What is knowledge management?
Knowledge management (KM) is the process of organizing, creating, using, and sharing collective knowledge within an organization. Successful knowledge management includes maintaining information in a place where it is easy to access.
Only a few initiatives are able to truly transform how an organization operates, and knowledge management is one of them.
Types of knowledge management
Knowledge is one of your organization’s most valuable assets. Storing, growing, and sharing that knowledge is critical to any enterprise.
When looking at it from this perspective, knowledge management's meaning includes the process that helps you acquire, organize, and share:
- Explicit knowledge (knowledge that is easy to write down and share)
- Implicit knowledge (applied knowledge)
- Tacit knowledge (knowledge gained from personal experience)
- Declarative knowledge (static knowledge that is specific to a topic)
- Procedural knowledge (knowledge that focuses on the 'how')
- A Posteriori knowledge (subjective knowledge gained from individual experience)
- A Priori knowledge (knowledge gained independent from evidence)
Learn more about the different types of knowledge management.
Knowledge management process
At the highest level, a knowledge management process is the way in which a business manages knowledge, from its creation through to its organization methodology, to how it then continues to make sure it’s shared out.
- Knowledge creation. Knowledge creation starts with knowledge acquisition. This knowledge may come from many sources, including employees within an organization or outside individuals that are brought in for knowledge or expertise on a specific subject. As knowledge is acquired, the next step is to understand what knowledge will be used for, how it will be applied and where it’s applicable.
- Knowledge organization. The knowledge must then be structured in a knowledge management system for future use. This knowledge must not only be organized, but it also needs to include security features so that knowledge can be accessed by authorized personnel when needed. This knowledge organization process is an important part of knowledge management because without it, knowledge becomes disorganized and has no structure, making it difficult or impossible to find in the future when knowledge is needed.
- Knowledge sharing. The knowledge organization process is completed by knowledge sharing. This knowledge sharing includes everything from knowledge training to knowledge exchange, where knowledge can be acquired or enhanced through knowledge discussions with other employees in an organization.
All of these aspects work together to make up a knowledge management process, which promotes collaboration and information sharing.
Get a deeper dive into KM processes and learn how to get the knowledge management process started at your company.
How knowledge management helps organizations
When an organization is able to easily access, share, and update business knowledge, it can become more productive and cost-efficient. The ability to access the right knowledge at the right time, via a robust knowledge management system, informs accurate decision-making and stimulates collaboration and innovation.
Benefits of knowledge management
The more effectively and efficiently a company shares its information with its employees, the better the business will perform. The benefits of knowledge management include:
- Faster decision-making
- Efficient access to knowledge and information
- Increased collaboration and idea generation
- Enhanced communication throughout your organization
- Improved quality of information and data
- More security for intellectual property
- Optimized training
Will knowledge management improve work performance?
A McKinsey Global Institute Report indicates that a robust knowledge management system can reduce information search time by as much as 35 percent and raise organization-wide productivity by 20 to 25 percent. Findings culled from the International Data Corp also corroborate the value of a knowledge management system, highlighting that Fortune 500 companies lose roughly $31.5 billion a year by failing to share knowledge.
As your enterprise grows, so too will the need to access a reliable knowledge database in order to effectively run your business, serve your clients, and increase revenue. Without a knowledge management system in place, your employees will be forced to learn and relearn processes and information. That’s an inefficient and costly practice. Plus, you may also run the risk of losing those processes or information if a knowledge leader or legacy employee leaves your company.
What does a knowledge manager do?
A knowledge manager is responsible for ensuring employees have easy access to the essential information they need to be productive. They ensure organizational memory stays with the company and deliver faster time-to-value for people who are taking on new responsibilities. Knowledge management improves profitability and the knowledge manager establishes the processes and procedures for how knowledge is stored and shared throughout the organization. In many cases, they also maintain a single source of knowledge software.
Knowledge managers have crucial roles in data- and knowledge-driven companies. They are at the helm of providing each individual employee with the information needed to work well and boost overall efficiency. It’s common for knowledge managers to set the tone for a culture of knowledge storage and sharing throughout their organization, making sure the right knowledge gets to the right people without the risk of information overload.
Why is knowledge management important?
Done well, knowledge management streamlines company knowledge, making it accessible and actionable for everyone in the organization. With a good knowledge management system, your entire company can say goodbye to lost or siloed information. A company that fosters a knowledge-sharing culture is one that creates an adaptable, aligned, engaged, resilient, and high-functioning team.
1. Increases efficiency and productivity
Think about all the hours wasted searching through multiple systems trying to find the information you need. Was it in chat, a document, or email? When you do find that information, how do you know it's correct when company knowledge is scattered across all these systems? And when do people who are constantly interrupted actually get key work done?
A knowledge management system aims to create a single, reliable source of truth where everyone can go to find the information they need without conducting multiple searches in several sources or constantly interrupting essential personnel with repeat questions. A great knowledge management tool makes a night and day difference in operational efficiency, saving service and IT teams time and driving more revenue for the organization.
2. Enables informed decision-making
Decisions should never be made in information silos. A company that has knowledge transparency across the entire organization ensures that everyone is working with the same information and toward the same goals. It unites all employees, making sure they have all the information they need to make the best decisions possible.
3. Reduces duplicate or outdated information
After you’ve spent time searching for information and finally found it, how can you tell that it's the most reliable and recent information? When company information lives across multiple systems, you run the risk of making decisions or referencing information that isn’t accurate. A single source of truth like Guru creates a space for reliable information to live so you can adapt faster and keep resilient without the risk of using outdated information.
4. Prevents company silos
Good knowledge management removes the risk of information silos and encourages a culture of transparency and communication. An information silo is when information is only known to one person or team, potentially preventing other departments from knowing the information they need to collaborate effectively. Managing knowledge effectively ensures everyone has access to the knowledge they need to work in alignment with company goals and stay productive.