How to Implement Company-Wide Knowledge Management System
Every business or organization in the world possesses huge amounts of information, data, knowledge and expertise and this amount keeps mounting with each passing day. In order to use this knowledge in the best possible way, there is the need for a system that can collect data, store it, share it and manage it effectively. Knowledge management is a concept that deals with this storing and managing of information or data possessed by a working organization. To understand what exactly a knowledge management system is and how can it be implemented through the company, you can go through the following given information.
In this article, we deep dive into the topic of knowledge management by learning 1) a brief introduction to knowledge management, 2) knowledge management systems, and 3) implementing knowledge management system.
KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT: A BRIEF
Knowledge Management or KM is a procedure involving the organization or management of a company’s information or knowledge. It includes gathering, sharing, developing and administering all the information possessed by an organization in such a way that the best use of that knowledge or information can be made. According to the concept of Knowledge Management, knowledge too is an important asset for any company, and it must be used effectively to bring about positive changes and further profitability. Some of the knowledge assets possessed by your organization include databases, reports, documents, files, financial statements, procedures, policies and even experience of all the workers.
The concept of Knowledge Management focuses primarily on the important objectives of a business including change, innovation, gaining the competitive edge over others, improving performances, utilizing knowledge as well as sharing or distributing things learned throughout the workforce.
Even in spite of the importance of Knowledge Management, most organizations do not have strategies or ways to implement it and use it to their benefit. This is especially important for small-scale companies that may not consider it crucial to devote time and resources of distribution and utilization of knowledge.
History of Knowledge Management
Two decades ago in the year 1990, the concept of Knowledge Management first surfaced when it was in the form of formal apprenticeship, discussion forums, corporate libraries, on-the-job discussions, mentoring programs as well as training sessions. But as technology began to advance, and computer systems were being widely used, several changes in the definition of Knowledge Management started taking place. It was in the year 1999 that the term ‘personal knowledge management’ was first introduced, and this term focused on management of knowledge on a more individual level.
Later, the importance of knowledge management was further pressed upon, and it started being accepted by organizations as a part of strategy and measurement. Businesses started realizing that the application of this concept could help them drive cultural change and can speed up the process of learning. Today, it is a known fact that knowledge management can offer superb advantages and benefits not only to organizations as a whole but also to individuals.
KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
A Knowledge Management System is a system that is used for the application as well as the utilization of Knowledge Management within your organization. Such a system is considered just one part of the overall concept of Knowledge Management but is an important part. Knowledge Management Systems are of many types, and the main purpose they fulfill is that of storing as well as retrieving important data, information, and knowledge. Some of the other purposes they serve include the collaboration of data, locating various sources of knowledge, enhancing the Knowledge management process and data mining.
A Knowledge Management System can enable your business to make better business decisions, but this does not make it similar to Business Intelligence in any way. Where on one hand, Business Intelligence focuses on explicit knowledge; Knowledge management systems include both explicit and implicit knowledge. The term ‘Knowledge management system’ is mostly used to refer to IT systems that consist of several software modules linked to a central user interface. A Knowledge Management System can not only help you to train new staff and conduct their orientation but also to promote sales.
The following is a list of some of the different categories or types of KM systems:
- Content management systems;
- Semantic networks;
- Groupware systems & KM 2.0;
- Simulation tools;
- The intranet and extranet;
- Artificial intelligence tools;
- Data warehousing, data mining, & OLAP;
- Document management systems;
- Decision Support Systems.
Importance of Knowledge Management Systems
Every day, your business receives a huge amount of data and information. While some of this data may not be important at all, other pieces of information or knowledge could be crucial. It is this data or information that can be utilized to take critical decisions and enable certain employees to improve their overall knowledge and skills. This is why, it is very important to store the information and make it accessible for the future course of the business. This is where the importance of knowledge management systems enters the picture. It is the knowledge management systems that enable you to store the data, manage it and distribute it among the workplace whenever needed.
