Knowledge management (KM) is more than contextual help and a database of ‘how do I’ questions (although we’d be the first to admit those are incredibly useful). True knowledge management in a service organization helps you streamline processes and improve project outcomes too. One of the ways KM does that is through supporting your governance processes.
Governance and compliance are important concepts for managing projects. They help with repeatability and ensure that your project teams deliver in accordance with your organization’s standards and policies.
Here are three ways that a knowledge-enabled approach to professional services can support efficient project delivery and improve the outcomes you achieve for clients.
Standardize with Templates
Being able to repeat a winning formula is very important. There is no reason today for any client engagement to start from scratch. Using templates is an easy way to standardize project delivery and ensure teams comply with best practice or other guidelines.
Templates serve several purposes:
- They speed up project initiation because the outline of the project structure and schedule is already there
- They ensure key tasks are included in the schedule and reduce the risk of consultants forgetting to add them in
- They create a standardized approach to professional services engagement, meaning clients get a more uniform service.
Of course, templates are there to be tailored! Make whatever tweaks are necessary to adapt the template project schedule to your client’s requirements. However, there are huge time-savings and efficiencies to be had when you start from a standard. Any governance requirements, project sign off milestones, approvals, quality reviews and internal checks can be pre-planned into the template, providing guidance to your team about when they need to initiate governance processes.
Creating templates is easy. Use the out of the box templates that come with your project management tool or create your own from a previous project. When your project teams learn something helpful or new, update the template so that other teams can take advantage of that in the future.
Create Structured Policies
A policy library might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of knowledge management, but it’s an essential part of being able to maintain standards and improve consistency. You can probably think of a time when a consultant didn’t bill for work that should have been billed because they weren’t sure whether it was appropriate to do so.
Many businesses try to resolve this by emailing out long policy documents. Employees can’t find them when they need them, or they may even refer to an outdated copy, saved from many years ago. An online, dynamic system of delivering policy guidance when it is needed, is a far better solution. So how does that work?
Take, for example, the situation of a team member not knowing whether they can legitimately bill for their hours on a task. Contextual policy support from within the timesheet application makes it easy for them to check. They can click on the ‘help’ icon and see everything relevant to billing guidelines right where they need it. A quick review through the carefully-curated guidance and you could be invoicing a client for additional work – improving revenue on that project.
The great thing about an online knowledge base is that it is easy to keep up to date. You know that your team is always looking at the most recent expense policy or billing guidelines. They have immediate access to the information they need in a way that puts it at their fingertips. They no longer have to call up someone from the Finance team to find out what they should be doing, so you improve team efficiency and resource utilization as well.
You probably already have these guidelines. Perhaps they are buried deep in a document repository, or perhaps there’s an online training webinar people watched during their induction program. Instead of leaving the guidelines to languish, unfollowed and out of date, import them into an integrated knowledge management solution and let your teams have access to the data they need exactly when it’s needed.
Improve Compliance With Processes
Knowledge management shouldn’t be seen as a standalone add-on to your PSA solution. Instead, it should be embedded throughout. Your project workflows are no exception. Workflows are structured paths through a particular process. You can include governance points, such as proposal approvals.
Adding knowledge management into your workflows can improve the way these processes work because:
- Staff can call up contextual help to see why they need to complete a process step (this alone improves compliance because the rationale for the work is transparent)
- They can get guidance on how to do it
- There are fewer calls to the helpdesk for assistance with processes.
A project workflow engine should be easy to configure. Knowledge management is a two-way process. You build organizational knowledge through drawing on the expertise in the team. As team members use the workflows, they can provide feedback on how they support their roles. Actively gather feedback on how workflows can be improved. Then you can incorporate these improvements into the workflows for everyone to benefit from.
Standardizing workflows like this encourages process compliance, which is supported by KM that helps people complete the workflow steps without needing to go through complicated and ever-changing training material. You may already have knowledge management in place for your support teams. A helpful wiki, for example, is a huge asset for the busy service desk. However, by integrating knowledge management approaches and tools across your PSO, you can take those advantages of faster access to up-to-date knowledge and make them available to all your employees, regardless of the role they play in the business.
Today, as more and more projects are being completed on a fixed price basis, it’s even more important to look for ways to drive cost out of projects through reducing the time it takes to complete the work and carrying out tasks in a standardized way. Knowledge management is a simple yet powerful way to achieve this.
For more information about how knowledge management can support your professional services firm, watch this webinar.