Knowledge bases and organizational learning are relatively new concepts for businesses and organizations; while these areas do not solely belong to information technologies, IT provides the tools and infrastructure needed to foster these activities. Developing a knowledge base within an organization can vary from data collection of ticketing complaints to information gathered through IT assessments, surveys, and a host of other organizational activities. Almost every organization has a significant amount of data whether it realizes it or not. The key is to capture, organize, and catalog this data so that it becomes a useful tool for the organization. IT systems are the means by which this can be accomplished.

Organizational learning on the other hand has to do with processes and procedures in place that allow more-effective and more-efficient operations.
A monitoring procedure for the implementation of project plans is an example of such a process. As the organization understands how these processes can be streamlined and made more effective, learning occurs. The same learned concepts can then be applied to other processes in the organization when
applicable. IT systems can provide the means by which such learning is recorded and cataloged. When a new procedure or process needs to be developed, retrieving data from other processes in place can offer the most effective solutions.

Information technologies can facilitate organizational knowledge and learning simply by creating methods by which information is systematically collected and stored. Systems that are able to tag and catalog data make retrieval simple and efficient. Imagine that a marketing department plans to
launch a campaign to promote a new product. While market research and consumer demographics provide a great deal of information about a particular consumer group, an abundance of information is also available internally about past customers and performance of past marketing campaigns. If a knowledge base is readily accessible, a better marketing strategy can be developed. This saves a great deal of time in information gathering and raises the chances of an effective campaign.

Examples of how knowledge bases can assist in IT troubleshooting can be with ticketing and logging systems. However, IT processes can be used to gather
and organize any data that an organization wishes to capture. This investment in data management will pay significant dividends in the long term as less energy will be spent in information search and application. Creating a knowledge base and promoting organizational learning is simply another way to get the most out of an IT system.

For more information, see my book www.ITSurvivalGuideBook.com

24 Comments
  1. Nice post, really informative. We have taken a stance at our organization to place knowledge transfer documents on the company wide portal. Basically when you receive a role on the portal say as a buyer you then also on the portal get access to the knowledge transfer documents on the portal too. This has improved organization wide knowledge transfer and also helps with those new in an environment to easily access documents to help them in day to day tasks. It has been worthwhile but very time consuming to create the documentation.
    We also have taken a stance where by certain tests have to be performed by each employee once a year, these are typically information documents such as saving electricity, fire safety and epilepsy. This has really increased knowledge in these sensitive and necessary areas through out the company. To enforce this it is a requirement for the employees annual performance review.

  2. I agree that knowledge-based systems should be integrated in organizations and companies. This is actually a development I am currently working on to be inculcated into our organizational culture.

    • Good for you Vida! IT is one of the best fields to be part of for the future. Lots of people are training to hold positions in top companies. As technology and data gathering grows, security and management of all this data will require some infrastructure and some managers of course. I mean by managers people, yes.

      Good luck with your training and I hope it pays off soon.

  3. I’ve always been interested how the IT field can be an asset to pretty much every business imaginable and how it can be a terrible experience for a company. I read the first chapter of the book and it summarizes pretty well what’s wrong with the IT field in that it’s their job to be a firefighter and always on the defense rather than a proactive figure. I’ll definitely look into this book some more!

    • An IT department is like any other department. If it’s managed poorly, staffed with incompetent people, or not provided with the resources it requires to do its job, it’ll be a big liability for the company. The only difference is that the IT helps to maintain the fabric that ties all the other departments together, people rarely realize that IT has a hand in nearly everything a company does and how critical some of their roles are.

  4. I’ve been wanting to have something that would allow me to build a personal knowledge base with the ability to view the data with many different types of visualizations like Tree Maps. It seems like there is a need for something like this to collate all of the activities in a person’s life.

    Most solutions seem to be geared toward you having to put your data “in the cloud” and manage it online. I don’t see myself doing this with such personal information. An offline, desktop solution would be great.

    I thought that relational databases would be the key (maybe they still are), then I thought that Evernote would work but it’s not quite capable, then I thought mindmaps would be it. The search continues. I really want to be able to do this but on a personal level.

  5. Thanks for this article, David, and for all who replied to David’s post. I’ve lost a great deal of important files already, and it’s good to know that there are other sites that could act as storage houses other than Facebook. I’m going to try uploading my files in those for hopes that I could keep all of them forever. Cheers!

