Knowledge is the most abundant asset a business has–but it’s also the most frequently wasted. People bring unique knowledge and expertise with them to work, but all too often, it stays in their heads or siloed within their team. Employees waste time trying to track down the right information or subject matter experts, and when people leave the company, their knowledge goes with them.
Unless their organization has a company-wide knowledge management strategy in place.
Keeping teams aligned and informed is critical in our ever-changing business world, and the organizations that are most successful at this likely have a carefully crafted knowledge management strategy to help them operate efficiently and grow.
But what does a modern knowledge management strategy look like, and how can it help improve operations so that organizations meet their goals?Let’s dive into what a knowledge management strategy looks like in practice and how it can help build a framework for team alignment.
Knowledge Management Strategy: A Definition
When you look at where your organizational struggles are coming from, consider this: are departmental silos fragmenting your work environment? Moving quickly can mean growing where you need it, when you need it, resulting in a fragmented workplace. With separate departments focused solely on their given roles—be it sales, marketing, customer support, IT, or any other number of responsibilities—communication and knowledge sharing can feel impossible.
A knowledge management strategy is a plan of action that outlines how your organization will manage and centralize company information, data, and knowledge to improve your productivity and efficiency. The most successful of these strategies are closely aligned with company-wide goals and objectives.
Why Is a Knowledge Management Strategy Important?
Your organization has a vast trove of knowledge, including corporate intellectual property, institutional knowledge such as process and policy documents, and the individual know-how that each employee brings to their role. This collective intelligence is critical to both day-to-day operations and innovation—but you’ll never realize its full value if people lack easy ways to share, access, collaborate across, and leverage your company’s knowledge.
By investing in an organization-wide knowledge management strategy, businesses can empower their teams to tap into shared knowledge and make informed decisions that impact revenue, retention, and innovation. Benefits of a successful knowledge management strategy include:
- Boosted productivity as employees spend less time looking for information and more time applying it
- A decrease in duplicated work and errors
- Faster and better informed decision-making
- Accelerated employee onboarding (and a better onboarding experience)
- Customer service improvements due to frontline employees having fast access to the knowledge they need
- Increased employee self-sufficiency and confidence
- Better collaboration and cross-functional collaboration on new ideas and information
How to Develop a Knowledge Management Strategy
Building a knowledge management strategy from the ground up might seem daunting, but it’s a classic eating-the-elephant-one-bite-at-a-time process. Breaking it down into smaller activities and identifying the right team members to help implement the strategy will make your initiative much more manageable.
Here are the key steps to start with:
Identify Your Needs
Start by documenting the challenges your organization is trying to address and how a knowledge management strategy will help you resolve them. Examples might include:
- Knowledge lives in many different repositories. → We need one central repository for company-wide knowledge.
- Employees waste hours per week trying to track down information. → We need a searchable platform that reduces the time it takes to find information.
- Knowledge is lost when employees leave the company or move to a new role. → We need clear processes to have employees document and share their knowledge.
Set Goals and KPIs
Once you know what challenges you’re trying to solve, you can start setting goals around them. Your goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. You should also determine your key performance indicators (KPIs). These will be metrics that help you measure your success. For example, if you have a goal around reducing the time employees spend searching for information, one of your KPIs might be average hours saved per employee per month.
Map Existing Knowledge and Gaps
Conduct a knowledge audit to identify all your organization’s knowledge assets, where they live, and who has access (consider bringing together a team to divide and conquer this project). This will help you identify current obstacles (e.g., are some teams unable to access certain assets that they need?), come up with a plan to migrate assets to a centralized location, and uncover knowledge gaps that you need to fill through new content creation.
Establish a Cross-Functional Knowledge Management Team
Identify stakeholders from different teams who understand the value of knowledge management and are interested in working cross-functionally to improve your company’s KM efforts. Make sure they have the bandwidth (and willingness) to commit to participating in your KM initiative, and then establish a regular cadence for the team to meet. Make sure each meeting is as productive as possible by assigning action items based on your goals.
Best Practices of Knowledge Management Strategies
When setting out to implement a knowledge management strategy, every organization is unique. There are, however, common practices that span organizations and industries, including:
- Increasing awareness and understanding of all the types of knowledge (explicit, implicit, and tacit) that exist across the organization
- Building a business case and attracting resources for implementation
- Providing a communicable plan about where your organization is now, where you want to be, how knowledge management will get you there, and how you will measure that
- Working with knowledge management champions across different departments and promoting an organization-wide culture of knowledge engagement
- Identifying an executive sponsor who can drive buy-in for your knowledge management strategy from the top down
Not sure where to start with your knowledge management strategy? We’ve got you covered.
Download our Step-by-Step Guide to Performing a Knowledge Audit.
But Is Knowledge Management Enough?
Having a strategy in place to share company knowledge is a great place to start, but is it enough? It depends on what you include.
If your knowledge management solution is focused solely on documenting and preserving information, then no, it isn’t enough. A knowledge management strategy is most successful when it also includes:
- Communication to break down silos between departments
- Tools to make it easy for employees to search for and leverage company knowledge without extensive training
- Opportunities for employees not just to access, but to actively contribute to, their organization’s collective intelligence
Documenting knowledge and information is only one piece of the equation: you also need to empower employees to engage with and add to that knowledge so that it becomes a dynamic, sustainable resource.
If you are currently using knowledge management tools that have low engagement and are not making tasks easier, reconsider your strategy. It may be time to dig deeper and find a solution that goes beyond the basic management of company data. Give your employees an easy-to-use platform to not only share their knowledge but also communicate and collaborate around that information.
Note: We periodically update blogs to reflect the latest trends, research, and best practices in knowledge management. This blog was most recently updated and expanded in February 2023.