When a business is in its founding phase, it’s undeniably chaotic, but it’s also when company communication is at its peak. Everyone is on a first-name basis and working toward the same goal.
If Mark in sales needs financial information about the company for a potential customer, it’s easy to run down the hall to ask Bethany, the CFO. If Bethany wants next quarter’s marketing forecasts, Harper, the CMO, is just steps away.
Soon, though, the business grows, which of course, is the goal. Then the company hires an HR team, and the staff begins to expand. And then, perhaps without noticing, something happens—silos develop.
Harper and Bethany might still know each other, but their employees may not. Sales, for example, becomes wholly removed from the people responsible for building the company’s products. They may even be siloed off from others involved in the sales cycle.
The most significant loss in a siloed organization isn’t about names or distance to colleagues’ workstations; the most significant loss is democratized access to company knowledge.
This blog will discuss best practices for transforming scattered company knowledge into a single source of truth, a.k.a., an intelligent Content Library.
What is knowledge management?
Knowledge management refers to how companies collect, organize, analyze, share, and maintain valuable company documents and data. The objective is to democratize knowledge and empower employees to accomplish more in less time.
Knowledge management is also about ensuring that everyone in the organization is on the same page—a single source of truth. Effective knowledge management prevents miscommunication, incorrect information, and knowledge gaps. It also spurs productivity and helps connect, if not tear down, silos.
Knowledge management systems
A knowledge management system is about managing a centralized repository of all of an organization’s information. It may include shareholder or annual reports, marketing collateral, sales enablement material, legal documents, contracts, company data, software documentation, operating procedures, etc.
Knowledge, of course, is fluid—so is an effective knowledge management system. The software should prompt gatekeepers to run regular audits for inaccurate, non-regulatory compliant, or out-of-date files. It should also remind them when a record might need to be virtually shredded.
Aside from its employees, internal knowledge is a company’s most important asset. Accurate and up-to-date knowledge management systems help executives, response management teams, sales, marketing, accounting, human resources, etc., do their jobs. Does that mean all employees should have access to the entire knowledge base all the time? Definitely not, but we’ll elaborate on that in a bit.
The importance of managing internal knowledge
We are in the midst of the Information Age. Nearly anything we’d want to know is a simple Google search away. But can we say the same about workplaces? As much as that might be the goal, for most organizations, the unfortunate truth is no.
- 75% of organizations qualify creating and preserving knowledge as important or very important.
- Only 9% of those organizations say they are ready to address knowledge management.
- About ⅓ of organizations haven’t leveraged any form of artificial intelligence (AI) for knowledge management.
- Only 8% say they’re leveraging AI to a great extent.
- More than half of companies’ data goes unused.
- An employee survey showed that over 90% of respondents think it should be as easy to find company knowledge as it is to find information on Google.
- Most think it’s easier for consumers to find information.
Advantages of developing a knowledge management system include:
- Informed decision making – All the data and documentation is at decision makers’ fingertips.
- Better strategies – Knowledge management systems provide click-of-a-button access to sales and market trends.
- Increased revenue – Arm sales and response teams with the knowledge they need to win more business.
- Increased efficiency and productivity – No more searching for information.
- Improved proposal quality – Content at your fingertips provides more time to write and edit a compelling, bid-winning story.
- Increased response accuracy – Reusing existing company-approved content is far less error-prone than rushing to compile information and provides more time to check work.
- Trend analysis – Generate reports from anywhere.
- Staying ahead of competition – Compile competitive and market research.
- Expert knowledge retention – No one likes to answer the same questions twice (or more).
What is content creation and reuse?
Content creation is about generating content that appeals to a company’s persona buyer. Content can come in written, visual, or audio form. 81% of organizations see content as a core business strategy.
A content management system allows users to create, collaborate, publish, edit, store, and catalog digital content right on the platform. Advanced content management systems help take work off of users’ hands, leveraging AI to read, catalog, and store uploaded documents.
Then, instead of reinventing the wheel each time stakeholders need information, they can reuse and edit content as required.
Best practices for knowledge management
Knowledge management aims to create an effective single source of truth, with accurate and up-to-date information. Whether a stakeholder works in sales, response management, legal, finance, or HR, the information should be easily searchable, consistent, and repeatable.
But consistency and repeatability on their own aren’t enough. A knowledge management system needs to not only have the scalability to grow and change with the organization but also to help the organization grow and change.
Determine the best type of management solution for your company
There are two main knowledge management solutions: company wikis and internal knowledge bases. Let’s delve a little deeper into which solution might work best for your organization.
Did you know that the word “wiki” means “very quick” in Hawaiian? It sort of seems like an oxymoron for island life, right?
A corporate wiki is basically the same concept as Wikipedia. A wiki allows any employee to add, delete, or edit content. And surprisingly, most wikis are pretty quick.
- Are knowledge repositories – Employees add knowledge to the database as it becomes available.
- Are searchable – As with Wikipedia, corporate wikis are easily searchable.
- Save time – If the information is in the wiki, there’s no need to track down subject matter experts.
- Improve employee engagement – Since wikis are open to all employees, even relatively bottom-of-the-ladder employees can participate in information gathering, sharing, and utilization.
