13 steps to create an effective knowledge management strategy
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12 mins read
Mon, Feb 7, '22
You may be unaware, but your organization could be sitting on a hidden treasure trove. "Knowledge is power," said Sir Francis Bacon, but failing to share that wealth of information could be costing you thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
According to the Panopto Workplace Knowledge and Productivity Report, the average large US business loses $47 million in productivity each year due to inefficient knowledge sharing. Put another way – your employees could be wasting over 5 hours every week waiting for vital information they need to do their jobs.
If that sounds alarming, then it’s time to address the problem by creating an effective knowledge management strategy that shares your employees’ wealth of knowledge, empowers better decision-making, and boosts productivity.
In this guide, you’ll discover what a knowledge management strategy is, why you need one, and how to develop an effective strategy for your organization.
What is a knowledge management strategy?
A knowledge management (KM) strategy is a comprehensive plan outlining how your organization will manage information, data, and knowledge to enhance productivity and efficiency. Successful KM strategies align closely with departmental and company-wide objectives and keep your KM team focused on your business priorities and needs.
Why do companies need a knowledge management strategy?
Businesses that invest in a knowledge management strategy enable their teams to leverage shared knowledge and make informed decisions that impact innovation, revenue, and retention.
Developing a clear and effective knowledge management strategy lets you:
- Share best knowledge management practices, plus your current organizational KM status, goals, as well as plans for achieving those goals.
- Raise internal awareness and understanding of knowledge management.
- Obtain the resources you need to implement your strategy.
- Boost productivity as employees spend less time searching for information and more time applying it.
- Reduce duplicated work and eliminate errors.
- Boost employee self-sufficiency and confidence.
- Make better-informed decisions quicker.
- Accelerate and enhance the employee onboarding experience.
- Improve cross-functional collaboration on new initiatives and information sharing.
- Make a compelling business case for new projects that could benefit your organization.
- Improve customer service as frontline employees have fast access to the required knowledge.
- Track your overall knowledge management progress.
What are the core components of a knowledge management system?
There are five core components of a knowledge management strategy: People, Processes, Content, Culture, and Technology. Let’s examine each one in turn:
People, rather than Technology, are the most important part of your strategy. If you fail at this stage, nobody will be interested.
Understanding the makeup of your staff, their communication patterns and preferences, along with what information they need, is vital.
So, here are some essential questions to ask to ensure you accommodate the needs and preferences of your employees:
- Who are your users? What are their demographics, roles, business units and structure?
- What information do they need every day?
- How do they communicate and interact currently? What would they like to do differently?
- Are there any established thought leaders in your organization? If not, what’s holding them back?
- Do they enjoy sharing expertise? If not, why not?
- Are there any informational or functional silos within your organization? If so, what is the root cause for their formation?
Information drives organizational processes. Each step has an input and output, such as an email or a document. Therefore you need to analyze your processes when developing your KM strategy. Some of these processes may not be documented, so it’s important to dig below the surface.
Consider the following:
- What are the main business processes for your organization, plus those for each business unit?
- How are the processes implemented, applied, and followed? What are the gaps, and how can they be improved?
- Are the existing processes considered efficient or cumbersome by your staff?
- How are the processes actually followed?
- Are there clearly-defined roles and staff for each process step?
As well as understanding your organizational processes, it’s essential to analyze the content to identify gaps, stale content, potential security risks, plus missing or deficient processes.
When analyzing your content, consider the following:
- Where is the content stored? How is it organized and accessed? Do you have access controls in place? Do you need to address any security or confidentiality concerns?
- Is your content "fresh"? If not, what are the obstacles to keeping it updated?
- Do your staff trust the content they find on internal systems?
- Do people and teams collaborate when contributing new content? If required, is there an approval and review process in place?
- What are your current knowledge retention procedures? For instance, when staff leave or change roles?
- Do you need to collaborate or share content with external stakeholders?
- Do you use tags and formatting to enhance the content?
The company culture shapes employees' attitudes and behaviors toward capturing, managing and sharing information. For instance:
- Does your company's culture encourage knowledge sharing? Do you offer incentives for thought leadership contributions?
- Are staff more likely to share or keep their intellectual property to themselves?
- Does your company's culture encourage knowledge sharing across business units?
- Do your staff feel pressured to maintain high utilization rates, and does knowledge sharing hinder or assist in that process?
Now you have a thorough understanding of the people, processes, content, and culture of your organization, you can explore the current technology stack. It’s vital to get a comprehensive understanding of all the existing systems, their functionality and restrictions, plus their lifecycle status.
Consider the following questions:
- Is there an existing IT architecture plan?
- How well integrated are the systems? For example, user account management, marketing and finance applications, content and document management, intranet, and search.
- What is the preferred technology stack of the organization? For example, do they use Google Workspace, Microsoft or Open Source?
- What are the technology maintenance and development capabilities of the organization? Do they have dedicated IT support staff? If so, what are their skills?
- At what point in their lifecycle are current systems? Will any of them be decommissioned? Have any new systems already been purchased?
- Are there any cost factors? Are there any license restrictions causing a problem?
- Is there an access control plan for the entire technology ecosystem? If not, what issues does it cause?
How do you develop an effective knowledge management strategy?
While every organization is unique, there are some common best practices that can help you develop an effective knowledge management strategy.
Establish a knowledge management team
The first step in developing an effective knowledge management strategy is establishing your team. You need people who understand and value knowledge management since they’ll become role models and influencers when it’s time to roll out the KM system to the rest of your organization.
