By Tanya Corsie
In today’s fast-paced working environment, we are more digitally connected than ever. We are slaves to our phones – both in and out of work – and even WhatsApp, Skype and instant messaging apps have found their way into our offices. With this ever-accumulating mass of notifications, how can anyone cut through the noise and identify the critical, urgent work that has to be done “right now”?
In my 14 years at Iken, I have come to understand the commercial impact of managing knowledge correctly and, more importantly, how to make it easier for teams to work with this information and with each other. Here are a few of things I have learnt about the challenges and opportunities organisations face when it comes to team productivity:
Technology plays such a key role in how effectively an organisation operates. But it can absolutely be a double-edged sword. People want to work together but silos often happen when people’s natural collaborative workflows are at odds with how the technology wants them to work. Technology should be a tool that liberates you to work as you want to – rather than constricting you to follow a set process.
Without realising it themselves, people can often turn into knowledge hoarders. The valuable information they hold in their head, or on their local drive, becomes isolated and solely available to them, only being passed on if they remember to call or email someone about it. Information that gets sucked into these “black holes” loses its value. Duplicating work, just because information hasn’t been shared, is a truly pointless exercise and can be demoralising for workers who are just trying to do a good job with the data they have.
To be truly effective, teams need clear guidelines around how to work. Just having a shared space for information is not enough – there needs to be structure and consistency. Then, if someone does need to leave suddenly for a last-minute meeting or a personal emergency, you at least have a strong starting point for the person taking over their work. Time can be so much better spent when you are able to instantly have the right information at the exact moment you need it.
We have worked hard at Iken to develop a suite of products that complement how people naturally work and account for the unpredictable. In our secure knowledge management system, our clients are able to store information like documents, key contacts or email correspondence within a “knowledge file” that is configured specifically for them. Users can review all information on a particular case or project in one place – including more unpredictable sources of data like documents that have been sent to a co-worker’s inbox.
All the best technology starts with the human factor. As we’ve developed Iken, it’s been really important to us that it doesn’t force anyone into a particular workflow. The software quite simply makes it easier for teams to work together effectively and won’t make them change the way they work. You can’t force a team to become more productive overnight, but you can make it easier for them to share the information they have and store it in a way that is more useful for themselves and for their team. What I love about working in knowledge management is exactly this – the potential the technology has to help people harness information, make good from it and make it useful to others.