What Is Knowledge Management? A KM Strategy Guide
Your company’s knowledge can be its most valuable asset, but failing to share that knowledge effectively could lead to huge losses. According to one study, your employees could be wasting over 20 hours every month waiting for information they need to do their jobs. This waste of time results in unhappy workers and delayed projects, which leads to lost revenue.
You can eliminate those wasted efforts by creating an effective knowledge management strategy that taps into what your workers already know so they can do their jobs better and faster.
What Is Knowledge Management?
Knowledge management is the systematic method of creating, capturing, organizing, storing, and sharing essential information – typically in a knowledge base – to become more efficient. It’s a process that utilizes your company’s existing knowledge to create value. The main goal of knowledge management is to connect employees seeking knowledge and solutions to the correct information as quickly as possible. If your company doesn’t have a knowledge management plan, you’re likely losing information and opportunities.
The more effectively your company shares its collective knowledge internally and with your customers, the better your business will perform. When you increase access to knowledge, the overall wisdom level of everyone inside your organization goes up, efficiency increases, fewer mistakes are made, and your company becomes more profitable.
Knowledge management can also optimize traditionally time-consuming processes, such as for new hire training or employee onboarding, which can lead to higher employee retention rates and happier team members. It can also lead to higher revenue through increased efficiency, as your employees aren’t spending excessive time searching for information and promotes self-sufficiency.
The 3 Types of Business Knowledge
1. Explicit Knowledge
Explicit knowledge is the knowledge you can easily communicate and document, making it easy to share with other employees. Examples of explicit knowledge are the information in case studies, white papers, instruction manuals, company policies, and product specs.
2. Implicit Knowledge
Implicit knowledge is the knowledge gained through learning on the job and includes the specific steps employees devise when completing tasks. For example, implicit knowledge is the information needed to do a specific job that’s passed on from a person who retires to the person filling their role.
3. Tacic Knowledge
Tacit knowledge is the wisdom and skills learned through experience over long periods of time. It’s extremely valuable information to compile, but it’s the most challenging type of information to codify. An example of tacit knowledge is the knowledge from a well-respected leader who’s learned to manage people through years of effort successfully. Unlike implicit knowledge, tacit knowledge isn’t easily transferred to another person.
Types of Knowledge Management Software & Technology
Corporate knowledge management is a relatively new enterprise term, thanks in large part to digital transformation and new employee training and development technologies. The biggest technology development that radically evolved knowledge management was the Internet – which allowed information to be stored, accessed, and shared from anywhere at any time.
In the present, the sophistication of an organization’s knowledge management strategy depends on its level of digital maturity and technology adoption.
Here are a few of the most common knowledge management technologies adopted by organizations:
1. Employee Intranets & Document Management Tools
An internal intranet is a private, restricted network that employees can access through an online portal. These intranet portals provide companies with a centralized location to store, access, and share business documents, policies, and procedures.
Below you can see an example of using Microsoft Sharepoint to organize and store various company content assets and resources.
2. Knowledge Base Software & Internal Wikis
A knowledge management system (KMS) takes employee intranets to the next level with a more intuitive UI that allows businesses to organize, publish, store, share, and measure the use of all company-related policies and procedures in a collective knowledge base.
Below is an example of using a more sophisticated knowledge base software (this example uses Guru) to create, store, and distribute more in-depth, department-specific process documentation and resources.
These platforms provide a simpler way to keep company information updated, and help disseminate that knowledge with better navigation and search functions.
3. Digital Adoption Platforms
A digital adoption platform (DAP) allows L&D teams to further reduce friction in finding company knowledge and information by allowing organizations to create interactive, contextual guidance and embed knowledge directly into digital processes and online tools.
Above: Example of in-app knowledge bases with Whatfix’s Self-Help features.
With a DAP, employees are able to access company knowledge directly in their digital interfaces, without needing to disrupt their workflows – empowering team members with better employee experiences that support knowledge sharing, collaboration, productivity.
4 Key Knowledge Management Factors
Successful knowledge management initiatives depend on a few key factors. Ensure you take the following elements into account when designing your knowledge management strategy:
- People and Culture — Knowledge management is not a stand-alone function in an organization. It should include a cross-functional, culture-driven approach to how the organization operates and needs to be made a top priority to be successful.
- Process — Your company needs to develop a plan for how your knowledge management becomes part of your everyday business operations.
- Technology — Successful knowledge management initiatives depend heavily on technology. You will need a technology infrastructure that supports your knowledge management plan.
- Strategy — Your knowledge management process should focus on identifying and eliminating knowledge and process gaps.
How to Build Knowledge Management Strategy for Your Workplace
A knowledge management strategy is a written plan of action that outlines your company’s steps to implement a knowledge management strategy and system. A strategy will help you identify what knowledge you need to manage and keep your project on track.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for building a knowledge management strategy, but you can use the following framework, regardless of your company’s size:
1. Build Your Knowledge Management Team
To build a comprehensive strategy, gather team members who understand the value of managing your company’s knowledge. Members of your knowledge management team should become role models and influencers when it comes time for employees to use your system. This team will be responsible for establishing your knowledge management strategy as well as implementing the processes.
