In a previous blog, I talked about how Microsoft Teams can help to drive organizational collaboration. But did you also know that Teams can help your organization get smart about knowledge management? What’s that mean?
Every hour of every day, your organization is generating content of all kinds. There is financial accounting content and material from human resources. A sales operation is generating quotes, purchase orders, and invoices. A regulatory organization maintains a portfolio of policies and procedures. A membership organization has detailed information on its members. Some of this content is of passing importance to the organization and of little lasting value while some the organization may be required to keep in perpetuity by regulation. Some content could be fairly innocuous while other content is highly sensitive, say, proprietary business content or private customer information. For each type of content you maintain, your organization should be able to answer the following questions:
- Where is this content saved?
- Who has access to it?
- How long do we need to keep it?
- Can it be shared with someone outside the organization?
- Can it be copied, downloaded, or printed?
A successful knowledge management (KM) can help you answer each one of these questions.
For our purposes, it’s useful to think of KM as a classification of content you care about using terms that make sense to your organization. Let’s start with this example:
Here are four folders and two files. Associated with the files are six document “properties.” They are logo value, the file name, the file’s OneDrive synchronization status, date last modified, the file type, and file size. These are properties Microsoft provisions out of the box for each file – there are lots! - but you also have the ability to create your own.
Let’s say you run a sales organization and you sell to a range of organizations: For-Profit, Non-Profit, Educational Institutions, and State and Local Government. You typically respond to solicitations from customers with proposals. When you’re awarded a contract, you issue invoices for services rendered which your customer pays. Your SharePoint document library has the following file: Invoice 2011.docx.
Not very helpful. Now suppose we had a list of several hundred documents in this folder. How would you know which document you want? Let’s say you wanted to find a particular invoice sent to Harris Teeter. How would we know which file it is?
Let’s introduce a couple of new user defined document properties that can help to sort this out. We’ll add Document Type, Customer Type, and Customer Name. Document Type could have values like “Solicitation,” “Proposal,” “Invoice,” “Payment Receipt,” and so on. Customer Type would be “For-Profit,” “Non-Profit,” “Educational Institutions,” and “State and Local Governments.” Customer Name is, of course, the name of the customer. I add these custom properties to the collection of properties Microsoft supports out of the box. Once I do that, I can assign values to those properties for each document that help describe the document. In this case, when I upload “Invoice 2011.docx” into SharePoint, I can “tag” the document with these values resulting as follows:
Now I know that the type of this document is an “Invoice.” It’s an invoice for a “For Profit” customer whose name is “Harris Teeters.” Imagine a list of several hundred documents. I could filter the list to see all documents for “Non-Profit” customers. I could limit the list to all “Invoices.” I could filter and see only Harris Teeter’s documents. By introducing these new properties using values that make sense to my organization, I can easily understand what content I have in SharePoint and find what I’m looking for.
We were able to provide this classification scheme for our files by coming up with a “taxonomy” for it. A taxonomy is a list of words that describe topics of content we have and the relationships between kinds of content. For example, let’s say we operate a restaurant and want to build out a taxonomy for recipes we store in SharePoint. We want to be able to retrieve recipes on the basis of ingredients that the recipe calls for. That taxonomy, in part, could look like this:
- Smoked Ham
- Baked Ham
- Soft Cheese
- Hard Cheese
- Soft Cheese
At the highest level, I have two categories of ingredients: Meat and Dairy. We have sub-categories of Beef and Pork within Meats and sub-categories of Cheese and Milk under Dairy. The hierarchy continues down to the lowest meaningful and useful level of categorization. The content of the taxonomy should be meaningful to our organization and relevant. So, if we ran a vegan restaurant, these categories would be of no use for our recipe library.
Once I have created my taxonomy – in SharePoint we call this a “term store” - I can create a property for content in my recipe document library for Ingredients and each time I load a recipe into SharePoint, I can associate the recipe with one or more ingredients. So, let’s say I tag a recipe with the value “Smoked Ham.” In addition to the value “Smoked Ham,” that recipe also inherits values “Meat,” “Pork,” and “Ham.” So, if I were to ask for all recipes that have Pork, I’d get, among other things, the recipes with Smoked Ham as well.
You can think about content you have and develop your own organizational taxonomy or purchase one from a 3rd party vendor that works with SharePoint. Wand - https://www.wandinc.com/wand-taxonomies - provides an excellent collection of pre-built taxonomies you can use to get started in your own environment.
As I mentioned earlier, there are policies that can be applied to content based on how we tag that content. Let’s say, for example, that our restaurant is known for its Smoked Ham dishes. In fact, it is the one thing that differentiates ours from all other restaurants in the city. I can use Microsoft’s built in data loss prevention services to make sure nobody can email any recipes tagged with the “Smoked Ham” value or copy that content to a flash drive or download to a local drive. Or we decide we’re no longer going to use smoked ham in any recipes. We could then quickly purge our library of any recipe that includes smoked ham as an ingredient.
This is a brief introduction to the concept of knowledge management and how you can use this approach to answer those questions we discussed earlier for each kind of content your organization stores. It’s important to think about the knowledge your organization creates and stores as something of real value and so its essential that these knowledge resources are carefully stewarded to protect the investment the organization made to obtain them.
In the next blog post, we’ll talk about how Microsoft Teams supports and drives knowledge management.
If you have any questions or want more information, respond to this blog or reach out to our CIO Advisory Services practice at firstname.lastname@example.org.