Sharing knowledge is at the heart of communications. Organizational knowledge is a term for all of the information in an organization that can provide value for both customers and employees. It can include process and product knowledge, mission and goals, customer preferences and competitive research, just to give a few examples. It encompasses both hard data and lessons learned, along with the collective experience and skill sets of all of your staff. With such a large and expanding knowledge base available, as well as all the supporting resources tied to it, digital knowledge management is more important now than ever before.
In this age of digital literacy, people are used to finding and evaluating information in digital formats on their own. But the amount of information, and the number and type of platforms, have exploded in recent years. Organizations are forever expanding the number of devices, apps and digital services they offer to employees, clients and visitors. And with the rise of IoT, many information streams that weren’t digital in the past are coming online. This makes it more important than ever to organize and deliver information in efficient and searchable ways. If people can’t find they need quickly and easily, that information is going to waste.
What is Digital Knowledge Management?
Digital knowledge management (DKM) is the process by which an enterprise identifies, collects, documents, organizes and shares its organizational knowledge in digital form for internal or customer-facing use. Its purpose is to share information, ideas and experience in easily accessible formats and locations to enable better decision making and increase efficiencies.
This is accomplished by:
- identifying, gathering and recording knowledge in easily-understandable formats
- organizing resources in a system that is intuitive, searchable and accessible
- sharing knowledge with everyone who can benefit from it
- evolving knowledge collection processes and technologies with user input
- promoting the generation and sharing of new organizational knowledge for growth
Basically, DKM aims to put the right information in front of people when they need it, without them having to relearn what’s already been explored. It captures knowledge so it isn’t lost over time and breaks down silos by making more information available across teams.
The University of Alaska neatly outlined some objectives of knowledge management that we’ve paraphrased here:
- Improve the quality of decision-making by ensuring that reliable and secure knowledge, information and data are available through the service lifecycle
- Enable the organization to be more efficient and improve quality of service, increase satisfaction and reduce the cost of service by reducing the need to rediscover knowledge
- Ensure that staff have a clear and common understanding of the value that their services provide to customers and the ways in which benefits are realized from the use of those services
- Maintain a knowledge management system that provides controlled access to knowledge, information and data that is appropriate for each audience
- Gather, analyze, store, share, use and maintain knowledge, information and data throughout the organization
Benefits of Digital Knowledge Management
By sharing more knowledge, you can reduce operating costs, increase productivity, and improve employee and customer satisfaction. Some of the benefits of digital knowledge management include:
- Faster and easier access to information
- Less time relearning and retraining
- Fewer mistakes through duplication
- Standardized and streamlined processes
- Increased collaboration within and across teams
- Better and faster decision making and problem solving
- Faster innovation to meet recognized trends
- Better communication
- More transparency and visibility
- More employee growth and development
- Increased productivity and profits
Instead of creating a top-down hierarchy of information trickling out when requested, DKM sets up a culture of collaboration and information sharing with more experience and knowledge available for everyone to draw upon and contribute to.
Challenges of Digital Knowledge Management
There are also some challenges to implementing and maintaining a well-used and well-fed DKM system. A lot of these depend on the organizational culture and flexibility of the enterprise:
- Developing knowledge capture and sharing systems
- Integrating DKM systems into existing processes and platforms
- Aligning knowledge sharing with business strategies
- Breaking down silos between management and employees
- Persuading experts to share their skills and knowledge
- Motivating people to share and apply knowledge consistently
- Keeping pace with DKM technologies
- Maintaining security and user permissions
- Keeping information current (revising or replacing aging resources)
In order to overcome these hurdles, you should spend time outlining your objectives and processes for DKM before deciding on any technology solution. You’ll need to have clear goals and motivators in place, which may require a shift in your corporate culture and some change management techniques. However, if you can clearly show the benefits of DKM to all stakeholders, the process should be seen as an opportunity seized versus a problem to be tackled.
Internal-Facing Digital Knowledge Management
You may have different strategies for knowledge management, based on who’s accessing and using that information. Employees will most likely have access to both internal and customer-facing knowledge, but we’ll focus on information that’s only available to your workforce in this section.
Internal knowledge is your most important asset. The experience and skills that your employees bring to your organization allows it to function, thrive or fail. It also informs your culture and your competitive differentiators, so there’s no downside to improving knowledge efficiencies and access for your staff.
Some examples of internal-facing knowledge are:
- Your organization’s mission, values and goals
- Documented process and procedures
- Employee directories with contact information
- Sales, customer service and support resources
- Templated responses for internal or external FAQs
- KPIs, analytics and progress to goals
- Client relationship management resources
- Competitive metrics and industry trends
- HR and benefits information
- Training and professional development tools
As you develop your DKM systems and processes, it’s essential that you ask for employee input. The first step in a knowledge sharing culture is inclusion. Representatives from all teams and skill sets should provide feedback throughout the planning process.