Complete a knowledge audit
It’s essential to complete a knowledge audit to benchmark your organization’s current KM capabilities and identify the actions required to develop a successful KM strategy in your organization.
You’ll need to:
- Consider the information your company uses every day.
- Understand the current information and knowledge flow.
- Identify any informational silos and repositories that cause an obstruction.
- Recognize the experts and any risky dependencies.
- Highlight any efficiencies or gaps within your organization’s processes.
- Analyze any knowledge leaks in processes and look for duplication across systems.
- Assess how your company shares knowledge within the context of its culture.
Build a business case
Before you go any further, it’s essential to build a business case to get senior management buy-in and investment for the implementation. The knowledge audit should provide all the information you need to create a solid business case and show how a knowledge management system could transform your organization.
Choose a knowledge management tool
Next, it’s time to select a knowledge management tool that will become the central hub for all of your company’s knowledge. You’ll need something that makes it easy for everyone to store and retrieve information.
Depending on the size and age of your organization, you can choose from the following types of systems to support your knowledge management strategy:
- Digital adoption platforms
- Knowledge base software
- Internal wikis
- Intranet software
- Learning management systems
Before reviewing tools, create a checklist of the key features you need to align with your business needs.
Develop an implementation roadmap
When all the pieces are in place, you can develop your knowledge strategy implementation roadmap. The roadmap should describe the overall picture of your implementation, divided into stages, plus your objectives, milestones, and timelines. Clearly explain each step so that stakeholders understand how to create and share knowledge.
Segment knowledge resources
As you amass more and more knowledge for your company, you must have a method of retrieving specific information quickly.
Segmenting your knowledge management system makes it easier to navigate and organize resources in a way that makes sense for your staff.
Typically, knowledge management software lets you create spaces for projects, teams, or groups of documentation. It makes it easy for people to pinpoint the information they want and prevents information overload. Segmentation is ideal for help desks, as it speeds up the process of finding the answer a customer is looking for.
Start with search in mind
Search is a significant part of your knowledge management strategy. But you need to make a conscious effort to make it really work in your favor.
If you want to make search work, you need to train everyone to embrace proper archiving standards. That means, every time someone uploads a file or document to your knowledge management system, they need to tag it with specific search terms.
For example, Happeo's powerful Universal Search feature gives your employees the ability to search across departments and quickly find the knowledge they need.
Image: Happeo provides a unified search experience where users can access several internal and external information sources from a single interface, including content from your intranet’s Channels, Pages and People.
Employees can also access shared and private information from connected workspaces such as Google Drive and Microsoft Sharepoint.
Develop a content framework
Ensure your employees create content for your knowledge management system consistently by developing a well-defined content framework. You can establish rules on who can add new or update existing content in your knowledge segments.
If you don’t have a content framework, your entire knowledge management repository will become outdated with inaccurate and obsolete information and cluttered with unnecessary documentation.
Enable employees to find other SMEs
The more segmented your information, the faster employees can find what they’re looking for, such as searching for employees with expertise in another area. An employee directory identifies your subject matter experts in areas and fields and makes them more accessible to others.
With Happeo’s Employee Directory, you can connect your people in various ways:
- Visual Org Chart – Use the latest data from your Google directory.
- Direct message and video call – Get in touch via Slack, Zoom, Jabber, WebEx, or Google Meet
- Calendar access – Book a meeting directly in your colleague's calendar.
- Fully-searchable profiles – Search the rich profiles in your organization for contact info, team, skills, bio, and more.
- In-depth influencer analytics – Spot your community’s informal but most influential leaders.
Personalize the knowledge experience
One of the best ways to keep employees using your knowledge management system is to ensure they only see the information required to do their jobs. Anything else becomes a distraction and a nuisance.
For example, Happeo’s Personalized Homepage allows you to create a custom company homepage with relevant dynamic content specific to each user, role, and function.
Collaborate and communicate
As well as housing company information, knowledge management systems are social networks. You can encourage staff to create, share, and curate content based on their skills and experience.
For example, Happeo’s Collaborative Channels allow your employees to collaborate on projects, connect with colleagues, and share news. You can post messages, share files, like, comment, tag users, and share content.
Integrate with existing workspaces
One of the benefits of modern knowledge management systems is that you can bring in content from existing workspaces, such as Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, and other 3rd party tools. Everything is centralized in a single, searchable location. It saves time and increases productivity since users can quickly find resources and collaborate with other team members without having to leave the platform to track down an important file.
Monitor content and user engagement
Finally, it’s essential to track what content users search for and engage with. Based on these insights, you can create more topics that resonate.
With Happeo’s Advanced Analytics, you can see exactly what employees want to talk about in Channels, which posts get the most interaction, and who is the biggest influencer/contributor in your organization.
Search Analytics shows you:
- Most-searched keywords
- Total searches
- Unique search users
- Average time to find results
- Average time on opened results
- Success percentages
- Failure percentages
- A comprehensive .CSV report
Empower your knowledge management strategy with Happeo
A successful knowledge management (KM) strategy aligns closely with your business objectives. It details how your organization will manage its information and data, so that you can give everyone equal access to vital knowledge, make better-informed decisions, and improve overall productivity.
Your knowledge management strategy should contain five core components – People, Processes, Content, Culture, and Technology – with your people being the most important aspect.
Happeo’s knowledge management system makes it easy for your organization to find, share and retain knowledge. It provides a single source of truth for everyone, encourages users to collaborate and communicate, and allows you to analyze and optimize your content. Watch a free demo today!