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Knowledge Management Team's Collaboration with SME’s serving as Information Providers

1 June 2012
Galit Lieber
Laptops connected to a world map

Information flow in organizations is considered essential and routine, and it occurs through various and multiple channels, formal channels (e.g., knowledge management and organizational portal) and informal channels (e.g., corridor conversations). However, information flow, in general, and the knowledge management team encounter difficulties. In this article, we will address the main challenges in the orderly flow of information to the knowledge management team and how to deal with them.


The main difficulties in the flow of information to the knowledge management team are:


Organizational

For example, A large, branched, and geographically dispersed organization may cause:

  • "The right-hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing" and duplicate roles. The knowledge management team may receive the same information from several sources, and the team needs to coordinate and mediate between these sources.

  • There are many information providers from different roles (product managers, project managers, team managers, etc.). The quantity and diversity of roles affect the nature and complexity of information flow.


Technical

For example, Information for the knowledge management team is sent by email and gets swallowed up among the other emails received by the team. Even if there is a team-level email, information providers may send emails to the personal email of one of the team members for convenience, habit, etc.


Human

For example, Due to time pressure and lack of awareness, they don't always know exactly who to pass the information to, when, and how (is there a format?).


In addition, employees change roles, and in the handover to the new role, the role of the information provider is not mentioned, and its importance is not explained. What is expected of them, and if it is mentioned, everyone implements it differently.


Remember, in most cases, the information provider's role is not the primary one; it is added to the official role.


These difficulties can be dealt with by formulating a single work process with all information providers and ensuring it is manageable in the daily routine. Using the work process will not only organize the information flow, document the information received, streamline the work, and shorten update times but also position the knowledge management team higher in the company.


Here are some tips for building a work process between the knowledge management team and the information providers:

  • Map out all existing information providers, identify duplications and whether they can be reduced, and create an up-to-date, organized list including the provider's name and the topics they are responsible for. Keep the list in a shared and accessible location for the entire knowledge management team.

  • Check which processes/procedures do not have a responsible party (owner) and locate/appoint one accordingly.

  • Decide on a single platform for information flow (e.g., email/dedicated system) and insist on receiving information only through it. It is advisable to be flexible in urgent cases and under time pressure but get the info afterward as you decide.

  • Define a service level agreement (SLA) for all incoming requests. Define a realistic time frame that supports the knowledge management team's capabilities (number of editors/content experts) and provides a response to field representatives.

  • Create dedicated forms for information providers to use with the knowledge management team. The forms will include templates that are as similar as possible to those in the knowledge management system. After creating them, distribute them to all information providers and require them to receive information only in these forms.


The advantages:

  • The information provider gets accustomed to writing the essentials in an organized manner, according to the templates in the knowledge management system. On a routine basis, with all the workload, the tendency is to pass on the existing information as is, unprocessed and unorganized (e.g., meeting summaries and emails with heavy correspondence).

  • The knowledge management team can update the information more quickly.


Brainstorm with the team how to engage the information provider in routine and "quality" (passing on all information clearly) information updates and how to strengthen ties with them.


After formulating the work process, distribute it to all relevant parties, managers, and information providers. Be sure to follow it daily and adjust it according to the organization's dynamics.


Remember, the knowledge management team works with various parties and can, therefore, serve as a good example of proper and organized information flow in the organization. Those parties will soon be influenced by it, emulate it, and disseminate it further.

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