If you’re like most people, (especially since you’re reading this post) then you’ve got a keen interest in organising your knowledge to make it easy to find, easy to use and easy to manage. I’d also be willing to bet that this isn’t the first time you’ve thought about it and started down a path to fix it.
The problem is that when you need to add knowledge into your business, it’s pretty much never when you have the time, and mental bandwidth to make the knowledge process optimal. Almost by definition, it’s a time where there is so much other change happening – a new client, a new product, or new strategy – that overhauling how you store information at the same time would be too much change, and too much business risk.
It’s this type of situation that leads us to one of the most common conversations that I’ve been having with new customers. It usually goes something like, “I can see how it would be great having everything organised in a system like SenseIQ – but I can’t even get started until we go through all our old documentation and try and work out what’s still important, what’s old, and what’s missing – this is going to be a massive project”
Facing a mountain of organised, semi-organised and unorganised information, and combining the previous well intentioned attempts at creating structure can be seriously overwhelming. It really can be just as hard to comprehend as a sheer looking cliff face with no obvious handholds, and I’ve seen many a knowledge mountaineer almost quit right here.
The key, of course, is to look away from the cliff face – even though it seems to be the only path – and find another way to get on the trail and start ascending without the need for serious effort, skills, equipment and risk. When climbing really large mountains, it’s just not possible to do it all in one go – we need base camps along they way.
Our knowledge mountain is the same. When starting out on our journey, if we set our sights on completing everything in one “project” then our mountain becomes the cliff face and it’s hard to know where to start, where our end is and how we get from one to the other. Inevitably this then starts to look like a really big project, with a long time before it will pay off with any benefits to the team.
The obvious alternative is to take an iterative, “agile” approach to building knowledge – but this too comes with unknowns – what knowledge, and how much of it do do we need before we get the value out of it? In practice, I’ve found that as with many things in life “the old 80/20 rule” comes into play.
Regardless of your industry or use case for knowledge management, a pretty accurate rule of thumb for most things is that 80% of the calls you get, or this things your customers will need to search for, will relate to just 20% of your processes – and knowledge you need to collect and store.
Interestingly, it’s this very knowledge that’s often undocumented in existing systems because it usually lives in people’s heads, or is managed through training. By building this out first though we gain a few significant advantages.
- Familiarity – these processes are well used and well known – so it’s easy to test out if the structure works well
- Reduce Training – for new staff, this will be the key information they need to get them up and running faster
- Team Engagement – use features such as feedback to engage your team to get involved with the new system
Rather than stare at the cliff face of content, set your sights on the first base camp – just enough well understood, and frequently required content to get your team engaged (after all, in the later stages, we’re gonna need them!) and to get new team members up to speed quickly.
In my next blog I’ll be talking about just how to get started, and the best ways to organise your first few articles, leveraging existing material to speed you along.
Steve from SenseIQ