One of the first things we hear consulting firms, especially the big ones, talk about for a successful digital transformation is the need to address corporate culture. This is true, but there’s one thing almost everyone forgets that should be in lockstep with culture. And that, is knowledge management.
Many an organisation today understands it needs good knowledge and information management, but often lacks an understanding of what good KM/IM is and what it’s benefits are to the bottom-line. The knowledge management software sector is growing quite rapidly. According to Zion Market Research, it is expected to reach a CAGR of USD$1.2 Billion by 2025. That is, the software tools that enable better knowledge management. Most of them are designed for the enterprise market, that is, businesses that are in or close to the Fortune 500 category.
Enterprise businesses have been heavily focused on KM for years and Information Management (IM) has been embedded for decades. Neither KM nor IM are new and often, these terms are used interchangeably. So let’s try to separate the two. Information Management is the broader term, I argue, that encompasses KM. IM includes data governance, cybersecurity, policies and procedures, information security policies and the technologies that enable all the above as well as Knowledge Management. KM is the tools and best practices the turn information into knowledge that can then be turned into intelligence. In other words, getting the right information to the right person at the right time to make the right decision.
For small to medium sized enterprises however, KM is not always top of mind, its value less understood and often seen as being an information technology such as Microsoft Sharepoint or Google Workspace (formerly GSuite.) It is not the tools at all. Nor should the IT department be wholly responsible for IM or KM. IT departments know how to deploy and configure these tools, but they are not trained in either IM or KM. An IT team may be able to train employees how to use these tools, but they aren’t knowledgeable in how to structure information to become knowledge and thus manage it.
If an organisation is about to undergo a digital transformation (or adaptation as we prefer), it is key to know how your organisation manages and knowledge and information. If it turns out that for you to reach digital maturity includes getting good Business Intelligence (BI) to make more effective decisions, you will need to have good KM best practices in place and the tools that can feed a BI solution. Even if your digital adaptation will just focus on improved customer service or becoming more digital in your marketing, you will still have to have good best practices around KM. A key part of inbound (digital) marketing and customer service is a knowledge base employees can draw upon to make better decisions.
While it may sound daunting, it doesn’t have to be. Knowledge Management (KM) doesn’t mean investing massive amounts of money and time in buying new tools, but it will need attention. There are some simple steps to getting to a solid Knowledge Management Strategy. But that’s for another day.