Sharing knowledge in a remote work environment

11 June 2020

Nick Kervin, National Leader, Digital & Technology Advisory
Partner, Advisory

Many organisations are scrambling to set up tools enabling their people to collaborate and communicate effectively whilst working from home. Consequently, they are storing large volumes of information in new ways.

Network folders, local drives and corridor conversations are likely to have been replaced by a mixture of Microsoft Teams and SharePoint, or Google’s suite of document management and collaboration tools.

The new way of working

For organisations already used to collaborating in this manner, the move to working remotely has likely been smooth. For those who were not, there may have been initial challenges. Either way, the volume of information exchange is likely greater than it was.

The benefits of the technology adopted during this time have the potential to persist long after the crisis is over, particularly if these new platforms and systems are used to store information efficiently and effectively.

Giving structure to stored information makes finding it in the future much easier, but also enables organisations to harness the knowledge they’re now creating and storing.

Knowledge is a significant asset to any business and can be a key differentiator between competitors.

Having faster access to quality information enables organisations to incorporate efficiencies in business processes, therefore reducing costs – an advantage to any organisation.

Capturing knowledge also reduces risk. When key people near retirement, or suddenly leave an organisation, allowing their knowledge to leave with them can have significant impacts. Particularly, when specific subject matter knowledge is required to achieve a solution.

Key factors to ensure your system is up to the task

Strong knowledge management depends on these areas:

  • Ensure alignment with your business strategy – This will enable knowledge management to be embedded throughout the business
  • Have senior leadership visibly lead knowledge creation – Having senior and executive leaders driving the vision will highlight to the organisation how important it is
  • Encourage a knowledge culture – Encourage learning and the sharing of informatio
  • Clearly define the processes and classifications – Rules and processes make for consistency and clarity
  • Designate an owner – The owner will drive implementation of the solution and up-take among staff. Getting this right is imperative.
  • Technology – The technology needs to integrate seamlessly and be easy to use. It sounds obvious, but having poorly implemented technology can stop the knowledge transfer before it even begins. 

Actions to take

The current environment provides unique opportunities for improving knowledge management capabilities, but also provides some unique challenges, with the influx of documents being stored in different locations using different platforms (e.g. some people may be sharing via OneDrive, some via SharePoint and others via email).

Some immediate actions you can take:

  • Put a knowledge champion in place who understands the chosen technology platform
  • Determine the structure. Make it clear to everyone where documents are to be stored, how they will be shared and the process for collaborating on them
  • Consider the information you’re now capturing and select a process that is causing the greatest challenge or frustrations – start by defining a process specifically to solve this issue
  • Track the success of this process.

For example, law firms may spend a lot of time finding the same type of precedence information, and mining organisations may find that maintenance costs are increasing and contract information is difficult to find.

Putting in place rules around where this information is stored, how it is managed and how it can be shared helps reduce time and enables better, more informed decision making.

What does the future hold?

Organisations have been presented with a challenging, but unique opportunity to harness the knowledge being captured by their systems. This can become a ‘springboard’ to greater market penetration, providing quicker access to more insightful knowledge.

It is also an important opportunity to prevent future potential issues caused by too much unstructured information.

A well-structured knowledge and information management system can pave the way for further efficiencies using artificial intelligence and e-discovery – but the foundation needs to be solid first.

This article first appeared in InDaily on Monday, 11 May 2020: