The success of a company depends on having the right people, in the right jobs, with the right skills, at the right time. So what can you do to ensure that your company’s employees actually do have the right knowledge at the right time to perform any tasks in their job? You can create a Knowledge Management Center.
What is Knowledge Management?
“Knowledge Management is a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, capturing, evaluating, retrieving and sharing all of an enterprise’s information assets. These assets may include databases, documents, policies, procedures, and previously un-captured expertise and experience in individual workers.”
In the Knowledge Management literature, knowledge is most commonly categorized as either explicit or tacit (i.e. that which is in people’s heads). While this characterization is too simple, a more important point and criticism is that it is misleading. A much more nuanced and useful characterization is to describe knowledge as explicit, implicit and/or tacit.
- Explicit knowledge: Information or knowledge that is set out in tangible form.
- Implicit knowledge: Information or knowledge that is not set out in tangible form but could be made explicit.
- Tacit knowledge: Information or knowledge that one would have extreme difficulty operationally setting out in tangible form.
One of the most central thrusts in Knowledge Management is to capture the tacit knowledge that is in people’s heads so that it can be made available to others in the organization.
Confluence is an Excellent Knowledge Management Tool
Bringing an enterprise’s important information assets into one place – a Knowledge Management Center – has many benefits. Atlassian’s Confluence is the best way to create this Knowledge Management Center and make all of these information assets readily available to any approved person inside or outside of the company.
Much more than “just” an internal website where people can post documents, wikis, such as what can be created using Confluence, are an elegant and highly efficient way to enable teams to share documents, information and knowledge. Done well, wikis can be Knowledge Management at its finest.
Why use Confluence to create a Knowledge Management Center?
- Overcome the Problems with Using Email – Quite often what we see in the field is that companies use email to share their information, documents and knowledge. But email was not designed as a place to manage these things. When used this way, it’s a system that can quickly break down.
For example, take the situation where one person creates a document and emails it to the five other people on their team. These team members may download the document and save it in their personal project files. Or they may simply leave it in their email archives. Some of them might make changes to the document and email another version out to everyone. Each revised version may or may not take into account the changes that others have made.
Now each person has their own copy of the document. They may or may not be able to locate this document when they need it, and if they do locate it they’ll have no way to determine if they’re looking at the latest version or an outdated one.
- Eliminate Information Siloing – Another thing we often see is situations where some departments within a company have local initiatives for internally sharing that department’s documentation, information and knowledge. But some departments do not, and each of these local initiatives takes a slightly different approach. Some groups set up local wikis. Others use shared folders, Box, or a combination of multiple things. No one thinks about the need for people outside of the department to access anything. The result can be information chaos.
- Reduce Internal Calls to Your Support Team – I first got involved with wikis and knowledge management when I worked at a big software company. The CEO of this firm discovered that 30 to 40% of the calls to the support team were coming from within the company. I was assigned to fix this problem. The solution was to create a company-wide wiki filled with easy-to-find self-help information, such as answers and solutions for the most frequent questions and problems. As part of this, we also put processes in place to ensure that any article available on the wiki was up to date and could be shared internally or externally with a customer or partner.
Of course, there’s more to implementing a successful wikis program than simply installing Confluence and telling everyone to get started! Stay tuned for the next articles in this series, where I’ll be talking about wiki governance issues and the steps you can take to ensure successful wiki adoption.