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What does knowledge management mean for me at work?

Knowledge management includes many aspects that are important for you each day at work. Knowledge management in an everyday office essentially means the central storage of information of all kinds.

Many organizations struggle with the same problems: employees learn skills, receive information and their knowledge increases. Everyone organizes this knowledge in their own way. One person likes to write things down in training-style documents while another prefers simple notes. A third person never documents anything because they have a great memory. So everyone is responsible for organizing their own knowledge and there is no centralized repository. Thus, the company's knowledge and documentation is spread over potentially as many places as there are employees: emails, memos, notebooks, shared drives, documents, whiteboards, ...


Good knowledge management must strive to store documents where they can be accessed by everyone. A central place where all knowledge is gathered and made visible and usable to all. Knowledge management is about making knowledge transparent and storing it centrally.

For many this means one thing: a lot of work. But there is one decisive argument: It saves time. A central repository of information of any kind is easier to search, it can prevent duplication of work and ensures that mistakes that have already been made are not repeated. Because all knowledge is stored in this central location and it is accessible to everyone, status and progress can always be monitored. Another advantage becomes apparent during onboarding: Which documents already exist? How have you prepared certain topics and processes already for on boarding? An employee can answer exactly such questions quickly and easily thanks to a well-structured knowledge management system.

"There is rarely a central repository - and if there is, it is not used adequately"

This is adapted from a series of webinars about Knowledge Management, held by //SEIBERT/MEDIA in German. 

On this page: 

Who calls for knowledge management?

When companies want to expand their knowledge management or even establish one for the first time, there are usually very specific reasons for this.

One of the most frequent underlying reasons driving the call for a knowledge management system, is a reaction to errors. A "messy situation" arose in the company which was difficult to resolve because no one know how to do it. In such a situation, many wish for a functioning knowledge management system.

Frequently, problems result from an already existing, but poorly implemented information management solution. In most cases, these are complicated shared drive architectures that are difficult to search, overly technical, or simply generally too difficult or time-consuming to use.

Since companies often use Google's GSuite or Microsoft's Office 365, there is no way to 'stumble upon' documentation. Files are not stored centrally. They must be shared, often via email, before anyone else can access them. Frustration ensues and the call for a knowledge management system grows.

"The call for knowledge management is usually a direct reaction to a mess."


Reasons driving the call for a knowledge management system

One of the most common reasons behind the call for an organized knowledge management system is to avoid problems with network drives. Time and again there are complaints about bad usability or incomplete documentation because files are hidden somewhere on the network but not searchable. A system such as Atlassian Confluence can help to create order and also provides a simple and easy-to-understand user interface.

Probably the largest and most important driver is email chaos: hundreds of emails, CC addressed to dozens of people, with file attachments containing different versions of documents, late replies and absences. Email is terrible for knowledge management, which is why avoiding this overwhelming email chaos is one of the most common reasons for a centralized system to remedy the situation.

Another driving factor is to improve internal communication and get it out of the email inbox. By using a centrally located microblog, it is easier to communicate with both all and select groups of employees and massively reduce the email chaos.

"Few know how to react appropriately to a CC email!"


How does this replace email?

In order to implement a professional knowledge management in a company, you have to consider how you can replace email. There are many hurdles waiting to be overcome.

At first, email is easy: A simple message with some information. But as more people respond, more files are sent, links are shared and documents are changed, email becomes more confusing. The original email, which was so simple and easy to understand at first, quickly developed into a big mess. But how do we encourage acceptance and move to a new system like Atlassian Confluence?

Ideally, you (and all of your colleagues) need to become aware of the advantages of using a knowledge management system. An example of this is our //SEIBERT/MEDIA extranet: Instead of email, the extranet holds all of our customer communication channels and records. Information, interim results and feedback are recorded and discussed in the extranet, transparently and available to all. If an employee is ill, another employee can access the project status and discussions in this system. The microblog is used for announcements or other urgent messages. 

Where an email can wait for several days for a reply because a single person is unavailable, anyone can respond at any time and because the information is collected centrally and transparently. Emails with dozens of attachments with different versions of files are a thing of the past when using the Confluence system: Once created, a page can always be updated and shared in the microblog. So everyone has the latest version of a document and stay up to date, even when the employee who is responsible is away from the office for a day.

"Email is really simple. Until it gets complicated."


Emails in Confluence?

Wer Atlassian Confluence als Tool zur Etablierung von Wissensmanagement in seinem Unternehmen einführt, darf nicht erwarten, dass damit E-Mails abgeschafft werden. Vielmehr geht es darum den E-Mails einen neuen Charakter zu verleihen.

