Author Louis L’Amour wrote, “Knowledge is like money: to be of value it must circulate, and in circulating it can increase in quantity and, hopefully, in value.”
Like money, your team’s knowledge becomes more valuable the more it’s shared. You may have the world’s savviest salesperson, but you’ll still miss your quota if she won’t share. Teamwide knowledge produces teamwide success.
Ensuring knowledge spread across the team requires structure. But in today’s economic climate, the costs of knowledge management must be considered. Not every company can afford a state-of-the-art, actively managed database.
The good news is, there are budget-friendly ways to manage your company’s knowledge. Here are some approaches that won’t break the bank:
One thing to keep in mind about knowledge management is you don’t have to do it all at once. Any amount of organization you do now will make it easier to implement a knowledge management platform down the road.
A free, straightforward way to get started is file sharing. Skip the bulky filing cabinets: Digital platforms, such as Google Drive and Dropbox, let employees share key documents with the team.
In a pinch, digital file sharing does the job. Anyone — or only select people, depending on the permissions set — can view, add, or edit the files.
With this method, beware that content curation is a challenge. Tasks can’t be assigned, and outdated documents aren’t automatically identified. Appoint a content manager to stay on top of things.
Project Management Software
Chances are, you already have a project management tool in place. Why not use it to track not just your projects, but your documents and knowledge?
While project management software does allow users to assign tasks, this approach works better for some types of company knowledge than others. Project stages and owners don’t map well to many types of organizational knowledge, like the team’s roster.
Another challenge with this method is ensuring that company knowledge doesn’t get confused with client work. Does “Analyze a marketing strategy” describe an internal process, or does it refer to a client’s project? In an agency environment, it may not be clear.
An Internal Blog
A knowledge management system you’re probably already using externally is your company’s blog. While it’s possible to maintain a blog on an internal network, it’s not a perfect solution.
For one, blogs are typically ordered by the newest post first. If you’re looking for information on an older process, that isn’t ideal. Make sure your internal blog has a search function.
Another issue with blogs is that every post is viewable by everyone. There’s no good way to limit access, nor is there an easy way to highlight posts for specific viewers.
Finally, any kind of blog needs to be maintained. Before committing to one, make sure you have the time and resources to post on it at least twice per week. At a minimum, appoint three regular contributors and an editor.
Instant Messaging Software
If an internal blog seems like too much to take on, ask whether you could use a tool like Slack for knowledge management. These are designed for keeping remote teams in touch, so why not use them to share knowledge?
Make sure your instant messaging program doesn’t delete old messages. You may need to step up to a pro plan for this functionality. Otherwise, creating a new entry might mean losing an old one.
Next, check file storage limitations. If your organization has images, audio, or video to store, the tool may not support these files. Even if it does, its volume limits may be too low.
Instant messaging software does have the advantage of tagging. Pointing someone to a relevant piece of knowledge is as easy as “@” messaging them.
For common categories of knowledge, channels can be created. Start with your functional groups: Perhaps marketing, sales, HR, and product development each get their own knowledge channel. Realize that some employees may feel shut out if they can’t access certain channels.
Fortunately, most instant messaging tools integrate with the other tools your team may be using. Slack hooks up to Google Drive, Salesforce, and Zoom, for example — where knowledge is commonly stored or shared.
While not as effective at storing knowledge as the other options in this list, another way to share it is through analytics tools. Remember that these are typically limited to specific domains, and often can’t host relevant files.
Google Analytics, for example, can help the wider team understand who’s searching for their products and how they’re using the site. While that’s good for sales, marketing, and product development to know, it’s a limited window.
If you go this route, be sure to combine it with another tool on this list. Perhaps you set up an “Analytics” channel on Slack, where team members can find links to metrics dashboards.
Social media platforms are some of the best ways to disseminate information. Like blogs, you’ll need to determine whether they are for internal or external use.
Internal social media accounts, such as Facebook Groups, can be used to share knowledge to functional groups or the whole company. Think of them as a cross between instant messaging and file sharing software.
As a knowledge sharing system, social media works best for time-specific events and information. Many platforms won’t host large files, nor are they searchable. They don’t lend themselves well to long-form, unexciting guides, such as how to onboard a new team member.
Remember, too, that some employees may not have accounts on some social platforms. They may have personal reasons for avoiding these sites, so tread lightly.
All of these are low-cost options to help you get your foot in the door of knowledge management. While none of them are perfect, they’re inexpensive and can get the job done for a small team.
Choose one or two methods, and experiment. Knowledge management doesn’t look the same for every company, but it does have the same result: a more capable, confident, and tight-knit team.