Harnessing the power of knowledge in the new normal
The pandemic has caused a fundamental shift in how we work. For many organizations, it has placed a renewed focus on how they approach information and knowledge sharing as we work remotely.
This shift means many practices we took for granted in the workplace—being able to ask a colleague for a quick solution or insight on an issue, or even to learn how to access a certain document—cannot as easily take place. For some businesses, this will become a permanent move as staff adapt to this new way of working and organizations look to place emphasis on work/life balances.
Now more than ever, knowledge workers depend on fast, secure and reliable access to knowledge—from contract and record management to fast moving business transactions and sensitive financial data. The facilitation and free flow of information between locations and teams with confidence is imperative to unlocking the true value of knowledge and its successful application.
Improving business process, reducing waste
COVID-19, the rise of asynchronous working, and too many instant communications channels has meant that people have become more disconnected from in-person and impromptu contact even as we become more connected through those digital channels. Our lives might now be dominated by Zoom calls, but the ability to pop into someone’s office to ask quick questions is harder.
This has led to a greater focus on contextually curated knowledge that is easily findable—connecting workers with the information or documentation they need to get started on knowledge work and efficiently do their projects. As the quote goes: “Knowledge is power but only when shared.” At the same time, many corporate organizations are placing a stronger emphasis on structured data to improve measurement capabilities and inform almost every single business practice. It’s even being used to let individual workers know how they could undertake a task more efficiently—which in turn creates a far-reaching institutional impact as efficiency improves. This is different from other productivity platforms that suggest ‘focus’ times for work. Instead, it is about understanding the quickest and most effective way to complete a task.
For example, if person A completes a task in half the time as person B, then what can we learn from that? What different apps or tools are they using that other workers can use to achieve this? The goal is not to spy on employees, but instead empower them to focus on high-value tasks that improve the bottom line. But this is only achievable if structured data is harnessed to allow for effective measurement and that the right things are measured.
Putting metadata to use
Data is everywhere in an organization. But a great deal of this data has been held unstructured data sources, like documents and emails. Each business will have masses of data stored within spreadsheets, presentations, document files and PDFs that can prove to be of immense value.
From contracts to reports, a lot of data is only usable if someone reads the document itself. Being able to extract this data can help a business build a complete picture and provide far greater insight into their business and customers than has been previously achievable.
In financial services, for example, mortgage companies hold many volumes of data on their customers. Extracting this can help them better determine risk factors—for example, what are the common traits of customers who will at some point default on their mortgages or miss payments? Or, from the perspective of a legal firm, they would be able to more efficiently analyze contracts to pre-empt risk factors—creating potential new revenue opportunities as they could focus on mitigation before the event, instead of reacting after an issue has occurred.
For these companies, metadata allows them to better prepare and manage their business, especially in turbulent times such as these, by providing an advantage when preparing a strategy. This knowledge also provides them with a competitive advantage over their competition.
Using data to achieve a commercial advantage
The drive for efficiency naturally has a profound effect within a business. Pricing—for example—has long been a significant issue for professional services, which often sell based on time. How can professional services firms ensure that they have the right strategy in place? How can they reduce overserve?
Data from previous projects and customers can inform how to better price in the future. If we know task X takes a certain number of hours to complete or a previous similar deal took this long with this resourcing, then a firm can better identify its cost and price the service. If we know that task Y usually incurs an overserve, then this should be accommodated into the price or into better, more value-led pricing.
This level of granularity can also provide more transparency. The days of sending a bill with just time and hours are gone—customers want to know what they are getting for their money. Using data to inform pricing not only shows precisely that, but also provides justification—while allowing the firm to stay profitable.
This creates a competitive advantage over other organizations who don’t use data as efficiently, as it improves revenue and increases trust with customers.
The curation requirement
These benefits can only be achieved through good data curation. The effectiveness of data is only as good as what is fed in—good input equals good output.
Data entry is often laborious. So, ensuring a good user experience is crucial to make sure the task is as pain-free and as easy as possible. Rather than 45 separate data entries required for each contract, simplify the process and organizations will find more accurate data is entered as workers will have to spend less time inputting reams of data.
This also helps prevent the prevalence of unstructured data in an organization—comprising 80% of all enterprise data—and is detrimental to providing the complete picture organizations need to succeed in today’s environment.
Data for success in the new normal
In this new normal, businesses that empower knowledge workers with the right information at the right time are the ones that will succeed. The results? Faster business processes, allowing knowledge workers to instead focus on high-value tasks that increase revenue. A full picture of the organization, its people and its customers that can be analyzed on granular details, to allow for more effective business management and better productivity. And—crucially—a major competitive edge over the competition at a time of great turbulence for many in the professional services sector.
But, in order to ensure any knowledge management program is a success, everyone across the organization must engage in it. For those that have yet to begin, there has never been a better time to undertake a new approach to how knowledge is shared across your business—and to empower your workers.