The following are some of the points of importance of these systems:
- Creates knowledge and learning-based organizations – One of the main benefits of having a knowledge management system is that it helps to make learning a habit and routine for your organization and creates a kind of a culture at your workplace which is inclined towards self-assessment as well as self-improvement. The knowledge gained through the process of knowledge management systems makes use of experience to improve processes and streamline operations.
- Makes way for innovation and workplace changes – Managing knowledge regularly and actively through knowledge management systems also makes way for innovation and cultural change. It enables workplace employees to express their ideas and use creativity to perform tasks.
- Makes way for better decision making – The huge database of information and knowledge is nothing less than an asset or wealth for your organization. Storing and then processing of this data can help you make some important decisions in an easier manner. When your manager or other employees have access to knowledge through a knowledge management system, they are more capable of making much more informed choices.
IMPLEMENTING KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
Now that you understand what Knowledge Management is and what is the importance of Knowledge Management systems, it is time to know how to implement these systems in your workplace to gain the maximum benefits. Without the application of KM systems, your organization may be wasting resources and time on the re-invention of knowledge and spending a great deal of money and time on location or identification of difficult to find information.
Thanks to the technological advancements as well as the availability of high-speed networks, your organization has a great opportunity to gather, store, distribute and utilize knowledge in a way you would have never imagined. There are many software products, processes and procedures that can enable the effective implementation of knowledge. The following are the steps that you can take to implement knowledge management systems throughout the workplace.
Step 1: Identify the various business issues
The first step is to identify the various business issues by conducting an internal analysis of your firm. Unless you know what the problem areas are, you won’t be able to align the knowledge management systems with the business goals and objectives. You must thus try to evaluate or assess the variety and quantity of the information that your business has stored in databases, on the web, as well as that which employees possess through their personal experiences and knowledge. Efforts must be made to do a cost-benefit analysis, evaluate the complexity of system structures, get to know training costs, security issues, updating costs and analyze existing business practices.
Running away from the fear of the huge amounts of information present to be stored or managed is something that keeps many businesses away from the implementation of KM systems. But this reaction does not address the business issue related to managing your corporate knowledge systematically and, hence, will only increase it over time.
Step 2: Prepare for transition
Once problem areas have been identified, the next step is to prepare yourself, your employees as well as the entire workplace for the transition. Application and implementation of KM systems deal with cultural changes at the workplace rather than change in technology alone. Your employees may try to resist the change or may even try to oppose it. To avoid this or deal with it you must follow a smart or wise approach and bring about gradual changes. Give yourself and your employees time to get slowly used to using a new KM system, provide them with the aid and training to adapt to new systems and make sure this phase is dealt with patience and understanding.
Most people have a natural inclination and desire to learn and share their knowledge. Each and every employee belonging to your organization wants things to be easier and more effective. You must thus make efforts to make them understand the importance of implementation of knowledge management systems so that they can embrace change happily.
Step 3: Get together a dedicated team
To make the implementation of knowledge management system successful, a strong team with an experienced team leader is extremely important. You cannot execute the implementation process without putting someone in charge. Getting together a dedicated team helps to streamline the implementation and get a focused approach for reaching the objective. You must bring together a team consisting of a wide range of expertise so that the skills and experience of each team member can be united for a high-impact result. The team leader you select must possess strong project management skills, extensive experience, broad knowledge and top-level people skills. He/she must have good leadership qualities and should be able to understand the importance of knowledge management.
The team you gather must chart out a well-detailed plan before starting the process of implementing a company-wide KM system. You must be closely involved in the process to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Step 4: Evaluate technology needs and prioritize them
The next step is to evaluate and assess the various technology needs and then prioritize them. You must try to figure out the various sources of knowledge needed to solve the business problems. In order to implement knowledge management systems throughout the workplace, it is imperative to know the potential costs that will be incurred, the expertise and the technology tools that you currently don’t possess but would be required. Identification of what is needed and then evaluating what you have already got will help you determine what is missing. Do not jump the gun and purchase expensive technology without discussing it with the core team or concerned individuals.
