This post was written in cooperation with Christopher Becke, Knowledge Management expert, itelligence AG.
As promised in our previous blog entry outlining our general understanding as well as some major company-related implications of Knowledge Management (KM), this article serves as a follow-up that draws on our experiences so far with our concept of KM. The sections that follow will provide a short overview about what we consider critical factors to the success of KM.
1. Teach people how to use it
In our company, KM has a lot to do with Social Media applications, and although Social Media has been on everyone’s lips for a while now, there still seems to be a lack of knowledge as to what Social Media actually is all about, how people can benefit from it and, from a technical point of view, how to use Social Media tools or applications. That’s probably why teaching people how to cope with it is so critical to the success of a KM platform that heavily relies on Social Media. Our company thus decided to offer regular internal training sessions, workshops and presentations helping our colleagues to get a comprehensive insight into the world of KM. We also realized that once people have understood what KM holds for them and how they can benefit from it, motivation usually gets a boost, which in turn helps our platform thrive and grow.
2. Give people a hand
How to integrate recently hired colleagues into the KM universe without asking too much of them is another issue we would like to address, since we know that using a KM platform for the first time can be quite demanding. In this sense, a lot of content has already been contributed to our platform, and people newly acquainted with the matter often complain about a confusing structure, while not being able to quickly locate information and so forth. Over the last three years we realized how important it is to show people our readiness to help them out, whether they are having issues with technology or have content-related questions. As soon as people know that there is always a KM person that can be contacted or notified if problems arise, people have a better feeling about KM and start trying out things while exploring on their own the features that a KM platform offers.
3. Assign KM experts
But help can only be guaranteed if there exists an integral team that exclusively deals with KM matters. As it turned out, establishing a KM platform can be a highly complex undertaking, so there is little doubt that it needs a fixed group of technology-savvy KM people to build and further develop a lively platform. In order to render our KM platform an effective and state-of-the-art tool, we also try to keep an eye on recent academic discussions on KM, which helps us include the results of new research findings into our broader concept of KM. All this would not be possible, we believe, without a separate KM department that has the required resources.
4. Reduce language barriers
As a Germany-based company it is quite common to use German to communicate. This also applies to communication within our KM platform where German content still dominates. We soon realized that using German as the “official language” can significantly reduce our international colleagues’ motivation to participate in our KM platform, particularly in a company that has many branch offices in various countries where German is not officially spoken. Despite the fact that our team has already encouraged a lot of people to use English when it comes to making a contribution to our platform, the majority of textual content is only available in German. However, this does not mean that using German is not an acceptable way to contribute, but it is of great importance to encourage people to always provide at least some English content when submitting texts. In our view, this is the only way to render our KM platform a worldwide tool that can be beneficial to the maximum number of people.
To conclude, we aimed at sharing some of our KM experience by looking at four major points we consider important in setting in motion a KM platform. We also tried to emphasize that a KM platform is an excellent tool to foster interaction and collaboration between colleagues, regardless of any hierarchical structures.