Probably foreseeing the need for knowledge platforms, Peter Drucker published “The Coming of the New Organization” in 1988 when I was coming to the United States for the first time as a first grader. I didn’t read the article then, but if I had, I would have started my journey with knowledge & communications systems earlier. In the past, I’ve been told that I over organize things or that I introduce too many sub-directories, tags, categories, etc. I don’t take it personally. I believe that in the long run, our human ability to recognize and name something will ultimately make us better partners with our coming computer counter-parts in the machine learning revolution. In fact, almost all of the machine learning today is done through “training” data which is used to train a computer to do what we do but about a million times faster. Machine learning isn’t going to make your organization a knowledge organization overnight. You are, by asking simple questions of who, what, how, why, what else, and where related to a Sales process.
In our body of knowledge of the Modern Enterprise, we always ask “Who” first. Who is having a problem with knowledge in the first place? The funny thing about today’s organizations is that all of them have to run on business platforms that engage with customers, partners, vendors, staff, and now “things” and computers. Some teams need to constantly help customers get access to knowledge.. or others may need to better manage their own knowledge for themselves. Here’s an example of different people in a Sales & Marketing responsibility area which is primarily responsible for acquiring new customers.
The next question we ask is what this person’s goal is. What process are they trying to execute? If they are a customer, are they trying to get a refund? If they are a partner, are they trying to send you a referral? It’s important to understand the goal of the person or group of people because otherwise, the knowledge base may not end up serving anyone.
We need to know more about the problem. How do these people get this process done right now? How do they learn how to do it? Is the process supposed to be learned heuristically? Should they have some pre-requisite knowledge?
The big question then comes, which is hardest to ask. Why is that this person needs to do this in the first place? Sometimes the person’s “why” may shed light into their actual problem and maybe, just maybe, you can come up with a magical solution for them without having them bother with a knowledge base in the first place.
Sometimes business processes whether for customers or staff need information that must be readily available. A customer trying to make a purchase needs a credit card. A staff member trying to put in their PTO needs to know which dates they are going on vacation. Without such specific information, the business process might as well be useless. Does this information exist only in their head or can it be accessed elsewhere?
Ultimately, a business process will be executed on a system. Is it the e-Commerce portal on Shopify.com? Is it the app that they bought on the Apple iTunes store. If its a customer, it’s more than likely on one of the many customer experience systems. If it’s a team member, it’s probably on an internal information system like a CRM, ERP, or any number of three-letter business tools. If it’s a vendor or partner, it’s probably on an ecosystem platform like a partner portal or a community.
Of course, I oversimplified this process, but that’s the point. Knowledge management and documentation don’t have to ridiculously complicated. It just needs to get the job done. This example we used isn’t perfect and a Sales Person who may see this may ask a few more questions, but that’s okay. The documentation can be improved. As they ask questions, have the “expert” fill out more details. After a few times, the documentation will be “good enough” so that people don’t need more input. Taking an agile, organic approach to getting knowledge together is a great start if you don’t already have systems in place. If you need help with any of this, please send me, or our team at Anant, an email.