Collaboration: Key to a successful knowledge management function

Introduction

Virtues of collaboration are well known and well realized. Good collaborations have won wars and brought major breakthroughs in different fields. The same stands true for the benefits that can be achieved in effective gathering and dissemination of organizational knowledge.

Is the organizational knowledge being adequately captured and not lost with employee turnover? Is the correct knowledge being documented for the use of the organization? How scattered is the knowledge? Are employees adopting the knowledge? Are they effectively using it? These and other challenges have enough potency to keep a knowledge manager awake at nights. These challenges can be effectively addressed by the use of collaboration tools and techniques. While each of the above-mentioned challenges would have mitigations, but experience shows that collaboration tools and techniques are equally effective.

It is also important to understand, that the shape and form in which collaboration as a practice is adopted by a knowledge management function, depends on various factors. Factors such as the complexity of processes, the capability of the knowledge management system, demography of the knowledge consumers and more. There is no one way to use collaboration tools. Practices evolve with the increase in adoption and with each strategy review. At Tech Mahindra Business Services, we’ve developed various collaboration frameworks that have stood the test of time.

Here’s a quick overview:

Identify and work with functions responsible for knowledge

Knowledge by no means is one man’s responsibility. In a customer services organization like ours, typically three teams would be responsible for ‘knowledge’. First on the list is the training function. They impart the knowledge required to perform the job and bring in the new hire perspective. It helps to keep the knowledge simple and easily accessible. Then comes the Quality team. Their input ensures that the available knowledge is always meeting the requirements, to achieve the organization’s customer experience aspirations. Knowledge managers should identify SPOCs from each of these functions and use them to provide continuous and quality inputs on what works and what doesn’t. A regular catch up with the wider team members also ensures fresh input and continuous engagement.

Always close the loop

As knowledge base owners, we could publish all the possible information available for our end consumers. But we would never know if it’s well understood and is useful when required. For that, we need a strong feedback mechanism in place. Our knowledge consumers should be able to give feedback on each piece of content for its utility, correctness, simplicity and availability. Once their feedback is received, the knowledge manager needs to have a well-defined mechanism, where each feedback is picked and addressed to the knowledge consumers’ satisfaction. If you’ve seen a thumbs up and down icons at the end of support articles, or if you’re prompted to assign a star rating to an article, you’ll understand the point being made here. But it’s the process after content has been rated, which makes all the difference. What do we do, with what I am being told by the rater is key to effective collaboration. Make the end users part of your process.

Get them on your side

At TechMBS, we’ve successfully adopted a ‘communities of practices’ framework. The objective was to identify and set apart a group of skilled and performing users on the floor to be our eyes and ears. They help the knowledge manager by getting functional level insights and suggestions. Along with being brand ambassadors, putting in a good word and creating an environment of confidence in the knowledge base. The quality of feedback improves and the potential to get great improvement opportunities for the knowledge base. The initiative empowers the chosen employees to better communicate, collaborate and share insights. Thus bringing up the overall engagement with knowledge consumers. Since set up, we’ve been able to utilize the community for driving various business changes on the floor as well.

Stay connected

The employees who engage with the customers firsthand are the best sources of inputs for improving your tool and content. Knowledge managers should speak to the front line as often as possible. Be a part of as many skips and focus meets as well. Some of the best ideas come from these interactions and you never know when you strike gold.

Creating better knowledge requires partnership and collaboration. Organizations must embrace the practices of collaboration, which set us at a faster pace than a solo runner.

About the author

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Nikhil Katyal, Manager - Solutions Design and Implementation - BPS

Nikhil is a Manager with the Solutions Design and Implementation team (TechMBS) and is based out of Mumbai. He currently manages the Knowledge Management function, along with various transitions and projects for the client. His 14+ years of work experience includes an extensive exposure to Customer Services, Change Management and now Knowledge Management. Outside of work, he is an avid reader of books on Indian Colonial past and loves everything about culinary history and traditions.