Knowledge Management is a real discipline that aims to build, manage and renew the company’s knowledge base, to maximize the effectiveness of a company’s know-how and the performance of its knowledge assets.
Knowledge Management includes all the tools and methods to collect and manage knowledge related to a company, eliminating redundancies and knowledge gaps, which can be created when documentation remains separate between company departments.
By creating a single database where all intellectual capital is collected, the company’s know-how is protected and the search for data and information is facilitated, increasing staff efficiency.
Sharing content across all departments encourages alignment of interdisciplinary goals, communication, and collaboration between people to develop projects and create new knowledge.
The object of Knowledge Management is the Knowledge Base, the amount of information available to the company or organization. It is one of the main resources for companies, a source of competitive and economic advantage, and it is made up of explicit knowledge, i.e. documented and easily transferable, and tacit knowledge, which resides in people, linked to the experience of company players and the context.
These include, for example, problem-solving best practices, which are extremely important because they enable work to be done most efficiently, facilitating decision-making and helping to improve business performance.
The Knowledge Base contains the wealth of information and procedures that are fundamental to employees and customers: the so-called know-how.
For this reason, it is important that the intellectual capital can be easily accessible and shared among the various departments, so that everyone, according to his or her role, can take advantage of the information made available to carry out work activities in the best possible way.
The origins of Knowledge Management are rooted in antiquity: since the birth of the first libraries, the goal was to share and pass on knowledge. Even in the Middle Ages, the Arts and Crafts fraternities carried on the student-master learning scheme, based on the cardinal principles of modern knowledge management.
There are different currents of thought on the origins of the discipline as we know it today: according to some sources, they date back to the 1990s, when two Japanese scholars, Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi, theorized the distinction between tacit and explicit knowledge, in what is referred to in their research as “organizational knowledge creation.”
It is defined as a form of total collaboration between the different components of a company, which involves the creation and circulation of knowledge at multiple levels, incorporating it into products, services, and systems.
Inspired by Japanese work organization, this theory gathers insights from many different fields, such as business organization, sociology, philosophy, cognitive science, archival science, and computer science.
In fact, in the European environment, we have mention of a first definition of the concept of Knowledge Management in 1986, when Karl Wiig theorized its foundations during a conference of the International Workers’ Organization of the United Nations:
“Knowledge Management is the systematic, explicit, and deliberate construction, renewal, and application of knowledge to maximize an enterprise’s knowledge-related effectiveness and the return on its knowledge assets.”
The more common short definition is, however, attributed to Tom Davenport (1994):
Certainly, the terminology and concept of KM were developed within the management consulting community and are undoubtedly related to the growth of the Internet. The first tools developed to manage corporate knowledge were, in fact, Intranets, i.e., internal networks that allow information to be shared across a closed set of units, even those far apart.
It was in 1993 that the first Conference on Information and Knowledge Management (CIKM) was held, an international forum on the state of research and studies on the subject. It was here that the first large consulting firms began to offer (and sell) knowledge management and organization services to their clients. From that moment on, KM began to receive more and more attention and established itself in the corporate world.
Today, technological evolution has made it possible to make great strides and the tools available to Knowledge Management are based not only on the use of Information Technology (IT), but increasingly on Artificial Intelligence (AI).
However, we are realizing that the goal of sharing knowledge among people, even in different locations or divisions, is not so easy to achieve.
This is because an important feature of Knowledge Management, which is not always taken into account in the definitions given so far, is the presence of an organization, which also emerges in its historical origin. The primary interest that drives the sharing of knowledge is precisely that of passing it on and spreading it within a community.
For this reason, the cultural dimension, even within the corporate group, is extremely important: not only is it necessary to provide increasingly intuitive and user-friendly tools, suitable for capturing, organizing and distributing information, but also to share the same corporate vision and be aligned on considering knowledge a fundamental asset for generating value.
Knowledge Management aims to circulate corporate knowledge and store information, making it accessible when needed.
In order to implement this type of activity, it is necessary to use knowledge management tools that allow you to import all the know-how, search for information and obtain it when required.
As a set of methodologies and processes, Knowledge Management includes within it heterogeneous factors, namely:
In fact, Knowledge Management software refers to any IT system that allows you to:
1) Capture, store and retrieve information
To do this, the KMS must import, or create from scratch, the knowledge base from which to extract the required answers and documents at the right time.
Document management software can automate this import, without the need to rewrite content in a language other than natural language, allowing you to optimize system implementation time.
2) Indexing and manage knowledge
In the creation of enterprise information repositories, knowledge can be indexed into categories to facilitate its subsequent navigation. Thanks to Artificial Intelligence, Knowledge Management systems have evolved and even this step can be automated, quickly integrating solutions into business processes.
3) Easily allocate corporate resources
As a result of the circulation of information through enterprise knowledge management, the procedures and decision-making processes required to get any job done will be faster to apply. No more time will be wasted searching for answers and solving repetitive tickets, but everyone in his or her role will be able to make decisions independently, with all the knowledge he or she needs.
