Many of us have grown accustomed to referring to our work email accounts to find that bit of information that we received from one colleague or another. Now you discover you need that information quickly to finish a project.
Where is it? If you have faced this similar situation, it means that the amount of data and its applications have grown more complex. It also likely means that you and your organization are too loosely exchanging important information and have lazy knowledge management practices in place. This is not meant to be insulting, of course. It is simply a way to understand how to improve the process.
As mentioned in previous blog posts, big data has come to encapsulate the work we do now. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a place to cleanly and robustly organize all of the information that we come across. Well, content and knowledge management policies and programs will help you to achieve this. Read on to learn how.
Where is knowledge?
Knowledge is everywhere. In your business or organization, it is likely fostered through learning and growing and experiencing the flow of the market and the culture. Each member, employee, manager, stakeholder and so forth has a different level of that experience, giving each of them unique knowledge. That knowledge is usually transferred through the relationships among staff via verbal exchange and electronic (email, memos, research notes, etc.) and hard (paper documents) means.
This is where our knowledge lives. But as it lives in the minds of the personnel and in fragmented pieces in various formats, how easily are organizations able to attain that knowledge and deploy it efficiently to achieve goals? It must be converted, therefore, into unified content and implemented with policies, procedures and strategies. So how do we do this?
Identify knowledge and outline a plan for documentation
Now that we know where our knowledge lives, we must formulate some type of plan to extract this information. At each layer, the process may be different. It might depend on your industry, your culture and things of this nature. In any case, the main point is to identify the information, record it and put it somewhere, preferably into a centralized system that makes use of taxonomy (see blog posts on taxonomy).
At some stage, this may require you to hire a technical writer or some other documentation specialist that can interview subject matter experts in your organization to get the detailed information that will serve as your organizations knowledge base. This person can identify with processes, components, procedures, policies, records, archived data, intellectual property, financial data, secure data and a broad range of other information that must live in an environment where the appropriate members or users can access it later.
In terms of legal matters or legal information, many regulations have information handling requirements that are rigid and may require that you have certain pieces of critical information readily available to audit. Knowledge management and content management are more important in this scenario than ever. Information audits can be done to sift through organizations’ data including email, memos and other documents to make sense and make use of them.
This process of making an audit of information and knowledge is an important first step, but the next step is just as important. You must now organize the information that you have so that it can be easily found by the right people.
Centralizing your converted knowledge and content
Documents stored as files in a simple network drive will no longer suffice as the volume and complexity increases. It is also a security problem. In the cloud environment, there are backups and options to monitor and distribute storage and speed. This makes converting knowledge into content easier when a content management system is deployed to quickly and efficiently handle all of that incoming information.
The type of content management system your organization will or should deploy depends very much on how the information will be used. It might turn out that you don’t use just one CMS. You might end up using multiple CMS options or configurations for different types of content or information. Of course sensitive information and information meant for the public should be handled differently and therefore should be managed differently.
Popular newsfeed or blog platforms include Drupal and Joomla. Oracle handles various IT and other types of content systems. There are systems like SharePoint that help users collaborate on word processing, spreadsheets, charts, presentations and other kinds of documents. There are hubs where users can go to find or share information with other colleagues within the company or organization.
Of course it is always important to take some time to think about security and access privileges and develop information handling policies and procedures within the company.
Make content searchable and organized
After the information has been properly disseminated and you found the right vendor to store and manage that content, you can begin the critical process of organizing it. Usually, within a content management system, we talk about taxonomy. Taxonomy is the process of categorizing or “tagging” content to make it searchable and displayed properly in results or views for the user. Tagging content within a content management system is an integral part of enabling the user, whoever that might be, to quickly locate bits and pieces or entire batches or wholes of information quickly and efficiently.
You must ultimately decide how to organize content in terms of how it will be used. Web content for the public, for example, may need to be audited for its SEO quality (how easily can it be found by search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, AOL, etc.). Your internal search systems, glossaries, thesauruses, style guides, policies, manuals and so forth will only be as good as their databases and program functionality as defined by the organization. Try to audit these systems for usability and continually try to improve the way information, both simple and complex, should be handled by internal systems.