Any company, regardless of its type or size, is based on a series of procedures and standards as well as on knowledge, growing along its development. How to standardize the way the knowledge is gathered and transferred in an organization? How to protect it? To do all of that, you will certainly need a special application or programme to create a knowledge base in your company.
What is organizational know-how?
Know-how is technical and non-technical knowledge (e.g. related to commerce, administration, or finances) necessary for a given organization. In simpler terms: know-how refers to all practices, experiences, and procedures gathered by the organization and its members, which have a direct influence on:
- how particular tasks are performed in a company,
- how a company supplies its services,
- how a company makes its products.
To speak about know-how – that is, about the enterprise knowledge – you need to remember about several conditions it must meet and characteristics it must have. What are these exactly?
First of all, secrecy. Know-how is not available to people from outside the organization and it cannot be looked up, for example, on Wikipedia. Clearly, this may be a bit of an exaggerated example, but it does emphasize that know-how is unknown to the outsiders, as it constitutes the company’s competitive advantage.
Secondly, identification. All the employees of a company should have access to know-how, in the form of documents, presentations, or videos. Moreover, they should be informed about the confidentiality of the materials, which cannot be disseminated.
Last but not least – relevance. Know-how refers to significant information which has a key impact on the way the organization functions.
According to the EU law (Commission Regulation No 772/2004 of 27 April 2004 on the application of Article 81(1) of the Treaty to categories of technology transfer), know-how is a package of practical information resulting from experience and testing. The information is: secret (not generally known or easily accessible); substantial (significant and useful for the production of the contract products); and identified (described in a sufficiently comprehensive manner so as to make it possible to verify that it fulfils the criteria of secrecy and substantiality).
What can constitute company know-how?
- Procedures and standards of services and production of goods;
- Customer service standards;
- Databases, such as client and contractor databases;
- Company’s business and marketing strategy;
- Scientific research results;
- Procedures connected with organization management.
Why should you protect your corporate know-how?
First of all, the knowledge of a company affects its functioning as well as its position on the market and economic value. If that knowledge is acquired by competition, it can be used to gain competitive advantage, even in a dishonest manner, to undermine the company’s professionalism and damage its reputation. The company’s secrets which get exposed and uncovered may simply backfire. Why then do so few companies protect their secrets? They could do that using a programme to create know-how databases in their organization.
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How to protect your company know-how?
Corporate knowledge can be protected in many ways. One of the common practices is to sign non-disclosure agreements with your employees, which stipulate the consequences of disclosing trade secrets, e.g. in the form of financial penalties.
What is more, the employees should be regularly updated and made aware that they get access to important confidential documents, information, and data about the company, which is solely for their reference.
If you are responsible for the know-how flow in your company, give a lot of thought to who should actually have access to its particular components. For example, know-how for the managers should not be accessible to regular staff, not to mention interns and trainees.
If an employee leaves a company or becomes dismissed, make sure he or she has no longer access to company accounts or CRM systems. If you fail to do so, the employee may, theoretically, forward this information to your competition. Of course, this doesn’t happen so often, but if the employee falls out with your company before leaving, it’s better to play it safe.
Regularly change the passwords to the most important tools. This will diminish the risk of them being stolen by unauthorised persons.
The protection of know-how is one thing; another essential issue is know-how management and sharing. To do this well, you will need a dedicated application for knowledge creation in your company.
Knowledge base creation programme in your company – why is it worth having?
Corporate knowledge is frequently transferred by means of emails and files sent at various moments. This may result in the employees’ difficulties in finding necessary or important documents immediately.
On the other hand, procedures undergo modifications in the course of time; e.g. customer service standards or production technologies change. Again, some employees may lose access to the updated document versions because of this.
To organize both the process of creation and accessing their know-how, companies need a professional knowledge base system, which can help them protect key information.
An application used to create a knowledge base in your company will enable you to protect important data, collect it in a single, easily accessible place, share it with your employees in a simple way, and shorten the time of looking it up.
What constitutes a good programme for knowledge base creation in a company?
A good programme – i.e. a functional one – for knowledge base creation in a company should have a clear structure. The division into adequate categories or fields will help you organize a wide scope of knowledge. Surely, you know very well that many subjects and processes are inter-related. So, instead of writing about the same thing a couple of times use the option of creating connections between the articles (this functionality is loved by the users of the knowledge base run by HCM Deck). The functional platform allows you to do even more, e.g. upload various file formats, such as videos, texts, audio recordings, graphics, or infographics.
The platform, apart from being functional, must also be intuitive and easy to use. After all, it is meant to help your employees not only work better but also be quicker at finding the answers to urgent questions. A search engine is therefore an absolute necessity in any knowledge base creation system.
A third feature that must be mentioned here is interactivity. All the documents should be written in an easily understandable and unambiguous way. Sometimes your employees may have some doubts after reading about a procedure. Obviously, the manager will dispel the doubts and clarify vague subjects, but will that change anything in the file? Not necessarily. Such matters usually get lost in the mass of daily duties. Then, even more employees come over similar problems and their superiors have to spend more time explaining the unclear fragments.
Can a knowledge base creation programme be engaging for the users?
As you can see, the option of leaving comments under the uploaded materials is really useful and convenient for the whole company, not only for the employees who get a chance to obtain appropriate knowledge to perform the tasks assigned to their roles. This also means instant feedback for the team leaders. The opportunity to comment and evaluate particular resources is a message to the content creator about its quality. If one of the resources is assessed particularly low, why not improve it?
Finally, there is also an option which proves crucial in the context of knowledge protection: limited access to particular articles, section, and categories. In good platforms, you are able to password-secure the content so that it is available only to selected persons.