Knowledge management is fundamental to the information technology (IT) industry. Knowledge bases are, at heart, information systems, and knowledge sharing is key to ensuring the smooth flow of business when introducing new processes and tools, as well as ensuring security and regulatory compliance.
Knowledge management and information technology are linked at a base level — in fact, for much of the last 50 years, IT was the traditional business owner of knowledge management due to its complex tech and heavy implementation requirements. With the introduction of the SaaS model, however, many knowledge bases are much simpler and lighter to install and use, reducing the amount of time needed by IT departments to administer them.
IT knowledge management as a competitive advantage
That being said, when one considers that information technology is truly an information management and enablement role, knowledge management — especially at the org-wide level — is still a crucial component of the industry. As IT teams have the power to shape overall business strategy, a usable knowledge management system is required to maintain a competitive advantage.
How? Well, the role of Information Technology is to ensure no business processes are interrupted, that the overall tech stack is sound, that spending on new tech is prudent, that organizational learning stays apace with business changes, and that organizational knowledge is secure. That’s a heavy lift! And one that often competes with the day-to-day interruptions of administrative chores, like password resets, software troubleshooting, and asset checks for new hires and terminations.
When IT can capture explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge in a trusted knowledge base, however, they can enable a self-service model for employees at large, freeing the department up to truly capitalize on its function as a business partner.
How knowledge management benefits IT professionals
When IT owns KM initiatives and leads on organizational knowledge creation, IT professionals can enable better business outcomes. Here are a few ways that knowledge management systems can be used in information technology:
Personalization at scale
A clear, trusted knowledge base (supplemented by a scalable knowledge management strategy) allows the entirety of a company to follow the same steps when implementing new processes or technologies — or when troubleshooting existing ones. Instead of having to take time with each person who has a question or runs into a problem (or is likely to search for a non-compliant solution), IT can prepopulate a knowledge base with answers they know employees will have.
But it’s not enough to simply set it and forget it; effective knowledge transfer involves constantly updating that knowledge base with new answers when they’re useful. By investing in a knowledge base that’s easy to update or can easily capture knowledge from elsewhere, IT can save time by answering a question once when a new issue pops up, and then serving that answer to multiple people automatically, instead of having to address each issue individually. Not only does this allow 1:1 service at scale, it also means employees won’t need to go off in search of untrusted solutions that may compromise your security.
See this great example from Arizona State’s University Tech Department:
Version control of documentation can be a huge problem — especially in business environments where non-compliance can have knock-on effects beyond reduced security. For instance, in the financial and health industries, privacy violations or false information can bring fines and jail time with them. If an IT professional’s role is really that of an information enabler, making sure that the correct information is available at all times is a basic requirement.
Knowledge management processes that make it clear when a document was uploaded and last revised without impacting availability can make all the difference. For instance, if knowledge workers have favorited a particular knowledge base or wiki article that contains a PDF, and you update that PDF, will it reflect that the information has changed without impacting the user’s ability to access it (ex: with a broken link)? You should be able to archive or delete that document entirely to ensure that only the newest version is in use, but with minimal business disruption and minimal noise. A flexible, modular approach to your knowledge base can make this possible.
Communication technologies like Slack and Microsoft Teams have made sharing know-how across teams especially easy — but they can be tough to search, and wrong information can be disseminated too quickly to catch. Email, on the other hand, is easy to ignore, and important communications can be buried and missed entirely.
When IT departments make sure that documentation about changes is put in a knowledge base (and champion its use), they can control that information flow, lowering the risk of misinformation. Here’s an example of a change update in a knowledge base instead of a communication platform:
When paired with a knowledge base’s analytics, the department can drill down to see exactly who is (and isn’t) reading the updates without having to rely on tracking pixels. See how Guru’s analytics and knowledge alerts can make the difference in change communication.
IT infrastructure transparency
Before approving budget for a new technology, IT looks to see if an existing tool can fill in the gap. When the company’s tech infrastructure is clearly documented in a knowledge base, it becomes easy for everyone in the organization to see what’s available to them before beginning the demo/recommendation process, saving time for both decision makers and IT. It doesn’t have to be in-depth as long as the owners of each item can answer (or better yet, document) questions about the tool’s features and functionality.
Better decision making
Ultimately, an organization’s knowledge should be used to guide better decision making at every level. Businesses that have knowledge-driven cultures tend to have better decision making cultures as well. And as owners of the company’s intellectual capital and information systems, Information Technology is the group that truly enable that culture by driving buy-in through its own actions and technologies. Getting everything documented in an easy-to-use (and easy-to-trust) knowledge base is the first step. See how Guru can help you create a knowledge-driven culture. Get started for free.