Business Acumen and Systems Knowledge Loss, Part 2

In my last post, I discussed the cause and potential risks of knowledge loss in organizations. Below, I’m offering a few simple steps that can help you get started in combating this common business challenge:

“Right-source” knowledge
It’s perfectly acceptable for companies to outsource services, and oftentimes beneficial to do so. However, it’s important to find a balance. More than ever, businesses are restructuring employees and processes – finding places where they can consolidate services and save money. While businesses might see immediate financial benefit in doing this, it’s usually a short-term solution that can end up costing more in the long run.

When commodities like e-mail marketing are migrated externally as services, there is less of a reliance on personal knowledge versus when a company outsources a more strategic or competitive portion of the business (like a call center). Yet, in either case, not allowing valuable business acumen or knowledge to be lost during the outsourcing process becomes as much a functional benefit as a financial benefit.

Document information
Documenting both systems and business processes are important as a company transitions through their growth and lifecycle. Whether through attrition, acquisition or transition, current documentation allows you to reduce risks during times of change.

Today, companies are at risk through undocumented processes, systems and functional operating procedures that employees have maintained as personal knowledge. If employees know how the system works, and it’s not documented, you risk important knowledge getting lost in the shuffle as soon as employees leave or retire. Everyone knows of someone who is a ‘go-to’ guy because he is the only one that knows how to fix or do something. The question most companies need to be asking: ‘How can we bring knowledge back into our company?’

Imbed your strategy with projects that enable knowledge retention
When a company takes the initiative to develop a strategy that enables the transfer of knowledge, or plans a systems strategy that mitigates the risk by institutionalizing personal knowledge, the company is perceived as having forethought for the ongoing operations of the business. Driving systems compliance, automating manual and repetitive tasks and enabling information transfer across the company is critical in today’s environment.

Systems knowledge loss is certainly an industry agnostic problem, ranging from large retailers and manufacturers, to financial institutions and small startups. Many companies are resistant to change, and have not yet recognized the problems that will arise when their IT and business professionals transition out of the company. It’s important for companies to plan and address this issue early, before it surprises them and becomes a risk.

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