company.
Have you experienced it? Do you know that pain? Don't let it happen again. Take care of the organizational culture supporting the knowledge sharing and tools that will allow to effectively manage dispersed sources of knowledge.