Once you have made the decision of purchasing the needed technology, you must try to determine the best sources for getting that technology. Compare prices, quality, and brand and only then choose the most affordable yet suitable source.
Step 5: Determine the major attributes of knowledge management system
Now the next step involves determining the major aspects or attributes of knowledge management system. You now need to define the key features by drafting a checklist to make sure that the technology that you will be acquiring will be able to address the business problems and will also enhance the overall profitability. The following are some of the key features of KM systems:
- Open – Open systems are those which enable the employees to have access to any information from their current location.
- Distributed – Distributed systems are such systems whose components are well distributed across various servers so as to enable access of knowledge to various branches or offices of your business across the globe.
- Measurable – The system must be measurable in the sense that it must be able to measure who accesses which information from which location and so on. Measurable systems enable better management and analysis of the effectiveness of the overall knowledge management within your organization.
- Customizable – A KM system must be extremely customizable and flexible in order to make way for better usability and better individual experience.
- Secure – A KM system must be secure for the threat of loss of information, the threat of duplication and other security issues.
Step 6: Rolling out the building blocks
The implementation process of your knowledge management systems must be a phased out process to ensure that the overall objective can be divided into smaller goals to ease out the procedure and make it more efficient. The following are some of the building blocks which you can use for successful implementation of KM systems at your workplace:
- Phase 1 – This phase involves the search for text-based electronic data sources so as to retrieve advanced information with the ultimate goal of improving ROI on existing knowledge.
- Phase 2 – This phase requires Knowledge Mining Software as the technology building block in order to improve the process of finding useful knowledge.
- Phase 3 – Automated Categorization Tools can be used to reach the goal of improving the overall speed of categorizing knowledge and improving its accuracy.
- Phase 4 – The 4th phase involves rolling out of the Knowledge Warehouses so as to improve security, functionality and overall performance of knowledge management.
- Phase 5 – This phase involves allowing users to contribute their knowledge to the Knowledge Warehouses so as to welcome contribution and expand the database of information.
- Phase 6 – This is the phase including the pre-building of knowledge maps through Knowledge Mapping software in order to enable quicker access to knowledge.
- Phase 7 – Phase 7 involves execution of the Knowledge Directory software to locate those individuals who possess a certain required knowledge.
Step 7: Link knowledge to people
When your organization is faced with a certain business problem, then help of knowledge databases may be needed. These databases are not just records and reports of existing information but also solutions or knowledge possessed by employees. In such a situation, finding out who knows what can be a time consuming and hence it is better to link knowledge to people in advance as a part of the overall implementation of knowledge management systems. There are 2 major ways to do so, and they are given as follows:
- A knowledge directory: A knowledge directory helps employees of your company to find out subject-specific experts within the organization so that they can share the knowledge possessed by them. This directory could act as a platform where a user can find out the list of experts who are most capable of solving a particular problem. This very link between people and knowledge makes knowledge management different from other applications that manage explicit knowledge.
- Content management: Content management also forms a crucial part of knowledge management systems and is another way to link people with knowledge. You must hire content managers or use the existing ones who will be responsible for gathering information, editing and updating it, as well as ensuring that it is useful and accurate. Maintenance of content or information is of vital importance and can prove to be a lot of importance when an employee is looking for certain data for a project or for finding a business solution.
Step 8: Launch the KM system
With the help of the sufficient amount of funding as well as important resources, the implementation of knowledge management systems can be achieved. Now that you know what your goal is and now that you have addressed the cultural issues and met technology needs, it is time to launch the program. Once the program is launched, you may come across certain problems, issues and gaps that you need to address as you move forward.
Step 9: Measure and constantly Improve your KM system
Only after launching or implementing company-wide knowledge management system will you come to know the areas that are not working as per your expectations. Formulate ways to measure the effectiveness of the program and then make efforts to fill the gaps and make required improvements. After making the improvements, compare old results with the new ones and measure the difference. See how your performance has improved and continue to incorporate these improvements as you go ahead. Do not be too quick to dismiss the program because it takes time and efforts for expected results to show.