In part one and part two of this blog series we discussed the definition and importance of Knowledge Management (KM) and offered a four-step strategy to determine whether or not your organization is ready for a KM solution. In this third and final piece, we’ll give a step-by-step overview of the implementation process. While this process isn’t a one to one match for every company, it should provide a high-level overview of the key considerations throughout implementation.
- Assess your organization’s need for a KM Solution
In part two of this blog series we covered how to determine if your company is ready to invest in this solution, but to hit the highlights, consider the size of the company compared to its competitors, the cultural readiness and willingness of frontline employees to participate, whether or not the organization is already in a period of transition, and the likelihood that the company will need to onboard a significant amount of employees in the coming years. If you or your employees are already noticing a lack of standardization and educational materials, it’s likely time to invest.
- Identify a Knowledge Manager
The Knowledge Manager sets the strategic objectives of the KM solution, develops the toolset and governance structure for the content, and maintains the quality of documentation over time. This is a role that can be sourced internally at some companies, but this individual should be a dedicated resource during the discovery and implementation phases of the effort and at least half time once their focus shifts to maintenance.
The identified Knowledge Manager will need a solid grasp of the organization and should have experience with leading this type of initiative. Knowledge Managers can be hired to fulfill this specific role with a national average salary of $90K per year.
- Complete an organization-wide discovery effort
The Knowledge Manager must complete a full discovery effort across the company, and interview business groups and key process owners in order to shape the future-state solution. As part of this process, the Knowledge Manager should examine what documentation each business group needs, how and when the documentation needs to be accessed, and what sort of tools need to be in place to promote success. Understanding the needs of frontline employees is a vital piece of driving user adoption and achieving cultural buy-in.
- Select a right-sized toolkit
Once the discovery effort is complete, the Knowledge Manager can develop a set of requirements and select an appropriate solution for the organization. At the lowest level, this can be a segmented and protected KM file structure within an existing collaborative platform like Dropbox or SharePoint; at the highest level it can also be a full-blown intranet with dashboards, collaboration sites, and search engines. There are dozens of platforms on the market, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find something that meets the needs of your business.
- Develop a document governance strategy
Having a governance strategy in place is a critical piece of ensuring the quality and relevance of your content. Amongst many other things, the Knowledge Manager must have a governance strategy in place for upload and edit restrictions, review and approval processes, document retention requirements, and the cadence of periodic reviews.
- Identify and train KM champions
A critical piece of the success or failure of this effort is the quality and value of the KM content. The best way to ensure relevance is to have the content come from the business units themselves; the best way to do this is to delegate responsibility to internal champions that can identify, create, review, and store meaningful content in the KM tool. These individuals should be trained appropriately for this role. KM champions will also serve as valuable advocates for employee engagement.
- Develop and review KM content
Once KM champions have been identified, the tool has been configured, and governance policies are in place, KM Champions and business process owners can begin developing and compiling relevant content for their business unit. KM champions should set clear expectations about format and quality requirements, and review content carefully before archiving.
- Deliver frontline training and communication
Once the tool is up and running, the Knowledge Manager, with the support of the KM Champions, can roll out a full training effort to educate employees on the tool, the type of content they can find, and any other notes specific to their business group.
- Create an accessible feedback loop
The Knowledge Manager should develop and distribute a periodic KM survey to ensure that incremental improvements can be made to the overarching strategy, and KM champions should make themselves available for content requests, questions or issues as needed.
- Manage and maintain your content
In line with the document governance strategy, a quarterly or at least bi-annual review cadence should be established and executed by the Knowledge Manager and KM champions. Documents that have exceeded the retention guidelines should be reviewed and, if needed, removed, and content should be updated according to any process changes that have occurred since last review.
Implementing a full KM strategy is a challenging but valuable effort that all companies will need to complete at some point in their growth trajectory. Generally, the earlier a company starts, the easier it will be to get off the ground and maintain. With the above process complete, companies will be ready for new employee onboarding, protected from key employee dependencies, better informed about the way their business operates, and capable of operationalizing best practices across the organization.
If you have additional questions about knowledge management for your organization, please leave a comment below or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.