- Support links – A single document or piece of content might have one or more parent or child records. Wikis let users link to related documents and content.
- Some, but not all, wikis are open source.
Still, corporate wikis are not without their downsides, including:
- Unreliable contributors – Sometimes, knowledge can be too democratized, and contributors might not have the entire picture.
- Inaccurate information – Wikis don’t generally have quality control measures in place.
- Difficult to audit – Knowledge can have a short shelf life. Wikis aren’t famous for processes to weed out and update old content. Also, anyone can edit.
- No way to define page roles – Wikis are open to all employees; there is no way to limit viewing or editing rights.
Internal knowledge bases
On the other hand, an internal knowledge base has more in common with a library, only without space limitations. Ideally, a knowledge base should house all company knowledge, and after an employee enters their login credentials, a library card of sorts, the virtual librarian directs the user to the content they need.
But there’s more to an internal knowledge base than gatekeeping and pointing users in the right direction. A true internal knowledge base should have several key features, including:
- Built-in smart search feature – Leverage AI assistance for fast and accurate searching.
- Custom fields – No two companies are alike; they should be able to create fields that match their company needs.
- Multi-format capability – An AI-powered internal knowledge base should support both written content such as question and answer pairs, and uploaded documents.
- An intuitive and easy-to-navigate user interface – What good is an internal knowledge base if it’s difficult to use?
- Tagging – You would never just throw files in a file cabinet. Think of your knowledge library as a sophisticated file cabinet. All content should be tagged and, if applicable, attached to parent and/or child folders.
- User restrictions – Content creation and editing are reserved for verified specialists.
- Simplified auditing – Function within the parameters of a content strategy with regular audits.
- Scalability – A knowledge management system needs to grow as your company grows.
Implement change in gradual steps
Too much change all at once is a shock to the system. Prioritize departments in need and introduce the system to one department at a time. Gradually expand as you dial in training, word of mouth circulates about how great the system is, and you have success stories to share with new departments and executive sponsors.
Showcase improvement metrics
Internal knowledge base software capabilities allow easy, quantifiable measurements of post-implementation success. The functional value of knowledge management will rapidly become apparent to end users in how they can execute their responsibilities.
See how Genpact increased efficiency by up to 35% with their RFPIO-powered knowledge base.
They’ll be able to build better proposals faster, respond to prospects and customers with greater accuracy in near real-time, and gain contextual insight into all the content relevant to their role.
The strategic value of knowledge management is that you’re able to show the system’s value to your leadership team so that they can trust your reporting accuracy. Numbers don’t lie, but you need measurement capabilities to get the numbers. Plus, it makes it easier to measure ROI. You have to communicate the value of your single source of truth.
Internal knowledge base software easily allows you to measure success post-implementation. I’ll call out three of my favorite RFPIO reports that help illustrate its strategic value:
- Content Library Insights Report – This dashboard connects you to insights on your Content Library, including content moderation and usage, content owners, and content moderators.
- Content Library Timeline – More of a tool than a report, this allows you to proactively set SME schedules, so content auditing responsibilities are parsed out manageably instead of piling on hundreds of questions at the end of the year. From a reporting standpoint, it shows leadership how SMEs use their time.
- Content Library Search Terms Report – Which terms are end users searching but receiving zero results for? This report delivers instant insight into which content you need to develop to meet user—and ultimately prospect and customer—needs.
Ensure that your team can access the knowledge they need for shared success
If knowledge is not accessible and usable at scale, then it’s probably not worth managing. Sales teams need content to answer tough prospect questions in near real-time and build personalized presentations. Proposal teams need on-demand knowledge to answer questionnaires and create engaging proposals. Support teams need access to knowledge from wherever they’re working without toggling between applications to improve the customer experience.
This can only happen with open access to the knowledge management system. That’s why RFPIO provides unlimited user licenses, so everyone who can benefit from knowledge can also access knowledge. Technical, product development, sales, marketing, legal, security…all of this content has value and will strengthen your knowledge management. The right system will help you restrict access to sensitive content that may include private, confidential, or proprietary information.
Managing organizational knowledge with RFPIO® LookUp
Remote work and distributed workforces are the new norms, so why should employees have to go to the office to access the knowledge database?
RFPIO’s internal knowledge base software enables better organizational knowledge management. RFPIO® LookUp provides team-wide access to RFPIO’s Content Library from anywhere and from preferred productivity tools, such as:
- Google Chrome
- Chromium Edge
- Google Hangouts
- Microsoft Word
- Microsoft Excel
- Microsoft PowerPoint
- Microsoft Outlook
- Microsoft Teams
Whether from a salesperson in the field or a response manager who works from home, enhanced accessibility helps facilitate content reuse, enable real-time access to corporate expertise, improve response time, and scale the ability to respond to RFPs from wherever they have access to a computer.
See RFPIO® LookUp in action
I often say that RFPIO’s robust, scalable Content Library is like Clark Kent—bookish, a little nerdy, but incredibly smart and has the strength of a superhero. RFPIO® LookUp removes the metaphorical glasses and lets the Content Library fly to any destination at the speed of, well, the internet.