Knowledge Management vs Knowledge Ops: What is the Difference?
There is a right and a wrong way to do things in every company.
It’s not helpful when Harry insists that a sales call go one way while Miriam is positive the most effective approach is another way.
So, how do you make sure that everyone in your company is on the same page?
Policies and procedures exist for a reason. Companies need systems to make sure that everyone knows those systems. It keeps things from slipping through the cracks or getting chaotic.
Working for ScreenSteps — a knowledge base software and training solution company — I’ve learned about a variety of ways to manage your company’s information. Two of those options are knowledge management and knowledge operations, both of which are ScreenSteps services.
Ultimately, there is an overlap between knowledge management and knowledge ops. Both are strategies for managing and maintaining information in your company.
So, what makes those knowledge approaches different?
In this article, I’ll compare the two knowledge approaches so that you can see which approach would best support your company.
Knowledge management vs. knowledge operations
Before we get into the details, watch this 4-minute video for a quick video comparison of knowledge management and knowledge ops. Then dive deeper into the differences below.
What is knowledge management?
Knowledge management is the process of collecting, creating, organizing, and sharing information in an organization.
Knowledge management requires cloud-based software that provides a central location where you can store all your documents and end-users can easily access those documents.
The main purpose of knowledge management is to collect information and provide materials. Knowledge management is information-centric, meaning it focuses on making sure materials exist.
These materials fulfill different roles. Some process documentation is created to pass audits while others are for supporting employees. The emphasis, however, is on getting the materials created so that the knowledge is written down somewhere.
How knowledge management works
The purpose of knowledge management is to make sure that all company information is in one location and that employees can access that information.
For your knowledge management plan to be successful, you need a knowledge management system. A knowledge management system is a cloud-based software that helps you create, organize, and share knowledge throughout your company.
There are many different types of knowledge management systems. Each software option has a different focus. Some options include:
Your knowledge management system should have authoring tools that make it easy to write and update resources.
Once you have your software, you can create a plan for what information needs to go into your knowledge management system. Then you can create those documented procedures and ensure end-users can access the information.
What to include in your knowledge management system
In your knowledge management system, you store a variety of different documents. Typically, this is your official documentation that adheres to quality assurance standards and assures your company will pass industry standard audits.
It is a centralized location to store all of your company’s knowledge and information. Your knowledge management system will also have resources to help your end-users.
Some of those documented resources could include:
- Standard operating procedures (SOPs)
- Call flows/call center scripts
- Reference guides
- Training sheets
Who is involved in knowledge management
As with any business program, you’ll want to designate someone to head up knowledge management in your company. There are many different titles and positions that lead knowledge management, including:
- IT manager
- Learning and development manager
- Operations manager
- Enablement manager
- Program manager
One of the most common titles is knowledge manager.
A knowledge manager oversees your knowledge management system and ensures all information is documented and stored in your knowledge management system.
Your knowledge manager can designate specific subject matter experts to write different SOPs, help guides, etc.
Pros and cons
Knowledge management has a lot of benefits as well as a few shortcomings. Here are a few of them.
You have a one-stop shop for all of your company’s knowledge. Employees know where to turn if they have a question.
You have documented procedures so you at least have reference points that align your company and help hold employees accountable.
Documentation exists, but it isn’t necessarily helpful. That’s because the focus was on documenting the procedures — not on making sure the procedures are written in a way that is easy for an employee to follow.
You have one person or department creating resources, but there is a disconnect between those creating the guides and those using the guides. Your trainers and supervisors aren’t aligned on what needs to be taught so new hires can do their jobs.
What are knowledge ops?
Knowledge operations (knowledge ops) is the strategy used to manage all the information in your business. It is a collection of technologies and habits that allow employees to work without needing assistance from supervisors or SMEs.
Whereas knowledge management is information-focused, knowledge ops are end-user-focused. This means that the resources and training courses created are intended to support end-users and help them do something — not just know something.
A knowledge ops strategy helps create clear communication of policies and procedures across the company.
Knowledge management is a portion of knowledge ops. Knowledge ops just involve more. With knowledge ops, you are trying to tie knowledge materials to performance.
How knowledge ops works
As stated, knowledge ops is a combination of resources and learning that help your employees do their jobs better. The goal is to create a cohesive learning environment that enables employees and other end-users to do what they need to without additional assistance.
That involves looking at how people are doing their jobs and what opportunities you have to create resources that can help them in situations.
An oversimplified way of looking at knowledge ops in business is that you are considering these three questions:
- What are the jobs people need to do?
- What are the questions that need to be answered?
- What resources would help them do those things?
Like knowledge management, you still create, store, and share files to support employees. However, knowledge ops take it to the next level. Knowledge ops take knowledge management and make it more accessible and easier to follow.
Guides aren’t created to check off a box or pass quality assurance audits — they are created to help end-users do something without making mistakes.
What to include in knowledge ops
Knowledge ops go beyond training. It includes documentation.
The purpose of the knowledge materials and resources is to help people do their jobs better. This means the resources you create for knowledge ops are not limited to job aids or one specific type of resource.
To cover training and employee support, the resources you create could include:
Who is involved in knowledge ops?
Ideally, you will have a knowledge ops manager to be the point person for all of your knowledge operations. This person will make sure teams are aligned and that the information is all up to date and accurate in your resources.
One major goal of knowledge ops in business is to align your training team and operations team. You want your trainers and supervisors on the same page. That way what you teach new hires in onboarding translates into performance on the job.
Instead of the trainers and team supervisors creating separate plans to support new hires and employees, the two teams work together to create a seamless learning experience.
Knowledge ops help the training and operations teams work together by building on knowledge throughout an employee’s career.
Pros and cons
What are the advantages and disadvantages of having knowledge operations in your company? Here are a few pros and cons.
You have a one-stop shop for all your company knowledge and your employees trust they can find the answer there. Your documented procedures are easy for end-users to find and follow. That’s because they were written with the intent to help end-users complete a task.
This was possible because you aligned your training and operations teams with what needs to be done and the official way for how those tasks are done. New hires have a cohesive learning experience from the classroom to on-the-job experience.
Creating a knowledge ops plan takes time and money. You have to be willing to invest in knowledge management software and designate extra employee time to implement the project.
How mature are your knowledge operations?
When you have a comprehensive training program and a centralized location for all your company’s knowledge, it helps business operations run smoother.
If you cut out any of those elements, there is often a disconnect in your company. It is easier for employees to make mistakes and for information not to make it to the right people.
With ScreenSteps, we use the Knowledge Ops Maturity Model to help companies evaluate what expert level of knowledge management their company is at.
The model has six phases that vary from no documentation or knowledge management strategy to a fully functional and planned system. A high-functioning knowledge operations plan means you have high-performing employees and achieve your KPIs.
View the Knowledge Ops Maturity Model and figure out where your company currently stands on it. Then see what it will take to move up on the Model.