How to Do Knowledge Management on a Shoestring Budget

Big data and knowledge management are hot topics these days. Everyone from startup owners to C-suite execs wants to track every little piece of data and then utilize it to magically increase their company’s bottom line. The desire makes sense, as the correlation between data and business success is well-established at this point.

There’s just one little catch to the whole data management strategy: it costs money. Gathering and managing data doesn’t just take a few spreadsheets or a questionnaire at checkout. Proper knowledge management (KM) requires capturing, organizing, analyzing, and using large amounts of data, all of which come with expenses. 

If your company wants to take advantage of the data game but you’re operating on a restrictive budget, here are a few ways you can keep your costs down while simultaneously benefiting from big data. 

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Look for Low Hanging Fruit

While knowledge management can feel like a huge undertaking, often it’s the little wins that ultimately matter. With that in mind, don’t feel like you need to launch a massive initiative aimed at overhauling every aspect of how your company gathers and processes data.

Instead, strive to create a snowball effect. Start by looking for small, simple, and easy areas where you can initiate the knowledge management process with little to no cost. A few suggestions include:

Gathering critical documentation into a universally accessible file-sharing location.
Centralizing organizational data such as org charts, brand information, and codes of conduct.
Creating FAQ databases (for both internal and external use) to reduce research time.
Choosing specific, company-wide tools for your team to exclusively use as they store and organize data.

Conveniently, most of these “baby steps” involve fairly affordable — and often free — activities.

Align Your Team

One of the simplest, inexpensive ways to build an effective knowledge management system is to make sure that you keep your employees on the same page as you go along. You can do this by aligning your team to ensure that everyone is aware of the KM solutions being implemented.

For instance, if you’re gathering all of your company’s documents into a shared Google Drive folder, make sure to create easy-to-follow instructions and possibly even provide hands-on training to help all of your employees understand how to properly contribute to the system. 

As you go about this process, strive to take on the mantle of a KM champion within your company. Actively avoid the persona of simply creating dull tasks and processes. Instead, communicate the advantages that will come from the changes and aim to generate excitement with the goal of convincing employees to buy into the change.

Take Advantage of Affordable Solutions

Start by looking into different knowledge management software and the price points for different product offerings. Some KM solutions, such as Guru or Bitrix24, offer free usage for smaller operations. Take advantage of this while you can and then upgrade once your team, and your budget, grow.

While utilizing a more comprehensive KM tool may be more effective, if you’re dealing with a curbed budget and running a bigger operation, you may have to look for alternatives. Fortunately, this often leads to more creative — albeit patchwork — solutions that are nearly as effective. After all, what’s the old saying, necessity is the mother of invention? 

If you’re looking for an effective KM solution that won’t be too expensive, there are many options that you can cobble together to make organizing information both easy and affordable:

Workflow platforms like Trello and Asana enable the creation of easily accessible workspaces for your employees to store and access information. 
File-sharing options like Google Drive and Dropbox can be used to organize, store, and share files, images, and videos. 
Many programs like Quickbooks provide preset databases to capture and organize sales data.
Communication tools such as Slack allow your team to interact and store conversations in a single location where they can be accessed in the future.
Analytics tools like Google Analytics and Facebook Pixel allow for traffic, time spent on page, conversions, and other critical online marketing data to be tracked and automatically organized.

If money is tight, it’s certainly possible to piecemeal a knowledge management initiative together using free or affordable applications like these. Just make sure to keep your team well-informed and on the same page.

Striving for Knowledge Management

If you operate a small- or medium-sized business, or even if you’re working with a larger company that simply can’t afford to heavily invest in data solutions at the moment, it’s still important that you do what you can to establish effective knowledge management measures whenever possible.

Harvesting and properly organizing your organization’s documents, files, and other data can lead to faster decision-making, streamlined collaboration and communication, easier training, and an overall increase in both efficiency and productivity. The best part? You don’t need a multi-million dollar budget to get an effective KM strategy off the ground and begin tapping into the benefits that knowledge management offers.