What is knowledge management?

Knowledge is one of the most valuable assets for every organization. From product and service information to historical context about customers and competitors, there’s no shortage of knowledge to go around. But many organizations struggle to collect and share this knowledge with employees, which is why knowledge management is so useful.

Knowledge management is the process of harnessing, organizing, and sharing important workplace information across an organization. This is often done by maintaining and storing knowledge in one central location that is easily accessible by anyone who needs it. This provides organizations with a unique competitive advantage that enables them to share, learn, and update business information in order to increase efficiency and productivity.

Types of organizational knowledge

When it comes to knowledge management in business, this includes acquiring, growing, and sharing information that falls into three main categories:

  • Explicit knowledge: Explicit knowledge is the simplest form of knowledge to share. It’s fact-based information that includes rules, instructions, data, and policies. Common explicit knowledge management examples include company manuals, how-to videos, white papers, and guides. This information is clear-cut and easily defined, explained, and stored. 
  • Implicit knowledge: Implicit knowledge is information that’s shared between people without being explicitly stated outright. This requires people to read between the lines in order to understand the context. A good example of implicit knowledge is when you’re about to go outside and someone tells you to bring a jacket. While they don’t explicitly say it, you can use context clues to figure out why you need a coat — because it’s cold.
  • Tacit knowledge: Tacit knowledge includes intuitive information that’s learned through first-hand experience and practice. Unlike explicit knowledge, it’s more difficult to capture and store in an efficient manner. One great example of tacit knowledge is the sales skills that a seller learns and develops over time.

While it’s important to focus on each type of knowledge, implicit and tacit knowledge are crucial to the success of go-to-market (GTM) teams. That’s because this information lives among your highest performers and most-seasoned employees. The best practices, tips, and tricks they’ve learned while interacting with prospects and customers is valuable expertise that should be codified and shared across the team to help replicate and scale success.

Why is knowledge management important to enablement?

The goal of enablement is to provide frontline teammates with the right resources, content, and tools they need to engage with prospects and current customers as effectively as possible. But without knowledge management, this wouldn’t be possible. After all, GTM teams need a way to capture, organize, update, and share information at scale. Knowledge comes in many forms, and GTM engines heavily rely on knowledge sharing through:

  • Sales playbooks
  • Sales decks and presentations
  • Competitor briefs
  • Product hubs
  • FAQ docs
  • Training
  • All-hands updates 
  • Team meetings 

It’s also important to note that effective knowledge management encourages subject matter experts and teammates across the organization to share useful information that naturally comes from conversations with prospects, customers, and partners over time. For example, if a sales rep closes a deal with a customer who was also considering a competitor, they should share the tactics and information that were useful in winning the deal. Then, the enablement team can add this information to specific playbooks and battle cards for sellers to use in future deals. Or, if you notice one customer support agent has consistently higher customer feedback, it may be a good idea to have them share techniques and processes with the rest of the support team. Without encouraging the transfer of this tacit knowledge, revenue teams miss out on sharing information that the entire team can benefit from. In fact, one report found that organizations that ask top performers to actively share their knowledge close more deals and increase win rates by 54%. 

Additional benefits of knowledge management

At the end of the day, the importance of knowledge management in organizations can’t be overstated. If done well, knowledge management can positively impact an organization in the following ways. 

  1. It helps new hires and teammates find answers to frequently asked questions and important information they may need while on the job. This decreases ramp time for your new employees and prevents wasted time looking for information they need. 
  2. Knowledge management captures important work knowledge from people who may be retiring or leaving the company. Building a legacy of knowledge is about preserving everything your company has already done. This includes values, missions, and principles, but also operational and strategic challenges you’ve conquered.
  3. It empowers and enables teammates by giving them access to the knowledge they need to succeed. Having knowledge and experience readily available allows employees to be confident in their roles and seen as an expert for your business. 
  4. Knowledge management is a great way to extend the capabilities of your existing enablement team. Instead of taking the time to answer ongoing questions or pointing sellers to the right materials, reps are able to find what they need right when they need it. It also helps organizations identify knowledge gaps so enablement teams can strategically prioritize new initiatives that address these opportunities.
  5. Effective knowledge management saves organizations valuable resources in the long run. In fact, one report found that Fortune 500 companies lose more than $31 billion a year by failing to share knowledge.

How to implement knowledge management in your organization

Now that you understand the various types of knowledge and how they’re useful, let’s take a look at how to develop an effective knowledge management process. Developing a process within your business requires an initial assessment of your existing processes so team members can integrate knowledge management strategies where they make the most sense. Following the right steps gives people in your organization access to the knowledge they need to make important decisions, boost efficiency, communicate with their teams or prospects, add their own expertise, and more.

Acquire

Collecting and acquiring knowledge is an essential part of the knowledge management process. Think about it — if incorrect data is collected, the resulting knowledge won’t be accurate. Consequently, the decisions made based on the data would also be inaccurate because they are derived from insignificant knowledge.

Create and store

Knowledge creation and sharing includes describing, classifying, categorizing, and indexing information so it can be easily retrieved, navigated, reused, and shared. This is when many organizations rely on a knowledge management tool to sort and segment knowledge in a way that’s readily accessible by users.

Apply and use

The application step happens when an individual or team can take captured knowledge and apply it to enhance efficiency, improve business operations, complete a strategic task, and communicate more effectively with team members or customers.

Analyze use and start the process over

The analytical part of this process is an effective path for capturing the learnings gained from knowledge management initiatives. It involves reviewing a project after it is complete to explore what happened. From there, you can decide what parts of the process to keep and what to change next time.

A strong knowledge management process provides knowledge through an organized process for creating, sustaining, and updating to create value.

What is a knowledge management system and how does it help?

Your company’s knowledge is only good if your employees can access it when and where it’s best for them. And because knowledge exists in a variety of locations — both digital and human — the knowledge management process can be involved and complex. Organizations can make this easier and more streamlined by using a knowledge management tool. This system, which helps with the creation, storage, and sharing of information, allows organizations to connect disparate tools to create one searchable source of truth. 

This enables employees to create, share, and find relevant information quickly and efficiently without having to jump from tool to tool. A modern knowledge management system creates a unified workflow that improves productivity while ensuring employees have access to the most up-to-date information needed to perform in their roles. It also extends and optimizes the capabilities of an organization’s enablement team by providing teammates with fast, accurate support when they need it. This frees up valuable resources that enablement teams can use to support large initiatives rather than answering questions.

Enable knowledge sharing with Seismic

When employees are empowered with the information they need to be successful in their roles, great things happen. With Seismic Knowledge, revenue teams can reduce knowledge silos, boost productivity, maximize resources, deliver better customer support, and close deals faster. To learn more about the Seismic Enablement Cloud™, including Knowledge, check out our Product Innovation Center.