Making the most of what you've got
Why knowledge management should be as high up the Insight agenda as uncovering the insights in the first place
Well in the end it didn’t come home… I’m sure like many of you, today has started with slightly less of a spring in the step this morning. However, if there’s one thing we can take from England’s surprising journey to the semi final of the World Cup is that we have over-achieved, undoubtedly making the most of the resources we had at our disposal.
The challenge to maximise scant resources (and excuse the slightly tenuous link!) is one that seems to come up more and more currently when speaking to clients. For some this is about a lack of awareness of some of the tools available but for many it is a frustration of not knowing what the organisation already understands. In a Jahari’s window framework, many businesses struggle to get a grip on what are the known and unknowns.
In a world where the average lifespan of the CMO is shorter than any other member of the C Suite (https://www.forbes.com/sites/avidan/2017/03/26/a-new-survey-reveals-that-cmos-are-facing-the-shortest-lifespan-in-the-c-suite/#5a7d59db4d02) , marketing teams are often lacking the continuity of knowledge that others in say the finance team simply take for granted.
Against this backdrop it’s surprising that more focus is not placed on creating formal structures around knowledge management in the Insight world. Many of the platforms now springing up are aiming to solve this but many still struggle to integrate disparate data sources and create a single place from which to easily get to grips with the customer knowledge base.
At the Qualtrics X4 event earlier in the year, Ryan Smith spoke passionately about David Rockerfeller’s Rolodex and the amount of effort he took to understand all of his contacts both in their personal and professional lives. The now famous Rolodex contained some 200,000 records on the rich and famous with cards on everyone from Mandela and Kissinger to Neil Armstrong and Rockerfeller was fastidious in keeping the system live with up to date information https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-tour-of-david-rockefellers-rolodex-contacts-for-the-worlds-rich-and-powerful-1512488919?mod=cx_picks&cx_navSource=cx_picks&cx_tag=contextual&cx_artPos=1#cxrecs_s)
Whilst Insight functions play a significant role in helping businesses unlock new streams of growth, their role as the ‘corporate rolodex’ should not be overlooked – ensuring businesses don’t waste time and money trying to uncover insights they actually already know.
So how can Insight teams step up and lead the way in organising the corporate knowledge base?
1. Invest in a platform
There are many platforms available off the shelf to help Insight teams better, from dedicated managed service solutions such as Altiar and Market Logic to utilising in house solutions like Sharepoint. However, it’s worth thinking about digital knowledge management in its broadest sense. For example, Jaguar Land Rover presented a compelling case study at the MRS conference a few years back highlighting how they’d used Google Plus to get traction behind a programme of consumer insights. Showing rather than telling was for more effective for them in driving momentum behind their research. IMP Media’s Fusion product opens up a similar capability, allowing teams to share ideas and collaborate around specific themes.
Whilst you need to think carefully from both a GDPR and company confidentiality perspective about what platforms you use to store sensitive information, building your own dedicated website is also not beyond the realm of possibility for specific high profile programmes. This may not solve the need for document storage where dedicated tools are likely to have better capabilities on tagging and search taxonomy etc but there are some great solutions now to allow for the creation of an insight blog/ newsletter for example.
There are obviously external domain costs to factor in but Wix and Squarespace both allow relative novices to create compelling and easy to navigate sites. Whilst these are probably not suitable for broader knowledge management, they are worth considering as cost effective solutions for dedicated microsites e.g. for a segmentation project.
2. Recognise the need
I’m a firm believer that a large part of any insight team’s role is internal communications. It is the job of the insight team to scan the horizon, pick through the masses of data and find compelling stories which inspire the business to act.
Yet, despite this, the role is often not recognised within internal structures. It is often hard in a corporate environment to justify dedicated headcount so you may need to think creatively. Is there a PA/ administrator looking for development variety in his/her role who you can ask to lead this for 2-3 days a week? Is there a graduate/ internship programme where you can prove the business case through short term resource in the first instance?
However, you approach it, it’s my firm belief that dedicated focus behind knowledge management and a strong supporting internal comms plan is simply too important for analysts and researchers to do in their spare time. At Orange we won the Explor award for building what, at the time, was a leading edge knowledge management platform. We were only able to achieve this by having resource dedicated to the project and by recognising it as one of the key strategic priorities for the team rather than trying to handle in our spare time. Ten years on, some of the functionality we built from the ground up is now available off the shelf but this doesn’t negate the need to have dedicated resource to lead the project and drive it through the team.
3. Get on the front foot
It’s no use waiting for the request to come in and then realising you don’t have the time to synthesise all that data floating round the team into a compelling story. Any great knowledge management platform and communications plan needs to be fuelled by great content. You need to have some of this ready and waiting for the request to come in. It’s impossible of course to anticipate every request but there are three easy ways to make this at first impossible task achievable.
(i) Top Tens - Gather up from the team the regular questions that keep on coming up and develop a simple, compelling format to answer these questions. This could be a newsletter, short videos or an infographic. At EE, we got a lot of traction with ‘Top 10’s i.e the top 10 things you need to know about xyz. These became essential in an organisation where marketers were changing role frequently and needed to get up to speed quickly with the key insights for their line of business. Developing these into more of an editorial or blog style content (e.g. 5 minute reads) can make them even more accessible and ensure everyone around the business has a grasp on the key facts they need to know.
(ii) 'The Bible' – this is not an insignificant undertaking so go into it with your eyes open but, if your business conducts an intensive planning process, you may find the most productive solution is to produce an annual bible of all the key insights you feel the business needs to address at the start of the business. This is a lot of work but is usually still easier to resource an intense period of work like this than the constant drip feed of last minute requests as the plans get finalised.
(iii) The CEO pack – if a new chief exec were to join the business what would be the key pieces of information he would want to know? Most likely these sit disparately across brand trackers, market sizing panels, NPS trackers and competitor benchmarking but a bit of effort to keep these up to date can be invaluable. It also has a secondary benefit – if you’re spending a lot of time, effort or money collecting data which would never make it into this deck, is it really worth the investment in the first place?!
Crucially, the right knowledge management platform for you will be dictated by the way your business works and requires an understanding of the internal culture and embedded ways of working. I strongly believe though that, whatever the right solution for your business, the key principle remains i.e. managing the knowledge base is a critical part of today’s insight functions.
Get on the front foot. Be proactive. Don’t wait for the wave of requests to hit before you start to respond ...