Knowledge has become an invaluable asset in today’s business world, it is the fuel that an organisation needs to sustain itself in its environment. A knowledge management program (KMP) is designed to help organisations utilise this invaluable asset and maximise efficiency, productivity, and also the quality of products and services that it provides to its consumers.
For an organisation to become successful and grow today, it needs to have some form of knowledge management system in place. Thinking along these lines drives many organisations to invest in such systems, but they often end up regretting this investment since it does no produce the kind of results that they had hoped for. Why does this happen? Simply because of the fact that many organisations make this decision blindly; they go into the field without figuring out exactly why they need a knowledge management system in the first place.
Remember, a knowledge management program is a system that equips businesses to operate better in the long term, in making strategic choices that will help the business scale and sustain itself. This article by Daniel Palacios Marqués discusses a study which proved that firms with KMP in place performed much better than their competition. It can be thought of as a strategic tool, and no strategy can ever bear fruit if it is not backed by thorough analysis.
If an organisation wishes to make the most out of a knowledge base system, it will have to consider more than just what sort of hardware and software it should invest in. it should also consider the following factors:
- Processes; in order to determine the best methodologies and operations through which an organisation can carry out precise knowledge identification, accurate distribution, and effective management.
- People; to figure out what sort of knowledge management is required to maximise the ability of an organisation’s human resource and allow them to become more productive.
- Culture; based on this factor, an organisation must determine how to introduce and integrate the concept of sharing knowledge throughout its hierarchy.
Structure; to determine what will be the best way to implement cross-discipline awareness and promote inter-department collaboration.
Technology; this decides the capabilities of your knowledge management systems, how will it interact with internal and external elements and more.
The beauty of knowledge management systems is that they can be used for a variety of information related operations. Multi-national organisations adopt such systems to carry out data mining activities and complement their deep learning systems. While small- to medium-sized organisations make use of knowledge management systems for something as simple as managing their documents, files, and even community forums. Knowledge management systems are also popular in customer support to provide their internal and external customers with the access to information that they can use to help themselves.
Customer support knowledge bases are invaluable for businesses that wish to streamline their support operations. There are plenty of help desk development and management companies that help businesses create and maintain incredibly useful knowledge base systems.
The Eight Steps of KMP Implementation
Introducing such as complex system into an already existing one is not a simple task. There will be a plethora of challenges and obstacles that one must overcome in order to make sure that their knowledge management programs works as intended.
Some of the most common challenges with KMPs include:
- Limited communication and IT infrastructure within an organisation
- Vague expertise descriptions
- Geographical limitations and (In case of multinational companies) linguistic/cultural barriers
- Poor recognition of knowledge within an organisation
- Internal or inter-departmental conflicts
- Poorly trained human resource
- Rigid organisational cultures that oppose change
Tackling all of these challenges may seem like a daunting task. However, with effective planning and a step-by-step approach towards implementation, an organisation can ensure much more effective KMP implementation.
Before you begin determining how your KMP will work, what sort of hardware will it need, and how to integrate it with your existing systems, you must figure out exactly why you need this system in the first place. Start off by establishing the objectives that you hope to achieve through the implementation of this system; carry out an analysis of your existing functions and document all the existing shortcomings that hinder your organisation’s performance.
It is important that your objectives not only focus on the short term, you must be able to develop objectives and goals with long term plans kept in mind as well.
In terms of organisation culture and inter-departmental communications, KMPs can be highly disruptive. Their implementation requires organisations to re-evaluate their employee’s perception of knowledge sharing. Many organisations have incentivisation schemes that encourage employees to guard their own knowledge. This sort of attitude can quickly cripple well-designed KMPs since knowledge will not be shared openly.
For an organisation to make sure that its KMP is effective, it must prepare everyone for this change. This can involve changing the culture of the organisation, restructuring performance management systems and incentivisation schemes, and more. The end goal being to develop and environment in which individuals are encouraged to participate in knowledge sharing.
An organisation should adopt a top-to-bottom approach when defining the management process for its knowledge assets. After preparing itself for change, an organisation should begin defining the high-level processes of its knowledge management. This allows the organisation to establish a base on which it can progressively construct the rest of the KMP’s systems and functioning later on.
Doing so is important, otherwise an organisation will be unable to see the big picture and as a result, its KMP will not be capable of providing a comprehensive solution.
Once an organisation has developed a solid idea about what it requires from a KMP, it can begin identifying and prioritising the technology it will need to create its knowledge management system.
Organisations have a wide variety of options to choose from when it comes to software and hardware. There is a steady stream of innovation that is constantly making technology obsolete and replacing it with something better. One might think that in order to make an effective KMP, they must invest in the best and latest technology available at the moment.
However, this is not necessarily true, there is a very good chance that your needs can be met by older technology. It all comes down to your costs versus benefits ratio; identify what sort of hardware and software you need based on your objectives and what you hope to achieve from your KMP.
Once you have determined all the core elements that will determine the shape and structure of your KMP, you should assess your organisation’s current knowledge management capabilities based on the five factors that were discussed in the start of this article; processes, people, structure, technology, and culture.
This assessment will highlight all the gaps between your current and desired states that you must fill and it will also produce recommendations that you can use to formulate a plan of action for your KMP.
This is where you begin developing a roadmap that details how will your organisation approach implementation. The roadmap should be developed with funding kept in mind and with the senior management’s consent to make sure that it does not run into trouble or get completely discarded. At this point, you should have solid documentation to back up your entire roadmap.
You should keep in mind that your roadmap should be built to impress your upper management and should outline every aspect of the implementation phase. It should consist of precise, timely, and actionable objectives. Also, keep in mind that your roadmap is not going to be a static thing, it needs to be dynamic, so that it can be reviewed and edited as needed as you go through with the implementation.
The second last step, this is where you actually begin implementing your KMP. A resource heavy task that will seem to ask for a lot and give little in return, which is why it is important to regularly document your progress. This will make sure that everyone realises that this system is not just a cost centre, and that it is progressing quite well. When your organisation realises the value of the system, the level of resistance towards its implementation will automatically go down.
Don’t think of the implementation as one huge process, rather, think of it as many smaller operations coming together to create one big system. This makes progress seem more real and it will also allow you to tackle implementation with a more refined approach.
You are not out of the fire once implementation has been completed. Constantly evaluate your system’s performance to check whether it is working as intended. Continuous improvement is key.
Remember, whenever you implement a project as huge and complex as this, evaluation and performance measurement are a necessity, otherwise your system will remain imperfect.
Noman Aqil is Marketing Manager for Kayako.