Knowledge Governance: Where to Start
So you’ve rebuilt your knowledge base. Congratulations! But what happens now? How do you ensure you don’t have to do a top-to-bottom rebuild again? Even when starting out with the best of intentions, it’s easy for teams — and companies — to let a clean knowledge base gradually become unusable. However, by instituting a team of knowledge champions who can create a governance structure, an organization can set its knowledge base up for ongoing success.
In the knowledge management system, the people are represented by two equally important groups: the knowledge base, which houses the knowledge, and the governance council, who protect its integrity. These are their stories.
Who belongs in a knowledge governance council?
A knowledge governance council should be made up of key enablement personnel. If it’s your job to set your team up for success, knowledge management is a key component of that. Regardless of the kind of enablement role you’re in, knowledge management is how you can ensure continuity of experience and information both within and external to your team. Let’s take sales enablement as an example, though this is applicable to all enablement roles, including revenue enablement and tech enablement.
"In addition to a dynamic, robust, and easily accessible knowledge base, organizations should have seminars, workshops, mentorships, and other training programs to keep their [team] in top shape."
Essentially, maintaining a quality knowledge base is so fundamental to being an effective enablement leader that it’s considered a given. Looking at it this way, it’s simple to identify who belongs on your knowledge council: everyone in formal or de facto team enablement roles.
What does the knowledge governance council do?
Your knowledge governance council has three major functions:
Formalizing knowledge content creation and maintenance guidelines (and making them easily accessible)
Advocating for correct usage of your knowledge base
Looking out for repeats of old problems and solving for new ones
Formalizing knowledge base guidelines
Don’t worry; the job of a knowledge council is not to create the content; it’s to ensure that the content that is created is usable and searchable. When a team grows beyond about 15 people (and especially when one starts to grow rapidly), formalizing guidelines is a must. Guidelines should include everything from correct formatting of knowledge to the process for creating/editing it (ex: laying out who a valid SME might be), and ideal verification cycles.
The good news is that you can keep these guidelines themselves searchable and usable by putting them directly in your knowledge base. Make sure you consider them to be a living document, subject to the same verification and review cycles that all of your other knowledge is.
Advocating correct usage
Another role for the knowledge council is to ensure ongoing usage of the knowledge base. One general rule of thumb is that when a knowledge base is working for a team/org, the quieter comms channels become. That’s mostly because questions that were previously being asked in chat (or face-to-face) are being referenced in your knowledge base. But this isn’t an automatic behavior, especially when teams aren’t used to being able to rely on a KB.
Once you’ve rebuilt a knowledge base, encourage using it as a reference by reminding those asking questions to check in your KB first. Make sure you empower individual team members to do the same as well. It’s not enough to train for correct usage, you have to ensure that you’re training for advocacy as well.
Looking out for signs of a broken knowledge base
The last piece of the governance puzzle is working to prevent a breakdown in your knowledge base. After all, once you have it in great shape, you don’t want to let it fall apart again. The key here is outlining the issues that led to the breakdown last time and documenting any new issues that pop up along the way. This allows you to say, for example, “OK, Slack is starting to get really noisy with questions again. What are the questions that are being asked? Are the answers accessible in our knowledge base? Oh, they’re not tagged correctly!” giving you the opportunity to fix low level items before they cascade into a total knowledge base failure.