At EK, we often hear varying versions of a similar business challenge from our clients. Consider the following situation. Let’s say I’m a proposal writer for my company, and due to the fast paced nature of my industry, I typically have a day or two to respond to an RFP (request for proposal) in a manner that stands out to my client. Thus, it is essential that I am able to locate key pieces of information quickly and effectively, such as statistics on my company’s past performance or examples of past RFPs submitted in a relevant field, that can help me craft a quality response to the RFP at hand.
When talking with our clients about their knowledge management needs, we frequently hear examples like this that highlight the importance of accessing information at the time of need so that staff can do their jobs efficiently. Oftentimes staff members can’t quickly find the content they need, or they’re sifting through outdated, unusable information, or the content may not even exist.
It is important to note that accessing information at the time of need is only the end component of the larger process. In order to make accessing the content possible, it must first be captured in a meaningful format so that others may act on it. For many organizations, this is such a broad challenge, they don’t know where to begin even when they know they’re suffering from the results of poor content capture.
In these cases, we guide organizations to approach this strategically, focusing on capturing the highest value content in order to make a seemingly insurmountable challenge achievable. The first step in this approach is to identify important moments when key content is created, before finally capturing that valuable content in a consistent way at the time of creation and making it accessible across the organization. The key is starting small and identifying these high value moments of content capture.
How Do We Identify High Value Moments of Content Capture?
So, you’ve decided to start small and standardize your content capture behind a high value moment. How do you figure out when these moments occur in your business cycles?
EK’s approach to content capture does not revolve around a piece of content, but instead around what event triggers the creation of the piece of content. These high value moments are key moments in your company’s business processes or cycles. To put it simply, consider the moments when your company is at its highest point, and when your team is coming together to celebrate. Think about the times when you pop open a bottle of champagne.
In a pharmaceutical company, these moments might be getting approval for a study from the government or the conclusion of a successful clinical trial. For a real estate company, these moments might be closing a large deal with a client, starting development on a new building, or launching a new service.
Publicly-traded companies, on the other hand, are often defined by the moments their stock price rises and falls. Evaluate the moments when your stock rises exponentially and identify the patterns of activities that led to this rise. These activities are your high value moments of content capture.
One of EK’s own personal high value moments is at the close of a project. Our EK Rockstars take advantage of this high value moment to not only celebrate our successes, but ensure that essential pieces of content are effectively preserved.
Successfully identifying these high value moments of content capture is important because at these specific moments, an individual or team is taking an action and consciously or unconsciously drafting a plan to move forward. Knowledge should be captured at the moment it is created, as these moments are when opinions are shaped and when the content is the most relevant in context. This allows more of the tacit knowledge, or knowledge shaped by experiences that often lives in an individual’s head, to be effectively captured as well. During the time of creation, an individual can most efficiently and appropriately capture the implicit ideas and stories around a piece of content, such as: Why is this information important? What is the story behind this piece of content? Why or why was it not successful? Incorporating this information into the capture of the content ensures it is not lost over time. The tacit knowledge behind a piece of content gives other staff members key information and context through which to apply the content to their own needs down the line.
How Do We Capture the Content at These High Value Moments?
Now that you’ve identified your company’s high value moments of content capture, how do you institutionalize a consistent practice of content creation and preservation around this moment? Use the following considerations to implement the process:
- Include Highly-involved Individuals
- Standardize Workflow
- Set Expectations
- Embed Processes
1. Include Highly-involved Individuals
First, think about the people who are the most involved in generating knowledge associated with the important moment. The knowledge derived from these individuals comes in two main forms: structured content and tacit knowledge from experience. It is essential that both of these types of knowledge are captured for
the high value moment. Interview the staff members you have identified to be highly involved. Take account of what pieces of content they are producing associated with the high value moment, and ask them about what may not be captured in the content itself, such as the story and context behind a deliverable and why it was or was not successful. Depending on insight from your highly-involved individuals, the types of content you decide to capture may range from project deliverables to meeting notes to lessons learned.
