Whether you have a formal system in place for storing or managing it, your business already has some sort of a knowledge base. In fact, along with human capital, your knowledge is one of your most valuable assets. As a new study by Best Practices, LLC indicates, knowledge management is a significant driving factor behind the company's growth, agility and performance.
However, merely storing some "knowledge" is not enough. To drive continuous growth and benefit from the available insights, you must be able to make efficient use of those assets. That is exactly why you need to have an effective knowledge management system in place. KM systems are often viewed as the same to organization management systems, however, it is important to distinguish between these two:
- A KM user views the system as a method of identifying and capturing knowledge assets.
- An information system user sees it purely as a database for storing, organizing and retrieving data.
While the difference may seem subtle, it is an important point to remember during the development stage. Otherwise, you may end up with a product that supports only the storage of knowledge, but not its effective transfer among different users. Furthermore, there are additional issues that you should pay special attention to.
Opt for a qualitative organization of knowledge assets
Most companies tend to organize existing knowledge assets based on the physical systems where the information is stored. This includes capitalizing on existing databases, document management systems and other knowledge silos, and creating a knowledge map to access those scattered systems. The wrinkle? Such systems may be useful for experienced employees who already know where to search for the needed information but may appear unhelpful to those who are not yet familiar with the information technology architecture of the organization.
Qualitative organization, on the contrary, allows retrieving certain information when searching by a topic instead of a location. The most appropriate qualitative methods for organizing information are as follows:
- Process models use a generalized model of how a business functions – from identifying target audience and markets to managing resources, employees and processes – and maps it to the knowledge contained in the organization.
- Functional models are loosely based on an organizational chart and list relevant information for different departments. The problem, however, is that it is not highly effective for sharing information across functions since most employers will rarely go on and check knowledge assets of other departments unless given a specific reason.
- Conceptual models organize information around topics, such as customers or branding and list information originally produced by different departments and across functions which facilitate knowledge exchanges across the organization. Such model tends to be the most useful, but a harder to construct.
Regardless of which model you choose to organize your existing assets, it is important that you develop detailed knowledge maps first to support your future system and facilitate fast accesses to the required information.
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Consider distributed architecture
To increase the overall system speed, especially if you are a global corporation, you may want to consider distributing certain components of your system across several servers. It may seem like an unnecessary investment early on, but as your system growths, it will face additional load. A cloud-based knowledge management system can be a nice alternative to that as your system will scale on-demand. The con, however, is that your scalability and user-growth potential may be capped to a certain level by the provider.
Customize security levels for different system components
Security problems with knowledge management often tend to have some cultural connotations. Companies need to regularly question their "clearance" levels about why certain data should not be accessible to broader audiences. Otherwise, you may end up with a system that does not promote seamless knowledge exchange but rather places additional bottlenecks.
Different components of your system will need to have different access levels and security mechanisms. A typical KMS system can consist of the following elements:
- Body of knowledge
- Process assets
- Quality system documentation
- Discussion forum/online community
- The people knowledge map (Yellow Pages)
- Departmental knowledge portals
- Online learning materials (e-courses, compliance training seminars, etc.)
- Online documentation
Now let’s take a closer look at all of them.
Online learning materials and online documentation sections typically do not host critical information from a security standpoint, but the basic precautions should be still in place. In particular, you have to make sure that there are no loopholes that a malicious party could leverage in order to gain access to more secured components. In particular, incorporate mechanisms to prevent phishing attacks; include timed auto-logout feature and make sure that you monitor this segment for any suspicious activity as well.
Discussion forum and people knowledge map (Yellow Pages) host a lot of private employee information, including contact details, employment details and so on. While it may not require as much protection as other assets, still it needs to be secured. The best route to take here would be implementing a secure intranet portal. Dock 365 offers different prebuilt sharepoint intranet portals that could be customized with integrations to host HR information or your e-learning resources.
Body of knowledge, process assets, departmental knowledge portals and quality system documentation will contain the most important proprietary information, including unique R&D data, financial information and more. These components should be assigned with the highest level of security to protect from unauthorized access, hacking and copying to external systems.
Consider leveraging EDR tools that will record different endpoint and network events; store the information locally or in a centralized database; use machine-learning tools and behavior analytics to detect indicators of breaches, abnormal system usage and other indicators of compromise.
Depending on the sensitivity of your data, you may also want to incorporate anon-signature approach for malware prevention as signature-based approaches are no longer effective against advanced attacks. Such solutions typically use the following methods to prevent attacks: hardening, memory protection, isolation, behavior analytics and algorithmic file classification. The most popular vendors are Avecto and Cylance.
The key here, however, is to implement seamless security that will work behind the cloak and will not overcomplicate capturing and retrieving required knowledge. Implementing a comprehensive knowledge management system is not a small task, and the following post addresses just some of the areas you should be paying special attention to. Ultimately, you will have to create your own phased implementation approach that will minimize the risks and yield impressive results.