As part of the CTI blog series “knowledge management via process management”, we introduce Probst’s building block model and report on our experiences with the individual building blocks of
knowledge identification, knowledge acquisition, knowledge development, knowledge distribution (knowledge transfer), knowledge use and knowledge preservation based on practical use cases from our consulting practice. This article on knowledge preservation is the seventh article in this series.
What do we mean by knowledge preservation and how can it succeed?
The building block of knowledge preservation is the selection of relevant and irrelevant knowledge, appropriate storage of this knowledge and regular updating.
Knowledge can be
- natural (in humans as knowledge carriers),
- technically supported (in databases etc.) or
- culturally (organizational routines, swarm intelligence, etc.) be stored.
The artificial and organizational storage of knowledge is of particular interest to companies in order to guarantee the company’s independence from individual knowledge carriers. This can counteract the emergence of knowledge gaps caused by the departure of employees. This means that knowledge does not have to be acquired or developed again and again at great (monetary) expense. The onboarding and offboarding of employees can also be standardized and accelerated as a result.
The following short use case will illustrate exactly what the risk of knowledge drain in a company is and how it can manifest itself.
A medium-sized company is particularly dependent on a small number of long-serving employees. These employees act as unofficial contacts for questions in their departments and are the only people in the company with special knowledge or skills (e.g. outdated programming languages such as Cobol). However, their knowledge is not documented anywhere and is only released when required or on request. These employees will retire in the next five years and the search for employees with the required skills and experience will be difficult and cost-intensive. However, operations would be massively disrupted if no replacement has been found and trained by the time the employees retire, as business-critical knowledge would be lost and would have to be acquired or developed anew, which in turn is time-consuming and costly. Accordingly, the knowledge that exists in the minds of employees must be formalized and processed in a structured manner so that it can be made available to other employees.
Implementation by BPM
The purpose of knowledge preservation is to ensure that the company retains business-critical knowledge. To achieve this, once it has been identified as such, it must be extracted from the heads of individual knowledge carriers, documented and formalized. Business process management can support this process by evaluating and collecting the relevant knowledge during process recording. In addition, experts and responsibilities as well as descriptions and informative documents, for example in the form of FAQs and cheat sheets, can be stored for the processes. As a result, the business processes are enriched with the meta-information required for a smooth workflow and can be made available company-wide. Among other things, this can help to break down knowledge islands – knowledge that only exists in the heads of a few employees and is not shared by them. Furthermore, by recording the (actual) processes, the process understanding of the people involved is externalized and the process knowledge is preserved. By focusing on business processes, BPM can also provide a framework for structuring knowledge in a meaningful way. Process documentation should be a living document that must be continuously maintained in order to guarantee that knowledge is not just preserved once, but can be passed on independently of employees. In this way, BPM can also counteract the danger of overcrowded wikis or databases, which lose their practicality due to their size.
CTI CONSULTING supports you in identifying, developing, acquiring, distributing, utilizing and preserving your company-specific knowledge. Through the interdisciplinary collaboration of different skills, we achieve the ideal balance for you between schedule, budget and a sustainable target architecture.
In addition, CTI CONSULTING offers you comprehensive knowledge in the field of process management and can support you in the various stages of setting up process management. CTI CONSULTING accompanies you from process mapping, modeling and evaluation of your business processes to implementation. We always aim to support the establishment of process management by linking it with various knowledge management measures, thus ensuring that your knowledge is available within the company regardless of who is involved.
Read the other blog articles on this topic!