Maybe you have been in that situation before — you are looking for one specific piece of information within your company. You know its there as you — or your colleague — just created that information a few months ago. But you just don’t know where exactly you saved it.
Another situation is when an employee leaves a company with all his knowledge. A new employee will have no chance of getting a quick overview what information within a company is already available.
Situations like this happen hundreds of times in companies nowadays.
If you know these situations, then you will know, that there is nothing more frustrating than searching and not finding.
Having the right Knowledge Management Software to save all things is one thing, finding that knowledge another.
As you are probably aware of, in most companies knowledge is the most important asset. And large shares of that asset are saved in the heads of your employees. One of the biggest priorities of companies nowadays is to make that knowledge generated by individuals available to everyone. Therefore, large efforts are being made to digitalise the knowledge and to safe it in wikis, intranets or other formats. Firstly, the challenge for companies is to get their employees to save their knowledge, their feedback, their lessons learned, etc. on those platforms. Secondly, this knowledge needs to be findable for everyone else in the company.
This is where a good Knowledge Management System comes in. (Have a read in this article about proven Knowledge Management Methodologies).
Drawing a line between the past and the future
A Knowledge Management Software is a software, where all your knowledge is captured. Knowledge Management was first mentioned by McKinsey in an internal study in 1987. So just after the internet started. When implementing a Knowledge Management Software, one of the most central questions is the way how you want to structure your knowledge — the priority must be to be able to find it afterwards. In consequence, you must determine the importance and characteristics of each piece of information. That usually also means defining attributes like categories, tags, etc.
Following the characterisation of information, employees are expected to fill that software with their knowledge (in the form of reports, procedures, manuals, protocols, etc.). The hope is, that someone will be able to find and reuse that information later, when its needed.
Thinking about it, this is a strange approach. When setting up such a system and structuring content, today you will have to think about how to retrieve that knowledge tomorrow, in one or in five years. But maybe companies are taking this approach, as until now there were only systems available enabling you to save and structure knowledge on a central platform. Those platforms are, however, missing a satisfying and intelligent approach of retrieving that knowledge. Unless you know, where the information is saved, it can still be very challenging to find those with mostly primitive search engines integrated in those Knowledge Management Systems.
Taking a second thought on finding the information, how do you determine what is of importance and relevance in future? Can you predict what will be relevant in the future? How do you draw the line of knowledge of the past is important in the future?
Another mistaken assumption of traditional Knowledge Management is employees being willing and able to put their knowledge, findings, lessons learned and chosen solution clearly understandable into those Knowledge Management Systems. This is because they either do not have or do not want to invest the time necessary to keep such systems updated. The main reason is them benefitting relatively little from this effort, especially in the short run.
The problem with Knowledge Management Software is the assumption, that employees are willing AND able to assign documents and other pieces of information to the right category, tag, folder, etc. Experience has shown that this is rarely the case.
Making the access to your knowledge a no brainer
For companies offering Knowledge Management Software the most important thing is to offer a way to structure and save your knowledge. Those software’s often have search functions, yet they are not the core of their software.
With technology, especially in the enterprise search technology sector, advancing fast, approaches are often outrun within a few years. Hence, developers of Knowledge Management software put low efforts into their search function and keep it to a minimum. Initially, their customers are happy to have a Knowledge Management platform, however, after a few years, they realise that it is difficult to find information with only rarely advanced search functions. After all, the decision to buy was not made based on finding the information but based on being able to store it. A lot of companies are at a point where they realise this and are left with two options — either move their whole system to a new provider (where again, they have no possibility to check on information retrieval beforehand) or implementing and intelligent search engine that is able to search through systems in place.
Let’s go back a step again. How important is a Knowledge Management Software? Why do you need a Knowledge Management Software?
To store all your knowledge in a central place. But isn’t most of the knowledge already saved in the form of documents, e-mails, in CRM systems etc? For example, an email after a customer call will contain all discussed matters and potential solutions. Why not use that information? Why not implement an enterprise search engine, which does not only search through my Knowledge Management Software but also through my intranet, SharePoint and Outlook in- and outboxes? Why not add even more data sources to one central search engine that searches through all available data?
This way your employees would save on putting everything in your Knowledge Management System which imposes a challenge often enough. There will probably still be edge cases, where it is advantageous to save summaries on Knowledge Management platforms. However, the platform will not be overloaded, your employees do not have to regularly spent time on things they do not necessary want and existing information is used instead of being duplicated in Knowledge Management Platforms.
For us this comes closer to making Knowledge Management a no brainer than saving all the knowledge conscientiously on Knowledge Management platforms.
The future of Knowledge Management
Now here is the thing: You can’t accuse anyone of implementing a Knowledge Management Software instead of using other approaches. Instead you must value companies identifying Knowledge Management as a problem. It’s the best thing the market was able to deliver in the past. However, in the last few years, more and more companies realise that Knowledge Management is not only a thing of saving and digitalising knowledge, but also making it available to everyone. Making knowledge available to all employees is done with the help of an enterprise search engine. An enterprise search engine also isn’t a new thing as such. But existing search engines lack in intelligence and in ability to handle large data volumes.
Nonetheless, within the last two to three years there were technological breakthroughs enabling us to develop a next level enterprise search engine. With the help of advanced language models and advancements in server specifications new opportunities open.
New technologies such as natural language processing allow for multilingual search applications and a human like understanding of a paragraph’s context. A search engine up to the newest standard is now able to continuously learn and use its semantic understanding to really understand what the user is looking for instead of just comparing a sequence of strings. And there is more to come!
If you are interested in learning more about how enterprise search engines work and how they have recently changed, feel free to contact us! We are looking forward to answering your questions.