Knowledge Management For Your Company in 2017: A Guide For Business Owners

Managing your knowledge is one of the most important tasks for your business, but it can be hard to know where to start. With the rapidly developing technologies available and increased emphasis on fast-paced innovation, knowledge management will be crucial to helping your business flourish and succeed in 2017 and beyond.

The Journal of Knowledge Management says, “We have witnessed the emergence of what has increasingly become a knowledge-driven economy and society.” They go on to say that, “the ROI (return on investment) of knowledge management can manifest itself by improved efficiency, effectiveness and innovation.”

But first, a definition of knowledge management is in order.

Gartner Group defines knowledge management as: “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.”

Knowledge management refers to managing the knowledge of organizations, which have the characteristics of being large, bureaucratic, profit-oriented and goal-focused. Knowledge must be managed to help achieve organizational objectives.

Knowledge landscape in 2017

More than anything, with the pace of change and ever-increasing software options available, companies are rapidly becoming knowledge companies.

Since the beginning of the knowledge management industry in the early nineties, the industry has burgeoned along with the technology that facilitates it. Organizations are overwhelmed by knowledge.

Having too much data is one of the biggest challenges the industry faces, with organizations struggling to know where to start when it comes to mining the data.

It’s complicated by the fact our capability to collect customer data has vastly increased, with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems a huge industry. As a result, customers now expect much more of a personalized service, presenting the challenge of how we collect that data and what we do with it.

Finally, with the rise in remote working, the need to effectively collate knowledge in a platform that can be accessed by everyone is a priority.

Orient your knowledge strategy

Managing your organization’s knowledge will be impossible without a clear idea of why you’re doing it in the first place.

Always keep in mind the reason you want to manage your knowledge, which could be either:

1) to improve business processes to raise your bottom line and improve efficiency.

2) to improve the customer experience to attract and retain more customers.

Most likely, it will be both, and the software you need will be specific to your purposes.

Internal business knowledge should be collected in documentation, perhaps with knowledge base software or other knowledge management tools. You would also use a knowledge base for your external customer support strategy.

For example, KnowledgeOwl offers affordable, quality knowledge base software for internal and external use.

Customer data should be collected in a CRM system or omnichannel support tool, accessed whenever one of your agents has a customer interaction. There is a huge variety of options available, ranging from enterprise software solutions like Salesforce, to solutions for smaller businesses such as Insightly.

Customer data insights

There is the knowledge to be gained from the data that your company holds about your customers.

The appropriate software to use for this purpose is a CRM which allocates each customer a unique ID. All interactions with your customers are stored in this system, so no matter which employee is assigned to a ticket, your customer is dealt a consistently personal experience.

In the long term, there is the challenge of analyzing the totality of your customer data to improve products and services. CIOReview argues that the future will be an integration of the CRM and knowledge management system.

They say, “Organizations that have achieved this level of integration have placed more information on the fingertips of call centre agents, thus reducing the time of resolution of any query and quick redressal of clients’ problems.”

It’s hard to make sense of all this data. The risk we have at the moment is too much data with too little insight, according to Saffron. Plus, the shortage of data scientists in the workforce means that companies are struggling to fill vital job roles.

Your company can position itself strategically by making data analysis part of day-to-day business operations. Every decision you make should be backed up with data.

Privacy is key here. Customers will need to give permission for you to collect their data, and it’s essential for you to keep up with data privacy laws in your region.

Improving customer service

Effective knowledge management results in better customer service because you improve efficiency and agility within your organization.

Now, customers expect you to deliver a service to them that is consistent across all channels, and reflects their history with your business. There’s truth to the idea that the best customer service goes unnoticed, and is part of the normal flow of your business’s interactions with its customers.

You need to invest in the appropriate CRM software to enable you to make this dream a reality. However, you also need to know when to allow customers to access your company’s knowledge themselves.

Part of knowledge management involves creating an effective knowledge base to serve your customers, and is not just a cost-cutting measure. This forms a key part of your customer support strategy, especially if you’re in the software industry.

Collecting insights about the regular problems that come up with your products and taking steps to improve them is just one of the ways that you can use knowledge in your business. Also, noting when the customer experience in interrupted and causing problems, then taking action to address it, is another.

Tacit employee knowledge

Knowledge bases can also be used internally to make the most of your organizational knowledge, and help employees to collaborate more effectively. Valuable tacit knowledge is held by your employees, and frontline team members are often the ones with the most valuable knowledge of your customers.

When employees leave, you don’t want them to be irreplaceable. This is detrimental to the efficiency of your business processes.

But corporate wikis are often left neglected, with many employees turning to Google over their internal knowledge management system. According to research by Saffron, as many as 85% of employees would use Google.

An external search engine like Google should not be the best source of internal information about your company. You need to make the most of the technology available to organize and structure information internally.

The answer to this is to provide an internal knowledge base that is relevant to and useful for your employees. It’s not so much about collecting information as it is enabling employees to be more effective in their jobs.

Develop a documentation strategy to prevent this from happening and choose standalone knowledge base software solutions like KnowledgeOwl. Also, make use of collaboration tools like Trello or Slack to enable employees to share project knowledge in real-time.

Industry knowledge

There is your industry knowledge which makes your business unique and is B2B content marketing gold dust. Your business knowledge is what gives you an edge, and can help you compete in a saturated market.

Your industry knowledge is made up of your grasp of your business context, and the skills and experience of your employees.

If you are a company that is increasing its customer base and making a profit, you’re obviously doing something right. This industry knowledge is of value to your audiences, and can be translated into B2B blog posts that will gain you a devoted following.

Just take well-known SaaS brands like Buffer or Help Scout as examples. They take their internal knowledge and publish it for all to see on their company blogs, each of which has followers numbering in the thousands.

Even if you’re in the B2C industry, you will still possess knowledge of value to your customers. If you’re selling screws, many customers will also be searching for information on screws. Be the brand that provides the information they need through content marketing.

Appealing to millennials

In the modern workplace, where millennials will make up 85% of the workforce by 2030, it’s essential to eliminate bloated business processes.

Research shows that, compared to the previous generation, they have no patience for bureaucracy and hurdles in the workplace that arise from a lack of knowledge. They can be particularly impatient with the face-to-face meetings and physical documents of the pre-internet business era.

If your company fails to provide the tools that your workforce expects, savvy technology users will naturally turn to their own tools to share documents, posing a huge security risk to your business’s data.

Avoid this happening by providing tools that are as good as the ones your employees will be using in their downtime.

Constantly connected employees now expect more from their employers, and dissatisfaction will arise if organizations fail to meet their expectations. When a job-for-life is now a thing of the past, employee satisfaction to improve retention has become a priority for HR teams.

Final notes

In a world when new technologies can disrupt your business at any moment, carefully curating your knowledge and making the most of untapped opportunities is key.

You can use knowledge management to improve internal business processes or the external customer experience. The types of knowledge at play here will determine how you collect your information and how you analyze it.

Knowledge management must be personal to your business. The knowledge that is available to you will be strictly tied to your business processes and your customer base.

The result will be a mixture of immediate actions you can take, such as proactively managing your knowledge with software tools, and long-term analysis of the information available.

What are your knowledge management goals for 2017? Let us know in the comments!

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