Doing business or any kind of goal-oriented work is difficult if you don’t have a basis for your decisions and actions. It is like going to war without knowing where your enemy is, or even who they are.
For this, start-up organizations and businesses often conduct baseline research. Before operating, businesses ideally conduct feasibility studies. However, once baselines are established the data is not always maintained or updated. There is a popular opinion that research takes up a lot of resources which is why institutions tend to refer to old data rather than generate new ones.
But it couldn’t be any further from the truth. There are already ways to update baselines with easy and cost-efficient ways like using survey research software, and feedback programs. Gone are the days when you would need to train an army of field workers to get sufficient samples.
More importantly, this data gathering has to be complemented with a database and data analysis to have significance in your operations. This is where knowledge management comes in.
What is Knowledge Management?
Put into the simplest terms, knowledge management refers to your institution’s system of organizing data and information for its strategic goals. It includes the processes of gathering data, the database used to store them, the analyses and processing of the data, and the systems and designs for sharing or replication.
Institutional operations generate a wealth of data. However, much of it is lost if you do not know how to capture all the relevant information. Most database systems can be programmed according to the data you want to log in and process them according to the correlations you want to generate.
The first crucial step in knowledge management is designing the tool you will use in gathering your data. It could be a simple survey form, a matrix that can be easily filled in, or a comprehensive report template. When you design this, keep in mind the people who will be filling them up. Would it be your managers who will take the time to complete a report or customers who are not always willing to spare extra minutes filling up long forms?
Think about ways that would also be attractive to your sources. What incentives can you provide? Also remember that in everything you do, you need to get explicit permission that you can use the information they supplied. Familiarize yourself with the laws about extracting and using data, even for private purposes.
Organizing the information in a database
After obtaining your data, you will need mechanisms to organize your information. Sometimes it’s too daunting to read through all reports again when you are looking for particular information.
For example, you want to see how a product sells every July in the past ten years. If you don’t make a database that could easily show you the sales for July or every product, you might have to go through all reports where that product is reported.
A simple database would be a matrix that would have all the labels and clustering of the data you will be able to gather. Sophisticated programs are also available where you just need to upload reports and the system can already extract the data from prompts or cues.
These programs, however, since they are mechanized, will need concise reporting formats. The reports also need to be diligently filled up since the programs could not identify human errors.
So far, most of the knowledge management functions can be systematic and programmed. Data analysis, up to some level, can also be generated by a program. However, interpretation of the outcomes will have to be done by a human. Computers cannot decide if the results benefit the company or not.
For example, you are looking at the correlation of the months of the COVID-19 lockdowns and the sales of a basic commodity like rice. Your data might say that in March, sales went up but went down in April and May.
It is a human analysis that would have to supply the reasons why March had a rise in demand. It could be due to panic buying, the availability of supplies, and other such reasons.
Ultimately, you cannot establish knowledge management without knowledgeable personnel. From data gathering to data analysis, someone will still need to ensure that your systems – however sophisticated they maybe – had properly sorted out the information.
Knowledge management can be outsourced. Several establishments are dedicated to this. However, since you might be dealing with sensitive or classified information, it might be best if you establish a unit within your organization.