Knowledge management is quickly becoming an important part of a business’s infrastructure. Deloitte reports that 75 percent of organizations say knowledge management (including creating and preserving knowledge databases) is vital to their success in the next 12–18 months.
A company knowledge database is a library of all the information a company needs to operate — how to onboard new hires, financials, the standard operating procedures for various functions, etc. You don’t build a library like this without someone to help you gather this knowledge and maintain those processes.
If your boss came to you today and asked you to hire a knowledge manager, would you know what the responsibilities of that position entail?
A knowledge manager gathers and maintains your company’s institutional knowledge, so it doesn’t leave when your employees do. It’s about more than taking care of the self-service support database — it’s about being the information and experience expert in your company and making sure everyone has access to that information. We’ll talk about what a knowledge manager’s responsibilities should be and how they achieve them.
Create a KM roadmap
You need a knowledge management (KM) roadmap to give a broad overview of what your knowledge management process will look like — where you acquire knowledge, where you’ll store it, how you’ll analyze it, and how you’ll distribute it. You’ll use your KM roadmap to help persuade executives to adopt your KM revisions.
Because a knowledge management infrastructure is so broad and it requires a concentrated effort across departments, it can be a tough sell to some executives. The C-suite at your company is most likely not going to greenlight a KM initiative unless they understand it, can measure its ROI, and have it shown to be a needed part of your business. Your KM roadmap should help them understand all those elements.
A knowledge management road map should include:
An evaluation of your existing infrastructure – Analyze your existing information database and align your business strategy with your KM goals. For example, if your business goal is to accelerate the onboarding of new hires, then the KM goal should be to strengthen the human resources database. This broad evaluation is a good first step in understanding the totality of company knowledge that you need to focus on and where you’ll be getting existing data from.
A design framework of the database – Define how your team will access the database. Will the knowledge be accessible through the web, and will the information be accessible to internal and external users? The final interface should be simple and easy to navigate, or people may just give up on trying to find what they’re looking for.
A list of the sources used to collect data – You can collect the data for your knowledge database from internal SME interviews, market research, surveys, FAQs, community forums and user-generated content, and even web marketing content you’ve created. Compose a resource list first so you have a head start on the help this project will require. If you discover your company has 150 SMEs to interview for your database and only one person on the knowledge management team to do this research, then you need to ask for more people or more time. If you find that no knowledge on a needed subject exists, go to the content team and ask them to create it.
A plan for deployment – How the knowledge database is distributed and shared — and who will be sharing and distributing the data — is important because, without a plan for distribution, the knowledge database is an unopened book sitting on a dusty shelf. Consider shared communication channels like Slack, Google Docs, and company wikis to distribute or raise awareness of your company’s knowledge database. Encourage employees to utilize and contribute to the database through internal memos and newsletters.
A checklist of metrics to evaluate the ROI of your KM plan – You have to prove the knowledge manager role was necessary — what metrics will you use to tell that story? Look for:
- Changes in average response time for call centers
- Improvements in onboarding (like employee retention rate and employee satisfaction data)
- The number of interactions — how many people are accessing your KM database?
- Contributions to the database — are people contributing more knowledge to your database?
What these numbers were before a KM system was implemented and what they were after might paint the right picture for management.
Organize and structure company knowledge
Having all the information in one place is not the sole measure of a KM’s success. A good knowledge manager has to be able to structure and organize the knowledge base so that it can be accessed and understood by all who need it.
There are some essential steps a knowledge manager should follow to organize and structure your knowledge database.
Determine how you will segment information. Will you prepare a KM system for each department or one large database with all information in one place? Segmenting your database helps you prioritize which ones you’ll work on first, so the most important goals for your roadmap are accomplished first. Segment by starting with essential business units that contain the most important information for your company, like HR, legal, IT, sales, and marketing departments.
Organize the knowledge you’ve collected. Create topic categories, collections, forum boards, and links for the most frequently asked questions, and also include intelligent search functions — especially ones that can predict threads of a question. For example, if you ask “how do I find my benefits,” a related topics menu may appear with other relevant questions, like “when can I change my benefits” or “who is covered under my benefits.” Include options for feedback as well, so users can tell you if the knowledge was useful to them.
Evaluate the best delivery system for your business. With all that knowledge in hand, you have to deliver it to your users. Delivery systems can include cross-department trainings, internal social networking platforms, and document coordination systems. Scribe can help you develop and create shareable guides and tutorials for all processes across all applications in seconds.
Manage and communicate changes with stakeholders
In order to maintain your c-suite confidence in a KM infrastructure, knowledge managers also need to foster good working relationships across departments. This allows them to gather information easily and effectively and communicate progress to decision-making stakeholders. Deloitte reported that “Companies need to remain relevant to survive in a challenging business environment and to be relevant requires regular interaction with important stakeholder groups.
To communicate changes you should plan out project summary reports at regular intervals (30, 60, and 90 days is a good rule of thumb) for your stakeholders. These updates will not only keep them informed of your progress with your knowledge management system, but they can also help a knowledge manager identify any warning signs ahead of time, like poor data collecting.
One example of poor data collection is when more than one person is involved in the data collection, and they don't follow consistent data collection practices. They can end up with data with different names, dissimilar ways they collect data, and variants that could cause confusion. Regular updates let you identify these issues and resolve them.
Managing and communicating changes with your stakeholders doesn’t always require large-scale meetings. An engaging and entertaining PowerPoint presentation may help convey your knowledge database progress, but also consider personalizing your presentation to a smaller crowd. One-on-one meetings can effectively help you focus your conversations about your knowledge management programs. Over 70 percent of managers say one-on-one meetings help to identify, understand and eliminate roadblocks.
When information walks out the door, so does revenue
Losing an employee who’s only been around for a year or two is unlikely going to affect your company’s overall knowledge database — they haven't gained enough experience to contribute significant information. But they are the ones that need knowledge database the most - and often rely on them. That's why a knowledge manager is a gatekeeper for all information in a company, and their role is as arguably important as any other in your organization. Companies with inefficient management knowledge sharing lose up to $265 million dollars per year.
With the global marketplace for knowledge management expected to rise to US$1.1 Trillion by 2026, companies are sitting up and taking notice of the roles and responsibilities of knowledge managers. You should too. Just make sure you hire the right one.