Quality is an important differentiator for your Professional Services organization. Clients want to know that the outcome your team delivers for them is going to meet their needs and give them a quality result. Having said that, it’s sometimes difficult to guarantee quality, especially if you are dealing with a unique project or an engagement that’s high risk. Even projects that feel routine can quickly slip into territory where quality is challenged.
One of the strategies you have available to your firm is knowledge management. The impact that collaborative learning and sharing knowledge can have on your project results is significant. It’s effectively like having the brains of everyone on the team downloaded into your server. If you could access that much information, how would that affect your ability to deliver quality results for your clients? Until brain downloading becomes a medical possibility, KM tools give you virtually the same functionality, with the added benefit of being easy to search and standardized.
Let’s look at the benefits of getting everyone on the same page with knowledge management tools.
Increase Organizational Know-How
Knowledge is probably the most important asset for a professional services business. There is a lot of information in the heads of your team. The wisdom they have accrued, in this role and their prior expertise possibly in other roles or firms, will help your professional services organization flourish. But only if you can tap into it in a timely manner.
Knowledge management systems can become part of the fabric of your business, an essential part of office culture. When that happens, your organization gets smart. The knowledge in heads becomes accessible and structured. It’s available on a contextual basis, offered up to people who need it at the time they need it most. You’re increasing your organizational know-how, improving productivity and increasing project quality. Your clients will only thank you. And you will notice an impact on project profitability.
Tip: Setting up your KM system the first time might seem like a big job. However, if your team regularly updates the tool with the things they know, as and when they are using that knowledge, your repository will fill up quickly. Think about incentivising people to contribute to the repository in the early days and remember to thank people for their contributions as the process and tools bed in.
Access Best Practices
A knowledge repository makes it easy for everyone to access best practices. Whether that’s a process, governance policies or protocols to use in certain situations, your whole team can tap into the wisdom of crowds. This reduces the risk of errors and makes it easier for people to carry on with their daily activities. They don’t need to take a break to ask a colleague the best way to do something. All the tried-and-tested methods are available with a few clicks.
There are standardized workflows that help step you through the processes, making sure everyone follows the same approach. That increases repeatability, and makes it easier for clients to engage with different people on the team, because they are all carrying out the process in an identical way. Project quality improves because the collaborative approach to knowledge sharing has made it possible for everyone to do things in the best possible way, with the best possible chance of a successful outcome.
Tip: Use your knowledge management tools to create a library of best practices.
Create a Community of Subject Matter Experts
When your team collaborates on knowledge management and shares what they know, you build a community of subject matter experts. They can easily learn from each other, accessing each others’ expertise and making it their own. It’s faster to onboard new starters and new clients. This also has an impact on project quality: your colleagues apply the lessons from their peers to their own work, and everyone benefits. Clients appreciate the speedy and accurate resolution of problems too.
Tip: Make time in the working week for people to share new information with their colleagues, either through updating the knowledge management system or other informal methods such as team lunches (making sure that the best nuggets of information find their way into the KM tools in due course).
Build on Lessons Learned
Using a knowledge infused, collaborative workflow means that team members can pump their own experiences and new best practices into the system. Capture and share the knowledge that comes with working on certain projects, with particular clients or in specific industries. All of that valuable professional know-how can be used in the future for improving proposals and delivering excellent service to clients. In a knowledge infused PSA, learning lessons and updating practices is essential. It keeps your business competitive and gives you an edge over firms that take a different approach.
Tip: Make it part of the project process to update the KM software with lessons learned from projects. Ideally, this should be done as the project progresses. Don’t wait until the engagement is at an end to log lessons! If you do it as you go along, you can benefit from the lesson learned on the same project, making sure your client sees your commitment to continuous process improvement and quality deliverables.
For more information about how knowledge management can support your professional services firm,watch this webinar.