If you introduce Atlassian Confluence as a knowledge management tool in your company, don't expect it to abolish email. Rather, it gives emails a new focus.
Instead of distributing information, but rather on using email for notifications. These show what has happened on pages, so that you can immediately see what changed. A short preview is provided in the mail so that you can see at a glance what is being worked on.

No one expects an answer to this type of email. You don't have to react. This makes it easy to set up email filters, to file Confluence notifications and clean up your email inbox.

"Emails aren't gone forever - they just have a different character."


How do customers choose a wiki?

It' s easy to get people excited about a new system. However, bringing them to actually use it often involves overcoming various hurdles. Generally, wikis aren't introduced overnight. It takes time to adjust, and during this time acceptance and enthusiasm must be built within the company.

Internal trailblazers ensure greater acceptance of the new system within the company. These people initially use the system on a smaller scale and show the employees all the positive aspects of wiki software. Simple documentation, fast sharing, uncomplicated collaboration. Others quickly want to join in!

They serve as pioneers and show their colleagues the advantages of a central knowledge management system, over trying to use Office 365, GSuite and email by actively using the new system. In this way you can reach one employee after the other, who then serve as additional multipliers. Such gradual and organic acceptance of wiki software like Atlassian Confluence can also lead to a positive cultural change becoming established in the company.

"You can't switch everyone to work in a wiki overnight - it's a gradual process."


Wikipedia as an example

If you think about knowledge management in 2018, Wikipedia is first in mind. The goal should be the same: Wikipedia replaced encyclopedias in a very short time and is now the knowledge platform that most of us around the world today. This applies to banal topics such as information about the animal kingdom as well as to complex chemical formulas used in scientific research.

A wiki lets you quickly create and edit documents. And this is exactly what knowledge management thrives on. You can open a document quickly, make changes and leave. In spite of this, you will always feel that this page still belongs to you and that you are not handing it over to someone else.

"Wikipedia is mankind's knowledge management platform."


True knowledge management

In companies, employees often use the comment function to suggest changes. Ask them why and they'll say, "I didn't know I was allowed to change it directly."

In a wiki systems like Atlassian Confluence, you quickly understand that you can make changes to documents and pages easily. Various functions, such as the possibility to easily restore old versions, make it easier for insecure employees to edit information. If someone makes a change that the author doesn't like, they can undo it at any time using the page revision history.

Being able to collaborate on documents in the same place and share the results with other people at any time, who in turn can make their own changes, is knowledge management. No one can destroy the document without the author or others knowing about it. And when others supplement the information recorded, or suggest changes, everyone can add to their knowledge and understanding.

Adding such content that the author may not have been aware of is a value-adding process built into your knowledge management system.

"I still feel like I'm in control of the information on the page."


The microblog

Employees want to exchange information on a wide variety of topics. The microblog offers a way to do this within Atlassian Confluence that is similar to the structure of Facebook, Yammer, Twitter and Co. - but in a business context.

You can initiate a wide variety of discussions in the microblog, share project work transparently and comment directly on results or even just "like" them. When a new colleague joins, they can read and understand everything firsthand and in context.

Many employees feel as if they are the only ones who can do something. They feel like they're alone with all of the work. Atlassian Confluence makes sure that this feeling never occurs again: Through transparency and being able to see what everyone does in the system, this feeling disappears.

This is by no means about performance monitoring, but much more about learning from and exchanging ideas with each other. It is not the core of knowledge management in the traditional sense, but rather an addition provided by the social aspects..

"You suddenly feel like everyone is helping to move all this stuff forward!"


User profiles and searching for experts in Confluence

Linchpin User Profiles extend the basic user profiles in Confluence. You can search for contacts via a sidebar on the right side. You can see everyone who matches your search along with all their relevant profile information quickly and easily. 

But you aren't limited to simply searching by name, like in a typical employee directly. You can also search for keywords (expertise, responsibilities, project names) to find the right person for your enquiry.

To narrow down your list of results, you can add filters, such as by location or language. You'll find the right employee every time!


Summary

Altogether a good knowledge management tool will benefit you right from the start. It supports you in your daily work, makes your tasks easier, brings transparency and helps you become more efficient. 

This not only saves a lot of time and money, but also provides a visible quality improvement achievable through using this software.

But it is also important for this tool to quickly achieve what it is supposed to. If it doesn't, if it makes processes slower or more difficult, it's not a good tool.


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