Knowledge Management | 9 mins read

Knowledge Management- Complete Overview, Strategies, and Practices

knowledge management complete overview strategies and practices
Lauren Christiansen

By Lauren Christiansen

The manner in which brands acquire and seek a knowledge strategy is an important concept with dire effects if executed poorly. When it comes to organizational learning, companies explore community practice by observing and recognizing how their team processes information, the brand, as a whole, can then discern the best methods in improving the organizational structure.

With the revolutionary advancements in information technology, the regular use of computers has altered the manner in which information is stored and processed. Now, companies all across the world are learning to adapt to this new knowledge.

When it comes to content management, document management, or any type of valuable company data, businesses are changing the way they store and share information in order to fit the needs of the modern-day employee. This fosters a sense of unified teamwork within an organization, positively impacting decision making, morale, and productivity.

One recent way of storing, sharing, and distributing information that has shown to be fruitful has been through the use and application of knowledge management software systems.

What is Knowledge Management?

When breaking down the knowledge management framework, it's best to consider the words and each's simple defition. The word knowledge refers to the understanding that individuals acquire through study or practice, while management can be defined as the coordination of tasks from superiors to subordinates with a specific goal or endpoint to be achieved. Therefore, the definition of knowledge management can be identified as the process by which an organization or company collects, organizes, creates, and manages information in order to make it easily available to all employees.

Although people process new information differently, with effective knowledge management practices set in place, all team members throughout the organization can be set up for success.

With a knowledge management strategy, companies can manage information so that it is easily accessible and distributable to each individual within the company. A knowledge management based system is a system or database within the company that accomplishes the latter.

There are two specific types of knowledge- explicit and tacit. Explicit knowledge is information that is easy to explain, write down, or share with others. Tacit knowledge is knowledge that is based on personal experience, and is often more difficult to express. These knowledge types can be broken down further into two specific categories, which include

  • Factual Knowledge- Knowledge that we know by observing data
  • Conceptual Knowledge- Knowledge that relates to systems and perspectives
  • Expectational Knowledge- Knowledge that is judged by hypotheses or expectation
  • Methodological Knowledge- Knowledge that deals with decision-making and solving issues or difficulties that arise
These four different types of knowledge are the ways in which people discover and process information. Companies use knowledge management in order to distribute this information to employees. Companies can then assist those employees who are looking to understand certain information by making it streamlined, organized, effective, and simple.

When it comes to the business process, the methodology of applying knowledge management in companies includes software systems, databases, (external and internal), documents, policies, procedures, and tacit knowledge (see above), or experiences from other individuals within the company that were not known previously.

In essence, knowledge management is the software system in which companies store and distribute information so employees can use their four knowledge-based skills to discover what they need to know about a specific topic at work, or at their own company.

What Are the Benefits of Knowledge Management?

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If used properly by companies, knowledge management is an integrated approach of giving employees the information they need in order to complete a task, acquire a new skill, or save sensitive data. There are many other benefits of knowledge management, which include

Knowledge Sharing
Companies can create a culture where information is easily accessed, shared, stored, and managed. It saves time for employers to streamline information for employees, so it is all in one database or space. It also fosters a culture of learning within the company by creating an atmosphere where learning is simple, easy to access, and where documents or materials can be shared freely, if necessary.

Protects Information
Information within a company must be protected properly in order to prevent hacking or illegal sharing of sensitive data and documents by unwanted persons. Also, no company wants its competitors to have access to any of this information. Knowledge management is a good way for employers to ensure that important information is protected beyond a "privacy policy."

Optimizes Training Process
The training process will be efficient and easier for both employees and managers because the training materials are all stored in one, user-friendly place. Any other knowledge-based learning programs that companies have can also be accessed in one location, so there are not back and forths about where specific materials, questions, and information are located.

Reduces Paperwork
A customized knowledge management system makes everything digital, so there's no need for paperwork that can get lost. Nor will there be a risk that information will be disorganized or sensitive data will be lost.

Reduces Cost
It's important to avoid costly errors in a company, and a knowledge management system offers step-by-step guides that help to eliminate the types of mistakes that can easily be made on paper.

Offers an Organizational Learning Approach
Organizational learning is based on applying knowledge for a purpose and learning from the process and outcome. Companies can have organizational learning for their employees by implementing a knowledge management based system. This ensures that employees will have both tacit and implicit (see above for reference) information that is securely stored so that employees can gain new skills in the workplace.