At the close-out of a project at EK, the key pieces of knowledge formulated by the team members highly involved in the project include lessons learned. EK Rockstars take advantage of the high value moment of a project close-out to not only preserve and store final deliverables in a consistent format, but also gather all project members together to hold a retrospective to capture lessons learned and areas for improvement to be preserved for future reference. This retrospective allows the project members to reflect on the significance of the project, recording the tacit knowledge that will be essential for future teams to improve upon past performances.
2. Standardize Workflow
Next, think about the workflow of the creation and preservation of content during these high value moments and begin their standardization. For each piece of knowledge created during the high value moment, you should be able to clearly answer the following items: what the knowledge is, where this knowledge is stored (i.e. in what system), who is responsible for capturing it, when it should be captured, and why it is important to do so.
To standardize the process, there are many tools and techniques to consider. Content types present a strong benefit, in both templating a key piece of knowledge, but also applying consistent metadata so that the content can be surfaced in search and located via browsing. When you map out exactly what the pieces of knowledge associated with the moment should look like, as well as what metadata should be applied, this content will be uniformly preserved any time the high value moment occurs. Additionally, you may consider developing a tool as simple as a checklist. In this way, following the high value moment, staff members will know exactly what they need to capture and how.
Since high value moments often mirror decision-making moments and the time of need for other staff who will be searching for or creating similar content in the future, it is thus important that staff actively work to capture and preserve their content and knowledge in a standardized fashion accessible to others. When staff get into the habit of capturing their content in a consistent way at the time it is created, it will become more of a given that content will then be available to them at their time of need.
Within this process, it is essential that expectations are clear regarding who is responsible for each step of the process. Someone must own each step, whether it is the individual most involved in the moment, or another specified individual, such as in the business development team. These tasks must be built into the responsibilities involved in the project or high value moment. Furthermore, the expectations should be included in job roles and discussed in performance reviews to ensure their effective completion.
4. Embed Processes
Overall, it is essential that the standardization of the content capture process is embedded into existing processes at your company. Content authors do not want to feel like they need to go through countless steps in order to complete one task. Consider ways to integrate workflows for writing, saving, and updating content in existing systems and tools.
For example, at EK, we recognized the need for a comprehensive team space in which to write and develop our thought leadership. Upon the creation of this team space, each team member can now work in an environment where the technology enables our collaboration, and there is no need to create final copies of the content in a separate location. The technology and content types we created enable a seamless workflow.
When this process becomes a clear, integral part of an organization or team’s content workflows, accessible knowledge throughout the organization is no longer reliant on knowledge contributors sharing their knowledge when they have time or when it is convenient to them. Identifying these high value moments and encouraging content capture at the very moment it is created both increases the knowledge available to all and furthers collective ownership of KM practices.
How Do We Evaluate the Successful Completion of the Process?
After creating and implementing a standardized workflow for capturing the content, you should evaluate the quality of your content capture process and the content that has been captured to date. How can you ensure that you are, in fact, successfully capturing key content? At its core, following a high value moment, the validation consists of evaluating whether all the key content has been successfully preserved in the standardized format you previously defined. Is the content located in the central location that was specified? Are all of the correct metadata tags applied, such as client name, subject area, and project type? Are the individuals responsible for the content creation, upload, and updates performing their roles? The point of this exercise is not to get the whole process perfect each time. Start identifying patterns around what is working and what is not working, and analyze if there are specific teams or groups for which this process is working more effectively than others. In this way, you can begin identifying opportunities for growth and adaptation to your staff’s needs.
High value moments of content capture represent important opportunities for your company to effectively and consistently preserve the content you need for success. Without a consistent method and plan for capturing this essential content, there is no guarantee staff will be able to access information at their future times of need.
Do you need help identifying your company’s high value moments and better capturing content at these points in your business cycles? EK is here to help. Please contact us to learn more.