Before you begin any new knowledge initiative, a knowledge assessment is a great way to compare your current knowledge management practices against industry best practices. You’ll discover where your gaps are in your technology, team structure, and processes.
You may need to conduct a knowledge management assessment annually or for any of the following reasons:
- Implementing a new knowledge management system with help from a knowledge consultant
- Completing a significant corporate restructuring
- If customer support can’t find good answers
- To stay compliance with industry regulations
- Graduating knowledge base to enterprise KM software
A knowledge management assessment will offer insight into how your current system is performing and identify areas where you need to improve. Through this discovery process, you’ll also be able to find areas where you can use your organizational knowledge to a better advantage.
Here are five steps to follow for your next knowledge management assessment.
Review documented frameworks or systems in place
The first step to getting where you want to be is knowing where you are. Performing a comprehensive assessment of how people in your organization work together to maintain knowledge will provide the information you need.
Some questions you’ll want to answer include the following:
- What is your current process for sharing knowledge?
- Is your process documented and codified?
- Do you have a knowledge governance policy to protect classified and sensitive information?
- What is your knowledge-creation process?
- How is knowledge distributed and accessed?
- What are your quality control procedures for creating and updating knowledge?
- How are knowledge updates distributed?
- How do you collect feedback on your information?
Your knowledge management framework should outline all these procedures and describe what each component does. There are many ways you can determine the initial state of your knowledge management system.
While every organization’s approach will be different, some of the assessment strategies you can use include:
- Comprehensive interviews with staff at all levels
- Observation of meetings and activities related to KM sharing
- Questionnaires and surveys
- Discussions with the entire knowledge management team
- An evaluation of your current knowledge management tools
Determine and report all knowledge-related problems
Rooting out your current knowledge-related problems will help to determine where knowledge bottlenecks are interfering with productivity. It’ll also show what elements of your existing corporate structure and culture are barriers to effective knowledge management.
You’ll need to get feedback from users to determine their biggest frustrations with your knowledge management system—this could include surveys or focus groups.
Here are a few knowledge-related problems you may discover in a systems audit.
It doesn’t matter how extensive and accurate your knowledge is if the people can’t find what they need. A well-documented KM system should include a central source where knowledge of all types can be found. If employees must navigate multiple knowledge bases to find answers they need, you should re-design your system to get rid of these silos.
Inaccurate or out-of-date knowledge
Your knowledge base must be regularly updated to cull inaccurate and out-of-date data. Incorrect information is especially problematic if your staff shares knowledge with your customers. Customers will lose trust in your company, employees will lose faith in your system.
Employees can help keep knowledge up to date, as well as the KM technology that flags articles and other content types that aren’t helping customers.
Knowledge tools that are difficult to use
If you’re using knowledge management tools you’ve outgrown, your employees may find them clunky and hard to use. People aren’t enthusiastic about using knowledge software with a poor UX—they will likely resort to their own methods.
Any knowledge software you currently use can quickly become obsolete with more employees, more complex knowledge requirements, and more customers that need answers. Always evaluate your knowledge technology periodically with UX at the forefront.
Assess the knowledge management software in your overall system
Once you’ve gathered feedback from people and have uncovered existing processes, take a minute to assess your knowledge management software. Have you outgrown your knowledge base and need to graduate to enterprise knowledge management software? Do you have a source of truth…or several silos?
If you’re using software incapable of handling your knowledge needs, you won’t be able to deliver shared information throughout your company.
Your KM system needs effective tools to work. Knowledge management software should integrate with your existing systems that require great answers…and make it easy for knowledge managers to get work done.
Identify existing knowledge management methodologies and best practices
Sometimes you may encounter processes (implemented by a certified or classically trained knowledge manager) that align to a knowledge methodology or set of best practices. To achieve long-term success as a knowledge manager, it helps to have a playbook whenever integrating knowledge into your company’s existing workflows.
For example, KCS, or knowledge-centered service methodology is a popular set of best practices for creating and maintaining knowledge management systems. One theme of this knowledge methodology is the concept of continuous improvement and the double loop process; this process includes two core concepts:
- Solve: Resolving requests, providing answers to those who need them
- Evolve: Continuous learning and improvement, including analyzing articles based on interactions.
Even if your organization adopts a slightly different knowledge management methodology, the continuous cycle of answering, learning and improving is important to keep knowledge usable and optimized.
Identify gaps in knowledge
You should identify gaps like missing knowledge articles or even knowledge management roles on your team that are unfilled.
Do you have questions that are cropping up repeatedly? What sort of feedback are you getting on knowledge articles? A modern knowledge management platform can help you automatically identify and fill gaps in your data.
Gaps in your knowledge management team can also negatively affect your KM system. You may find you need an additional technical admin or help from other departments. A few common knowledge responsibilities include:
- Knowledge manager
- Technical administrator
- Library subject matter expert
- Customer support supervisor
- Content creators
Is your knowledge management system up to date? Can it do what you need it to? Has your organization outgrown your KM software?
If you discover missing features in your existing knowledge software, create a list of knowledge requirements you need in your next software evaluation.
While a knowledge base or internal wiki can function well for small teams, many enterprises require an enterprise knowledge platform; this type of software is powerful enough to serve as a central knowledge hub.
What to know before you conduct a knowledge assessment
No matter the steps you take, approach your next knowledge management assessment with a plan. Speak with operations, customer support agents, and executives to identify gaps you need to address.
A simple knowledge audit can reveal your KM system’s overall effectiveness and also identify gaps you need to shore up in people, process, or technology.
A KM assessment should be a routine process to ensure your knowledge management system is a well-oiled machine that can provide great knowledge to customers and employees.
Before you begin, get your copy of Knowledge Management for the Enterprise, an annual report by DMG Consulting for ideas about what include in your next KM system revamp. Good luck!