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Knowledge Management

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  • Knowledge Management

    I know this is not completely on topic for this forum. However, people who value time and effectiveness, I think, have certainly given thought to the topic.

    One thing I have been pondering for my department is a push to enhance our knowledge management. Here is my dilemma...

    My line of work is as an accountant for a site in a large multinational corporation. This company is a result of a merger of two multinationals around nine years ago. And many of the other sites are acquisitions of other companies. So there is a huge issue with legacy systems. Only a few of our people have enough in-depth knowledge to document how all of these systems communicate with one another to get to a common and accurate general ledger. Therefore, these few people spend a large amount of time answering questions or fielding forwarded emails from other, less experienced, employees.

    I know that the tough part of this is that, roughly 80% of the knowledge in any organization is intrinsic (meaning that it is basically walking around in a few people's heads).

    I am looking for ways to capture that knowledge and store it in a place where it can be accessed over the internal web (without performing brain surgery ). I have some ideas already that I think will work well. But I am also not prideful enough to think that I have all the answers on the subject.

    Anyone have experience in this area? If so, what was the approach you implemented?

  • #2
    Do a search on "Wiki"

    A Wiki is an online (but could be intranet rather than internet based) knowledgebase which can be edited by anyone, contains relevant hyperlinks and based on what you've written would seem to be ideally suited to your problem.

    Try <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page">HERE</a> for a starting point to gain an overview.

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    • #3
      I agree with Mark. Generally I would say avoid buying expensive document management systems but use bulletin boards, blogs and wikis to encourage people to have more of their useful conversations online and in an easily accessible medium.

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      • #4
        We have been using a wiki internally now for about a year just for our IT department. I can honestly say that it really really changed the way we operated.

        Before the wiki we had documentation laying around everywhere in word documents, excel files, access databases, text files, etc...

        At last count we have 500+ pages in ours and there is no turning back, I couldn't imagine working without one now.

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        • #5
          Add another vote for wikis.

          It seems to me that you want the tool to be as friction-free for the people who actually have the knowledge as possible. Updating a wiki page with the answer to a user question is about as difficult as sending an email with that same answer. You might be able to eliminate some additional friction by having assistants follow the people with the knowledge around, but that might not be cost effective.

          Katherine

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          • #6
            See also knowledge-at-work.

            A.

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            • #7
              Thanks for all the assistance. Keep it coming. Wiki sounds like a great tool. I am just now learning about it.

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              • #8
                Do a flowchart of all the accounting processes in your site. This will need a few sessions with the guys who have 80% of the knowledge.

                Once the flowchart is agreed, you then know you have it all out in the open.

                Look and see which nodes on the flowchart relate to peoples’ jobs.

                Then start putting together some training programs/formatted input sheets/ procedures manuals to assist the people at these nodes.

                You will probably end up reallocating people or redefining their job specs also.

                Dave

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                • #9
                  Precisely what knowledge do you want to document? How have you been hurt by a lack of documented knowledge in the past?

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                  • #10
                    Hi there,

                    I work in the business intelligence field, managing sales and fleet systems reporting for a large (Top 50) Australian company. I have faced the same challenge concerning documentation of legacy systems and how data flows from various databases into our datamart.

                    The key thing users always ask me is "How do I know the figures are right?" The way I do this is to show them the flow through of data from source legacy system to the report they are looking at. I've spent time documenting both the business meaning of performance measures as well as the technical definition of where the data comes from (Eg; What value in what field in which screen of the legacy system), but it has still been hard to make this easy for people to digest and access.

                    Our company's has recently adopted the strategy of using the Microsoft Sharepoint software for document libraries, project plans and similar documents, so that the wider user community can access the "how-to" information it needs. As we are a Microsoft shop, this product integrates well with all the other tools we already use and are familiar with (Eg, Word, Excel, Outlook, etc). We are just starting out with this software but early signs are good.

                    That said, not every one loves Microsoft, and I've seen the wikipedia used in a number of other organisations, and it's availability allows for information to be stored and referenced quickly.

                    I'm seeing 3 issues here. 1) You need capture what you know, 2) You need to store this knowledge somewhere and 3) You need for that knowledge to be accessible.

                    For the first issue, I agree with Busydave, in that you still need to put some hard yards in to get that knowledge out of those people's heads and into a flow chart, procedure, etc. You've just got to bite the bullet here or you'll have primary prodcuer dependance on these "key" people. As for the second issue, the Wikipedia's and Sharepoint's of the world deal with the storage side quite well.

                    The 3rd issue concerning accessability in my mind is about navigating the knowledge you've captured. For Knowledge Management to be effective, you'll need to consider a taxonomy or hierarchical structure upon which to hang all of this knowledge. (Eg: by business unit, customer segmentation, functional area, Reporting area, etc) Otherwise the knowledge you have may be stored organically which will be a long term barrier to ease of use and learning. If you're going down the wikipedia path, I'd give some consideration to developing the structure and strategy your going to develop for linking documents to each other and organising any tables of contents, indexing, etc.

                    Sorry for the long post, but I used to work for a Knowledge manager and some of it rubbed off on me! Hope this is useful!

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                    • #11
                      Thanks, Warren. I have sent you a PM to further discuss.

                      For those of you who use wiki technology, what do you need to get started, and what kind of investment is involved?

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                      • #12
                        For a barebones, entry level wiki, all you need is a web server accessible to the people who need access to the wiki. Many (most?) wiki software packages are free, and many are written in platform-independent languages. There are also much more complex systems out there that add better security, better version control, more powerful underlying databases, etc.

                        I like UseMod, but there are extensive lists of wiki packages at
                        http://www.usemod.com/cgi-bin/wiki.pl?OtherWikis and
                        http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WikiEngines

                        Both lists are very long. You might find
                        http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?ChoosingaWiki
                        helpful in narrowing down your choices.

                        Katherine

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