Since our team is frequently called to rescue clients experiencing information overload, we are often asked how a government agency can benefit from a knowledge management system. Many questions arise as our clients start learning more, but the ones we hear most often are:
- What is a knowledge management system?
- What are the benefits of knowledge management system?
- Why would a government agency need a knowledge management system?
- Does my government agency need a knowledge management system?
The first two questions are easy enough to answer—and we do a little further on.
But instead of giving the usual consultant answer of “It depends” to the third question, here are three scenarios we often see in government agencies. If any of them seem familiar, it’s a good sign your agency would benefit from a knowledge management system.
Does my government agency need a Knowledge Management system? And how would we benefit?
If any of these three scenarios resemble a typical day in your agency, it’s time to think seriously about the benefits of a knowledge management system.
#1: Shared chaos
You know there’s a better way to manage data and information, you just don’t know how to get there from where you are—in the midst of shared chaos. Your team’s shared drive has an embarrassing number of mystery folders and duplicate documents. On a daily basis, staff spend too much time trying to find what they need. You quickly realize that there’s actually a disadvantage to having so much data.
Because it’s so easy to lose track of information, people look outside your department for information you already have. Poor version control results in team members editing and sharing old versions of documents. Since an authoritative version of the truth is elusive, you risk sharing outdated information with stakeholders and the public.
This mess has led to the creation of rogue or shadow systems; staff keep what they need on their own drive because the shared drive is so unwieldy. Then, when these well-meaning people leave, the knowledge stored on those drives is either lost or becomes another laborious file management project for someone else.
#2: Obstacles to collaboration
Multiple agencies often work together on projects and need access to the same documents. Even if each individual agency has their own internal system or knowledge management platform, they need a single space to operate in when working together.
The reality is that siloed information slows down a project and results in too many meetings with higher-ups who don’t understand the mess caused by separate KM systems. Questions constantly arise about where the latest version of a file is stored or should be stored. With poor version control, there’s a risk that team members will replicate or override someone else’s efforts.
When information is not managed jointly, cross-agency collaboration is strained. Transparency issues quickly turn into trust issues. Decisions take more time as information is gathered and verified from different sources.
#3: Antiquated knowledge storage methods
We’ve also run into agencies that don’t know any better. They still attach post-it notes to important documents and store them in file cabinets. Let’s be clear: this is a storage method, not a knowledge management system.
When information is mishandled in this way, the sustainability of your institutional knowledge is at risk. Only a few people at most know where to find the information that people need in these data silos. Even worse, you don’t have any backup or security measures protecting this information.
So how would my government agency benefit from a knowledge management system?
Government agencies must share accurate and timely information with many different stakeholders—the executive branch, other agencies, NGOs, and the public. With the increasing turnover of staff, agencies cannot afford to squander institutional knowledge or waste time searching multiple databases for information. A knowledge management (KM) system uses taxonomy and version control to help your team access and share the most up-to-date data and information.
With its navigable interface, search functionality, and granular security permissions, a KM system makes it easy for your team to find the exact data and information they need. It opens up information silos for cross-team collaboration. You have real-time access to the information you and your stakeholders rely upon for strategic insights and confident decisionmaking.
But what is a knowledge management system?
Knowledge management systems help government agencies and other organizations capture, organize, manage, and share data and information from various sources with their internal and external stakeholders. Some key features in a system are that:
- Content tagging and other taxonomy tools help you categorize and search content assets.
- File storage is standardized so the latest version of a file is always available, as well as access to previous versions.
- Permissions give control over who can access, contribute, or edit files.
And the high-level benefits are that:
- Collaboration improves because organizational knowledge and expertise is captured and made accessible.
- Information is easily found for research, problem-solving, analysis, planning, and decision-making.
Think of your knowledge management system as the institutional memory that shows up for work every day and makes itself available to anyone on staff—but it’s more reliable, secure, accessible, and comprehensive than a team of top-notch file clerks.
Knowledge management system benefits for government agencies
The goal of knowledge management in the federal government is to make information findable and usable, which is impossible in the scenarios described above. With a knowledge management system, you enjoy shared intelligence instead of shared chaos. Efforts and time are no longer squandered. Information is accessible for those who need it.
During collaborative projects, everyone has access to the latest information in the knowledge management system they share. Teams are no longer duplicating efforts or replicating information on individual platforms. This transparency helps propel projects forward, unimpeded by siloed efforts.
When data and information is stored and shared in a knowledge management system, you no longer have backup and security concerns. Your information’s integrity isn’t dependent on one person or team’s antiquated storage methods.
Organize the Chaos
Our team at Tesla Government loves fixing these data and information problems.