Regardless of what sort of industry a business is mired in, there are a couple of universal constants which they must consider now that we’ve moved into a more technological age. For starters, there’s the idea of taking a good look at data itself; specifically, how it’s collected and what is subsequently done with it. If you think about it, most pools of data represent accumulated knowledge of some kind; this could be anything, really. However, it is the ongoing (and somewhat relentless) buildup of data that has led to businesses looking for new solutions in dealing with it (this is often called “big data”). Once again, data is essentially knowledge, and one could argue that it is this data deluge that has really jump-started the knowledge management industry.
But before we get into the specifics of how knowledge management is transforming the way companies actually do their business, let’s define it (KM). In a nutshell, knowledge management is an organized approach to better utilizing the experiences, insights and ideas of employees. Moreover, knowledge isn’t always relegated to people, sometimes it’s an inherent part of some process or system that runs within a business. The point of KM is to collect all this information so that one or more of the following can take place – for example, knowledge management can assist in:
Building self-organizing systems which use accumulated knowledge in the most efficient (and profitable) manner possible.
Creating “hotbeds of innovation” where everyone’s ideas and experience contributes toward positive growth and advancement.
Helping any business make better, more informed decisions about anything / everything.
While each of these concepts are great, it is the last one (concerning decision making) that is arguably the most important for the average business. By taking everyone’s observations and collected opinions into consideration, an organization can not only paint a much clearer picture of what its options are, it can also uncover solutions which might not have previously existed. In other cases, knowledge management facilitates the creation of a definitive list of “best practices” which a business can keep on tapping into. Furthermore, once a system is in place, all future knowledge can be added to it which will only further strengthen and diversify its ability to deal with issues of all shapes and sizes.
There’s already quite a bit of data out there that suggests that companies are losing money on an annual basis due to their inability to capitalize on missed opportunities. In many of these cases, the expertise and knowledge existed within the organization – it just wasn’t being used. In other words, KM seeks to identify these lapses and put these pieces of misplaced knowledge “where they best fit” across the entire enterprise.
A simple, yet great example of this would be an employee taking note of some reoccurring problems with internal communications systems and making a note of it so that the IT sector can put solutions into place which will deal with it once and for all. Believe it or not, these little observations (which are often made by people who are making notes about things that aren’t directly related to their department) can lead to significant improvements.
This is especially true in larger companies where a few minor observations and changes will affect hundreds of people. Similarly, when you have a few hundred people making small improvements and / or adding their knowledge to a database, you’ll find that great things happen very quickly. In this way, knowledge management is basically an attempt to foster a stronger team-based working environment where no consideration is cast aside and everyone’s ideas and experiences are measured against a range of issues. Once you have a basic means or method of collecting and using knowledge, the infrastructure should be able to build upon and repair itself. In other words, a true approach to KM includes the creation of structures which are virtually self-sustaining and able to creatively solve problems.
Furthermore, once a business has a knowledge management strategy in place, it will usually begin to experience a phenomenon where newer and better ideas emerge faster (and in a more “natural” manner). The reason behind this is simple; after a knowledge base is built and everyone feels comfortable accessing / using it, the entire system starts to look like jigsaw puzzle of sorts. Employees might come to see the KM database as somehow “incomplete” without their specific knowledge added to the mix. Needless to say, this is good thing because it means that contributors are beginning to realize the important role that their knowledge plays in the success of the entire organization.
Start building a better company (and/or IT department) with certification in KM
Perhaps one of the simplest, most affordable and easiest ways to directly improve virtually any business is to have certain key individuals within the IT department get certified in knowledge management. Aside from the direct benefits that this move would provide to an employer, the average IT professional will be greatly improving their career standing (both in the short and long-term). In short, knowledge management works, and businesses are particularly eager right now to tap into the power and stability that it offers.