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Sharing knowledge in a remote work environment

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The last couple of months has left many organisations scrambling to set up tools enabling their people to collaborate and communicate effectively whilst working from home. Consequently, they are storing large volumes of information in new ways, explains BDO’s Technology Advisory Associate Director Jason Foster.

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Network folders, local drives and corridor conversations are likely to have been replaced by a mixture of Microsoft Teams and SharePoint, or Google’s suite of document management and collaboration tools.

The new way of working

For organisations already used to collaborating in this manner, the move to working remotely has likely been smooth. For those who were not, there may have been initial challenges. Either way, the volume of information exchange is likely greater than it was.

The benefits of the technology adopted during this time have the potential to persist long after the crisis is over, particularly if these new platforms and systems are used to store information efficiently and effectively.

Giving structure to stored information makes finding it in the future much easier, but also enables organisations to harness the knowledge they’re now creating and storing.

Knowledge is a significant asset to any business and can be a key differentiator between competitors.

Having faster access to quality information enables organisations to incorporate efficiencies in business processes, therefore reducing costs – an advantage to any organisation.

Capturing knowledge also reduces risk. When key people near retirement, or suddenly leave an organisation, allowing their knowledge to leave with them can have significant impacts. Particularly, when specific subject matter knowledge is required to achieve a solution.

Key factors to ensure your system is up to the task

Strong knowledge management depends on these areas:

Actions to take

The current environment provides unique opportunities for improving knowledge management capabilities, but also provides some unique challenges, with the influx of documents being stored in different locations using different platforms (e.g. some people may be sharing via OneDrive, some via SharePoint and others via email).

Some immediate actions you can take:

For example, law firms may spend a lot of time finding the same type of precedence information, and mining organisations may find that maintenance costs are increasing and contract information is difficult to find.

Putting in place rules around where this information is stored, how it is managed and how it can be shared helps reduce time and enables better, more informed decision making.

What does the future hold?

Organisations have been presented with a challenging, but unique opportunity to harness the knowledge being captured by their systems. This can become a ‘springboard’ to greater market penetration, providing quicker access to more insightful knowledge.

It is also an important opportunity to prevent future potential issues caused by too much unstructured information.

A well-structured knowledge and information management system can pave the way for further efficiencies using artificial intelligence and e-discovery – but the foundation needs to be solid first.

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