Information overload is a real challenge for companies. Finding ways to quickly and easily share knowledge and expertise within an organization is essential if you want to maintain a competitive advantage. The corporate intranet, being readily accessible to all staff, is a great tool for supporting your knowledge management strategy. In this article, we examine the issue of knowledge management and we outline how the intranet can help you meet its challenges.
What Is Knowledge Management?
Knowledge management describes the systems and processes organizations have in place to publish, manage, share and capitalize on knowledge and expertise. It refers to both external and internal sources of knowledge.
Advances in technology and the advent of the internet have meant that businesses are now inundated with data and information and so the management of that knowledge requires a comprehensive response.
Companies that manage knowledge well have better decision-making capabilities, are more productive and able to innovate, and also tend to have more engaged staff as expertise and experiences are recognized and rewarded. And so with these sorts of benefits on offer, if you haven’t already done so, then it’s essential that your company develops a knowledge management strategy.
How Can Your Intranet Software Help?
If you are developing a knowledge management strategy for your company then the office intranet is a great starting point and here’s why:
- It’s accessible to all staff.
- Information and knowledge can be shared across the whole organization.
- It’s intuitive and easy to use.
Rather than having several knowledge management systems – usually a combination of paper-based, email and databases – the intranet can become the central knowledge management tool within the organization, and here’s how.
The office intranet can be the central management system to handle the publishing of all company knowledge and data at an organizational and team level. This would encompass manuals, policies, procedures, frequently asked questions and so on. Knowledge that is critical at an organizational level will be accessible to all staff, whereas knowledge that is only needed at a team level is controlled via a series of site permissions.
Knowledge publishing though needs to be accompanied by systematic indexing and an advanced search functionality. In this way, staff will be able to quickly and easily locate the specific piece of knowledge they are after.
The same principles can also be applied to knowledge publishing from external sources. If your business is affected by, for example, government or state guidelines then these can also be published and indexed on the intranet.
In addition, staff can have certainty that the most up-to-date information and data is on the intranet. They will not have to double check that the product manual they are using is the latest version as the intranet will be the central source of truth when it comes to knowledge management.
The intranet can also facilitate the sharing of knowledge across the organization and it can do this in a variety of ways.
Perhaps the most obvious way is by connecting employees through the staff directory. A staff directory that includes photos, short biographies or a synopsis of areas of expertise and current projects will facilitate connectedness. It will put staff members in touch with subject experts and sources of help within the organization. Two-way links from the directory entry directly to the project areas the staff member is involved in would be very useful.
In fact, the directory is usually the most-used feature of the office intranet with staff members often referring to it several times a day. So why not also use it as part of your knowledge management strategy? The challenge through will be to make sure that employees keep their entries in the directory up to date and management will need to have processes in place to ensure this happens.
Blogs and wikis are another great way in which the intranet can facilitate knowledge sharing. Enabling staff to comment on and contribute their insights in wikis or blogs, as well as encouraging participation, also facilitates the transfer of tacit knowledge in an organization. Furthermore, making some of these blogs organization-wide will encourage the breaking down of team and departmental information silos that all too often are a feature of organizations. They will have an important part to play in promoting a common sense of purpose and a corporate identity rather than a narrow team focus.
The intranet is the natural platform for encouraging and promoting knowledge collaboration amongst staff. Sometimes called communities of practice, collaborative project spaces on the intranet enable staff to work together to achieve a task, project or common goal. A project space could, for example, be set up to work on enhancing the customer experience. There could be multiple membership with representatives from across the business contributing their expertise and insights. Pertinent data, information and best practice ideas can be shared in the project space and policies and procedures worked on collaboratively. The project space can even bring together staff from different offices, cities or countries. Staff members can simply login and begin contributing at a time that suits them. Collaborative workspaces, therefore, eliminate the need for scheduling face to face meetings, long email conversations, or the sending of documents back and forth for comments and amendments.
Furthermore, the knowledge gained and the outputs achieved by the customer experience project, or indeed any of your collaborative projects, can in turn be shared with other areas of the business through the intranet.
Empower Your Staff!
Using the intranet to support your knowledge management strategy helps to unlock hidden knowledge with your organization and it will empower staff members. The intranet makes it easier for your staff to get involved in the action by contributing their knowledge and expertise easily and quickly in multiple ways. As well as having great content, you will also have an empowered workforce that feels valued and recognized. An added bonus is the positive impact it will have on your levels of staff engagement as well as turnover, absenteeism and sickness rates.
Is knowledge management an issue in your organization? Are you developing a knowledge management strategy? Do you want some advice on how an intranet can help manage the knowledge within your organization? For an informal discussion on the possibilities, contact the team at MyHub.