  6. One of the keys to a knowledge base that is successful is ensuring that the builders and moderators are watching the trends for keywords that produce no results. If you’re in a large company you really want to be tracking the failed search queries. They can help refine the articles and keyword tags on the knowledge base. Also coordination with the department heads regarding the most common issue that come across theirs and the desks of their employees.

  7. I think that even a small business needs to have a knowledge base where all the important files and papers should be stored. This way you could have immediate access to almost everything you would need. I always try to make several backups of everything I do yet there are still lots of things that aren’t as organized as I would like them to be.

  8. I used to work in customer service and basically, our knowledge base is available through the computer we use. I’ve noticed though that even with the same materials, there are some items that are open to several interpretations. This is why the organisation I worked with supplement those info with several activities that check how we understand important concepts.

  9. I got some experience as an end user of a very well structured knowledge base when I had a part-time job at a regional retailer. As employees we had access to a great deal of material that was helpful for our jobs,including the online training that we had to undergo. There were some computer stations in the store where we could access the system. It was also available to us from any location via the Internet.

    It was quite useful. It would have been much more difficult to manage without it as tracking down the needed information would have taken up a lot more time and energy.

  10. I have recently been making an IT strategy for one of our clients and the knowledge base is an integral part of the strategy.

    It really is one of the top things to keep in mind going forward. The benefits from having a knowledge base is unmatched.

  11. I’ve been using dokuwiki for our internal knowledgebase. It’s lightweight, easy to configure and supports a variety of plugins. We’re using addons to allow for Active Directory integration and offline sync. It works for our needs, though it may have some issues scaling up to a very large scale.

  12. I’ve always been interested how the IT field can be an asset to pretty much every business imaginable and how it can be a terrible experience for a company. I read the first chapter of the book and it summarizes pretty well what’s wrong with the IT field in that it’s their job to be a firefighter and always on the defense rather than a proactive figure. I’ll definitely look into this book some more!

  13. I’m not sure if I understand what organizational learning really is. I think it is so large in scope that it encompasses a wide variety of subjects. The IT team can surely organize information and present it in a cogent and concise manner. This will help everyone else involved in the business learn about goals, customers, current sales and the business’s shortcomings.

  14. You make a good series of points. It is always a good thing to create a group of people who are capable of working together. It is even better when they have a centralized basis for their work to be based on.

    • That about sums of the generic nature of the phrase “organizational learning”. It pretty much means working together with others with a common focus. I like your term “centralized basis”. That’s another way of describing it. I believe that a fully developed knowledge base increases the chances that a diverse group will work together to achieve common goals.

  15. I agree with this post all the way. This reason is because I have an accounting background, and I find it ridiculous to be wasting time looking for things especially important tax documents when it is time for an audit. There needs to be a knowledge based system because I have seen too many cases of It trouble shooting that was needed immediately.

  16. There has been a lot of talk about organizational learning lately. I think it’s an important concept and even more important when it’s implemented. One of the more important ways it should be implemented, in my opinion, is when teaching people how the demographics of customers is important in maintaining profits. This is a very complex part of sales that is best effective when organized, so the learning of this tactic should be just as organized as well.

  17. You make some very valid points on how leveraging IT and data systems across all departments creates value. You would think that more organizations would seek to understood and implement uses of their data more effectively. I think the concept of information as a viable company asset, one that turns into dollars-both earned and saved- is still not entirely realized by most businesses.

    Great article! I’m wondering, what can my data tell me about losses in efficiency? How much, and where are we missing opportunities for improvement?

  18. Great post. I find all of the information very useful. With this post it tells people all about how IT works which can be very useful for people that want to learn how promotions work.

  19. There is so much information in this post. It is also interesting to read. I might have to research more about this strategy because it looks very rewarding and interesting to learn.

  20. I often feel insecure about the term “knowledge base” and now I understand why. The system is not called “experience base” probably because it doesn’t work like that. And, the content of the materials being invested in data management do not require much experience, but they require knowledge of the topic. The term knowledge base is loosely found inside articles and discussions outside of the IT systems since then. The other month I came across a request for knowledge base articles, and I was cautious about what that may mean. I was afraid that my readers have a number of clues, but not a lot of experience to share regarding knowledge based systems. Thanks for clearing out one aspect of the concept.

  21. I actually had to to a transcription on a very similar subject and I really appreciate the fact that people do find value in learning, as it’s very important but to a certain extent. I have found that the current education system isn’t as good as actually developing a genuine knowledge base and not just memorising, organizational learning might be really good.

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