Albert Einstein said "Information is not Knowledge" and this statement becomes more and more true as organizations grow in size. All companies have access to information but without proper knowledge management, the data can't contribute much to the success of the organization. According to Microsoft, by 2016, 78% of the Fortune 500 companies use SharePoint to meet their content management needs and one in every five knowledge workers has access to SharePoint.
With so much buzz around Knowledge Base Management, in this blog, we have covered basics about SharePoint knowledge management and some of the best practices in SharePoint for knowledge management. In addition to that, we have also discussed some of the pros and cons of Sharepoint which will help you determine if it is the right solution for your company or not. So without further ado, let's jump right in!
Table Of Content
What is KM and how does SharePoint Fit in the World of KM
All organizations have a ton of knowledge base in explicit form like formal documents, SOPs, etc. and tacit form through expertise and experience. All of this information can't become knowledge unless used properly in a constructive manner. A knowledge management solution allows you to collect, organize, and manage all this data so that redundant efforts are mitigated and the productivity of the workforce is heightened.
SharePoint is a cloud-based collaborative platform that has flawless integration with Microsoft Office. Primarily sold as a document management and storage system, SharePoint is highly configurable and can be used in a variety of ways in different organizations.
SharePoint is a website-based collaborative system that allows companies to use it to collect all its organizational knowledge in one platform, control access to that information, and automate workflow processes across the organization. Some of the benefits of SharePoint are:
1. Improved Access to the Organizational Knowledge Base
According to a McKinsey analysis, the average employee spends 28% of the workday researching and responding to emails. A lot of this time is spent on looking for information and data before responding to emails. If not emails, then activities like customer support, reports, etc. also take a lot of research efforts. With SharePoint knowledge management, all of the Organizational Knowledge can be looked up from anywhere and at any time. Thus the easy access to organizational knowledge base increases productivity and efficiency of the workforce.
2. Secure Sharing of Information and Simplified day-to-day Transactions
A lot of industries like insurance, banking, healthcare, etc. have strict policies regarding confidential information of its clients. For such industries, effective document sharing is possible with secure encryption of Microsoft SharePoint. With customizable security settings, sensitive information like company auditing records, policies, etc. can be stored securely without a second thought and easily accessed with appropriate rights.
3. Simplified Business Processes and Exceptional Collaboration
There are a ton of repetitive tasks that employees in any organization are expected to do. Frequent procedures like getting approvals, signatures, feedback, tracking progress, etc. can be done with a couple of clicks in SharePoint. There are several automated workflow options to automate these processes so time is saved and things are faster. In addition to this, when multiple people are collaborating on a single document, confusion is bound to arise. To avoid confusion and errors due to miscommunications, SharePoint tells the document owners every single change made in the document, along with time and person stamps.
4. Increased Productivity
This is a crucial benefit for large organizations where the employees work at different times and remote locations. With all information easily available, all employees can easily access anything from anywhere and the amount of time spent in looking for information and back-to-back collaboration is drastically reduced. Thus, inevitably the workforce productivity is increased.
Now, let’s look at some of the prevalent practices in SharePoint that can make perfect Knowledge Management an attainable task.
Common Practices in SharePoint for Knowledge Management
- For 19 years since its initial launch in 2001, SharePoint has been widely used by companies to collect, develop, share, and manage organizational knowledge base. Many organizations keep adding their organizational knowledge to SharePoint as it is a practical solution to save information for years, and due to the easy lookup feature of SharePoint, all of this data can be reused as and when needed. So the first step in using SharePoint knowledge management is to add all known and discovered knowledge into the platform so that the knowledge portfolio of the organization starts growing.
- SharePoint is not only a document repository but a collaborative platform that can be used in sharing tacit knowledge of the experts and specialists. Employees can meet up virtually and add data to any document they are working on. By doing so, collaboration, which is quite essential for any organization is possible along with storing the information for future use.
- After Action Review(AAR), initially developed by the US Army is an easy process to execute in Microsoft SharePoint. AARs are reviews done by experts on their actions and help employees make better decisions. After the completion of a task, experts give their feedback on what is done, why a particular action was taken over other steps, how a different approach can give a better result, etc. From this tacit knowledge, employees can learn better and make more informed choices.
- Another common practice of SharePoint users is that they focus on individual learning over organizational learning. If organizational learning is given the first preference, things often get messed up due to the confusion, lack of communication, etc. However, if the main focus is on delivering proper information to individuals, then the employees can make better decisions and wisely use the obtained knowledge to attain the organizational goal.
