Intranets: 2 things you can do to accelerate the findability of knowledge

If your teams are spending too much time looking for needles in haystacks, there are 2 things you can do to quickly improve the findability of knowledge.

7843540054_1e54762457_bI often get asked how to accelerate the findability of knowledge within Intranets and reduce time spent repurposing knowledge objects (e.g. documents). You have probably heard it yourself, people just can’t find documents and, when they do, they are not up to date or do not contain enough detail to be meaningful.

Knowledge Managers and Information Managers alike seem to default to blaming culture when analysing the reasons for slow knowledge flows (this is a mistake) – the impact from slow knowledge flows being a slow response to customer (internal and external) needs, to say nothing of STICQE problems.

However, if, instead of blaming culture, you analyse the behaviours, processes and structures that are causing the slow down in knowledge flows within Intranets (come from a position of empathy with the user – after all, owners and authors are not trying to sabotage findability on purpose), a more practical solution might begin to emerge.

  1. You need to remember that you might have the best Intranet on the planet, but you are still dealing with people and that means human behaviour and error. To this end, intranet site owners and authors often lack meaningful governance guidelines that nudge behaviours/practices (e.g. best practice for findability when creating a document title) toward improving findability. All too often, intranet authors and owners develop bad habits that become entrenched behaviours, where findability is driven by luck (e.g. knowing where someone has filed a document because you share an office with them) over design (agreed common practices), because they have never been given a set of best practice guidelines to work from – consider how many new employees join your organisation every year, how quickly are they informed of best-practice Intranet author guidelines or, as is often the case, are they left to work it out for themselves?
  2. HR is rarely, if ever, involved in solving the problem (Knowledge Management and Information Management is stuck in a silo of false belief, where the functions believe that they can solve the problem on their own, when they really need to collaborate). For example, if site owners and authors do not have the behaviours needed to agree and implement common practices, then, surely, there is the need to both develop such behaviours through HR policy and practice (e.g. job descriptions, recruitment and selection) and, where necessary, recruit/redeploy influencers to help accelerate such development.

Bottom line, if finding knowledge in your Intranet is like searching for a needle in a haystack:

  1. Make sure your governance guidelines are fit for purpose.
  2. Make sure that HR is involved in helping to solve the challenge of findability.


4 thoughts on “Intranets: 2 things you can do to accelerate the findability of knowledge

  1. From my experience it is important to harness the managers and to implement a process which will add metadata automatically, so that the workers will only need to supply little additions . HR has little influence on contents creation, if at all.

    1. Eli, I’m sorry, but yet again we are at odds, in relation to your reply to my post.

      I agree with the use of managers.

      HR has little influence on content creation, if at all…

      content is created by people; people bring with them an inherent set of behaviours; accelerating findability requires people to adopt common practices…what is the policy surrounding the adoption of, and compliance with, such common practices? Who creates and enforces such policy? How do we find the people willing to adopt such practices, in order to accelerate findability (the point of this blog)? What process does a line manager follow, when dealing with a person who does not want to conform to common practices? Who helps create/develop/enforce organisation-wide nudges toward behaviours that improve common practices? etc. etc. etc.

      But, you are probably right, HR has no influence on accelerating findability, if at all.

  2. David,
    Is there an answer to your question? Is anybody/department in a company capable of improving findability of the company’s knowledge or are you implying every company employee is responsible for the information that they produce? Is this possible, for example with a global company, with numerous different departments in different countries? Is it possible to have a common policy/guidelines, easily distributed and obeyed by all. A beautiful dream but how can it happen?

  3. Myles, you are correct, of course. Universal adoption, as a stated aim is more dream than reality.

    First, I look at developing common behaviours, nudged by governance and HR policy/practice, set against a realistic adoption rate. Second, I help develop social feedback mechanisms, where social peer review (e.g. a 5 star rating option) starts to provide feedback on weaknesses (e.g. relevance) within knowledge lakes. This is just a throw-away example, but when we involve stakeholders to strengthen starting conditions and improve feedback loops, we can improve findability/application, which can be evidenced via measurement of cycle times (searching, asking, repurposing, as examples).

    This is some of the work I have done… currently working with a healthcare system and large MNE on these issues. Admittedly, tough (challenging) work, but worth the effort and the return 🙂

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