The availability of free and easy access to documents, product sheets, price lists, and any other type of file, allows to optimize time and costs of both Help Desk and Customer Service, offer better services, and have more satisfied customers.
4) Constitute a valuable mine of knowledge
The advantage of good corporate know-how management is that it enhances the tacit knowledge built up through workers’ experience. To take advantage of best practices and proven problem-solving procedures, it is necessary to spread the culture of sharing and offer ways of collecting knowledge. Making knowledge easily accessible to everyone is the best way to avoid wasting time and productivity.
Sharing best practices and know-how can be a competitive advantage for the company. Knowledge dispersal is a risk whenever an employee leaves or changes roles. For this reason, it is necessary that the information does not remain the prerogative of one person, but is shared as much as possible with their colleagues so that it can be searched and used easily.
5) Stimulate information and create new information
Last but not least, a KMS can help others learn and produce new knowledge. It is the project manager who must foster a culture of collaboration and encourage employees to learn, pursue their goals, and do business. If you can work together, you can stimulate the growth of new ideas, spreading the culture of innovation throughout the firm. If everyone sees their importance and contribution to improving the circulation of knowledge, there will be a greater incentive to share ideas and information. A truly vicious circle of productivity.
Before choosing the most suitable software to manage enterprise knowledge, it is necessary to be clear about the main steps to implement an enterprise Knowledge Management solution:
1. First of all, it is useful to analyze and understand the starting scenario and the challenges related to the implementation of the Knowledge Management system: what problems will it solve? If, up to now, knowledge management processes have been relegated to simple tasks of the IT department, it is necessary to make a cultural change, so that KM is considered a platform available to the entire organization and to which everyone can contribute.
2. In this phase of implementing a proper Knowledge Management System, it is necessary to define a strategy and objectives in detail, as well as to define the stakeholders, i.e. all those subjects that may be useful or have a role in the implementation of the Knowledge Management System.
3. At this point it will be useful to start mapping the Knowledge Base, classifying the contents to simplify future research. Inside the Knowledge Base, external and internal knowledge must be integrated, both explicit (documents, data, information) and tacit (derived from experience and context).
4. Once the terminology and formats have been defined, which will be used to call up certain content when necessary, we proceed to define the necessary roles and functionalities, establishing which operations can be performed, by whom, and with what restrictions.
5. At the end of this phase, it is necessary to choose a digital system, i.e., select software, that will meet the needs just highlighted.
The use of software that makes use of Artificial Intelligence may represent an innovative solution to simplify the process and the consequent use of the corporate Knowledge Base.
Using Knowledge Management software should provide some basic practical benefits:
– to be compatible with all file formats (desktop and web);
– to be integrable with multiple platforms and applications;
– to make it possible to divide into users and groups in terms of access to documents;
– to make it possible to follow up and update content, providing graphs and analysis of activities;
– to ensure data security, even in the cloud.
1. Centralize access to knowledge and encourage customer satisfaction
Certainly one of the benefits of good Knowledge Management is that it eliminates wasteful management costs: by unifying processes and communication, less time is spent searching for scattered information and data, and resources can be better distributed where they are deemed most useful.
When access to documents is quick and easy, all of the resulting activities can be optimized as well. If a customer service department needs certain information to be able to respond promptly to user requests, the KMS enables them to search for it independently and quickly, without forwarding tickets to the Help Desk or overloading colleagues in other departments. The result is not only a time saving but also an improvement in the customers’ opinion of the company.
2. Simplify information search using natural language
Digital technology provides increasingly advanced systems that simplify research and centralize knowledge.
The goal of a Knowledge Management System is to query, as a real search engine, all the information already owned by the company, through a simple and intuitive, user-friendly interface.
Combining the Knowledge Management software with a Natural Language Interface, it will be easier for users to ask questions, receive answers and suggestions, to simplify working activities.
3. Ensure content is up-to-date and promote the circulation of knowledge
Thanks to the use of AI and machine learning, Knowledge Management systems like Pigro, possess a fundamental feature: it is defined as dynamic document management precisely the feature that allows new content from linked sources to be used immediately. New blog articles, new website pages, new product sheets, etc. can be imported from a website URL, copied and pasted or imported directly from files and be constantly updated and enriched automatically, thanks to tools for creating new content and alerts that signal information gaps in the documentation.
The time saving is evident, both in the performance of work activities, but especially in the implementation phase of the entire system, which does not require modifications or transcriptions of the Knowledge Base to be usable. In addition, people with more skills can enhance their knowledge by sharing it with the rest of the company, feeling more motivated and consequently more productive.
4. Improve collaboration and productivity
The adoption of a Knowledge Management strategy fosters collaboration at multiple levels, affecting the value chain. If accompanied by the diffusion of a culture of Knowledge Sharing, it can improve innovation processes and, consequently, company performance, in order to gain a competitive advantage.
