Knowledge Is Power

Photo shows a sign that reads "Knowledge is power."
Knowledge is power image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

In the last 20 years, understanding and managing knowledge has become a critical factor in helping to drive success in businesses and government agencies alike. Knowledge management has become a hot buzzword that seems to be directed to content management systems and, more specifically, toward Microsoft SharePoint.  Unfortunately, content management systems—including SharePoint—are only a small segment of the solution that knowledge management systems offer. At PQC, after years of working with our federal customers on this subject, we are working to address this gap in the commercial, non-profit and education sectors and are seeking to bring even more value-added solutions than ever to our customers.

What is Knowledge Management?

Knowledge management (also referred to as “KM”) is a systematic method to identify, capture and leverage the knowledge of individual employees so that this knowledge becomes an organizational resource benefitting customers, employees and the overall organization. These are the institutional knowledge and business processes that every organization couples with their strategic plan around how that knowledge is used in meeting organizational goals and mission outcomes.

The definition sounds deceptively simple and straightforward, so let’s sharpen the view and the sense of urgency by considering these questions:

  1. How much information is contained within the files, folders, contracts and systems of your organization?
  2. What ideas, information and practices are held in within the minds of the people who have been doing the daily work?
  3. What might happen if the information stored in manuals, on computer hard drives, in paper files and on servers were somehow destroyed or corrupted?
  4. How would the organization be set back if key people left tomorrow and without warning?

For most organizations, current KM stops at content management systems that allow for document management with basic collaboration and auditing capabilities. The ultimate organizational need of protecting institutional knowledge in order to leverage it for success is hardly achieved by such a limited approach. In the end, this is a far cry from what KM is meant to accomplish.

A critical element for understanding KM as it applies to your organization is to:

  1. Have a clear strategy for how to use your institutional knowledge.
  2. Have an answer for how adaptive your organization is to collaborative tools.
  3. Have a defined picture of where you want to go.

Your goal—where you want to go—matters more than where you start. Most organizations will start from chaos, but in the long run they will be better off in defining how they want to interact once they’ve transitioned to a KM-based organization. In addition, smart organizations understand who has access to information today along with how (and sometimes where) information is retained. Other factors to consider include: Does the organization utilize approval processes for the creation of information and forms? Are there resources that should be considered? Is collaborative communication (chats, wikis, message boards, etc.) required? Robust KM products are now able to provide a plethora of options, and these questions should be considered.

No KM solution should be relegated to being just a fancy file server in today’s environment. Answer these questions to ponder your specific situation further:

  • How do you capture your institutional knowledge?
  • Are your documents saved without taxonomies or metadata and kept in a variety of locations?
  • Are your KM processes wrapped around individual email folders that lack visibility and collaboration?
  • How can you improve the management of your organization’s institutional knowledge and, in doing so, ensure ongoing success and seamless transitions?

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