Selasa, 05 Juni 2012

Small Business Knowledge Management

Small businesses use knowledge management every day, perhaps without even realizing that they're following knowledge management processes that are much more formalized in many larger companies and corporations. Small business knowledge management is something that's largely been overlooked by software developers who cater to the bigger organizations and create programs that allow them to gather, organize, analyze and share business knowledge. But even without software programs designed specifically for small businesses, these smaller organizations can and should still use a process of knowledge management to maximize their business' potential.

Small businesses don't have the same amount of operating capital, and obviously can't spend the dollars on software and other business helpers that a huge multinational corporation can. But there are solutions out there for every size of business to help with knowledge management and those should be taken advantage of. A small company that follows a good process of gathering, storing, organizing, analyzing, sharing and leveraging knowledge has a much better chance of becoming a larger and highly successful business than one that doesn't take advantage of the valuable information it's faced with every day.

Small Business Knowledge Management is on the Upswing

Larger companies and corporations have only recently formalized the process of knowledge management as they've realized just how crucial it is to a successful enterprise. Top companies have always used it, but they might not have had a formal process for it or even had a term for it. But today, it's clear to most companies that information is a basic building block of a good business and is one of its most valuable assets. Using it properly can make the different between failure and success, or between maintaining and excelling.
Small business knowledge management processes haven't been quite as quick to catch up, at least in part because the same resources aren't available to most smaller companies (and maybe because they don't understand the large benefit of knowledge management). But just like corporations now often have a formalized process of knowledge management and consider that one of their core business practices, small businesses should focus on this too to take advantage of the valuable data that's already at their disposal.

So What is Knowledge Management?Small businesses that see this as something only corporations can afford to do are shortchanging themselves and their employees. And chances are, at least if the company is somewhat organized and efficient, there's a small business knowledge management process at work, though it might not be considered a business process at all.

A company that gathers sales figures from the last year and tries to compare the quarters to find trends is using a form of knowledge management. Because they may not be using all the numbers needed and may not be analyzing the information in the right way, their process of handling knowledge might not be efficient or good, but there is a process there. By deciding to follow certain steps and really hone the way data is gathered, handled and analyzed, a company can get the most it can out of those numbers and make more accurate conclusions. This helps with goal setting and, most importantly, the achievement of those goals.

A Poor Small Business Knowledge Management Example

In an example to illustrate the importance of the process, this company doesn't have a standard for knowledge management. They're trying to figure out how to improve sales on Product X. They look at the last year's sales figures on the product to find clues about how to improve the numbers. Because they don't have a standard in place, they may not have figured out the best way to find other numbers that can help them analyze the sales numbers and put them in context. For instance, sales around Christmas are higher so they assume that the holidays boosted sales. In this case, they're correct.

But sales during the quarter after Christmas hit a serious slump. They assume that it's because people are spending less after the holidays and so they decide that they'll scale back their marketing on that product during the beginning of each year and pay extra to market less expensive products. They might be correct. But if the slump was deeper than usual because they had a product shortage and they don't have that information when they're analyzing the data, they've made a mistake. They could market the product and see sales improve next January because they'll also take steps to make sure enough of Product X is available to meet the demand. This is the type of small business knowledge management mistake that is common, because companies don't have a more structured way of organizing and analyzing all the data to see those important connections.

Small Business Knowledge Management Software

By investing in software that will automatically pull all those necessary numbers together so that one aspect of the business (sales) can't be analyzed without taking everything else that's relevant into account (manufacturing, production problems, strong competition, returns for defective products, for example) then the correct conclusions can be drawn from the information available and the small business knowledge management process becomes a vital part of creating success in the future.

At the very least, a small business needs to carefully examine the data that's available, the data that could be gathered to help analyze these types of situations and the conclusions that are made from the data so they can have a better understanding of the data and put it to much better use.


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