Creates Happy Customers
Customers will be satisfied that the company is handling any external information (or information that goes out to the customer) in an efficient and customizable way. Customers can also resolve issues without help much of the time, as everything is on an optimized and user-friendly software system.

Understanding the Various Strategies

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How a company approaches the implementation of knowledge management is important for employers and employees. The company wants to make sure that the process is streamlined and organized so employees can understand references and training materials. Here are some effective strategies to remember when implementing knowledge management-

Make it User Friendly
Make sure that your knowledge management system is user friendly for both employees so the company doesn't have to worry about resolving too many technical issues, or being unable to answer questions. In short, make it as simple and optimized as can be to avoid any unnecessary headaches.

Make it Tech-Friendly
Make sure to create your knowledge systems that facilitate sharing and simple collaboration, and do so with tech-friendly and mobile-friendly means.

Make it Fun
Most companies don't consider making their knowledge management systems fun, but there are ways of doing so. This can include adding in interactive training activities, creating learning videos, and adding visual pictures. This will help employees enjoy using the system, while also retaining the most benefit from it.

Make it Process Friendly
The focus should be on how easy it is for others to understand and learn the new information that you are implementing with your knowledge management system. Make sure it is a simple and concise process for users to go through the information and learn the material or information.

Make it Personable
Any knowledge management software system needs for each user to be able to access collected knowledge, or codified knowledge, in a safe and effective way. Make sure that there is ample room for interaction and sharing knowledge between employees, the easy ability to move information to another person or location if necessary, and an environment where everyone feels comfortable interacting with one another.

Stay Communicated
When moving to a knowledge management based-system, employees need to understand how much the benefits of the system outweigh any system that previously existed. The company must explain to employees how the system works, why it works the way it does, and why it will be more helpful than the system they worked with previously. This will make employees feel fully confident about interacting, asking questions, looking for information, and saving sensitive data.

Knowledge Management Systems and Technology

There are many different types of knowledge management technologies, including data mining, multimedia, collaboration, and the Internet. Because of the large variety of technologies and systems available, there is so much that a company needs to consider when implementing or changing over to a knowledge management-based system. The way in which information is stored and systemized is very important for employees. Companies need to protect their intellectual property properly and securely.

Employees need to learn and transfer information in a user-friendly, collaborative environment, as well as know that sensitive data is secure. Considering all of these factors, here are some key points regarding the technological features of your knowledge management system during the implementation process.

Making sure the technology within the knowledge management system is safe and secure is the most important aspect. Employers want to transfer or save data if the system is not secure. Nor does the company want to worry about competitors having access to internal information.

Whatever type of knowledge management system the company implements, it must be simple to use. Larger companies deal with many different people, and not every single one of them will be tech-savvy. A good rule of thumb is to create a system where even the most computer illiterate person could easily understand it, if it is properly explained and taught. Also, employees need to be able to perform tasks quickly on the knowledge management based system. If it takes too long, or is too difficult of a process, they won't want to use it.

Up- to-Date
The company needs to make sure that the knowledge management system is new, and problems can be resolved easily. In older systems, components can break down and need technical assistance on a regular basis. Also, a company doesn't want to use a system that is older or less efficient than their competitors', because customers can be lured by a simpler and faster process of storing information. Make sure your knowledge management system reflects the values of the company progressive, innovative, and current.

Best Practices for Improving or Implementing Knowledge Management

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Now that knowledge management systems have been explained and the benefits have been expanded upon, it's time to understand how to improve upon an already existing knowledge management system. If a company has already decided to move towards knowledge management, and wants a new system, or wants to improve upon the old system, here are some principal factors to consider.

Ask for Feedback
Asking for regular feedback from employees is critical if the company is considering making a change in their current knowledge management system. The company needs to know what works within the system and what doesn't on a regular basis so they can figure out if they need an entirely new system, or just need to update the old one.

Consider How the Company Operates Already
If the company's knowledge management system doesn't work with the flow of day-to-day operations within the company, then it's time to change the system so that it does. In other words, the system needs to work quickly and effectively so that day-to-day tasks are completed efficiently, and it can't conflict with what the company needs to do in order to operate and do as well as competitors.

Define Goals
The company needs to know what they want accomplished and what can be done better within day-to-day operations. Then, they can adjust their knowledge management system to fit those goals.