The success of Knowledge Management depends primarily on the culture and mindset of the organization. The organization’s culture is shaped by both management initiatives and its people.
I’ve led the implementation of Knowledge Management processes and tools several times in my career, including at two large international organizations with over 100,000 employees running KM on ServiceNow. One of the key pain points they were facing, once an appropriate tool was in place, was finding the time to write Knowledge Base (KB) articles and maintaining them.
It all starts with the right mindset. An organization with employees who understand the importance of rich KB articles and see the benefits for themselves will face less resistance when implementing this. However, management must also provide support by ensuring their teams have the time to dedicate to this topic.
Why is Knowledge Management important?
In many organizations, types of knowledge can vary, but most people prefer to find answers on their own rather than asking for assistance. Don’t just take my word for it: a survey conducted by HigherLogic found that 79% of respondents expect organizations to offer self-service support tools for finding answers without needing to contact support. ServiceNow has also published an article pointing in this direction, showcasing the importance of Self-Service Portals. Additionally, Gartner provides extensive information on the matter.
An effective knowledge management process paired with a self-service portal simplifies things for employees, allowing them to focus on their work.
Many Knowledge Management implementations fail because people lack the time or motivation to write and share content. But what if these could become part of the overall strategy of how the teams work?
Key cultural principles that people can relate to include:
– The value of collaboration: How could the work I’m currently doing help my colleagues?
– The value of sharing: Imagine how valuable it would be to share news, success stories, or even failures about your experiences with the rest of the team and organization.
– Reciprocity: If I spend time on this, I know other colleagues will do the same. I’ll be helping them, and they’ll be helping me too!
– The value of teamwork: Consider how helpful it could be to assist a colleague struggling with something. Tomorrow, it could be you in need!
Management must prioritize and promote these principles and values for this to be successful. This will help ensure that everyone, including management, feels comfortable dedicating time to them. It will also help them understand the value this brings to the whole organization, making people’s time more efficient and enabling teams to work better.
When we talk about creating a culture of sharing, it’s important to also emphasize the role of continuous learning and adaptation. Sharing knowledge is not a one-time event, but a continuous process that involves learning from each other and adapting practices based on shared knowledge.
Maintenance of content
Another aspect that many organizations struggle with is maintaining the knowledge assets included in the knowledge base repository. To address this, it’s important for management to recognize the importance of a strong KM strategy. It’s necessary to have dedicated individuals or allocated time from people to ensure that the content remains relevant and up to date. Remember, it’s not about wasting resources; it’s about making knowledge more valuable to drive better and more straightforward results.
Depending on the size of the organization, this might mean that you have multiple Knowledge Responsibilities by area, product, etc. Make sure to involve colleagues with experience in their area so that the content published is relevant. In one of the organizations, we implemented KM, we included SME revision of key articles to ensure they were correct before publishing them.
Who should be able to write KB articles?
Allow as many persons as possible to be allowed to write Knowledge articles. Implement a relevant categorization (that consumers will understand) and an onboarding guide so they understand how to approval process to ensure that published articles go through review and approval to guarantee their relevance, quality, and appropriate look and feel.
Gamification as a Motivation Strategy
For the challenge where employees are not motivated or encouraged to write knowledge articles, one potential solution could be the use of gamification. Reward systems such as points, badges, or levels can motivate employees to contribute more to the knowledge base. Employees who contribute the most useful and popular content could be recognized in company meetings or newsletters, further motivating others to participate. Some organizations have achieved incredible success by offering prizes and corporate swag as highly effective incentives. A few years ago, at ServiceNow Knowledge 17” conference in Las Vegas, I spoke with the manager of a Service Center for a well-known international organization. They had a team of about 300 people, and the key factor for success was gamification.
To measure the success of KM implementation, we can consider factors such as usage rate of the KM platform, number of articles created and viewed, time saved using the knowledge base, and improved customer satisfaction rates. To help top management understand and measure KM effectiveness in your organization, it’s useful to link metrics to cost savings.
Inviting users to share their feedback to continuously improve the self-service portal or KM system is another aspect to consider. An open feedback system helps identify areas for improvement in the self-service portal, such as the user interface, content relevance, and information organization. Also, inviting colleagues to rate KB article quality and add comments will help improve the overall quality.
Knowledge Responsible feedback
Regular communication with all colleagues responsible for different areas of knowledge is important. This can be done through monthly meetings or check-ins. Capture feedback from all members to gather good ideas, identify challenges, and improve organizational strategies by reusing successful approaches from other areas. During my time as the head of practice at one of the prominent companies I mentioned earlier in this article, numerous valuable activities were brought up and discussed during these monthly conference calls.
The Role of AI
You didn’t think I was going to leave out the most used term in 2023, did you? Of course not. I use ChatGPT myself to validate ideas and assist with writing content on topics I’m familiar with. It helps me validate, adapt, and refine my content to suit my preferences.
You can ask ChatGPT for a list of topics to include in an article about a specific topic, tailored to the audience you are targeting. You can ask the ChatBot for inspiration, ideas, and more.
As AI technology advances, it is playing an increasing role in Knowledge Management. AI can help automate content curation, suggest personalized content based on a user’s behaviour and needs, and even predict future knowledge needs based on patterns. So, keep an eye on new technologies that could help you complement or integrate your Knowledge strategies with the aid of AI. For example, the ServiceNow platform is incorporating many AI capabilities into the platform, and can surface KB articles through chatbots, self-service portals, and more.
Typical challenges and possible solutions many organizations face while implementing Knowledge Management
Typical challenge: Employees miss finding resources or assets of information due to the fragmentation of different sources they are exposed to. As a result, there is a lot of wasted time spent searching for things or asking other colleagues rather than being able to focus on their jobs.
Possible solution: Simplify your organization by streamlining collaboration tools and centralizing everything into one source for better organization. Ensure there is an overall structure to keep it simple and relevant to the consumers of the KB. Remove the guess work of where to find what, if you use another storage location like SharePoint, make sure you implement a way to point to those documents from the KB article to avoid unnecessary copies of it.
Typical challenge: The self-service portal is not friendly enough for employees to consume resources from it or find what they are looking for.
Possible solution: User experience should be a core focus when designing a Self-Service Portal. UX experts are responsible for designing the portal and making sure that elements like fonts and content placement are strategically chosen to create a pleasant experience for employees.
Typical challenge: All my KB articles look different, and employees complain that they are not able to easily find what they are looking for.
Potential solution: Ensure there are well-documented guidelines about what KB articles should look like. Sometimes implementing templates could provide a good starting point for people needing extra structure. Ensuring all articles use the same font, size, and structure will help colleagues feel more comfortable while going through different pieces of content. As they won’t need to adjust to different formats and structures.
To sum up, a truly effective knowledge management strategy should embrace a comprehensive approach that blends cultural transformation, leadership dedication, active employee participation, frequent updates, and harnessing the power of technology. While no magic formula exists, organizations can achieve remarkable improvements in their operations and even revolutionize their work methods through hard work and unwavering dedication.
Remember that a strong cultural shift towards collaboration and learning is essential for the success of any KM strategy.