We live in a world today that not many would have imagined just a few weeks ago. Organizations of all kinds are struggling with new concepts of working. In this post we discuss the challenges that organizations face with knowledge sharing and management, some of which have become much more prevalent and impactful in today’s changed times.
When you think of start-ups, innovation, resilience and agility are the first things that come to mind. Start-ups are often able to do things faster, with fewer resources and can adapt to changing situations better than larger, more mature organizations. Fundamental to this distinct advantage in execution is organizational knowledge – everyone in an early stage startup is intimately familiar with each nuance of their organization’s processes, strategies, plans, learnings and more. Knowledge sharing is real-time, and all-pervasive in the start-up ethos. There are no silos of information, and leaders are easily accessible and deeply involved in day-day activities. Early stage employees are often multi-talented, passionate go-getters.
As with all good things in life, this changes as companies grow and evolve. Processes become more complex, as do team structures and reporting hierarchies. The attention to detail that early stage leaders were able to give to execution is no longer feasible. More mid-level managers join the organization. Teams become siloed, doing fewer things well as they work on building up specialized skills and domain expertise. Some employees end up acquiring knowledge that no one else has. And that differentiated knowledge becomes among the company’s most valuable assets. Their expertise helps them work efficiently, handle tricky situations, and become better than anyone else at their jobs. There’s just one problem with this scenario: these experts become bottlenecks. Everyone needs to go through them to get any work done! And imagine the chaos that ensues when one such key employee moves on or becomes temporarily unavailable.
More people in the organization unsurprisingly leads to more churn and a pressing need to ramp up employees faster. Without proper, well-defined mechanisms in place to capture and share knowledge, companies suffer in multiple ways: making employee onboarding less efficient, making day-to-day work less productive, and making real-time data-driven decisions much more difficult. Most employees in similar situations will agree that challenges in obtaining timely information needed to do their jobs, lack of visibility on data movement and changes in the status of active tasks, and inadequately mapped out dependencies adds to the bulk of chaos in organizations. This not only leads to an unnecessary increase in operational costs, it contributes greatly to employee frustration, negatively impacts productivity, and hampers the organization’s ability to attract top talent in the long term.
Developing a sound strategy to facilitate knowledge transfer and preserve organizational knowledge can support workers and improve the bottom line like nothing else can. Most organizations would have very robust systems in place to manage critical data with CRM and/or ERP systems in place. But the vast majority of organizational knowledge resides outside these systems, and falls into one of the following categories:
– Structural knowledge
- Organizationals process / workflow mapping
- Roles, responsibilities and task breakdowns
- Reporting and escalation hierarchies
- Dependencies, standard timelines for activities
- Data sources and frequency / methods of updation
– Transactional knowledge
- Updated task statuses, delays, priorities
- Approvals, rejections, revisions
- Employee availability, dynamic role changes
- Project schedules, objectives, deliveries
- Critical paths, inter-project dependencies
– Referential knowledge
- Innovations, ideas, brainstorming notes
- Experimental data, mined data
- Meeting minutes, actions
- Conversations and supporting documents to approve/reject projects
- Project/Employee/partner performance and past records
- Training, sales and self-learning collateral
These segments of knowledge often exist in disparate systems or in the minds of key employees, scattered in many different forms across the Organization, open to interpretation more often than not. Process / workflow knowledge mostly resides with key individuals responsible for specific deliveries and approvals. Project managers would be privy to transactional knowledge and recording them in excel sheets or PM tools. Decision makers’ inboxes are often flooded with emails containing unstructured data that has been used to steer directions. Email and chat conversations can be a source for many innovative ideas and valuable data that is rarely categorized nor archived in a way that is usable later. Meeting minutes may be scattered and following up on actions is ad hoc. Documents can be all over the place, in shared folders, in local directories, in inboxes – rarely ever access or version controlled. There may be a treasure-trove of information in video tutorials, seminars, training material and presentations of all kinds – often not well archived nor easily searchable and accessible for employees.
The pitfalls of unstructured information scattered across organizations are well understood. But not all organizations step up to address them. They cite two major obstacles:
Mindset: Transparency, accountability, and clear and timely communication need to be imbibed as essential traits for every employee from day one, and leadership needs to set the tone. Employees don’t fancy themselves as experts or believe what they do is important enough to share with others, nor needs to be tracked. At other times, dependencies down-stream may not be well understood. To combat this, companies must create a corporate culture mindset where informally sharing knowledge and regular updates with others is valued and expected. Transferring knowledge should be considered a normal daily practice and all employees—from the leadership level on down—should be encouraged to do it.
Tools: To add structure and automation to your organization’s processes, you will need specialized tools. If you don’t, your people will end up using whatever tools they can repurpose for the task at hand – which often means a fall back to emails, meetings, phone calls, and excel files galore. It might get the job done at the time, but not at all scalable. The reality is that preserving organizational knowledge in a structured manner does not have to be complicated. With the right tools that are customized to your processes, your organizational hierarchy, your culture, you can streamline the change process. And the tools need to be kept relevant at all times – need to evolve as processes change, as business objectives evolve.
Zvolv – the no-code process automation platform to build customized enterprise applications to collect, organize and leverage your organization’s unique knowledge base.
Pair all the knowledge and experience available across your organization to build Zvolv process apps that help deliver peak performance. New product development, new outlets, new vendors, one process or 15, whatever your need of the hour. Zvolv gives you the power to define your processes via tasks, dependencies, approvals, timelines, metrics used to measure each activity, check lists and more at a granular level. Keep it high level, or go as deep as you need to, Zvolv empowers you with the flexibility you never knew existed, while the team guides you along each step of the way.
Zvolv lets you add and enforce consistency in data and documents collected and shared during execution and decision-making. Zvolv’s inbuilt mobile forms enable on-the-go contextual data collection, while the data is geo-tagged and time-stamped. Data validation, sanity checks, approvals and reviewing mechanisms can easily be built in to ensure quality and timeliness.
Your Zvolv apps will drive execution across your processes by prioritizing between activities and ensuring focused collaboration through real time visibility, intelligent alerts and contextual access to information, documents and conversations relevant to roles and tasks. Zvolv couples the scale of well defined processes with the agility of quick changes. Your apps can now evolve as fast as your business.
Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us get your organization’s unique knowledge organized.