Before we start exploring the process of knowledge management, we need to take a moment to understand what knowledge management is, and why it’s crucial for the success of any modern business.
We need to be clear on the initiatives that need to be undertaken in order to successfully implement knowledge management projects. And in order to do this, we need to ask ourselves: why do we even want to consider knowledge management in the first place?
The advantages of implementing a knowledge management process are profound, some of which include:
- substantially reducing costs
- potential to expand and grow
- increasing value and/or profitability
- improving products and services
- faster resolutions
Efficient knowledge management strategies, that also boast of collective and systematic processes, help in cutting down on the ‘repeat mistakes’. This is, beyond doubt, an extremely cost-saving and efficient strategy. Effective knowledge management processes have a tendency to substantially improve the quality of products and services.
Having a better knowledge of your stakeholder’s requirements, customer needs, employee needs and industry needs, for example, has far-reaching effects on the success of any business.
Since times immemorial, there have been several attempts and approaches to knowledge management. Most of the early efforts have centred around manual storing, analysis and retrieval of data. With the birth of computers, however, these approaches have become more systematic and automated.
Nowadays, most business rely on a knowledge management framework for knowledge storing, analysis, retrieval and sharing. This framework provides a systematic way to gather data points, and tools used to store and manage the data.
The Knowledge Management Process
While the details may vary, the actual process of knowledge management is the same irrespective of any business. Occasionally, the resources employed may differ, for example, the tools and the techniques may be proprietary, but the end goal is always the same.
Any Knowledge Management strategy can be broken down into 7 processes, though they may all be assisted by different tools and techniques. Regardless, when these processes are followed in the right order, success is a guarantee.
The Collection Process
This is probably the most crucial of all knowledge management processes. If you do not make an effort to collect the most relevant and correct data, the final outcome will be incorrect knowledge. As a result, the ensuing decisions emanating from using this data may be incorrect as well.
Many methods and tools could be employed for this process. What’s important is that procedures should be defined to collect data. The procedures should be the framework based on which data collection should happen and should be properly documented and used by anyone entrusted with this process.
The data collection procedure also defines some specific data collection points. Some of this may simply be a summary of the regular reports that a business runs. For example, quarterly sales reports or employee training reports could be two commonly used resources for data collection.
When data collection points are defined, so are data extraction tools and techniques. Continuing from the example above, the quarterly sales report may start as a paper-based report where the data manager is required to feed the data manually into a database. The employee training report could be an online report that may automatically get saved in the database.
Beyond data collection and extraction, data storage also needs to be defined at this stage. Most organizations use a knowledge base software for this.
The Data Organization Process
The data collected from the previous stage now needs to be organized. The organization happens as per some pre-defined rules which are defined by the organization. This is needed so that data can be maintained with more accuracy.
For example, all data related to employee training is organized using some rules while the sales records follow another set of rules, even though they may be stored in the same database (but different tables).
Occasionally, techniques like “data normalization” may be used to organize large volumes of data for faster searching and to avoid duplicates. It should be pointed here that data transformation into “information” at the end of this process.
The Summary Process
In this process, the information generated from the previous stage is summarized. The essence of the matter is taken out and information is presented in a form that is easy to read and can be stored appropriately.
Some tools that can be employed at this stage are software packages like an faq software, charting software (like chart.io) etc.
The Analysis Process
Next up, the summarized information is analysed with an aim to locate and remove any redundancies, find relationships, and patterns.
It’s usually an expert analyst who is entrusted with the job of analysing data. At the end of the process, reports are created for further action. This is a crucial process and plays a vital role in knowledge management.
The Synthesis Process
This is the point where information becomes knowledge. The results of analysis, from the previous stage, are stringed together, along with any actions suggested by the analysis, to form knowledge.
At this time, any recognizable behaviour or pattern of any one entity can be used to explain another, and together, the business will end up with a set of knowledge elements that can be used across the organization.
The knowledge is then stored in a knowledge base for further use. The knowledge base is a software based implementation that can be accessed from anywhere on the web and usually from any device.
Some knowledge bases are also available for free use while others have a paid version.
The Sharing Process
Once the knowledge has been synthesized, its ready to be shared with the world. In most cases, this is an automatic process and the knowledge base software takes care of this. However, care should be taken to verify the correctness of the data before publishing it. This is where a QA audit can be utilized to make it foolproof.
The Decision Making and Feedback Process
Finally, the knowledge is utilized for feedbacks and decision making. For example, a look at chunks of knowledge which are most frequently accessed will tell an organization where it needs to put more focus.
This process helps organizations save time and efforts which can be put to use for other areas of growth. This is how a systematic knowledge management adds value and brings success in the long run.
Today, most businesses realize that knowledge management is crucial for the success of any organization. But it’s the ones who follow a process based framework that actually see results of knowledge management. On the other hand, those who treat it as a passing fad are more likely risking throwing the baby out with the bathwater.