Knowledge Storage Isn’t Enough
We Need Knowledge Management
As companies grow, institutional knowledge becomes both more important and harder to track down. What used to be a tap on the shoulder is suddenly booking meetings a week out for something you need to know today. New employees get caught in a loop of playing catch up while experienced employees are tired of all the questions and need to get to their own work.
In a world of constant innovation, companies have to evolve from simply storing knowledge to actively managing it. Current solutions try to tackle this challenge, but either require full-time staff at a high cost or large amounts of low-value manual and mental labor on behalf of experienced individuals.
With businesses growing at rapid pace and taking on more experiments than ever, the need is clear for a full knowledge management solution that takes into account not just knowledge documentation and storage but also management access. Further, this solution must be cost-efficient and meet teams where they are at, not force them to use a brand new tool that takes them out of their regular workflow.
Critical but insufficient: the time commitment of documentation
Knowledge management usually enters organizations in an ad-hoc way. One day, someone realizes that they have a key question about how something is done in the business - it could be as simple as Slack protocols or as complex as how to build a strategy for a new marketing campaign - and that employee asks around for the answer. After a few meetings, Slack messages, emails, and conversations, they finally get it. Frustrated with the process, they write down the answer and store it in a Google Drive folder, Jira or Confluence document, and let people know that’s where the answer is.
Over time, more people begin to document the answers to more questions that come up, and perhaps the storage platform starts to get operationalized into folders. Suddenly, the company is performing documentation and storage work, and leaders have to figure out who should manage it going forward.
At best, budget is opened for full-time knowledge manager to ensure:
- Knowledge is captured and accurate
- Storage is logical and searchable
- Information is ready for self-service
At worst, the company chooses to ignore it or maintain knowledge management as an ad-hoc practice, leading to:
- Increasing demands on everyone’s time: new employees to ask questions and experienced employees to answer them.
- A lot of tagging, poking, and commenting that someone knows X or another person knows Y, often leading to miscommunications.
- Frustration as everyone spends more time trying to answer basic questions and less time doing their actual jobs.
A disjointed current solution
The current organic, ad-hoc process ends up broken down into two elements:
- Knowledge documentation and storage
- Knowledge access
Businesses today use a wide variety of tools and platforms, all of which store knowledge. From intranets to support hubs to email, Slack, and more, bits of institutional knowledge are captured everywhere.
Current knowledge storage solutions such as Jira, Confluence, or Google Drive are great for static storage, but fail in a few key ways:
- Everything is manual, so the records are only as valuable as the amount of time someone invests in updating and sharing them.
- Updating and retiring information is arduous and difficult.
- These systems don’t communicate with other systems to gather new data as it happens.
In most modern offices, knowledge access converges in a tool like Slack. Someone asks a question, someone tags someone, and someone else answers it (hopefully). In a few cases, a full-time knowledge manager is the one tagged and they find the relevant document from storage and send the link.
Knowledge access in its current form comes with multiple problems, chiefly:
- Hiring a full-time knowledge manager is incredibly expensive.
- Knowledge access is manual, and susceptible to misinformation or opinions over facts and processes.
- Access is hidden, meaning that there’s no record of which questions are asked continuously (in order to trigger an update to knowledge documentation).
What knowledge management really needs
In an innovative, growing company, current solutions don’t actually help anyone. When knowledge isn’t easily updated or retired, teams are operating on unproven assumptions. When data isn’t accessible, teams working rapidly get taken out of their workflows and forced to handle yet another tool that takes up their time.
A new solution for knowledge management is needed that:
Operates in real time: By the time someone asks a question, they’ve likely already done some searching around. Knowledge management solutions need to operate in real-time to avoid further delays in work getting done.
Empowers easy access: If someone can’t easily access the answer, the solution is useless. A new knowledge solution has to be beyond simple to access.
Works within a team’s flows: Asking busy teams to use yet another tool won’t work. A new solution must embed and integrate with tools that are already in mass use, like Slack.
Captures new knowledge as it’s shared: When a new question is asked and answered, knowledge management solutions need to notice the conversation and automatically trigger new logs, updates, and retiring.
Setting OneBar for knowledge management
When we set out to build OneBar, our goal was to think about how humans collect and manage knowledge. Then automate it. We spoke with entrepreneurs, employees, and consulted PhD-level research on human cognition.
Armed with insight from those conversations, we built OneBar to leverage AI to make knowledge management seamless:
- It embeds into your communication systems, making access simple.
- It picks up the conversations happening in real-time to prompt answers and new knowledge records.
- It’s automatic and provides answers as soon as you ask a question - no more tagging or booking a meeting.
We looked at knowledge management from the perspective of empowering work. We know that people don’t document knowledge for its own sake, but to use it to create better outcomes. And we built technology to do the heavy lifting for you, so you can quickly solve problems, get answers to your questions, and build the future of your work.