All successful businesses, big or small, have one thing in common – Extensive business knowledge. In big organizations this knowledge can reside in entire teams, or units. In small organizations such knowledge is restricted to the people who founded the business, and maybe a few key employees that drive company strategy. In either case, scaling and sustaining organizational growth might be difficult, if the knowledge discovered, collated, and curated by the team is not stored for future reference. And that is why it is important to have Knowledge Repositories.
Before going any further, let us understand what knowledge means to a business. Business knowledge is a sum of skills, experiences, capabilities and expert insight, which you collectively create and rely on, in your business.
Knowledge can exist in many forms, but can be broadly categorized into:
- Tacit knowledge – Personal know-how or skills rooted in experience or practice (Eg. Skill, Competency, Experience).
- Explicit knowledge – Articulated knowledge recorded in documents, memos, databases, etc.
- Embedded knowledge – skills and understanding locked in processes, products, rules or organizational culture (Eg. Informal Routines, Codes of Conduct, Organizational Ethics).
Your understanding of what customers want, combined with your workers’ know-how, can be regarded as your knowledge base. Storing, searching, accessing and using this knowledge in the right way is together known as Knowledge Management (KM).
At its core, KM has important implications on decision making in an organization. Effective KM supports the process of decision making and strategic planning and makes it possible to create, transfer and apply knowledge at different levels in a coherent and productive way.
All of this is sounds great, and we can look up to major organizations such as Microsoft, Amazon, etc. for how they manage knowledge. However, implementing this in small businesses might create some challenges.
To do it right, a small business should
- Start with thorough research to find the right tools for knowledge management
- Implement these tools, without shying away or getting intimidated by new technologies
- Thorough documentation goes a long way in Knowledge Management such as developing SOPs and guidelines of workflow.
- Lastly, simple creative measures such as mentorship programs and discussions ensure effective flow of knowledge sharing and develop awareness amongst employees.
All the efforts of Knowledge Management are pointless if it is not safeguarded and backed up. A surprisingly unsettling statistic shows that 60% of companies that lose their data will shut down within 6 months of the data disaster. In addition to replacement time and irretrievable data, catastrophic data loss can destroy client confidence, leading them to take their business elsewhere. Retrieving the data requires an embarrassing explanation, and lost data could even lead to lawsuits.
Given the risk loss of data poses, it is important for every business to have a reliable backup solution. If your business has physical servers, backing up these entire systems are critical. As a small business owner, this should not be a big task once you have a proper plan. Backups can be created using two basic methods: file level and image level. File level is perfect for backing up files and folders on your file server. Image-level backups are perfect for when you want to protect an entire system at once. Backups can be done in full, incremental or differential manner. A right backup strategy would also include backups such as Cloud Backup, Encryption of Data In-Transit, 3-2-1 Strategy, and Testing Backups.
Knowledge Management helps you run your business more efficiently, decrease business risks and exploit opportunities to the fullest. So, treat and safeguard your organizational knowledge as carefully as you would a sack of diamonds. Because it is every bit as valuable or more.