Making Single Source of Knowledge a Reality
Knowledge management, training and enablement in both large and small companies are a never-ending struggle. They don't have to be. Throughout my career I have witnessed the same pattern: an enthusiastic manager decides to organize the internal knowledge and distribute it across their department, hoping to create a single source of knowledge the entire business can refer to. Fast forward 6 months later and things become messy: knowledge becomes obsolete, people struggle to find what they need when and where they need it, leading to frustration and overhead in trying to maintain and improve accessibility of the content that has been created. Eventually the plan is abandoned and organizations fall back to transferring knowledge in one-on-one meetings, Slack messages or email.
In one of my previous organizations we tried to capture the knowledge of the R&D team: we started collating all our internal product-specific knowledge in Google Drive, but soon enough the typical pressure on R&D teams to deliver features before releases took precedence, and software engineers stopped creating documentation assets. Additionally, other people in that same organization who could have used that data in a timely manner - product, sales engineers, customer success - did not have access or even knew answers were there for them to find.
For us developers, new features were the core value we delivered, and the dream of clear internal documentation was abandoned and replaced with long hours of face-to-face or virtual meetings. These meetings were exhausting and a massive waste of our time: if you were an expert in a certain complex part of the code you had to explain the same concept over and over again to every new programmer that dealt with it.
For new members of the team, our organizational knowledge was really difficult to consume as the whole architecture and technology were condensed into a two-weeks training crash course. Due to the large amount of information, the moment new joiners got to the end of the second week they had forgotten what they had learned in the first week, and by the time the training was over most of them had forgotten almost everything they had heard. As a result, they ended up bombarding more experienced developers with questions, which created work overload, tensions and highly inefficient work dynamics. The end result negatively impacted the quality of sprint core tasks, team management and even the product’s architecture, due to stretched resources.
This is the case in many organizations, where subject matter experts in general, and experienced developers in particular, become mentors who teach the same concepts over and over again rather than using their time, experience and skills to help with more strategic tasks. Sprinkle in the new remote or hybrid work paradigm that most organizations in the world have shifted to, and you have a massive knowledge chasm forming.
The Organizational Knowledge Black Hole
Modern markets are characterized by four fundamental qualities that are often referred to as VUCA: Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. These four core qualities require modern organizations to adopt an elastic approach in their internal processes that encourage agility and dynamic resource allocation.
Organizational knowledge is also characterized by these qualities and the large amount of information available makes it impossible for traditional learning and development methods to effectively create, categorize, maintain, search for and consume this knowledge.
To add to the complexity, organizational knowledge can be divided in its basic form into two main categories:
- Publicly available knowledge: knowledge that is publicly available to anyone and that is needed in order to perform daily operational tasks (for example a java tutorial on YouTube).
- Internal organizational knowledge: knowledge that is exposed only to the members of the organization (for example: how the organization uses a certain software or the architecture of the software the company offers). Within Internal Organizational Knowledge, we’ll often find different clusters or spaces where different users will have access to specific knowledge (E.g., all employees, project-based teams, partners, etc).
In modern businesses, the internal knowledge is distributed across all members of the organization and this “collective memory” creates the human resources differentiation. But what happens when someone leaves the business? What if people start organizing the content differently in every department? What if they create duplicates? More often than not, knowledge gets lost. Most of the organizations I talk to describe the accumulation of knowledge they have created over time as a ‘spaghetti bowl’ or a ‘black whole’.
With no Single Source of Knowledge, dedicated resources chartered with creating, updating, distributing the knowledge and training, it’s no surprise that traditional knowledge management solutions and processes are creating bottlenecks, workflow inefficiencies but also a lot of frustration and a bad user experience.
Knowledge Is No Longer Power. Shared On-Demand Knowledge Is.
Knowledge distribution in traditional industries was built on the assumption that few Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) hold the entire knowledge of the organization.
Based on this assumption traditional Knowledge Management Systems and DAP’s (Digital Adoption Platforms) were designed in a way where a small number of users in the organization held critical knowledge, increasing risks (for example: if these members leave the organization) and decreasing the operational efficiency, creating dependencies instead of leveraging widely available user-generated knowledge.
Knowledge used to be Power. It is no longer the case. It remains vital - but it is no longer power on its own. Anyone can capture and consume knowledge. However, shared knowledge that can be used anytime, anywhere is not only power but a Superpower.
In modern enterprises - like anywhere else - there are pockets of knowledge distributed across all departments and members of staff.
The traditional approach has become irrelevant in modern organizations as knowledge is now decentralized and therefore a network-based approach is needed. In a network based, decentralized approach, all the members are able to create, share and consume knowledge. The knowledge life cycle management therefore needs to be reimagined.
The Challenge of Seamless Creation
Modern businesses are more aware of the critical importance of knowledge sharing across the organization. With the cloudification of applications, the pace and number of new applications introduced within the enterprise has considerably increased. According to Gartner, two out of three employees say they are spending too much time using the technology their company provides, which confirms a significant application skills gap. Without a simple and quick way to create and maintain knowledge, most knowledge sharing processes attempts are abandoned and employees fall back to performing their core tasks without documenting, maintaining or sharing the knowledge.
On-demand and Context-aware Knowledge Consumption
Research shows that people have a higher motivation to learn when they learn a situational subject meaning a subject that they are about to use. The issue is that more often than not, the inaccurate indexing of knowledge makes it hard for users to find it when they need it most. It also usually requires them to leave the digital environment they’re performing their work in, and to look for the content they need in a different application.
The current DAP’s (Digital Adoption Platforms), Knowledge Management Tools and LMS (Learning Management Systems) in the market put the burden of the tagging, indexing and preparation of the knowledge on the creators which makes it really hard for knowledge consumers to find it when they really need it.
Guidde is in essence a tool for Knowledge on Demand - it allows to seamlessly capture, maintain, categorize, share and consume organizational knowledge.
Video is our chosen medium for knowledge. Video has two main qualities - it is visual and it carries a complementary audio track which unlocks the WHY not just the HOW. Moreover, as we’ve transitioned into the era of remote work and Zoom meetings, a vast amount of video knowledge has already been created in businesses, which can be leveraged.
Guidde enables to create or upload video snippets created by anyone in an organization, process these videos by analyzing, tagging and indexing them and make them available to other members when and where they need them, based on both location (i.e. where in the application is the user struggling) and the user's profile (i.e. a business analyst and a sales executives are unlikely to be looking for the same type of help, even if they are stuck on the same tab in their organization’s CRM). .
The main differences in this approach are mainly:
1.The knowledge is shared across the whole organization in a network based model where every member can be both creator and consumer of this knowledge.
2. The knowledge creation is seamless, and focused on the app. No need to be confident on camera - the only requirement is for the knowledge creator to have an intelligible voice. No additional effort is required - it is as simple as recording a video on a mobile phone.
3. The consumption of the knowledge is offered when application users need it and when they are struggling to complete tasks on the software apps they are using every day. Employees never have to switch context to find knowledge and can remain on the software they’re already performing their work in.
If you want to see Guidde in action, drop me a line and I’ll give you a sneak peek.