There is a saying in German business: “If only Siemens knew what Siemens knows, it would be a rich company.” Siemens, of course, is an engineering and electronics powerhouse with plenty of brilliant engineers, each of whom has extensive knowledge that doesn’t always get applied to their projects, which means nobody else ever finds out about it. The point of the saying is that if you can’t make connections between people with complementary knowledge, you lose out on potential innovation and value that could come from their working together.
The same idea holds true in just about every company, from two-person firms to giant conglomerations. With the advances in information technology there are more ways than ever before to create, store, and track information, which has led to the rise of the field of knowledge management. Knowledge management is any way an organization creates and distributes information about insights and experiences. It might be a handbook, a weekly meeting, or an online forum.
At Seilevel, one form of our knowledge management is a wiki hosted on our Sharepoint server. We have entries with information and templates for each of our models, our methodology, and various project tasks such as requirements elicitation. It’s a good way to make sure we stay consistent, but it’s even better at helping people share tips on how to do things better. For example, I learned some Excel tricks to make tracking requirements easier, and I’m going to put them on our wiki. When anybody else has the same problem, rather than re-inventing the wheel they can simply look in our wiki and replicate the same trick.
This is typically faster and more scalable than canvassing co-workers, and obviously I don’t have to be in the same room for anybody else to get this information. Best of all, our wiki lets people search our collective knowledge and make the connections I mentioned earlier, which result in innovative solutions. If you don’t have something like this wiki set up to store knowledge on your methodologies or the tools you use, let us know and we’d be happy to share our experiences.