Using software that automates the import of the knowledge base, and extracts the required answers and documents at the right time, simplifies enterprise knowledge management: easily and quickly search for content, share it with colleagues, ask questions, assign resources, store new documentation, and simplify onboarding and training of new staff. These are the activities that can encourage everyone from interns to CEOs to value knowledge and circulate new ideas.
Knowledge hoarding represents a problem for all companies. It is directly related to the lack of Knowledge Sharing, often caused by a weak corporate culture that does not incentivize employees to spread ideas and information.
Some employees hoard information because it makes them feel authoritative and indispensable in the workplace, as colleagues must turn to them for advice. In other cases, collaboration and information sharing are simply not encouraged with the right technology systems and infrastructure.
Whatever the cause, the result is always the same: productivity suffers.
When employees are forced to answer the same questions over and over again, it means that the relevant documentation doesn’t exist or isn’t accessible to everyone.
This leads to slowing down their work to answer easily solved questions, wasting time that could be devoted to more relevant tasks.
In addition, when an employee leaves the firm, for example, in the event of dismissal or retirement, all knowledge related to their problem-solving experience will be lost. Often, firms do not establish policies to uniformly organize and store documentation, resulting in the loss of key knowledge (especially tacit knowledge) and preventing access to up-to-date content.
For this reason, all business units need to ensure a centralized access point to the entire knowledge base, developing a Knowledge Management system and making a cultural change (e.g., through a system of incentives for those who collaborate in sharing information and best practices). In this way, even poorly organized or hidden information can become easily searchable and traceable to make work more efficient.
When there is a lack of information sharing within the firm (or information is fragmented and poorly organized) it becomes impossible to communicate and there is less collaboration between departments.
As a result, work becomes slower, as every time an employee cannot find what they need to file paperwork, perform a procedure, or provide answers to a customer, they waste time searching through disorganized documents or opening a ticket to pass the request to a colleague, adding to their workload.
Customer relationships also deteriorate: Customer Care service, which is the main point of contact with the consumer, aims to provide consistent and accurate information to ensure that customers are satisfied. That’s why everyone must have easy and immediate access to the knowledge they need, to optimize time and resources. When this requirement is lacking, brand reputation suffers.
Often, good communication can also affect employee satisfaction: when you have tools that facilitate the exchange of information between staff or externally, with end clients, it results in the ability to work in an organized environment, where you have all the tools you need to do your job better.
Starting to put knowledge management into practice means building a climate of sharing and development, including technological development, which encourages innovation and growth, both for the individual and the organization. And this also influences the image perceived externally.
When a new employee arrives at your company, the first step is to train them and then introduce them to their new duties.
This process is called onboarding and is of fundamental importance to transfer knowledge and make the new resource operational. It serves to build and cement the relationship with the company, colleagues, and management, promoting employee retention, i.e. the ability to avoid dismissals and resignations of employees.
All too often, onboarding ends in lengthy orientation sessions, which are effectively a bare-bones learning process in which the new employee is inundated with information and documents that they have difficulty navigating.
Whenever the new employee has doubts or questions, all they can do is consult colleagues or venture into chaotic sources and archives.
Then there are those cases in which, instead, the information is missing and is not present even within the documentation: in these situations, we talk about Knowledge Gaps and it is important to know immediately if what you are looking for exists, or if it has to be built from scratch.
In both cases, having a system that allows you to access and query the knowledge base to find the information you need saves time and boosts productivity. Knowledge Management can be useful in cases such as these, both to enable new documentation to be created as needed, and to ensure that new people become familiar with tools, jargon, and company culture, as well as best practices for carrying out work activities.
Among the company’s resources, there is certainly the information and knowledge that resides in the company’s staff. Among these, of utmost importance are the best practices that enable them to address new procedures and solve problems.
Unfortunately, as seen above when talking about Knowledge Hoarding, very often these resources are not capitalized, i.e. they are not collected and organized to be made available to those who need them, resulting in high costs for the organization.
The dispersion of valuable information can lead to high costs in terms of time, both in terms of research and in terms of reconstructing the information not found, which translates into working hours not dedicated to profitable activities.
For these reasons, every company or organization must have knowledge management systems in place. Knowledge Management software allows the optimization of resources to achieve the goal of reducing business costs.
In particular, we’re talking about the material costs of creating and storing physical paper documents. Thanks to the cloud storage offered by many document management software, access to information and file retrieval are easy and possible even remotely.
Knowledge Management was developed to manage corporate knowledge, both tacit and explicit.
The focus of this branch of business is not only on mere documentation but also on people’s experience. All those who are part of an organization also represent its most important capital and are holders of know-how: they represent the so-called “tacit knowledge”.
That’s why, today, more and more enterprises are offering Knowledge Management solutions based on Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, which can minimize the efforts on the part of business customers, to facilitate the access and sharing of knowledge across all business divisions.
Focusing on the development of a good Knowledge Management system means creating the possibility for each employee or user of an organization to share and have access to information, in the easiest and fastest way possible, thus reducing costs and optimizing the use of resources involved in business processes.
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