- One additional thing that many companies prefer to do is to appoint a Knowledge Sharing executive. If the responsibility of adding tacit knowledge to the knowledge base from time to time is not given to someone, a lot of times experts get lost in their research and their invaluable tacit information is not available to the employees. But if an executive is appointed to make sure all data is posted regularly and properly, then the loss of tacit knowledge when an expert leaves a company is reduced.
These are only some of the best practices that organizations prefer when using SharePoint as a Knowledge Management Platform. We have also covered some pros and cons of this application so that you can see if SharePoint is the perfect KMS for your organization or not.
Pros and Cons of Microsoft SharePoint
First, let’s look at the advantages of SharePoint as a Knowledge Base Software:
1. Effortless Onboarding for Microsoft Users
Almost 95% of your staff is likely to have used any of the applications in the Microsoft Office 365 Suite. With the very high popularity of Microsoft Applications, you can use software for knowledge management from the same suite that your employees use for their day to day tasks. This reduces onboarding efforts and the admin department does not have to keep track of a lot of passwords.
2. One system for all your needs
Another advantage of using a Microsoft application is that Microsoft has various applications to meet all your organizational needs. Microsoft Outlook is perfect to manage your calendar and emails, Word is perfect for writing any document, Excel can help you with managing your finances, and Powerpoint, Onenote, Access, Skype, etc. can help keep all your activities streamlined into one suite that solves all your requirements.
3. SharePoint is your Organization’s Wikipedia
Once you start using SharePoint knowledge management, you will realize that all your data is stored in one place. With such high levels of organization of all knowledge looking up content is as simple as doing a wiki search. Simply type a few terms in the search bar and all relevant content and documents can be found in a couple of seconds. Anyone is able to add content and access the data of the knowledge base system.
Having discussed some of the advantages of the application, let’s flip the coin and look at the cons of SharePoint:
1. Limited Search Capabilities
With SharePoint, your content isn’t indexed. Search is limited to the site collection your user is searching on and you cannot filter the search results by any parameter other than the age of the content. The search feature is good for looking up a small number of files with a broad query of parameters. For larger sizes of data with advanced parameters, the search results are inefficient.
2. Unstructured Content
The information architecture of SharePoint is similar to Wikipedia's information architecture: it isn’t organized and indexed in a user-friendly manner. A large amount of unstructured content can be quite overwhelming for users. The whole system can be rendered useless if your users find it too unstructured and avoid using the interface completely. Ideally, your content should be well organized into appropriate topics so that it is easy to search for information.
3. Restricted Number of Users
The lack of this feature can be a serious issue for organizations trying to make their knowledge base platform public. Most of the self-serving knowledge-based platform should not require its users to login in order to look up some information. This is a big hassle for your customers who do not want to spend more than a minute looking for the data.
These are some of the advantages and disadvantages of SharePoint that in our opinion can affect its ability to be a knowledge management platform. If you have any questions in mind, please keep reading the FAQ section below where we have tried to answer some of the commonly asked questions.
1. What are the examples of the best Knowledge Management Solutions?
Answer: Knowledge Management Systems(KMS) offers a complete solution that allows organizations to collect, organize, and manage organizational knowledge to help the organization collect its knowledge in a systematic manner. Some of the examples of KMS are Knova, KB Publisher, Oracle Knowledge, and Qvidian which are all Knowledge Base Systems. Content Management Systems like TeamSite, SharePoint, etc. can be used as a Knowledge Management System as well, with limited functionalities.
2. What are the advantages of using a Knowledge Management Solution?
Answer: Some of the advantages to your organization by using Knowledge Management Software are:
- Quick Access to the content of the knowledge base
- All knowledge is organized and indexed properly
- Improved decisions due to easy access to expert knowledge
- Improved innovation due to company-wide collaboration
- Learning from mistakes and avoiding redundant efforts
3. Is SharePoint the right choice to implement Knowledge Management Solution?
Answer: SharePoint has a lot of good features but at the same time a lot of shortcomings which makes it difficult to see if it is the perfect KMS for your organization. Due to the hard navigation for the average customer, the overall cost and subscription seem a bit unjustified with the number of features as a Knowledge Management System. If your primary goal is document management, then using SharePoint to control your organizational knowledge is a good choice. But if your primary goal is to create a knowledge base, then all options including SharePoint should be considered before making a choice.
We hope after reading this article, you have gained more insight on using SharePoint as a Knowledge Base for your Organizations. The features along with the pros and cons of SharePoint can help you make the decision about implementing the application for your Organization. SharePoint is a great Content Management System and to a certain extent a very reliable KMS for organizations with simpler needs.
If you have any more questions and want to get in touch with us, please contact us and share your thoughts with us.