To sell knowledge management to your stakeholders, you first need to become a KM expert yourself. This involves developing a very clear understanding of KM’s benefits to your unique organization. Please read on for the major benefits of having a successful knowledge management program, drawn from my book, Proven Practices for Promoting Knowledge Management Program.
In this post I’ll list 15 typical benefits of knowledge management; you may be able to develop others even more relevant to your organization — hopefully these will jumpstart the process.
1. Better and faster decision-making
A KM-focused environment provides the basis for making good decisions by delivering relevant information at the time of need through structure, search, subscription, syndication, and support. Collaboration brings to bear the power of large numbers, diverse opinions, and varied experience when decisions need to be made. Reusing knowledge ensures decisions are based on actual experience, large sample sizes, and practical lessons learned.
2. Users can easily find relevant information and resources
When faced with a need — to respond to a customer, solve a problem, analyze trends, assess markets, benchmark against peers, understand competition, create new offerings, plan strategy, or think critically — people typically look for information and resources to support these activities. If it is easy and fast to find what they need when they need it, they can perform all these tasks efficiently.
3. Ideas, documents, and expertise can be reused
Once you have developed an effective process, you should ensure that others use it each time a similar requirement arises. If someone has written a document or created a presentation that addresses a recurring need, it should be used in all future similar situations. When members of your organization have figured out how to solve a common problem, know how to deliver a recurring service, or have invented a new product, it’s most effective to replicate the same solution, service, and product as often as possible. Just as the recycling of materials is good for the environment, knowledge reuse is good for organizations because it minimizes rework, prevents problems, saves time, and accelerates progress.
4. No duplication of effort
No one likes spending time doing something over again — but they do so all the time, for a variety of reasons. Avoiding duplication of effort saves time and money, keeps employee morale up, and streamlines work. By not spending time reinventing the wheel, people have more time to invent something new.
5. Mistakes aren’t repeated
George Santayana said, “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.” If we don’t learn from our mistakes, we will experience them over and over again. Knowledge management allows us to share lessons learned — not only about successes, but also about failures. To do so, we must have a culture of trust, openness, and reward for willingness to talk about what we have done wrong. The potential benefits are enormous. If NASA learns why a space shuttle exploded, it can prevent recurrences and save lives. If FEMA learns what went wrong in responding to Hurricane Katrina, it can reduce the losses caused by future disasters. If engineers learn why highways and buildings collapsed during an earthquake, they can design new ones to better withstand future earthquakes. If you learn that your last bid was underestimated by 50%, you can make the next one more accurate, and thus earn a healthy profit instead of incurring a large loss.
6. Existing expertise and experience can be leveraged
Teams benefit from the individual skills and knowledge of each member. The more complementary the expertise of the team members, the greater the power of the team. In large organizations, there are people with widely varying capabilities and backgrounds, and benefits should be derived from this. But as the number of people increases, it becomes more difficult for each individual to know about everyone else. So even though there are people with knowledge who could help other people, they don’t know about each other. The late Lew Platt, former CEO of Hewlett Packard, is widely quoted as saying “If only HP knew what HP knows, we would be three times more productive.” Knowing what others know is very helpful at a time of need, when people learn from others’ experience and apply it to current requirements.
7. Important information gets communicated widely and quickly
Almost everyone today is an information worker, either completely or partially. We all need information to do our jobs effectively, but we also suffer from information overload due to the increasing quantity and variety of sources. How can we get information that is targeted, useful, and timely without drowning in a sea of email, having to visit hundreds of websites, or reading through tons of printed material? Knowledge management helps address this problem through personaPlized portals, targeted subscriptions, RSS feeds, tagging, and specialized search engines.
8. Processes and procedures can be standardized and repeatable
If standard processes and procedures have been defined, they should always be followed. This allows employees to learn how things are done, leads to predictable and high-quality results, and enables large organizations to be consistent in how work is performed. When there is a process for creating, storing, communicating, and using standard processes and procedures, employees will be able to leverage them routinely.
9. Methods, tools, templates, techniques, and examples are available
Methods, tools, templates, techniques, and examples are the building blocks that support repeatable processes and procedures. Consistent use of them streamlines work, improves quality, and ensures compatibility across the organization.
10. Unique expertise becomes widely accessible
When there are experts who have skills that are in short supply, they are usually in great demand. Knowledge management helps them make their expertise available to the entire organization. Ways of doing so include community discussion forums, training events, “ask the expert” systems, recorded presentations, white papers, podcasts, and blogs.
11. Customers can see exactly how knowledge is used for their benefit
In competitive situations, it is important to differentiate yourself from other firms. When you demonstrate to potential and current customers that you have widespread expertise — and ways of bringing it to bear for their benefit — it can convince them to start or continue doing business with you. Conversely, failure to do so could leave you vulnerable to competitors who can demonstrate their knowledge management capabilities and benefits.
12. Accelerated customer delivery
Speed of execution is another important differentiator among competitors. All other things being equal, the company that delivers sooner will win. Knowledge sharing, reuse and innovation can significantly reduce time to deliver a proposal, product, or service to a customer. And that translates into increased win rates, add-on business, and new customers.
13. Organizations can leverage scale
As an organization grows, the increasing size is only a benefit if it can use its employees’ collective knowledge. Through the use of tools such as communities, expertise locators, and repositories, the full intellectual power of a large enterprise can be exploited.
14. The best organizational problem-solving experiences are reusable
Consistently applying proven practices can significantly improve any company’s results. For example, if a manufacturing plant in one part of the world has figured out how to prevent the need for product rework, and all other plants around the world adopt this practice, savings will flow directly to the bottom line. By establishing a process for defining, communicating, and replicating proven practices, an enterprise takes advantage of what it learns about solving problems.
15. Innovation and growth are stimulated
Most businesses want to increase their revenues, but it becomes increasingly difficult as industries mature and competition increases. Creating new knowledge through effective knowledge sharing, collaboration, and information delivery can stimulate innovation. If you achieve this and many of the other 14 benefits enabled by knowledge management, you should be able to achieve growth.
Lucidea Press has published my book, Proven Practices for Promoting a Knowledge Management Program, which includes more information on the compelling organizational benefits of a KM program, as well as additional advice and insights drawn from my career as a KM practitioner.