The Ultimate Guide to Understand Knowledge Management

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You may have wondered what it is that sets the top enterprises apart from the small businesses. A simple answer - “Knowledge.” Knowledge, experience, and information are the assets that top businesses leverage to make consistent progress. How do these businesses filter and structure the knowledge at their disposal to create success? They do this through a process called knowledge management.

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What is Knowledge Management?

Knowledge management is the process of collecting, structuring, and storing knowledge in a centrally accessible environment. It aims to promote efficiency and secure distribution of knowledge within an organization or enterprise.

To derive the benefits of knowledge, the organization has to process the knowledge available to them. Knowledge management, therefore, becomes how organizations can assemble facets of knowledge and structure these facets in an organized system. So, it becomes accessible to all members of the organization.

Why is Knowledge Management Important?

It is essential to note that an organization’s growth and success is dependent on its intellectual and knowledge capital. Therefore, it becomes imperative to set up a system that enables organizations to make the most of their knowledge capital.

The fundamental objective of a knowledge management system is the promotion of growth within an organization. Knowledge management boosts growth as it is a process focused on structuring and deploying knowledge. It greatly empowers an organization’s workforce with the expertise they need to make the right decisions and perform better at their assignments.

Organizational development is a key feature of knowledge management. By establishing a knowledge management system, organizations create a robust pool of expertise and learning resources, which engenders an innovation-rich work environment. Employees become more efficient, leveraging on the expertise accessible in the organization’s knowledge management system.

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Types of Knowledge Management

Since knowledge management is a systematic process of making acquired knowledge more useful, it is vital to pinpoint who benefit from this process to understand the types of knowledge management better.

Knowledge management seeks to process and streamline knowledge so that it becomes meaningful to people within and outside an organization. Based on the people who get benefits from optimized expertise within a given setting, knowledge management can be categorized into two broad types - Internal and External knowledge management.

Internal Knowledge Management

Internal knowledge management is primarily focused on the internal processes within an organization. Here the goal is to acquire information and collectively pool together expertise from an organization’s workforce. The knowledge gained from within the organization is refined, structured, organized, and stored in a central platform that can be accessed by the organization’s workforce.

The objective of internal knowledge management is to ensure that the workforce has access to a robust knowledge base that they can leverage on to gain better skills, increase competency, and work process efficiency within the organization. Through an internal knowledge management process, organizations can retain knowledge and ensure that they always have a capable, efficient workforce.

External Knowledge Management

With external knowledge management, the focus is on people outside an organization, usually an organization’s customers or prospects. Here, the knowledge management process involves gathering and structuring knowledge that is relevant to an organization’s customers to create a resourceful knowledge base that customers can consult whenever they need information.

In this way, the company can step up their customer service processes and give support to their customers or prospects. An organization’s external knowledge management system, when correctly set up, often stimulates the trust of customers, which invariably translates to increased revenue.

Benefits of Knowledge Management

  • Stimulates innovation within a work environment.
  • Collective expertise is evenly disseminated within a workforce.
  • The workforce is equipped to make smart and better decisions by leveraging a rich knowledge base.
  • Work processes become smooth and efficient as a result of increased collaboration among team members.
  • Improves customer relations and increases overall client satisfaction.
  • Speeds up and optimizes the training and onboarding process of new employees.
  • Reduces knowledge loss within an organization by creating a collective pool of expertise.
  • Improve development and growth within an organization or enterprise.

The Process of Knowledge Management

It is essential to understand the different layers and processes that compose knowledge management if you need to take advantage of the value it offers. As an organization seeking to make knowledge work for you, you must learn and deploy different components that make up the knowledge management cycle.

Below, we have elaborated on each step that makes up the knowledge management strategy.

1. Knowledge Acquisition

"What knowledge is at my disposal?" It is the first and most important step. In this phase, organizations and enterprises must deliberately search out and acquire knowledge from within their environment.

In the knowledge acquisition phase, an organization must establish a system that makes it possible to gather data and information from every member. Think of it as creating a pool of the knowledge and expertise of every employee.

However, as information and knowledge are being collected, it is essential to establish some criteria for quality. It helps checkmate and prevent collecting irrelevant and extraneous information. Such irrelevant information defeats the purpose of knowledge management, which is to create a base of valuable knowledge accessible to an organization’s workforce.

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2. Structuring Knowledge

Once you set up a reliable system that can collect information within your workforce and sift out the unnecessary data, it would not make any sense to gather expertise and simply dump it all in a central system without any form of categorization. It is why structure and organization are critical to the success of knowledge management.

In this phase, you have to figure out how to tag each body of collected knowledge. Structuring knowledge, according to categories, will enable you to know where each facet of knowledge goes and will transform the process of finding and retrieving knowledge into a non-cumbersome task.

3. Condensing Knowledge

To make your workforce more efficient, it is essential that accessing knowledge becomes a fast and breezy process. You can achieve it by condensing the knowledge within your knowledge base.

In this phase, you should write descriptions, summaries, or make infographics. Think of it as creating an outline for each body of information stored in your central system. It helps your workforce to quickly consult materials and get information fast without having to read large bodies of text.

4. Knowledge Analysis

It is the phase where you draw out hidden insights from the knowledge and data you collected by looking for patterns and shared relationships between bodies of data. Analysis of knowledge is essential to maximizing the collective expertise of an organization’s workforce. By analyzing the collected knowledge, organizations can gain new insights and become empowered to perform better.

5. Refining Knowledge

It is the phase where an organization asks the question, "How can my collected knowledge translate to increased productivity and work efficiency?"

Here, the goal is to codify and transform the collected body of knowledge so that it becomes useful to an organization and its workforce. The refined knowledge is then practically applied to different scenarios within the organization.

6. Transfer Knowledge

Recall that one goal of knowledge management is to ensure the even distribution of expertise within an organization, such that each employee is empowered with the skills they need to deliver optimally at work.

It brings us to the final step in the knowledge management process - knowledge transfer. Here the objective is to set up a secure central knowledge base system that can be conveniently accessed by members of an organization at any time. In this way, an organization’s workforce is always exposed to the expert resources they need to work efficiently.

Common Knowledge Management System Examples

Now that we've run through the different components of knowledge management, it may seem challenging to implement all these steps. Not to worry, there are already available knowledge management systems that are configured to handle the different stages in the knowledge management process.

We have elaborated on some of the most common knowledge management systems that you can implement in your organization to hit the ground running.

1. Document Management Systems

Documents management systems are the virtual equivalent of the traditional filing cabinet, though configured to be more efficient. These document management systems are a centralized storage system where an organization can house all of its relevant documents. This system is immensely useful as it makes it easy to organize, store, and retrieve documents.

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2. Content Management Systems

So what if you need a system that handles not only regular documents? Then content management systems are the preferred solution. With content management systems, organizations can create a central repository of all their documents, including files in audio, image, and video formats. This repository is secured and made accessible to the organization's workforce.

3. Communication Management Systems

An organization's work processes can be significantly improved when every employee is adequately onboarded, and there is seamless communication among team members. It is the purpose of setting up a communication management system. This system makes it possible for team members to stay in the loop and get important updates about tasks or change of plans. A communication management system can serve as a tool to foster collaboration and team spirit in an organization's workforce.