Everywhere in life, knowledge is power. But in business, knowledge is everything.
You need to understand your current processes before you can automate them. To spot upsell opportunities, you need to know your clients and their contracts like the back of your hand. But it’s not enough for one or two members of the team to have that knowledge.
When everyone holds just a few pieces of the puzzle, nobody knows what the puzzle is supposed to look like. Fitting everyone’s pieces together takes knowledge management. A knowledge management system shows everyone all the pieces so they can complete the image as a team.
Knowledge management systems store and share information at the right time. They typically include documents like contracts, team data like contact data, and institutional knowledge like SEO best practices for the company blog.
Sure, employees appreciate convenient access to that information. But the bigger picture here is the company’s bottom line. Good knowledge management is good business. Here’s why:
Knowledge management reduces uncertainty. Uncertainty is a proven killer of focus and productivity. A knowledge management system minimizes it in two key ways:
In a big company, it can be hard to know who’s responsible for what. When everyone has access to an organizational roster, it’s easier to see who’s the best person for the job.
Think about how teams without a solid knowledge management tool go about finding help. They might shoot out a project email to a half-dozen likely sources. Those six people are pulled out of their flow, and unless one takes ownership immediately, they sit racking their brains about the right person for the task.
For similar reasons, a knowledge management system can help a new team member see where they fit. If a newly hired editor can see that there’s an on-staff SEO expert, she can reasonably assume that she won’t be the go-to source of SEO advice. That can help HR hire more efficiently and reduce role overlap.
Knowledge management platforms are designed for sharing files like brand style guides. When the whole marketing team has access, nobody needs to second-guess whether their website designs fit the company’s look.
Just as importantly, knowledge management systems increase the number of eyes looking at internal documents. A dozen people looking at a disaster preparedness document are much more likely to notice that it doesn’t include a plan for fires, for instance.
Once a new version is uploaded with the fire plans, many knowledge management systems can recognize and remove the duplicate. That ensures nobody is operating off outdated information.
Many families have secret recipes that they pass down from generation to generation without ever writing them down. Sometimes, the recipe is translated perfectly from mouth to mouth. Often, however, people add their own spin. Suddenly, the annual family picnic has three different versions of grandma’s potato casserole.
Among family, that isn’t a big deal. But at a company, it is. If a customer service leaves without ever bothering to record the “right” way of doing things, three different customers may get three totally different experiences. By standardizing the team’s processes, knowledge management boosts your bottom line in many ways.
Reconciling differences takes time. Every time discrepancies show up, the team has to stop, decide on a new way to do things, and train everyone in the new approach.
An even bigger source of lost time? The institutional knowledge that’s lost when team members turn over. There’s no way to save everything that they learned from their time at the company, but a good knowledge management system can get close.
Otherwise, new hires have a doubly difficult job ahead: Not only do they need to learn the ropes, but they have to lay the ropes themselves. Spinning their wheels trying to figure out a good system can increase workers’ onboarding time by multiple orders of magnitude.
The idea that history repeats itself is also true in business. When an executive faces a tough decision, she often looks back at how her predecessors handled similar situations.
Without a knowledge management system, her only option is to hunt down a former leader or a veteran who was on the team last time the issue came up. With one, helpful hints about how to handle it can be found with a search of the database.
At any company, communication happens across a lot of channels. Most teams default to using email when something needs to be documented. Everyone copied on a message can search and access emails.
The same is true of knowledge management systems, but they take the benefits of email records a step further. Knowledge management systems improve communication in two ways:
Universalizes (or Customizes) Access
When the email’s sender or recipients are out of the office, there’s no easy way to access their emails. Their accounts typically get deleted once they’ve left the company.
Knowledge management systems make information permanent and universally accessible. Teams don’t have to hit “pause” while people are on vacation or, worse, try to reactivate an old email account to get a key piece of information.
Knowledge management also means recognizing that not everybody needs access to every piece of information. Using access controls, the HR team, managers, and the relevant employee can set employee contracts to viewable only.
Among employees and among customers, the same questions tend to come up again and again. The trouble is, one person or a single team develops the most frequently asked questions pages.
Without a knowledge management system, documents like FAQs are rarely updated unless someone specifically reaches out. Team members mean well, but they’re busy with their own projects. A knowledge management system makes it easy to collaborate on documents where the entire team can add value.
Knowledge Management Boosts Your Bottom Line
Alone, each of those advantages has an impact on the balance sheet. But when great minds can work as one, the outcome is better than the sum of its parts. As you can see, knowledge management boosts your bottom line.