You may find that a single platform may work as a centralized storehouse for knowledge, but that various systems are needed for searching and sharing. Employees will have their own preferences on how and where they want to receive information. You may need centralize knowledge in a DKM platform, but then deliver supporting content over intranets, digital signage systems, social media and more.
Regardless of how you house and share organizational knowledge, by organizing the information that employees need to perform tasks and solve problems, you’ll free them up from repetitive processes and duplication of efforts, so they have more time for creativity, collaboration and customer service. And, by fostering a culture of knowledge sharing, you’ll improve the employee experience, reduce turnover, and retain the experience and skill sets those people contribute.
Customer-Facing Digital Knowledge Management
Customers today want to know a lot about the brands they interact with. As such, external-facing knowledge management is more important than ever. If you present incomplete, confusing or disorganized information to your audience, it can degrade the customer experience and damage your brand permanently.
Some basic examples of customer-facing knowledge are:
- Contacts for demos, buying, support and services
- Location information and accessibility details
- Product and services offered (in detail)
- Transaction, delivery and return options
- Brand mission, values and community actions
- Hiring policies and employee satisfaction
- Industry standing, awards and certifications
- Customer reviews and peer comments
It’s essential to be responsive to customer needs and preferences when managing digital knowledge that’s available to them. Be proactive, find out what the most frequently asked questions are, and answer them before they’re asked.
You also need to research which channels your customers prefer to interact with your brand on. Don’t just post YouTube videos because it’s a popular platform – make sure it’s where your clients go for information from your brand. A big part of digital knowledge management is analyzing customer behavior to understand the kind of content they want and where they want to access it.
- Look at various waypoints along the customer experience with your brand and determine what knowledge they need when
- Create content that communicates key concepts or information in an easily understandable format
- Deliver knowledge across different channels in different ways that are appropriate to that audience
It’s all about engaging that client and keeping them engaged throughout their entire relationship with your brand or organization. If potential customers search for information and can’t find it, they’re likely to move on to someone else. If current customers can’t get
6 Key Components of Digital Knowledge Management
As you start to plan your knowledge management program, you need to consider these core components in your strategy:
Like any other business system, digital knowledge management needs a purpose. Outline, in detail, what value you think DKM will bring to your business. Document your strategy, set S.M.A.R.T. goals and monitor progress against those goals.
The entire point of DKM is to give more people access and agency within your organization. Include stakeholders from various parts of the organization in the planning and rollout of the program. You’ll need experts to contribute knowledge, trainers to cover the access and use of information, and champions to continuously motivate sharing and advancements.
You’ll be including best practices and resources, so be sure those are optimized before you begin sharing. You’ll also need to put processes in place for identifying, collecting, documenting and sharing knowledge in the future.
Make sure the technology you choose supports your goals for knowledge sharing. Don’t conform to the tool because of budget or IT limitations. Be sure you have the ability to grow your knowledge base, categories and sharing systems in the future.
All knowledge will need to be delivered in some content format. Creating that content in engaging, understandable formats will be critical, or the knowledge will not transfer. Be sure you choose the best content formats for various types of knowledge and put a process in place to streamline content creation and delivery.
It’s essential that you break down barriers within your organization, whether they be management hierarchies, team silos, or political or social cliques. Your culture should encourage information sharing across job titles, departments and disciplines, with a focus on benefits for both individuals and the organization as a whole. Knowledge sharing should be cultivated and nurtured just like any other part of your company culture.
Getting Started with Digital Knowledge Management
Having knowledge isn’t useful. It’s the strategic use and management of your organizational knowledge that leads to success. There are many articles out there about how to launch a DKM program, but the basic steps are:
- Identify useful information for your audience(s)
- Collect knowledge from a broad range of sources
- Determine the best content vehicles for information
- Create content tools and document knowledge
- Organize knowledge into intuitive groups
- Publish resources to a DKM platform
- Provide training on using and sharing information
- Share knowledge on a searchable platform
- Refresh or revise content as needed
- Continuously motivate and promote knowledge sharing
Of course, budget will play a factor for the digital platforms you plan to put into place, but don’t forget about time for information collection, content creation, getting the system and resources online, and training. It’s best to consider this a system and not a project, with the same timelines and resource allocation that implies.
However, digital knowledge management doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. If you have an intranet with a resource library, you’re already doing it. It’s not the system itself that matters. It’s the culture of knowledge sharing and collaboration, the timesaving tools, and the benefits to the organization, employees and customers that make DKM so important and worthwhile.