What is Knowledge Management? Definition of KM, Best Practices, and More

For nearly three decades, knowledge management (KM) has been a documented and integral part of building organizations and businesses that run smoothly. Today, knowledge management is increasingly reliant on digital asset management (DAM) to facilitate the seamless organization and discoverability of knowledge within the growing vault of information modern companies maintain.

Definition of Knowledge Management What is Knowledge Management?

The classic, concise, and still-accurate definition of knowledge management comes courtesy of Tom Davenport, “Knowledge Management is the process of capturing, distributing, and effectively using knowledge.”

To go a bit deeper, KM can refer to any and all processes related to the creation, sharing, use, and management of your company or organization’s knowledge. Note that knowledge management is related to, but differs from information management: Whereas information management simply provides the right information to the right people at the right time, knowledge management goes beyond that to provide insights, know-how, experience, and guidance about that information. KM is mentorship in written form.

In other words, knowledge management encompasses a multidisciplinary approach to organizing, accessing, and leveraging shared intellectual assets to enhance performance, increase competitiveness, and achieve other company goals. As such, KM is an integral component of an overall business strategy.

Should You Develop a Knowledge Management Strategy?

In a word, yes. Think of knowledge management as a kind of company memoir: when a senior executive retires, or an essential employee goes on vacation, or even when new hires come on board, you need clear and detailed documentation of company standards, expert know-how, and general experience. KM keeps everyone in your company up to speed.

Good knowledge management documentation also helps your company learn from past experience. Once you’ve developed good policies, procedures, and other intellectual capital, KM enables you to save time (and avoid repeat mistakes), and reuse documented knowledge across your departments, projects, and locations.

How to Develop a Knowledge Management Strategy

The most important step in developing a KM strategy is to formalize your intent. Knowledge management must be documented. There must be a roadmap. And that roadmap must involve the various arms of your company and address people, processes, and content, as well as the culture and technology.

Start with specific goals for knowledge management: what do you hope to achieve by developing this strategy? Defining one major, overarching goal helps define how to approach your current knowledge – what to ask, what angle to take, whom to include, etc. – and what you’ll want to formally document.

Get insights from leadership. To uncover these goals, the first step is to talk with the senior staff, managers, and other employees in a position of power or leadership. Discuss what’s important. Consider your objectives, both generally and then more specifically related to KM: what knowledge is often discussed and always important? What intellectual assets are shared, again and again?

Build a roadmap. The second step is to work on your roadmap: What strategy will you take to document what you’ve discovered from the first step? What goals do you have for this strategy? And, how will you achieve it? A clear strategy clearly articulates your end goal, as well as how you’ll get there. Additionally, a well-defined strategy with clear goals will keep you on track throughout the process.

Knowledge Management Best Practices

KM documentation can be as simple as developing a PDF accessible to everyone in the company, or as in-depth (and time-intensive) as involved presentations, company training sessions, lessons, and other methods of getting everyone on board with your KM. Bottom line: there is no one “right” way, but there are a few “right” considerations:

  1. Document your knowledge. While your method and form of documentation will depend on you, your knowledge, and your company, you do need to formally document that knowledge.
  2. Compartmentalize. Good KM does not equal one enormous, novel-esque document. Instead, separate different types of knowledge into different formats. For example, an expert’s step-by-step decision-making process should not live in the same document as a what-we’ve-learned review of a past project failure.
  3. Know your “learners.” Flesh out real, live personas of the users who will need to access and utilize each type of knowledge. Then, develop a plan to get them up-to-speed. It could be as simple as emailing them a PDF document, while in other cases, you may need to set them up with one-on-one mentorship to efficiently pass along important intellectual capital. Either way, establish standards and policies for each knowledge asset and learner.
  4. Be flexible. Some knowledge, once learned, does not change; that’s perfect for static documentation. That said, other knowledge is fluid and evolves quickly, and thus may require a more responsive network.
  5. Consider your method of delivery. Some knowledge, as discussed, is best transferred one-on-one, while other documentation you need to have at your fingertips, to be emailed, messaged, or otherwise delivered in an instant. Consider the use cases for each type of knowledge, and develop its delivery method accordingly.

What’s the Link Between KM and DAM?

Knowledge management (KM) and digital asset management (DAM) are inexorably linked, even though most companies haven’t historically treated them as such. According to Tony Byrne (2018 Predictions for Digital Leaders, Real Story Group), “Historically, Digital Asset Management technology has served outward-facing use cases: for publishing, broadcasting, marketing, customer engagement, and the like. 2018 will see an emerging use case around using DAM tools for internal knowledge management use cases, especially as enterprise knowledge becomes more componentized and media-based.”

This year, challenge your company to revolutionize your knowledge management, using the DAM tools you already have at your fingertips.

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