2. Identify Your Knowledge Goals
Identify your company’s business goals and create goals for your knowledge management system that align.
Next, figure out how your knowledge management system will benefit employees, customers, and your organization as a whole. This will help you get buy-in from leadership as you move through the strategy and implementation process and provide a solid road map you can refer back to at any time.
For example, you can use an organizational goal of increasing profits by 5% in Q4 to create a knowledge management goal that will contribute to that profit increase.
3. Perform a Knowledge Audit
A knowledge audit takes a look at your company’s information to understand how you are currently managing that information. Unlike a content audit, a knowledge audit takes a step back to look at the overall amount of content you are storing.
To conduct an audit, find out where your information lives and who can access it, look for barriers to sharing or retrieving information, then identify potential improvements. This process will help you assess your current situation and identify any knowledge gaps.
4. Choose Your Technology
Choose the primary tool you’ll use to build your knowledge management system. Knowledge management tools provide a central location for all of your knowledge, making it easy to store and retrieve your information.
Depending on your company’s digital maturity, you can leverage the following types of knowledge management systems to support your KM strategy:
- Digital adoption platforms
- Knowledge base software
- Internal wikis
- Learning management systems
When reviewing tools, create a checklist of the key features you need to make sure they align with your business needs.
Above: Example of in-app guided tutorials and self-help support wikis
on Whatfix’s digital adoption platform.
5. Create a Communication Plan
Create a plan for sharing your new knowledge management system with your employees to make sure they know and understand how it works. Make sure you have a plan in advance to help build awareness before your system rolls out. This plan should include the messaging you’ll use and the channels you will use to distribute communications.
6. Establish Milestones
Create specific milestones to keep your project on track. Be specific when designing your milestones so they can be easily measured and managed. For example, a proper milestone will include specific dates so you can set delivery expectations. A milestone looks like “select a knowledge base by April 27th” instead of “find a knowledge base to use.”
7. Build a Roadmap
As soon as you have put all the pieces in place, you can begin constructing your knowledge strategy implementation roadmap. The roadmap should describe the complete picture of your implementation, broken up into stages, and include your objectives, milestones, and timelines. Describe each step clearly so stakeholders can easily understand it.
6 Tips for Building a Knowledge Management Strategy
Here are some tips and best practices you can adopt to build a more efficient knowledge management strategy:
1. Set Benchmarks
Benchmarks give you a standard against which you can measure the knowledge management system. It will also help you set clearly defined goals for your team.
For example, find an area of your company that is lacking because of a knowledge deficit, create a baseline, then introduce knowledge management in that area. Take measurements before, during, and after implementation to measure benchmark the changes.
2. Keep Your Training Simple
Keep your initial onboarding training simple so it doesn’t become a burden for your employees. If it’s too complicated, you’ll struggle with adoption and engagement.
To counter a short initial onboarding, focus on creating an on-demand, continuous learning culture. You can support your employee’s ongoing development with self-help resources that allow your workers to learn in the flow of work.
3. Develop A Content Framework
Create a well-defined framework to make sure your employees are consistent when creating content for your knowledge management system. Set rules for when to add and update new content to your knowledge centers, and who has admin access to do so.
Without a framework for knowledge content maintenance, your entire KM strategy will grow outdated with inaccurate and old company policy and process documentation – or cluttered and disorganized with no hierarchy of knowledge structure.
4. Optimize Your Knowledge Center's Search Function
Create a tagging system inside your main knowledge management tool to make retrieving information faster. For example, you can create a tag for every department in your company to give employees a narrower starting point when performing a search for information.
5. Segment Your Knowledge Content
Segment your content using high-level categories. This will organize your information in a way that makes information easier to sort through. If your tools allow it, go further y establish sub-categories — the more segmented your information, the faster employees will find what they’re looking for.
6. Connect Your Knowledge to Your Employees
Establish an internal knowledge base to reduce the amount of time it takes your employees to find other employees with expertise. The directory identifies your subject matter experts in areas and fields and makes them more accessible to others.
It’s critical to choose the right tools when you’re building and scaling a knowledge management system. Knowledge base software, chatbots, and community forums are all examples of knowledge management tools in action. Make sure to choose knowledge management tools and software that can be fully integrated into your existing internal and external systems and are customizable. Choose tools that are customizable, and look for vendors that will support your systems for the long term.
Learn how Whatfix powers in-app learning for internal employees and external customers with interactive guidance and self-help tools, delivering answers to users at the moment of need.
Request a demo to see how Whatfix empowers organizations by expanding their employees’ digital capabilities with in-app guidance and on-demand support.