Aligning an Organization: A Knowledge Management Case Study
If knowledge is power, then sharing knowledge must be the highest form of employee empowerment. So why aren’t organizations focusing their energy on knowledge management?
When I arrived at WalkMe, I noticed that each department had their own system for exchanging information. As our company scaled globally, our internal knowledge became increasingly siloed.
This hurt our ability to communicate effectively and synchronize goals cross-company.
For large organizations, knowledge sharing redundancies not only cause technical gaps and internal misalignments but also take a huge toll on the employee experience. It goes beyond individual productivity, affecting the performance of every, single department from Marketing to Support.
The Solution: A Knowledge Consolidation Project
We needed to get all of WalkMe on one page and develop a practical knowledge management system to take us forward.
To do this we launched a project which would:
- Consolidate all existing WalkMe knowledge bases and content into one knowledge base.
- Onboard the entire company to a standardized way of accessing, creating and sharing information.
The benefits of using one central knowledge management software
- Reduced overall knowledge management costs
- Consistency in processes and conventions
- Cross-organizational alignment
- Prevention of knowledge gaps
- Enhanced communication and unified messaging (same terminology)
This is part one in a two-part series. In this article, I will review how to successfully prepare for your content management consolidation project. In part two we will tackle how to successfully complete the project and put processes in place to safeguard knowledge enablement practices.
So in the name of sharing knowledge, here are the best practices I learned from managing this project:
Step 1: Define knowledge management success
Take a moment before launching a large-scale project of this kind to examine the needs of your organization.
What pain point is this project aiming to solve? To create unified messaging? To boost agility and communication? To streamline processes across departments?
Define your objectives and make these the core of your strategy. Craft a knowledge management strategy that suits your specific needs. Keep in mind that the following guidelines are based on my experience, meaning your needs may differ.
Step 2: Create a network of stakeholders
A project of this size and scale needs support if it is going to succeed. Without a clear vision and strong backing from upper management, you’ll find yourself chasing after people who consistently de-prioritize your requests.
Before you begin, the ROI and value of this effort should be clear to everyone involved. KPIs should be set across the organization to ensure responsibility is distributed and all parties are all on board.
In addition, you will need to recruit relevant individuals from each department who will “own” the project locally. These stakeholders will be instrumental in understanding each department’s needs, evaluating their content, and creating excitement among their colleagues.
Step 3: Map out existing knowledge
Let’s say you are moving into a new apartment with your significant other for the first time. You’ll need to evaluate the items each person owns in order to decide what to bring into your new home.
For example, you don’t need two washing machines. On the other hand, you might find that neither of you owns a decent bed frame or that the upholstery on your furniture doesn’t match colors of the new apartment. Knowing what you have and what you are missing will help simplify the next steps in the move.
A similar concept can be applied to the content within your organization. Comb through the current knowledge base software and take note of the following:
- Duplicated content
- Articles that are out of date
- Articles that use different terminology to describe the same message
- Any unnecessary or useless content
Local owners of knowledge within each department should be closely involved with this process.
Step 4: Decide whether you will combine external and internal knowledge management
I could write an entire post about the pros and cons of combining separate verses conjoined knowledge bases for customers, partners, and employees.
If I had to summarize, I would say that having a single knowledge base is best practice as it helps align internal and external communication.
However, doing so adds a layer of complexity to the project that must be taken into account. You will need to keep this in mind throughout the duration of the project from template creation to permission segmentation, designing an end-to-end flow with a consumer-friendly user experience.
Step 5: Define terminology and templates
Part of content management consolidation is creating a unified language that is used across the organization regardless of the subject matter.
This means similar documents must share the same structure and logic.The idea is that each template will be used for all articles of that document type regardless of the author and when it is written.
Doing so will make sure content is not only accessible but understandable to any individual within the organization.
This groundwork will set the stage not only for stronger communication but also better collaboration between departments.
Step 6: Specify features and use-cases
As with any technology, the user experience will influence the way users interact with the knowledge base software. Consider the needs of your organization and then define your must-have features and functions according to your use cases.
In this stage, you should also define the requirements for the creation of new knowledge.
Here is a short list of features to consider:
- Permissions: What content should be restricted and to whom?
- Workflows: Who can create articles? Who can edit? Who needs to approve changes?
- Mixed media: What formats are supported (hyperlinks, images, videos, drawing tools, calendars)?
- Comments: How will users interact with each other on the platform? For example, we found the ability to tag fellow users helped us drive engagement and ensured the conversations stayed on the platform.
- Third-party applications: What additional software will you need to integrate (product management tools, Salesforce, etc.)?
Step 7: Choose a knowledge base software
Now that you know what you need, it is time to go shopping.
The knowledge base software you choose will play a huge role in the ongoing success of any content management consolidation project. My recommendation is to choose a market leader — a company at the forefront of tech will be best suited to meet your needs.
At WalkMe we learned this lesson the hard way by choosing the wrong knowledge base software at first.
After trying to work through the kinks and rigidity of the technology, we eventually scrapped our efforts and moved to our current knowledge base, Confluence. This solution afforded us the flexibility that we needed and enabled us to personalization to our unique needs.
Getting your hands dirty
Part two of this series will tackle the next steps of a content management consolidation project: putting the parts in action. I will cover best practices for sifting through existing knowledge, boosting engagement, driving platform adoption and pushing your company to become a knowledge-driven organization.