By Jack Shepherd, Legal AI Practice Lead, iManage RAVN
Despite all the challenges of the past year – the COVID-19 pandemic chief among them – global banking and finance did not come to a grinding halt in 2020. Many finance professionals switched to remote working at the drop of a hat, and operations were largely unaffected.
2021 looks to continue in a similar vein in the short to medium term. With people having undergone such a radical change of behaviour in 2020, it is the perfect time for everybody to embrace the opportunities presented by this for knowledge management (KM). As different approaches to KM consolidate, people are realising that KM and innovation are two sides of the same coin. At the same time, knowledge sharing is occurring less frequently in unstructured forums such as “popping your head around the door” and structured processes are now emerging. This is a very exciting time for KM.
The Methods Have Merged
Until recently, two distinct approaches to KM have been taken. European businesses, for example, have long relied on creating content and knowhow, while the US has tended to favour technology, search, and data.
These approaches are now starting to come together. The content creators are realising the importance of capturing structured data to inform their content. The data curators are realising the importance of feeding their data into a tangible end-product. By combining the two distinct approaches, business have made the first important step towards the next generation of KM.
Those who consume knowledge are ready for these two approaches to merge. A decade ago, many working in banking and finance took pride in saying “every transaction is different”. Now, thanks to the business imperative to reduce the time and cost of transacting, there appears to be recognition that even the most complex banking and finance projects have repeatable elements.
By being rigorous around capturing past experiences, creating taxonomies, and establishing a knowledge curation process, businesses can start to leverage their data to improve their knowledge content – and ultimately, their service delivery. Deals are no longer created from scratch; there is always a starting point, no matter how complex a deal appears to be.
Is KM the New Innovation?
Technology and innovation have very much been seen as “game changers” in the banking and finance world. In contrast, people who leave client-facing roles (such as being a practicing lawyer) to take up KM positions have been seen as “taking a step down”. Given the opportunities KM presents for businesses – particularly by coupling data with content – this is starting to change.
There is a growing recognition that innovation doesn’t happen in isolation. It requires an in-depth understanding of internal processes, and KM is ideally positioned to provide this in-depth understanding.
Businesses have rightly asked themselves, “if modern KM is about process, content, and data, what exactly is the role of innovation?” After all, even the most talked about technologies do not happen in isolation. They must affect a process and drive an outcome, both of which are within the domain of KM. In short, KM is innovation, and the two should no longer be considered as discrete areas of expertise.
“No Office” Shouldn’t Mean “No Knowledge Sharing”
More than any other factor, the importance of KM has been brought into the spotlight by the wholescale changes in working practices observed over the last 12 months.
Successful knowledge management systems rely on data being captured, structuring that data, and fitting it into a taxonomy that enables people to find it. Since time immemorial, the primary method of knowledge sharing has been “having a chat with somebody”, or “popping your head around somebody’s door”. Those kinds of information sharing are unstructured, bilateral, and not conducive to a KM process that prioritises capture and re-use of information.
Remote work has caused people to interact differently. People are communicating in structured forums such as messaging platforms. This presents an opportunity for “information sharers” to be directed to a specific place to ask their questions and obtain answers (e.g., a “knowledge channel” in Slack or Teams). By structuring the process through which people seek and obtain knowledge, KM teams can tap into a wealth of information that previously laid to rest in office corridors.
What 2021 has in store has yet to be seen, but one thing is certain: KM has an important role to play in the coming year, and increasingly, it will be seen as the vital function it truly is, helping financial services organisations to efficiently tackle the challenges they face.