As the use of Appian becomes more widespread across different groups, teams and divisions of your organization, the impact of siloed or lost knowledge can lead to project delays, lost opportunities for reuse or even having teams ‘reinvent the wheel’. When your Appian program expands, so too should your knowledge sharing efforts. Even simple search tools and sharing practices can help combat the $31.5B that the International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates that Fortune 500 companies lose roughly a year due to poor or non-existent knowledge sharing.
But, it’s not just about sharing knowledge. Getting the most out of your efforts requires tailoring your investments to maximize your benefits. This guide will review best practices for knowledge sharing and scaling knowledge sharing practices. Before going further, let’s start with two important definitions:
The act of exchanging information or understanding between individuals, teams, departments, or organizations. It can occur asynchronously or synchronously depending on the type of knowledge being shared and via different mediums. In the context of a growing Appian practice, commonly used sharing mechanisms include dedicated chat rooms and spaces, folder drives with reusable resources, ‘lunch & learns,’ or other forms of dedicated meeting.
Takes a variety of forms such as insights gained from experience or explicit practices such as processes, how-to’s, and other documentation. Ultimately, it’s any sort of information that is useful for driving success and worth transferring from one group to another. For Appian, this frequently includes successful use cases, development or project management best practices, common pitfalls, and lessons learned.
The cost of poor knowledge sharing is easily overlooked but adds up when employees waste time searching for information or reinvent the wheel. If your organization is just getting started, expect barriers at the individual, cultural and technical levels.
According to the Panopto Workplace Knowledge and Productivity Report, the average worker wastes 5.3 hours every week either waiting on vital information from a colleague or recreating existing institutional knowledge. As such, organizations must also incentivize good knowledge sharing behavior and make it easy and rewarding for employees by investing in training, technology, and recognition.
Benefits from effective knowledge sharing include improved collaboration, productivity, and innovation. Additionally, effective knowledge sharing practices help build a positive corporate culture, improve employee morale and mitigate costs of lost knowledge and "brain drain".
Investments in knowledge sharing should be appropriately tailored to the scale of your Appian program, balancing costs versus potential benefits. The most successful organizations think of knowledge sharing as a journey and realize they don’t need to invest in ‘advanced’ knowledge sharing practices right from the start. However, the greater the scale of Appian activities, the more benefits there are in formalizing knowledge sharing practices.
Based on a knowledge sharing maturity framework by TSIA, the table below offers a simplified overview of activities and Appian-relevant stepping stones to help assess and mature your knowledge sharing practices.
At this stage, Appian activities are spread across a few teams supporting multiple applications. Knowledge sharing practices focus on documentation, encouraging informal collaboration across teams and sponsoring a variety of ad-hoc activities dedicated to information and practice sharing.
Appian’s footprint is across multiple teams managing multiple applications, at least some of which are business-impacting if they suffer an outage. At this level, there is increased emphasis on standardizing & routinizing knowledge sharing practices with formal incentives to encourage sharing behavior.
"As we started to build our Appian program across multiple teams, we quickly realized that we needed more than just ad-hoc team check-ins", says a Development Team Lead at a European Financial Services Company. "We established a regular cadence of meetings to help normalize cross-team [knowledge] sharing. Now, we’re working on a cross-team mentorship program to build on our early successes."
Appian applications and Appian-enabled initiatives aren't only widespread but often have a high degree of process or technical interdependency. At this level, organizations invest in establishing a formal process and dedicated resources—such as a Center of Excellence (CoE) or guilds—to maximize coordination and knowledge sharing. These systems help identify, document and disseminate best practices.
Single department, multiple applications
Multiple departments, multiple applications
Multiple departments, multiple applications with interdependencies
Knowledge flows best when people trust each other. In order to maintain an environment where employees share ideas freely and collaborate without holding back, they need to understand that making mistakes is normal. Create a safe space for sharing and encourage employees to share lessons learned from past projects, including failures. For example, automation team leaders at a North American financial services firm hold regular sharing sessions (called ‘bots n’ bagels’) for teams working with RPA to share successes, failures, lessons learned and plans for future projects.
Look for teams that are sharing knowledge and find out how their processes benefit both the team and the organization as a whole. Celebrate these examples and further incent the practice with more formal rewards based on different activities to reinforce the organization’s stance that knowledge sharing is a worthwhile investment of company time.
There is no blueprint for creating a knowledge-sharing organization, but experience shows that it won't happen without a supportive environment to guide the behavior. Take a top-down approach and task managers to model knowledge sharing behaviors and best practices. This won't only signal the strategic importance of knowledge sharing to the organization but teams will also take their cues from how managers encourage, conduct, and reward knowledge sharing efforts.
A Director at a global pharmaceuticals company provides an example of managers practicing what they preach. Their efforts include things such as: regular letters to staff, participation in town hall meetings, organizing presentations, and actively participating in knowledge-sharing activities. These are a few examples that can help demonstrate leadership’s investment in knowledge sharing. Modeling these behaviors can set the tone for an environment where sharing is normalized, even in cases where the lessons learned result from ‘failed’ or sub-optimal experiences.
Knowledge sharing can be a powerful weapon, and when implemented the right way, it can effectively transform a business. Built with the right tools and philosophy, knowledge sharing can help optimize key areas, maximize performance and simplify training. These benefits quickly add up and drive organizations to enhance both the opportunities and capabilities of their workforce.
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