When you need to find an answer to a question or a resource to help with a task you’re working on, where do you look? If your company is taking a scattershot approach to knowledge management, the list might be long. Maybe there’s a company intranet for general internal communications, dozens of shared drives or SharePoint sites, a Confluence instance that only the marketing team uses, the hard drives of long-tenured employees…
Many companies still treat knowledge management as an afterthought that can be handled on a department-to-department basis. In a study Bloomfire conducted with 451 Research, we found that only 26% of businesses have one centralized source for knowledge assets that’s available company-wide and across the customer journey.
We also saw a correlation between digital maturity and centralized knowledge management. 54% of businesses that reported having a digital transformation strategy said they also have a single source of truth for knowledge, compared to just 12% across other groups.
So why are more digital leaders focusing on company-wide knowledge management? It ultimately comes down to improving alignment, efficiency, and innovation. Below, we’ll take a look at four of the biggest benefits of company-wide knowledge management.
Greater Alignment Across Teams
When different teams are using different knowledge management systems, it’s easy for their work to get stuck in silos–especially when not everyone is working from the same physical location. They may become focused on team priorities without fully understanding how their work impacts larger business goals–and they may miss opportunities to collaborate across functions to achieve those goals.
When businesses take a company-wide approach to knowledge management, they provide a centralized view of the company’s North Star, products, brand, customers, and goals. This gives everyone a better understanding of how their work contributes to the big picture and how they can collaborate across teams for greater goal achievement.
Keeping teams aligned and driving cross-functional collaboration is critical in a post-covid era, when employees are decentralized, available information changes quickly, and customer expectations are high. As Carmax’s Chief Information and Technology Officer, Shamim Mohammad, put it in an interview with Deloitte, “No single function team can really deliver at the speed the customer is expecting.”
Reduced Time Spent Searching
In organizations where knowledge is managed at the department-level, people often run into bottlenecks when they need to access information that isn’t available within their team. They may go on a wild goose chase trying to find the right subject matter expert to answer their question or experience delays if the person who can provide the information they need is unavailable. Or they might waste time digging through old email threads and Slack messages, trying to determine if the information they need was previously shared with them. And this time spent searching quickly adds up.
By bringing company-wide knowledge together into a single platform, businesses can significantly reduce the time employees spend looking for the right information. In a Bloomfire customer data study, we found that 80% of our platform users save at least an hour per week, with 30% saving three or more hours simply by reducing their time spent searching.
Not only does this reduce frustration for employees, but it ultimately saves the business money by increasing efficiency and freeing employees up to spend more time on impactful activities.
Reduced Risk of Duplication
Nobody wants to spend hours working on a project or deliverable only to discover that some or all of what they worked on already existed in another part of the company. But unfortunately, this experience is all too common: one study found that U.S. employees spend nearly 6 hours per week duplicating others’ work.
People may duplicate one another’s work for a variety of reasons. Maybe there was a delay in getting the resources they needed from a subject matter expert, so an employee decided to get started from square one. Maybe a team member recently left the company and failed to share files that could have helped with a current project. Or maybe someone simply didn’t realize that another team already created something very similar to what they’re working on.
Whatever the case, the risk of duplication goes down significantly when businesses take a company-wide approach to knowledge management. Employees have one go-to source for the information and assets that exist across the country, allowing them to avoid accidental duplication or build on available materials rather than reinventing the wheel with each new project.
New Opportunities for Innovation
Innovative ideas don’t just come out of the ether. They stem from combining existing ideas in novel ways or looking at an existing concept through a different lens. (For example, the movie Alien was famously pitched to producers as “Jaws in space.”)
It may be possible for team members who work together on a daily basis to come up with innovative ideas, but you’re much more likely to see meaningful innovation when you bring together perspectives and ideas from across your company. For instance, imagine that your customer insights team conducts research into the different ways customers are using one of your products. While the marketing department might have commissioned this research to help develop new product messaging, the research and development team might see the report in your company-wide knowledge management platform and apply those insights to a new version of the product that does an even better job at serving an originally unintended use case.
If that research wasn’t shared with a broad audience, your company would have missed a valuable opportunity to innovate on one of its offerings, further differentiate itself from competitors, and ultimately grow its bottom line.
Taking a Strategic Approach to Company-Wide Knowledge Management
Some business leaders may resist the idea of shifting to company-wide knowledge management, arguing that teams will be able to work more efficiently when using a knowledge base that only houses the information most relevant to their department or function. If this is a concern, it is still possible to invest in a company-wide knowledge management platform that lets you create hubs for specific teams where you can house materials that may be sensitive or hyper-relevant to that group.
However, it’s important to think critically about what information really needs to be limited to specific teams and what could add value when shared across the organization. By opening up all non-restricted knowledge assets to employees across the organization–and housing them in a platform that makes it easy for employees to search for the most relevant materials–you can reduce bottlenecks, promote greater cross-functional collaboration, and get more value out of your organization’s collective intelligence.